Saturday, 14 October 2017

An Open letter to Robot Wars

An open letter

To whom it may concern,

   I am extremely concerned about your next series of robot wars (series 10 or 3, depending on your point of view). I will outline the reasons why I am not going to be watching your next season when it airs in October 2017.

For one, you are changing the format of the show, with less robots being used in the upcoming series, thus leading to less fights. By contrast, you had upwards of nearly 100 competitors in a single series of Robot Wars before series 8 (or one, depending on your view) This not only denies spaces to budding entrants who want to spend time and money to enter your show but also limits the action in the arena. If you are looking to attract more people to fight in the arena, who may potentially bring a new weapon or tactic into the warzone, then surely you are limiting the talent pool?

Next, and perhaps more criminally, a number of errors keep appearing in your websites and press releases. Behemoth was never a champion, strictly speaking, unless you count the Challenge trophy, which they started with without actually having to fight anyone. Even your website could not make its mind up as to whether you should continue calling it series 9 or series 2, depending on whether you looked at the tab or the actual web page itself. Typographical errors such as these really infuriate the passionate fan, who want grammatically correct sentences. It feels as if you are not employing staff who can sufficiently QA their own work. Either that, or you do not employ staff who are as committed to Robot Wars as perhaps they could be, which is clearly hindering the product.

Additionally, your promotional material is not actually allowing me to enjoy your show any more than if I was actually watching it. This is not how promotional material is supposed to work. I cannot remember any of the promotional material from the original series, but currently you appear to be both hiding and revealing things at the same time. You say that there is a new arena threat, but there has been little explanation of it? At the same time your preview demonstrates a robot flying higher than any other robot may ever have done, and from the looks on the faces of the teams this was NOT due to the flipper. This leads me to conclude that either a team has a flipper capable of this (perhaps one we already know or don't know) OR you have lied to us about the arena changes. I suspect the former, which is fine, except that this is indicative of a style of programming that relies on being able to constantly deliver these big shocks, and unfortunately this leads to a certain amount of burnout if there are too many of these types of huge shocks. It may have been better to not show this clip at all, but rather focus on a new house robot or the new arena threat.

Until you rectify these issues, I abhor the viewer who is willing to watch a show which contains fewer robots of overall lower quality, while turning the entire format into a parody of the original series 3. If this was your intention, well done. I feel that you are having something of an identity crisis which is ruining the show. In spite of your apparently successful series ratings, I fear you are dragging the show down into a spiralling descent of falling interest, until you realise what the show is all about. Is it a sport or entertainment? Is it going to be the UK Championships, as it used to be, or is it therre to showcase the achievements of schoolchildren alongside amateur and professional competitors? If you really want to hark back to the "good old days", why not employ some of the more unique aspects of the show, such as the non-gladiatorial games they used to do on series 1 and 2, such as the pinball, sumo, football or other games? Even better, attend one of the live, untelevised shows that occur all over the country, like Robots Live and Extreme Robots. This would level the playing field by increasing the emphasis on driver control. Swarm bots might get an advantage in some games but overall I feel this would appeal to many different fans.

Yours sincerely,


To whom it may concern,

   I am delighted by the changes you have made to the show, and I will make it my mission to ensure that as many people as possible tune in to watch your show. Why do I feel it necessary to express these feelings? Your focus on fewer robots allows people such as myself to really get to know the robots we actually care about. To aid this, your press releases have been useful in allowing us to really get to know the new and returning competitors in a style that fits the tone of the show for the 21st century, while giving a nod towards the somewhat silly yet still dangerous antics of the old series.

Although less robots might be seen as a bad thing for the competition if you want constant, no-stop fighting, it really can take you out of a show if all you want is a 60 minute clip of robots bashing each other. It can actually get quite numbing, so spending time in the pits, learning cool information about the world of robotics from the judges and having two of the most engaging presenters in the business really help to create an atmosphere that I can get behind. However, while I enjoy the promotional material, I have noticed a few errors on your website which could be rectified. Now, no one is perfect, but under the circumstances I am willing to accept the errors if you correct them in due course.

I believe that the advertising has been very good in showing the current state of robot fighting in the UK. It is in rude health, with new teams, and a new winner of the heavyweight championship every year for at least the last 5 years, for the last 2 these have been brand new robots and teams. Furthermore, the variety of robots out there is arguably better than the US, with their Battlebots, which actually showcases a number of British teams who have also been on Robot Wars. Robot Wars has so far not mentioned Battlebots, and I feel any mention of foreign competition at this moment in time may be detrimental to the product until more time has been spent on any potential collaboration. So overall your advertising reflects the current state of robot fighting well in the UK.

While some may bemoan that the show is no longer the original product, all products need to move on with the times. This might lead to the accusation of having an identity crisis but this is still a relatively new product. Top Gear managed about 20 series in the 00's and early 10's, of which a number of the earlier episodes had the same problem with trying to maintain it's earlier identity, ultimately changing into something that was presented differently but was fundamentally the same programme. I feel that Robot Wars is going through the same thing. Robot Wars has the advantage of a 15 year break, so the change can be more pronounced and more reflective of the present day.

 Yours sincerely,   Ali

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