Our 9 year old daughter loves robots. We have Lego Mindstorms and Vex robot kits, but one surprisingly good find has been Robot Arena: Design and Destroy, a PC video game that simulates BattleBots style robotic combat.
The game is getting quite old, but it runs well on Windows XP. It does have some occasional glitches and it crashes on my PC about once every dozen combat rounds, but I’ve never lost a robot design or anything. I just have to fight a battle again.
The computer’s artificial intelligence (AI) for your computer-controlled opponents is fairly weak except for one particular robot, Emergency. Older kids and grown-ups will find good attack patterns that work over and over again against all the bots. This doesn’t take too much away from the game, but it is an oddity. The one tough bot, Emergency, is quite a challenge and shows what the game could have been. There are some hacks available on the web that will add more difficult AI for the other bots, but we haven’t tried them yet.
The multiplayer mode is difficult to keep working. We’ve had a lot of times where we just could never get connected multiplayer. Even if we get connected, the game often lags or loses connection. It’s bad enough that we rarely even try to run multiplayer any more.
The design and construction of the robots is the real winner in the game. The designer starts by drawing out the shape of the robot. Then components are added, usually starting with motors and wheels followed by weapons and batteries. Then the whole thing has to be wired up to work with the remote control system.
There are several types of motors, wheels, batteries, and different linking parts. Each has a tradeoff like weight versus power or strength. The different motors draw different amounts of electrical power so working out what type of batteries and how many of them is also a factor.
The weapons include ram plates, spikes, circular saw blades, hammers and axes. There are also pneumatic actuators powered by compressed air so a weapon can quickly thrust, if you have room for the air tank.
There are THREE different weight classes in the game which is how bots are categorized. Cost isn’t considered so you have an unlimited budget. In each weight class you face a different set of computer controlled robots, with different strengths and weaknesses.
It’s a great game for robot enthusiasts and even has some educational value.