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.
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.