BattleBots is an American company that hosts robot competitions. BattleBots is also the name of the television show created from the competition footage, and a nickname for the combat robots which compete. BattleBots Inc. is headquartered in Novato, California and holds most of its competitions in San Francisco.
In a BattleBots event, as in other combat robot competitions, competitors bring remote-controlled, armored and weaponed machines which they have designed and built, and put them in an arena to fight in an elimination tournament. The purpose of the fight is for one robot, or "bot", to dominate or disable the other.
The television show BattleBots aired on the American cable network Comedy Central for five seasons, covering five complete BattleBots tournaments. The first season aired starting in August 2000, and the fifth season aired starting in August 2002. Hosts of BattleBots were Bil Dwyer and Sean Salisbury (with Tim Green replacing Salisbury after the second season) and correspondents included former Baywatch actresses Donna D'Errico, Carmen Electra, and Traci Bingham, former Playboy playmate Heidi Mark, and identical twins Randy and Jason Sklar. Bill Nye was the show's "technical expert".
Due to continued declining ratings (one major criticism of the show was that it focused far too much on the wacky reporters and the robot builders' backstories, and not nearly enough on the actual robot combat), Comedy Central terminated their contract with BattleBots Inc. in late 2002. In February 2008, the company announced an offer from ESPN to televise a competition to be held later in the year, with competitors coming from as many as 160 colleges. The level of interest from colleges and requests for more time to prepare have prompted the organizers to delay the competition until November 2008.
The machines entered in such contests are not technically true robots in that they are not autonomy in their actions. They are remotely controlled by their teams, so might be more properly referred to as Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs). Self-controlled combat robots are allowed under the rules, but are very difficult to make competitive in the complicated combat environment.
Battlebots is an offshoot of the original American version of Robot Wars
, the brainchild of Marc Thorpe. Robot Wars had financial backing from Sm:)e communications, a New York record company. The Thorpe/Sm:)e partnership broke up in 1997, starting many years of legal wrangling between Thorpe and Profile Records
(the former Sm:)e communications). Profile licensed Robot Wars
to a UK production company and Robot Wars
ran for seven years as a popular television program in the UK.
The robot builders left behind in San Francisco formed BattleBots, Inc. and began a series of competitions. The first was held in Long Beach, California in August 1999 and was also cybercast on ZDTV. The second, held in November 1999, in Las Vegas, Nevada was a pay per view event. These led to the five semi-annual BattleBots tournaments televised as prime time series on the American network Comedy Central starting in May 2000.
Robots at BattleBots tournaments were separated into four weight classes. The weight limits increased slightly over time. At the final tournaments the classes were:
- Lightweight -- 60 pounds (27 kilograms)
- Middleweight-- 120 pounds (54 kilograms)
- Heavyweight -- 220 pounds (100 kilograms)
- Superheavyweight -- 340 pounds (154 kilograms).
'Walking' robots ('StompBots') propelled by means other than wheels were initially given a 50% weight bonus. The rules changed following the victory of a heavyweight StompBot (Son of Whyachi) at BattleBots 3.0. For BattleBots 4.0 and beyond only a 20% weight bonus was given to walkers and the technical rules specified walking mechanisms so tightly that no further Stompbots entered the tournaments.
See Robot Combat.
Matches are three minutes long. During a match, two robots do their best to destroy each other using whatever means available.
There are only two events that cause the match to be paused and people enter the BattleBox. One is the event that the robots are stuck together and can't separate or that both have simultaneously become immobilized. The other scenario is that one or both 'bots have caught on fire. In that case, the people entering the BattleBox are equipped with a fire extinguisher.
If a robot is unable to move for thirty seconds, because it is too badly damaged or it is stuck on the arena hazards, it is declared knocked out. The driver may also call a "tap-out" to forfeit the match if his or her robot is about to be destroyed. This ends the match ten seconds later; the opposing driver is "asked" (but not instructed) not to attack during the ten-second count.
In about half the matches, both robots survive the three minutes; at that point, three judges distribute a total of 45 points (15 points a judge, 5 points per judge per category) over three categories. The robot with the higher score wins. The judging categories are Aggression, Strategy, and Damage. A robot who hangs back safely from its opponent will not get many Aggression points; one in there fighting the whole time, however, will. The Strategy category is about how well a robot exploits its opponent's weaknesses, protects its own, and handles the hazards. A robot driving over the kill saws will lose points here, unless it had good reason to do so, while a robot that is able to attack its opponent's weak areas will gain points. The Damage category is for how much damage the bot can deal to its opponent while remaining intact itself.
The winner moves on; the loser is eliminated from the tournament.
At the end of the tournament, a series of 'rumbles' or 'melee rounds' are typically held in each weight class, allowing robots that survived the main tournament to fight in a 'free for all' in a 5 minute match. Occasionally there are too many robots for one rumble, and multiple rumbles are held with the top surviving bots competing in a final event.
During the Season 5 Heavyweight rumble (the first rumble of that competition), a sheared-off robot part went through the Lexan arena roof and fell (harmlessly) into the audience. Because of this, the rest of the rumbles were canceled due to safety concerns.
The BattleBox is a 48' x 48' square arena designed to protect the drivers, officials, and audience from flying shrapnel and charging bots. It has a steel floor and steel-framed walls and roof paneled with thick, bulletproof polycarbonate plastic. The teams bring their robots in through doorways, which are sealed after all humans have exited. The drivers control their machines from outside the sealed arena.
Operated by "Pulverizer Pete", the arena hazards are intended to make fights more interesting and unpredictable, and to reward drivers who can avoid the hazards while pushing or carrying their opponent into them. The hazards include:
- Pulverizers: 150 lb. mallets that can do major damage to any bot that passes under it. Originally normal sledgehammers that did minimal damage, they evolved into 50 pound aluminum mallets that broke off several times (season 2) and finally evolved into the 150 pound mallets (seasons 3 and on).
- Spike Strips: The walls of the arena are covered with 6-inch long sharpened steel spikes. Pushing an opponent hard into a wall can sometimes lodge it into the spikes, immobilizing it.
- Spinners: These rapidly-spinning discs in the floor do not damage a robot, but interfere with its driving or fling it across the room (depending on the weight). The spinners inadvertently only affect the Lightweight class, as the higher weight class robots are heavy enough that they can just pass over them with little resistance.
- Kill Saws: The Kill Saws are circular saws that rise out of the floor at high speed as soon as a robot drives over the red slots that conceal them. The carbide-tipped saw blades can tear into a bot's tires or chassis. In later seasons, red 'throwing blades' were added to increase the chance of a bot being launched.
- Pistons: First introduced in Season 3, Pistons are steel columns that raise and lower from the floor without warning. As they are not sharp or particularly fast, they don't do much damage to robots, but they can stop a charging robot or flip one over or on its side. The Pistons were removed for Seasons 4 and 5.
- Ramrods: These are sharpened steel spikes that come out of the arena floor in groups of six, serving either to lift a robot off the ground or puncture its lower armor if poorly constructed.
- Hell Raisers: If a robot drives over the center of the arena, a pneumatic ram will open these sections of the floor to a 15-degree tilt. The Hell Raisers were taken out in Season 5 to allow more room for the robots to fight.
- Screws: First introduced in season 3, these devices were a modification to the static spike strips. The screws were continually rotating augers placed horizontally at the edge of the arena floor. The Screws were intended to scrape up a bot, and possibly drag it closer to the Pulverizers due to the corkscrew design. However, much like the Spinners, these affected the Lightweights the most. In fact, they barely made much of a difference in fights at all, rendering them a "cosmetic fix" instead. For Season 5, the screws were upgraded so that instead of 'pushing' in one direction, they converged in the center from opposite directions, forming a 'V' that would very often flip or damage robots. They were also given teeth, to catch onto armor better.
Long Beach; August 1999
- Gigabot Winner - BioHazard (defeating Kill-o-amp 2, Monster, Tazbot, and Killerhurtz [twice])
- Megabot Winner - Son Of Smashy (defeating GoldDigger by forfeit, Ankle Biter, Deadblow, and Knee Breaker (twice))
- Kilobot Winner - Ziggo (defeating Dr. Inferno / Hot Air (multibot), Executioner (twice), Toe Crusher, and Defiant)
Las Vegas; November 1999
- Superheavyweight Winner - Minion (defeating S.L.A.M., World Peace and Ricon)
- Heavyweight Winner - Vlad The Impaler (defeating Kill-O-Amp, BioHazard, Rhino and Voltarc)
San Francisco; June 2000 (Season 1.0)
- Superheavyweight Winner - Minion (defeating GrayMatter, Grendal, Rammstein and DooAll)
- Heavyweight Winner - Vlad The Impaler (defeating GoldDigger, Tazbot, Overkill, Punjar and Voltarc)
- Middleweight Winner - Hazard (defeating Pegleg, Turtle Roadkill, Spin Orbiting Force and Deadblow)
- Lightweight Winner - Backlash (defeating Disposable Hero, The Crusher, Endotherm, Das Bot and Alpha Raptor)
Las Vegas; November 2000 (Season 2.0)
- Superheavyweight Winner - Diesector (defeating Hamunaptra, World Peace, Rammstein, War Machine and Atomic Wedgie)
- Heavyweight Winner - BioHazard (defeating Marvel of Engineering (M.O.E.), Suicidal Tendencies, Nightmare, frenZy and Vlad the Impaler)
- Middleweight Winner - Spaz (defeating Tobor Rabies, Blue Streak, Buddy Lee Don't Play In The Street, Bad Attitude and El Diablo)
- Lightweight Winner - Ziggo (defeating Scrap Metal, Scrap Daddy LW55, Afterthought 2.0, Beta Raptor and Backlash)
Treasure Island; May 2001 (Season 3.0)
- Superheavyweight Winner - Vladiator (defeating Juggerbot, Hammertime, Revision Z, Techno Destructo, Diesector and Minion)
- Heavyweight Winner - Son Of Whyachi (defeating Shaka, Crab Meat, Kill-O-Amp, Nightmare, MechaVore, Hexadecimator and BioHazard)
- Middleweight Winner - Hazard (defeating Fusion, Zion, F5, T-Wrex and Little Drummer Boy)
- Lightweight Winner - Dr Inferno Jr (defeating Blood Dragon, Toe Crusher, Bad Habit, Herr Gepoünden, Sallad and Gamma Raptor)
Treasure Island; November 2001 (Season 4.0)
- Superheavyweight Winner - Toro (defeating Maximus, The Judge, Vladiator, Little Blue Engine and New Cruelty)
- Heavyweight Winner - BioHazard (defeating Stealth Terminator, Jabberwock, Nightmare, Tazbot and Overkill)
- Middleweight Winner - Hazard (defeating Timmy, SABotage, El Diablo, Heavy Metal Noise and Complete Control)
- Lightweight Winner - Ziggo (defeating Snowflake, Serial Box Killer, Wedge of Doom, Death By Monkeys, and The Big B)
Treasure Island; May 2002 (Season 5.0)
- Superheavyweight Winner - Diesector (defeating Final Destiny, Dreadnought, HammerTime, New Cruelty and Vladiator)
- Heavyweight Winner - BioHazard (defeating Center Punch, Greenspan, MechaVore, Aces and Eights, and Voltronic)
- Middleweight Winner - T-Minus (defeating TriDent, Double Agent, Huggy Bear, previously undefeated Hazard and S.O.B.)
- Lightweight Winner - Dr Inferno Jr (defeating Afterburner, Tentoumushi 8.0, Death By Monkeys, Gamma Raptor and Wedge of Doom)
created two series of BattleBots toys: the smaller BattleBashers and larger Grip N' Grapplers were made.
- Bots made into BattleBashers include: Biohazard, Vlad The Impaler, Alpha Raptor, Minion, Atomic Wedgie, Backlash, Bad Attitude and El Diablo
- Bots made into Grip N' Grapplers include: Toro, Ziggo, DieSector, TazBot, Grendel, Mauler 5150, Frenzy, and Deadblow.
Tiger Electronics created two series of remote controlled BattleBots toys:
- The simple 'Custom Series' robots included Minion, Killer Hurtz, El Diablo, Vlad the Impaler, Doo All, Blendo, Dr. Inferno Jr., and Son of Whyachi.
- The more complex 'Pro Series' were larger and had separate radio control of the weaponry. Biohazard and Diesector models were offered.
McDonald's released Happy Meal BattleBots toys from April 26 to May 23 2002.
- BattleBots made into Happy Meal toys include: Ankle Biter, Biohazard, DieSector, Ginsu, Mechadon, Mecha Tentamushi and Overkill. The chain also offered a new bot, called "Mac Attack", which was a hamburger shaped robot with spinning saws.
Two video games based on BattleBots were released for Game Boy Advance, BattleBots: Beyond the BattleBox in 2002 and BattleBots: Design & Destroy in 2003. Another game was in development by THQ for PlayStation 2 and GameCube, but was cancelled.
Information on additional BattleBots toys can be found at Mutant Robots
New competition on ESPN
In February 2008, BattleBots announced that ESPN had offered to broadcast a "Collegiate BattleBots Championship" competition limited to a single 160-pound weightclass to be held during the summer of 2008. Plans call for a "professional" 220-pound class tournament to be filmed at the same time, but the broadcast deal is for the college teams only. The competition has been delayed until November.