Metagame Analysis

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Siphai
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Metagame Analysis

Post by Siphai » Mon Feb 07, 2011 11:37 pm

I am a big waste of time and space and a drain on society and I hate myself and no one cares so I wrote this

Since this will be the last season of ARC, I think it would be enlightening to take a look at the evolution of the metagame over the years. Through around ten years, thirteen seasons, there has been a wealth of controversy, changes, and development. We'll be taking a look at the nature of the tournament itself, the ruleset, and finally the evolution of designs.

The best place to start would be with the tournament format. Originally CFRC was single elimination, before making the shift to double elimination in ARC: Defiance, and finally the round robin nature of ARC: Revolution. A change that can honestly be said is objectively better. Single elimination has its upsides, most notably that you can host a lot of tournaments in a short amount of time. Unfortunately, whenever something gets over done or overused, it becomes cheapened. One of the reasons why we have such a long break between ARC seasons is to keep the whole competition fresh and excited. Why would anyone really care about losing in a short, single elimination tournament? There will be a new one hosted soon after that. But if you don't care about losing, then you can't really care about winning. This is to say nothing of bracket format, which is an inherently biased system. An untimely forfeit, a bad match up, an unlucky self-knockout, all things that could send you packing in the first round. How can any design truly be called proven if they only end up fighting once? Celestial Slayer is a great example of this, as the first CFRC it won a quick forfeit, before losing to Andrewbot Jr. in a split 23-22 judges' decision. Now, we all recognize Celestial Slayer as a proven design today, but only after being given the chance to win in CFRC and Defiance. Even those tournaments, however, it required some lucky forfeits and knockouts to go its way before winning. In Vengeance, a proven design like Celestial Slayer went three straight 23-22 judges' decisions on its way out of the tournament. What if Celestial Slayer was on the other side of the bracket and got an easy draw to the finals? He would have won because of an easy draw and his title would be marred.

It is for this reason that one could easily say that A-Bomb is the worst robot to win a championship. He won an easy knockout against Meowch, before sneaking passed Adrenaline with a forfeit (a match A-Bomb could have easily lost). He won two more legitimate matches before actually losing with a forfeit against The Box!. He somehow managed to beat Slasher, perhaps his only actual test against a fairly decent robot, before finally winning the entire tournament with two straight forfeits against The Box!. He had faced The Box! three times, and yet never actually fought him which is incredible.

And yet, it is for some of these reasons that knockout brackets are still used. In the round robin tournament, even if you lose you will still have a match next week. In a knockout, there's no guarantee that there is a next week and so each match is vitally important. It is why the NFL use that system for their playoffs, and why the FIFA World Cup has it for theirs. And why it makes perfect sense to put the system at the end of each contemporary ARC season. After ten weeks, we have an idea of who the best designs are, and to win enough matches to get into the post-season, you have to have been role-playing. We have had eighty-two post-season matches over the past five seasons, and only four of those have been forfeits with absolutely none in the finals. This format ensures that something like A-Bomb vs. The Box! will never happen again. You get the combination of the matches having weight in the post season, and the ability for each design to have a chance to prove themselves.

From here it's a good time to look at role-playing, and results. As a writer, I have always looked at three things: Design, Stats, and RP. A beautiful RP will not save a one-armored robot that only has two very large exposed wheels and nothing else. Meanwhile, an RP saying that you are going to drive into a wall will not save Underall. A match between two full-bodied spinners will most likely not come down to RPs due to the nature of design, while a match between Barrier and Shockwave is going to be very RP dependent. One thing that I've always noted in my years of watching robot combat like some Big Dumb Nerd With Nothing Better To Do is that strategy can account for notably little in a match. You don't know when someone is going to overturn, or when you just manage to slide off their wedge, or when a spinner breaks down, or when the shit hits the fan. There are no step-by-step tactics that will allow you to prepare for anything. I believe I was watching a raw edit of Warhead vs. Darkstar. Darkstar's driver was thinking that he'd probably have to avoid the disc and attack from the rear. Of course, Darkstar got the shit kicked out of him. But it wasn't a bad strategy, and in fact it was really the only strategy he had available for him.

I read a lot of RP's like this thought. In a perfect vacuum, Yes! You would be able to get around to the sides and flip him. However, in a match both robots are moving around and it is inherently chaotic in nature. Now, I don't want to discourage anyone from getting specific where it's necessary, but I feel like a lot of complaints for results come from the fact that someone's RP wasn't read as supported by the fact that strategy X was not executed. Let me assuage your fears by saying that every writer reads every RP for every result they write. I know this for a fact. Secondly, the results are a means to an end. They are usually summaries of three-minute fights. Chris, Kody, Josh, Philip, and I are not going to write every little boring thing that happens within a three minute period. The highlights are usually what gets written, key points in the fight that swung a decision one way or another, or the lead up to a knockout. In the bigger, closer, or more interesting fights, more detail will be used as necessary. But the outcome for that weeks fight will always be the same as decided by a writer, and whether or not you read strategy X in the result specifically has no bearing. More likely than not, you didn't see strategy X in the fight because the writer felt like it wouldn't have a big enough impact on the fight to swing the result in your favor. THIS IS NOT TO SAY RPs DO NOT MATTER. THEY MATTER VERY MUCH. Countless matches I write are based on RPs as the deciding factor. But it's just as important to recognize that the viability of your strategy is the single most important part of your RP.

Now onto the rules. I have to say our ruleset is the single most complicated thing on the site, through no one's fault however. A lot of numbers, specifics, and bonuses are used in places where it's really supposed to be more of a light guide than anything else. To his credit, John wrote a very nice ruleset and we implemented it before anything was really edited and set in stone. We should have simplified it, instead of me having to constantly remind people that their five point hammer would not actually hit with a force of seven points. So it's easy to see how something like this can confuse new comers, and is the single thing that needs to be changed to a new season of whatever else. The only specifics we really needed for this sport were multi-bots, multiple weapons, self-knockout and opposing knockout. Things like power hammers receiving bonuses doesn't really make a lot of sense because the whole concept of putting points into weapon for a hammer makes it, by nature a 'power hammer'. It will hit hard a slow, as opposed to a one point hammer which will hit weak and fast. Gravity bonuses don't make much sense either, considering the dropping height is so low, and the counter-acting friction. But all of this is really superfluous and not the meat of my concerns with the ruleset.

Dylan devised a great stat system that managed to survive for an impressive amount of time. When I first joined the league I could easily see the simplicity of the system. Four categories, but twenty-two points. This meant that the average, middle of the road point allocation would be between five and six. This has the implication of always having at least one stat that was below average, and always having at least one stat above average. It's a great game styled system, but not entirely realistic. Megabyte isn't that slow, doesn't have that bad traction, and it has fairly decent armor and an extremely hard hitting weapon. So what do we do? Do we have a system that relies on balance, tradeoffs, and picking a specialty? Or do we have a realistic system where everyone is a hard hitting, fast moving, controlled, well armored beast?

I suppose there is the ability to compromise. I like the idea of picking from a list of specialities, that was prevalent in a couple of leagues I played in (I believe Nick hosted them). Pick two or three of Speed, Control, Weapon, Internal Stability, External Armor, Pushing Power, etc. Exclusively do not punish multiple weapon users, scri-mechs, and jack of all trade designs. Use the tournament director's reason when accepting multiple weapon designs so that one does not get a robot with a flipper, a disc, an axe, a clamp, and a saw (ie: no designs that would flourish in Robot Arena 1). Something like Flank Attack would not be able to win a current ARC tournament because to split the stats I would not be able to have the required pushing power, armor, and speed to win fights. Something like Tank or AMP would do well though, because of the simple design that leans on doing a single thing really well.

Hell, let's look at the top ten robots with the most wins (note that this list is a little old). Underall, AMP, Eurypterus, Truth or Consequences, Shockwave, Barrier, Tank, Double Dose, Copperhead, and Zombie Killer. What do these robots have in common? Other than Shockwave, they are all specialized with a disproportionate amount of rammers. Underall (I consider him a rammer more than a thwack, and I personally believe his more sound design was as a rammer), Eurypterus, Tank, Copperhead, and Zombie Killer. I should even consider Barrier because, hell, when considering design in terms of stats, lifters may as well be rammers. They show all the symptoms of rammers, high armor, high speed, high torque/traction, and a non-existent weapon. Now, they require a more controlled strategy than rammers, but they have the ability to be statted like rammers while maintaining the utility of the weapon. I am of the belief that lifters are currently the most overpowered design in the league. If there is a design that could have taken down Underall in its prime, it would have been a lifter. But the lifter's main ability comes from an evolution that probably changed ARC more than anything: the wedge.

The wedge is such a beautiful and perfect weapon. If you are underneath your opponent, they cannot do anything to you. Much like tackling in rugby or American football, if you tackle their legs you remove their ability to run. If they can't move, they can't do shit. And so wedges have evolved much in the same way as an arms race. Who has the lower wedge is almost certain to be a deciding factor in a fight where RPs and stats are equal. Gila, Reflector Shield, and a couple other old-school robots might not pack the same impact in today

Fish Of Doom
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Metagame Analysis

Post by Fish Of Doom » Tue Feb 08, 2011 3:26 am

I don't even remember what A-Bomb looked like.

The reason it was single elimination back in the day was because that's how Battlebots was and we all wanted to play make believe Battlebots. But half the bots were gone in the first week, which did make things un-fun.

I still think that the stat system is the best system without getting overly complicated. FRA does its thing, but it's not for me. In the real world, like your example of Megabyte (S-5, W-9, T-3, A-5 btw), some bots are just better than others. There's no way other than some sort of weird subjective bot expert panel that we could say "yes, well this bot is good in all regards, and this one is crap" to determine how good a drawing or cad is. Fingers on their chins and all. To keep it balanced between the players, there needs to be a stat system. It may not be 100% medically accurate like the human centipede, but it's fair for what's a game underneith it all.

I was actually thinking of giving bots with active weapons +2 extra points. So rammers would have 22, and anything with a functional weapon would be 24. Maybe then the rammer wouldn't own everything. Then again how many rammers would just stick a shitty lifter on their bot just to get those extra points?

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Metagame Analysis

Post by MadBull » Tue Feb 08, 2011 7:21 am

I like such essays Alex, nice

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Quote:</dt><dd>&nbsp;</dd></dl><div>The wedge is such a beautiful and perfect weapon. If you are underneath your opponent, they cannot do anything to you.[/quote]

See, I recall it being mentioned in some topic the other day that in MW the drumbot is so good because of the excessive amount of wedges there. I find this an interesting idea, a drumbot can basically take advantage by driving OVER an opponent, if designed well. A wedgebot becoming the victim of this will not really be able to control an opponent and instead take damage while being knocked away. That being said the wedge is indeed a bloody effective weapon, it's so light, or in ARC-lingo, it takes up so little stats points, while still having a great effect.

I do agree with most you say about RP's. No roboteer ever tries to write down the entire course of a fight before the fight takes place, that's pointless and impossible given the outside factors, them being a moving opponent. What a roboteer can write down is his advantages and how to abuse him, and his disadvantages and how to cover them.

Area51Escapee
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Metagame Analysis

Post by Area51Escapee » Tue Feb 08, 2011 12:22 pm

The analysis of the different tournament types was quite good. I thought it should have been obvious from the beginning why we chose that format; others apparently didn't think that way.

Also, Slasher lost to A-Bomb because I turned in a horrible RP that I had to rush. If it wasn't for that, I probably would've won (maybe).

Siphai
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Metagame Analysis

Post by Siphai » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:00 pm

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Quote:</dt><dd>&nbsp;</dd></dl><div>I don't even remember what A-Bomb looked like.[/quote]

It was a box with a shitty wedge and a pneumatic spike. Nothing special.

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Quote:</dt><dd>&nbsp;</dd></dl><div>The reason it was single elimination back in the day was because that's how Battlebots was and we all wanted to play make believe Battlebots. But half the bots were gone in the first week, which did make things un-fun.[/quote]

Yeah that is another good point. What happens when the luck of the draw places Shockwave and Barrier against each other in the first round? I never cared for the Battlebots bracket system either, but that was mostly because they only aired about half the fights and hardly ever showed the bracket so I barely knew who fought whom.

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Quote:</dt><dd>&nbsp;</dd></dl><div>I still think that the stat system is the best system without getting overly complicated. FRA does its thing, but it's not for me. In the real world, like your example of Megabyte (S-5, W-9, T-3, A-5 btw), some bots are just better than others. There's no way other than some sort of weird subjective bot expert panel that we could say "yes, well this bot is good in all regards, and this one is crap" to determine how good a drawing or cad is. Fingers on their chins and all. To keep it balanced between the players, there needs to be a stat system. It may not be 100% medically accurate like the human centipede, but it's fair for what's a game underneith it all.

I was actually thinking of giving bots with active weapons +2 extra points. So rammers would have 22, and anything with a functional weapon would be 24. Maybe then the rammer wouldn't own everything. Then again how many rammers would just stick a shitty lifter on their bot just to get those extra points?[/quote]

This is why I like the more vague "pick some specialties" than points. But yeah, perhaps it might be best to give points to active weapon robots that aren't lifters/saws/speed hammers. But then that might begin a power creep of sorts.

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Quote:</dt><dd>&nbsp;</dd></dl><div>See, I recall it being mentioned in some topic the other day that in MW the drumbot is so good because of the excessive amount of wedges there. I find this an interesting idea, a drumbot can basically take advantage by driving OVER an opponent, if designed well. A wedgebot becoming the victim of this will not really be able to control an opponent and instead take damage while being knocked away. That being said the wedge is indeed a bloody effective weapon, it's so light, or in ARC-lingo, it takes up so little stats points, while still having a great effect.[/quote]

One of my favorite fights of all time is The Hive vs. The Wedge, where the Hive is essentially a two wheeled drumbot, and The Wedge is a... wedge. (Plus The Hive looked fucking cool from what I remember). The fight was essentially Diacronic saying that he would spin around and freak out on The Wedge, being something that couldn't be taken control of. He also included the strategy of presenting his rear, as it were, and then flying off of The Wedge backwards so his drum could rip up The Wedges' back.

The unfortunate thing about drumbots, though, is that they seemingly only have the advantage against pure wedge-based robots. Horizontal and Vertical spinners, plows, etc. all boss it around.

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Quote:</dt><dd>&nbsp;</dd></dl><div>Also, Slasher lost to A-Bomb because I turned in a horrible RP that I had to rush. If it wasn't for that, I probably would've won (maybe).[/quote]

That makes more sense. I honestly was looking at that result in the CFL database and didn't understand why something like A-Bomb won so easily.

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BEES
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Metagame Analysis

Post by BEES » Tue Feb 08, 2011 9:18 pm

I will say that I think spring-loaded forks are a little bit overpowered in fic compared to real life.

Yeah they have tons of leverage but even Vlad's forks only got under Biohazard like... half the time. You have to be lined up right.

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Metagame Analysis

Post by Badnik96 » Wed Feb 09, 2011 3:09 pm

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Fish Of Doom</dt><dd>Feb 8 2011&#44; 03:26 AM</dd></dl><div> I was actually thinking of giving bots with active weapons +2 extra points. So rammers would have 22, and anything with a functional weapon would be 24. Maybe then the rammer wouldn't own everything. Then again how many rammers would just stick a shitty lifter on their bot just to get those extra points? [/quote]
Maybe make it so that your weapon had to have a power of 4 or something to get the bonus. That might work as rammers need all their points focused on armor and control. Also that means lifters like Barrier would be easier to beat.

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Metagame Analysis

Post by NFX » Wed Feb 09, 2011 3:48 pm

I think Badnik's idea seems quite sound. Rammers have such a high amount of armour, you need ludicrous weapon power to be able to beat it. And even then, you'll be severely disadvantaged in other areas, so the rammers should just push you around. I reckon the amount of active weapon points to receive a bonus should be a bit more variable. Maybe 4 weapon for 1 extra point, and 6 or 7 for 2.
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Metagame Analysis

Post by Meganew » Wed Feb 09, 2011 4:46 pm

Or just make it to where the weapon power is equal to 1.25/1.5x the number of points put in Weapon.

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BEES
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Metagame Analysis

Post by BEES » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:04 pm

how about this: if the weapon points MATCH the armor points, the weapon will do damage.

if it goes over, the damage will be worse.

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Metagame Analysis

Post by Siphai » Wed Feb 09, 2011 5:19 pm

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>Spatula</dt><dd>Feb 9 2011&#44; 05:04 PM</dd></dl><div> how about this: if the weapon points MATCH the armor points, the weapon will do damage.

if it goes over, the damage will be worse. [/quote]
We want to be careful, but I think this is more the right line of thinking. Fundamentally changing the perspective on how much weapon is necessary to penetrate how much armor.

Something like that may not be the best answer, since dedicated spinners routinely have well over the opponent's armor in terms of points invested in weapon. We run the risk of making spinners overpowered. On the other hand, though, weapon-based robots could certainly use the boost.

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Metagame Analysis

Post by BEES » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:14 pm

I think that if you can damage your opponents with 7 or 8 weapon points instead of 10, spinners with 10 will do worse. Their stats would be too unbalanced, and they'd lose to robots with better speed and control.

Another odd idea I just thought of: allow robots to dedicate weapon points to a wedging surface to give it more leverage. This would force robots that go for spring-loaded magnetic gets-under-everything forks to feel the weight cost of having those, and it prevents the competition from devolving into what it's going to right now:

a bunch of robots with goddamn spring-loaded magnetic forks on all sides

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Metagame Analysis

Post by NFX » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:39 pm

The trouble is, it seems to be almost entirely composed of spinners/rammers, with the odd differently weaponed entry such as Adrenaline, Vertigo or Terabyte. There doesn't actually seem to be any effective "balanced" machines, in terms of stat displacement. Your weapon is too low to damage rammers, and your armour is too low to hold up against powerful spinners. I reckon that the armour/breakthrough rule might need looked at a little bit.
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Metagame Analysis

Post by joeychevron » Wed Feb 09, 2011 6:40 pm

I resent that; Falling Down does not have forks on all sides quite yet.

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Metagame Analysis

Post by Fish Of Doom » Wed Feb 09, 2011 8:24 pm

<blockquote class='quote_blockquote'><dl><dt>NFX</dt><dd>Feb 9 2011&#44; 08:48 PM</dd></dl><div> I think Badnik's idea seems quite sound. Rammers have such a high amount of armour, you need ludicrous weapon power to be able to beat it. And even then, you'll be severely disadvantaged in other areas, so the rammers should just push you around. I reckon the amount of active weapon points to receive a bonus should be a bit more variable. Maybe 4 weapon for 1 extra point, and 6 or 7 for 2. [/quote]
I like this idea.

Weapon 4-6: +1
Weapon 7-9: +2
Weapon >9: +3

I think we'd see more hammers and flippers that way as well. If you give yourself a 10 power weapon flipper (like wheeley big cheese or matador power), you still have 15 points to give yourself a decent drivetrain or armor.

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