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The BattleBox (known as the BattleBox Arena in earlier events)[1] is a purpose-built, 48ft x 48ft square arena in which all BattleBots matches take place.[2] Along with a steel floor and full Lexan enclosure, it features a variety of hazards which robots must avoid, or take advantage of to damage or hinder their opponent's movements. In one-on-one matches, competitors start from opposite sides of the BattleBox in color-coded red or blue squares.

1999-2002 (Long Beach, Las Vegas, Comedy Central 1.0-5.0)[]

Designed and constructed by Peter Lambertson, the original 1999 Long Beach and Las Vegas iterations incorporated a steel-plated floor raised two feet off the ground, and a 22ft high Lexan enclosure incorporating 1" thick walls.[3] During the Comedy Central run (Seasons 1.0-5.0), the walls consisted of two layers of half-inch panels along the lower half, along with a single layer of half-inch panels on the upper half. The BattleBox ceiling during the latter comprised of a quarter-inch thick layer.[4] In Season 4.0, the BattleBox received a new, taller roof with multiple Lexan panels and an aluminum truss structure, an appearance which would be largely maintained for subsequent seasons.[5]

For Season 5.0 only, a miniature replica of the BattleBox was created for the BattleAnts event, an invitation-only antweight competition hosted backstage by South Eastern Combat Robotics (SECR).[6][7] According to a photograph of the event from a 2002 SERVO magazine article, this was built by California-based insectweight organizers Sozbots,[8] featuring its own red and blue starting squares, Killsaws and Spike Strips.[9] Michael Mauldin of Team Toad confirmed that footage of BattleAnts was recorded by Comedy Central for potential use in Season 5.0, though none of this would end up being televised.[7]

Below is a list of hazards first introduced for the main BattleBox during the 1999 events and Comedy Central seasons. A number of these were adapted in between events and in some cases included in the modern incarnations used for the ABC and Discovery seasons. Others were replaced or removed altogether following their initial appearance:

Pulverizers: The Pulverizers were large pneumatic hammers housed in each corner of the BattleBox. One of the more famous hazards, they served to deliver internal damage to any competitor which drove or was pushed directly underneath them. Robots especially vulnerable to the Pulverizers included lightweight competitors, which could potentially be flattened by the hammer heads, as well as any competitor which had part or all of its internals exposed. In most cases, however, robots above the Middleweight division were able to survive their blows with only superficial external damage.


For Season 1.0, they initially consisted of 50lb sledgehammers which could only cause minimal damage and were relatively undersized compared to the robots themselves. From Season 2.0 onwards, the Pulverizers were significantly upgraded with much larger heads containing an internal free-weight. Further upgrades for Season 3.0 included stainless steel hammer heads and shafts weighing 150lbs more than their predecessors according to Peter Lambertson.[10] These changes made the Pulverizers more damaging and durable from that point onwards in the original run.

Throughout the Comedy Central seasons, the Pulverizers were operated by Peter Lambertson along with the other BattleBox hazards present throughout this era. Starting in ABC Season 1, they were now operated manually by members of each opposing team.

The Pulverizer, one of the most famous and feared BattleBox hazards

Killsaws: As their name implied, the Killsaws (also officially spelt as Kill Saws or KillSaws[11]) were sets of circular saws concealed within the BattleBox floor. Manufactured by SystiMatic, these would rise up from the floor and make contact with any robot which drove over them, causing severe damage and occasionally launching them across the BattleBox in the case of Lightweight competitors. However, they were sometimes vulnerable to damage themselves by robots wielding horizontal spinning weapons.


The Killsaws, along with the floor and wall Spikes, were among the very first arena hazards to be introduced in BattleBots, appearing in the 1999 Long Beach and Las Vegas events. In these iterations, a single set of three was housed beneath a Lexan panel, fitted with 18-inch diameter carbide-tipped blades and outlined in yellow and black hazard tape at Las Vegas only.[3] For televised seasons, several more would be located in various places, the arrangement also changing to two pairs of saws per area outlined by red or yellow borders. The Season 2.0 Killsaws incorporated additional red-coloured blades mounted flush with the standard silver blades.[12]

In Season 3.0, the Killsaws were among a number of hazards (along with the Ramrods and Spinners) to receive upgraded motors, becoming five times more powerful than in earlier appearances. The hazard also benefited from larger SystiMatic sawblades with closer-bound teeth, themselves featuring a different red sawblade layered on top of their outer faces.[10]

The Killsaws were used as wheels by BattleBots co-creator Trey Roski for his robot Ginsu.[13]

In the ABC/Discovery seasons, the Killsaws no longer rose up whenever a robot got close to them, but instead in a synchronized pattern after around two minutes into a fight. The frequency in which they operated was further increased for the 2018 Discovery season as part of improvements to the WOPR system.[11]

The three versions of Killsaws used (right to left: Las Vegas 1999-1.0, 2.0, 3.0-5.0)

The view from the 'Kill Saw Cam' during Season 1.0

Ramrods: The Ramrods were sets of six fast-acting spikes also concealed within the floor, which would fire upwards in a similar fashion to the Killsaws. However, while useful at disrupting a competitor's movements by lifting them off the floor, the spikes did minimal damage and never changed the outcomes of any fight. Occasionally, a robot using an overhead axe could get its arm or head stuck in the slots where the spikes were housed, although this did not lead to any defeats. From Seasons 1.0 to 3.0, the spaces marking the Ramrods consisted of a yellow rectangle for each row. This was changed by Season 4.0 to a grid-style pattern with red or yellow square outlines for each individual spike.


In Season 3.0, the Ramrods received new motors along with the Killsaws and Spinners, making them five times more powerful than their earlier incarnations.[10]

The Ramrods during Season 3.0

Ramrod pattern design during Season 4.0

Spinners: Spinners, introduced in Season 2.0, were yellow and black disks embedded into the floor. These were designed to disrupt competitors by flinging them across the BattleBox once they drove over, interfering with their movements and direction of travel. However, their effectiveness was limited to Lightweight and some Middleweight class robots, with minimal effect on competitors in heavier weight divisions. On occasions, the Spinners were lodged out of position by robots with either a low ground clearance or even their weapons, particularly those amongst the Heavyweight division. For their debut season, the pattern used for the Spinners largely resembled a bullseye target.


Season 3.0 saw the Spinners - along with the Killsaws and Ramrods - receive new motors which made them five times more powerful than in their debut appearance.[10] The patterns were also changed to represent a radioactive symbol by this point.

The Season 2.0 Spinner design

The Spinner design from Season 3.0 onwards

Hellraisers: Hellraisers (alternatively spelt Hell Raisers) were large panels in the centre of the BattleBox floor which were intended to lift, nudge or flip any competitor which drove over them. In later seasons, these would be painted over with the BattleBots logo. The hellraisers also had a second function in that they could occasionally trap any robot which drove under the space between the floor and the panel which had been raised. Initially, they were accompanied by multiple sets of Killsaws in the center; over time, the BattleBox configuration changed to make the hellraisers the only hazard in this area.


In Season 2.0, the panels were reconfigured so that they formed a grid comprised of the show's logo. The hellraisers were removed after Season 3.0, but reappeared later on for post-Comedy Central events such as the 2009 Championships.

The Hellraisers snaring Hexadecimator in its bout with Killerhurtz

Spike Strip: Present throughout the Long Beach, Las Vegas and Comedy Central events, the Spike Strip was a row of spikes lining the entire lower perimeter of the main BattleBox. These could serve to impale and incapacitate robots if they drove or were pushed into them, although on occasions the spikes themselves were susceptible to getting bent or ripped off the wall entirely by more powerful competitors. At Las Vegas 1999, Paul Lambertson explained that the individual spikes featured carbide tips to facilitate their damaging capability.[3]


In earlier Comedy Central seasons, the gaps between the spike strips and Lexan walls could also be used to a robot's advantage to beach their opponent for a knockout win. This was eventually nullified by Season 3.0 when those spaces were covered to prevent robots from getting caught there as easily.

The Spike Strip, mangled during Minion and Codebreaker's match

Pistons: The Pistons were pneumatically-powered metal cylinders that rose out of the floor similarly to the Ramrods. In their one-off appearance in Season 3.0, they proved highly effective at lifting and tipping robots over, which resulted in a number of controversial finishes throughout the season. Due to their high-tensile material, they often ended up breaking weapon systems, namely the belt-driven mechanism of Minion's vertical disk.

One of the damaged Pistons shortly after Season 3.0

Screws: Introduced in Season 3.0, the Screws were large, continuously-rotating metal augers placed by the walls near the Pulverizers. According to Peter Lamberston, these were intended to catch, lift and drag robots directly towards the latter,[10] but rarely proved effective at this purpose.


For Season 5.0 the Screws were redesigned with serrated edges, improving their effectiveness, with their movements also changed so that the individuals of each "half" could rotate in opposite directions. This resulted in their motion now making up a 'V' pattern near the center. On occasions, the Screws could drag over and pin a robot in place between themselves and the back wall, usually resulting in an instant knockout loss.

The Screws used for Season 3.0 and 4.0

Spikes: An earlier version of the Ramrods used at the 1999 Long Beach and Las Vegas events, not to be confused with the Spike Strip. Like its successor, this hazard consisted of six upward-firing spikes, later upgraded with carbide-tipped heads and outlined with yellow and black hazard tape for the Las Vegas event. Peter Lambertson stated that the latter iterations were capable of impaling and causing severe internal damage to competitors driving over them.[3]

2002-2022 (BattleBots IQ/BotsIQ)[]

The BattleBots IQ (alternately BotsIQ) events used a variety of arenas to stage combat or non-combat tournaments between robots from the Large (120lbs), Mini (15lbs) or TableTop (12lbs) classes.[14] The arena for Large Class competitors initially had a similar aesthetic to its televised counterpart, with hazards for the 2002 Orlando event including the Pulverizers (also referred to simply as the hammers), Killsaws and Spike Strips. From 2004 to 2008, the latter were replaced by spiked bumpers similar to those adopted for the NPC Charity Open and most other events thereafter.[15][16] Footage from the 2008 event confirms that the hellraisers returned as an active hazard during this period, and that Mini Class robots also occasionally fought 'grudge matches' inside the Large Class arena.[17]

The 2010-2011 BattleBots IQ competitions utilized a more basic arena for larger weight divisions, with only red and blue squares and no visible hazards.[18][19]

Regional BotsIQ events used a variety of smaller arenas without hazards to accommodate 15lb weight class robots for high school and college tournaments. The most recent example to be documented is the arena for the 2022 California University Finals, which used a rectangular base, red and blue starting areas marked on the yellow side walls, and a tall Lexan enclosure.[20]

2004 (NPC Charity Open)[]

The 2004 BattleBots-sanctioned NPC Charity Open used a smaller 40ft x 40ft[21] arena with a 12ft-high roof,[22] prepared by event organizers the Minnesota Manufacturing Educational Resource (MMER). Aside from the altered dimensions, it was largely similar in aesthetic to the Comedy Central-era BattleBox, but had a greatly reduced number of hazards as well as new outline markings for the red and blue squares.

Only the Pulverizers were carried over to this incarnation, with one being placed in each corner and operated by competing teams.[23] Additionally, the spike strips were replaced with a spiked bumper surrounding the BattleBox perimeter, itself topped by smaller Lexan panels forming an inner wall. The bumper and inner wall would both be retained for later live and televised events, the latter serving an important role in preventing robots from damaging the outer enclosure. This arena was used for Featherweight, Lightweight, Middleweight, Heavyweight and Super Heavyweight combat events, as well as a number of non-combat demonstrations.[21]

2005 (R3: Rochester Robot Rampage)[]

The 2005 Rochester Robot Rampage event used a simplified arena similar to that of the NPC Charity Open, with only spiked bumpers and corner-mounted Pulverizers present. Red and blue squares maintained the outline markings of the NPC incarnation, but without any additional sponsorship logos.

2006 (Cisco Party)[]

According to Jim Smentowski, a 'scaled-down' version of the BattleBox was created for the invitation-only 2006 Cisco Party private event in Las Vegas. This differed in having a rectangular base (16ft x 24ft) and only two Pulverizers located in the arena corners, as well as a prominent 'interior wall' section which reportedly made it more difficult for certain robots to maneuver around. Additional information on this incarnation is scarce, other than that it was only intended to accommodate middleweight robots entering the Cisco Party event.[24]

2007 (JavaOne)[]

Another compact variant of the BattleBox was used for the 2007 JavaOne competition in San Francisco. This differed in having an octagonal-shaped fighting arena, with only the spiked bumper and two Pulverizers (both on the right-hand side) as hazards. The red and blue squares reverted to their classic solid patterns which remained for subsequent events. Though the JavaOne event was primarily host to middleweight robots, one battle is also known to have taken place there between the super heavyweight Ginsu and heavyweight Sewer Snake.[25]

In a first for BattleBots, the JavaOne arena contained areas in each corner where competitors could throw opponents out of the arena, in a similar tactic to that available in Robot Wars. Unlike subsequent competitions, it was possible for robots to be placed back into the BattleBox if they were flipped out within the first minute of any fight prior to the final round.[26]

2009 (BattleBots Pro and Collegiate Championships)[]

For the 2009 BattleBots Pro and Collegiate Championships, several hazards returned:

The Pulverizers returned in their regular places but were now controlled manually by competitors in a similar fashion to those of the 2004 event and reboot seasons.[27] At least one of these had a hammer head with a spiked back.

The Pulverizers as seen in the 2009 competition

The Killsaws also reappeared with two sets being located near the center of the arena on each side. Unlike in previous events, they would not be enabled until after the first round of competition.

The 2009 Killsaws in action

The Screws returned with significant upgrades, completely serrated and now rotating at 400rpm. One set was located behind both starting squares, joined by another set in the center of the walls in between the Pulverizers.

The revamped Screws

The hellraisers returned after a long hiatus, with a set of four being placed in the center of the arena. Each was capable of tossing 220lb heavyweight robots high into the air, and would be enabled after the preliminary bouts alongside the Killsaws.[27]

The 2009 hellraisers in action

The spiked bumper from the 2004-2007 events returned with no apparent changes.

A significant difference between this and most earlier incarnations was that open spaces between the inner and outer walls were present in some areas. These allowed opportunities for competitors to throw opponents completely out of the arena in a similar case to the 2007 JavaOne version.

2015-2019 (ABC Seasons 1-2, Discovery Seasons 3-4)[]

The BattleBox for the 2015 season.

For the BattleBots reboot in 2015, the BattleBox received a significant update to its aesthetics and hazard line-up. As in the Collegiate Championship, competitors also had the ability to throw opponents out of the arena into spaces between the inner and outer walls, usually in between the spiked bumpers and entry/exit doors. Alongside the existing red and blue squares, a third starting area named the 'green square' was added to enable an additional robot to fight in three-way Rumbles. This was marked out in introductions and warm-up sequences by green spotlights, in the absence of a separately-painted zone.

Returning hazards included the Pulverizers, Killsaws, Screws and original Hellraisers - all receiving various improvements. In addition to these, two new hazards were introduced:

Paddles: The Paddles were hinged sections of the spiked wall bumper operated by pneumatics, firing outwards in a similar manner to a pinball flipper and a hazard used in the 1996 US Robot Wars competitions. Their purpose was to push and steer robots towards the now-titanium manufactured Screws.

One of the Paddles introduced for the 2015-2016 seasons.

Ramrods: Small pneumatic cylinders or spikes which rose from the floor to lift and temporarily trap robots in place. They were largely similar in form and purpose to the previous Ramrods. Unlike before, each spike was independently powered and scattered across the BattleBox rather than being clumped together. The effectiveness of these was limited, though they could occasionally spear through exposed gaps in a robot's design, as was the case with Ghost Raptor during its 2015 semi-final battle against Bite Force. These hazards were sometimes erroneously named Hellraisers in commentary.

One of the ramrods attacks Ghost Raptor during ABC Season 1.

The majority of hazards in the rebooted seasons switched over to a computer-controlled system dubbed the WOPR, with the notable exceptions of the Pulverizers, which were now operated by competing teams, and the original panel-based hellraisers, which saw greatly reduced usage throughout the main competitions.[28] For the 2016 season, the Killsaws and Ramrods were only made active after 60 seconds had elapsed, signalled by rows of LED lights around the perimeter of the arena which flashed to warn competitors of their activation. No active hazards were used in the preliminary Rumbles forming the opening episode of the latter, as to better emphasize the individual performances of main competition hopefuls. However, the Screws could still trap any robot with low wedges if they drove front-first into them, a matter which cost Skorpios its chance to progress into the main 2016 bracket.

According to Zoe Stephenson, the BattleBox floor for the 2016 season comprised of three layers of 1/8-inch mild steel sheeting, equal to 3/8 inches in thickness, along with a thick rubber coating over the top layer. This had the side effect of rendering some electromagnetic devices - such as the ones fitted to Chomp to counter the forces of its hammer weapon - largely ineffective.[29]

For the 2018 season, the WOPR system was updated to enable more frequent use of the Killsaws, as well as bi-directional movement for the Screws to reduce the likelihood of them getting jammed.[11] The period in which they could be activated was also changed to the final minute of any given match, a practice carried over into subsequent seasons. In Episode 9, more information on the updated legacy hazards was revealed in an opening segment where Kenny Florian summarizes and illustrates their functions. The Screws were by this time belt-driven and made from ½-inch stainless steel, while the Killsaws adopted new multi-layered silver blades rotating at 1,800rpm. The former proved especially hazardous to drones or minibots, as later seen during the Fight Card battle between Red Devil and SubZero in Episode 10. Lastly, the Pulverizers now operated with 3,000lbs of force, likely increasing their damage output against tougher and more heavily-armored competitors.

In the intro segment for Episode 10 of the 2018 season, the height of the BattleBox between the floor and the top lighting rig was quoted by Kenny Florian as being 16ft.

2020 (Discovery Season 5)[]

The 2020 season BattleBox featuring Tombstone vs End Game.

In response to developments occurring throughout the 2018 and 2019 Discovery seasons, the 2020 BattleBox received numerous updates including a newer, more durable floor made out of 1/2" mild steel[30] and a new logo matching that currently used for the rebooted seasons. The former was implemented following a number of instances where parts of the old floor became damaged by spinning weapons.[31]

Updates to the hazards were also evident in the Pulverizers, which retired their classic mallet-shaped heads for a newer, denser design with a rhomboid shape. Lights at the bottom that previously only signalled the activation of Killsaws now also follow the sequence for starting a match. A further change was the apparent removal of the panel-based hellraisers from the center of the arena. In their place, an additional set of upward-firing spikes were added to the same area identified by the updated BattleBots logo, rising from small unmarked holes.[32]

2021 (Discovery Season 6)[]

"This season, the biggest change within the BattleBox is geometry."
Pete Abrahamson during a segment dedicated to the BattleBox.[33]

The Upper Deck during the 2021 season

For the 2021 season, further changes were made to the BattleBox, specifically with the addition of "Door Buffer Zones" marking the spaces between the inner walls and entry/exit doors. Though still possible, competitors were generally disallowed from deliberately throwing opponents out of the arena into these zones for safety reasons; doing so would usually result in an automatic loss.[2]

Additionally, a brand-new hazard was introduced, called the Upper Deck and unofficially known as The Shelf.


Merchandise[]

References[]

  1. BattleBots Beginnings
  2. 2.0 2.1 BattleBots 2021 Tournament Rules, BattleBots
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 BattleBots World Championship, Las Vegas 1999
  4. Comment by former BattleBots crewmember Ktetch, 17 August, 2015
  5. 'November 2001 BattleBots San Francisco-Event Pictures', robotcombat.com (Team Nightmare)
  6. 'South Eastern Combat Robotics' South Eastern Combat Robotics website (BattleAnts page, archived)
  7. 7.0 7.1 'Team Toad: San Francisco May 2002', lazytoad.com (Team Toad website, archived)
  8. 'The History of Robot Combat: The Rise of the Insects — Part 1', Morgan Berry, SERVO, April 2012
  9. 'May 2002 BattleBots San Francisco-Event Photos', robotcombat.com (Team Nightmare)
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 10.3 10.4 'Inside the Box', BattleBots Season 3.0 (2001), Episode 1
  11. 11.0 11.1 11.2 https://www.facebook.com/battlebots/photos/say-thank-you-to-tony-pete-and-bill-not-pictured-for-their-work-on-the-wopr-than/10155415650136406/
  12. Comment by former BattleBots crewmember Ktetch, 11 April, 2014
  13. Contribution by former BattleBots crewmember Ktetch, 11 July, 2017
  14. 'BattleBots IQ : News', BattleBotsIQ website (archived 24 August, 2006)
  15. 'Battlebots IQ 2004', Team Cerberus, YouTube (uploaded 16 May, 2016)
  16. 'Battlebots IQ 2005', Team Cerberus, YouTube (uploaded 18 May, 2016)
  17. '15lbs Grudge match bots IQ 2008' , jcoello43, YouTube (uploaded 5 May, 2008)
  18. Photo by BattleBotsIQ Facebook page
  19. 'Battle Bots 2011 Feb - Heavy Weight - Battle 1 - RUG Community', rugcommunity, YouTube (uploaded 7 March, 2011)
  20. 'BOTS IQ: Battling Bots at Cal U.', GnarlyBark, YouTube (uploaded 29 April, 2022)
  21. 21.0 21.1 'MAY 7 2004 ANNOUNCING THE NPC CHARITY OPEN BattleBots and the Minnesota Manufacturing Educational Resource', MMER website (archived)
  22. 'Mega Walker Class Information', MMER website (archived)
  23. Builders Database entry on the 2004 NPC Charity Open, archived March 12, 2022
  24. 'Team Nightmare - Breaker Box', robotcombat.com (Team Nightmare website)
  25. 'BBsj 06 Sewer Snake vs Ginsu', SubZero BattleBot, YouTube (uploaded 11 November, 2021)
  26. 'BattleBots at JavaOne', Tanner Ratzlaff, YouTube (uploaded 13 May, 2007)
  27. 27.0 27.1 'BattleBots Collegiate Championship Episode #1', BattleBots (uploaded to YouTube 17 September, 2010)
  28. https://www.reddit.com/r/battlebots/comments/sbw9rb/a_theory_as_to_why_the_hellraisers_eventually/hu2hes7/
  29. Untitled Facebook post by the Chomp team (The Machine Corps), June 27, 2016
  30. Public comment from Aren Hill in the Out of the Arena Discord server.
  31. https://twitter.com/BattleBots/status/1145763575216009216
  32. https://www.reddit.com/r/battlebots/comments/sbw9rb/a_theory_as_to_why_the_hellraisers_eventually/hu725e6/?utm_source=reddit&utm_medium=web2x&context=3
  33. https://www.facebook.com/watch/?v=3138310979761457
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