tl;dr - The May 25th Game Manual Update does not include any changes to VRC Appendix B, the Robot Skills Challenge Appendix. This Appendix is still being finalized, and will be released in a supplemental update on June 15th. Any Skills Challenge scores posted prior to June 15th will not be eligible for global Skills Challenge Rankings.
Less than a week after VRC Change Up was released, a video was posted online of a robot completing a maximum Driver Skills score. Predictably, this led to a flurry of passionate conversation across the VRC community. If you think the thread on the VEX Forum was heated, you should see the GDC’s Slack channel from the past few weeks.
“How did someone max Skills so quickly?” - Technically, it is important to note that the Robot Skills Challenge has not been maxed out, just half of it.
“Did the GDC expect this?” - We knew that Driver Skills had a lower ceiling of difficulty than previous years, and knew that a max score was possible. We were looking forward to Programming Skills becoming a crucial contributor to team rankings. However, while lowering the difficulty ceiling was intended, lowering it to a “one-week maxout” was not.
“Will the GDC be fixing it?” - Depends on your definition of ‘fix’, but yes, we will be making a rules modification. The Robot Skills Challenge, consisting of both Driver and Programming components, should remain competitive, exciting, and engaging for the whole season, without sacrificing any core gameplay dynamics of VRC Change Up. We do not feel that the current rules satisfy these goals.
In my personal opinion, addressing this situation has been one of the most difficult challenges that this GDC has faced in many years. We follow a constraint- and goal-based problem-solving process, similar to the engineering design process you use for your robots. Because of the way that VRC Change Up plays, and the fact that the game has already been released, this particular scenario is driven by uniquely conflicting goals and fixed constraints.
As if that wasn’t already difficult enough, we are trying to address this challenge in 2020. No one knows exactly what this season will look like as schools, communities, and households adjust to the realities of COVID-19. Whatever happens, I do not think it is a stretch to predict that the Skills Challenge will have a more prominent role this year than any other season in VRC history.
Therefore, we need to get this “right”. The GDC owes it to the VRC community to make sure that this season plays the best that it possibly can. In order to do so, we have chosen to deprioritize the previously published May 25th constraint.
To be clear, this decision is not made lightly. Frequent unannounced mid-season updates, which are part of the culture in many environments like auto racing or e-Sports, simply do not work in the VRC ecosystem. (the details of this are a subject for a whole separate rambling post, just trust me when I say it is discussed every year)
So, I say all of this to hopefully provide some reassurances that this is not a “hand-wave” delay. The GDC is not ignoring the situation, nor are we at a loss for possible solutions, nor will unannounced mid-season updates become a norm. We have just not had the time to fully vet out any change that would carry this much weight, and are not comfortable rushing out an answer. (remember, the normal game design process is roughly 2 years from concept to release).
I hope that you will agree, I apologize to those who were waiting with bated breath for an answer today, and on behalf of the GDC, we cannot thank you enough for your patience and understanding. See you in 2 weeks.