I asked the following question:

In Mechwarrior 2, you had to keep your crosshairs on the enemy for 5 seconds to obtain a lock for LRM missiles. Is this at all realistic? What real-world missile barrage requires 5 seconds to obtain a lock?

which generated these comments:

considering that many games are just simulations of the real-word (with certain embellishments, of course), I don't see how it isn't. To simulate a missile barrage system, you'll first need to understand how one operates... – Cypher

So, you're suggesting that any question asking how something works would be on topic, as long as it's because we were trying to simulate it in game? For example: How long does it take for a bailer to bail hay? I'm making a farming simulator. Not only that, but this question is asking about a ficticious weapon and if it would actually apply to real life, which is the opposite of what you're suggesting. – Byte56

Asking if something in an existing game is realistic or not is not constructive or on topic for this site. – Byte56

My take on it is a question is this question is really about games based on real physical systems. I asked it because I wanted to know the answer. It's not about bailing hay, that would just be plain boring. I think enough people develop military simulators that gameplay-related questions would be on topic.

  • 3
    \$\begingroup\$ In Mechwarrior 2, you piloted walking robotic bipeds which weighed up to 100 tons, travelled 50 km/h, cost several million "C-bills" to purchase, and were constructed around the year 2700 AD. I think "realistic" was pretty firmly off the table long before we ever got to the mechanics of a particular missile launcher system in the game, and I'm not sure that it qualifies as a "real physical system", when we're talking about alleged future technology which won't be invented for several hundred years. :) \$\endgroup\$ Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 23:34
  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ gamedev.stackexchange.com/questions/19871/what-is-realism/… \$\endgroup\$
    – Cypher
    Commented Sep 28, 2012 at 23:53
  • \$\begingroup\$ 31st century combat! :) It was based on lore/boardgame created in the Battletech series. The amount of Battletech material out there is actually huge, and they did some very real computations in the books, like finding the line of sight to horizon distance based on planet radius and mech height (you were required to compute this for some reason) \$\endgroup\$
    – bobobobo
    Commented Sep 30, 2012 at 20:28

4 Answers 4


My take on it is a question is this question is really about games based on real physical systems.

But it's not. Ignoring whether MechWarrior constitutes a "real physical system", your question has nothing to do with MechWarrior 2. What you want to know is whether MW2's behavior is consistent with reality. You know what MW2 does, so the only question remaining is this: "Do real-life missiles have lock-on time, and if so, how much?"

Now ask yourself a question: would a game developer be the right person to ask that question to? Of course not. You'd want to go to a military expert. There's a reason why games that want to use actual reality hire experts on the fields of interest as consultants.

This goes back to the "programming boat" meme, where people were trying to say that sticking "for programmers" on the end of any question made it a legitimate SO question. Yes, a videogame did indeed inspire your question. But the question itself is about something that has nothing to do with videogames.


As I left some of the comments, I'll post an answer. I believe it's off topic because it's backwards from what one would expect a game development question to be about.

What the question asks:

How an in game item may actually relate to a possible real world item.

I would expect the question to ask:

How to simulate an actual real world item in game.

My hailbailer comment was about the latter type of question. Your question is more like asking: "I was playing a farming simulator and the bails take a minute to be compacted. Is that realistic? What kind of bailer would take that long?" While it doesn't matter how "boring" the example is to you, the example is still valid. Because people make farming simulators too.

As Arthur said in his comment: "It is kind of like asking what is a believable explosion radius for an Elfen fireball". Most games are based on real physical systems, it doesn't mean they're realistic.

Let me put it another way. With the first type of question (the kind you're asking) you're asking about a real world item and what properties it might have. I'm not sure game developers would be able to better answer questions about the targeting systems of real world missile launchers better than anyone else. Just like they wouldn't be able to better answer what kind of tractor takes a minute to make a full bail of hay. Basically, asking for information about a real world object makes the question outside the scope of the site.

Further, it's not even about a game you're developing, it's about a old game.


I believe the question you may be trying to ask is on topic. However, the way you have worded your question, and what you have chosen to include [or rather, exclude] makes it iffy.

I would offer the following advice:

  • The majority of people using GDSE are engineers and developers who are, often times, logical to a fault (myself included). The words you choose [and thus, the words you don't choose] are often taken quite literally such that if you're not careful, the question you ask will be interpreted exactly as you write it -- even if that interpretation is not what you intended.

  • GDSE is a Q&A forum about game development, and while your question does mention a game, it really doesn't mention anything about game development. It may imply that your desire to understand stems from a desire to simulation a missile system in a realistic manner, but it does not say as much.

  • The focus of your question is in the wrong place. If you intention was to understand how real missile systems work, and how to simulate them in a game, then that should be the focus of your question while possibly using the MechWarrior 2 LRM system as a point of reference. As it stands, your question is entirely focused on MechWarrior 2 and whether or not the long-range missile system's targeting implementation is realistic or not, which is, suffice it to say, speculative and argumentative.

I asked it because I wanted to know the answer.

This in and of itself is why StackExchange exists, but it does not make your question, in its current form, a well constructed, and on-topic question for GDSE.


Check out the above link if you haven't already. It offers some great advice on not only how to ask technical questions, but when.


Like Byte56 mentioned, the question of whether or not the LRM missile in MW2 and a real missle take a similar time to lock-on to a target is not a game development question. It is a triva question. You do not need any game development knowledge to answer it. You only need to have a specific military background.

I happen to know the answer, nowadays missiles use a variety of technologies, an “imaging infrared" seeker that can “see” the enemy aircraft (think computer vision). They can distinguish between a heat source like a decoy (flare) and a real enemy aircraft. They have wide detection angles so you do not even need to be directly in front of the enemy craft when firing. All it takes is looking at your target through your HMS and then pressing the button. There are also Electro-Optical systems which you can search and read more about in your free time.

Now, did I use any game design related knowledge to answer this? No. Questions that do not require such knowledge to be answered only diminish the usefulness of our site and push other questions off the front page. Like questions about baling hay which is not boring and is programming related.



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