Something like this happened at the Washington State championship this year, and the #1 alliance captain DID pick #2 through 8. The #8 team said “yes.” It might have been the most exciting Eliminations I’ve ever seen. With the top teams not forming their planned partnerships, the alliance selections created a lot of parity and tough competition. For the spectators, it was great. By the way, although they didn’t win that tournament, the #1 alliance captain did very well a week later at another event and is going to be at World Champs next week.
By they way, if it’s legal in the rules, there is no reason any team should ever not pick the way they want to. If the GDC thought picking teams 2 through 8 was wrong, it would be against the rules.
But the GDC might be wrong, and their rules might be silly.
That’s not the case, in my opinion. I think there are broader problems with the alliance system in general, but the alliance selection system works really well.
However, negative attitues towards a legal action do imply that people don’t like the rules - even if those people are wrong. It’s not nice when these negative attitudes happen either, because it’s nasty and it stunts strategic depth.
I think ManicMechanic’s team should have picked the other top seeds and munted up the top alliances. It would have been funny, at least, and maybe they could have beaten the other finalist alliance if the power teams had been less concentrated.
Last year, we had an experience with a less-advanced 1st seed as well. We were the second seed team, and we approached the 1st seed for an alliance before the selection. They said yes, but then the 3rd seed team had watched every single qual. match and came to us, saying that the 1st seed team had had many good allies and many weak opponents, and that their scoring ability was very limited. Much to our releif, the 1st team stabbed us in the back and picked the 7th seed team (with whom they’d been paired in 3 qual. matches), so we picked the 3rd team. The 1st seed alliance was eliminated in the quarterfinals by the 8th alliance, who were than beaten by the 4th alliance in the semifinals. The 4th alliance was then beaten by our alliance in the finals, with a deciding match score of 58-6.
Within the context of the rules, though, and not in some grand philosophical sense, the GDC is always right. I assume that the rules of any game are a perfect representation of the way the game was meant to be played, and if it were meant to be played differently the owners of the rules would change them.
It was an intriguing idea, but one that the team didn’t consider very seriously for several reasons:
Every other team in the top 8 and at least 4 other teams below the top 8 were capable of scoring significantly better than our team. That meant that even if we spread out the top 8 teams and picked a strong team, there would still be at least 3 alliances with 2 strong, 1 medium robot vs. our 1 strong, 2 medium robot alliance. By allowing the best robots to concentrate in alliances 2 & 3, we easily beat a weaker 8th seed alliance, pulled a close win over the # 4 alliance, and forced the 2 strongest alliances, # 2 and # 3 to fight it out before facing us. Had the 4th & 8th alliances been better, we might have been eliminated in the quarter or semifinals.
The 11th ranked team was one of the most capable robots at the event and had won the driver skills challenge before elims began. They did not resent being picked by a weaker team (or didn’t show it) and even seemed to enjoy the idea of an underdog challenge, since their Worlds berth was assured.
There were several top 8 teams that didn’t seem to understand some of the rules or strategy very well, despite having high-scoring robots (the game was Clean Sweep, and a number of teams were puzzled as to why their RPs were so low when they nearly cleared the field). Our team was afraid that they might accept grudgingly (not knowing that it was strategic to turn us down) and we would lose the opportunity to invite #11, a highly desirable choice for many reasons.
While robot quality is of prime importance, psychological factors do play an important part in alliance selection. Other things being more or less equal, you want to select a partner who is glad to be on your alliance, not one who accepts an invitation with a scowling, grudging, “Oh, all right.” (I’ve actually seen that happen). When that happens, it’s less likely that either the grudging partner or the captain will play at its best. Conversely, an enthusiastic partner will add to the energy, maximizing the alliance’s performance, or at least making the experience more fun. Because teams frequently play each other at multiple events, bad blood between teams can sometimes carry over to future events.
Though less important, the psychology of the crowd also plays a role in performance. In the finals, we lost the first match to Alliance #2, with their 3rd robot on the field. The MC made a rather presumptuous statement saying, “It’s all over, folks. There’s no way to beat the 2nd Alliance’s top 2 robots with a weak robot on the field.” There were some sympathetic “boos” from the crowd (made largely of eliminated teams), and amazingly, with adrenaline on our side, our alliance was able to win the match by a hair, forcing a 3rd tie-breaking match, which we lost.
Lots of these principles are not just about robotics, but about life as well. Those that can perform at a certain level have the upper hand, but a good understanding of the rules of the game can maximize even average assets. Be a good team player, and you’ll be highly desired and may get a better result from your teammates/partners (and yourself) than you imagined. While unorthodox moves may be legal, it’s important to know that there may be negative backlash and weigh the advantages/disadvantages in that context. And finally, you don’t have to take home the 1st place trophy to feel good about the day.
@ManicMechanic: That was an interesting read. Thanks for giving such a comprehensive breakdown of your team’s tournament, especially since it was such a long time ago (New Zealand’s first season was Elevation and mine was Round Up so Clean Sweep seems like a long time ago to me at least).
I definitely agree that while you are playing the game that assumption makes everything much more enjoyable.
In the “grand philosophical sense” of working out what rules people think would lead to better gameplay, I don’t think it’s sound. I don’t think people who write rules always succeed in perfectly executing their vision. I also think that sometimes better versions of a game are possible than the one the game’s official body would like to implement.
Yes, people speclulating as to how the rules ought to be when they have no power to change them is pointless, but people do it because it impacts them and they find it interesting.
But I think we are talking past each other somewhat.