Sunday, October 03, 2004

Interactive Killer Robots

The game of robots-built-to-kill-other-robots (such as those seen on Robot Wars and BattleBots) is one that people seem to find either totally awesome, or completley lame.

The basic idea is that a team of people build a robot that will enter an arena and try to kill another robot. Depending on what version the team is playing, the arena will be different. Battlebots is played in a plexi-glass box that has a group of un-seen arena controllers who deploy/activate several traps, such as buzz saws in the floor and/or a giant sledge hammar in the corner. Robot Wars initally had a obsticle corse theme, but quickly turned to a death-match forum, with two "house bots" (controlled by un-seen people), who get to kill any 'bot that strays into their "patrol zone." Either way it is played, the game is all about interaction.

The most fundimental (and fun-to-watch) interaction is that which occurs between the two human/robot teams fighting in the death-match arena.

Using CRAWFORD's model for interaction: Each team first "listens" to the other team by observing the enemy robot ("He's got a big spike and is headed right for my 'bot..."). They then think about there responce ("...I gotta get outta the way!") and speak via their robots movment and attacks.

Using MEADOW's outline for interaction: Players first observe the arena as well as the other teams robot ("Its got a big spinny thing on the side"). They then explore the abilities/limitations of the surroundings or the enemy 'bot ("I bet it isn't even that strong...oh crap it is!"). Then they modify their actions ("I'm gonna stay the hell away for that spinny thing!"). And eventually there is a reciprocal change ("Well, if he is afraid of my spinner, maybe I can chase him into the buzz saws...").

I can imagine there is also an interaction between the build teams and the arena itself. As people build new a better 'bots for the obstacles and enemies, the arena is changed to make it safer, more difficult, or more destructive.

Now I don't think that there is an interaction between the human and his robot, since the robot is just an extension of the person (since it only does what he says), and doesn't really "speak" back to the controller. But I'm not totally sure about it...so let me know if you think different.

3 Comments:

Blogger Jane said...

Great analysis! I really like your extension of the interaction to the built environment. The idea that the designers of the environment are responsive to the tricks and strategies of the bot controllers creates a really interesting meta-game for robot fighting. Across individual games/fights, there emerges a second layer of bot-controller/course designer interaction and gamesmanship. This is an excellent point you bring up.

October 4, 2004 at 2:30 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

hey Greg! speaking of... did you know that San Francisco is hosting, like, the world championship of robot battles this weekend? check out http://combots.net/, and a bit of info below...

Fighting Robots return to San Francisco!

Join us Saturday and Sunday, October 9-10th, 2004 for The Robot Fighting League's 2004 National Championships! See the metallic stars of TV gather to fight it out to decide who's the champion - in robot weight classes up to 340 pounds. Thrill to the spectacle as robots fight only a few feet away from the bleachers!

October 7, 2004 at 1:19 PM  
Blogger grey said...

I read your post (and saw the commercial) in time...but my SLACKER roomie *coughKWANSOOcough* who promised he'd go with me had too much homework so I missed it. (and $20 is a little much) Do you know if they do it somewhat often or if its a once a year thing?

October 11, 2004 at 3:48 AM  

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