I, Robot started out as a 3-D driving game, something Atari had been trying to do for years but never actually accomplished until Hard Drivin'. Early on a test program was written that had a car driving over a simple polygon landscape. The idea was dropped when it became apparent the hardware was not powerful enough to generate a truly immersive driving environment.
During development the game was called Ice World, and PCBs were produced with this name printed on them. Ice Castles is rumored to be another development name for the game, and Heart of Ice game concept appears tangentially related.
Atari developers referred to the prototype board as the "Mondo Condo". "Mondo" referred to the huge size of the board, and "Condo" referred to the stacks of RAM chips wired vertically! The mathbox was known as the "Mondo Bondo", and the video processor was called the "Mondo Boffo".
The large custom IC on the video board labelled ICY is a primitive 3D accelerator -- early PCBs exist that actually have the discrete TTL equivalent of this circuit.
Doodle City mode was added late during development.
The I, Robot cabinet was originally designed for Major Havoc. The story is that Dave shared a lab with Major Havoc's programmer Owen Rubin, and Major Havoc was behind schedule. So when I, Robot needed a cabinet, there it was. The cabinets used were left overs from the Firefox production run.
Atari management did not like the game, but decided to ship it anyways.
Almost 100% of the I, Robot games failed within 1 to 2 years after they were created. Several of the masked ROMs and some RAMs had a high failure rate.
I, Robot flopped at the arcades. A number of factors contributed to this, including:
Around 750 games were produced, but due to the above problems Atari only sold around 500 of them. There was a rumor that the remaining units were sent on a freighter to Japan with instructions to dump the games into the ocean. This rumor was dispelled by Atari employee Rusty Dawe in an interview with Coinopspace.