Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

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cmalton
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Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by cmalton » Sun Jun 30, 2019 6:50 am

Hi all,

This is a bit of a lengthy post, but I feel I need to at least have the discussion with the community - and I suspect other EOs may be thinking the same and have said nothing.

When we started AWS58 this weekend, 143 robots were signed up on Antlog. Only a maximum of 128 could compete. We eventually narrowed to a total of 123 robots competing, after removing the 4th robot from all teams with 4 robots and eliminating the no-shows.

This is still tight from a scheduling perspective and if we assume every match takes 1.5 minutes, that's nearly 6 and a half hours of battle time. As an EO, we normally get the venue from 8AM to 6PM, and that gives me 10 hours to set up, run the event, and get out again - allowing 3 hours for setup/teardown, that allows for something like a 7 second turnaround between battles. Yesterday's AWS overran by about 30 minutes and that was OK and the venue were happy with us being late. Not all venues will be capable of being so flexible.

Conclusion 1: It is impractical to accept more than 128 robots into the competition on any given day with only 1 arena.

It is clear, however, that there are many people out there who want to battle their creations and need an outlet to do so. While we do have a reasonably large complement of antweight events across the Southern half of the UK, there are fewer in the North, and many of those in the South seem to be sat on what I'd describe as the "A34 corridor". As an EO, it's hard to make that decision "we need to drop some robots", but limitations of Antlog required that yesterday and I am keen to try and find ways to make that a lesser issue in the future.

Conclusion 2: Many events are clustered along a single line that runs North/South.

Robot fighting is expensive, and we all know that. Antweights are some of the cheapest to get involved in, but it's still expensive for EOs. My arena cost in the order of £700+ to build - and after this last AWS is likely cost £100 or so in repairs given the extensive damage to the inner polycarbonate. Donations from the event fell well short of previous events I've run, and do not come close to meeting the on-the-day costs, let alone the repair bill. While I have no major objection to spending some of my own money on making sure everyone else has fun, not all EOs can afford to do this, and to make robot fighting sustainable in the long run, we need to find ways to make this sustainable. It's something I've tried to make happen by producing the AWESCs, profits from which go directly back into a pot for running events like yesterday. To give you a rough idea, here's how an event like AWS58 breaks down in terms of budgeted costs:
  • Venue hire: £150 + £500 hire deposit (which we get back at the end)
  • Insurance: £250 - Minimum requirement is Public Liability and Employer's Liability if you have volunteers helping
  • Arena damage budget: £100
  • Misc other costs (bin bags, etc): £50-100
That adds up to best part of £550-600 an event for us EOs to keep running (and do so in a way that is fully insured). Donations from yesterday (before contributions from the AWESC profits) are about the £200 mark. While the difference is money that I or my businesses can find if needed, it's not a good situation if every EO is incurring these sorts of costs per event! It dissuades new EOs from running events and to many would be inaccessible.

Conclusion 3: It is not sustainable for EOs to keep pumping large amounts of their own money into events. We need to find a way to make robot fighting roughly cost neutral for EOs.

And now the difficult bit, the questions that I'm not sure I have answers to.
  • Given attendance at AWSes and other events is increasing, do we, the EOs, need to club together to look at ways to provide multiple arenas at events?
  • Do we just need to run more events, to help dilute the entries across more events? If so, where do we run them?
  • Do we simply need to revise the rules and limit teams to 3 robots in the first place?
  • Do we cap out an event at a maximum number of competitors?
  • Do we look to enforce an entrance fee for events to help combat rising costs?
  • Do we carry on as we are? Struggling against the constraints we have?
  • Something else entirely?
I, personally, don't believe we can carry on as we are - something has to change because what we have is no longer sustainable in the mid-long term - hence this thread. More events is something I am considering for 2020 depending on how much insurance-wrangling I can do as multiple events may reduce the effective cost per event, and there's some admin wrangling that I can do to possibly cut out ~£120 of the insurance costs. Not everyone can do that though.

I look forward to the community's feedback on this because the struggle as an EO is real - and collectively, we need to find a way to support the growth we have seen over the last few years.

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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by retropunk » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:00 am

i don't really know a solution to this, but can i just say thank you so much from all our team (A12) for making robot combat super accessible and fun, and being so nice so us as a new team. the event was brilliant, and i hope you find a way to keep it running, because we'll definetly always try and attend.
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cmalton
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by cmalton » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:12 am

I don't foresee a situation where I will stop running events - I can afford the costs of being an EO - so don't think I'm going anywhere any time soon. That said, my problem is dealing with very successful events.

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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by Hogi » Sun Jun 30, 2019 7:49 am

I have run several events over the years, and while they have all run smoothly in the past, It was clear yesterday that the high turnout did present difficulties, difficulties that are likely to continue.

Personally, I think limiting teams to three robots per team would be a good way to limit entry numbers and may be a necessity if we keep seeing the popularity we have enjoyed of late.
This would probably decimate the number of walker/clusterbot entries in future events, however I think that's possibly something we'll just have to accept if we want to get back to a more reasonable entry number.

As for entry fees, this has been discussed before and it has never been challenged as far as i'm aware. The conclusion is usually something like: "if you can afford to.build antweights, a £5 entry fee per robot isn't going to break the bank" that said, those conversations were had years ago now and i've just taken a year's break from the sport. It would be interesting to see if opinions have changed on this, but I suspect that nobody would have a problem with it.
We are after all a self funded community that relies on people putting events on so that we have somewhere to fight our robots.

I am running an antweight open event on the 12th of October. This will be a non AWS event, I may try some new ways of doing things at this event, which I will post on my thread in the weeks to come.

I hope this message has been useful and that we can find solutions to our EO challenges.

Thanks, Dan.
Daniel Jackson.

Team Hectic.

Many antweights

Super antweights: territorial.

Fleaweights: fleadom fighter, gaztons.

Featherweights: hectic (under construction)

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tomboys
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by tomboys » Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:00 am

Coming from a newbie, with what I saw yesterday:

In my opinion, a second arena would help speed things up, but with some drawbacks. Venues would probably have to be larger to accommodate the second arena (pushing costs up) and extra time allowances would probably have to be made for teams who have multiple robots drawn to fight immediately after each other in the separate arenas, which would cause complications.

Extra events would increase overall costs to host (but possibly spread out between multiple people), but might reduce numbers.

As I can't drive (epilepsy), there is a limit to how far I can travel as I have to convince my girlfriend who isn't interested in robots to give me a lift (unless events are held close to public transport hubs). Although this might change now I qualify for a driving licence.

To help with costs, I would be fine with compulsory entry fees, or you could think about just having donations, but with compulsory fees for every high power spinner or other robots likely to damage the arena (I am still thinking of building a spinner in the future, even if this gets brought in).
Last edited by tomboys on Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:26 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Shakey
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by Shakey » Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:08 am

Personally I wouldn't be adverse to a more mandatory fee for entries or dropping the limit to 3 robots. Though that 3 robots being 2 rollers + walker/cluster as I don't think a simple 3 robot limit with all being rollers would have much of an impact. Plus always good to encourage the weirder robots (As I think this AWS proves).

There is a bit of an issue with robots being ready to fight at times, I was fighting robots back to back throughout the tournament as 2 of my bots were in consecutive groups and matching each other so each of their matches immediately followed the others and always had both my bots ready. But many times fights were being delayed and slowed down due to teams simply not being ready. I can see the issue with repairing robots and obviously that's unavoidable but at one point I was stood there with 2 bots ready to fight both with delayed fights for charging. Though this is something more on the teams than EOs it should be a group effort to make sure we get through these tournaments in time!
Nuts And Bots - For all your components and ready built antweights!

Alex Shakespeare - Team Shakey / Nuts And Bots / Team Nuts:
AWS 44, 45, 49, 51 & 55 Winner - Far too many robots!

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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by James Williams » Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:15 am

Lots to think about here. Regarding time management, I think the best thing to do would be to work at making some aspects slightly more time efficient hoping that these differences would add up, for example, if there were two people tech checking from the start. Even after the final warning was issued, people were still waiting for a while before to get checked. Even though this was only a 5 minute wait, cutting down the time wouldn't hurt & wouldn't cost anything. Finding a suitable volunteer could be an issue admittedly.

Another potential idea is cutting the fight time down to 2 minutes if the number of entries exceeds a certain threshold. We had 2 minute fights at Botfest & I feel that this helped motivate people to fight more aggressively.

I feel that the cutting teams down to 3 robots, although might not be popular, worked surprisingly well. It's no secret that the more successful teams usually enter 4 bots & I feel having them drop to 3 helped open the field for other teams & created more interesting matchups later in the tournament.

Regarding entrance fees, Although I personally wouldn't mind, I think that if you did introduce them, people would simply pay that instead of donating & you wouldn't see much of a difference. You could do a system where people could enter 2 bots for free, then pay a fee for the 3rd & 4th slot. This could also help towards managing the number of entries. I know that Robodojo has entry fees, you may want to ask Ian about it.

That's just my on the spot thoughts, Feel free to nitpick anything.

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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by peterwaller » Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:25 am

Personally I would do the following.
1 A £5 entry per robot, this would not only raise £640 for full entry but make people think more about there entries.
2 Limit teams to two rollers and a cluster / walker to still encourage diversity.
3 Add a second arena if you run the groups one at a time (maybe just have 4 larger groups) you avoid people having two fights simultaneously or even sequentially.
4 If some kind of group insurance can be arranged that would also help costs and simplify organisation a bit.
5 Shorten the rounds to 2 mins or even 1.5 mins

cmalton
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by cmalton » Sun Jun 30, 2019 8:47 am

Thank you all so far for your insightful and helpful feedback on this.

Picking up on a couple of selected points:
  • 3 robots per team maximum (2+1) is a logical step forward.
  • £5 per robot entry fees (instead of donations) seems to be a common theme too and it's something we (as EOs) need to evaluate.
  • Scheduling needs improving to handle back-to-back fights - Antlog really needs some serious TLC anyway to meet GDPR requirements (eurgh) and from what I can tell, Gary isn't particularly interested in maintaining it, so I'll have a look at what we can do here while I'm at it.
  • Group insurance is something I am already looking into with my insurers.
In regard to this last point, it will probably have to be some kind of affiliated event insurance. That is, some kind of entity (Probably needs to be limited company or more likely, a Charitable Incorporated Organisation) is created to hold the insurance, EOs can then affiliate to that for a cost per event or possibly per year. Surplus funds are used to discount the affiliation fees in the following year. Rinse, repeat. It's a scheme that works well elsewhere, and I'd expect it work with this as well.

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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by Kyro » Sun Jun 30, 2019 10:57 am

i think the 2 free robots rule then x amount (i think £5) per extra robot up to 4 makes sense...

an extra cost for spinner entries (or any high damage high velocity weapon) even if entered in the free category (say £10 per spinner) would work

dropping fight times to 2mins max would help with a) ensuring enough time for fights and b) making fights more competitive as you only have 2/3 of the usual time to win it.

either a major update to antlog, or a suitable replacement is found

a second arena would help get to get more done faster, but would require more volunteers, 2x the antlog software running, 2x the space, 2x the cleanup ect...

i also think that teams not being ready really slowed down proceedings also... i was ready for every match with a bot that had sufficient charge and ready to go... the only time i was needing time was the extensive repairs needed to Dominus after his matchup... and this really was only around 10 mins, it just seem longer due to the fact we were down to the last few bots by this time...
i feel that a 3 minute rule should be implemented to avoid this in the earlier stages (where teams have at least half an hour between their robot fighting which is more than enough times to make repairs and charge batteries) as it gets further into the event this time should be increased to allow for the less time between fights for repairs and charging (up to 10 or 15 mins max) any bot unable to do so should forfeit that match... if this rule is stuck to and enforced properly, i will bet people will have them ready on time more...

i believe the above seems like the safest ideas to keep people interested without it appearing to be all about money.

so for 1 team to enter 4 robots with 2 spinners would be £30... but for new people entering 1 or 2 pushbots/flippers its free to encourage the fun still...

still £10 per team of 4 if they dont have high velocity weaponary...

strict rules on teams not ready will encourage people to be more ready for fights...

i do think that limiting to 3 bots per team would restrict creativity... if i had to have 3 bots (2 rollers and 1cluster/walker) i would probably drop mantis from my team however a 3 bot limit all being allowed to be rollers would work better i think... some teams just don't have the ability to run a cluster or ability to build a walker...

i hope my opinions help somewhat
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by Shakey » Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:08 am

I must say I don't like the idea of restricting spinners more than other classes of robots through higher fees. At the end of the day the competition should remain as fair as possible between robot classes.

We do have a 5 minute from call to fight rule, maybe it should start having the screws tightened around this rule a bit? Yes that's not long to repair but I personally see that as part of the competition. My robots are all designed to try and make maintenance as easy as I can. If 2 robots come out of their fight damaged and are due to then fight each other, one robot is ready within the time frame but it keeps getting pushed back for the other bot then that seems unfair to me. Not only does it provide no incentive for teams being able to repair bots quickly but unfairly eats into the time the winner of that fight would have to charge and fix for the fight after that (A point I was unhappy with with the amount of times my opponents pushed back fights in the final groups).
Nuts And Bots - For all your components and ready built antweights!

Alex Shakespeare - Team Shakey / Nuts And Bots / Team Nuts:
AWS 44, 45, 49, 51 & 55 Winner - Far too many robots!

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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by Kyro » Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:31 am

i was thinking of the spinner charge due to the fact of damage to the arenas... its more of a " bring spinners to compete, but be prepared to help towards the repairs the arena needed after the event"

my bots are made to be relatively fast to repair (although next event i think i will have more pre made replacement parts ready) but it still took me 10 mins to repair the mess that was dominus after the rbmk fight which i think was still pretty good considering the damage taken... and due to being the last few fights where repair time was tiny it added some pressure... if I had taken that damage in the first few fights i had enough repair time to fix dominus and probably build a whole other bot... so this is why i think that a 3 minute rule in the early stages of the event is more than enough for people to be ready or forfiet... and increasing as repair times drastically shorten in the later stages up to a capped max time...
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by tomboys » Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:59 am

I personally would prefer the possibility of 4 entries, with shorter fights to allow more time, rather than 3 entries. I do understand if it gets dropped to 3 entries on the day to reduce numbers for antlog though. I agree with kyro about being more restricted about delays due to robots not being ready. I also think that 2 people are needed at the initial checks and a set time that you have to be checked in by (or you don't compete).
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by GeorgeR » Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:15 pm

While I've not been an EO, I certainly agree with the issues you've raised regarding long term sustainability.

Regarding numbers of bots and time restraints;
I think that 128 entries should remain a hard limit (and this could even be reduced), Chris, I know you've talked about developing antlog to cope with more entries, but I simply don't see how it would be possible to get through that many fights.

To manage the required reduction in numbers you could formally implement a system similar to the one you used at the weekend.
  • I would allow teams to sign up with the full team of 4 as currently, once the number of entries is known then cut the numbers.
  • If only a small reduction is required you could do as yesterday and cut to 3 entries without any walker/cluster requirement.
  • If a larger number of robots needed to be culled then you could move to 2 rollers + 1 walker/cluster.
This approach would provide flexibility, so if you only had 70ish entries (eg Bristol last year) you could leave them all in, where as if you had loads you could cut the numbers down. If you adopted a blanket 2 rollers + 1 walker/cluster rule you would end up cutting entries even when well under the limit.

I'm really not a fan of the 2 arena solution, mainly due to logistical issues (larger venue, more judges, a second antlog setup, actually getting two arenas for an event, etc)

I do like some of the suggestions regarding cutting the fight time to 2mins, and being more ruthless regarding being ready to fight (particularly in the groups where you've got ages between fights, maybe provide more time in the finals?), but those won't solve the issue alone.


The regarding the cost to event organisers;
I would certainly be happy with a mandatory fee (£5 per robot sounds fair), EO's shouldn't be out of pocket, and with guaranteed funds they would be more likely to book larger/better venues. You could even give free entry for those who help out at the event (providing the arena, helping setup, running antlog, fight calling, judging, etc.), that could encouage more help for EO's, and provide a low cost option where you "work" for your entry rather than pay.

The combined insurance sounds like a good idea to reduce costs if it can be made to work.
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Re: Coping with the demand (An EO's perspective)

Post by voorsk » Sun Jun 30, 2019 11:46 pm

I wouldn't mind donating. £5 per robot seems cheap to me, considering the amount of work and money you guys have to spend on helping us to have fun.

The 2+1 rule sounds good, as it'll get people thinking about what to enter, rather than just making bots to fill their quota.

As a sort-of northerner (Manchester), the fights around Birmingham/Warwick are about the closest AWS ever gets to me, so I always try to attend those. Half of them are even further south, requiring a 6 hour drive. Not really doable. :-? RoboDojo don't allow kids, so that's off the cards, and I dunno about Sheffield Uni. Do they allow mid-forties polytechnic dropouts to compete in their fights? :P

edit: AWS 59 is gonna be in Sheffield? wooo!

Anyway, I'm glad I helped by not being there. 8)
Last edited by voorsk on Tue Jul 02, 2019 8:38 am, edited 1 time in total.
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