The following article appeared in the L.A. Times about the cancellation of Robotica:

Friday, August 14, 1998

The Party's Over: Robots Won't Put Up Their Dukes
By MICHAEL J. YBARRA, Special to The Times

SAN FRANCISCO--Robotica, a robot fighting event scheduled here this weekend, has been canceled. The event was planned for competitors and fans of the annual Robot Wars, which was scuttled this year because of a legal dispute between the promoters. Marin County computer programmer Gary Cline had planned to rent out part of the Cow Palace arena to throw the free Robotica "party" at which 56 remote-controlled robots would try to destroy one another. But he canceled the contest late last week after one of the promoters of the original event sought a court order to stop the new tournament and filed a lawsuit for monetary damages.
The annual Digital Age demolition derby started in 1994 as Robot Wars, a partnership between model designer Marc Thorpe, who had the idea, and Steve Plotnicki, president of New York-based Profile Records, who put up the money. But the two have been embroiled in a legal dispute over the running of the business for more than a year. When the disagreement prevented the competition from being held this year, Cline said he decided to step in and hold a noncommercial version of the games, in which robots flip, saw and impale each other in a storm of sparks, smoke and flying shrapnel.
But Plotnicki said the alternative event--which would have taken place in the same city, on the same weekend and with many of the same competitors--was unfair competition and that even without charging admission Cline could reap profit from video rights and other ancillary promotions. "It's Robot Wars in sheep's clothing," Plotnicki said. "We don't see it as a private party; it looks like a commercial event."
Cline said he decided to cancel the event, which has already cost him "tens of thousands of dollars," in exchange for Plotnicki's agreement to drop the suit. "Due to legal reasons, plus overwhelming financial burden, the Robotica '98 party is hereby canceled," Cline informed visitors to his Web site, on which the laconic statement replaced previous pages of enthusiastic robotic information. "We sincerely apologize for any inconvenience this may cause."
The legal imbroglio dispirited scores of robotic warriors who had been lavishing time and money on their mechanical creations for much of the year and had made plane and hotel reservations to attend Robotica. The Net crackled with glum postings, many heaping abuse on Plotnicki, others suggesting an impromptu combat in a parking lot somewhere. "This is quite outrageous," fumed one participant to the online Robot Wars Forum (, which has had a run-in with Profile over the use of the name. "Does Profile own the rights to ALL robotic combat of any kind public and private everywhere in the U.S.?" asked another posting.
"I'm going to cry. . . ," said another writer on the Web site. "Let's see: $3,500 out of my pocket, a few hundred hours of time, stupid Web page development, convincing friends and family to fly over from across the country."
The Society of Robotic Combat, a group of robot builders, is planning to hold a noncombative get-together over the weekend and is starting a legal defense fund. for future court battles. "I think all future robot events will be stifled by lawsuits," said Carlo Bertocchini of Menlo Park, Calif., one of the reigning champion robot designers.
But Cline said he just wants to forget the whole thing. "A lot of people are heartbroken. All I was doing was trying to have a party. I wasn't trying to make money. I've lost everything. My dream. My faith. Everything."

Copyright 1998 Los Angeles Times. All Rights Reserved