The Highest Levels of Play

How is the game going to play at the highest levels?
That’s a question I always try to ask during kickoff weekend and the following weeks during build season each year. I’ve yet to be right.

In 2015 I believed that independent stackers and cappers could be competitive at the highest levels, and that step totes would be needed.
In 2014 I believed that trussing to a catch would be necessary at the highest levels,.
In 2013 I believed that all three robots on the winning alliance at the highest levels would need to be able to execute a 30 point climb.
In 2012 I believed that robots would be able to accurately (>50%) shoot from their protected alleys on the opposite side of the field as their goals.

I also feel that teams fail to push the game to its limitations during the championship event and IRI- either because they haven’t though through the possibilities or because they realize they don’t need to in order to succeed:

In 2014, I was surprised how few alliances at championships attempted death cycles, and how many opted for traditional cycles despite being at an obvious disadvantage running traditional cycles compared to their opponents.
In 2013, I was surprised how many alliances at IRI chose not to pick a robot with a climb, despite clearly needing at least one to have a shot of beating 1114, 2056, and 1334.
In 2015, I was surprised how few alliances at championships allowed fast can grabbers to fall to lower seeds and allowed 3+ stack/match robots to last until late in the draft or go unpicked.

Some games or tasks obviously are pushed to their limits: 2011 wasn’t getting much better, 2015 can grabbers were unbelieveably fast, 2012 scores got exceptionally high.

How does your team determine what gameplay at the highest levels is going to look like?
How does this shape your robot design, your strategic decisions, your scouting and picklisting, etc?
Why does it feel like the games sometimes aren’t pushed to their limits?

I feel that games sometimes aren’t pushed to their limits because the limit is almost impossible to achieve.

EDIT: What is a death cycle?

Once we’ve kind of read through the rules and understood the flow of the gameplay, we do a simulation. We will go to our cafeteria, use the game pieces and similar objects, and get students to move around like robots and play a match for 2 minutes. We’ll then run through a couple of specific scenarios (like timing cycle time in 2013) and kind of extrapolate those results to determine our initial bot’s goals. We try to phrase things like “we need to be able to do x in y time” as goals for our build. This goes a long way in our strategy discussion. This kind of initial analysis usually sets our goals for week 1 competition, sometimes further. We essentially push our design to reach and exceed the simulation times for scoring.

As far as why we don’t see games pushed to their limit: It’s tough for teams, even at championships, to play synchronized with eachother to push the game to their limit. Things happen, and sometimes 3 amazing teams just don’t work as well with eachother on the field, even if individually they are all amazing.

The best example is what the 8 seeded alliance in Archimedes did to upset the 1 seed in this match.

At it’s core, it involves the undefendable finish strategy that 1918 used in that match, where they sat next to the low goal, received inbounds from the human player, and shot without having to move. It was quick and undefendable.

Executed perfectly, it could have been an undefendable trusser (like 900) coupled with a smart robot with a quick passback and an undefendable finisher (like 1918). A few different alliances tried variations on the strategy including:
Archimedes 8th Seed: 51-2485-1918-781,
Archimedes 6th Seed: 4077-195-20-4265,
IRI 2 Seed (only the finish): 2056-469-1625-4039

Heck, we even tried it in a match with your team at IRI in qualifications and nearly beat a deadly alliance.

A death cycle in 2014 referred to a cycle that was very hard to stop meaning that unless they made a mistake you were going to lose. It was very hard to get right but the one alliance that really capitalized on it was the alliance of 51, 2485, 1918, & 781 as the 8 alliance on Archimedes as seen here. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BS_1EqSJoCU

The only place to stop the cycle was to keep 2485 from trussing since the first possession by 51, third possession by 1918, and scoring in the high goal were all executed by the human players tossing the ball to robots in the corner. It was a brilliant strategy that led to the highest un-penalized score of the year.

The only downside was it left a huge target on 2485’s back (or the trussing robot on any other alliance that tried this strategy) by defenders who knew that as long as they could slow the truss down enough it would drastically slow the cycle down.

The only problem:
Only one of the four alliances you listed won with their strategy.

How can it then be undefendable?

I can talk about scouting a little bit. I know this year, we thought of something that was more important above everything else and chose to pick off of that. I also know we chose 1 hp bot and 1 L bot at every competition since we are an hp bot. I know at week 4, week 6, and championships, we knew that we needed step cans so we formed out alliances around that since we don’t have can burglars. Using some of the # data (consistency) and some of the watching data we picked (how fast the can burglars were), we picked our alliances. Now sometimes , that doesn’t necessarily work. Our championship alliance was a really good alliance. We had probably the fastest can burglars on Archimedes with a few exceptions. our alliance partners weren’t necessarily the best stackers but, they had really good can burglars. I felt that if we go to the finals, we could have won Archimedes with that alliance by drying the other side out from cans. Unfortunately, we didn’t have a big enough stacking ability on our alliance to move onto the finals. So Sometimes, it works. sometimes, it doesn’t. We pretty much make a list of the primary items we need and then come up with a bunch of secondary things we also need. As seen in our championship alliance, we had too much of our first priority and not enough of our second priority. At every event we won, we were the 1st alliance captain which helps because you automatically know who to choose first. Having a good pick list is very important so your scouter doesn’t freeze on the field during picking.

Since I’m a scouter, that’s all I can help you with is game day strategy. Hopefully others have good things to say about design and other things you need. good luck and hopefully what I said made sense. :wink:

Because none of them executed the strategy correctly or had the exact composition of robots necessary to execute it perfectly.

Allow me to add emphasis:

At it’s core, it involves the undefendable finish strategy that 1918 used in that match, where they sat next to the low goal, received inbounds from the human player, and shot without having to move. It was quick and undefendable.

Executed perfectly, it could have been an undefendable trusser (like 900) coupled with a smart robot with a quick passback and an undefendable finisher (like 1918).

It also produced one of the greatest upsets of the year. I also know you disagree with me on this, as we’ve discussed it several times. That’s not the point of this thread.

Allow me to add a disclaimer, then:
These opinions on strategy are my own and are not comprehensive of what is or is not true about strategy of that specific year.

The point of this thread is to discuss “The Highest Levels of Play”

Death Cycles were not the highest level of play in 2014, because they almost never worked.

The 51-2485-1918 alliance may have won in quarters, but they lost to the eventual Division Champs in semis.

469-2056-1625 may have won IRI, but one could argue that they weren’t running “Death Cycles” because 469 was moving and playing defense. On top of that, 330 proved that the robot in the corner WAS defendable, as they parked in front of 469 and made it hard for the HP to toss the ball in.

If you want to see the Highest Level of Play in 2014, there are a few Playlists on YouTube of Einstein Finals.

Also discussing the theoretical highest level of play. And I was asked a question about what death cycles were, so I explained them.

Furthermore, I believe the highest possible level of play for Aerial Assist was never met, as perfect death cycles were never executed, and repeatable catching was rarely executed.

The idea of this thread was to ask “How do you determine what the highest level of play is during build season?” because I seem to foresee it being higher than it ends up being, or at least different than it ends up being every year.

If you want to debate the merits and pitfalls (of which there are many) of death cycles with me, we can do so privately.

Woooooooow… I was THERE and I didn’t know what that was :eek:

You’ve just answered your own. You look for highest possible levels of play. That’s worthless. You need to look for highest achievable levels of play.

Now, how do you determine what is going to be important at those levels of play? I typically put together a simple simulation (excel) that lets me do various what if scenarios. I then tweak the number of things and see what happens. This often shows things that aren’t worthwhile or things that are limiting factors. 2013 - it fairly easily showed that climbing could be out scored by a decent shooter[1]. 2014 - showed the importance of auton and that solo cycles were almost worthless. 2015 - That uncapped stacks were worthless.

Aside about Death Cycles - I think you VASTLY overestimate these. Actually, not pulling punches, I think you’re full of crap when you say it was optimal AA play. Why? Because it requires 3 robots to be perfectly suited for each other. Which then has to happen in an actual alliance… which given how the draft works is all but impossible. Not only that, but given the ease of adding some PVC up to 5’ to a defender bot (bonus points, backboard for inbounding) it makes the inbound to a stationary scoring bot VERY difficult.

Not necessarily. 148-1114-1923 were knocked out of Einstein by 5 points total (1.66 avg.). That is only 3 totes uncapped. Now generally, uncapped stacks made no difference but 12 points more a match can be important.

You’re mistaking important in an instance with important from a strategy perspective.

I agree with the first part. I suppose I’ve assumed teams would almost always rise to the maximum possible ability, as my first two games were 2011 and 2012, where for the most part, teams did. The games were nearly maxed out at times.

Now I could be totally wrong about death cycles in 2014, but I disagree that the right alliance couldn’t have formed. 900 and 1918 were in the same division (which are basically the two robots necessary IMO to make it work), and I don’t see a few inches of PVC stopping 1918’s inbound.
(However, other problems, like 1918’s occasional shooter problems and a missed inbound or two into 1918 could have spelled doom for that alliance, but it would have been incredible to see happen)

I feel like Aerial Assist had more room to grow strategically (which is amazing, considering how much that game evolved throughout the year). I wanted to see perfect death cycles executed, then countered by an alliance that abuses the lack of defense by executing repeatable catching and forcing the death cycle alliance to fall apart back to a normal style of play.

But I think that’s part of the problem for me: I’m trying to look too deeply into a game that we don’t have that much time to play. The game isn’t going to evolve the way other sports do over years, it’s going to evolve over 8 weeks of competition (and evolve immensely), and will be limited by size restrictions, power restrictions, etc, not just by player skill and ingenuity.

Bingo. Teams get better, but overall they start out pretty bad. So, when I make my spreadsheets I also do run through a “what’s likely” analysis too. My general rule? If I think an action will take 3 seconds I multiply it by pi because I’m an idiot and tend to overestimate skill. (Or teams just generally suck)

I also do what I call sensitivity analysis: at what point do strategies become worthless because you’re taking too long to do them?

Ok. i thought you were just being general. But from a strategy, yeah, useless.

The first reason for why alliances made are not always as good as they should be is bad scouting. whether it’s because the team is biased, they don’t have enough people to scout well, or their scouts just aren’t accurate, this can cause them to create a poor alliance (or neglect to pick good robots… cough cough my team at DCMP the last two years cough cough)

as for gameplay at higher levels, not every team has the resources to create a robot competitive at the highest levels. another issue can be mis-analyzing parts of the game- members of my team, including myself, though that the totes would fall flat from the feeder of their own volition, and therefore didnt make any sort of ramp. this forced us at our first divisional to quickly change to landfill, which was quite an adjustment for the drive team. many other teams made similar mistakes, and later fixed their bots with ramps, full redesigns, etc.

also, to add onto andrew schriebner, 2 of the best PNW feeder bots this year, 955 and 4450, had first divisionals that were… less than stellar compared to their level of play at the end of the year. their strategies also changed completely; in playoffs, 955 was a capper, and 4450 was a landfill bot in their first competitions. both teams added ramps and became very good. nearly every bot from my division that made it to worlds this year improved an extent, but those two were the most radical changes.

In 2013 I was determined that full court shooters were the end all be all, and while teams like 148, 67, 303, and 469 were amazing bots, the championship was won by lightning quick cycle bots and amazing defense.

In 2014 I laughed off blocker poles(and this was pretty much spot on until Einstein)

And in 2015 I expected to see WAY, WAY more can specialists at regional events, not only because that function only required one mechanism but they were in seriously high demand among the lower seeded alliances at both Chesapeake and Virginia.
The only really top notch ones I saw at our two regional events were 540, 2537, and 2377.

The highest level of play in any modern FRC game minus Recycle Rush is being able to adapt to what your opponent throws at you and what sort of alliance you are playing with. A good team can carry most alliances on their own and beat most other alliances. A great team can utilize their alliance members no matter their skill level and together beat any combination of good teams.