This was discussed for Next Level in this thread:
It seems like, unlike in previous years, Next Level had the design space “locked down” by the rule about only lifting one hub at a time, and also by how hard the hubs were to stack, and the fact that stacking higher didn’t lead to higher scores (only second level doubled points, but third and fourth level were not differentiated). Also a very tight possible point spread. 47 points max, and loads of people at worlds got exactly 40 or 41 points.
(It’s also interesting to have a competition where the highest possible score is borderline-physically impossible to achieve, due to robot height limitations and the only-lift-one rule—some kind of hub-throwing robot would be necessary to achieve a perfect 47. Compare to Bank Shot, where the world champions got a perfect score.)
This was obviously intentional, to give Flexbot a chance, and to reduce the relevance of those crazy, hyper-specialized “mentor builds.”
And after that Chinese team discovered the 4-hub “backwards mandible draggers” and posted a video with 36 points, the cat was out of the bag, and the design space pretty much settled. Sure enough, the world champions used exactly that design for one of the winning robots.
So, this year, I scoured the Squared Away rules for a similar limitation… but I didn’t find one. There’s also a huge possible point spread. 170 points max, and lots of ways to eek out another handful of points at the last minute through micro-optimization.
This must also be intentional, again opening the door to the crazy, hyper-specialized design spaces of the past.
I’m curious about the thinking behind these changes in direction.