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Battlebots vs. Robot Wars - Cephus' Corner

Battlebots vs. Robot Wars

September 6th, 2016

There’s one thing that always bugged me about British television, it always felt cheap to me.  From classic Doctor Who and even more modern BBC shows, it isn’t just production value, which is typically much lower, it’s the writing and the expectations that are much, much lower.  This struck me recently as I was watching the reborn British Robot Wars, it was hard not to compare it to the American Battlebots, and unfortunately, the UK version simply doesn’t compare favorably.  Here’s why, at least in my opinion.

The whole robot fighting television genre started in 1998 with Robot Wars, and it quickly moved to America in 2000 with Battlebots.  Of course, there had been organized robot fights before that, but once it hit television, all bets were off.  When robots fight, robots die and leave their entrails scattered all over the arena.

But honestly, the production value and hosting for Battlebots is absurdly better than for Robot Wars.  Not only that, but the attitudes of the contestants in Robot Wars is just absurd.  For Battlebots, people show up with working robots that have been extensively tested and well thought out.  They are typically more expensive builds that are reliable and effective.  Robot Wars, though, is anything but.  People show up with bots that have never been tested, that have just been slapped together out of junk in a week or two and some have never been driven before they enter the arena.  And they put these on TV?  What the hell?

Seriously, I have yet to see a single bot in the new Robot Wars that would last 30 seconds in the American battlebox.  Your typical American bot would just shred the best the UK has to offer on the first hit.

And let’s talk about the battleboxes.  At least in the new shows, the American Battlebots is designed to pit bot against bot.  The UK show is designed to pit bots against the arena.  I find the pit to be the most ridiculous thing because most bouts end with someone falling into the pit, either being pushed there, or more likely simply falling in because of poor driving skills.  It doesn’t tell us anything about the quality or lethality of the bots themselves, it only proves that British bot builders can’t drive worth a damn.

Between the two shows, Battlebots is far and away superior in every way.  It has better production values, better hosting, a better arena and far, far, far better bots. The competition is actually entertaining, unlike the UK series.  You rarely see bots littered all over the place on Robot Wars, but it happens half a dozen times a week in America.  All in all, Robot Wars just feels cheap.  That doesn’t mean they have to throw a ton of money at it, it just feels like they don’t really care, it’s just something to throw on television and it really doesn’t matter.  But that’s how I feel about most British television, most especially things on the BBC.  It could be better.  It should be better.  They just don’t care.

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  • Joseph Sherwood-Taylor says on: December 29, 2016 at 12:12 pm

     

    Disagree totally about production values. US t.v. might be more glitzy but the substance is just not there. Scratch the surface and Disney is underneath.
    I doubt very much if any of the US boys would stand up against the best British ones.
    Agree however that absence of house robots and the pit makes for much better viewing.

    • Cephus says on: January 1, 2017 at 11:14 am

       

      Considering half the people on Robot Wars show up never having even driven their bots, I doubt that. Most people on Battlebots are professionals, they are engineers and technical people who have extensively tested their bots before they ever see the battle box. You literally have people showing up on Robot Wars with bots that have never driven, made out of wood.

  • Keith says on: December 30, 2016 at 10:39 am

     

    What a lot of rot this guy writes – Robot Wars is a far superior production and the British robots would smash through anything America could patch together. No match

    • Cephus says on: January 1, 2017 at 11:12 am

       

      Sure, take any of the house robots up against, say, Tombstone. You’ll have a mess all over the arena.

    • Mark Wilder says on: January 15, 2017 at 11:13 pm

       

      That’s nationalism talking, not sense.

      • Cephus says on: January 16, 2017 at 8:40 am

         

        Yes, Keith was talking national pride, not objective quality.

  • JB says on: March 5, 2017 at 6:37 am

     

    I get that the quality of the American robots is superior to their British counterparts, but I feel that a lot of this is very harsh.

    The reason why the robots differ between the USA and the UK is largely down to budget, the American robots have sponsorship and more money to play with, so can afford to make their robot more destructive and with better armour. Also, different arenas can emphasise different strategies. The pit, house robots and not being in a box has led to Robot Wars being dominated by flippers,(Chaos 2, Apollo, Firestorm, TR2), ram bots and crushing control bots (Roadblock, Tornado, Storm 2, Razer), and mid-level spinners (Hypnodisc, Carbide, S3, 18 Black), whereas the American arena favours big spinners and lifters. The engineering prowess is still there in the British version, they may not have been able to test their robots effectively, but that’s partially down to a lack of funds and the limited time the robots have had for the new Robot Wars series. I don’t think this is down to producers not caring, but the BBC not wanting to take too large a risk in committing themselves to a show which may not have pulled in an audience.

    Your comment about the Brits not caring is incredibly unfair. If there was a lack of care then there would have been no coordinated effort by teams to carry on robot fighting after the original series ended. I know Mentorn got accused of running the show too much as a game-show, and there were accusations of producer meddling (the series 7 final and Mortis’s favourable treatment in series 2 stick out as sore thumbs here), but the latest series don’t seem to be following that trend, and the sportsmanship and attitude of the teams throughout negate Mentorn’s possible different motivation for Robot Wars. While Mentorn may have been in it for the show, the teams were not, except for the odd comedy bot (e.g. Sir Chromalot, Plunderbird, Granny’s Revenge). Many of the teams from early on in British robot fighting still compete (Behemoth, Razer, Terrorhurtz) and even awful teams like Velocirippa are still around, now with the much improved Ironside, a robot unlucky not to do better last series.

    Opinions on hosting are subjective, but I feel the Brits have this one covered. Dara O’Brian is genuinely interested in technlology, so fits in well, and Angela Scanlon doesn’t seem to be there only for the male gaze, unlike female Battlebots counterparts, she immerses herself with the teams in the pits. The newer Battlebots has been improved in the hosting, but the original Battlebots was bad for this in my opinion, with only Bill Nye gatheting any interest, the hosts seemed to have unfunny, scripted jokes and it seemed a bit contrived. Compared with the charismatic Craig Charles, who seemed to have a way with the kids, the bubbly Phillipa Forrester and energetic and excitable Jonathan Pearce on commentary it comes across as weak. The format was badly done too in Battlebots. The majority of battles seemed to be untelevised and the progression of the competition wasn’t best relaid to the viewer; I get that they may not have been able to show everything, but at least keep us informed of what’s going on in the tournament. It just felt like a bunch of robots fighting for new reason. Robot Wars showed every fight and it helped us follow the tournament as a whole, so it kept us immersed in the competition. This meant that bad battles were more common, as Battlebots could filter out the boring ones, but it allowed us to follow the journey of every team that competed. For that reason alone Robot Wars wins for me.

    • JB says on: March 5, 2017 at 6:44 am

       

      *no reason

    • Cephus says on: March 28, 2017 at 12:40 pm

       

      “I get that the quality of the American robots is superior to their British counterparts, but I feel that a lot of this is very harsh.”

      I don’t think reality is harsh, sorry.

      “The reason why the robots differ between the USA and the UK is largely down to budget, the American robots have sponsorship and more money to play with, so can afford to make their robot more destructive and with better armour. Also, different arenas can emphasise different strategies. The pit, house robots and not being in a box has led to Robot Wars being dominated by flippers,(Chaos 2, Apollo, Firestorm, TR2), ram bots and crushing control bots (Roadblock, Tornado, Storm 2, Razer), and mid-level spinners (Hypnodisc, Carbide, S3, 18 Black), whereas the American arena favours big spinners and lifters. The engineering prowess is still there in the British version, they may not have been able to test their robots effectively, but that’s partially down to a lack of funds and the limited time the robots have had for the new Robot Wars series. I don’t think this is down to producers not caring, but the BBC not wanting to take too large a risk in committing themselves to a show which may not have pulled in an audience. “

      Yes, they do. It wasn’t always that way, but if you’re working with high-tech, you’re going to have high costs. But where the majority of American bot-builders are actual engineers, the majority of UK bot builders are not. You get a few here and there, but most are just your average Joe. That’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when the whole point of the show is robot combat, you have to assume that some competency in building robots is going to be present.

      And believe it or not, I’ll agree with you that both Robot Wars and Battle Bots suffer from a lack of creativity. Both are cyclical, some model of bot works well one year and all of a sudden, that’s all you see until the next “big thing” comes along. But where I disagree is that testing your bot should have nothing at all to do with the BBC. Long before Battle Bots got on TV, robot builders were building bots to fight in local competitions. They weren’t doing it to get on TV, they were doing it to win. It seems like a lot of people on Robot Wars just want to be seen on TV, the ability of their bot to actually win the competition is entirely secondary.

      “Your comment about the Brits not caring is incredibly unfair. If there was a lack of care then there would have been no coordinated effort by teams to carry on robot fighting after the original series ended. I know Mentorn got accused of running the show too much as a game-show, and there were accusations of producer meddling (the series 7 final and Mortis’s favourable treatment in series 2 stick out as sore thumbs here), but the latest series don’t seem to be following that trend, and the sportsmanship and attitude of the teams throughout negate Mentorn’s possible different motivation for Robot Wars. While Mentorn may have been in it for the show, the teams were not, except for the odd comedy bot (e.g. Sir Chromalot, Plunderbird, Granny’s Revenge). Many of the teams from early on in British robot fighting still compete (Behemoth, Razer, Terrorhurtz) and even awful teams like Velocirippa are still around, now with the much improved Ironside, a robot unlucky not to do better last series.”

      I don’t think it’s unfair at all. As my wife and I sat down to watch the latest series, the first thing I said was “none of these people have even tested their bots” and the first episode proved it. In the initial interviews, the majority of competitors said they have never even tested their weapons. They have no idea how well, or even if they will work. What the hell is wrong with these people? You don’t have to test them in a competition to know if they even work! And I’m not all that interested in the comedy bots, this is robot fighting, not robot laughing. I mean, even in America, there are bots that clearly are not suited for fighting. Mark Setrakian, who built Axis, the robot that holds the Golden Nut, has built a bunch of technically complex, but definitely losing robots that had no shot whatsoever at winning even a single bout. I don’t think Battle Bots is the place for such robots because that’s not what it’s about. There are better places for non-fighting robots like that to be displayed. But Setrakian has never shown up with a robot that he has no clue if it will even function.

      “Opinions on hosting are subjective, but I feel the Brits have this one covered. Dara O’Brian is genuinely interested in technlology, so fits in well, and Angela Scanlon doesn’t seem to be there only for the male gaze, unlike female Battlebots counterparts, she immerses herself with the teams in the pits. The newer Battlebots has been improved in the hosting, but the original Battlebots was bad for this in my opinion, with only Bill Nye gatheting any interest, the hosts seemed to have unfunny, scripted jokes and it seemed a bit contrived. Compared with the charismatic Craig Charles, who seemed to have a way with the kids, the bubbly Phillipa Forrester and energetic and excitable Jonathan Pearce on commentary it comes across as weak. The format was badly done too in Battlebots. The majority of battles seemed to be untelevised and the progression of the competition wasn’t best relaid to the viewer; I get that they may not have been able to show everything, but at least keep us informed of what’s going on in the tournament. It just felt like a bunch of robots fighting for new reason. Robot Wars showed every fight and it helped us follow the tournament as a whole, so it kept us immersed in the competition. This meant that bad battles were more common, as Battlebots could filter out the boring ones, but it allowed us to follow the journey of every team that competed. For that reason alone Robot Wars wins for me.”

      I don’t honestly care about hosts because the hosts are not the point of the competition. I happen to like Dara O’Briain as a comedian, but I really couldn’t care less if he appears on Robot Wars or not. The same goes for Battlebots. Couldn’t care less.

      But in the end, it all comes right back to the purpose of the shows, a head-to-head competition between robots. I don’t care about the flash and the effects, I care about who built the best bot. Clearly, American builders build the best bots, and that’s nothing against the UK, it’s just the factual truth. The majority of Robot Wars bots wouldn’t last 30 seconds in the battlebox. They just wouldn’t. The reason there is a battlebox in the first place is because these robots are dangerous and intended to be. There have even been bots in the past that were too dangerous to be allowed to compete, specifically a bot built by Mythbusters’ Adam and Jamie. I can’t imagine most of the major American bots ever being allowed to compete on Robot Wars, can you?

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Cephus' Corner

A Place to Share my Geeky Side With the World. Comics, movies, TV, collecting, you name it, I indulge in it.