Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

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EpicentrE
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Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by EpicentrE » Wed Mar 12, 2014 9:29 am

3c) At least half of the edge of the arena must be unwalled, to allow robots to drop directly into the ditch that surrounds the arena. 50mm is the recommended height for arena walls.

This rule was - to my understanding - originally intended to ensure a level playing field between different types of robots designs. Having a large amount of drop-off gives robots without actively damaging weaponry means to decisively win a fight, through good design and driving, without relying on winning judges' decisions.

Many people believe that the increased and easily accessible speed and pushing power of antweights has led to a situation where robots or driving strategies designed around the concept of pushing the opponent out of the arena are far more successful than other designs or strategies. A distance which previously would've taken a few seconds for a robot to push another robot across can now be traversed in a split second, and the power of robots is enough to push or slide other robots along a wall. Because of this, there are many situations where a pusher can get control of another machine, push in whichever direction it happens to be facing, and have a reasonable chance of winning almost instantaneously. Often whichever robot has the lower front wins.

Some however argue that intentionally trying to tip the balance of successful designs and strategies in a way intended to make more kinds of robots and strategies have an equal chance is not something that should be done. There are also those who believe that reducing the drop-off will actually tip the balance far further in the other direction, making pushers far less effective than other robots.

My opinion:

I think I've made my opinion on this pretty well known over the years ;). I believe decreasing the drop-off will lead to more innovative designs, a greater variety of machines, more skill and tactical decision-making involved in driving, and longer, more interesting fights. I won't go into more detail as you're probably bored of reading my rants on this by now, but will try to counter any points that are raised.

Regarding the rule itself, I believe it should be removed entirely, except for maybe just a small note stating that there must be some sort of reasonably-sized (at least 15cm wide, as this is the widest an ant can be) drop-off or pit. As much as I dislike 50% drop-off, I wouldn't want anyone making an arena with no drop off or pits just because they disliked pushers. Apart from that, I feel that it would be better to allow arena builders to experiment to find what works best, instead of locking them into a rule which we may find is still not ideal.

For reference, Andy and I's arena is 33.3% drop off, although we are both considering seeing what it's like with even less (probably 25%) at a future event.

The other topic that might come into play if this rule is rewritten is corners. There are some who have stated that arenas should not have walled right-angled corners, as this can lead to machines defensively sitting in the corner for as long as possible, which does not lead to skilled or interesting fights. I would agree with this mostly, although at the same time a corner does ensure that a robot pushing another robot has to have good driving and control over the machine in order to get it off the arena, and can not just slide it along a wall. I personally think a 45-degree walled corner would be fine, with one of the sides being a drop-off.

Personally this comes under what I said above; I'd be happy to try out an arena with fixed corners at an event to see whether it does indeed reduce the quality and skill of the fights under certain circumstances.
Last edited by EpicentrE on Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by peterwaller » Wed Mar 12, 2014 9:49 am

I also would like to reduce the total dropoff but I think there is a fundemental problem with specifying just the %.
It is possible with say 5mm wide posts spaced 50mm apart to have a 90% dropoff but no where that you can push out a robot.
We need to rethink how we specify it but I do agree with just 2 walled side it does tend to favour pushers, hence despite my preference for spinners I now run two pushers.

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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by Shakey » Wed Mar 12, 2014 9:55 am

I agree with 45 degree corners. It stops straight pushoff by running them across a wall and you can't just push them around the corner as no matter what direction they were facing at least one of them at some point would be an escape chance. And they can't hide in it. When fighting in 90 degree cornered arenas there have been times where one robot has just bunkered down in it which isn't good for anyone.

In terms of walls I agree it needs to be increased but do wonder if 75% is a bit too high.
Last edited by Shakey on Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:55 am, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by Rapidrory » Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:46 am

Haywire wrote:...In terms of dropoff I agree it needs to be increased but do wonder if 75% is a bit too high.
Wait, Increasing the drop off? I'm guessing you mean walls instead unless you've suddenly changed your opinion against everything you've said previously! :P

I've stated my 2 cents on this topic before, but will re-iterate them here for convenience.
Having not personally fought in an arena with less than 50% drop off, I can't talk from experience But I can definitely see that even a short wall in each corner would make the fights more interesting and challenging, and feel that something is needed to help inspire greater creativity (I have so many idea, and yet can't help but feel that my time would be best spent putting together a pusher as it is)

However I can also see that it would also increase the average lengths of fights, so it may not be favored for big events such like the AWS where time is tight.

I feel that the rule should state that there should be at least a 15cm gap in the wall, allowing different designs with different drop offs, hopefully with one type emerging as the most balanced, and allowing different arena types for different events.
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by Shakey » Wed Mar 12, 2014 10:55 am

Woops, fixed the post.
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by Rhys » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:28 am

Ideally I'd like to have no drop off, but 50% high walls and 50% low walls (maybe an inch or so). There's something very satisfying about flipping someone out of the arena instead of just pushing them. And good pushers will still be able to force people out, but it won't be as simple as haywire says it currently is.

Mind you, having read Scott's idea of simply scrapping the rule, I think that might work well too. I hadn't even considered that before, but it would certainly shake things up and make people build an all round good robot, instead of just focusing on all pushing power or all weapon power.
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by StuartL » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:45 am

How about leaving the drop-off in, but not the full width of the arena? You could use any 45 to 90 degree corner and a wall length of 50% of robot width to avoid the issue of pushing robots pushing other robots out of the drop-off along the wall. The corner would act as an 'end stop' but still allow a well driven pusher to push an opponent off the arena if they could target the remaining drop-off zone.

Alternatively, as a major shake up, do a restart if both robots leave the arena so that a pusher can't 'overcommit' and has to be in full control when pushing its opponent out.

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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by Shakey » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:54 am

StuartL wrote: Alternatively, as a major shake up, do a restart if both robots leave the arena so that a pusher can't 'overcommit' and has to be in full control when pushing its opponent out.
Not exactly a major shakeup... I rarely follow the other robot out the arena when pushing and as the drive systems get better it happens less and less. It'll just making running a contest more annoying and many unecessary restarts despite a winner being clear.
Duff wrote:Ideally I'd like to have no drop off, but 50% high walls and 50% low walls (maybe an inch or so). There's something very satisfying about flipping someone out of the arena instead of just pushing them. And good pushers will still be able to force people out, but it won't be as simple as haywire says it currently is.

Mind you, having read Scott's idea of simply scrapping the rule, I think that might work well too. I hadn't even considered that before, but it would certainly shake things up and make people build an all round good robot, instead of just focusing on all pushing power or all weapon power.
Duff the idea is to encourage variety not kill off one selection of robots (pushers). I don't see how you expect a robot without lifting gear to get a robot over a low wall.
Last edited by Shakey on Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:04 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by shakesc » Wed Mar 12, 2014 11:59 am

StuartL wrote: Alternatively, as a major shake up, do a restart if both robots leave the arena so that a pusher can't 'overcommit' and has to be in full control when pushing its opponent out.
I do like the intent of this. It requires more skill and less of a sumo style battle. Might make battles a little longer.

One thought is that the current drop off can only be say no more than 50% of the total length of the side with a wall for the rest. That would force more manoeuvring
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by shakesc » Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:01 pm

Realised I have just written basically what Stuart said :)
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by razerdave » Wed Mar 12, 2014 12:48 pm

My opinion and proposal for rule change:
Arena drop off should/must be a minimum of 1/3's of the arenas perimeter, with spaces of a minimum of 15cm between any seperate walls.

A bit wordy, but fits all arena sizes and gets around any spacing issues.

On a personal note, I would be having to restart matches over and over because so many people follow their opponent out when pushing (me on many occasions!).

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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by Rhys » Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:26 pm

Olivers arena had quite high walls and I seem to remember pushers still managed to get their opponents over the edge on a few occasions. Plus pushers are still going strong in weight catagories where there is no drop-off.

I'd say more of a ridge maybe than a wall. At the moment as soon as a pusher gets underneath you, the fight is over. Low enough for them to be pushed over, but not so low that it's a foregone conclusion. But then maybe this will favour flippers too much. I'm not seriously expecting this to be implemented, it's just what I would ideally like to see.

To be honest, I'm just glad this is being debated again. As Rapidrory say, you have so many good ideas, but a pusher just seems to be the easiest to build with the biggest chance of success.

And Dave, should you maybe add a maximum amount to your definition? Otherwise we might see arena with 100% drop-off, further advantaging pushers.
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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by razerdave » Wed Mar 12, 2014 1:34 pm

Minimum of 1/3 and maximum of 1/2 of the perimeter? That way people can use any arena currently in use (except mine :P ) for an AWS.

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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by peterwaller » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:20 pm

While I agree it would be useful to have a minimum width of any dropoff I think 15cm would be way too small.
Many of us would have difficulty driving our robots through such a small gap let alone push another robot.
My arena is 92cms on the closed sides and 90cms on the dropoff sides so I would suggest a minimum gap of say 30cms would be about right for that.
The 90cms width is set by my car space so if we start looking at haveing arena's where the non dropoff sides have short walls we would have to reduce the width of the arena by the 30cms to get the extra ditches in.

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Re: Rule 3c - Arena Drop-off

Post by StuartL » Wed Mar 12, 2014 3:44 pm

Minimum of 25% of the perimeter would equate to two drop offs of 45cm on a minimum size 90cm x 90cm arena. Perhaps a minimum drop-off of 25% and a maximum of the current minimum, i.e. 50%?

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