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Projectiles, like all matter, are subject to gravity.
Therefore, while it makes sense to shoot horizontally at point blank range (which is the literal meaning of "point blank"), the shooter usually needs to fire above the target. Likewise, archers will shoot at an angle, somewhat upwards. In Real Life, group archers would fire massive volleys of arrows which functioned as a form of indirect fire, much like modern artillery.
This is often portrayed on screen incorrectly: the angle often stays the same regardless of the distance. On one hand, we have bullets and arrows that are shot straight across the battlefield and still don't fall on the ground halfway through, and scopes with the sole purpose of compensating for the screen's inferior resolution, while on the other hand, if a video game does try to portray archery realistically, often the angle stays the same regardless of the distance, so we have archers shooting upwards to hit targets right in front of them, so the arrows should really fly over them.
If the arrow is shown in a close up or slow-motion, it will always travel straight as, well, an arrow. Real arrows don't: they bend back and forth and also spin, the direction determined by the angle of the fletching (the feathers at the end of the arrow, though most are now plastic). This is often also ignored because the trope tends to occur when trying to emphasize The Archer ideal; wobbles and arcs that make the Arrow Cam face up at the blank sky don't help that. Contrast that with Rain of Arrows where this trope will be averted with gusto when fired by a large faceless military unit and where it is now cool to obey the laws of physics. It also gets averted a lot in Video Games due to the fact that the player is the one firing the arrow and the technique of arcing is used as a skill challenge and to make the player feel personally competent.
Just as other tropes have transferred from the The Archer to the Cold Sniper, we find this can happen for firearms. For firearms, the sight is calibrated for a specific distance, 200 meters for an assault rifle, for instance. At distances up to this (ammunition-specific) limit, the deviation of the bullets path from the straight scope-line-of-sight is less than about 5 cm/2 in., so it can be ignored. Going beyond this limit, however, will cause in increasingly rapid drop of the bullet's path. If the enemy is 400 meters away, one needs already to aim way above the head. Sniper scopes have a knob to adjust the distance (among other things). This is arguably their main feature as anyone can aim for a head at 400 meters through a good scope; estimating the distance, and hence the drop, is the tricky bit. Even then one must also take the difference in altitude into account, not to mention the wind. Grenades, including those fired from Grenade Launchers, seem to be the one kind of projectile that near-universally avert this.
Like firearms, arrows suffer from dispersion, which is to say that the exact same weapon firing the same ammunition with the same aim will land the arrow in a slightly different place. Dispersion is often much greater in archery (especially the preindustrial kind), due to greater variation from shot to shot in the bow, the arrow, the bowstring, and the draw of the bow.
Not to be confused with The Straight and Arrow Path.
- Robin Hood is often portrayed this way. Remarkably averted in the 1950s live-action Disney movie, wherein everyone sights, then aims upward before releasing.
Anime & Manga
- Averted epically in Sanzoku Ou. When ambushing a caravan, a straight arrow can be traced back to the shooter, so the main protagonist thought about everyone aiming their arrows with a very high angle, so that the arrows would seem to appear from above.
- Played completely straight with The Quincy. Their arrows aren't physical and therefore don't follow our rules.
- During the Hollow Bait competition after Uryu first shows up: his arrows arc at only 30 degrees when launched most of the way across Karakura, so they aren't likely to arc noticeable at thirty feet or so.
- Digimon: Averted in the first movie. In the scene where the giant Agumon fires his fireballs at the giant bird Digimon circling above, the fireballs have a distinct ballistic curve.
- Averted and subverted in Vampire Hunter D: Bloodlust. Borgoff manages to shot an arrow from a hand-mounted crossbow in a sideways parabolic trajectory to hit a vampire on the other side of the hill.
- Green Arrow, while sometimes following the laws of physics, has a way of making an arrow with a standard-issue boxing glove for a head follow the same trajectory of a normal arrow with a much lighter point.
- It's been stated that the glove pops out of the previously-pointed arrowhead at the last second, allowing it to fly like a normal arrow but hit like, well, an arrow with a boxing glove attached to it.
- A boxing glove exists to pad the fist so boxers are less likely to seriously injure each other, which makes a boxing glove arrow
- Lampshaded beautifully during Kevin Smith's run on the comic; Ollie, after pulling out the last arrow in his quiver, and sees it's the boxing glove arrow: "Oh. You again."
- This is a guy who can put an arrow through a submarine hull. Given that, it's not impossible that a heavier boxing glove arrow would act like a normal arrow anyway.
- Also Lampshaded in Grant Morrison's JLA, where Ollie's son, a Zen Archer who uses pointed arrows, grabs his dad's quiver from the League trophy room and reflects that only a genius or madman could have used the Trick Arrows.
- Reversed in a recent Punisher comic. Frank Castle is targeted by a Skrull sniper using a laser weapon to shoot at him from over a kilometer away. Although a laser would be capable of moving in a straight line, the artist draws the beams striking at a severe angle. Grade-school geometry demonstrates the angle of the beams is not consistent with the distances described. If drawn accurately, the beams would appear almost parallel to the ground.
- Almost any shot where the camera follows the arrow to the target will always function this way. Notable examples can be found in The Fellowship of the Ring (where it is also at other times averted) and Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves.
- Lord of the Rings series:
- The Fellowship of the Ring: There's a classic example in an Arrow Cam shot by Legolas in which the arrow travels straight from bow to target, with the arrowhead staying dead on as though attached to a line while the back end wobbles around like a normal arrow. The cast and crew (and IMDB) have acknowledged this. They said that if they were to move the arrow in a realistic fashion, it would have required a lot more re-shoots and effects editing, and could have potentially confused the audience, or caused motion sickness. On the other hand, most of the arrows in the movies otherwise arc; for example, when the Fellowship are firing shots at the orc archers on ledges, their arrows are shown arcing upwards and just starting to fall when they hit the orcs.
- Averted in The Two Towers, when the defenders at Helm's Deep "give them a volley" from behind the wall, arcing their fire over the wall en masse (and one arrow isn't arced enough and hits a defender on the wall square in the back, killing him)
- Played absolutely straight in The Forbidden Kingdom when bounty-hunter Ni Chang fires an arrow horizontally, and hits a target hundreds of metres away. This is however a Wuxia film in which kung-fu beats physics every time.
- Rat Race showed that you can do this with a bullet. Two characters were in a supersonic vehicle designed to break the land speed record and a bullet is fired right next to them. The bullet stays next to the vehicle for several seconds without falling (or slowing down) in the slightest.
- The DVD commentary for Shooter notes that the film's assassination scene is inaccurate. From the distance the shot was taken, the bullet would be traveling steeply downward through the body. The director found this too gruesome and apparently unrealistic to depict.
- King Arthur (2004) Both averted and played straight, sometimes within seconds of each other in the same scene.
- Jennifer Garner's titular Elektra throws a sai over an extraordinary distance in defiance of gravity. Although this is not an arrow the physics involved are much the same. Throwing an object this distance would have required her to pitch it upward in an arc.
- Wanted: Inverted to the other extreme; the Fraternity's assassins are able to make bullets curve in paths far more severely than gravity and windage would cause.
- Nicely averted in the 2010 version of Robin Hood. Except at extreme close range, the archers always arc their shots.
- In The Odyssey, Odysseus shoots an arrow through twelve axes (a specific kind of axe that had holes or rings in them, or something like that; the translation varies on this). It's implied that all twelve axes are of the same length and set up at the same height, and therefore in a straight line.
- Partially. The trick was more that the bow had an incredibly high pull strength that only Odysseus could achieve. Since the finale of the story takes place within the courtyard of his house, between the really short range and the initial speed the arrow is getting launched, there might have been very little arc to be an issue. 'Course... this is a myth and most heroes tend to break all sorts of rules to begin with...
- Some interpretations have it that there was a trick to stringing it that no-one else could figure out, his defining feature being clever thinking (although prone to not thinking things out thoroughly...), not physical strength. This would imply the shot was set up with a trick to it.
- The stringing trick has echoes in real life -- Odysseus' bow is theorized to be one of the first European recurve bows. Unstrung recurve bows look like an unstrung "normal" bow to the inexperienced, but there are subtle clues to tell which is which. When the first recurve bows were brought to Europe, the European archers accidentally strung them backwards and broke them when they tried to shoot. Odysseus' bow would have survived a lot of incorrect stringing, having a draw-weight of Over Nine Thousand, and if you string a recurve backwards you obviously can't shoot it properly. And recurve bows are still more powerful than straight bows for a much smaller size. The average straight bow is 5-6 foot long, the average recurve is about 4-5 feet. Those who figured out how to string it would have been completely thrown off by the disproportionate draw weight. It's all in their heads.
- Early first person shooters with fantasy weapons, such as Heretic and Hexen, avoided gravity effects entirely; the fights took place at such close range that the computations involved were generally not worth the processing time. Besides, you were firing magic arrows.
- The vast majority of gun-using First-Person Shooters play the trope straight with bullets. This is generally an Acceptable Break From Reality.
- Bloodline Champions averts this for the Seeker... because the arrows disappear after a short range before gravity would be noticeable. Other examples tends to be played more straight in it.
- In Dark Messiah the arrows DO have arcs, though it's not as pronounced as in real life. However, one rarely notices this because if they're using the bow and arrow at all, most of the time they're sniping or otherwise close enough that the arc never comes into play. If you try to fire from a reasonable distance, you will become aware that your arrows do not travel in a straight line - often at the same time you realize that you missed and your arrow attracted the guard's attention. Ouch.
- In Warhammer Online archers always shoot at around a 30-degree angle, even in close combat(from about 5ft.)
- Warcraft III archers always shoot at an angle. At a .15 angle, apparently...you can change it to 0 in the World Editor, or you increase the arc to truly ridiculous levels, so that if an enemy is attacking the archers in melee, and your camera is above them, the arrows are practically saying hi to you through the screen before going back down...
- A somewhat smallish plot point in Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn, where Shinon/Rolf has to do ~The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly~ and shoot the rope to prevent someone's hanging with an arrow (which is even more implausible with an arrow), and when he shoots the arrow, it goes completely straight. Though the angle he was at was above the target, he was aiming down at it, so the arrow would effectively hit the person being hanged rather than the rope.
- This is a series where archers can shoot through walls when dealing with enemies inside buildings. The animations typically has them firing straight and level. (Someone on a Fire Emblem fan forum explained the shooting through walls as being able to create wrinkles in the space time continuum so that the wall seems to vanish long enough for the arrows to go through.)
- An aversion of this trope with conventional bows in any Fire Emblem game has occurred exactly once and just as a discussion. Moulder and Vanessa's support conversations discuss an archery exhibition match some years previously where Prince Innes won only by arcing his last shot. Moulder's description of the event and Vanessa's surprise and praise make it sound as though it's a very rare technique no-one so much as thinks to do.
- Whenever a ballista is animated in a game, its shots actually do arc.
- Averted in Half Life 2, with the improvised crossbow bolts obeying the laws of gravity, but not so much in the original Half Life.
- But played noticeably straight in the original with the bullsquid's acid spittle, which moves somewhere around 40 MPH and can sometimes be seen traveling hundreds of feet. Oh, and I'm pretty sure the crossbow plays it straight as well.
- Link always fires straight. Interestingly enough, he fires his arrows in an arc in Super Smash Bros.
- Averted in The Legend of Zelda the Wind Waker. The arrows actually do arc (though, granted, they never come back down). Bombs fired from your cannon while sailing also arc.
- Averted again in The Legend of Zelda Twilight Princess: Arrows fired by Link or by Bulbins do arc, though Link's take a longer time to do so (presumably Link has a stronger shot). Incidentally, Bomb Arrows also arc, but they fly slower and fall sooner than standard arrows (they do have significantly larger arrowheads).
- Also averted by the slingshot in Twilight Princess, and it arcs much, much faster than the bow does. A skilled player can still make sniper-style shots with the slingshot, even with the arc, before acquiring the bow however (and it's fun!).
- Averted yet again in The Legend of Zelda Skyward Sword: The bow noticeably arcs over long distances, which only get longer as the bow gets upgraded.
- SS's Slingshot has a huge arc, making it virtually impossible to hit far-off targets.
- Speaking of Super Smash Bros., the series has both cases covered as well, although the straight arrow variety tends to be magical (Pit's arrows, Zelda's Final Smash). The Cracker Launcher item from Brawl lets you adjust the angle freely. Diddy's Peanut Popgun also functions like Link's arrow in that regard, and items are all thrown at plausible angles.
- Both used straight and averted in Suikoden. In regular combat, party members with bows fire straight shots. In army battles, however, your archers will fire in volleys. Which makes sense, really, since regular combat is fought at short range, so the arrows don't need to travel farther than a few feet. In war, they're shooting from long range.
- In Thief, Garret's arrows arc. Most of them. The standard, rope, water and moss arrows follow the laws of physics, while the elemental arrows of Air (sleeping gas) and Fire (rocket launcher stand-in) fly straight and fast. Elemental air would probably be considered to have its own personal updraft...and hot air rises.
- Played straight in Fable: The Lost Chapters, where arrows fly on a flat path, then inexplicably plant themselves in the ground once they get out so far.
- In Bioshock, the crossbow item is essentially a stand-in for a sniper rifle, complete with zoom functionality. Its bolts fly perfectly straight, although there is a small time delay before they hit their targets, so it's necessary to aim slightly ahead of moving enemies. Possibly justified in that a crossbow fires its bolts with more force than just a regular bow. Frequently done with missiles as well as arrows.
- In most Tales (series) games, archers seem to shoot directly forward, unless that is, it's a technique. The 2D Tales games, especially Destiny and Phantasia don't arc at all but they probably weren't able to program it like that. However, in Tales of Vesperia, Raven shoots his arrows at angles - rather weird angles, at that.
- Natalia also averts this somewhat. Her straight-fired special techniques aren't subject to gravity, but her normal shots are, limiting her normal range.
- Averted to some extent in Heroes of Might and Magic V. Most archer units will normally shoot at a small angle, but when shooting over castle walls, they will aim at a much higher angle.
- Weirdly, this arch also applies to Magic Missiles.
- It's played straight in the first four Heroes of Might and Magic games, but then, the graphics in those games are so stylized it hardly matters.
- The human (Haven) archers in the fifth game also have a unique ability, not found anywhere else in the series, to spread their arrows for lesser damage over an area. Strangely, this ability is not shared by any other bow-wielding units, such as undead and elven archers.
- Dragonriders of Pern: Although you never see the actual projectile, the variables are taken into account in the otherwise horribly done game. All ranged weapons are done from a first-person point of view when everything else is 3rd person. Your aim wavers just like a normal person's would and what you fire does not go exactly where you aim it, although with the game mechanics it's usually hard to tell in which direction you missed it. Since the ranged weapon in the game consists of a hand-crossbow with either bug darts or mini-bolts, this is believable.
- In World of Warcraft, ranged weapon users don't have to actually aim, and so don't tend to change their angle of shot, but many of the siege weapons introduced in Wrath of the Lich King have projectiles that follow very distinct arcs.
- There are also several boss abilities that arc, but this is more of a visual effect.
- Dynasty Warriors archers always shoot straight and level. Then again, they only shoot at point-blank range. Except in cut scenes, where the arc is usually quite visible.
- In Dwarf Fortress arrows and bolts travel in straight lines. Parabolic flight paths are in development, but put on hold because of difficulty in how the player character in Adventure mode must aim.
- Team Fortress 2 does a magnificent job of both adhering to AND averting this trope. Whilst the Huntsman is literally a bow and arrow that fires arcing arrows, the standard sniper rifle fires dead straight no matter the distance. There's even a Laser Sight.
- The syringe gun and all of Demoman's bombs also arcs, while rockets too travel in a straight line.
- In Vantage Master, the Blexe fires straight shots, although it uses a powerful crossbow and has fairly short range, whereas the bow-using Amoltamiss has no excuses. It's also averted with Ae-Ferrion, which fires (from a bow) a heavy arrow with a mace-like head; the shot arcs. This is actually an advantage, since it can be used to hit a target when a direct path would be blocked by other units. Additionally, standing in an elevated position extends the range.
- Amoltamiss actually has a 'medium' arc, which has a very very slight impact on play. It's likely that they didn't give her Ae-Ferrion's 'high' arc for balance reasons -- she's a flying unit, and allowing her to extend her range by reaching high points on the map (which she can do easily) would be a Game Breaker.
- From Monster Hunter Freedom 2 onwards (when the Bow weapon class was introduced) the arrows of the bow do arc slightly, although the monsters you are fighting are generally so large as to make little difference to aiming. Similarly the Bowgun shots also dip with distance.
- Strongly averted in Bungie's Myth games: arrows arc and are even effected by strong winds. The archers also visibly aim higher to shoot farther, and gain increased range from high ground.
- Stylishly averted in Dragon Age's 'Urn of Sacred Ashes' trailer. When the resident archer chick takes a shot at a enemy spell caster, she aims straight while reciting a religious scripture, but then raises the angle of the bow before releasing it, causing the arrow to arc right into the thing's skull.
- Averted in Battlefield: Bad Company 2. One must compensate for bullet drop at long range.
- Both used and averted in Call of Duty games, including Modern Warfare titles. While bullet drop is a non-issue, Granada will always arc, even when fired from launchers. The Arrow Cam reflects this.
- Averting this is a key part of strategy in the Tactics Ogre games. Arrows fired on lower parts of the map have less range and chance of hitting specifically because they arc down. Animation-wise, the arc also lets you shoot over characters and hit an enemy.
- This is true of its spiritual successor Final Fantasy Tactics, as well. The Gameboy Advance and DS installments still have the arrows fired at an arc, but the range on a bow is permanently fixed, regardless of height.
- Averted in the Mount and Blade games. Arrows, bolts, thrown weapons; all need to be properly aimed taking into account distance, relative speed and altitude. The game's log even rates the shot, based on these elements, out of 10 if you hit: a shot against a close-by, stationary target would be a 1-2; a distant shot against a target riding fast on horse-back while you are doing the same: 6-10.
- Played straight, however, when your character's archery skill is high enough - the arrows fly in almost a straight line. This could be partially justified by the character being able to handle a bow with a heavier draw weight, but the difference is really too dramatic for that.
- Averted with the Bow in the Turok series.
- Both averted and played oddly straight in Dominions: arrows fly at an angle (which increases the further the target is), however because of the rudimentary graphics engine the arrow itself remains perfectly horizontal throughout the arc.
- Averted in STALKER. All the game's firearms demonstrate realistic bullet drop, which must be corrected for if the player wants to hit anything at longer ranges. This is most noticable in the 9x39mm weapons, such as the VSS Vintorez and the AS Val.
- Averted in Minecraft
- Somewhat averted in Guild Wars. Although the game auto-targets so it doesn't affect your aim, different types of bows have different arrow flight arcs, and each provides certain advantages and disadvantages depending on the situation. Additionally bows will be more effective firing downward from above or downhill (with gravity) than upward from below or uphill (against gravity.)
- Averted in Wii Sports Resort, where the physics of the arrows take gravity into account in addition to the wind.
- The Elder Scrolls has gone from straight to averted. Due to the nonexistent physics engine, Arena and Daggerfall played it straight. Morrowind was also a straight example, although arrows would visibly tumble if fired with a weak pull. Starting with Oblivion and continuing into Skyrim, arrows do drop, though usually they fly pretty far before dropping too low.
- Unlike most videogame arrows, however, in Skyrim the arrow will actually arc up slightly in relation to the crosshair, so trying for a traditional headshot will just make the arrow fly over an opponent's head unless they're pretty far away. It is also possible to hit stationary targets with arrows fired into the sky, but very difficult.
- Chrome Hounds: Every single projectile obeys the laws of gravity. From the most basic machine gun bullets to long range sniper cannons. However if you are using kinetic rounds(as opposed to chemical rounds), the damage decreases dramatically beyond their effective range, as does the rate of drop. It is, however, possible to destroy enemy HOUND's from halfway across the map with a shotgun!
- Angry Birds is built entirely around the aversion of this trope.
- Arrows and crossbow bolts do this in Dark Souls. They fly perfectly straight until they hit their maximum range and plummet to the ground.
- Gunnerkrigg Court used a variant -- while the distance the arrow traveled wasn't enough to create significant arc, hitting another arrow in flight along the way should definitely have changed its direction.
- Order of the Stick uses this most of the time.
- Older Than Feudalism: Aristotle in his Physics claimed that arrows would move in a straight line until their momentum had been used up, and then fall straight down; rather than an arc, the path traveled would be a triangle. Despite being easily refuted by observation (try tossing a rock) it stood as canon for about two millennia.