VRC Change Up Robot Skills Challenge

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.

Long version:

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.

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“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.

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Thanks for the update. Happy to see that skills will receive a change.

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thank you for your nice post mr. gdc

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I hope you have a nice manual update day celebration with mrs. gdc and the rest of the gang!

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Thank you Mr. Cox. We greatly appreciate you taking the time to think this entire process through, instead of giving a hurried solution that may take a wrong turn. I am glad that the GDC has the perspective to realize that this date constraint is not the most important thing, and it gives me confidence that the GDC will have the perspective to revise Skills to be the best it can be inside of the constraints. Thank you for keeping us informed.

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Thanks for all the gdc’s hard work, and for listening to competitor feedback!

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Thank you for taking the time to write this out mr gdc. While we were hoping for the big change in skills to be released today, I’m relieved to hear that you’re taking the time to look over the situation and make sure that it’s the best change possible for the skills challenge

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Thank you Grant for taking your time to write this reassuring post. I think we would much rather have the GDC take their time to make the right adjustments than just rush to put out a fix that is not comprehensive and well thought out. See you June 15!

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I understand that driver skills wasn’t intended to be as easy as it was, but if the GDC wanted programming skills to be more important, then why didn’t they make driver skills and programming skills separate like it was pre-starstruck instead of making driver skills easier. Especially with the corona virus, many people will want to practice driver skills as much as possible and having a game where it is possible to max out driver skills at all is not ideal. Watching driver skills from high level teams in games like Nothing but Net and In The Zone was a lot more interesting than a game like Turning Point mostly because the lowered skill ceiling makes maxing out skills an expectation. Driver skills shouldn’t be designed to be maxed out because if multiple teams max it out, then it doesn’t show their driver’s skill.

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For one thing, we don’t know what they’re doing about skills. For another, making them separate, in my eyes, would be a lose-lose situation, because driver skills would inevitably get more attention from competitors than programming skills, and also driver skills would lose programming as a tie-breaker. I can see how this would enhance the programming skills situation, but it is already likely to be the deciding factor as the rules currently stand.

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Owen is speaking facts

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Making them separate wouldn’t cause programming skills to get less attention, it would actually make it get more attention. In Tower Takeover, most teams could win robot skills at an event so long as they had a good driver skills. By making them separate, more teams would focus on programming skills, since having a good programming skills rewards you. Also why would it be a bad thing that programming skills is lost as a tiebreaker? While driver and programming skills were separate, different things were deemed as tiebreakers (in NBN bonus balls broke ties). By making driver skills easy and taking the combined score, it really just ruins the “skill” aspect of driver skills.

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