Zone Zeal ready for prime time?

I hate to be a doomsayer, but…

…I think I was wrong about how exciting this year’s game is going to be.

I know that the teams at KSC and at VCU are just learning how to play the game, but even taking that into account, the matches I have seen on the web so far are pretty… …well… …boring.

I suppose that it is possible with a different set of robots with different capabilities and more strategic thinking by the participants, the game may get more exciting, but I don’t see it right now.

There are also the elimination rounds which are a totally different game, but if anything I suppose that the elimination rounds will be even MORE static than the seeding rounds.

Any other thoughts?

Joe J.

last year was far more exciting than this year…imho

After one day, I would be inclined to agree with you Joe - but I would suggest we reserve judgment for 2 reasons:

  1. In some past years (like 2000 - which is similar scoring wise to this game) the game was played MUCH differently in the playoffs than in the qualifying matches. The playoffs at KSC & VCU might be played much differently and be more exciting than the Qualifying Matches, or maybe not - we shall see today.

  2. The other 15 regionals all benefit and have the advantage of watching the matches of this first week. Teams have a chance to analyze what strategies work & don’t, and have a chance to learn from the mistakes teams make while trying to learn the game. So just as in past years, I would expect to see the level of play and scores to increase over the next couple of weeks.

Even if it doesn’t get more exciting in terms of “ready for prime time” - At least for the participants, the game always ends up being fun and exciting - as we all face the same challenge and appreciate/respect the engineering, strategy, and controller skill it takes to compete - especially head to head.

Good luck to all the playoff teams at KSC and VCU! Can’t wait to see all the teams and bots at Buckeye next week!


I know what you mean, but there is still a lot of potential for excitement. The final match at KSC between 312/945 and 180/343 was the most exciting match I’ve ever seen (and I’ve been around for 4 years now.) The entire swing of action changed sides three separate times.

I think the real problem is that 2 minutes is a long time. I saw too many matches that remained rather static after the first 45 seconds or minute.

I find this year’s game to be much more interesting for non-participants to watch. Many of my friends joined up the team this year after hearing me talk about last year’s experience. Today while sitting in the stands watching the last part of VCU’s finals I asked them if they were having a good time. They loved it! Many told me how they almost decided to NOT join the team this year because of last year’s game.

~Tom Fairchild~

I admit the qualifying rounds weren’t all that exciting to watch. Most of those robots just played nice, and each side could score very easily. There weren’t too much fighting among teams, nor were there lots of movements going on. Once the teams figured out the score is set, their robot just stayed there until the match is over.

However, elimination was much different.

There was a lot of robots rushing toward the goals and fight for them. Usually they ended up in a pushing war, but it wasn’t just 4 robots sitting there stalling each other.

It was quite exciting, actually, when robots were stealing goals from each other. It ended up more of 1 vs. 1’s during a match, with a few occasions of switching fights around the field.

It was also very interesting when a pair of robot came out the first round and lost, and then won the second match when they switched out the 3rd partner. It made it so that the two strong robots couldn’t win it all the first two round. I thought that was interested to watch. Makes us felt like the competition isn’t winning one sided by a good pair of robot.

Mean while, the timing seems to be just right. Some of the matches took the whole 2 minutes to determine who’s winning, some other matches were decided with about 15~20 seconds left, which the losing alliance trying everything they can during that time to change the score.

I thought elimination was great to watch on the web case… Except one thing… The light wasn’t all that visible on the robots sometimes. It was hard to tell who’s in whose alliance sometimes. But it wasn’t too big of a problem during elimination after watching the same pair of robot working together over and over again.

Oh, by the way, qualifying rounds wasn’t all that excited last year and even back at 2000. The teams usually played nice during qualifying rounds to get as much points as possible, instead of trying really hard to win. So, I think it will be like this most of the time… Dean and Woodie can’t really design a game that will especially draw spectator’s attention in…

Repeated from a previous post

Joe, in our discussions over the past seven years (has it really been that long)? We agree on many points, but I don’t totally agree with your points involving making the FIRST game attractive for the general viewing public and hence on prime time TV.

I don’t think the game itself or simple scoring really matters that much. If FIRST wants to compete with the popularity of the “Battlebots”, Woodie should grow a beard, give him a blonde helper dressed in shiny leather paints and a tight T shirt and coach the crowd to jump up and clap their hands over their heads whenever the camera pans by. Adding some flames here and there would also be helpful. This large dose of hype and also the combat and violence is what I believe is what is attracting most viewers to these programs.

I liked the game a lot, it was always exciting to watch. Different teams used different tactics and different mechanisms and it was really exciting to see the battles of robots over a goal. The only problem is, in my opinion, to show outsiders how exciting the game is. The scoring is not as easy as for example for soccer (ball in goal - point), but once you got the rules most matches are really great.
Just my own opinion, of course…

I’m not too sure if we are ready for prime time. Yet. The hype that has to be spewed to get the general public interested in this type of competition would poison it. FIRST is an addiction. It is going to grow because the students won’t forget the experiences.

As far as boring matches, you are right in that the majority of the qualifying matches this weekend were rather mundane. But I think that was because we were the first ones to compete and the strategies were still theoretical and untested in competition.

Although, our driver tended to keep me one step out of the CCU quite regularly. Flying a 120+ lb robot through the air is quite a sight.

See y’all at Nationals.

I agree with Jan, the scoring is complicated by the placement of the goals and bots on the field so much that it is very difficult to explain to a parent or a passer by who wanders in. It would be nice to have an easy to explain scoring system, even if the way to go about it was hard.

I don’t know about the qualifying matches. I was too busy gofering and going over scoring and strategy with the next player crew.

Too many of the elimination matches consisted of four robots and three goals gathered in an occasionally twitching mass at one end of the field. If you had a stake in the outcome the twitches might have been captivating, but not for me.

I was at VCU, KSC might have been different.


IMHO, it will be a long time before FIRST competitions are prime-time viewing material. Perhaps we would fit in with the programming mix on the Discovery Channel or The Learning Channel, but not on the big networks. Someday, there will be a Robotics Channel, and we’d fit right in. Until then …

i have to say that the majority of the non-participants (in the sense that they didn’t work on building our robot) were bored out of their minds during matches that didn’t include a team they cared aboout. finals were agonizing for them.

frankly, i saw a lot of matches where… there was a lot of sitting and doing nothing. or just a pushing match that didn’t go anywhere.

all the matches start to look the same after a while, i suppose. but like all hardcore participants, i’ve got a special love for the “sport” if you will.

Karie, you are probably right. FIRST is probably not as exciting to watch for “externals” as for example Battle Bots. I personally prefer the non-destructive of FIRST, though, and I have to admire the ingenuity that some teams built their robots with.
And as I see it, the pushing matches are especially interesting: Either you have a weaker and a stronger robot and the driver of the weakre robot has to figure out a way to trick their oppnent team’s robot, or both robots have equal strength and both driver have to find a way to win ultimately. In the Langley regional that became, as far as I remember, sometimes to a chase through the zones, which was thrilling to watch, especially if you follow the countdown timer on the screen.
Of course, that is just how I see the mayches and does not have to do anything with the “general audience”. But considering the diversity of the people that are “out there”, it might be interesting for quite a few…

As you can see from the poll results (they are about 50% for and 50% against) everything about this year’s game is well, cloudy. Probably making it a brilliant game. During qualification there are so many options and the score of the game can change so dramatically with such small movement it’s hard to have any sort of feel for the game. At KSC many mathces were very exciting with last minute sprints and 20 and 30 point swings in the last 5 seconds. And yes many matches were boring.

The hard thing is to know what to do and actually do it. It seems to most of us that the scoring and seed position is almost a random sort of all the machines that ran well.

For instance our ComBBAT double goal grabbing machine ran well for all 10 matches. We grabbed 2 goals and controlled them about 4 times. A few mistakes, a few dead partners etcl and we ended up approx 25th! Team 86 (Vistakon ?) can load balls at the rate or near 20/ minute and routine dumped 2 loads of > 10 balls into goals during a match. Guess what. they finished out of the top 8 and were not picked.

This year everything is hard to understand. It’s a chess game and the smartest may win!