Predictions Week 1: Alpine Start

Much to the chagrin of my keyboard, Looking Forward is back for 2013. Continuing the trend of last year, the LF posts each week will focus more on the state of the game than individual teams and events. Worry not, there will still be plenty of predictions centered on teams, but the idea will to be focused more on pointing out interesting cases and storylines. It’s simply not feasible to outline every single contender at every single event each and every week.

The inaugural week of competition is always an intriguing affair. About the only thing that is certain during week one events is that there will be field delays. Expect Ultimate Ascent to fit closely with the mold of early season affairs in several other games, such as 2006 and 2007, with defense and the end game playing a tremendous role. Shooting will not be as easy as many release videos make it look, especially with defenders actively attempting to prevent teams from crossing the field and setting up. The trek across the field for human loading robots will not be an easy one, but harassing floor loading teams may also prove to be effective in mitigating their scoring. Between box-on-wheels robots, climbing specialists, and teams who haven’t yet refined their shooting mechanisms to the points they’re reliable, there should be plenty of teams willing to play a defensive role this weekend. Offense should pick up in the eliminations, but skilled defenders will likely earn themselves a place in the afternoon tournaments.

Watch for the pyramid to play a huge role in deciding matches. 10-pt hangs combined with autonomous scoring could provide enough offense to win qualification matches at many events this weekend. 30 points will be enough to swing a vast majority of qualification matches one way or another. The allocation of the 'bots capable of 20 and 30-pt climbs will be a huge factor in who wins elimination match-ups, especially given that there is likely to be a good deal of parity among all but the elite shooters.

The strategic play during week one will be simple, as teams attempt to figure out how to play the game and where their robot fits into it. Don’t expect much more than rudimentary assigned roles, and hanging at a specific time in the match. Manipulation of the game piece economy will be rare and likely ineffective. Match-up specific defensive schemes may emerge to deal with corner shooters and 30-pt climbers, but they likely won’t vary dramatically from a standard approach to defending teams loading from the feeding station.

Some remarks:

  • Autonomous scoring will be a key factor. In many elimination match-ups, it may be about who ends up missing, as both alliances could effectively cancel each other out if they hit their shots. The teams who can load and score from the ground during the first 15 seconds will have a massive leg up on the opposition.
  • 341
    earned their reputation as an autonomous threat at Hatboro-Horsham last year, as they dominated the first ever MAR district. Miss Daisy will once again attempt to score more game pieces than they start with in their robot, but they won’t be alone. Autonomous points may enable 1403 and 2590 to distinguish themselves from the crowd of other scoring machines at the event. Cougar Robotics took home a pair of finalists awards last year, and is hoping for their first ever victory; while team Nemesis is aiming to declare themselves as a perennial MAR power after a terrific 2012 season.
  • The most explicit value of driving underneath the pyramid is additional autonomous scoring, but it will be interesting to see how important it is for human loading robots. Being able to avoid the chokepoint next to the pyramid by zipping underneath should help teams avoid defense. The traditionally defensive Granite State Regional should provide an interesting case study on this. 126
    and 1922 have agile, human-loaded scoring machines that sacrificed any hanging ability on the hope that the additional space to move frees them up for at least one more volley of shots (which could be worth 12 points). 78 and the Clarkson twins (229 and 4124) have simple 10-pt hanging utilities, at the expense of denying themselves the opportunity to scoot underneath the 30" bar. And then there’s 2791, who can both collect the 10-pt bonus and drive under the pyramid.
  • After years of friendship, winning NJ together, and even “fraternal twins” last year, 25
    and 103 have finally taken the plunge and made identical robots. They will both be top contenders at Hatboro-Horsham, and continue the trend of teams at the event capable of scoring additional frisbees in autonomous (despite their pick-up only being able to accept one frisbee at a time). They’ll be among the favorites at a stacked Hatboro-Horsham competition. If they execute to their potential, at least one of them should reach the finals.
  • The best shot blocker in 2013? It could be the chains in the goals. Discs bouncing out of the goals have been an issue for many teams, including powerhouses. Are softer, point-blank shots one way around this? 340
    and 639 will find out at Finger Lakes. Code Red’s design is one of the most interesting of this season’s crop, and they should be one of the most consistent teams at scoring on the pyramid goal without summiting the pyramid.
  • Rochester is hosting an event should both be competitive, and wide open for the taking. There’s no presumptive favorite at FLR this year, with several strong visiting teams preparing to do battle with the locals. 48
    , 888, and 2809 will try and take home a banner away from the likes of upstate-NY stars like 174, 191, 1126, 1507, and 1511.
  • Whenever there’s a game involving projectiles, and even in some that don’t, every team is essentially obligated to have that discussion about using fans to deflect the trajectory of flying game pieces. Well, 2771
    finally bit the bullet and went through with it. How well it works, and in what scenarios, remains to be seen. Definitely keep your eye on them at Traverse City.
  • 2474
    and 3234 have made noise locally at events in the Western portions of Michigan, and stand poised to do so again in Traverse City. Now established vets in the FiM scene, they’re looking to plant themselves as solid contenders in Michigan. But they’ll have to contend with one of West Michigan’s powers in 1918 (who always come out firing at early season events), and some team from Eastern Michigan with tacky green shirts.
  • South Carolina doesn’t typically leap out as a hot travel destination, but apparently it is for FRC teams. Teams from twelve different states, the District of Columbia, and Brazil will compete at Palmetto this weekend. 2363
    (VA), 836 (MD), are 245 (MI) among the favorites to go deep on Saturday afternoon. But don’t discount the odds of teams like 343, 1261, or 1319 keeping the trophy in the South.
  • Fun fact: 2013 marks the second time that 11
    has trekked down from New Jersey to South Carolina three years in a row. 2004-2006 and now 2011-2013. They won the third year of their initial attempt. Can they repeat their luck?
  • Hub City is a very young, and a very imbalanced event. Approximately half of the field is in the first or second year competing in FRC. It also has two of FIRST’s elite members headlining the regional, 16
    and 1986. If the Bomb Squad and Team Titanium find themselves on the same alliance during the eliminations, it is probably game over for the rest of the field. If they’re held apart, the door opens for 2468 Team Appreciate.
  • Will the 1-pt goal be as under-utilized as it was in 2012? The low reward of the goal seems to have deterred many teams from pursuing it, despite it being a very achievable objective. It may have merit, especially as a source of autonomous points for defensive teams. 4543
    will be targeting the low goal in Central Valley, and they’re set up to do very well for a rookie. They may end up playing a lot of defense, especially in the eliminations, but there’s no downside to being able to contribute a few points when they can by cleaning up rebounds.
  • It shouldn’t be too hard to distinguish the legitimate 30-point threats from the “gym rats.” Botched climbs could be game changing, and in particularly unfortunate situations, event changing. Many of the climbing specialists revealed take significant time to reach the top, have many points of articulation, and require significant precision and patience to properly scale the pyramid. With drivers 30+ feet away, five other robots, discs flying, and only two minutes in a match, not everything is going to go smoothly. Teams with quick and simple climbers, especially ones that are mechanically or electrically automated, will likely be the most reliable. Some of the more interesting methods of climbing this week belong to 191
    (climbs the inside corner), 1323 (“passive” gas spring hanger that is triggered by pulling a pin), 340 (many points of articulation, but automation will hopefully aid their climb), and 16 (quick and effective, with a pyramid dumper, but they need their drivers to keep them within the 54" cylinder).
  • Most of the teams that leap to mind when you think about Michigan are low numbered teams with long histories of success. There’s a newer crop of teams born and bred by the FiM district system that are emerging as forces to be reckoned with. With a number of the long standing vets at Kettering prone to slow starts in recent years, the door is wide open for some of the younger teams to take hold. 3322
    was the primary shooter on the finalist alliance at Kettering last year. Eagle Imperium then won Livonia and played well enough to reach the elims at three extremely competitive events (MSC, Galileo, and IRI). 4294 was on the alliance that beat them at Kettering, and captained alliances at both Northville and Michigan State Championship. Not too shabby for a rookie. Don’t count the veterans out, but look out for some of the young guns.
  • The Enginerds creative, simple, and effective designs have provided them with plenty of success. But 2337
    won’t be able to rely on co-op points to help secure a place as an alliance captain this year. Don’t expect that to hinder them much, as they should still be one of the top contenders at Kettering.
  • 973
    and 1323 have established themselves as two of the top dogs in California in recent years, and have machines that could potentially complement each other well. Both are bringing effective machines to CVR and look to be the favorites, but the competition will be stiff. Don’t be surprised if 3256, 1671, 840, or 701 manage to find their way into the winners circle, especially if they can align with either Madtown or GRR. If 1323’s hanging mechanism is reliable, they will be very tough to beat.
  • The concept of cross-field shots has just about everyone buzzing. Just how accurate and effective corner shooters will be, and how defenses will adjust to cope with them, will be one of the more exciting trends to watch at almost every event during the initial weekend. The most high profile case this weekend will be 217
    . The Thunder Chickens can incorporate some wrinkles to this strategy that to help them avoid their shots being blocked, and won’t be shy about finding alternative shooting locations.
  • Time to say it again, Hatboro-Horsham is stacked. It was a quietly a very competitive event last year, especially for week one. This year, as the only event that will be playing this Sunday, it should receive more attention. Three Hall of Famers (103
    , 341, 365), ten teams that won events last year (25, 222, 341, 357, 365, 816, 1218, 1640, 2559, 2590), and a further four that reached event finals without winning (103, 708, 1403, 4342) are in attendance. In fact, all three of the Hatboro-Horsham champs last year (341, 1218, and 1640) went on to win other events. How many other events can say that more than one-quarter of the field took home a banner the year before? Absurd.

Remember, this isn’t meant to be a comprehensive guide. It’s simply not possible to cover every team, or even every contender, at every event. If you don’t like the predictions or want more attention, go out there and prove it.

Until next week…

And I just figured out what events I was going to watch…time to actually invest in that other monitor again…

Glad to see you back, Looking Forward. Thanks for the shout out.

We explicitly designed our hanger over a simpler passive system so we could retain the ability to go under the pyramid - I’m glad to see teams picked up on that. A few extra seconds at the end of the match seems to be worth it if we can just plow right through the pyramid and shake off defenders in the process. It’s one of my favorite features that will hopefully open up a lot of strategic options for us.

It’s too bad I won’t be able to watch the other events this week, this sounds like one of the best Week 1s in recent memory.

Spot on for these events. I’ll be watching most events, especially Hatboro.

11 won Palmetto in 04 and 06. Hoping they do well this time around too!

Glad to see 2771 got a mention for the fan.

I’m definitely a fan of 2771. :slight_smile:

Isn’t CVR a Friday-Sunday event as well?

Where is this info coming on 973 and 1323? So far I’ve just seen rumors and rumblings :slight_smile:

Good luck this weekend. I know where my eyes will be drifting to while I study for midterms…

1323’s info I bet was just facebook.

Yeah I read all that too :slight_smile: 4-6 seconds??? :ahh:

Just saying…

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I won’t be able to make it out to Hub City but I expecting a very exciting finals. 3310 and 1296 have both been improving rapidly in Texas. Depending on how the alliances break down we should see at least a few very close matches. With so many young teams scouting for 2nd picks is going to be crucial.

Anyone know the last time a Texas regional was played without a Texas team being a strong favorite going in?

Awww thanks! 2848 is pretty good too.

And yes I do. Dallas west last year ;p 935,1421, 456…

I’ll be interested in how autonomous scoring plays out, whether it will be rare or common. I’m expecting very few teams to have it nailed down at this first week of competition. For those who do have autonomous mode dialed in though, I expect it to make the difference in their matches. I’d be surprised if success in autonomous mode does NOT strongly correlate with winning matches, even though climbing has a higher value.

Can’t believe I didn’t see the All Sparks on the list for Hub City, they will for sure be in the mix.

I’m not sure Dallas West had a favorite going in, it was 935 once the matches started but I don’t think they were a clear favorite before the event. It seemed like a toss up to me between a lot of teams.

LF: its good to see you back! I love the predictions. With so much information, usually spot on and from behind the screens, I can’t help but speculate (like the rest of us) as to who LF is.

Looking Forward has access to all computer networks around the world; he’s had our CAD for weeks probably.

watch them all! www.watchfirstnow.com

While I still miss the OLD Looking Forward posts, this is a reasonable substitute. Nice to see you back LF!

I actually like the new focus on bigger storylines and strategies than information on specific teams.

That being said, whatever LF posts, I’ll be sure to read!