Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Lego Battlebots: First Generation (built in late 2009)

Focus of project: Fun

So after making a few terrible (but fun) RC cars, I had this idea, this wonderful idea. The idea stemmed from my childhood passion of inventing games; be it on a board, with cards, or on a screen. Eventually this passion was replaced with engineering, but it will never be erased from my mind. The idea was a new type of Lego game - one that would be packed with excitement, strategy, and sheer awesomeness. Unfortunately, the end result didn't fully reach these expectations, but it indeed came pretty close. I present to you the first generation Lego Battlebots:

Whoa, what? No, not robots that destroy each other. Rather, each player had to destroy a single part - called the "flag" - that lied on the edge of the enemy's platform. The red piece on the left bot (above) was the red bot's flag and on the right we see the blue bot with its flag. If you notice, both bots have 2 vacant motors on their platforms. These motors controlled the weapons, which the players got to choose themselves. I built an array of melee weapons, most of which had duplicates in case both players wanted the same weapon. [I attempted to make an automatic gun out of the Bionicle ball launchers; it worked but it shook the bot too much and eventually the gun would fall off.] To win, the players had to use their two weapons to try and dismount the enemy flag.

The weapons were all built to attach instantly to the motor. Because I didn't have enough M Motors at the time, one of the weapon motors was an XL, which sometimes gave too much power to some weapons:

I would have liked to have both weapons run on M Motors, but I had only enough for one for each bot:

The parts built around the motors allowed them to attach to the platform, wherever the player wished. Some weapons attached to be in parallel with the motor, and some perpendicular. Here we see a bot with its motors and receivers mounted on the brick platform. These 4 items could be moved wherever it would be convenient for weapon placement. You may think, "Can't the enemy's weapons get tangled in those wires?" Well, unfortunately, the answer would be yes. The wires were typically tucked into the middle of the platform (where to parts lied) to avoid this issue, but  this problem was completely eradicated in the second generation Battlebots.

Battlebot Chassis:

High speed, easy maneuvering, color coded motor placements.

Wires everywhere, delicate in the areas made with brick parts, XL Motor was at a higher altitude than the M Motor, too much platform space taken up by the motors and receivers; XL Motor mount came off after a couple battles.

Here we have the bot controllers. As you can see, the small brick parts all over the controller were all utilized for color coding. The two levers controlled the tracks, and the two dials controlled the weapons.

Pros: Color coding, compactness.

Cons: Sometimes players would confuse the controls, rotating a dial too much could cause a weapon to shake itself off the bot (i.e. Hammer), could be split among two people to have a "driver" and a "gunner".

All the weapon variants had different mechanisms. Most of them would function the same way regardless of which direction the motor spun. I have some old photos of them below; I still didn't have a legitimate video camera at the time so I hope I deliver them all well enough.

The Saw.
This was by far one of the best weapons in the game. I designed it to be placed either vertically or horizontally, but quickly learned that putting it vertically is much, much less useful than horizontally.

Effectiveness, reached out a good distance with its length.

Kill radius was too large, blades could be pulled out easily.

Amount in arsenal: 2

The Hammer.
This was the most popular weapon. When activated, the two blades would constantly move up and down, and went really rough on the enemy flag. It made the game interesting when it took multiple hits to fully take out the flag. Sometimes the flag would be between the two blades as they fell right over it, not making a kill. I came up with its mechanism by accident.

Effectiveness, could be used as a defense arm to hold away the enemy

Cons: Could get pretty shaky at high speed, mechanism would sometimes dismantle itself.

Amount in arsenal: 2

The Sweeper.
This weapon had a raking mechanism. essentially, it was a piston but it was held by the other end, so that the "piston head" would move in a circular motion instead of a vertical cycle. Move the motor one way, it would pull the flag in; move it the other, it would push the flag out.

Pros: Effectiveness, two different motion types, good range.

Cons: Got shaky at high speeds, the blade section could be pulled out easily.

Amount in arsenal: 2

The Pincer.
This was the most complicated one in the arsenal. Whenever the internal piston went backward, the jaws closed, and when it moved forward, a rubber band would open them again. The piston cycled constantly to create a bug mandible effect.

Pros: None really.

Cons: Front had to be supported by some extra bricks underneath (or else it would hang), the grey knob wheel (shown between the blades) slid out after many cycles (causing the piston to have no purpose), could only be connected to the M Motor - with bricks laid under it - to raise to the right altitude (even the XL was too low).

Amount in arsenal: 1

The Flail.
My apologies, but this is the best picture I have of it. Yes, the motor had to be removed from its cage to put it on the vertical platform. This weapon was probably the strongest of them all, but caused the most problems. The light grey axle you see on the end of the chain would go into the orange connection in the motor. You can imagine the rest.

Strength, kill radius

Axle easily popped off the motor, could easily get tangled in the bot's own wires, sometimes would start rotating but would then get stick against the vertical motor platform (because the speed remote cannot immediately start immediately at a high speed), got very shaky most of the time, motor sometimes fell off all together (yeah, awesome, but full of problems).

Amount in arsenal: 1

The Drum Roller.
This was the last weapon to be added to the game. It worked quite peacefully and never experienced any issues. The mechanism was quite simple yet very useful for its purpose. When activated, the red rubber band acted as a belt to spin the grey rods, creating a rotating mess of sticks. The rods were oriented so that when rotating they would look like a sine wave.

Pros: Not overpowered but not useless, the only weapon to be able to attach to a motor and removed without any pegs ever "sticking" to the motor, compactness.

Cons: Very short range.

Amount in arsenal: 2

So that's the first generation Lego Battlebots game. As you read, it was full of issues, but even with them in the mix, the game was a TON of fun. I brought the whole system to school and lines started forming (I should have charged a quarter for each tryout!) to play the game. Sure, there were many moments where I intervened for a brief repair job, but such moments were key to learning about how to build the second (and latest) generation, which I built two and a half years later. I will make a post about it, but this is (generally) a chronological blog, and I made many creations worth blogging about between the two versions. Yes, I invented this exact game, but inspiration came from the official Battlebots series.

Lego Battlebots: First Generation
PF Contents:

2 Battery Boxes
2 XL Motors
6 M Motors
4 Receivers
2 Remotes
2 Speed Control Remotes

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