Autonomous Re-evaluated

It has been my opinion, that the autonomous period is overlooked by some teams and underestimated in general. Over the past few year it seems to me as if VEX has reduced the importance of the autonomous period: from Gateway to Sack Attack the time allotment was reduced from 20 to 15 seconds. Yous may also argue that they added the point bonus for this year as opposed to last, and the entire match length was shortened; so it evens out. What do you think? Should the value of the autonomous period be increased (more time, or higher point bonus), or should it be decreased (less time, and fewer to no point bonus)?


P.S. This of course would apply toward future games.

I’ve found with experience a longer auto mode can be good, however only for the teams who are willing to write a program that will run the entirety of it. In VEX’s case, you can have many different kinds of programs and sequences that you can run because you can interact with your robot after the match starts, but in FTC this is not the case. One shot one outcome, and it may not be the one you want.

This is what I have discovered.

  • Andrew

I partly agree with Andrew on this one.
However, if I recall correctly, they’ve also shortened the user control period this year. I think they ended up shortening the time because there were teams that were cleaning a majority of the field within the original 2 min, which they then also cut down to 1 min, 45 secs. I believe that once world’s came around, there would probably be teams that could clean the entire field with time to spare, at that point it would just become an extreme descoring battle at the end, which I think was not vex’s desire.

I’m just going to compare Gateway and Sack Attack, because if I talked about autonomous for every game this post would take forever.

In Gateway, autonomous lasted 20 seconds, and there was NO autonomous bonus. Because there was no real motivation to try and actually SCORE points, and goal space was very important because descoring was illegal, the most common autonomous routines just blocked the neutral goals. It was vital to HAVE one of these routines, because it was very hard to win a competitive match if the other team got all the neutral goals. However, it wasn’t particularly difficult to CREATE one of these routines, because it was a simple block. So in Gateway, the autonomous period was hugely important, but usually didn’t have a huge effect on the outcome of competitive matches.

Sack Attack is very different however… While the autonomous period is 5 seconds shorter, there IS an autonomous bonus. However, the bonus is only 10 points, equivalent to scoring two regular sacks in a trough. I’m sure most people would consider this negligible. However, what I’m expecting to see is that a huge POSITIONING advantage can be gained from autonomous. A team that is able to score far more points than their opposition in autonomous should have a very easy time controlling the game. They have more points in the troughs, and have the 10 pt autonomous bonus banked, so can really just try and BLOCK the opponents for the whole of the driver controlled period, or they can make even “trades” in descoring/rescoring, and still remain ahead. I haven’t really seen this be done to the most extreme measure, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it starts happening come worlds. Of course, there are ways in which to easily counter a strong offensive autonomous routine anyway, so maybe it will just become a game of blocking like gateway…

However, I still think autonomous is vitally important in Sack Attack, and I don’t think the value of the autonomous period needs to be increased. While the “bonus” gained from the autonomous period may seem small, when you think on it, you definitely gain a lot more than a 10 point bonus from a successful strong offensive autonomous routine.

I feel the same way. I’ve noticed this in Round Up and Sack Attack. Even though the bonus isn’t a huge number, in evenly matched games, it can and a lot of times is a huge deciding factor of the match.

You all bring valid points. I don’t really think they should increase the point value, just go back to 20 seconds. I feel that with more autonomous time, teams will really have to think about the strategy of their routines and try to anticipate the other teams’ move more then they currently have to.


I know personally the first time I read the game manual and saw that it was only a 15sec autonomous, I was very disappointing. I personally love watching the teams robots moving on their own and scoring. I think that is SO cool. I think that if you can get a good start, you will be feeling good about the drive control period. I LOVE autonomous!

You’ve got to love autonomous even more when you can score 55 points and the other alliance can’t score that much combined ;):rolleyes:

I agree with Delta about restoring the 20 sec autonomous. When it was 20 sec the time allowed for the use of more complex programming and the use of sensors. When the time was decreased, the majority of the programs I’ve seen just go straight to the sacks or goals. Increasing the autonomous back to 20 sec & decreasing the driver control portion by 5 sec would challenge students to program on a higher level and less on dead reckoning. Having a shorter driver control portion would have very little impact as the game is really won in the last 30 sec not the length of the driver portion.

I know my programmer would prefer a longer time period. But on the other hand 15 seconds has forced him to optimize the routines while balancing accuracy and repeatability vs complexity.

Having said that one thing VEX does less well in game design is building in ways that ANY robot has a chance to score significantly in autonomous. Most of the FTC games have some way that even rookies can score some points (Ring it up is the exception) if they write a basic autonomous routine.

But is the 10 point bonus enough may be the real question. It is surprising how many (good) teams I have seen this year (and others) with very capable robots have no autonomous. Perhaps a larger bonus (15 or 20 points) coupled with a longer 20 second autonomous and a better path for less experienced teams to score more than 1 or 2 points will motivate more teams to incorporate autonomous routines.