About That Giant Robot Battle Last Night

Two years ago we wrote about a giant robot battle between the USA and Japan. After two years in the making, MegaBots (team USA) and Suidobashi (team Japan) were finally ready for the first giant robot fight. If you are into battle bots, you probably did not miss the fight that happened around 7:00 pm PST. If you missed it, you can watch the whole thing here.

There were two duels. First it was Iron Glory (MkII) vs. Kuratas, and after that it was Eagle Prime (MkIII) vs. Kuratas.

Be warned, spoilers ahead.

Or not that much. The first combat ended in 30 seconds or so, with the heavier Kuratas knocking Iron Glory to the ground in one punch. That was all it took, and it was a bit disappointing. The second combat had a bit more action, the robots actually got stuck in each other and, as per rules, had to be restarted. A kind of “go to the corners” as in boxing. There were some interesting surprises like Kuratas launching a drone, and Eagle Prime showing off a 4 foot, 40 hp chainsaw. In the end, Eagle Prime’s superior weight and weaponry grabbed the victory.

The heavily edited video of the fight left some viewers slightly disappointed. But if you think about it, there were actual humans inside the robots, and that alone had to limit a lot on the potential action. For example, they fired giant paint balls at each other instead of explosive rockets. Even in smaller battle bots there are limitations about weapons, and that makes sense. If you are building a giant, metallic, ground vessel to win a fight with no weapons limitations, well, it’s already built, and it is called a tank. So we’ll take paint balls and theatricality.

All in all, the robots were huge feats of engineering and are awesome to see in action. This was only the first giant robot battle, lets hope there are more to come. Here is a short version of the event with the battles included:

61 thoughts on “About That Giant Robot Battle Last Night

  1. Tips for next time:
    – Lose Mike Goldberg, he’s terrible at announcing MMA and at least as bad here.
    – Don’t edit it like My First Film Project(tm)
    – Not everything needs to be a macro shot, in fact if you didn’t use a single super close shot that
    might be better since you can’t use them properly. Watch old Hong Kong action cinema to see
    how to film a fight.

    As for spicing up the fight, surely they can set a maximum energy amount for projectile weapons, only spherical ammo, maximum sectional density &c. Or fill the paintballs with heavy grease or grit loaded grease so it actually has a chance of damaging something on the ‘robot’. As it stands the best you can hope for is to obscure the pilots view.
    At the end of the day it’s going to have the same pitfalls as normal sized robot fights, fast joust/sumo bots will win out over more interesting to watch designs.

    Perhaps this was just the growing pains of something better, but that just wasn’t enjoyable to watch.

        1. Technically, that would be awesome. I was just watching on youtube a record breaking gas (technically kerosene) turbine RC model that is the fastest RC jet doing trial runs. Yeah, dog fights with drones… that would be neat.

          Insurance is insane for some actors. Man, putting together a set and casting and then some of the higher ranking actors… wow… amazing all the aspects of insurance alone. I’m thinking in Southern California or out East more maybe in the desert. Hollywood… man… I can see trying to get past insurance agents alone would be something else of a chore.

      1. I think you are referring to “live combat training” or “war games.” You never know with film crews. Make me wonder about the movie “Argo”, now that I think about that aspect. Guerrilla intel weirdo sissies back stabbing. At least Japan operated for quite a while on negative interest rates.

    1. Thing is with old Kung Fu films, is Bruce Lee was very fast. Admittedly he couldn’t actually fly, but Eastern martial arts have a lot of agility and speed in them. 50-ton robot punching, not so much.

      1. That is their problem, they need to learn to violate the laws of Physics, or at least streatch them a little….

        If power is an issue they can build teathered robots like in neon genesis evangelion, although I do like the remote pilot idea myself, then it can be a real deathmatch for the bots!

        Hmmm, I think I need to start designing my own Mech…

  2. Or, use other models for using rulesets to balance safety in combat-analogous sports with providing structured win conditions: fencing, TKD/kickboxing, etc.

    Maybe have a point system for melee/ranged attacks based on hit location and accuracy.
    Since the cannons are paintball, give the bots LARPy paint soaked weapons, score good hits and hose them down between rounds.

    I think the first hurdle was getting bots that could actually get in the ring and perform, that was a win, certainly from an engineering perspective.

    1. Since it’s not an actual war, safest thing would surely be to go remote. Have the squishy human pilots not actually sat inside the thing. Perhaps use overhead cable for control signals, since radio might suffer a bit with all the carnage and heavy engines. Although the “drone” did OK. Wonder what the point was in that thing?

      1. I often wonder the same thing about the drones used in the BattleBots TV series, Although I did see one spray flame down at the rival bot once. But most BattleBots are impervious to drone attacks or have a huge flyswatter.

        1. Fire-based weapons are against the rules in the official robot fighting leagues, as well as on the BBC Robot Wars series.

          The BBC show had one exception, but that was a house robot, which also ignore the weight limit, and plenty of other rules. Had what looked like a gas-powered flamethrower, rather than the more dangerous liquid or gel type.

      2. Would add another dimension of interesting backup wireless communications systems. Maybe even lasers and optical communications after destroying with loud noises, fire, smoke, gushing oil and hydraulic fluid and flames just for the first transceiver. Out of the ground comes some hole boring device that would make oil drilling companies sales and launch a ULF attack. Then you can have another backup transceiver that does the same that blinds the operators with failing wipers and an arm that dramatically barely reaches to wipe off just in the nick of time to enable the last resort optical communication system and maybe the seismic thing unbelievably aids the enemy somehow… darn. Then deploy another hidden drone. I’m feeling this now… there may be potential.

  3. Eh, I got the limitations, what made it feel fake to me were the clearly scripted elements, like there being no where for this drone to be launched from, USA grabbing and destroying a lighting structure ( would they really destroy the TV gear without permission) or the terrible wooden acting when the commentators ran from the set before one of the bots backed into it. It felt so scripted and fake that it took away from the actual fight moments.

    Hopefully they take the people out of the bots so we can have real unscripted fights like robot wars rather than this reality TV style letdown.

  4. I believe the phrase “rice & cheese” applies here. The canned sound effects they used for the hits sound like the same ones I used when I was animating stop motion shorts in high school.

    The whole act like this event happened live, followed by a massive post production staff credits list added the cherry on top of disingenuousness. If these robots posed any semblance of danger, the film crew wouldn’t have been standing so close to the robots, and have to “run away” from the falling set pieces. They weren’t even wearing safety glasses, unlike high school robotics teams who aren’t even making combat robots.

    I’m disappointed that they couldn’t even fake it well.

    1. ” The canned sound effects they used for the hits sound like the same ones I used when I was animating stop motion shorts in high school. ”

      The comedian Tim Conway once quipped that Television is still using the same Laugh Tracks they made in the 1950’s.

  5. To make the guns useful have a rule stating that each robot must have 12 targets on it’s body, the first 2 are free, but hits (above a certain force(cumulative)) thereafter decrease your motor output by 5% per. I would also recommend at least two weight classes, above and below 10 tons seems good.
    Also, I am friends with a Megabots staff member, he says the fights were not scripted, but there was about a day of wrench time between rounds

    1. Nah, that’d be fake. Would make it like Laser Tag. If there’s going to be damage, it has to be REAL damage. Rip their sodding arm off! Break the engine by punching it or that cutting claw or whatever.

      Actually it seems like the exposed engines are obvious weak points. But you can only do so much in reality. Would be nice to have all motors onboard, even if it means using a mains linkup. Since batteries onboard would cost a fortune, especially if they keep getting smushed.

      You could have an onboard generator to cover average power, with batteries for peak. Or supercaps, lots of them.

      As it is though it looked like each “robot” was being pushed by a tractor underneath it. Despite having wheels or caterpillar tracks. Were the tractor-things just generating electrical power?

      You could have a rule where you’re not allowed to cut the power umbilical of an enemy robot. Or a rule where you can! Perhaps give the robot a couple of umbilicals just in case, with their hindering of the robot’s mobility being part of the design decisions. You’d obviously need some chunky circuit breakers for when the wires get cut.

  6. sounds like a whole lot of hype for not much payout.

    all this time internally I have been wondering “how hard can it be to find an empty parking lot to duke it out?”

    course maybe the world isn’t ready for the robotic equivalent of a street fight.

      1. If so, then I guess this is a global TV trend, not only in US, because here in EU there is a similar problem with most of the TV shows. It seems like the TV producers completely forgot about everything except audience rate. Instead of quality, most of the TV shows are betting only on cheap emotional crap. This strategy might work for one afternoon only, but for a long time it will lead to superficiality and dull emotions induced into audience.

        Anyway, the usual TV audience is heading more and more to the Internet lately, in the search of a better quality and less propaganda.

        TV fail might be a good thing, after all.
        :o)

        1. I remember the first Flash animations, over a 28K modem, as “the future of TV!”. For animation you could actually do it, John Kricfalusi in particular had his own little show.

          Then Youtube came along, and I thought “What amazing idiots! The bandwidth costs will bankrupt them!”. But they succeeded, using the standard plan of haemmorhaging money for the first few years, until a giant company buys you up. Then off you run to somewhere with a nice beach, and retire at 25.

          Although actually it’s kindof depressing how many ultra-rich Internet squillionaires go on investing in other stuff. How much money do you need? Can’t you think of ANYTHING more fun to do with your life than work? There’s beautiful islands with fantastic scenery and beautiful people living on them, and you choose to stay in a concrete office surrounded by wage slaves in suits, serving their time by sucking up to you?

          Some people waste being rich.

  7. My biggest complaint was not about the fight, it was about the fans who were disappointed that the first real mech fight wasn’t actually Mech Warrior or Gundam. Like, guys, this was a friendly competition more about humor than destruction, and taking it literally any other way is just taking it way too far.

    Yes, it was contrived and hokey – I didn’t enjoy the staged bits about “Oh hey, we should get out of here, they’re coming this way” thing with the announcers. But for a first time event, it almost had to be that way, that’s the stuff by and for the sponsors who want to see this kind of stuff succeed with the mainstream, who LIKES hokey and contrived.

    One of the best suggestions here though, which I really like, is to make them remotely piloted, and put them in an arena at a safe distance. That will let you get really out of hand with weaponry and destructive power, and it’d be a real blast (literally?) to see some mechs really go at it. As the Americans said, get some weight classes and rules going on, and a more formal system, and you could really have fun with this.

    Iron Glory represents what you could get out of extended Junkyard Wars style builds, while Kuratas is a much more technically refined robot, and Eagle Prime is a good initial heavy weight build. But it’d be fun to see some truly evenly matched mechs go at it. You could even do some piloted mechs and some remotely piloted.

    1. I agree with what you’re saying. I’ll also add that SO MANY people seem to equate pre-recorded and edited together with “scripted”. There may have been some elements that were intentional, just to add something to the slow pace. I can’t say that helped at all. What I can say, Is Battlebots isn’t any different. Matches are not one after another. They have to clear the area of debris, and robots have to be serviced between matches. It’s a multi-day event. Since there are enough robots to spread out over several episodes, no one really complains about this.

      I saw so many people complaining that it wasn’t “Actually live”, or acting like that somehow detracted from it, like they were somehow lying… This info has been out there in advance! It never was gonna be live. They were clear and concise on how there would be downtime for repairs and such, and that it would be recorded in advance, so it could be edited into something not utterly boring. Somehow, people in the live chat were genuinely stupid enough to think not live somehow equals staged. Idjits, all of ’em… Ugh… I was disgusted at all the stupidity in the chat… Not to mention all the unbearable ASCII and Unicode spam. There’s still people, even in this post, even int he YouTube comments, who seem to still belive like it was a freakin’ surprise that this wasn’t really live, thus it was somehow “dishonest”… It was pre-announced that it was prerecorded, and edited to cut out the inevitable boring bits between the few actual hits.

      What they needed to do was tone down the over the top fake announcing and just treat this as the fledgeling machine sport it should be handled as. It would have been far more interesting with more technical info, and less “dope”.

      Also, “Joe Public” is an utter idiot… After years of watching physics defying Gundam and Voltron, they somehow think giant robots _Won’t_ somehow move with all the lumbering grace of construction machinery. I mean, Kuratas looks amazing from the front, but from the side, it literally looks like a robot using a tractor as a Hoveround. The tech is in it’s infancy, so to all those people out there whining that “This sucked! I was expecting Gundam”… Suck it up! What you want is a dang cartoon! Any machine of that size would tear itself mechanical limb from limb if it moved that violently fast! They expect these early giant robots to be able to do the impossible. If you want fast paced destruction with human drivers, go watch a demolition derby. Those are fun.

    2. Nah, having pilots on board limits the damage you can do, as well as being a fair risk to the squishy pilot so close to mega-industrial mayhem.

      VR is well enough advanced that you could do telepresence. Perhaps a VR helmet with a visor you can flip up, or a gap at the bottom. For when you wanted to see the real instrument displays and controls.

      Then that just leaves the other limit, the fact it takes years and huge amounts of money to make these things. Nobody’s going to be too keen to see that torn up with a 10 foot chainsaw. Still, they put up with it on Robot Wars. Maybe each team needs to make their robots more modular, so they can wrench in a replacement part for anything that gets damaged.

  8. Except for the crappy and really overly dramatized commentary, it was about what I expected. My suggestion is that they either make it completely dramatized (hire a team of practical special effects artists and let the flames/sparks fly!) or don’t do it at all. Everyone who knows something about robotics and technology understands what a HUGE technological undertaking this was, and should expect that this is about as far as it can go with current technology. If the goal was to make something actually look cool, the should have hired a 10-year old boy and ask him “does this look actually awesome to you?” If not, add fireworks. That would have been so much more awesome. (Disclaimer: I’m not a 10-year old boy boy)

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