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Author Topic: Mechs, they just don't work.  (Read 6021 times)

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Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Mechs, they just don't work.
« on: April 13, 2016, 02:51:31 PM »
I'm breaking this out here after a discussion Wyddr and I had on Twitter.
The Trouble With Giant Robots | Auston Habershaw

I agree with these points and it's one of the reasons I'm dead against Tau and others going down the giant walking thing route in 40K.

John Ringo, a person I no longer read but he did have some good books, made a point of mentioning in his powered armour discussion, like Wyddr, that standing out just means having more people shoot back at you. Concealment and cover mean jack amphetamine parrot when you're the size of a building and stomping around.

Take Pacific Rim. Pure rule of cool fun movie. Still, other weapon systems would have been FAR easier to manufacture and maintain than giant beslubbering mechs that punch the aliens to death. A big beslubber off aerial weapon for instance. The Jaegers, for instance, weren't renowned for their avoiding collateral damage once the nasties entered cities.

Mechs are fun in a fantasy sort of way but they're really silly once you get down to it.
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Offline Wyddr

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #1 on: April 13, 2016, 02:53:40 PM »
Take Pacific Rim. Pure rule of cool fun movie. Still, other weapon systems would have been FAR easier to manufacture and maintain than giant beslubbering mechs that punch the aliens to death. A big beslubber off aerial weapon for instance. The Jaegers, for instance, weren't renowned for their avoiding collateral damage once the nasties entered cities.

Oh, I also have an addendum to that post:

The Rule of Cool (or “How the Jaeger Program Happened”) | Auston


Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #2 on: April 13, 2016, 03:00:41 PM »
That's one of the narrative issues with using the air force in monster/alien movies. There's nothing exciting about seeing missiles being launched from 20+ kms away where the target isn't even visible. So of course we see fighters zipping around the beasty firing cannon as a means of making the audience go "woooooo."

Take Independence Day. The target is something like a mile in diameter and we're seeing them firing AA missiles with 10-40 kg warheads. Yay team. Hurt their feelings with some scratched paint and maybe they'll go away.
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Offline Wyddr

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #3 on: April 13, 2016, 03:12:17 PM »
It's the Rule of Cool, of course. The thing is, though, that it ultimately isn't a *bad* rule. It does make things more exciting (giant mechs are pretty cool, you know!).

We have a tendency, especially with the speculative genres, to use our fiction as inspiration or blueprint for reality. This is where the problem lies vis-a-vis our inability to suspend disbelief. We *want* stuff like this to be real and are frustrated when the puppeteer's strings show.

It's not just scifi/fantasy, either--consider how romance is portrayed! Every bit as unrealistic as mechs, I'd say.

Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #4 on: April 13, 2016, 03:19:54 PM »
That's the thing, everyone has their own line in the sand when it comes to suspension of disbelief. Some are able to stretch further than others when it comes breaking the rules. The main concern is when a work of fiction breaks its own rules. As one author has said, you only get so many because I said so's before your audience starts to call you out on your amphetamine parrot. You can be happily sitting in your fantasy world when suddenly you're dragged out as your brain calls bullamphetamine parrot on either a major plot hole or plot convenience.
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Offline Sir_Godspeed

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #5 on: April 13, 2016, 04:58:32 PM »
That's the thing, everyone has their own line in the sand when it comes to suspension of disbelief.

In fantasy for example, certain people will will readily buy your standard giant flying dragons (which can't really work because the square-cube law) but if you hand them a society in which women and men have somewhat equal rights and obligations, they'll flip the beslubber out and have tirades about forced agendas or whatever (the opposite happens, but not due to suspension of disbelief).

As a general rule, the more familiar you are with a subject, the more critical you will be of it. Except once you manage to disentangle "immersiveness" and "realism", which can sometimes appear similar, but are really separate.
« Last Edit: April 13, 2016, 10:22:04 PM by Sir_Godspeed »

Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #6 on: April 13, 2016, 05:05:54 PM »
Ah, yes. A noted fantasy author once excused his novel containing rather insulting depictions of women as being 'historically correct'. The same book with magic, orcs, and elves.
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Offline Grand Master Lomandalis

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #7 on: April 13, 2016, 05:50:48 PM »
*sigh* there you two go again... ruining all of the movies I enjoy with you logic and your science.
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Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #8 on: April 13, 2016, 06:01:54 PM »
Hey now, I *like* Pacific Rim. It's an excellent air travel movie that ends with a big bang. Even Edge of Tomorrow where they get power armour completely wrong is a fun watch (the book is way different). Independence Day that I mentioned above is still a hoot (obligatory fart noises during the President's speech). All of these movies are getting sequels as well.
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Offline Wyddr

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #9 on: April 13, 2016, 06:07:51 PM »
I'm honestly looking forward to Independence Day 2.

Offline Calamity

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #10 on: April 13, 2016, 07:02:20 PM »
Me too.  The premise makes sense.

Offline Sir_Godspeed

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #11 on: April 13, 2016, 10:26:17 PM »
Pity they couldn't get Smith, though.


Apropos realism, I once saw a little interview with a palaentologist about how dinosaurs were presented in toys, and he went over several toys pointing out how inaccurate they were and so on. Then he ended the interview by saying that, hey, sure, they're inaccurate, but they're cool little tys, and if it makes some kid pick up a proper dinosaur book because they want to learn more, then they ain't so bad. I must admit I gotta give him kudos for that attitude, as opposed to getting all indignant. One assumes that many an engineer got into it because they saw cool, albeit unrealistic, designs once upon a time.

Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #12 on: April 13, 2016, 11:12:16 PM »
No-one wants 100% realism in a SFF movie. Otherwise we'd just look out the window. Historical movies, probably heading that direction but still not absolute.

What gets me is the deal breaker scene. The one where you're okay with aliens, powered armour, teleport, and so forth then they beslubber it up.

Probably a little overly specific but take this. Doctor Who recently had an episode with a newly introduced race that were dead funky warriors that wandered around killing everyone that bothered them. Called the Mire. Supposed to be terribly scary soldiers. Okay so far in a show with time travel and teleport all over the place. Then they have a scene where these dead scary warriors, on a mission to wipe out a Viking village, all cluster together in a small group on the road. Then they wander into a barn, still all clustered together. Then they get scared and run away. There's the deal breaker. This is something teenagers playing CoD wouldn't do. This is something obviously wrong. This is a Didn't Bother to do the Research moment.

The BBC is (in)famous for it though as they don't appear to ever have a military advisor (or someone who plays CoD or reads books even) on staff.

As you mentioned, immersiveness, the sort of thing above just drags me out of it. It's one thing where the moment is after the fact, you're walking home or at the pub and the thought his you - "hang on a minute". It's another when the thought hits you right there in the middle of the experience. You hit pause and wonder "what the beslubber was that?"

Wyddr - Have you ever read any of the Bolo series? 20,000+ tonne tanks, tracked and anti-grav, that operate as planetary assault/defence systems? The story is more about the morality and function of AI than war but a whole lot of fun. *Utterly* unfeasible but you're there in the moment.
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Offline khaine

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #13 on: April 14, 2016, 04:19:28 AM »
My biggest issue with Pac-Rim was the implication that they had discovered a new way to build walls that didn’t revolve around starting at the bottom and working up.

As for Mechs… Aliens probably gives one of the best representations of a “realistic” Mech unit with the Caterpillar P-5000, it has a reasonably practical design that also happens to be handy for punching monsters in the face rather than being designed to punch monsters in the face.

But even then you come back to the question of what does the P-5000 offer over a regular forklift (Reach/Telescopic) truck? It’s slower, requires more effort to operate, can’t turn as sharply or reverse and has a much higher risk of tipping over. It’s not a case that it wouldn’t work so much as a case of there being much better options. All in all it has 2 things going for it, you might get it up a set of reinforced stairs and it’s cooler.

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Offline The GrimSqueaker

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #14 on: April 14, 2016, 10:37:53 PM »
The whole wall thing was a massive fail from the get go. The idea of letting the beasties just roam around outside cities pounding on it doesn't really ring of tactical foresight. That's before the radical thinking of they might climb/fly/leap/teleport/burrow/shoot etc. Especially when you consider there was a then known and fixed entry point for all the beasties.
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Offline TagniK'ZuR

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #15 on: April 15, 2016, 04:03:55 AM »
Hey now, I *like* Pacific Rim.
How!?
Why!?

I had many, many reasons why I couldn't enjoy that movie. Probably the biggest being this:
All the Kaiju come through the Mariana trench, so why not build your defenses there at the natural choke point instead of trying to defend 356,000 km of coastline!?

I mean, sure, the Mariana trench is not exactly easily accessible, but in a world where they have the tech to build massive robots linked to your brain, I'm sure they could've built some super impressive submarines with decent sonar (since the guys in the mechs had to try and look around in the murky water to see the beasts) and just torpedo the crap out of them....
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Offline Wyddr

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #16 on: April 15, 2016, 06:26:59 AM »
But then it wouldn't be as *awesome!* Duh.

Offline khaine

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #17 on: April 15, 2016, 06:55:17 AM »
The whole wall thing was a massive fail from the get go. The idea of letting the beasties just roam around outside cities pounding on it doesn't really ring of tactical foresight. That's before the radical thinking of they might climb/fly/leap/teleport/burrow/shoot etc.

Totally unrealistic, not like anybody would ever come up with such a stupid idea as to build a giant wall to keep (illegal) aliens out...  ;)

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Offline Wyddr

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #18 on: April 15, 2016, 09:00:47 AM »

Totally unrealistic, not like anybody would ever come up with such a stupid idea as to build a giant wall to keep (illegal) aliens out...  ;)

The whole point, though, is not that you should keep them out, but that you should *punch* aliens with rocket-propelled fists. That way lies true virtue.

Offline Slick Samos

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Re: Mechs, they just don't work.
« Reply #19 on: April 15, 2016, 09:11:43 AM »

Totally unrealistic, not like anybody would ever come up with such a stupid idea as to build a giant wall to keep (illegal) aliens out...  ;)

The whole point, though, is not that you should keep them out, but that you should *punch* aliens with rocket-propelled fists. That way lies true virtue.

And chivalry  ::)

---

This thread is really interesting, keep up the discussion! 

Reading this has made me realise why I don't like the bigger Tau stuff.  The whole allure of them when I started collecting them was that they had diversity & technology & they were sensible. 

Obviously for diversity you had three base races Tau, Vespid & Kroot, plus whatever you could convert. 

But back on topic on technology and sensibility you had stuff like the Hammerhead with Railgun that could out-gun non-super-heavy tanks at long range (hovering Stug basically).  The Mantas and Orcas which could literally drop a hunter cadre out of the sky, transports included (suck that Space Marines). 

Whilst big moving mech with big gun is still vaguely mobile, it's got nothing on the small profile of the Hammerhead, nor can it work with ambush tactics or insertions which are / were key to the fluff in my mind.  The main value of the big moving mech seems to be Distraction Carnifex (in game at least) which is a bit naff...

Anyway those are my current thoughts...

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