Image coutesy: Geeksalert.
Have you ever wondered why BattleBots is still popular today? Almost two decades down the line since its introduction, BattleBots has since remained one of the most popular robot combat TV series. It has even overridden its parent show The Robot Wars.
For over 21 years now, BattleBots has been active and running despite the challenges along the way. I remember can in early 2000 when I just got introduced to watching the show by a friend. We were hooked to it so much. Especially when Robot Wars took a long hiatus.
Today we will take a nostalgic trip back in time to the good old days of BattleBots. Just when the ‘90s era was slowly disappearing and technological development was rapid in all sectors including gaming. The gaming industry took a huge chunk of tech trends development in the late 90s to the early 2000s.
During this period, the silicon chip was being developed to handle more sophisticated operations. Robotics was one of the fields that enjoyed the technological advancement and the capabilities that were discovered on the silicon chip. Silicon Valley at the time was bubbling with tech industries coming up with all kinds of new technology, automation systems, and advanced semi-autonomous system.
Since I was just a teen then, my interest was no so much in smartphones and the smart gadgets that were rapidly metamorphosizing at the time. I was keen on the gaming industry and all the retro-gaming gadgets that were on the rise at the time. It is around this time that we saw the development of Wii, PlayStation 2 and 3, Nintendo Gameboy among others.
The cries, cheers, emotions, and victory songs were as real as those of a real fight. That is what got me hooked to the show. Honestly, I cannot avoid talking about my experience in Robot Wars Vs. BattleBots. But we will get to that later on. Let us first talk about how BattleBots came to be the most popular Robot competition back then, and why it is still trending to this day.
Why BattleBots Are Still Trending Today.
BattleBots remains among the world’s biggest, strongest, and fastens next-generation robot competition. It had a huge line of sophisticated robots competing for supremacy in the rapidly expanding reality of Robot Combat Sports.
Chris Rose and Kenny Florian would call action, with Jessica Chobot on the sidelines. Faruq Tauheed is the ring announcer. This combo was just epic. It made our day back then. From bots to the builders, the flames, the spark, and all the robot guts and glory, the metal devouring mayhem has been entertaining us since the year 2000.
In these wars, each match featured two robots battling in single three-minute combat with the purpose of destroying or incapacitating their opponent. If no one is knocked out during the fight, a panel of judges will proclaim a winner. Some of my all-time favorite bots include Tombstone, Minotaur, Chomp, Witch Doctor, Bronco, Bombshell, Biteforce, Yeti, and others.
BattleBots focuses on the design and construction of each robot, as well as the backstories of the robot builders and their quest of the BattleBots championship. Homemade robots constructed on a variety of platforms and armed with a wide range of lethal weaponry go head-to-head, all documented by cutting-edge onboarding equipment and cameras to improve viewing and give combat analytics.
It is just very difficult not to love BattleBots. It is a modern-day tech-savvy sport event. These bots have numerous engineering components, but behind every bit of technological terror is some basics physics to help give one bot an edge over the other.
Let’s take a look at the history of the TV show.
A Brief History of The BattleBots TV Show.
Image Coutesy: Wikipedia
BattleBots is an American TV series. Competitors create and control remote-controlled armed and armored robots in an arena combat elimination event. BattleBots aired on American Comedy Central for five seasons. It was at the time hosted by Bil Dwyer, Sean Salisbury, and Tim Green. The first season of Comedy Central premiered on August 23, 2000, and the fifth and final season concluded on December 2002. The show had been on hiatus until it was relaunched on ABC in 2015.
In June 2015, a six-episode revival series launched on ABC to generally positive reviews and ratings. BattleBots was also renewed for a seventh season which began on June 23, 2016. The show was renewed for an eighth season by Discovery Channel and Science in February 2018, and it premiered in May 2018.
BattleBots is a spin-off of the original Robot Wars, which was created by Marc Thorpe. Robot Wars was financially supported by e-communications, a New York record label. Thorpe and profile Records (The old SMe-communications split up in 1997, kicking off many years of legal fighting. Robot Wars was licensed to a UK production firm and lasted for seven years as a popular TV show in the UK before being rebooted in 2016.
BattleBots, Inc. was founded by the robot builders left behind in San Francisco, and a series of competitions were launched. The inaugural was held in August 1999 in long Beach, California, and was webcast online, reaching 40,000 viewers. Lenny Stucker, a TV producer known for his work on professional boxing telecasts, was in attendance and expressed interest in working with BattleBots, saying the concept of robot combat was “cool” showing an interest in technology. Stucker altered the format and presentation of the competition to make it more television-friendly, introducing elements reminiscent of boxing (such as a red and blue corner) and switching to a single-elimination format.
The competition’s creators attempted to pitch it as a TV series to networks such as CBS, NBC, HBO, and Showtime, but they were unable to grasp the concept or take it seriously. In 1999, a second event was held as a pay-per-view in Las Vegas; the PPV was then utilized as a pilot to sell the show again, with more success.
Comedy Central was one of the networks interested in the show, and they eventually took it up. Debbie Liebling, the network’s Senior Vice president of Original Programming and Development believes the notion will appeal to the network’s young adult market, noting that it was both amusing and nerdy. Because the internet was not widely available at the time, geek culture was not widely celebrated. I assume it was athletics for the nerds.
Co-creator Greg Munson saw the contract as a double-edged sword; it provided BattleBots with a platform and a larger budget, but the network insisted on adding comic elements to BattleBots as a program, such as sketches staring contestants. This rule, however, had little effect on the competition itself; Liebling described the finished product as “a satire of sports show without beginning a parody”. Munson grumbled that the network had also ignored his idea that the co-host job is filled by “beautiful geek girls” with enough understanding to communicate with builders, instead opting to put bigger and better gorgeous girls at it like Carmen Electra.
Due to the success of BattleBots, other broadcasters began to compete; TLC produced a competing program, Robotica, while other networks imported episodes of the British Robot Wars series. By 2002, the program was facing new challenges; Munson believed that the bouts had become homogenized since the players had perfected the sport of robot fighting, resulting in a lack of creativity in robot designs and strategy.
Additionally, BattleBots had sued Anheuser-Busch and its advertising agency for developing and running a commercial during Super Bowl XXXVII that spoofed the show and included a robot that looked eerily similar to one from BattleBots. However, this lawsuit was dismissed in 2004 when a judge ruled that the advert was a parody protected by fair use.
Comedy central canceled BattleBots following its fifth season, BattleBots 5.0, in 2002. In April 2003, Viacom gained complete control of the network; Stucker claimed that Comedy Central had grown “weary” of the show, while Roski claimed that Viacom intended to refocus Comedy Central on classic comedy programming.
ABC announced in December 2014 that it had picked up a six-episode reboot of BattleBots produced by Whalerock Industries, to air in June 2015. Lloyd Braun Joined Roski and Munson as executive producers. In its Sunday night timeslot, the revival earned over 5.4 million viewers, with 1.9 shares of the 18 – 49 demographic.
ABC announced in November 2015 that it had revived the BattleBots resurrection for a second season, expanding the tournament to a 56-team field. The series was taken up by Discovery Channel and sister network Science when ABC declined to renew the revival for a third season.
Discovery and Science Channel announced in April 2018 that a new season would premiere in May 2018 on the discovery channel and Wednesday, May 16, 2018, on Science Channel. Tombstone, Minotaur, Chomp, Witch Doctor, Bronco, Bombshell, Bite Force, and Yeti were among the returning bots, according to the statement. Chris Rose and Kenny Florian back to call the action, provide background on the bots and teams, and provide commentary.
Jessica Chobot was back as a sideline reporter. Faruq Tauheed made a comeback as the ring announcer. BattleBots was then renewed for a second season on Discovery and Science Channel in June of 2015. Chris Rose and Kenny Florian returned to host, with Jenny Taft, a new sideline reporter, interviewing all of the BattleBots participants in the workshop.
The tenth season was supposed to air on Discovery on May 15th, 2020, however, it was moved forward to December 2020 due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The shoot began on October 10th and ended on October 21st, 2020.
BattleBots Cast and Participants.
BattleBots was hosted by Bil Dwyer, Sean Salisbury, And Tim Green for the first five seasons. Former Baywatch actress Donna D’Errico, Carmen Electra, and Traci Bingham, formerly Playboy Playmate Heidi Mark, comedian Arj Barker, and identical twins Randy and Jason Sklar were among the correspondents.
The show’s technical expert was Bill Nye. Mark Beiro, a long-time boxing ring announcer, was the show’s match announcer. Molly McGrath hosted the 2015 event, with Chris Rose and former UFC fighter Kenny Florian serving as commentators. Faruq Tauheed was the battle arena announcer, and Alison Haislip conducted interviews on the sidelines and behind the scenes. Engineer and NASA astronaut Leland Melvin, Nerdist News anchor Jessica Chobot, and visual effects artist Fon Davis served as judges.
Samatha Ponder took over as host for the 2016 season, replacing Molly McGrath. Fon Davis, Jessica Chobot, and Leland Melvin returned as judges, as did celebrity guest judges Clark Gregg, MythBusters host and former BattleBots creator Adam Savage, NFL tight end Vernon Davis, and YouTube star Michael Stevens a.k.a. Vsauce.
Rose, Florian, and Tauheed all returned for the 2018 season, with Rose and Florian taking over as the show’s major hosts. Chobot and Haislip traded jobs, with Chobot taking over as the new sidelines reporter and Haislip serving as one of the rotating judges. BattleBots contestants Lisa Winter, Derek Young, Grant Imahara, and Mark Setrakina are among the other judges.
Chobot was replaced as a sideline reporter for the 2019 season by Jenny Taft, and the judging panel was fixed to Winter, Young, and former contestant Jason Bardis rather than rotating as it had done in previous seasons.
Former builder Peter Abrahamson was added as ringside “Bot Wisperer” for the 2020 season, providing technical insights and in-depth analysis on matchups, robots, and damage.
Jamie Hyneman & Adam Savage - Former participants include Jamie Hyneman and Adam Savage (creators of heavyweight Blendo) and Grant Imahara (creator of middleweight Deadblow) of Discovery Channel’s MythBusters. Deadblow appears as a guest MythBuster on occasions supporting Grant with various tests such as Driving in the dark.
Will Wright - Will Wright, the designer of SimCity and other Sim games, as well as Spore, was a frequent competitor. In seasons 1-5, he competed against middleweight Chabot, multiboot RACC, and Mike Winter in Long Beach 1999, and lightweight The aggressive Polygon in Season 1. In Season and 5, his daughter Cassidy competed against middleweight Misty and WonderBot.
Michael Loren Mauldin – was the founder of Lycos. He entered multiple bots over the series competing with Team Toad.
Trey Roski – is the son of Edward Roski Jr. and also a founder of BattleBots. He is also the owner of the STAPLES Center sports arena in LA.
Jay Leno – made an appearance with a novelty BattleBots, Chinkilla – a lift-type robot. Chika did not follow competition rules and only competed in special showcase bouts at BattleBots events.
Mark Setrakian – he was the developer and builder of the fighting robots and control suits used in Robot Combat Leagues, is recognized for his artistically stunning robots such as Mechadoon and Snake. He has also worked on control technology that has been used in films such as Men in Black, Grinch, and Hellboy. Setrakian did not compete in the ABC revival series, but he did create Axis, a claw-like podium that rotated the Giant Nut on top of it while it was on display.
Gary Coleman – joined Jim Smentowski on Team Nightmare for BattleBots Season 5 as part of a promotion with UGO.com. Psyche, a middleweight, was his opponent that season.
Dan Barry – is a retired NASA astronaut and Survivor: Panama Contestant who battled with Black Ice in BattleBots Season seven.
Andrew Norton – Worked as a member of the technical and arena safety team on the show from its inception until season 4, while also holding the UK Robot Wars Middleweight title.
Design and format of the BattleBots.
In seasons 1 to 5, robots competing in BattleBots events were divided into four weight classes. The weight limitations gradually increased. The following classes competed in the final tournaments:
- 60 pounds (27 kgs) is lightweight
- 120 pounds (54 kgs) is the middleweight
- 220 pound (100 kgs) is heavyweight
- 340 pounds (154 kgs) is superheavyweight.
Walker received only a 20% weight bonus in BattleBots 4.0 and later, and the technical rules stipulated that walking mechanisms do not use cam-operated waling mechanisms because they were functionally too close to wheel operation. Walking robots have joined the tournament since the rules were changed, but none have advanced past the preliminary rounds. True walkers will receive a 100 percent weight bonus beginning in 2020 (like in the case of Chomp, which weighs 500 pounds.
Starting in season 6, there were no longer separate weight classes, and the heavyweight weight limit was raised from 220 to 250 pounds.
Matches last three minutes. During a match, two robots use whatever means they can to destroy or disable each other. The game starts with a series of lights flashing from yellow to green. The original Comedy Central version featured a normal Christmas tree, similar to those used in drag racing; the ABC reincarnation features only one box of lights that flash yellow three times before flashing green.
There are only two circumstances that cause the action to be paused, both of which result in players entering the BattleBox. One possibility is that the robots are locked together and cannot be separated, or that both have become immobilized at the same time. The other possibility is that one or both of the 'bots have caught fire. People entering the BattleBox are equipped with fire extinguishers in that case.
If a robot is unable to move for ten seconds due to being too heavily damaged or becoming stopped in some way (for example, becoming trapped in an arena-trap), it is declared knocked out. If the driver's robot is ready to be destroyed, he or she can call a "tap-out" to concede the match in the Comedy Central version. The match is over ten seconds later because the opposing driver is "asked" (but not directed) not to assault during the ten-second countdown.
If both robots survive the three-minute time limit, three judges award 45 points (15 points per judge, 5 points per judge each category) in three categories. The robot with the highest score is the winner. Aggression, Strategy, and Damage are the judging categories. The judging categories for Season 6 (June/July 2015) were Aggression, Damage, Strategy, and Control. A robot that stays safely behind its opponent will not gain many Aggression points; a robot that fights the entire time, on the other hand, will. The Strategy category is concerned with how successfully a robot exploits its opponent's weaknesses, protects itself, and handles risks. A robot that drives over the kill saws will lose points here unless it has a compelling cause to do so, whereas a robot that can attack its opponent's weak points will receive points. The Damage category specifies how much damage the bot can inflict on its opponent while remaining unharmed.
The BattleBox is a 48' by 48' square arena meant to keep flying debris and charging bots away from the drivers, officials, and audience. Pete Lampertson created it at the beginning. Pete was remained in charge of the box in 2015, with the assistance of Matt Neubauer. It has a steel floor, steel-framed walls, and a bulletproof polycarbonate plastic roof. The teams bring their robots in via entrances that are sealed once all humans have departed. Drivers operate their machines from outside the enclosed arena.
Arena booby traps are designed to make fights more exciting and unpredictable, as well as to reward drivers who successfully avoid the traps while forcing or carrying their opponent into them. Traps from the first five seasons include (and, unless otherwise stated, were eliminated for later ABC/Discovery/Science Channel-shown seasons):
- Pulverizers - Originally pneumatically driven regular sledgehammers that did little damage, the Pulverizers were updated to 50-pound aluminum mallets for season 2, and then to 150-pound mallets for season 3 and beyond, with one in each corner. The pulverizers were capable of seriously injuring the lesser-weight class robots.
- Spike Strips - The arena's lower walls are lined with 6-inch long sharpened steel spikes that point inward. Pushing an opponent into a wall can sometimes trap them in the spikes, rendering them immobile.
- Spinners - Large, fast-moving discs placed in the arena floor, It is not intended to harm a robot, but rather to obstruct navigation. The spinners had the ability to toss lighter class robots around the arena, but their impact on larger robots was modest. Seasons aired on ABC, Discovery, and Science Channel were omitted.
- Kill Saws – are made up of a spinning circular saw saw-blades with eight twin-blade hazards that emerge from slots in the arena floor that were formerly controlled by "Pulverizer Pete" These carbide-tipped saw blades have the potential to destroy a robot's tires or chassis. Later seasons featured red 'throwing blades' to increase the likelihood of a bot being hurled across the arena.
- Pistons - The Pistons, which debuted in Season 3, are steel columns that rise and fall from the floor without notice. They have the ability to stop a charging robot or tip a slow-moving robot onto its side. The Pistons were dropped for Seasons 4 and 5, as well as the seasons, have seen on ABC/Discovery/Science Channel.
- Ramrods - Sharpened steel spikes that protrude from the arena floor in groups of six, either lifting a robot off the ground or damaging susceptible areas of the undercarriage. Seasons aired on ABC, Discovery, and Science Channel were omitted.
- HellRaisers - A pneumatic ram capable of tilting up selected areas of the arena floor. The 15-degree incline may serve as a launching ramp or may unexpectedly obstruct movement. The Hell Raisers were deleted from Season 5 onwards to provide more room for the robots.
- Screws - These devices were introduced in Season 3 as an upgrade to the static spike strips. The screws were continuously rotating augers mounted horizontally along the arena floor's margins. Because of the corkscrew design, the Screws were intended to scrape up a bot and maybe drag it closer to the Pulverizers.
- The Screws, like the Spinners, had a bigger impact on the lighter weight classes, though their impact on all weight classes was minor. Screws were modified with biting 'tooth' for Season 5 onwards to better catch onto robots. Their rotation was also altered, such that instead of 'pushing' in one direction, they converged in the center of themselves from opposite directions, forming a 'V' that could damage or flip robots.
Do you remember the battle between BattleBots USA and the Robot Wars special? This was special because the competition that was held did not count towards the regular season win-loss totals it’s just kind of a fun thing to do on the side. It was five robots representing the US against five robots representing other countries around the world.
The format was simple, it was one point for every victory. Basically, most wins wins! It can't get any simpler than that and is kind of the head-to-head competition that we wanted to see back then from this kind of event.
It was the kind of war you would wish to see between the Robot Wars machines and BattleBots. Although it was not strictly BattleBots type of events if that strict robot wars machines but there were very similar in some of the same team.
Speaking of Robot Wars, the opening of this episode reminded me of a lot of the old Robot Wars extreme warriors spin-off (the American Version) which aired back in 2001 – 2002 in the US and it had Mick Foley hosting it and there was a lot of people playing characters and doing silly things on the side. It is pretty nostalgic because it had one side with the US and the other side with the represented countries lined up. It was exactly like extreme wars. It was very amusing.
The concept of US vs the world was awesome because despite it being mentioned what robots are from what countries, it is not always immediately obvious because they are all competing on battle bots together and an earring in the USO people tend to think of them as US machines. It is a good introduction to the kind of teams and such in the concept of an international event.
There is not a great track record for things. BattleBots did not use to have international coemptions, it was just a straight knockout competition held in San Francisco annually and did not have this kind of event. ON the other hand, Robot wars had a number of international bouts like international leagues, World Championships where they invite robots from all over the world. They also had a world series special in Series 10. They were all well known for being incredibly biased towards the United Kingdom. Something that Robot Wars really liked to do was to put some of their best Robots machines like Razor and Tornado and Chaos 2 against the worst machines imaginable.
I still have flashbacks of watching Razor, one of the best robots from the UK taking on the bot that could barely function and that was their international special. Razor was a world champion because it defeated a lot of bots that could move.
Surprisingly BattleBots has been around for all these years but still remains popular. Wish they create more international bouts so that the entire world can be engaged in these sports. Also, an international battle between BattleBots and the worldwide bots will be a good way to revive this show.
I would love to see how the US-based boss will measure against Japanese and other middle east bots that are being developed nowadays. Since the effects of the pandemic and restriction are slowly being lifted in most of the countries. I hope we will have a chance of seeing some of these battles come to life.
What do you remember about BattleBots? Did you watch it back in the early 2000s?
Have you watched the latest Season 10 of BattleBots? What is your take?