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RoboRally Course Balance
Do the Math
by Teeuwynn Woodruff with input from Glenn Elliott

Last week we dealt with Flag Placement 201. This week, we move on to graduate school (won't your parents be proud?).

When designing a RoboRally board, it's important to consider both individual flag placement (as discussed earlier) and the overall dynamics of the board. It's a good idea to look at your overall board and flag placements and determine how difficult your board really is. The best way to do this is to "score" the board. You do this by scoring your flags.

Look at each flag on your new board configuration. List exactly what elements (walls, pits, conveyors, and so on) are next to that flag. Each element has a score assigned to it (see below for specific scores). Add up the score for each element. The total equals that flag's difficulty number. Figure out the difficulty number for each flag on the board, add them together, and divide by the number of flags. The result is the board's difficulty level.

Element Score
Laser 1
Portal 2
Board edge* 3
Conveyor belt moving away from flag 2
Conveyor belt moving toward flag 0
Conveyor belt adjacent to flag 1
Wall 2
Pit 2
Pusher 1

* 2 for being a wall, +1 for added danger

Let's look at an example board. Assume we have two flags on our board. One sits next to a conveyor belt (1), which gives it a total difficulty of 1. The other flag sits at the edge of a board (3) in front of a conveyor belt moving away from the flag (2). This second flag has a total difficulty of (3+2=) 5. Now we add the totals of both our flags (5+1=6) and divide by the number of flags (2) for a final board difficulty level of 3.

Now you know how to determine a board's difficulty rating. How difficult should an average board be?

That depends upon the skill and interest of the players. In general, even hard-core players will find a level 3 board challenging. Most players will be more comfortable on, and get more enjoyment from, level 1 and 2 boards. You should design level 3 boards only for top-tier players. Any board over level 3 is probably going to be frustrating for even the best players. Anything above level 1 may be too frustrating for new players.

There you have it! Congratulations on graduating from the RoboRally Crash Course in Board Design and the Philosophical Underpinnings of Solipsism as It Pertains to Theoretical Robotics Engineering. (We're just kidding about that last part, but wouldn't it look good on a resume?). Now, go forth and build.

Did you miss the first part of this article? Read it here.

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