Visual obstructions on the field

Hot Take: visual obstructions are a part of the game that you have to design around.

I’ve been hearing a lot of people complaining about big visual obstructions making it hard for them to see where their robot is when driving. But that is something that is part of the game and design process. In 2017 with the airships, my team put a “photon cannon” (high powered flashlight) on the robot pointed at the ground so we could see where our bot was on the other side of the airship. In 2019 some of the defensive “pizza boxes” put flags on their robot so they could see over the cargo ship.

In short design around the obstructions, I think they make the game more interesting from a drivers standpoint.

Scouting/spectating is another issue, but it’s not that big of a deal. Pick good seats and don’t stand in front of people.


No thanks. Fields without large / tall field elements are easier on the spectators and easier for teams to build and practice on. I’ll take that over an argument about how “it’s part of the challenge.”

I can live with large field elements if they enable really good game play, but they should be viewed as a significant disadvantage when tradeoffs are evaluated within the game design process.


Another thing to note: In games with many large field obstacles, some teams have to decide on a few specific game elements they want to build to work on, since they don’t have the time/space to build every single game element.

I prefer games where you don’t need huge structures to practice for the challenge. (2013 and 2014 you could just put a few lines on the wall and shoot into that, 2015 you just needed a feeder station and some totes to practice, or totes on a wall, 2017 you needed a spring on a peg). 2018 and 2019 we had to decide on a few game elements to build, and 2016 we just put a goal on the wall and had to go to another team’s buildspace in order to test our robot on defenses.


I would say look at any number of threads about issues people run into with seating.

I viewed matches at 10,000 Lakes and Northstar this year (both events are across the street from each other). Northstar has high steep seating that helped with the view. Robots constantly disappeared from view at 10,000 Lakes. The screen doesn’t help much when the cameras are constantly switching either.

In recent years:
Stronghold and Powerup are good examples of limiting the driver sightlines, but still letting the crowd see.
Steamworks was almost as bad as Deepspace. Just speaking for sight. The airships blocked a lot of the spectator view, coupled with short boxes for robots.

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Nah it’s a big deal, as most venues have limited seating areas and it’s way easier to show off a game to people outside of FRC if they can see the robots playing.


If everyone has to send socuts to the same seats, where will the spectators sit?

If Deep Space was ruined by anything, it was ruined by spectator sightlines.


I talk about this in every end-of-season survey and any time I find out someone has a strong connection to an HQ staffer. IMO obstructed site lines for both drivers and the public are the #1 thing that makes a game less fun for everyone involved for these reasons:

  • It’s more confusing for the audience when they can’t see everything
  • There is less robot action because the robots move slower, since the drivers can’t see where they are going

Hot Take: “It’s part of the challenge” is just a lazy way for FIRST HQ apologists to defend their almighty Lord and Savior, Dean Kamen.


I agree with this. In this thread I actually mention this. I think that the bad sight lines gave more of a challenge. People had to be able to drive with a camera if they wanted to play defense on the other side. Needing to be able to maneuver in tight spaces and not be able to see also gives a chance for more “skilled” drivers to have a time to shine, and prove themselves. This game really excelled in picking out who had good drivers, and who didn’t (not that anyone is a bad driver). You had to be able to work around it, and that definitely gave the game an added challenge.

This situation is similar to the deal with Power Up and having a giant scale in the middle of the field. It provided bad sight lines, especially for those in the middle driver station, but everyone had to learn how to work around it

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We don’t play the game for us. We don’t put up the lighting and displays and machinations for us. We already get it.

If the game is unwatchable, then that is counter to the mission of FIRST.


It should not be necessary to have such massive structures to have a game with difficult sight lines. A bunch of 8 foot tall panels set parallel to the driver station wall would accomplish this with little effort.

The big structures are a lot of work to set up before each competition. The Airships from 2017 were particularly bad due to the complex shapes leading to pieces that didn’t fit together well.

The large structures put lower resource teams at a greater disadvantage since they take more time and resource to manufacture. They also take more time and effort to set up and put away for practice sessions.

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I think there would be difficult sight lines in this game (and some previous games) no matter what. The biggest sightline disadvantage (for players) in this game is the cargo ship. That is not a massive structure. That’s just long and annoying. And no matter where or how you rearrange the rocketships, the audience, or the players depending on how they’re rearranged, will always have a disadvantage.

Unless they were up against the player station walls like they’ve done in previous years.

so… don’t have them… sight problem solved

How would that not provide another disadvantage? At one of the regionals my team attends, there are bleachers behind the driver station. Having them against the playerstation wall provides even more of a sight issue there than they do now. That is also a disadvantage for players, who can’t see around the front/side

The only visibility complaints from the field below were about the taller defenses, not the towers.

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And in fact, I remember that the portcullis was rarely used, even when it may have been a harder defense for the opponents. When I asked our drive team, they said that the bad sight lines were more of a negative than allowing the opposition an easier defense.

But there are 2 rockets. That would make it more difficult for people sitting behind the driver station rather than just one tall structure in the middle

I think the part you’re getting stuck on is the two rockets and a cargo ship. Neither is REQUIRED the steamship in Steamworks was not REQUIRED.

The GDC just though they would make for a good game is all.

Perhaps I am (I probably am lol). But either way, it’s hard to have a visually flawless game with the complexity at which they are being designed by this point

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