Is there a way to reduce the incentive for throwing matches?

Recently my team experienced what might be a case of our own alliance throwing our match. (Long story short, our alliance told us their robot was broken, yet they played video games in their pit instead of working on their robot.) Then, after qualification rounds were over, that same no-show team got selected in an alliance for the finals even though they ended up ranked very low.

I’m not smart enough to understand the intricacies of game-throwing but I’ve been wondering whether or not there might be a way of tossing some uncertainty into this match-throwing technique so innocent teams are not as likely to get hit so hard by it. It seems to me that no-show teams or teams that deliberately under-perform can serve as “poison pills” to drag down otherwise good teams so they have no chance of becoming alliance captains, then these same no-show teams are later rewarded for their self-sacrifice by getting pulled up into alliances for the finals. Call me crazy, but that technique seems a little less than fair to my hard-working students who came very close to making it into the top 8.

One thought I had: would it be considered outrageous to institute a rule that excluded some portion of the ranking teams from participating in the elimination/finals rounds? In other words, would it make sense to exclude, say, the bottom 3 teams from moving forward after qualifications? Would instituting such exclusions help add enough uncertainty to the system so that teams would be less motivated to serve as self-sacrificing “poison pills”?

I must say I’m tempted to suggest excluding the lower 10% of teams or maybe even the lower 20% or 30%, but I thought I’d suggest excluding the lowest 3 teams just to get the conversation rolling. :slight_smile:

The problem with this sort of thing is D bots and anything else that don’t perform well in standard qualification matches. I’ve been on a team where we went something like 0 and 8 (in no way throwing those matches), yet ended up getting picked by first seed because we were a nearly unbeatable alliance when paired with a high-tier robot. Also, I’d like to point out that 2W in Gateway was in the bottom 25% of its division and went on to win Worlds.

Also, if a rule like this is imposed a team could win just enough to ensure they’re ranked relatively high and bomb their last few matches and make a show of their robot totally breaking apart and starting to fail.

The only thing I can think is to rework alliance selection so that both picks are made at the same time which removes any incentive to fail in order to sneak through to the second round of picks. Obviously, that opens a whole new world of problems.

Maybe so, but I think such a rule might make it harder for offending teams to calculate just how hard they need to skunk themselves. As it stands now, they can totally drive themselves to the very bottom (and take down their alliances with them) without any worries about rolling off the edge of the world. Even if they end up at the very bottom, they can still get selected for finals. Is that fair to everyone else who got skunked by their technique?

Alright, so I have a problem with your proposed solution…

We didn’t throw a match. All day. And if you watched alliance selections in Technology, you know we were picked by first seed. For a reason. This is the only match I’ve got on video, at the moment. If I had the Quarterfinals match on Youtube at this point I’d show that one to you, but we’re having trouble pulling it out of the livestream. QF 1-2, if you’re interested. Time is 3:45:50

Your proposed rule makes it even harder to play wallbots. We CANNOT assuredly rank well. It’s impossible. But our robot was good, when paired with the right partner. Without that, we’re useless.

It’s already more difficult to qualify a wallbot for Worlds than an offensive design. We’re automatically disqualified from Skills, because we can’t score, and basically from Excellence for the reason we can’t rank in skills, or do well in the rankings. You make it impossible to pick a wallbot who ranked low, then I don’t know what you want us to do.

2915C was ranked second to last place in the engineering division.

Our wallbot ranked 84th as well. Tell the 20 people who were constantly outside our booth staring at it in awe that our robot isn’t allowed to be picked and see what they think of that…

You can’t stop people from throwing matches. There’s nothing to be done about it besides encourage people to play fairly.

I know this is a little off-topic, but were 127C, 1471A and 10Q the only legitimate purely-defensive robots in the tournament? That must be a record low number of defensive robots (the lowest since Clean Sweep anyway). And what are the odds that 127C and 10Q were paired up as alliance partners in qualifying? To add something relevant to the thread – 10Q was also ranked in the bottom quarter of their division.

There were at least two more in college, rick.

It was extremely difficult to make a wallbot for toss up. The barrier and bump presented a serious challenge. You basically had to cross the field faster than the opponents could move 4 feet… Hence our 12 foot extensions capable of opening in less than one second. I hope this year leaves more room for wallbots… As of now it seems a bit tough still.

Also, our robot was not purely defensive. It combined a double 12 foot wallbot, a standard side roller bot on a 12 foot umbilical cord, and a 2 motor microbot on an 8 foot umbilical cord :stuck_out_tongue:

OYES and NAR had Wallbots in the VEX U division.

I think the design of Toss Up made teams shy away from Wallbots. But as we’ve seen, paired with the right partner, a wallbot can be a devastating foe.

If someone wanted to prevent scoring options for their opponent for this game, a wallbot * could * work.

I think this might be the least defensive game since Clean Sweep honestly.

Yeah, I think so. We checked over most of Worlds, and couldn’t find any others. I saw one in VEXU, I think, but we were the only three in HS.

Toss Up wallbots were HARD. You had to get all the way across the field, lock down two scoring locations, keep the game objects for your partner to score, and do it all before the opponents got by. We didn’t expect to see more than the two (ours and 1471A) there, honestly. Descoring was attempted by at least a few more teams, but it still wasn’t a large number.

Yes, I could see how wallbots would be hurt by such a rule. Personally, I hate wallbots. I know this is my own personal bias, so please excuse my harsh comments on wallbots. In my humble opinion wallbots do not force kids to be as creative as they otherwise might need to be. Personally, I want my kids to build stuff as complex as they can manage it to be, learning about sensors and programming and responding to changing environments, fault tolerance, etc. which is what I perceive robotics to really be about. Anyway, if wallbots are so wonderful, then why don’t they end up with higher rankings? If they can’t avoid ending up in the bottom 3 teams, then are they really such an admirable design?

For me, educating the kids is my top priority, not winning a game, so I have to think in terms of what stimulates creativity. Sorry, but until somebody shows me a wallbot that can end up ranking in the top 8 by itself, I’m probably going to continue sneering at wallbots. But, again, that’s just my personal bias. Fortunately for me, I did not see any wallbots in our particular middle school division, so I’m shocked to now learn that any wallbots made it anywhere near Worlds.

Having exposed my bias against wallbots, I would like to ask this: might sacrificing the inexpressible beauty of wallbot high technology be a reasonable trade-off against allowing teams to intentionally drive themselves to the very bottom so they can throw matches? Would eliminating the glory of building wallbots be worth making it harder for no-show teams to skunk their alliances? :slight_smile:

did you see 127c’s really innovative I would have never thought of stacking all of the pieces on top but a wallbot needs a good partner to succeed that is why lots of top teams pick them as third picks

Didn’t a New York team have a transformer wallbot? Some team on my row had one but never brought it on the field for some reason.

Yeah, now you’re looking for a fight.

Do you have any idea what you’re talking about? Have you any idea how much strategy, design, iteration, math, EVERYTHING STEM goes into building a wallbot? Do you know how long it takes to come up with something that will work and then build it? Obviously not. Come back once you’ve built a robot like mine, or 127s, or 2ws, and tell me that wallbots don’t take feats of engineering to create.

Wallbots end low in the rankings because they get partnered with teams who can’t keep up. GOOD wallbots get picked by good teams in the top 8 and DOMINATE the finals.

Here’s a thought - my team built our offensive root in TWO days and we took it to 7 tournaments. We won 6 and got finalist at the seventh. We also won three excellence awards and 13 skills titles. Our wallbot was INFINITELY more difficult to build. That took real engineering and real brainpower to do.

I assure you, as one of the people who spent the last year debugging 127C, wallbots are one of the hardest design challenges in VEX.

In order to ensure the level of precision required for that robot to work we had over 2,000 lines of code, employed two gyroscopes and two encoders, all four of which had redundant time based backups, ran three separate tasks simultaneously which had to talk to each other to ensure the robot didn’t catastrophically fail, and had multiple watchdog functions that watched the robot in autonomous to ensure we didn’t end up browning out our motors due to unexpected environmental factors. Our menu system alone was 300 lines of code and was rewritten three times in the course of the season to ensure it was as effective as possible.

And that’s just the programming. The wiring was over 100 feet in total and had to be redone after almost every competition. The top base had to be totally reworked in order to ensure it was one of the fastest moving things in all of VEX. The entire robot had to somehow expand from 18x18x18 to cover the entire field, which meant some of the most difficult space management I’ve ever seen. And, because nobody else builds wallbots, we were entirely on our own. There are tutorials for X drives and six bars and side roller intakes, but almost every single time we encountered a problem we had to solve it ourselves.

You want a challenge? Try building a wallbot.

I think labeling a large category of robots simple, and easy to build is most often a large exaggeration. 44’s Gateway robot is a good example of how complicated and thought out a primarily defensive robot can be. As for the educational element, it is a far more interesting design challenge to conceive a unique robot by noticing a need for a certain design and finding a way to make it work in starting configuration with a compact size.

Defensive robots don’t rank well because they are meant to be paired with an efficient scoring robot who can score enough alone when the defensive robot is limiting the opponents. In qualification matches, your chances of getting many matches with efficient scoring robots are low, but in elimination matches high ranked teams often like to pick defensive bots as allies because they will always be paired together. Additionally, a good defensive strategy often requires a coordinated auton which is hard to get in qualification matches. Also, the rankings are based off the losers score, so if your strategy is keeping scores low, you are not gonna ace that category. If you want to gauge the value of defensive robots, look at the worlds finals for every year. I think someone mentioned 2W who was ranked very low in Gateway but won worlds playing every match of the finals.

Of course, I’m not suggesting that anyone outlaw wallbots. My original suggestion was to establish a threshold for alliance selection eligibility. And I’m not looking for a fight. I’m just trying to figure out if there are ways to prevent teams from intentionally throwing matches.

Okay, so it sounds like wallbots might get hurt by my suggestion. Honestly, I had no idea that wallbots could be so intricate, never mind that they had any reasonable chance to make it to Worlds. At least I confessed to being biased against wallbots, just so you know.

Now, moving forward, can any of you wallbot aficionados come up with a better suggestion for preventing the intentional throwing of matches? Or do you think it’s acceptable to allow such practices to continue?

Another thing, 2915c went 1-9, and was ranked 2nd to last, and they went on to win the world championship this year. While he wasn’t a wallbot, he did have an 8 motor push bot that camped the goal zone.

Speaking from the experience of building a robot very similar to 44’s gateway robot, let me add that there are a lot of design challenges behind the scenes in wallbot building.

Our gateway wallbot used its own wheels to literally drive itself apart to a width of 6 feet. We made an extremely heavy lift that was longer than any lift I’ve ever seen in vex work with only 2 269s. Our chain bar arm expanded on rubber bands at te start of the match by 6" and still kept perfect orientation and chain tension.

Our double trough blocker in sack attack expanded to a width of 12 feet and covered up both of te opposing troughs. It did all this in the first five seconds of auto using rubber bands and a 1:3 speed drive.

Our quadropus for toss up was literally 12x12 feet and it opened to that from the 18 in less than ONE second. Not only that, it has TWO mobile wheelbases connected to it, one that was abou as good at scoring on it’s own as half the robots I’ve seen this season. It is the largest, fastest expanding vex robot I have ever seen and the design challenges we faced buildig it and our other wallbots are something that someone who ha so y ever built standard scoring roots could never understand.

Before you tell us wallbots are easy, cheap, unchallenging ways out, you had better show me the army of wallbots you put together in two days like I can show you the army of scoring bots I’ve done that with.

Absolutely, we should allow teams to skip matches without a punishment other than taking the “No-Show” automatic loss. Sometimes, fixing the robot takes priority over attending a match. I would say that if certain criteria are met, you would be fine skipping a match in your schedule, especially if you go and talk to your partner before-hand, and say “Look, my robot isn’t working, I need to get it fixed.”

The strategy you’re describing, where teams seed lower on purpose, is underhand. But you can’t go further punishing teams for being on the practice fields and missing a match than what’s already done. Because we can’t differentiate between these scenarios and the ones where teams are actually doing something nefarious, we have to err on the side of caution. In the words of William Blackstone, “It is better that ten guilty persons escape than that one innocent suffer.”

You’re angry, I get that. But do you really think you would even catch the teams smart enough to pull this off by just outright banning the bottom X% of teams? If I were doing this, I’d win 6/10 matches, get just above the cut-off point, and still be able to sabotage the matches I wanted to, were I lucky enough to get paired with teams I needed to take down in the rankings.