Will Wright has been battling robots since the first Robot Wars, back in 1984. Although he no longer participates.
Wright: "I've been a big winner the first few years, when the competition wasn't so tough, in one of the lightweight divisions the first year, and the middleweight the next year. I've never usually taken the time. I usually threw something together about three weeks before the event."
On that first show, he met Mike Winter, who is now working with Will in the Stupid Fun Club. "We hit it off. Mike and I were on the same wavelength. It turned out we both had daughters who were about the same age. We got our daughters into the robot thing very early. They were the only kids involved in this for the first few years.
The reason I work on robots is to get away from the computer. I've built robots as a hobby since I was a teenager," says Wright. "When the robot fighting stuff came around I really had to try it."
In the first Robot Wars competition, Wright's entry was Juliebot, a 50-foot square wedge with a girl's head stuck on it. "You could talk to it, and it could listen and talk back to you." Over the years, the Wrights have built a good dozen combat robots, with whimsical psych-out names such as Kitty Puff-Puff, Bob Smith, My Little Pony and Misty the WonderBot. "Because everyone else has all these tough sounding names like "the Eviscerator" or "Death Machine".
My daughter, I built one with her. Hers is [Super] Chiabot. It's this robotic shrub. So, we've used that one for the last two events.
"I had a robot that dispensed tape. I found this really gnarly tape, and I would drive around the other robots in circles and wrap them up in it." At some point, tape was outlawed in robotic combat. "I've been trying to see how many rules I can get in the rulebook," says Wright.
Both Will and Cassidy are intrigued by MultiBots - robots that split into smaller parts. Cassidy's BattleBot, Super ChiaBot, is a MultiBot, as was the Robot Action Combat Cluster (RACC), which Will Wright built with Mike Winter. "I had half of RACC," says Wright, "and Mike had the other half. His was a spinner, and mine was a thwacker,
but mine also had a third robot that would pop out of it. We called it the emergency escape pod, or eep. Eep was this tiny little robot made out of foam and servos. I designed it to be indestructible. The robot was way down inside the foam. No matter what you hit it with, it would just bounce away." At the time, a MultiBot was considered disabled if 50 percent of the components were disabled. If one of the big robots died, Wright would launch the escape pod, and RACC would be a two-part MultiBot again. Current BattleBots rules define MultiBots by weight, rather than number, rendering the eep strategy ineffective.
We do this because we like building these things and we love meeting the other people and doing with them. And for the first few years, there was just a very small group that would show up. And mostly you were going there to meet the other people and fight their robots. At some point, kind of on top of this whole thing, television became aware of this and came in and started making it into a big television show. And in fact it's now the second highest rated show on Comedy Central.
It's very hyped up, but yet there's this whole big television audience that watches it now, which is overlaid upon this smaller group of hobbyists who were just doing this for the hell of it.