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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.

Comments

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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?

      • JB says on: May 6, 2017 at 9:58 am

         

        I have not argued against the American robots themselves being better than the British ones, they are, so I’m not arguing for RW robots being able to defeat the likes of Tombstone, but this separate to enjoyability and the reasons for their inferiority, and money is one big factor. However, I think that’s different to them caring about their work more; the British participants do care and some may be of a more amateur robot combat background. Saying that they have not tested their robots, therefore they do not care is unfair given the unfair time constraints the show has put on them, the lack of eligibility for spinners anywhere outside of RW in the UK, the lack of desire fore testing them in an unsafe environment (e.g. a garage) and so on.

        The point is that despite its apparent imperfections there are solid reasons as to why some people may prefer RW to Battlebots that go beyond robot quality and that there are reasons for the differences in quality.

        I found your review harsh, because I disagreed with your assessment because of this and over subjective opinions on the quality of production, hosting etc, not because of your assessment of the quality of British robots in comparison to American ones, I’m not disputing that. Sure, it’s your right to have this opinion, but to portray subjective opinions as reality is ridiculous, and if you think otherwise then I think you’re a pompous tosser, sorry.

        • Cephus says on: May 6, 2017 at 3:56 pm

           

          Yet another emotional response to what is a clearly objective argument. Fighting robots is, like all sports, competitive. You do not show up to a competition completely inexperienced in how the game is played. You wouldn’t expect to go play in a soccer game, never having touched a soccer ball. So too you wouldn’t show up to a fighting robot competition never having the slightest idea if your robot even works or if you can even drive it. That’s the point I keep making and one that apparently you don’t understand.

          But by all means, call me names. It seems to be the best you can do.

  • JB says on: May 6, 2017 at 11:39 pm

     

    No, saying that you prefer Battlebots to Robot Wars is not an objective argument. People like different tv shows, musicians, sports and video games for a variety of reasons. Liking one over another does not make you any more refined as a human being. It may be true that there are elements which could be seen to make one product better than another. In this case the better quality of robots and the higher degree of professionalism from Battlebots teams may make it seem better in your eyes, but others disagree for valid reasons. I gave some of the explanations as to why there are differences and why people may overlook the imperfections of Robot Wars and find it better than Battlebots.

    ” You wouldn’t expect to go play in a soccer game, never having touched a soccer ball. So too you wouldn’t show up to a fighting robot competition never having the slightest idea if your robot even works or if you can even drive it. That’s the point I keep making and one that apparently you don’t understand.”

    Don’t worry, I understand how someone can find a preference for Battlebots because of this. Preferring Battlebots to RW based on this is a valid opinion. It’s not objective to say that this makes the show superior, however, as others may not see this as a big deal in terms of enjoying the show. Some may see the reasoning for the lack of testing and I suspect most don’t give a rat’s arse and may find other reasons for preferring RW.

    “But by all means, call me names. It seems to be the best you can do.”

    It seems arrogant snark is the best that you can do, not arguments of substance. Lest it need be said, this whole argument was triggered by me disagreeing with your opinion, I acknowledged the areas in which there are differences which can be viewed as making Battlebots superior. I didn’t ignore the better quality of Battlebots robots or the professionalism of the teams, I provided explanations for the differences. If you disagree, fine, but it doesn’t make your opinion of which show is better any more objective.

    • Cephus says on: May 7, 2017 at 11:02 am

       

      My opinion is subjective, my reasons for holding that opinion are objective, as I’ve detailed repeatedly and you’ve ignored. But then again, it’s my blog and I can post anything on it I choose, just as you would be able to if you had your own blog.

      • JB says on: May 8, 2017 at 9:37 am

         

        Nope, I’ve not ignored your ‘objective’ reasons, I’ve addressed them with explanations as to why they exist and therefore why some people might not see them as a redline, but you’ve ignored this repeatedly for snark and conjecture. I have adddressed your concerns about quality of the robots and the reasoning for why prior testing may not happen in RW. You may disagree with my reasoning, fine, but it falls in line with what the RW team members have said on reddit.

        It’s your blog, yes, you can post whatever you want. I have not denied the right for you to do this and I have no aim in stopping you from doing whatever you want with it. Your blog is in the public sphere, and is as such open to criticism. If you don’t like it then consult a touchy student who has experience in creating echo chambers and safe spaces through their aversion to criticism.

        • Cephus says on: May 8, 2017 at 2:05 pm

           

          You might not. I do. You’re trying to rationalize why they don’t test things. I don’t care why they don’t do it, I care THAT they don’t do it. I’m sure it’s no different in the US than it is in the UK. It isn’t exactly easy to go driving a spinner down Main Street here than it is there, but competitors in America find a way. I’m sure there is a way in England too. I wouldn’t say if it was just one or two people, but it seems to be a lot of people in every single series that are saying “I’ve never tested my robot” or “I have no idea if it works” or “I’ve never even driven the thing!” And I don’t care what excuses you make for it, that’s not how competition operates. And this is a competition. Anything with winners and losers is a competition. People don’t show up to competitions saying they don’t know the rules, have never played the game or have never touched the ball. Regardless of what excuses people on RW have made, that doesn’t change my criticism of it.

  • JB says on: May 9, 2017 at 9:54 am

     

    If you rate Battlebots over RW because of that, then fine, I understand, as I’ve already stated. The ‘excuses’ I’ve made are just what the RW contestants themselves have said for why they maybe lack the professionalism of Battlebots.

    However, this wasn’t your only gripe, you extended this to the very much subjective opinion that they do not care.

    I never intended to insult your opinion, but I felt like addressing points that I disagree with and with some rationale for why. Disagreeing doesn’t inherently mean that I think you should not have a right to express your opinion and disagree with me, yet disagreement has seen you act as if it is an affront to your ego.

    • JB says on: May 9, 2017 at 10:03 am

       

      And of course I realise that health and safety worries are the same between the two countries, but the live circuit in the USA has allowed spinners, the UK hasn’t, which gives little room for testing and is why Aftershock, for example, didn’t test their weapon beforehand,

      • Cephus says on: May 12, 2017 at 9:08 am

         

        But that doesn’t explain all the other people who don’t do it, or the people who haven’t even driven their bots, or don’t even know if they work. If there’s absolutely nowhere you can take your spinner for testing, and I find that hard to believe, then don’t make a spinner. I’m sure nothing is stopping them from taking it out into the middle of nowhere and firing it up, strictly legal or not.

  • Korey says on: May 12, 2017 at 11:57 pm

     

    Robot wars have much larger robots and to prove my point the people with the battle bots bring them in and lift them up

    • Cephus says on: May 16, 2017 at 9:17 am

       

      They can have larger bots, sure, but when it comes to lethality, the overwhelming majority of Robot Wars bots would be totally shredded by Battlebots bots. You couldn’t even run most Battlebots bots in the Robot Wars arena. Battlebots is done in an enclosed Lexan arena for a reason.

  • tom lewis says on: July 12, 2017 at 4:28 am

     

    Carbide would shred each and every one of the battle bots contenders. The guys who built Carbide are aerospace engineers for rolls-royce… Nothing else in robot wars or battle bots can deliver anything close to the kinetic energy of the 25kg bar spinning at 2500 rpm reliably, i.e. without tearing itself apart

    • Cephus says on: July 14, 2017 at 10:24 am

       

      Now compare Carbide to Battlebots’ Tombstone. Carbide has lost many matches in the 2 times it has competed. Tombstone has gone out 4 times and has lost a single bout in that time. I have a feeling that if Tombstone and Carbide went up against each other, even if they are both bar spinners, Carbide would be littered across the box.

      • Tom says on: July 16, 2017 at 1:34 pm

         

        I disagree, tombstone’s spinner is definitely powerful, but the drive looks pretty poor, and the driver doesn’t seem too skilled. Carbide had some reliability issues the last season, but they’ve been sorted out now by the looks of things. Also the wheels of tombstone are completely exposed, the maneuverability of carbide would allow them to get round the side and take the wheels out pretty easily IMO. I guess no one can know unless they actually battle though

        • Cephus says on: July 17, 2017 at 11:09 pm

           

          Except Ray Billings has been building and driving for decades, he has been building bots back into the original Battlebots run and is one of the best drivers on the circuit. Again, it all comes down to their records and Tombstone has lost one bout in 4 years and that was due to a mechanical failure. How many has Carbide lost? A lot more than that.

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