A lot of teams on this forum are aware of the concept of metagame: the strategies that teams use to win the game. Because the goal of the game is to have a higher score than the opponent, metagame often evolves throughout the season, in stages from blind scoring to more intelligent ways to defeat the opponent. This is an analysis of those stages.
Stage 1 of Metagame:
At the beginning of the season, teams often focus on the “obvious” solution, and build robots to pick up objects and score them faster than the opponent. Many matches at early-season tournaments are Stage-1 matches where teams just focus on blindly scoring objects in goals. This is the lowest form of strategy: there are usually never any Stage-1 Matches at Worlds.
Stage 2 of Metagame:
When teams start to analyze patterns in the game and its scoring, and take advantage of these patterns to help them defeat Stage 1 teams more reliably, then these teams have entered Stage 2. Many of the differences between Stage 1 and Stage 2 lie in the team’s autonomous programs and their strategy. Robots built to score blindly are used, or sometimes modified slightly, to gain some extra points, or bonuses, to defeat the other team. Examples of this are:
-Descoring or scoring selectively to own goals, in Round Up.
-Dumping objects under the ladder so the opponent can’t score them, in Round Up
-Scoring key bonus points before the other team, and using doublers/negators to maximum effectiveness, in Gateway.
-Descoring onto the floor, and sometimes rescoring a bonus sack or several sacks, in Sack Attack.
The Autonomous bonus (when present) is also something sought after in Stage 2 matches.
Stage 3 of Metagame:
Stage 3 occurs when teams redesign their robots to carry out their stage 2 strategies more effectively than their old Stage 1 robots can. When many teams use the same strategies, their designs start to converge, until one superior design emerges (this is known as design convergence, discussed in other threads by that name). Many features in these robots differ, however, giving different robots different competitive advantages. Stage 3 robots are the most common sight at Worlds, like:
-Robots able to score triangular goals efficiently in Clean Sweep
-Clawbots and Needlebots in Round Up
-“NZ-bots” (characterized by 6-bar lifts and side-roller intakes), and some advanced Dual-tread robots, in Gateway
Stage 4 of Metagame:
More commonly known as “Nuclear-Option” or “Green-Egg” strategies, Stage 4 strategies feature robots designed to change the entire game, and force Stage 3 robots to adapt or die. Many Stage 4 robots are capable of stopping Stage 3 ones from executing their old offensive strategies, using an extreme, out-of-the-box kind of defense. This stage of metagame is usually what decides the World Champions.
Some examples of Stage 4 robots are:
-GER’s Fred IV, and other “goal dumping” robots that scored the mobile base goals for owning-bonus points, and dumped them under the ladder, in Round Up.
-Wallbots, which expanded to prevent their opponents from getting key bonus points, and sometimes prevented their opponents from using a doubler, in Gateway
-Super Stackers, which stacked 15 objects on one goal so that the doubler could be used to max effectiveness, making of its objects worth 2 points, in Gateway.
Stage 5 of Metagame:
This is the final stage of metagame. It is also the least known stage, as there usually is not enough time for teams to formulate, and effectively execute, Stage-5 strategies. A Stage-5 strategy is one last-ditch effort to defeat a Stage-4 robot. Sometimes Stage-3 robots are used to attempt Stage-5 strategies, but the most promising way to beat a Stage-4 robot is by building an entirely new robot designed solely to do so, which is a Stage-5 robot.
Here are examples of Stage-5 strategies attempted by Stage-3 robots:
-Attempting to block goal-dumpers in Round Up (not successful due to Fred IV’s 8-motor drive)
-Blocking a super-stacker from scoring (successful due to the fact that super-stackers depend entirely on their 1 score)
-Parking in front of wallbots to halt their advances (not successful against 50-lb, high-torque wallbots like 2W) in Gateway
-Trying to rush past wallbots in autonomous (not successful against fast-expanding wallbots) in Gateway
-Scoring bonus points in the center 30" goal and the 20" goals to gain an edge over the wallbot’s alliance (successful, except in cases where the wallbot could score or cap the 30" goal, and had a partner that could score the 20" goals first)
Since Stage 4 robots are so rare, most teams don’t bother with Stage-5 robots, but there are two examples of Stage-5 robots:
-This robot, in Round Up, which could go under the ladder and descore the goal-dumpers’ “safe” points. (successful in cases except those in which alliance partner falls over, or those where goal-dumper’s partner can still own the 4 wall goals).
-The “Gatehopper,” in Gateway, which could go across the black fence to get past any wallbot (unsuccessful due to time it took to get over the fence).
Metagame, by the 3rd, 4th, and 5th stages, becomes very complex, and I hope this illustration will help teams better understand and take part in metagame in the future.
Please post any comments or opinions!