BattleBots Beat: Ode to a Giant Robot

Senor Weaselo

Senor Weaselo

Senor Weaselo plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. When he isn’t doing that, he enjoys watching his teams (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers), trying to ingest enough capsaicin to make himself breathe fire (it hasn’t happened yet), and scheming to acquire the Bryant Park zamboni.
Senor Weaselo

Welcome back to the Beat! This week should be the Beaties, a nice wrap-up (except for the bonus fights) and at least cromulent award post, even though there aren’t any good fasteners left to have as awards. Nuts and bolts are from BattleBots, the Giant Screw was a joke award, BattleBots Update has the Giant Washers… the Giant Rivet? The Weldies? The Flex Tapes? None of them really fit. And I’m pretty sure the latter would get us sued. So probably just easier for the Beaties.

Anyway, we were going to do that originally, but I wanted to touch on a topic we didn’t get a chance to in last week’s Beat, with the championship going on and such. And that was regarding MegaBots, the Kickstarter-funded giant robot outfit that hoped to bring giant robot fighting to the world. It was announced last week that their flagship robot, named Eagle Prime, was sold off via eBay auction as an asset to pay as much of the company’s debts before they went into bankruptcy, and that the bot was sold for approximately $170,000 to an unknown Russian buyer. Insert political joke here.

What was Eagle Prime, or MegaBots? Well, MegaBots was, since I guess we have to use the past tense, a company that aimed and succeeded to build a giant robot. And by giant robot, I’m not talking super heavyweight, 340 lbs. robots, but several ton machines with hundreds of horsepower and an assortment of weapons like a paintball bazooka and a massive chainsaw sword. Essentially, mechas. The first step to Gundams. Or Jaegers. Whatever you want to call them. But the first step to them. Obviously a first step, because proof of concept and advances in technology and what-not.

Obviously, this would be an expensive undertaking to get start-up capital, so how did they get there? Kickstarter. Seriously, the robot became a thing from Kickstarter, kind of. There was more money needed with investor capital, and some close calls. But eventually they got their shit together and built a robot, planning to take on Japan’s Suidobashi Heavy Industry and their robot, Kuratas, which was built first.

The showdown, billed as “The Giant Robot Duel,” was in talks from 2015, and seemed to take forever. Megabots built an entirely new robot in the meantime, the robot we knew as Eagle Prime (with the former being named Iron Glory), and the two robots, Eagle Prime and Kuratas, finally did battle in 2017. Please note it’s 2017, so the American robot combat watching public is starved for some fights because this was the gap year between the ABC and Discovery seasons of New BattleBots, and I don’t think we ever got Robot Wars on BBC America, which was an absolute crime.

As for the fight, it was…

Yeah, so the first fight, between Iron Glory and Kuratas, was a shitshow for the Americans as they were quickly defeated by a simple boop. The second fight proved things we already could have guessed, like “don’t bring a paintball gun to a robot fight.” That’s for both sides, whether the paintball bazooka or the paintball minigun. And then, let’s talk about the ending. Go to about 21 minutes and you’ll see what I mean.

We good? Good.

It was at this point that The Giant Robot Duel went from “okay, not the world’s greatest fight, but it’s a start” to jumping the motherfucking shark.

Sure, the chainsaw sword was extremely powerful and rightfully Eagle Prime won that fight, but the staging? The arena-side reporters in the line of fire and then having to book it out of there? Yeah, it was at this point that the robot combat watching people realized we had been smeckeldorfed.

(That’s not even a word and I agree with ya.)

Because unlike other fighting shows with, shall we say, scripted outcomes, in robot combat the public would like their fights to remain legitimate and free from executive meddling, where it remains sport rather than sports entertainment.

Robot Combat League, the first real “giant robot fight” show, seemed legitimate. The robots in terms of how they worked were a little meh, considering if you damaged your arm actuators most of the time your robot seemed to be able to do more damage, but it seemed legit, even if it wasn’t all that great which is why it got cancelled after one season. That was more trying to cash in on the success of Real Steel, which I did not see but hear was also meh at best.

The still-controversial Tornado vs. Razer championship fight of Robot Wars’ Sixth Wars still is legitimate. You can argue even now whether Tornado cheated with its anti-crusher web (no) or who won the fight (I still think Razer won by having Tornado with all four wheels over the pit where the only thing keeping it out was the aforementioned web). But the judges gave their decision and even if you disagree with it it’s an acceptable decision made with all the information they had. This is diametrically opposed to the Typhoon 2 vs. Storm II fight for the Seventh Wars championship. The executives were a bit pissed about Tornado winning and saw Storm II as a threat to do what Tornado did, be a tank and jab its opponents to the title. Except Storm did it better considering it rammed a robot over the arena wall (with a tiny bit of help from its lifter) and could reach like 20 mph, so it had speed and power to boot. So the producers did everything in their power to try and get rid of Storm II, culminating in the final where they gave Typhoon time to repair as the arena was being fixed (they spat out a belt), and telling the judges that Typhoon 2 had suffered no damage as opposed to the piece of Storm II’s armor removed (they spat out a belt and weren’t spinning anywhere near up to speed), giving the title to Typhoon 2. The judges found out about this skullduggery and sent Team Storm a written apology. But you could imagine that might piss some people off, watching a fight that the producers were rigging. That was the last Robot Wars season for over ten years, and I think partially because of shit like that.

Anyway the Giant Robot Duel ending pissed some people off, self included. And I imagine that hurt fundraising more than an “kinda crappy fight but still legit” would have. Robot Wars 1996 wasn’t anywhere near what fighting robots is today, but we don’t have the amazing fights we had this season if we don’t have that. I’m still trying to figure out my Fight of the Year and we don’t have that if The Master doesn’t do its thing, or if La Machine doesn’t flip robots over with its wedge. Definitely that one.

So from that MegaBots posted a few months ago that they were dangerously low on funds, because as you’d expect having a 12 ton fighting robot takes a lot of upkeep in the treads and the hydraulics, and it costs a lot to have them do a thing, whatever that thing may be, even if it’s at MegaBots HQ beating the ass out of cars. And now the funds have run out and the robots will be sold. Iron Glory is touring Japan before it too will be sold. Eagle Prime, like other all-American mainstays such as a strong republic with three equal branches of government, gets sold to Russians for pennies of what it’s worth.

Maybe we’ll get the dream of a Giant Robot League, or a mecha league, or whatever. Maybe if the operators are outside of the robot and they can use more damaging weapons—that chainsaw sword was absolutely devastating on Kuratas’s light armor. But keep it legit. Keep robot combat a sport, and not a sports entertainment. We’ve already lost so much.

The Beaties will be next week, with a host of awards. You can check last year’s post for an idea of the awards given, and if you have any good ideas of awards to give out, go for it. I’d like to let the zero builders reading this that I’m not planning on making my own little trophies a la BattleBots Update, but I can probably get you some sort of merch. Shit, do we still have merch? Anyway, see you next week.

Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo
Senor Weaselo plays the violin. He tucks it right under his chin. When he isn't doing that, he enjoys watching his teams (Yankees, Jets, Knicks, and Rangers), trying to ingest enough capsaicin to make himself breathe fire (it hasn't happened yet), and scheming to acquire the Bryant Park zamboni.
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Moose -The End Is Well NighThe Right Reverend Electric Mayhem Recent comment authors
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The Right Reverend Electric Mayhem

FUCK YOUR FLYING CARS AND JETPACKS, I WAS PROMISED BATTLEMECHS BY 2020 DAMMIT!

Excellent summation. Thank you.

Moose -The End Is Well Nigh
Moose -The End Is Well Nigh

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