Monday, August 27, 2012

Lego Battlebots: Second Generation

Focus of project: Improve and perfect ANYTHING POSSIBLE from the first generation Battlebots.

Behold, the almighty next generation Battlebots game. The first generation cannot compare to the magnitude of sheer sophistication of the new version, but it will always be remembered as the pioneer of my Lego games. The second version exhibits exceptional improvements in durability, game-play, variety of options, weapon mechanisms, and everything else that had potential for improvement. If you did not see the post about the first version of the Battlebots game please do so before moving on, you will understand the rules and whatnot:

Above we see the Blue Bot with a Saw and spinning Flail. The Flail seen above was later revised, for the various reasons listed in the documentary video toward the bottom. But before we get to that, get a feel for the game-play (and the game rules) for yourself:

Lego Battlebots Commercial:
[I strongly suggest watching this in a larger view, click the title at the top to watch right on YouTube.]

Hopefully the game seems fun to you by now, if not epic. The previous version of the game was also pretty fun, but I remember constantly intervening in a battle to repair a weapon or chassis platform, or even untangling wires caught by certain weapons (a good example for that was the saw). But the next gen game did not have this issue, at least until the end. In the first few trial runs there were a few bugs, but they were immediately addressed and fixed. All such bugs and issues and how I fixed them up are explained in the documentary video below. But first, let's see the biggest differences between the two generations of the Battlebots game:

To begin with, the platform's connection to the chassis actually had some reinforcement. Here's the old version bot, with a large vacant platform on top. The platform can easily be pried off along with everything on top of it, as it is only connected by Lego "brick" studs (which only connect by stacking) and not by any Technic pinholes (which can connect on any axis). This actually happened sometimes in battle after a few games took place, since each play loosened up the foundation of every element composing the bot.
Here I reveal to you the secret of the next-gen-bot's super-powerful platform connection. As you can see, the blue pin sticking out of the Technic "L" is running through the small black brick stacked on top of the platform edge. As mentioned, Technic parts connect on any axis, and I am utilizing this principle to lock the platform to the chassis with a horizontally placed pin, which disallows the vertical connection to pop off. This "L" is on all four corners of the bot.

You may have noticed this piece in the image above. What was this used for? Well, to begin with, this piece alone saved me from from countless in-game interventions. It connected to the platform so firmly. The weapons had virtually no effect on it. It was simply used to hold down the wires. That's it. And the only wires it had to hold down were the strips protruding off the motors powering the weapons. The rest were very well hidden and covered by the large black platform piece on which the weapons were placed. This piece was a major improvement to the whole system.

Also, the receiver, shown in red in the image above, was placed on the side of the chassis rather than on the platform. The first-gen bots had the receivers plopped right on top, as seen here. This was a huge issue as it took up a good chunk of platform space while having two extra wires running over the bot. Not only did the next-gen bots have the receivers on  the sides, but their altitude was also lowered, making it impossible for any weapon to mess with the wires protruding from them.
Another improvement was the unifying of the weapon motors. In generation one, the the bots had one XL motor and one M motor to drive the weapons, because I did not have enough M's at the time. The XL motor in particular was very difficult to secure to the platform while taking minimal platform space. As a result, the entire motor occasionally dismounted off the platform (its high torque sometimes made the weapons shake the whole bot). The M motor, however, had a sturdy 4x8 brick connection secured to its bottom, making it virtually impossible for it to dismount. Generation two used only M motors to drive the weapons.

Another issue that was fixed was the faulty controller. The first gen controllers consisted of a normal remote for the chassis and a speed remote for the weapons. The reason I chose to have a speed controller was so that the weapons wouldn't get overpowered and violently shake the bot platform. Despite that, the idea proved to be a huge mess. To start off, the players (or, my fellow high school students) didn't care how much power the weapons had. I immediately realized that a game like this must work no matter who's in control, regardless of player mentality. Also, if a motor is activated by the speed remote, it will not stop until the red button below the orange dial is pressed; another thing that the players just didn't care to do. They would attack with one weapon while the one pointing backwards was still running at full speed. The new remote, as you saw in the commercial above, only used two normal remotes (which immediately engage motors at full speed) for each bot. Did the weapons end up shaking the platforms? Well, that has to do with yet another good reason for building up your parts inventory. The answer is no, because I acquired enough gears by then to reduce the weapon cycle speed, mechanically. Most of the weapons featured gear reduction of some sort (typically the ratio was 3:5)

One of the most important level ups for the second generation was the variety of parts to choose from. The biggest stretch to this principle was the all new rover chassis, which was very similar to the one I posted a while ago. I had in mind many more alternate chassis, but simply did not have the time to develop them. The rover chassis was a challenge to incorporate into the system mainly because I had to maintain consistent altitude between the two fighting bots. If one platform was higher than the other, no one would dismount the other's flags. Unfortunately, I had to add a motor to incorporate double steering, unlike the "6 Wheeler Rover" I posted earlier. When I tried hooking up just one motor, the universals and gears generated too much backlash and all I basically had was single steering. But alas, the intruding motor also made it difficult to keep the platform on the same altitude as the standard tank chassis. I ended up having to equip the tank chassis with "riser blocks" when facing a bot with the rover chassis. It wasn't a problem, it only took a few seconds to install them before every battle. The risers were simply composed of beams (like the yellow ones in the image above, between the wheels). The risers had to be removed again when both players were using tanks. Here's how the rover chassis was put to use:
As you can see, the top section, containing the platform, receivers, and weapon motors was easily removed from the tank chassis and plopped onto the rover chassis. The only extra step was rewiring the rover's driving motors to the receiver, which was connected to the tank's driving motors before installation. This process was not difficult but it was a little time consuming, as the wire strips had to be wrapped around certain areas where enemy weapons could not reach. But before this, the strips from the tank's motors had to be unwrapped from their "safe zones" in order to fully detach the platform from the tread base.

Moving on with the parts variety, the turret mount was a great addition. The turret allowed the player to make the choice of sacrificing one of the two weapons so that the remaining one could rotate. The turret did not rotate a full circle endlessly, as this would cause the wires to twist up indefinitely and tear up the bot. I researched mechanisms that would still permit 360 degree rotation in such a circumstance, but I could not fit such a mechanism between the chassis and its weapons platform. The clearance space between the two was about a millimeter. Also, the turret mount gave the bot a completely new platform, which was much smaller than the standard one. This made game play even more interesting, because the user could rotate his flags away from enemy attacks BUT all the flags had to be grouped up close together. A single attack from an enemy could potentially win the game.

In addition to keeping things various, there were now four flags instead of one large and ugly one (which didn't even look like a flag). As you can see in the old Battlebots, the so-called "flag" was really a stack of two lego brick panels (seen left), which were also the only indicators of the bot's color (as seen on right). This worked well with the first generation weapons but it would've been awful for the next. I decided that four flags would be okay, and I tried to keep the base dimensions as it was before. What I mean is that the first generation "flag" had a 1x4 platform connection, and I tried to split that into four 1x1 platform flags, like this:

But these flags proved to be faulty. Their connection to the platform was far to delicate and the mere rattling of the bot's movements loosened them up. I also came to realize that because most of the weapons were geared down, they would be more powerful than the weapons of the previous generation, and so I needed flags with a larger base connection. The solution worked great; the new flags required a perfect amount of force to be dismounted fairly:

The updated flags had a 2x2 base, and although this matched the platform area of the single 1x4 flag (from gen one), the new weapons worked very well for taking out all of them (well, most of them anyway). I used a different, longer rod that went through a hole in the 2x2 brick cylinder for each flag. And of course, the fact that they actually looked like flags made the players happy.

Because there were now four times as many targets as before, I applied a game rule that in the event that the game isn't ending, the battle should last for up to 4 minutes. When there was only one flag to "kill" in generation one, games usually lasted about 3 minutes, since sometimes the flag wouldn't come off with just one attack (which made it even more fun!). But generation two needed some extra legislation to keep the game play flowing evenly. I recall about two or so battles (out of about 40) where the time limit had to end the game. The record time for winning was 17 seconds, as you will see in the short documentary video about the whole system below. The above is merely a comparison between the two versions of the game; but the video explains all the inner workings of the new version.

Here's a quick synopsis of all the parts available to build a Battlebot. All their specifics will be made clear in the video that follows:

Red Tank, Blue Tank
     -Standard tank chassis
     -Six-wheeled vehicle; had double steering and the drive train drove the center wheels

     -Double bladed rotating weapon
     -Sine-graph generator mechanism with pincers
     -Literally a rotating flail
     -Series of parallelogram shifts causing linear motion
     -Lever with a hammering motion with two wheels at the end
     -Piston held at the other end to cause a leaf-raking motion
     -Two parallel pistons with ax-like parts at the ends
     -Two parallel rotating tridents
     -Two crazy arm-like blades that spin in opposite directions
Missile Launcher
     -Launches four missiles consecutively
     -Horizontally mounted toothed belt.

Turret Mount [there was a rule that the Missile Launcher and the Flail could not be mounted to this, as the missiles were of limited ammo (only one weapon per turret!) and the Flail could take off all of your own flags from the tiny platform].
     -Allowed the small platform on top (along with one weapon and four flags) to rotate 90 degrees left and 90 degrees right.

And now, without further delay, the documentary:
[I do suggest watching this on a bigger screen as well; click the title to see it on the YouTube page.]

And there you have it. There's not much more I can deliver about this system except for the fact that I initially planned for many more chassis and weapon options, but simply did not have the time (or even the parts, maybe) to do so. The idea for a quadruped walker might have been over the top, along with automatic guns with re-loadable clips. Oh well. I guess it was as good as it was going to get.

Lego Battlebots: Second Generation
PF Contents:

2 Battery Boxes
1 XL Motor
12 M Motors
6 Receivers
4 Remotes


  1. The video style of that commercial video is great, though in the other video it feels a bit weird to have no sound in many parts. I think some music would have been a great addition. I may be able to create some sort of Lego battlebots myself now that I have two battery boxes and 6 motors, though I'd probably have to make the weapons run continually due to lack of remote control parts.

    1. I guess the longer video could have had some music. I was in too much of a rush to make the videos because there was just so much footage to process. You know how I made the documentary? I had to review every single battle video and "split it" into its important parts and "filter" all the insignificant moments. Then I wrote which parts were in EVERY vid (took about 6 papers) to document where I should grab some footage for a Saw kill, for example. Every time the camera cuts is a new hand-written line on one of those papers. And after doing all that adding music was just not on my mind anymore lol. And I'd love to see your own version of this game with your parts :)

  2. hey ;)
    only wanted to ask, if you are building something bigger right now...
    i wonder a bit, why you didn´t do a post since the end of august...
    by the way, your battlebots are cool!
    MrHuggaga ^^

    1. I am planning to make a cool 4x4 that's much better than the prototype I posted. The gun is also sitting here, but I haven't worked on it for a long time. I haven't posted for a while because I can't build as often as I used to. And thanks for liking the Battlebots! What's your favorite weapon?

  3. ahh, yes i remember that you are working on th 4x4... my mistake! ;)
    eeerm, my favourite weapon are the punchers! and i like the wheel chassis very much! ;)

  4. can your post instructions for the bots and weapons.

  5. since you cant post the instructions can you post detailed pics of the weapons and chassises so me and any one else who wants to recreate this awsome game can.
    may the stars watch over you.

    1. I dismantled everything to use the parts for other things, and I didn't take detailed pics like you asked for. But I assure you, there are other and better ways to build this game. You can easily design your own bots and weapons based off mine, and add improvements.