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Robotics Technology

Using Mech Combat To Hone Engineering Skills 59

Posted by Soulskill
from the and-practicing-for-defeating-skynet dept.
jjp9999 writes "Mech Warfare is a mix between Battlebots and MechWarrior, only without the fanfare. The teams around the competitions include engineers and professionals in robotics, and the games are — aside from being an homage to their love for science fiction — a way to hone their skills in the field. Andrew Alter, roboticist and one of the mech pilots, said the competitions are taken as 'an engineering challenge,' noting that while they do compete, 'Having this mix of skill levels and demographics is really great to see, as information and ideas tend to flow freely. We're also solving practical real-world problems like being able to stream video over Wi-Fi in high-interference areas. It's not nearly as easy as one might think.'"
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Using Mech Combat To Hone Engineering Skills

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  • I wanna play...

    • by hairyfeet (841228)

      I want that new Mechwarrior game from Smith and Tinker, hell I want someone to release the code for the old MW games so i can get the damned things to run on X64 Win 7! Man I miss those things, i use to make those Shadowcat twerps soooo damned pissed. i had my mech stripped down to the bare metal and loaded up with nothing but the biggest fucking guns it would hold. No lasers, no missiles, no jumpjets or heatsinks, just really big fucking cannons. I only got one shot but wooo mama, i hit you and it was all

  • by gallondr00nk (868673) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @06:34PM (#39420863)

    Until someone makes a copy of the Timber Wolf / Madcat.

    Best. Mech. Ever.

    • Re:I don't care.. (Score:5, Interesting)

      by roc97007 (608802) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @06:56PM (#39421103) Journal

      I know, right? In every game from MW2 onward, once I got to the point where I could deploy a Timberwolf/Madcat, the rest of the mechs became uninteresting. I played with the 100 ton mechs and always came back to the Timberwolf. Best combination of maneuverability, firepower, and armor than anything else out there.

      In ... MW4, I think, there was a MkII you could play for a couple missions. Heavier and a little slower, but still better than any 100 ton class. And you could reduce armor, upgrade the engine and have almost the same speed and maneuverability as a timberwolf with increased loadout.

      After playing the games for years, I loaded up every mech (at the point where it became possible) with as many light gauss rifles as it could hold, and sniped while out of range of 90% of the game's weapons. It made the games absurdly easy. I suspect that's a programming or conceptual weakness in the game.

      When I got bored with Mech Commander 2, I played the game with the smallest, lightest scout mech, and found what I think is a loophole in the game. It's absurdly easy to win with a flock of small mechs against a few larger ones. (Although it takes a little more strategy.)

      Man, I miss Mechwarrior.

      • by jhoegl (638955)

        Man, I miss Mechwarrior.

        Me to man... me too... *tear
        ELH for life!

        • Coming soon, to a PC near you: MechWarrior Online (http://mwomercs.com/)

          • by roc97007 (608802)

            I already have registered my old callsign on the Online website, but the issue I have with Online is that there appears to be no mission tree or narrative. One of the things that made the MW series interesting was how the story unfolded through the missions.

          • by GryMor (88799)

            Already available, Mechwarrior: Living Legends [mechlivinglegends.net]

      • by Ihmhi (1206036)

        I was all about the Daishi (in 3, at least). The lowest profile of any of the 100 tonners. I equipped it with four PPCs, heat sinks, and loads of armor. It could take a lot of punishment and one alpha strike would nearly make the Daishi go nuclear but it would instantly down any mech. Bonus: firing the alpha strike at anything above 0 heat. Having a thermonuclear suicide bomb as a last resort weapon is always a nice touch.

        • by drinkypoo (153816)

          It is in fact all about the Daishi from 3 onward. It is especially compelling in 4. Even now that the game (which is free!) comes with a metric assload of 'mechs, the Daishi is still one of the best by far. It can carry and functionally fire 6 ER LLs in most terrain conditions and you can load it up with autocannons and light gauss for those desert maps. and it is relatively difficult to headshot.

          Mech IV is great because it runs on cheapass laptops of today, on a joystick that's $10 at a yard sale or flea m

          • by roc97007 (608802)

            I disagree. A madcat can easily beat the slow ponderous hulk of a Daishi in a fair fight. It can't turn quick enough, and it moves forward slower than a madcat can move backwards. It's only competitive if your opponent decides to stand and slug it out. Which would be moronic.

            Nope, sorry, a Daishi is a big, shiny, loser's mech. It's a trap!

            • by Ihmhi (1206036)

              I play it more like tank combat. Less the "main battle tank flying over a hill" type, and more the "quietly creeping up a hill, just barely exposing your turret, and popping the unsuspecting fuck of a Wehrmacht tank crew with an AP shell" kind.

              It's kind of like whack-a-mole, only the mole has particle-accelerators for hands.

              • by drinkypoo (153816)

                Yes, you have it exactly. My favorite tactic with the daishi is to set the lasers to individual fire and then wander back and forth over a ridgeline. As I come up onto the enemy's side I fire each CERLL in sequence to keep them dazed and unable to shoot me, then drop back over the ridgeline and cool down. fIre the lasers faster than you would for continuous fire to get that pause while you're behind the hill. I have an average kill ratio of about two mad cat MkIIs to one of my daishis exploding. I was regul

                • by roc97007 (608802)

                  It's been awhile since I played the game, but I'm pretty sure that the light gauss rifle had a longer range. I have seen the tactic you describe, but you can't fire without exposing a weapon, and if one goes after weapons instead of trying to pound on the thick armor around the cockpit, it's pretty easy to disarm the big guy. It takes more finesse, but bigger is not always better.

                  • by drinkypoo (153816)

                    The thing is, it's provably easier to get the hit on the arms of the mad cats because they stick out more, and the large lasers keep your opponent rocking to the point where most people can't hit you at all. It takes a little practice, but I used to play a whole hell of a lot.

            • by drinkypoo (153816)

              A madcat can easily beat the slow ponderous hulk of a Daishi in a fair fight. It can't turn quick enough

              By turning the legs AND the torso at the same time, EASY if you have pedals and I do, you can turn quick enough to hit anything slower than about 96 kph any old time, and if you strip any Mad Cat or MkII down that far it's a tinderbox or it's toothless

              • by mhajicek (1582795)

                Just use a three axis stick. I'm a Daishi fan myself, and have never had a maneuverability issue, but I have to admit never playing against humans. If someone is trying to get behind you one thing you can do is turn while backing up, it makes it nearly impossible for a mech even twice as fast as you to get behind you.

                I do like how the different mission scenarios force you to optimize for entirely different things.

              • by roc97007 (608802)

                A madcat can easily beat the slow ponderous hulk of a Daishi in a fair fight. It can't turn quick enough

                By turning the legs AND the torso at the same time, EASY if you have pedals and I do, you can turn quick enough to hit anything slower than about 96 kph any old time, and if you strip any Mad Cat or MkII down that far it's a tinderbox or it's toothless

                The problem is, after you get to the end of your turn radius, you're limited by how fast the chassis can turn, and a mad cat can walk in a circle faster than that.

                • by drinkypoo (153816)

                  The problem is, after you get to the end of your turn radius, you're limited by how fast the chassis can turn, and a mad cat can walk in a circle faster than that.

                  It's not a problem if you plan for it, release any weapons which are unfired when they're about to outrun your turn, and then reverse and turn the other way at the same time.

                  As for the sibling comment about the twisting joystick, I have a Logi and a Saitek Cyborg 3D USB gold but I still get more kills with the F22 Pro with stickworks conversion. I'm between throttles right now, though. I have a couple of MkIIs I could convert with Arduino or something. Hmm, that's not a bad idea actually. It's not a great t

      • by CAIMLAS (41445)

        I did what you did with MC2 as well. I seem to recall the first game had the same 'flaw'. I also had a Madcat poster (that I had screen printed myself) in my room as a teen (the CD cover from Mechwarrior II). I wonder what ever happened to that... The game intro movie to Mechwarrior 2 was the single biggest determining factor in making me a computer geek, sad to say. It was that cool, and probably more influential in my life than losing my virginity.

        Believe it or not, you could do some serious damage agains

    • by Gertlex (722812)

      How about an Immortal-based mech (i.e. from StarCraft 2)? That was last year's winner... see this vid: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FrhlYsF2uTU [youtube.com]

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Reactor online, Sensors online, Weapons online, all systems nominal.

  • I hope it isn't against the rules to jame the other guy's remote.
    The competitors will probably be using a 2.4ghz spread spectrum controller,
    so if you could figure out a way to get the jammer to clear the channels you're trying to use...
    They'd probably ban it after the first time. Rule making bodies love nothing more than to punish success.

    • by Idbar (1034346)
      Actually, it is... but then again wasn't that the way some other country allegedly recovered a drone?

      So if is a realistic game, why not jamming signals, may as well come up with very robust communication schemes or actually improved autonomous robots.
      • The Iran capture of a US drone? If one of the stories is correct, yes, they jammed the signals and it went into "land safely" mode. More likely GPS or other satellites than short-range WiFi, but yeah, it's an interesting limitation to automated warfare in general.
      • by Chris Burke (6130)

        So if is a realistic game, why not jamming signals

        For the same reason the aren't allowed to pull an Indy and just shoot the other pilot.

        I mean apart from one being murder and the other just being an annoying way to defeat an opponent.

        They're both not in the spirit of the thing, which is to simulate mech combat where the pilot would actually be in the mech itself (or it's autonomous). That's why there's a rule about pilots only being able to see the arena through a camera mounted on the robot itself.

        They're obviously trying to make this more of a sport-lik

        • by Idbar (1034346)
          Well, you can only go so far with many things on-board. Yes, you can try to smash everyone with a 36" 4-legged robot (maximum allowed) but there's probably a battery penalty for playing that game. Same with the jammer, the more power you put on your jammer the more effective it is, but more power consumption.

          You case of murdering the other pilots seems extreme, and I agree with some limitations (same as F1, for safety of the pilots and teams you may limit speed, or other stuff), but being a case of jammin
          • The main problem with jamming is that it is meant to "simulate" piloting such a mech from in the cockpit (and contestants aren't allowed a direct view of the battlefield, which they would have in such a situation even if they were jammed). If there was a way to selectively jam signals so that you could see, but any other signals were jammed, I imagine it would be allowed.
          • by Chris Burke (6130)

            Why not allow people to look around search for techniques that improve the reliability of the device and also cases of autonomy where the system maybe completely disconnected.

            Like I said, they're trying to simulate mechs that either have human pilots inside, or are completely autonomous. That's why the restriction on the pilot's view of the arena, and the restriction against jamming -- the radio connection between pilot and mech is "out of context", you see?

            It's the same reason a non-harmful way of disabling the actual human pilot standing outside the arena isn't allowed.

          • by yurtinus (1590157)
            The problem with a frequency jammer is that disproportionately more difficult to overcome than it is to implement. These are guys building their mechs as a hobby in their garage, not well funded defense contractors. A jammer is trivially cheap to implement and has a low enough battery draw that it may as well not be there. On the flip side, overcoming those effects really is not possible with commodity hardware - an off the shelf WIFI or Bluetooth transceiver will simply stop working - it takes significant
    • by Skidborg (1585365)
      Because operating a jammer is *still* generally illegal in most jurisdictions?
    • Rule making bodies love nothing more than to punish success.

      You're probably the kind of person who doesn't understand why they don't allow EMPs in Formula One or tasers in American football.

  • Warning! (Score:5, Funny)

    by MisterMidi (1119653) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @07:03PM (#39421171) Homepage
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @07:17PM (#39421353)

    My initial reaction was "Why the hell are they all using legs instead of treads?"

    Then I checked their rules [mech-warfare.com].

    Mechs are to be true walking robots. Legs must be servo/actuator driven. No cam-driven, wheeled, or treaded configurations (except in the beginner league).
            Mechs may have up to 4 legs (Unlimited in the beginner league).

    So that explained to me why they were using such ungainly configurations.

    Some of the other rules on the mechs were about height, limitations as to leaving parts behind to hinder/causing damage to the arena (which I think would be pretty cool a function to build in honestly), and most interesting to me, control. The gist of it is that robots can either be autonomous OR controlled remotely. The kicker? Remote control can only be done if you have a wireless camera mounted in the "cockpit" area to control it. Which is pretty friggin awesome in my opinion.

    To someone's talk about jammers...

    In all weapons classes, weapons designed to interfere in any way with an opponent's camera or wireless control are strictly forbidden.

    And of course the rules on weapons, what the arena will be like, the rules, etc.

    Also, given that the only restriction for mechs is height with no weight restriction yet, what's forbidding them from making a land dreadnought style 4 legged monstrosity which is below height limit, has automated weapon systems (bypassing the cockpit camera restriction), and can fire in any and all directions at once upon detecting movement? Other than, y'know, sportsmanship.

    And fuck you slashdot for making my captcha "virgins".

    • by Anonymous Coward

      Also, given that the only restriction for mechs is height with no weight restriction yet, what's forbidding them from making a land dreadnought style 4 legged monstrosity which is below height limit, has automated weapon systems (bypassing the cockpit camera restriction), and can fire in any and all directions at once upon detecting movement? Other than, y'know, sportsmanship.

      Wait, no, I'm stupid and lazy. I went over the rules again in detail.

      Mechs have HP instead of a knockdown/destroy the other to win function a la Battlebots. Also if a mech is stationary for their body length for longer than 20 seconds, they automatically lose hp, counting as destroyed if unmoving for 60 seconds. No campers here! (rule does not apply during active firefights)

      Land Dreadnought fail.

    • One of the reasons that armies don't try building giant robots is that a two story robot like the one in the video clips present a huge target at long ranges. I forget where I heard this, but there's a reason why M1 is low and squat (8 ft tall) where some early tanks like the Sherman were taller (9 ft). But... who cares! It's remote control robots shooting at each other. How is that not cool?!
  • Kickstarter (Score:5, Informative)

    by bigstrat2003 (1058574) on Tuesday March 20, 2012 @08:22PM (#39421983)
    TFA mentions that they have a Kickstarter project going to build a new arena (made out of tougher materials so they can allow higher-powered weapons while still keeping spectators safe), if anyone wants to kick in a few bucks. Linky. [kickstarter.com]
  • I see they allow both autonomous and RC. Now who in their right mind is going to field an autonomous bot against RC competitors? They should have a separate autonomous-only class if they ever want to see one entered.

    • by RLowerr (2599773)
      For the challenge? It would be suicide for the event to fragment the already shallow depth of competitors at this point.
  • LOL check out the Mechs page...I see there's a good sense of humor among the competitors XD

  • by Anonymous Coward

    It looked pretty cool until I read the rules. They ban all of what they call "gimmicks" and what I would call "all the possible interesting design decisions". For example, they ban designing your robot to be able to shoot around corners using a camera on the guns. I would have tried to put a mirror on the gun so I could see around corners using the regular cockpit camera. But, apparently, they would think this is a "gimmick" and not a clever design.

    Since they are outlawing all the cool mech designs, the

    • by RLowerr (2599773)
      You seem to be grossly downplaying the engineering (mechanical, electrical, and software) required to get even a simple walking robot capable of competing in this competition. They want people to focus on building reliably working robots not on gimmicks to win a competition that has no prize.

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