A question of functionality in sci fi designs

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    A question of functionality in sci fi designs

    Just wondering if I'm the only one who gets annoyed at sci fi design these days, especially designs of robots and armoured suit type things.

    When I was a kid I would look at Warhammer 40k space marine miniatures and try to image the human being inside. The guy had to be at least 10 heads tall. I can deal with that one, it says in the fluff that these guys are superhuman and huge. But then comes the question of proportion. To fit into the suit you had to have 5 head wide shoulders, a tiny waist and enormous legs. Another example of this is the battle suit from Starcraft 2, see example attached.

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    Another point i wanted to make are the bipedal walker robots. There is a reason we don't make them in real life! And this reason is because they fall over. I just imagine someone coming up to one of these mechs and throwing a stone in their center of gravity. Unless they have some really really advanced AI, the three points of contact thing will not happen and they will topple.

    Anyway, that's just some of my thoughts on the topic. What do you think?

    So is functionality important in your designs, or does it just have to look cool. Discussion - go!

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    It depends. If I'm expecting the thing to work in real life, then stuff like that would bother me, but if it's something like Warhammer 4K then I'll say whatever (I'm pretty sure even the creators are aware how ridiculous the suits are) as long as it invokes at least the Rule of Cool.
    I mean there's a lot of things that just wouldn't work in real life (there's a reason why there still aren't even quadrupedal robots in actual use, let alone bipedal), but that's partly why at least I want to see them in fiction.

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    Keep in mind there are many different "subgenres" in sci-fi. They usually have different level attention to technological realism and most of the time it's intentional. For example space opera or science fantasy (like wh40k) usually have less functional design than near-future or hard sci-fi.

    Unfortunately hard sci-fi appears less in games and movies for many reasons.

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    I love the rule of cool. Thinks gyros, hydraulics etc. but really sophisticated. Avatar did an interesting suit. If you would have drawn someone 100 years ago listening to music on something the size of large postage stamp people would have written this same kind of thing in a CA newspaper discussion group.

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    The rule of cool is a very, very cool rule. It's like Feng Zhu said in one of his tutorials, that it doesn't matter what you draw, as long as it looks cool.

    I tend to agree with you TinyBird, but things like that still annoy me. I'm sure all of us watched a sci fi film and shouted at the screen, "That would never work!!!". Or maybe I'm just a nutter who shouts at his TV

    And just as an aside, four legged walkers do exist and are feasible. Prime, and the only, example being DOG used by the US military right now. It's a great design and is a basis of all my artistic endeavours.

    I guess good design has to combine some "cool" and some functionality in equal dosage.

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    For me it has to A) Look cool...and A) look reasonably functional. And vice-versa. To me funtional is cool. I can't think of a single cool sci-fi design that also doesn't look reasonably well designed and thought out.

    Now "cool" can sometimes be clunky or campy or retro or any number of things. When I design things I always think to myself, "Would Syd dig this?"...that helps keep me on track.

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    I keep thinking, 'How the heck would they take a dump?' with most of them.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    I keep thinking, 'How the heck would they take a dump?' with most of them.
    Built-in toilet. Or a tube.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    I keep thinking, 'How the heck would they take a dump?' with most of them.
    Bombs away trap door?

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    Quote Originally Posted by dpaint View Post
    Bombs away trap door?
    One hopes they don't get the squits then.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Black Spot View Post
    I keep thinking, 'How the heck would they take a dump?' with most of them.
    I built one. It's a recycling system. Comes out, goes into a easy bake synthesizer and out pops a high energy snack. Goes right to the mouth through the suit. No touch no fuss.

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    How do they fit in the suit? The obvious solution is that they simply amputate all four major limbs and replace them with extendable bendy robot arms.

    A question of functionality in sci fi designs

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    Anybody else think all of those designs are boring. It's okay if they are genuinely going for irreverent, fun and whimsical, but they're usually not. They are typically Liefeild-esque.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raoul Duke View Post
    Anybody else think all of those designs are boring. It's okay if they are genuinely going for irreverent, fun and whimsical, but they're usually not. They are typically Liefeild-esque.
    Probably shouldn't lump "all of those designs" into one. There are and were innovative and also lots of bad copies.

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    "Why does this mecha have tits? Apparently for the same reason it's painted pink: so that we know it's being piloted by a girl."

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    most functionality even on todays real world machines is unseen or done by black boxes of electronics. and i can imagine future machines would be totally incomprehensible to us.

    so your entertainment design has to show what the thing does. guns have to look shooty, rockets zoomy, robots really robotic (as opposed to sleek, bafflingly complex biologically sophisticated ur-machines, for example). its because makers of entertainment products need children and imbeciles to understand whats going on so they keep buying them.
    if you want properly interesting speculative industrial design, read a hard sci fi book.

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    By "all of those" I mean to say the design by committee look. For example 9/10 space marines look alike and share the same nonfunctional features. In general it's like they are working from a template and frankenstein successful designs.

    Last edited by Raoul Duke; June 26th, 2012 at 01:27 AM.
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    When people talk about functionality in terms of "Oh well that wouldn't be able to support that weight" or anything where they try to bring our reality into a fictional world. That's when I get annoyed. Besides that, who cares as long as it's functional 'enough'.

    Some robots are more flashy than others. I like to think of it in terms of "Who the fuck knows how people would build their robots". People deck out their cars with unfunctional crap just to make it 'look cool' if people could build giant robots many would do the same.

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    Quote Originally Posted by JFierce View Post
    When people talk about functionality in terms of "Oh well that wouldn't be able to support that weight" or anything where they try to bring our reality into a fictional world. That's when I get annoyed. Besides that, who cares as long as it's functional 'enough'.

    Some robots are more flashy than others. I like to think of it in terms of "Who the fuck knows how people would build their robots". People deck out their cars with unfunctional crap just to make it 'look cool' if people could build giant robots many would do the same.
    Fictional worlds still function according to our reality though...so they need to look like they work. Your car example for instance...at its core it is still a car...and better function as such.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    It depends. If I'm expecting the thing to work in real life, then stuff like that would bother me, but if it's something like Warhammer 4K then I'll say whatever (I'm pretty sure even the creators are aware how ridiculous the suits are)
    I'm absolutely certain they are. While some of the recent designers have lost sight of this, at its core the game is a comedy, deliberately so over the top as to be self-satire.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Raoul Duke View Post
    By "all of those" I mean to say the design by committee look. For example 9/10 space marines look alike and share the same nonfunctional features. In general it's like they are working from a template and frankenstein successful designs.
    Welcome to the industry!
    Of course even with this there different level of this depending on the corporation etc, but when you're doing concepts and designs and your boss comes in and says "we want this design to be immediately recognizable as a space marine and we want to attract the same buyers as those who play Generic Space Marine Game X2000 so that we don't take too much of a risk", well...
    Reminds me of the "video game industry does not exist to be creative, it exists to sell products at WalMart" quote.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    I mean there's a lot of things that just wouldn't work in real life (there's a reason why there still aren't even quadrupedal robots in actual use, let alone bipedal), but that's partly why at least I want to see them in fiction.
    But it's quickly on its way


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    Quote Originally Posted by JeffX99 View Post
    "Would Syd dig this?"...that helps keep me on track.
    Absolutely, 100% best way of looking at this, imo.

    As for what else was said, yeah, quadrapeds are already in development. I mentioned DOG and Max posted a video of it. Personally, I think it looks very functional, but not very cool. Whereas if you added fancy bits and electronics on top of it, it would look functional AND cool.

    Hah, and you would be surprised how seriously Warhammer 40k artists take their fictional universe. I know, I drink beer with one once in a while

    By the way, speaking of hard sci-fi. Check out Forever War by Joe Haldeman. It's one of my favourite sci-fi books and reflects, in a sort of a giant metaphor, with his experiences in Vietnam. Also, the science is pretty solid, the author being a physicist.

    A.

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    Tiny Bird-on the money. But that doesn't mean we have to like it. Besides, they are shrinking their base by using the "me too" tactic. I know allot of people that quit playing video games because of that.

    So I'm going to talk about awesome functional designs. Awesome designs Rule!
    A question of functionality in sci fi designs
    A question of functionality in sci fi designs
    A question of functionality in sci fi designs
    A question of functionality in sci fi designs

    Last edited by Raoul Duke; June 26th, 2012 at 05:03 AM.
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  33. #24
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    That gives me an idea for an art blog - "Functional Designs". It'll be on par with the Women Fighters in Reasonable Armour blog

    EDIT: In faaaaact. This gives me an idea for my Honours project!!

    Last edited by Thoolhoo; June 26th, 2012 at 06:15 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Max Challie View Post
    But it's quickly on its way
    Yeah, I guessed someone would post that eventually... Still I do not think a legged vehicle would be very usable in actual ride-able mecha use (honestly I can't really see even the Big Dog be used to carry people in that condition despite its stability, and having it carry bigger loads is iffy to me as well and I haven't heard much about it in the past seven years so I'm not sure if they're still developing it?) and generally having feet is likely to cause problem in stuff like weight division (I would wonder how they could use stuff like the Big Dog in a deep snow terrain, feet like that would concentrate too much weight and it would punch through the snow and get stuck, and I might guess something similar could happen in sandy deserts).

    The Big Dog does remind me of that one Crit thread that went sour where the Op was trying to design a cheetah robot that you could ride but which would run like a real cheetah, and I could only wonder why the hell would anyone want to ride a robot that constantly twists up and down, and I think same would happen with a robot similar Big Dog, unless you create some sort of stabilizer that keeps the rider somewhat in same position...
    Bah, screw legged robots, gimme my hoverboard!


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    Hahaha, that would be awesome. Although I wish they found a way to do this without cooling the board to below 100K - you'd have to have some seriously warm snow boots to ride it; and god forbid if you fall over and smash your face against the board.

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    Quote Originally Posted by TinyBird View Post
    (honestly I can't really see even the Big Dog be used to carry people in that condition despite its stability, and having it carry bigger loads is iffy to me as well and I haven't heard much about it in the past seven years so I'm not sure if they're still developing it?)
    BigDog has been succeeded by the LS3 "AlphaDog," the field testing of which began this year. http://spectrum.ieee.org/automaton/r...oor-assessment




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    Good to see it still makes that horrible nightmare noise.

    Ill see if I can get any of the TAD ID folks in here, we discussed this topic in some detail..

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    Quote Originally Posted by bcarman View Post
    I built one. It's a recycling system. Comes out, goes into a easy bake synthesizer and out pops a high energy snack. Goes right to the mouth through the suit. No touch no fuss.
    But will it also scratch your itchy balls?

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    Black Spot, that's the million dollar question. But Starcraft marines are totally realistic, just look at this detailed video of how they suit up:



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