VEX Game Design Philosophy

Here is some insight into the philosophy behind VEX Game Design…

What do you think of this? Do you agree with our mentality? Do you think we’ve covered all the important principles?

How well do you think we’ve met our goals in the past?

I’m eager to get more feedback on this topic. I know I really enjoyed talking about it with VEXers at the World Championship in April. It was great that so many VRC participants took the time to chat with me about what they think we could do better.

One of the hardest things we deal with is finding “balance” within the game design. We need to balance elite level play with beginner play, and ensure the game works for both. We need to find balance for high-resource teams and low-resource teams. We need to balance the desire for “newer, bigger, better” with the desire for “don’t make us spend more money on new stuff”.

The coolest part of engaging with so many VEXers at the World Championship is that I got the chance to ask them about how they would find these balances. Even the most opinionated people were respectful of the challenge when confronted with “the other side of the story”. I just hope we’re doing a good enough job of finding this balance that everyone can benefit.




Thanks for the insight. The GDC cannot be faulted in the work they do. When we are promoting the competition to new schools here in New Zealand we love explaining how well the games are designed and how they are ‘multileveled’. The process you describe obviously works and we can now see why it does.

Great job GDC! 10/10

Personally, I have never seen a VRC game that didn’t turn out to be a solid, successful game. The games have been different, “risky”, yet challenging and exciting. It is very hard to make a game with a diversity of tasks and game objectives that doesn’t become overwhelming to the causal viewer, and yet I’ve never seen a Vex game that isn’t easy to follow.

Clean Sweep is a great example. Putting a wall in the field is a really bold move for game design in competitive robotics, as it changes a lot of peoples’ assumptions while significantly “cluttering” the field of play. Yet, Clean Sweep was a fantastic game that brought out some very unique robots, strategies, and game elements.

If there’s one thing “missing” from Vex GDC games, I feel it’s “divergent paths”. One of my favorite FRC games of all time was Overdrive, where there were essentially two successful paths one could follow: The hybrid-heavy “lapper” like 1519 and 148, or the hurdler. I really liked how one route was mechanically simple (or complex if you made it so, but you could do an ackermann drive and turn out alright), very complex from a code standpoint, and surprisingly high rewarding (1519 managed to score more points in one offseason match than 90% of hurdlers). The other route was mechanically much harder, not necessarily as programming intensive, and potentially just as rewarding but also a ton riskier. I feel the option to choose two different paths depending on where the strength of your team lies would be a great addition to a Vex game. I’m not sure if I put my thoughts very well into words, but “more like Overdrive once” sums it up I think. :stuck_out_tongue:

There are many good ideas there, especially about visually appealing and balance.

An additional good attribute for a game is:
Clear rules that are easy to judge objectively, rather than subjectively such as “intent”

What are the (3) phases of competition? (#10)

How do you evaluate robot-robot interaction as plus/minus?
I think CleanSweep was the first Vex game I’ve seen without R-R.
It was a nice change to the usual, “My worst robot to pin your best”

Does it make the competition more engaging to have a backstory?
For Roundup: “stop the oil leak with flow-restrictor-tubes”
Or does a back-story just sound Hokey?

I’ve been doing VEX for the last five years and the thing that has impressed me is how the games have kept pace with the improvements in available parts (more complex parts more complex games) but have been winnable by new teams. It’s also possible for painfully simple robots to play. (Up until this year a squarebot could score, for the last three years (including this year) a protobot could play). With the wide variety of skills that we have on our teams having everybody being able to participate is super important.

I’ve cycled between being a fan of the push and shove defense (Quad Quandary) to the wall in last years game. Height limitations in this years game and in Bridge Battle have brought up some interesting designs. I also was impressed with the TSA version of Clean Sweep (Swept Away) 1 on 1 robot challenge is a different dimension. (And I’m looking forward to seeing what Round Up (Stack 'em Up?) for TSA will look like)

I can see the need for lots of scoring options to keep the action going until the last seconds. (But as a ref sometimes it’s hard to count all those points). I’ve liked the high / low goals point differential to make it more of a strategy game play. Being able to look and see who is winning is important, but game winners because of strategy (like owning goals) makes the “thinking while driving part” a big part of the game. I like that balance between good mechanical design, good strategy and good driving/execution.

All in all I’d love to have your day job of designing cool parts (like a turntable :rolleyes: ) but you can keep your GDC job, it’s way too hard. The GDC team has done well meeting the goals outlined in your posting. And you’ve done a great job in fending off the “Philly Lawyering” that goes on around the game by keeping the overall rules simple.

Rumors out Greenville are that a pretty interesting collection of new parts are on the way in the next six months. I’m pretty sure that none of them will be decisive in winning at Round Up, but they are pretty cool. That is, if they really exist.

Despite all my requests, John and company have refused to build a “tube stacker” for me.

ummm… NO
remember the other robotics game beside the finals court?
i dont remember correctly but they said the “tennis balls are like XXXX because…” the audience just doesnt really want to hear it
its not “exciting” as some would put it
i also overheard someone say “who cares? clean sweep doesnt make ANY sense at all, but its just that awesome”
and imo i also think that its “lame” explaining it to someone that wants to know a bit more about the game

We’d be happy to build one, if you can afford the engineering time… :wink:

For the most part, the committee has done an excellent job of balancing the low vs. high resource teams. We’re not planning to buy the cortex system, high strength motors, power expander, or aluminum this year, so it will be interesting to see how well we survive this season.

I’m still waiting for a game where there’s a “diversify” bonus at the end. Something like, you get 10 points if you climb a ladder, 10 points if you possess an unwieldy object, and 30-40 points if you and your alliance partner together do both. I think it would throw a whole new dimension into alliance selection.

there WAS an “unwieldy object” in elevation
it was the bonus cube
but nobody really bothered with it, think its because the points are weighted too little

Exactly! What I’m proposing (which I think would make the game more interesting) is awarding points like:

own platform alone = 5 points
possess bonus cube alone = 5 points
own platform AND bonus cube together = 20 - 30 points

By making the reward for 2 tasks 4 - 6 times as great as one (rather than just twice as much), it forces both alliance partners to work together on different tasks. That’s why I call it a “diversify” bonus – the partners must be able to do both tasks, not just do one task really well.

BTW, I think a task which requires a separate mechanism, like turning the bonus cube, should get more points than a task that most robots can do without modification (like driving onto an un-lipped platform).

nice analogy
it wouldve been nice this year too especially with a HANGER and another
hope something like this would be incorporated in next years game

You know, maybe that tradeoff currently exists in a much more subtle form right now. :slight_smile:

While i see and kind of agree with your point it is tricky to enforce. Some teams were able to flip the bonus cube with their cube manipulator by lowering their arm onto it then driving back and in some cases a standard drive could not climb the platform and more wheels needed to be added in order to prevent bottoming out on the lip.

I think in some situations making task worth lots of points is not necessary. In some games if there is a maximum number of points to be scored then performing a bonus task even if it is for minimal points may be very important.


I don’t think they were talking about using a ref call to determine if a mechanism was separate, I think they meant “make stuff that’s harder to design into your robot worth more”.

I’m waiting for the game with two distinct game pieces you have to use differently or put in different places, so teams are REALLY forced to pick one or the other, or insane complexity.

Also, a Vex replica of the 2004 FRC game plz :stuck_out_tongue:

That was the same vibe i got. “enforce” was probably the wrong word for me to use. Sorry for the confusion.