What makes a good vex game?

I have been doing vex for the past four seasons and I would really like to hear everyone’s opinion on what makes a good vex game. Personally, the contrast between what I believe was the best vex game I competed in (turning point) and the worst game (change up) are drastic with change up being significantly worse than turning point. I have my own opinion on what might make a vex game good and it goes as follows:

  1. The number of possible tasks that can earn points

  2. The complexity of these tasks

  3. No obvious game flaws that makes the game easily manipulated

I believe turning point did the best at this because there was a number of different tasks that you could earn points as well as these tasks bringing a good engineering a design challenge. However, change up did the worst job at this because there was literally only one thing to do and that task was in all honesty pretty easy. Personally, I think the new tipping point game looks like a good game because there are a number of ways to earn points just like how turning point had and the odd shaped rings provides a good challenge. I have seen people complain about the weirdly shaped rings but the simplicity of change up makes me love some kind of challenge in the new game.

When it comes to game design flaws, I am talking about things like wall bots (yes attack me everyone who actually likes wall bots, but I hate them because it defeats the whole purpose of trying to play the game and it’s just looking for an easy way out) and now it looks like the hoarding rule for tipping point leaves the new game prone to this flaw. This is personally my only thing I don’t like about tipping point and I really hope a change is made about this in the future.

Let me know what is your guys opinion on this and what you think makes a good vex game.

4 Likes

One characteristic needed of all VEX games is the ability for a novice team to be able to do at least something to score points. Prior to the basic trainer designs being published (a so-called “herobot” by VEX), you would see more novice teams with no idea what to build for competition, but even a drive base could score a few points (for example, in NBN you could shove a ball under the pipe, in Skyrise, you could score an autonomous point by simply driving forward leaving a cube behind). In the current game, it looks like a drive base can at least push around a mobile goal (and certainly play some defense).

10 Likes

Yes… those that hates wallbot can attack me as well.

Something that I realised about wallbot… it takes certain maturity to appreciate this approach.
Generally, what I notice is that my older students tend to understand and appreciate wallbot as compared to my junior members.

Another thing abt wallbot is that - it is not an easy way out.
A good wallbot need a lot of game analysis and meta gaming. And it is generally more technical challenging than a normal meta robots.

Just look at those successful and well done wallbot, eg, 2W.
Nobody will dare to say that it was an easy way out.

12 Likes

One thing that a game should have is multiple metas. This makes it much more exciting through out the season and with only a single meta, it can come down to who makes the most mistakes as drivers and not the design.

6 Likes

What makes a good game in my opinion is a large range of tasks that a team can perform of varying levels of difficulty and reward.

Tipping point does a great job at this, with tasks ranging from putting rings in the bowls of the goal and pushing goals to your side, all the way to lifting rings on a angled 40" post and bringing goals and robots up a pivoting platform.

Compare that to change up where there was literally 1 task. The only thing any robot could do to score points was put balls in a goal. And it wasn’t even a difficult task, which made the game more focused on speeding up the meta and driver skills than it was on innovation and engineering.

I also think that a good game needs to be easily playable with skills. If anyone can max out skills in a game, it doesn’t have a functional skills challenge.

And lastly I think a good game needs to be engaging for both the competitor and the audience. The easier it is to tell who’s winning, the more intense and exciting the matches are to play and watch, the more the game will succeed at drawing in new participants to the program. In my personal opinion, change up was very boring to watch, despite being a fast-paced game. And the way the scoring worked made it very unintuitive for spectators to understand, a field could have mostly blue balls scored but red could still win in a landslide.

It seems that I’m using this topic to rant about change up again, but I honestly think it was a clear example of everything a game should not be, and that tipping point is everything it should be.

10 Likes

No I understand what you mean. Change up was so god awful I don’t understand how in the world vex saw that and thought it was good enough to publish. The fact that skills could easily be maxed (it was maxed like two weeks after the game was released) during a time where almost all competitions (including worlds) was just purely skills made the whole change up so much worse. I hope something like change up never happens again

2 Likes

Agreed. When a game has a single meta (like change up or tower takeover) it takes away almost all of the engineering/ design challenges.

3 Likes

Maybe I was wrong to say it was easy but it still is just cheesing the system to find a way to win without actually playing the game. You aren’t playing the game to try to achieve the objectives of the game you are just finding a way to manipulate the system to win. I would rather loose than win using some manipulation of the game to avoid actually playing and just to win.

The only objective of the game is to score more points than the opposing alliance. The gdc does not design a game to be played by only offensive robots, if they did they wouldn’t allow wallbots or defense. If a team evaluates a wallbot to be their method of achieving this objective than they are playing the game the way the game was designed to be played, and should not be discredited in the slightest, especially if you consider how much more difficult building a successful wallbot is compared to a standard offensive bot.

8 Likes

defensive can mean many things… in change up defensive could mean scoring on the home row and stopping the other team from having it

in this years game a wall bot may be effective because it will be able push rings into one corner allowing your alliance to pick them up

how a team implements the first few steps of the design process is completely their choice

1 Like

Which is exactly what they are doing this year by imposing as 36 inch expansion limit. Last year, they were fine with a wall bot; this year, they aren’t.

sure, because a wallbot could be truly game-breaking for this game. I was speaking in terms of games that allow wallbots, since obviously those are the only games where wallbots will exist.

My take on the change up situation is that Vex wanted a simple game so they could roll out the AI program. They needed to create a simple task that was easy to engineer so that teams could focus more on the coding part of it.

As others have said, wallbots are not an easy way out. If they were, we’d probably see them more frequently than we do.

I’ve said elsewhere that a simple robot, that anyone can build, that locks that game is a bad thing. A challenging robot, that very few people can build, that can lock the game is not the worst thing.

Building a successful wallbot is hard. I would argue harder than trying to build the best offensive robot in the world. Usually this requires taking something that starts 18" wide, expanding far enough that it blocks a significant portion of the field, while also being robust enough to withstand more aggressive defense. Not purely offensive? Sure. Boring? Probably, if it works. Hard? Very.

For these types of robots and strategies success is usually binary. It either works, or it doesn’t. There typically isn’t a fall back strategy when you decide to build these types of high risk robots. How many cagebots were playing Saturday evening during VRC Overall Finals?

If the GDC didn’t want a specific type of robot playing a game, it would be legislated through rules (ex: expansion limits preventing wallbots in TiP). Offense can be looked at as both scoring points for your alliance, or reducing your opponent’s offensive potential (AKA defense). Either are viable strategies.

You don’t want a game without defense.

Let’s add some context to Change Up now that the season is over… Many people only played the LRT version of Change Up, which was a very different version of the in-person game. The in-person version of Change Up was initially designed about a year and a half before anyone had ever heard of COVID-19. The in-person version had some good parts:

  • The difficulty of gameplay scaled as your opponent was more skilled.
  • When two semi-even alliances played each other the game essentially never ran out of objects and couldn’t really be maxed out.
  • The First In, First Out style goals made it so de-scoring your opponent might mean de-scoring yourself. This led to some interesting decisions mid-match.
  • While putting a ball into a hole isn’t new, the mechanic of quickly cycling and sorting through objects was new. This was one of the primary things we wanted to see in CU.

I think those that have played the in-person version of CU have a different opinion of it than those that only played the remote skills and live remote versions.

When lockdowns started to happen, we were too close to the release date to pull the game back and come up with something different. Also keep in mind that the LRT version of the game was developed:

  1. Without having ever seen an LRT match played.
  2. With no ability to add objects or make meaningful changes to the goals.

Those are some pretty brutal constraints when you consider that Change Up was designed to be an interactive game played with four robots on a field, constantly scoring and de-scoring during a match.

The game wasn’t simple because we wanted it to be optimized for AI. There are a few constraints that drove some of the more unpopular features of the game. The primary one being we wanted goal cycling/flipping to happen early in a match/season. To make sure this happened, we reduced the capacity of the goals. It worked. Could we have increased the capacity? Maybe? But sometimes in the process of designing a game, you end up with unknowns and you make as educated of a guess as you can. Sometimes you’re right, sometimes you’re not. Hindsight it 20/20…

I would argue that at the time lockdowns started happening and TT was shutdown only one country was playing the high level meta from TT and that country wasn’t located in North America. Everyone else was playing a lower level version of the game.

12 Likes

Before you blame VEX too aggressively for a single meta, take a look at the forum after a new game is released. Within 24 hours, there were threads trying to figure out a game-breaking meta design. In each of the two years my students have competed (Tower Takeover and Change Up), there was a very clearly defined ‘meta’ that most teams gravitated towards:

  • In Tower Takeover, it was a tray-style robot with conveyor-style intakes
  • In Change Up, it was a vertical conveyor lift with conveyor-style intakes

While both of these were very competitive, I hope the challenges of the current game lead to some amount of design divergence, not convergence. 4 ‘Tray-bots’ or 4 ‘Snail-bots’ gets a bit boring after a while.

I would argue that one characteristic of a good VEX game is that it encourages creative problem solving, not simply building the meta.

I think there are some features of Tipping Point that may lead to design diversity, and not simply a single meta:

  • The somewhat irregular shape of the rings may lead to more diverse intake designs (not just a pair of opposing conveyors)
  • The weight and bulk of the mobile goals will force compromises if a team decides to carry more than one goal at a time
  • The angle and the size of the platform will make climbing it with multiple mobile goals a real challenge (2 goals side-by-side are wider than the width of the platform)
  • The hoarding limitation will make ‘grab and hold’ strategies far more difficult to achieve

All told, I see a number of features to Tipping Point that should (hopefully) lead to a wide range of different engineering compromises being used by different teams. Time will tell, but I like the game so far…

8 Likes

Yes I agree. I personally think that tipping point has so many different aspects where it won’t have a clearly defined meta like tower takeover and change up had. I see promise of this with all the different challenges that comes with this game. I know these have already been stated in the thread but the weirdly shaped rings, bulky mobile goals, and the high towers to place rings all give extremely viable options for a robot. Personally, I have come up with around 4 different designs and I can not think which one will be the best which is a good sign because tower takeover and change up both had clearly defined metas from even early on the season. I hope we see multiple different type of robots this season because seeing 4 robots on the field that look identical isn’t nearly as fun imo

1 Like

I wouldn’t totally dismiss the possibility for a convergence around a meta this year, during tower takeover, most people were thinking of using a variety of lifts, until 448x and 1727g’s robot reveals well over a month after the game unveil. After that, the meta was clearly traybots, but it goes to show how quickly people can jump on a meta, even if one wasn’t immediately clear for over a month.

Of course, there’s a lot more robots can do this year than in TT, so maybe not. But as of now the only game I can remember that didn’t have a clear meta was turning point, and even then the robot’s all did pretty much the same thing, just using a few different designs to accomplish it.

2 Likes

Tower takeovers meta was less defined than change ups. At state, we qualified for worlds with a 4 bar lift. Our sister team made it to the semis with a similar robot. At change up state, there was 1 robot that wasn’t a hoodbot, and they didn’t even make it to eliminations.

1 Like

I don’t know about that, I think TT trays were clearly and definitively the meta. All other robots were off-meta, and just because off-meta bots existed it doesn’t meant the meta was any less defined.

The interesting thing about change up compared to TT is that it took about 2 seconds to come up with a meta that lasted the entire season, compared to over a month in TT.

so if there will be a meta for this game, I don’t expect it to be discovered very soon.

2 Likes

I have only played in person change up and even went to a showcase event in omaha. I agree it wasn’t a terrible game, it it was the worst. It was all about speed, and all matches felt either 1 of 2 ways.

  1. You out scored you opponents in the first 30 seconds of the match and then just followed them around and undid whatever they did.
  2. You went back and forth with no clue who is winning.

I do think Tipping point is much better so good job on that.