One major difference between Tower Takeover and previous games is the point-multiplying effect of towers, and in particular the fact that it affects both alliances. This means that the total number of points an alliance scores in a rather difficult match doesn’t tell you anything about their performance; it just tells you whether towers became a part of the match. A tight match might have rather low scores, if the distribution of colours was too close for either alliance to make the call to do towers, while a less close match may have much higher scores on both sides, as the dominant alliance uses towers to multiply their SPs. Contrast this with In The Zone, for example, where very tight, competitive maches were characterized by nearly all the cones gone from the field, and resulting in the highest possible scores on both sides.
Looking at Turning Point, the swing game mechanics had a similar effect, resulting in very low scores on both sides of highly competitive matches; divisional elimination matches at Worlds had winning alliance scores under 20 points.
I’ve never been a huge fan of using total match score statistics for scouting, and these last two games just made their flaws more prominent. If you’re going to do it based on statistics, you need much more detailed information, and you also need to take into account strategy mechanics such as SPs. I much prefer making decisions based on qualitative observations and subsequent strategy theorizing based on the observations, using statistics to look for teams we might not have thought of picking, if we use them at all. Also, not all scouting is for alliance selection—it’s also really useful for developing match strategies for both qualification and elmination matches.
Tl;dr: scouting isn’t dead, but OPR/DPR & co. might be.
For scouting I use a google sheet. I love finding out about teams and make sure we are choosing alliances good. I take my up to the line. It works great.
I don’t think that scouting is dead. It think more people should scout. It’s a good idea. Keep things contained. Paper scouting might be a bad idea if you have it laying around. We did that and it got stolen and alliance selection got BAD. I did it on a password protected iPad. We ended up almost winning states.
Since this was my first year in VRC, I hated using the scoring app but it proved to be really helpful after a while. I began to notice patterns for other teams which also helped me with scouting.
Some of the questions we asked for scouting
What you can do points wise
Hope all this answers your question!
So, my team and I are planning on having scouting be an integral part of our strategy next year. We plan to ‘Moneyball it’, and find some obscure statistic that no one will look at, and exploit that to the best of our ability. I always enjoy scouting, and I feel like this will make it feel new and interesting.
With me, scouting is in fact the opposite of dead. This past week I figured out a method to statistically determine good teams and valuable picks at competitions by scraping data from VexDB and then sorting it. I also do pre-scouting before competitions, and develop scouting sheets for at competitions. Scouting can be fun if you make it fun, so no it’s definitely not dead.
Let me rephrase because obviously scouting is not completely dead. Do you guys think that scouting is the same as it was with our old three alliance system? I think that while statistics are important, they aren’t as critical as they used to be and pre/post comp scouting is becoming just as important for top teams as scouting during comp.
I never scouted thoroughly with three team alliances, but I do know it’s definitely not the same. With three alliance members scouting was more important at larger events that counted for more, such as states or worlds. With two alliances, however, scouting is still important because you only get one pick rather than two, so it requires a captain to choose wisely. Scouting helped our team win more qualification matches at several events during Turning Point and Tower Takeover, like Night at the Museum, Kalahari, and our state competition. Pit scouting, or going to a team’s pit to interview them about their robot, and watching matches from the stands to view habits that teams have in their matchplay are both good ways for teams to improve their scouting at competitions and find better alliance partners, but it’s better to have a dedicated role for those positions.
Firstly, our scouting has always involved more than just vexdb or whatever scouting database there are lying around.
There are 2 main limitations to using vexdb (or any scouting database) for scouting:
a) ccwm, opr, dpr, etc are very competition-dependent, meaning, a good team playing in a tough or competitive tournament will have a lower rating as compared to a potato robot playing in a tournament full of worse-than potato tournament.
So it is definitely not the best gauge of the robots’ or teams’ ability.
b) the more competitions that the database has for that team the better - but there are many overseas teams that are not involved in as many tournaments as an average US teams, so the rating will not be that accurate or reflective for non-US teams.
So we do prefer to do our scouting based on match videos or recordings.
And as some of you have mentioned - interview is a waste of time. We are generally skeptical (or call us realistic) when teams say they have a perfect 10-cubes auton.
We prefer to see it with our own eyes on the practice fields or during matches.
So what we scouted for is normally more than just looking at the database rating.
We want to look at consistency, we want to know how often the robot can perform certain specific tasks and look out for the strengths and weaknesses, etc.
And yes - we do these even for teams that we are alliance with during qual. So that we know how to best utilise the strenths of our alliance (while also not asking them to do something they are weak at).
Now with a 2-team alliance format, it actually made things easier. But at the same time, I do missed the additional strategic plays involved with a 3rd team (but let me clarify - i do understand the rationale of going 2-team alliance). I would say the main difference is that now we just need to look for 1 robot that can complement ours.
But still - it is important to go into alliance selection with a short list and a long list (esp when someone start burning or do a scourge earth during the alliance selection).
For our VEX teams, scouting is a very important thing for us at competitions. It is important because when we want to pick an alliance partner, we check our “scouting sheet” and see what we have written for that team’s capabilities. Our scouting sheet is also important because we can see what our opponents’ capabilities and then go from there.
I think what’s rly important now that not many ppl do is look at how a team scores points. As an example. 5225A ITZ picked a robot that had a completely different play style which allowed them to dominate in every part of the field. This especially helped because the 5225a wasn’t as y’all as other teams and (because of the nature of the passive intake) was not good at the stationary goal. Both teams in the alliance should be able to fill in gaps in performance for their partner.
I believe scouting is not dead. At a local level perhaps, but at a regional or worlds level scouting is an important tool to find great teams who have bad schedules, are unlucky, or otherwise unknown. In FRC, where we don’t really know teams too well, and the picking system demands we pick both from the top and from the bottom, scouting data is essential to sort through the teams present.
Thanks for the shout-out. I want to add that, moreover, we were ranked #1 and the team we picked (8825S) was ranked #14. Apparently that was a head-scratcher for many people watching; all they saw were the “total” numbers. However, what they didn’t see was that a) 2 of their 3 losses were their first two qualification matches, where there were minor issues which they had since figured out and resolved, and b) they always played a strong game, even when they lost. This is in addition to the fact that, as @64540A pointed out, their strategy and strengths complemented ours extremely well, from autos to endgame. No statistic from any available database can tell you that.
I wouldn’t say scouting is dead. It is definitely different now though. My team currently uses web scraped data from vexdb.io and then we rank importance of AP, OPR, DPR, CCWM, and TRSP to give favorable rankings. We use this for every past competition of the team over the year (giving more importance to more recent comps) to factor in. This all updates on its own in a google sheets. It’s quite fun!
The part that has changed though is the importance of strategy and communication over everything else. In so many competitions, there are teams that rank high because they can just carry their partner. This is a lot harder to calculate with stats especially if more than one team does this (It throws of TRSPs) so we added another value. In our sheet, the column is just called “the bro factor”(gender-inclusive bro). It’s essentially how well they work with people and us. This is ordered as the most important value in the spreadsheet. That is the biggest change with BO1 that we made. Just making sure that we can work well with them. (Part of this is having a no pick list of mean teams, and PBRs that ruin Vex)
TT was my first season and I was captain on a team of other first-years. I actually used scouting a lot, however, I primarily used it to figure out my strategies with each alliance partner before each match. In my region, you pretty much know where everyone stands in terms of who’s better within the first few competitions, so figuring out the good alliance partners for alliance selection isn’t really an issue.
It is important to find a robot that complements yours, in every aspects.
(Still think it was more interesting when it was 3-team alliance… the 3rd robot certainly added another layer of intricacy and complexity to the gameplay)
Another example that I can give will be last season TP - 8059A picked 169A.
Of course, to the normal observers, they might be thinking that it was an obvious 1st seed picking the 2nd seed.
But what they didnt know was that there was a list of “shortlisted” teams (based on scouting data) that actually came together the day before and “tested” each other out… to see who is able to complement each other best, in terms of the auton, the usual gameplay, the strengths of each other, etc. E.g. 8059A had a strong and consistent front auton, while 169A had a strong back auton, ultilising 8059A to play mainly at the front while 169A hit it off from the back, etc.
And btw, there was no shortage of amazing teams and robots in their division. So it was never an “automatic” 1st picked 2nd scenario.
Scouting has never been dead, and never will be. That Friday at Worlds is one of the busiest days my teams that play in eliminations have. From the early morning, to all the matches, to the evenings where after dinner it’s either going to scrimmages, and deciding on late night alliances.
I’ve never liked OPR/DPR/CCWM/TRSPs for VRC games. They’re great mathematical analyses, but the purpose they served in FRC and how I approach them when scouting there vs what I do in VRC are vastly different scales - Heck I go way beyond just the numbers.
Scouting, and competitive robotics, has always been about identifying the capabilities of the robots around you, and leveraging their strengths and weaknesses against yours. It’s what I teach my teams when to scout, it’s what the best scout teammates I’ve had do when scouting.
Numbers aren’t going to tell you that they have an auton that perfectly complements yours, or that they can do the one thing you struggle at.
A lot of the time teams will only scout if they are in the top 10ish. Teams that know they have no chance of being an alliance captain just won’t scout because they know that they wont need info on other teams. For my team personally, scouting is a really big part of how we win most of our region’s (texas region 3 ms) awards. My team only scouts for alliance selection though, we usually dont have time to scout during qualifying matches. Knowing what other teams robots do (clawbot, wallbot, that year’s meta, ect) and what type of autons they have is a way more effective way of picking alliances than just picking the next ranked team. Also, scouting allows you to know what you will be up against in your next match. My final thoughts are that teams that are more dedicated to robotics will generally scout during the comp and doing that will give them a higher chance of winning.
We actually scout before the tournament and the opening ceremony, in addition to before alliance selection. To check teams out, we use Vex Via for team stats and go from there. We also check our interested alliance’s opponent and see how well their opponents were in the qualification matches. Then we talk to teams that we consider, and we check out their robot and their capabilities. Maybe they will even drive a little for us to see, it all depends. Before the tournament, we make a “scouting sheet” and go around asking teams about their robot capabilities. We also use this for qualification matches for our alliance and our opponents.
Another factor that we use is how teams did in Skills. At one of our tournaments, a team had a losing record but they had pretty good Skills scores. Therefore, their drivers were good at, well, driving. Skills is always a factor when we select an alliance partner. They may have a good robot , but Skills shows how good the driver or drivers is.