Week 3 Impressions of Rack n' Roll

I’m surprised nobody created such a thread yet.

My analysis is based solely on the Detroit Regional (a small, but competitive regional featuring Bees, Chiefs, Chickens, Phoenix, Guerrillas, Dragons and other non-conventional animals)

If the end of Great Lakes Regional hinted at a more defensive game, where strategic ringer placement and ramp would be key to a win, Detroit achieved to convince me.

First of all, kudos to the game committee for coming up with a game where I have yet to see a really dominating robot. This alliance intensive games makes it hard for a single robot, no matter how good, to dominate the game.

Now, onto the three main components of this game:

Rack Game: Winning the rack is not so much about putting the most ringers on it anymore, but putting such ringers in an intelligent fashion in order to maximize their point value. Winning a game with the rack only is currently difficult for most robots as defense is fiercest than ever, strategic ringer placement usually prevent any 7 or 8 rows, and spoilers are starting to be used on a regular basis. All in all, only the best of the best can rely on their scoring abilities to win a game now.

Defense: Defense took a whole new dimension this week. We saw a couple very strong ramp bots such as 247 or 703 keep robots away from the rack for most of the game, and rows of 3 became way more frequent than 6’s, 7’s and 8’s. The final matches at Detroit Regional probably exemplify this aspect of the game: 469 and 302, two decent scorers, were shut down by 903 and 247 who ended up taking the gold with their ramp points.

Ramp: Ramp is decisive. Whether or not this was the original intent of the creators of the game is up to debate, but the facts are here: all semi finals and finals at Detroit regional were won with ramp points. The best alliance partner ever? A great ramp with good defense capability and decent scoring capability. Climbing a ramp is still a challenge for many robots, but as the days go by, drivers are sharpening their skills and engineers improving upon their ramp for, I believe, a ramp dominated game in Georgia.

Overall, alliances are key to this game. I am now convinced that a winning alliance must contain at least one (1) scorer and one (1) ramp bot, and would even speculate that the ultimate alliance encompasses the following robots:
1 good scorer (1114, 25, 67, 217, 302, …)
1 ramp bot with scoring capability (469, 27, 503, 1023, …)
1 other scorer

The scorers MUST have the capability/ground clearance necessary to climb the ramp.

Decent scorers are usually all gone when third pick comes back, in which case a good defensive bot will make the difference. Also, an all defensive strategy, such as that pulled out by the Da Bears alliance is still valid.

I love that game ;). Driving was incredibly exciting. No prediction ever holds and the winner isn’t set until the last second.

Excuse all the grammatical mistakes and other redundancies.

Francois.

While the refs got better from inventing rules, they now decided not to enforce the rules. Sometimes, they don’t call penalties because it seems like they don’t want to play the “bad guy” role. This is ridiculous. Usually I am very pro-defense, but when it gets to the point where teams arms are breaking, I think the refs should use the rule book. At this point, there is no rule book. Its more like just guidelines and pick what you want to use. This is not meant to be an offense to any of the refs, because you are all good people, and some of you are my friends. However, this year FIRST created a game that is NOT so hard to ref and there are not too many close/hard calls, and yet it doesn’t look like the rules can be followed. If I were the one making the game I would be telling myself - what more can I possibly do to make the game referee friendly.

Contact is allowed with the robot when that portion is outside the bumpers (like most arms are), and arms can also be broken when legal bumper-to-bumper contact is made and the arm is attached or hung up on the rack.

Teams need to make sure their arms are strong enough for rigorous contact when they are not within the bumperzone.

At the Chesapeake regional the winning alliance consisted of two exceptional scorers and a defensive robot. Some of them had ramps, but never used them. 293 and 75 just overwhelmed the other alliances with scoring on the rack. However 293 and 75 were the best scorers at the competition so in normal qualification matches ramps will probably play a bigger part.

I definatly think your over exagratting a bit on this. I have seen many ramming penalties called, and I haven’t even been to a regional yet. And I am pretty sure the rack itself can do that much damage to your bot on its own if your not careful. I think the refs are doing just fine given the amount of things they have to consider. if your arm breaks during a match you obviously didn’t build a strong enough arm and/or it got caught in the wrong place at the wrong time. accidents do happen, and the rack is a beast of its own keep that in mind.

Edit: in response to Bharat Nain

Brat, i see what you mean, i have been on your side and the Defense side before as well, i feel that this game has alot of contact and Defense to play this game. i think game play is going to get alot different from this week and nationals. that rack is not so forgiving and robots will break. Defense is some teams main game plan, just learn how to play around it.

You sound like you need to take a second to breathe. Our arm was also broken at Detroit: it got tangled in the rack while or opponents where pushing us sideways. I agree that ramming penalties are not always called, but I can not fine anybody but myself to blame for our arm breaking.

Please, let’s focus on how the game as a whole is played rather than complain about specific calls from the referees.

I really enjoyed the Chesapeake Regional. The finals had some great high (in both senses of the word) scoring allianaces playing together. It was a blast.

However, I’m still confused about the whole inspection schedule.

In Annapolis they were saying that you had to be inspected by the end of Thursday if you wanted to compete.

However, when we started queing for our first seed match on Friday (match 9) one of our alliance parners still didn’t have their inspection sticker so they didn’t turn up.

What’s the point of having an inspection deadline if un-inspected teams will still be included in the next morning’s match rotations anyway.

It seems to me that if a team misses their inspection deadline on Thursday, they should NOT be included in the match rotations the next morning.

This may sound a bit brutal, but the game WAS structured such that an alliance REQUIRED at least two robots to score bonus points. Only starting out with two robots (or even one) makes it really hard to compete against a full opposing alliance.

Maybe there could be some extra slots added later in the day for Late Inspections.

I’m just trying to think up ways to eliminate having to explain how “Life isn’t always fair” to the kids.

Phil.

My question is, when playing defense, why must a team feel compelled to raise their arm/manipulator to interact with the defended robot’s arm that is holding a tube? Obviously the team is not using their end effector for its intended purpose, scoring, and therefore the interaction has been done on purpose. Why should they not be given the 10-point penalty?

<Partial G35>
Contact outside of the BUMPER ZONE is generally not acceptable, and the offending
ROBOT will be assessed a 10-point penalty, and may be disqualified from the match if
the offense is particularly egregious or if it results in substantial damage to another
ROBOT. Incidental contact will not be penalized. Contact outside the BUMPER ZONE
that is a result of tipping caused by contact within the BUMPER ZONE will be considered
incidental contact.

<G36> Goal defense - ROBOTS may defend SPIDER LEGS by pushing and/or blocking
ROBOTS as they attempt to HANG GAME PIECES.** If a ROBOT is holding a GAME
PIECE, a ROBOT on the opposing ALLIANCE may not grasp/attach to the GAME PIECE in
order to remove it from their POSSESSION or prevent them from HANGING.**
result in a 10-point penalty being assessed to the offending ROBOT.

<G36> Goal defense - ROBOTS may defend SPIDER LEGS by pushing and/or blocking
ROBOTS as they attempt to HANG GAME PIECES. If a ROBOT is holding a GAME
PIECE, a ROBOT on the opposing ALLIANCE may not grasp/attach to the GAME PIECE in
order to remove it from their POSSESSION or prevent them from HANGING.

result in a 10-point penalty being assessed to the offending ROBOT.

As far as I read this you are allowed to knock game pieces out of there end effector as long as you don’t grab the piece.

Other than that, Week 3 is proving to be much better than week 1 & 2 as always

You may still be missing my point, <G36> coupled with <G35>:

<Partial G35>
**Contact outside of the BUMPER ZONE is generally not acceptable, and the offending
ROBOT will be assessed a 10-point penalty, and may be disqualified from the match if
the offense is particularly egregious or if it results in substantial damage to another
ROBOT. Incidental contact will not be penalized. **Contact outside the BUMPER ZONE
that is a result of tipping caused by contact within the BUMPER ZONE will be considered
incidental contact.

It is clearly not incidental contact if there is no need for the end effector to be raised/used for interaction in the first place. When acceptable bumper-bumper defense is being played, any arm/manipulator that is used out of the bumper zone (5’ in the air) to interact/contact with the defended robot’s manipulator is unnecessary, and clearly done intentionally. I ask again, why should they not be given the 10-point penalty if the interaction was done intentionally?

At Peachtree, they basically required that all teams at least be initially inspected by 6pm Thursday, to provide time to fix/change whatever necessary and get re-inspected Friday morning. In all of our qualification matches, we never had an alliance partner that had not yet passed inspection…in fact, I don’t remember ever seeing a QM with less than 6 robots on the field. Granted, there were a few robots in the early Friday matches that did not move at all, but that is the fault of the team and has nothing to do with inspection, as they were allowed onto the field.

As for the scoring and gameplay, I think it is perfect. At the beginning of the season, when we were trying to decide what approach to take with the design of our robot, I made the case that we’d be better off statistically to be a strong scoring bot. Just like in 2006, there are to main ways to score points – a more difficult method that allows for a greater potential of points, and an easier method that doesn’t provide as much of a reward. I knew that the optimal alliance this year would be two scoring bots and one ramp/lifter, but I was sure that more than one third of all robots at the competition would be ramps (sure enough, that was the case), and that we’d have a better chance for getting picked if we could hang ringers, and hang them well.

For the quarterfinals at Peachtree, when we had more of a chance to coordinate with our alliance partners (1746 and 1057, you rock), we thought of an offensive strategy that was partly defensive. 1746 and us both could pick up ringers quickly and easily, so we hung our first ringers not on our side, but theirs. This helped not only to hinder them from hanging, but also from blocking us from making a long row. After we hung up around to the sides, they then would have to get in between the rack and the wall to get to our side, and it was much easier to block them.

I do think, however, that the GDC thought that matches would generally have scores in the 100+ plus range, so that the ramp bonuses could be a deciding factor, but not the extent it has shown to be. Conversely, I think that teams generally underestimated how difficult it would be to hang when getting pushed around and such.

Either way, I think this year had the most exciting game yet (but I’ve only been around since 2004), mostly because of the end-of-match developments that decide the results. Whether it’s hanging just that one last ringer to double your points or getting both robots off the ground, nothing’s more exhilirating than squeezing out a win with just seconds left.

P.S. - Another clever strategy I noticed was trying to throw ringers onto opponents robots when they were over on your side of the field, to cause them to get a penalty if they tried to pick another tube up. Ringers only got stuck on a robot like that once or twice, but it definitely helped.

1> Arms are specifically not allowed to be used to block, so arm-to-arm interference is not allowed.

2> contact (even hard contact) with an arm that is outside the bumperzone is legal. Arms that exceed the bumperzone (IE most arms) must be built for vigorous action.

3> Ramming and pushing are allowed within reason. Highspeed ramming is not allowed. I saw many 10-point penalties assessed for high speed ramming at BAE GSR. The refs are definately not ‘ignoring’ this rule. To show the forces involved, we never high-speed rammed anyone while at BAE but we did break our ‘FIRST approved’ front bumper … twice.

4> Many arms survived the rigors of a regional with little damage. When I walked the pits at BAE GSR one of the things I looked for was the robustness and flexability of the arms that were being used, because I knew they would be seeing forces that they were not designed for. For the most part, I was able to pick out the arms that would not survive the weekend.

5> Intentionally breaking another robots arm is grounds for disqualification. Rigorous defense that unintentionally breaks a robots arm is within the rules.

As always, the above is JMHO.

I was upset when the refs gave (i think it was 1720) a team a yellow card for tipping us over (accidentally), and further into the elimination rounds, they didn’t give another team a yellow card for tipping us over (purposely). About 75-85% of our robot’s weight is 18 inches or below, and has an extremely low center of gravity (although its all near the back, so hitting us from the front will tip us easier).

I think i’ve got both on video, I’ll have to post both of them up. The first tip was accidental, and the team immediately apologized after the match (also the video reveals that we stopped, went forward, and so when they hit us, it didn’t take much for us to go over). The second time, we were tipped in the air, and stayed that way for a good 15-20 seconds, all the while the team kept hitting us, trying to knock us over. The refs considered us in a position to score, even though none of our wheels were on the ground, and couldn’t move anywhere. All in all, a big disappointment in the ref’s inconsistencies.

Ringers intentionally put on opposing robots should not earn penalties for those robots. Ill go find the rule in a sec.

EDIT:

<G09> POSSESSION - ROBOTS may only have 1 (one) GAME PIECE in their POSSESSION at any time during the match. A 10-point penalty will be assessed for each infraction. Inadvertent bulldozing of GAME PIECES while the ROBOT moves around the field is allowed. Controlled “herding” of a single GAME PIECE lying on the floor is permitted as long as no other GAME PIECE is in the POSSESSION of the ROBOT. Herding of multiple GAME PIECES, or herding of a GAME PIECE on the floor while in POSSESSION of another GAME PIECE is not permitted (as this would be considered POSSESSION of more than one GAME PIECE). GAME PIECES may fall on to a ROBOT during the course of normal game play (e.g. a RINGER falls on a ROBOT while attempting to HANG it on a Spider Leg). In such cases, GAME PIECES that are already in the POSSESSION of the ROBOT may be played. However, the additional GAME PIECE must be removed from the ROBOT (either by the ROBOT or by an ALLIANCE partner) before it can POSSESS a new GAME PIECE. GAME PIECES may not be intentionally placed on opposing ROBOTS for the purpose of causing a violation of this rule. Any such GAME PIECE placements will not be considered in POSSESSION of the affected ROBOT, and will be ignored.

Emphasis mine. However, there is no rule against throwing ringers at an opponents gripper in an attempt to knock the tube out of it. I’ve seen that work.

Because contact outside the bumper zone is legal, teams should have built their arms to withstand contact. Because team 1727 was worried about our claw being bent we mounted it on a doubled door hinge so that if it was rammed it would give and then spring back into action.

Same here, but if you beat anything with a sledge hammer enough times, it will break.

It is clearly not incidental contact if there is no need for the end effector to be raised/used for interaction in the first place. When acceptable bumper-bumper defense is being played, any arm/manipulator that is used out of the bumper zone (5’ in the air) to interact/contact with the defended robot’s manipulator is unnecessary, and clearly done intentionally. I ask again, why should they not be given the 10-point penalty if the interaction was done intentionally?

I understand what you mean, and although some may find it intentional, other may find it as they were trying to there arm out of the way, or trying to get it clear of the rack, or just trying to move it into a better spot for future pick ups.

I do understand it is upsetting, but look at the possiblities of raising an arm, the team could of been doing a number of things besides attacking your arm, so the refs have to take that into account, or people will complain about that side of it as well

Ref calls between LA Regional and Silicon Valley Regional emphasized different parts of the game. The LA refs were very particular about robot aggressiveness but SVR refs, though they warned against it, didn’t make too many calls when robots were pinned or rammed.

Once again, let’s not make this thread a succession of complaints about such and such referee.