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
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 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.