Wednesday, 23 July 2008

Fricken Laser Beams

Feel free to carefully peruse the publicity shot of Halo Wars to the left. Then notice the jarring cliche of laser beams fired with discrete bolts, as opposed to a beam connecting the firer to the target that hits virtually instantaneously.

I blame Star Wars and the rubbish Industrial Light & Magic special effects for starting this - a movement that crescendoed in the original Transformers movie which features a long shot of a metropolis at war where laser bolts curve over the city, like artillery fire.

I want fidelity in my science fiction, preferrably written and designed by someone who knows what little c is. Otherwise you're just playing a fantasy game dressed up with robots.

James Cameron, come home


Zetetic Elench said...

The point might have some merit if, you know, they were actually laser beams.

But they're not; they're packets of plasma. Bizarrely, here, you're picking on one of those rare popular sci-fi franchises which doesn't even call them laser guns.

The distance between fantasy and sci-fi is mostly one of authorial voice, really. Hells, if you can make up enough pseudoscience to justify FTL... That's basically a fantasy right there.

Also I love your series on magic systems. <3

Andrew Doull said...

Ah... but you're assuming I'm coming from the FTL supporting school of science fiction. I like my space travel slow and leisurely, if you ever get to leave the system at all.

(And for the record, you need a laser to ionize a path through the air so that the plasma packets don't discharge prematurely. Sheesh.)

But thanks for the heads up. I never really got into the story behind the Halo franchise.

Zetetic Elench said...

Alas, Halo's plasma weapons don't exactly describe themselves very well. They supposedly create a magnetic bottle around the generated plasma and propel the resulting bolt fast enough that it can't dissipate, but we can patently see the bolts aren't exactly speedy. Hard science it ain't.

(Though I'd point out that a laser ionizing the air still wouldn't be visible. Unless smoke or something similarly refractive was in the path, and that would admittedly make for a really gorgeous effect.)

I like my space travel slow too - preferably with some mind-bending relativity effects.

Also I have no idea how I came across as so snippy in that first point. It was late, and I think I was very very angry at a JRPG.

Ids said...

If you like slow space travel, you would like revelation space series by Alastair Reynolds