Recycle Rush Skill Cap

One of the things I think makes FIRST challenges successful is that teams of various skill level can make meaningful contributions to their alliance. If rookie teams can help out and contribute to an alliance, they will be inspired to improve for nect year.

However, I believe that Recycle Rush is rather unforgiving with new teams. RR is set up in a way that the majority of points come from 6-stacks of totes capped with an RC. Both aspects require considerable skill, and both the totes and the RC are required to score meaningful points.

I would like to compare Recycle Rush to another FIRST game that I believe has a perfectly-balanced skill cap; FTC’s Block Party! If you’re unfamiliar with Block Party, you can watch the game animation here:

Block Party’s auto mode was balanced in a way that rookie teams could score decent points (10pts, or 3-4 blocks), and advanced teams could start with a competitive edge (block in IR basket). All that a rookie team had to do to score was drive forward.

Recycle Rush’s auto mode feels like it has been tacked on. The most simple way of scoring, Robot Set, requires the entire alliance to score for very few points. A rookie team that completes this task will earn no points because more advanced teams take advantage of the unlimited horizontal size option. The majority of auto points at MSC was from top teams creating a Tote Stack.

Block Party’s tele-op was balanced with auto and end game. Teams that focused purely on auto could be outscored in tele-op. New teams could contribute by playing defense.

Recycle Rush’s tele-op offers little to nothing for new teams. With no defense and the ability to descore your own alliance, most rookies had to stay still in fear of getting in the way. Even if they could score a few points from the landfill, it would have no effect on the match.

End Game:
Block Party’s end game offered two quick ways for rookies to score, and a very hard way of scoring 100pts for advanced teams. By spinning the crack shaft to raise the flag, teams earned 20 or 35 points. This was probably the most easy task to accomplish because a spinner on a motor was all you needed. Rookies looking to challenge themselves could also try for a hang (50pts). Advanced teams could double their points for hanging by hanging two robots at once. This was tricky, but rewarding for teams that could do it.

Recyle Rush’s end game is nonexistent. There are no easy points to be earned from rookie teams. I guess you could say co-op, but even that comes with a nasty penalty if they make a mistake and push totes to the other side. Co-op also means nothing in finals.

The only thing rookies can do to make an impact in Recycle Rush is hope that a powerhouse team adds cheesecake to them. In previous FRC games, rookies could pass the ball (2014), balance on the bridge (2012), deploy a mini-bot (2011), and on and on.

FIRST games have offered meaningful scoring options for rookies in most games in the past. Recycle Rush offers almost nothing for rookies to contribute. I would love to see future FIRST games offer competitive elements that every level of team could contribute in a meaningful way, much how like Block Party! is set up.

I completely agree. While I like the change of pace from previous year’s insane defense, the lack of low hanging fruit is definitely a flaw.

The biggest flaw is the complete lack of robot interaction. As we have seen, two good robots can play this game and never interact with another robot. They went from a game that required interaction (even a rookie could possess a ball and increase the cycle score) to win at a high level, to a game that eliminated it. This is by far the largest flaw in the game.

Not sure if I totally agree. I get your point but there are exceptions when great scouting comes into play this year during selections. There was a definite split this year between the very good and average bots. Teams needed to make intelligent well informed decisions for their third pick. Often (for us and others anyways) you sellected a team that did one thing well and consistently. And that was always my message when working with new rookie teams. Don’t try to do everything your first year. Try to do one thing and do it to the best of your ability. This year, that could mean consistently doing a 3 or 4 stack. Do it well and you can be noticed by good scouts. Case in point, we helped in the selection of our third aliance partner at Midwest. They showed that they could do 3/4 stacks well and often. They were used to do what they did best. Alone, they were supplying 12-16 points. It was the alliances job to cap those off fior maximum points. This concept won us the regional. They also were able to just drive to the scoring zone in auto. Many would say big deal. Our aliance constantly recieved 4 simple points in auto with their help. Again, you would say big deal. We won the rubber match for the blue banner by 6 points. Did those 4 points make a difference? Yup! Our aliance also had a great human player. Often contributing 20+ points to each match. Again, did this simple task that is not robot related help us for the win? Yup! In fact, we are often surprised of the lack of good scouting that over looks the great human player and their important contribution to scoring points. Every regional we did had teams not making it to semi-finals by 1/2 point. Every tote scored, every noodle delivered and/or the simplist of auto routines made a big difference.

Two more observations…
Many have complained about the lack of defense. We were delighted to see this. Why? Year after year we have created a competitive robot. But we do not have the facilities to produce what I would characterize as an industrial type robot that will hold up for years. A robot that could constantly take the punishment of a contact to contact defensive game without some type of breakage or failure. We envied those teams that could build a bot that withstood the punishment. This year our robot has had zero breakage or need for major repair (knock on wood) because of the lack of defense. No defense has benefitted our limitations in making a robot as robust as the elite teams.

Point two…
Interesting that FIRST changed the rules ever so slightly for the world championship. Aliance captains pick 3 partners not 2. How many will overlook this or take it lightly. The field will not be that deep at the championship to select great bots. Again, the average or slightly below average team will be picked. You may say so what, they won’t play anyways. But is that entirely true? We all know anything can happen and the 4th team selection could be a game changer. And what about that team that is below average and is sellected to the “super aliance”. What kind of experience will they get making it to Einstein even if they do not get a chance to play. Only they can answer that question. They did something right to be selected and will deserve the blue banner and memories.

I just wish FIRST went one step further and required all aliances to use all aliance partners. That would have been an interesting game changer!

I know FTC works this way, and I like it. They have 2v2 matches, but have 3 teams on alliances. The pick order is different than FRC, going 12341234. They have semi’s and finals, and you have to use each team at least once in each round.