: I was under the impression that it was common maritime practice for a ship to have a crew. Redbeard Rum
: Opinion is divided on the subject. Yerrs; all the other captains say it is, I say it isn't!
Several kinds of vehicles are so complex and require such multitasking that they cannot be operated by a single person: tanks, trains, certain airplanes, etc.
Take the typical tank, for example. If you're in the driver's seat, you have limited visibility and you can't load or fire the main gun. If you're in the commanders seat, you can see all around you, but you can't drive, shoot or load the gun. If you're in the loader's seat, you can't see well or drive (you might not even be able to shoot the main gun). The training points out the fact blatantly: The Captain
has to sit, look around and give orders, each crewman has a single task to perform and has to do it at his best, this is why absolute trust in your buddies is the most important thing you have to learn in the military.
However, this doesn't seem to be a problem in Fictionland. The Hero (usually a Universal Driver's License
holder) can easily handle any such vehicle singlehandedly. Common in certain movies and video games (though in the latter case it could be considered an acceptable break from reality
Almost universal in the case of Humongous Mecha
, the notable exceptions being Combiners
This can be justified in certain Speculative Fiction
settings by omnipresent computers and simple AI. One might say the ideal number of people for any given vehicle is one
: one human to handle the tactics and the moral decisions, and computers to handle the rest of the more mechanical tasks like navigation. The limiting factors, of course, are the amount of multitasking still left to the pilot, and how long the pilot can function at that level.
It can also be justified in emergency situations, at least in aviation. In the case of the death or incapacitation of one member of the flight crew, for instance, the other pilot is always able to fly the aircraft. In fact, it's a requirement that all aircraft be flyable by a single pilot for this very reason. And it's not that rare a circumstance; dozens of pilots have died during flight.note
Modern diesel-electric and turbo-electric ships are often similarly capable of being controlled by a single crew member in extremis.
Compare Guy in Back
and how they are often treated in video games, as well as Critical Staffing Shortage
. Related to The Main Characters Do Everything
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In games tanks and other AFVs are by far the outstanding demonstrator of this trope; more often than not, a single person will be able to drive, aim, and fire the main weapons of an armoured vehicles on their own. Games which involve having multiple players operating one vehicle will usually have one player driving and any others operating the vehicle's weapons systems. It is also very
rare to get a real first-person view inside the tank, usually to avoid showing the crew working but also because this is usually not conducive to gameplay. The rest is a Rule of Fun
issue; it's rather hard to get people excited about getting to be a tank's loader or radio operator. And in games that don't
involve multi-player co-op, this is the only way to make tanks playable at all
. Even if the tank in question has fully automated loading of its main gun (most don't), every tank that has a turret has the driver seated in a separate compartment with no ability to control the weapons, and everybody in the turret likewise has no ability to drive the tank.
- Mercenaries (The game, not Private Military Contractors)
- Oddly, it's not allowed when driving the smaller vehicles. That missile launcher on your converted pickup will sit there and look adorable until you convince an ally to crew the bloody thing. And at least they make you run up and drop a grenade in a tank's crew hatch before 'borrowing' the whole thing.
- Crysis has tanks, as well as jeeps and trucks, whose mounted weapons are controllable from the driver's seat. They just magically swing around. Note that this happens only in easy difficulty; harder difficulty levels require you to change seat in order to control the gun - although that still takes such a short time that it isn't really much of a hinderance.
- Note that, on the higher difficulties, you can still drive the tank and aim/fire the main cannon at the same time.
- In Call of Duty 2 the player is in control of all of the tank's functions, but it is understood that the tank has a proper crew.
- The same is true of the original Call of Duty's brief tank segment. The Hand Wave is that you're the tank commander, and this is gameplay shorthand for you playing spotter and telling the crew what to do.
- The Commandos series averts this, at least with tanks — the Driver can drive tanks, but the Sapper must be on-board to fire the cannon.
- The Battlefield series.
- Some vehicles (such as the BTR-60 in Battlefield Vietnam) were in fact kinda useless without two people, one to drive and one to shoot. Other vehicles, such as the helicopters in Battlefield Vietnam and Battlefield 2 became significantly more effective with a second crewman to fire more guns, but didn't necessarily require them. But the tanks were pretty much always one-crew killing machines.
- The Grand Theft Auto series.
- The Command & Conquer franchise has plenty of variations.
- Renegade, in all its gameplay simplicity, although one can set the game so when a second character embarks, he's the gunner. But not only is it optional, it's never enabled on any server. There is nothing to stop you from operating a Mammoth Tank all by yourself.
- Tiberian Dawn originated C&C's surviving crew concept, where there is a fifty-fifty chance that a single soldier will pop out of a destroyed land vehicle. Red Alert extended the concept to aircraft. Then came Tiberian Sun, and suddenly, you have special hijackers. The idea only went as far as that before it was dummied out in Red Alert 2.
- Generals made it possible to neutralize vehicle crews and take over the vehicle by ordering a single infantry unit into it. And they all know how to drive anything, too.
- But only American vehicles have the ability to eject a soldier out of their machines and in spirit of the C&C games before it, only eject one soldier per vehicle. But it's not just any soldier, either; it's a trained Pilot, and for very good reason, too: a Pilot carries his experience with him. If he manages to get onto a friendly vehicle, he'll pass his battle experience down to the crew riding that vehicle.
- On the other hand, the manual states that the reason the Mammoth tank and its equivalents in all games are able to self-repair is because they're large enough to house a full repair crew onboard.
- The Landmaster in Star Fox. Probably justified due to the advanced tech of the races in the Lylat system.
- This one does seems to be hardly larger than an Arwing (at most), and just about as complex.
- The entire Halo series - mostly. Several vehicles can be run by Master Chief alone, including the Scorpion Tank, while a number of other ones have a gunner's seat as well.
- In the fluff for the game it's explicitly stated that a Scorpion can be operated by two Marines OR a single Spartan.
- A Spartan can't operate the gun on a Warthog jeep and drive it at the same time. This is justified in that the gun controls are physically located in a different part of the vehicle.
- In xXx 2: State of the Union: Darius' single handed operation of the tank stretches believability, it does look more awkward than his pursuers (fully staffed tanks) but it is his first time.
- GoldenEye does this with a tank in the second level, not to mention a similar tank in the original film. Plus numerous other vehicles throughout the series.
- Though in the film, he mostly just drives the tank, with apparently limited manoeverability. When he does fire it, it is completely stationary (implying that he moved about in it) and is being fired at an oncoming train.
- Behind the scenes, Brosnan wasn't controlling the tank, just sticking his head through the front hatch. The real driver was lying prone on the floor underneath him and looking though a concealed glass panel cut out of the glacis plate.
- Rambo does this in Rambo III. He's apparently able to drive, fire and load a Soviet tank with his head sticking out the front hatch.
- Taken to spectacular heights in Keith Laumer's Bolo series, where massive continent-sieging combat vehicles can be operated by a single pilot. Some of the later models, however, don't even need a pilot at all.
- Though supposedly not artificially intelligent, one Bolo mk III demonstrates the ability to operate entirely without human control. Most Bolo stories feature mk XV or higher units that have no real need of human crew, though almost all marks are intended to carry a commander.
- In PlanetSide 1 the factions' main battle tanks, along with jeeps, bombers, and transport vehicles, generally need at least one other player to man the guns, with the vehicle having to be stopped and a fair amount of motion needed to change slots. However, the Lightning skirmish tank, the Fury and Basilisk ATVs, and the flight-capable Humongous Mecha used this trope to be the game's only real single-person ground combat vehicles. Partially played straight in the sequel, where main battle tanks are both driven and can use their main gun with just one crewman, but require a second person to use the secondary weapons. Harassers, Sunderers, and Galaxies still require one or more gunners, as the driver/pilot gets nothing to shoot with.
- Many old arcade shooters, when the player gets a tank, would let him crew it himself. Front Line and Ikari Warriors come to mind.
- Metal Slug, on the other hand, does not count, given that the tank in question is too small for a second driver/gunner anyway.
- Tokyo Wars is another example.
- Real-Life example: When a crazy man stole a tank from a San Diego National Guard base and began rampaging around, the news anchors describing the action had to repeatedly remind the viewers that he could not operate the main gun alone.
- In the original Mobile Suit Gundam, while not all tanks can be run by one man, the crew sizes are still small. The Federation's Type 61 tank has only a driver & a gunner, with the commanding officer usually taking the latter station, possibly justified by panoramic view provided by tiny cameras on the hull & screens in the interior. The Guntank also starts out with a driver/gunner crew, but is later upgraded so it can be piloted singlehandedly. The Zeon Magella Attack Tank, on the other hand plays it straight, with a single pilot in the turret, which can detach & become a fighter jet.
- Annoyingly inconsistent in Medal of Honor: Allied Assault. Stealing an enemy tank in the original game requires escorting a specially trained crew to the tank, but in the Spearhead expansion, you manage to singlehandedly operate a tank after fighting your way deep into Berlin.
- In Warhawk, tanks need only one player to be both driver and main gunner. A second player can board the tank and fire weapons from its hatch, or preferably, keep it repaired with the Wrench.
- A 4x4 driver on the other hand, can only drive and honk the horn. It takes a second player on the 4x4 to fire its machine gun.
- Utterly averted in Operation Flashpoint, in which tanks have the full crew of three (driver, gunner, and commander), though you can do without a commander in a pinch (and suffer impaired visibility as a result). In the tank missions the player typically acts as a tank commander, giving movement orders to the driver and targeting and firing orders to the gunner over the radio. If the tank isn't operating with a full crew, the ones present can switch positions as needed; even one person can drive a tank provided he switches between driving and aiming/firing as needed.
- Also averted for the other types of vehicles in OFP. Boats, helicopters, and even armed jeeps have a separate driver and gunner. In all cases, the driver can still fire (though not aim) the weapons in the absence of a gunner.
- Helicopters and tanks can switch to "manual mode" where the pilot/commander handles firing weapons all by himself but tanks still need targeting orders for the gunner, the commander can't do that himself.
- Every vehicle in BattleZone, most of which are hovertanks of one form or another. The player can even snipe the driver of an enemy tank, run over and jump in. Even if said tank is explicity stated to be an AI-controlled drone.
- Averted in the old Sony online shooter Infantry. All the large vehicles required a driver and a gunner for each weapon the vehicle had. IIRC this meant that the hovertank required 4 players to be fully effective: one driver, one main gunner and two machine gunners.
- Space Marine tanks in Warhammer 40,000 have very small crew sizes: typically just a driver/commander and a single gunner, with advanced "machine spirits" taking care of jobs that would normally go to other crewmen. (Chaos Space Marine vehicles are much the same, but instead of machine spirits, they have daemons.) The Imperial Guard, who possess more men and less impressive technology than the Marines, have tanks with more conventional crew sizes.
- In Valkyria Chronicles it's implied that the crew of the Edelweiss consists of just Welkin and Isara. The Edelweiss is based on a King Tiger, with five crew positions; it even conspicuously has an access hatch for the radio operator it apparently doesn't have. Later entries sometimes only have a single named person for an entire vehicle.
- The Edelweiss specifically justifies this: it's heavily modified with automated ammo loaders, combined systems, and so on so it can be operated by one commander and one driver/engineer. However, these extra systems require the driver to be specially trained, make the tank far too expensive to be mass-produced, and are implied to require a hideous number of man-hours in maintenance (again, with an overseer familiar with the tank's unique systems) so only the prototype model exists.
- The MMO World of Tanks lives and breathes this trope, while simultaneously averting it. The player can control a tank, a tank destroyer, or a self propelled gun entirely with the mouse and a few keyboard hotkeys, but NPC crewmembers represent the commander, loader, gunner, radio operator, driver, and so on.
- Subverted in Unreal Tournament. Several of the larger vehicles need a crew of multiple people to work at full capacity. However, the trope can also be played straight as only one pilot is needed for a vehicle's primary functions, like the movement and main weapon. The other pilots only operate secondary weapons or functions.
- The Goliath, the Cicada and the SPMA has the driver handling movement and the main weapon at the same time, with the second crew member manning a secondary weapon (top-mounted machine gun for the Goliath, gimbal laser turret and flares for the Cicada, skymine launcher for the SPMA).
- The Hellbender has a driver, one gunner shooting a skymine launcher and another gunner manning a back-mounted laser turret. Surprisingly, this actually has a purpose as the rear gunner is completely exposed and vulnerable to snipers while the other gunner is even harder to snipe than the driver. The driver himself can do nothing but honk the horn; on the other hand, the bots in 2004 are scripted to automatically board a honking Hellbender.
- The Leviathan has not one but FOUR secondary positions, each handling a separate turret. As with the trio above, the Leviathan's driver also handles both main weapons.
- The World War 2 game Red Orchestra may be one of the few video games to nearly subvert this. There is a driver, main gun, and machine gun position on a tank; the driver can't see, and the gunners can't move. A good team needs to have the two coordinating their actions during a tank fight. Nearly, because players can and will drive out on their own, and switch between positions as needed.
- Stated in the Earth 2150 manual that Eurasian Dynasty's tanks are, essentially, late 20th century tanks that have been refitted to be piloted by a single cyborg.
- Partly justified because they're not using old Soviet/Russian tech but American M1 Abrams tanks, which are already heavily computerized.
- Tanks in MechWarrior Living Legends are controlled entirely by a single player, despite several tanks being the size of buildings, and in contrast to the source material where tanks have a regular crew, in order to make them competitive with the BattleMechs that normally have only crewman.
- Saints Row plays this mostly straight; generally the Boss is more than able to hop in a tank and wheel around Stilwater or Steelport to his/her heart's content while cannoning anyone nearby. But a tank may also have a gunner position: bring a Saint along and he/she can crew a machinegun, just in case. Sometimes it's a race to see who can shoot down a helicopter first, your gunner or you.
- Averted in the MMO-FPS World War II Online. More of a Simulator than a true FPS, driving tanks and boats required multiple crew members for multiple respective positions; The driver is, in fact, unable to shoot, has poor viability, etc. The player can swap between positions easy, however, but that doesn't lend much good in battle when one well-aimed shell can take you out.
- Lampshaded in Armored Core: For Answer. The megacorporations in the game world used to rely on Humongous Mecha which played this trope straight, until they figured out that it was too dangerous to leave that kind of firepower in the hands of a single pilot. Consequently they started building Military Mashup Machines with hundreds of crew instead.
- The video game Megafortress illustrated this literally - there are several different stations all simulated (pilot, weapons officer, EW officer, etc), but it's up to the player to hop around to all the stations to control them. This can be tricky when you're trying to turn around to bring some weaponry to bear while firing a missile at the MiG heading at you while trying to get the bomb bay doors closed and fiddle the ECM settings. Never mind the engine that's on fire from the last hit and the fact your attack radar is still on, broadcasting your position to the world.
- Several vehicles in the Star Wars Battlefront games have multiple crew slots. The Assault Gunship has five: pilot, copilot, left, right & tail gunners. Only a pilot is required to drive and fire the main weapons, but a solo operator can switch rapidly from slot to slot if he wants to.
- Taken to an extreme with the snowspeeders from the Hoth map: in the first Battlefront, a single player can fly one towards the Empire's AT-AT's, switch to the rear turret, fire the cable at its legs, then immediately switch back to the pilot's seat and tie it up. Quite understandably, Battlefront II added a forced delay between firing the cable and switching seats, making it nearly impossible to take an AT-AT down that way without two people.
- Airplane: Ted Striker flies a modern jet airliner by himself, a task that normally takes a crew of three (pilot, co-pilot, flight engineer).
- The film sort of hangs a lampshade on this with what confronts Striker when he first enters the cockpit: a slow pan across a literally endless array of dials, levers, switches and knobs. The Boeing 707 seen (but not heard) in the movie can be flown for a short time with a crew of one (the pilot). For longer flights, you need a flight engineer to keep an eye on the airplane's mechanical systems, and if you want to reach your destination, you add a third: the navigator. Modern jetliners only need a crew of two, the flight engineer's position having been given to computers.
- It's long been a standing joke in the airline industry that the flight crew will soon be reduced to just a man and a dog. The man will be there to feed the dog, and the dog will be there to bite the man if he tries to touch the controls (though one has to ask what kind of dog would (literally) bite the hand that feeds it).
- There were real-life attempts to create one-man armored fighting vehicles back during the 1920s and 1930s; they belonged to a class of vehicles known as "tankettes." The French, for example, wanted to create a sort of infantry replacement; one man would drive the vehicle and take care of everything, and he'd also be armed with a machine gun. In practice, it was unworkable, and the concept was abandoned. To be perfectly fair, during the past century there has been a significant trend towards smaller crew sizes, due primarily to automation.
- However, the minimum crew size in a turreted vehicle is still three, because the only crewman who can realistically be replaced is the loader. And most western armies have avoided autoloaders because a good human loader is much more reliable, faster and more flexible. An autoloader can't help change a track, pull maintenance, stand guard, or sub for another crewman, either. He also serves as an extra pair of eyes to watch your back when he isn't loading.
- Also, an autoloader can break down. Or, in the case of some Russian tanks, inadvertently load the gunner's arm instead of a shell. And then break down.
- Furthermore, reducing the crew to just one is probably inadvisable simply for morale reasons.
- How a Humongous Mecha show plays this trope is usually a good indication of how Super or Real it is.
- In the Ace Combat series, when you choose any aircraft with a crew of 2 or more (F-15E, F/A-18F, F-14, etc...), you still control all of its functions yourself as if it only needed one person. However, when you look at the actual plane's model, you can see a guy in the back seat, presumably doing his job alongside the pilot - which gets silly when, for plot reasons, someone is forced to eject from their plane but only one parachute is seen.
- Air Force Delta Strike does this for its 2-man fighters as well.
- As does HAWX, though for at least one mission in the first game the guy in back is actually acknowledged (he's the one training you in the game's main gimmick).
- Weirdly Subverted by Vector Thrust. For some reason nobody is flying the planes.
- In World of Warcraft the Catapults used during Wintergrasp fights have space for only one driver/gunner. The Demolishers also has a driver/gunner but have space for two passengers who can fire their own ranged weapons (bows, guns, etc.) from their seats. The Siege Engines have a ram controlled by the driver, a turret-mounted cannon that requires a separate gunner and two passenger spots. Similar vehicles exist on the Isle of Conquest, Ulduar and other in-game locations.
- Prototype. While Alex has learned how to pilot AP Cs, tanks and helicopters by consuming people trained to do so, he can somehow operate them all by himself.
- Maybe with his tentacles?
- Come to think of it, this guy has the ability to shapeshift into basically anything...it is not a far stretch to assume he just fills the entire vehicle with himself and can then easily operate all the switches, buttons and levers as he pleases.
- Inverted on Top Gear: In a crossover challenge with German motoring show D Motor, the presenters had to drive double-decker cars, with one person on top steering and a second person on the bottom operating the pedals and gearshift, thus turning a vehicle that normally is Crew of One into Crew of Two.
- Trains can run with a Crew of One, it's called DOO (Driver Only Operation). A diesel or electric locomotive only really needs one pair of hands to operate all essential functions, but a second crewman is often carried to provide a second pair of eyes on the track ahead and/or to take over when their colleague's mandatory rest period is up.
- Real Life Subversion: Docklands Light Railway runs trains with a crew of nought.
- Though the on-board Passenger Service Agent is trained to become the Crew of One and drive the train if computer operation fails.
- Both used and averted in Assassin's Creed: Brotherhood. The Bomber is justified as only having enough space for one man. The Tank needs three people to run it, though gameplay usage does not act as such. The Machine Gun is clearly meant to have a driver and gunner, but you get separate parts of the mission for using both and during the latter the thing is on autopilot or something. The Naval Weapon clearly is meant to have a gunner and driver too and this time Ezio has to switch between the two positions as necessary.
- Almost all fighter aircraft have a one-man crew, who both flies the aircraft and operates the weapons.
- Many exceptions to this are electronic-warfare variants of what are otherwise single-seat fighters (themselves often based on a two-seat trainer variant). The second person runs the (much more extensive) electronic warfare equipment. There are also fighters that only exist in two-seat configurations, which often carry much more elaborate electronics packages than single-seat aircraft do (since there's another person there to operate the more complex systems), such as the F-14 and A-6.
- The electronic warfare variant of the A-6, the EA-6B Prowler, actually has the room to seat four people, the pilot and three electronic countermeasure officers, though closer to the trope it's not uncommon for Prowlers to fly without a third officer. The EA-18G Growler, an F/A-18 variant meant to replace the Prowler in Navy use, drops the crew down further to just one officer for the same workload.
- Can be seen in Half-Life 2 with both dune buggy and air boat. Being piloted by one fellow is reasonable enough, but that same fellow being a simultaneous driver and gunner? Not so much. Multitasking capabilities aside, there is a certain minimum of available arms required to preform both tasks, which can lead to only one conclusion :Gordon Freeman has an extra set of invisible hands. This would also explain how he can climb a ladder while fully operating a gun. Then again, maybe he has three sets of hands, two of which invisible, as his arms aren't visible while driving either vehicle.
- Averted by ALL multi-crew vehicles in the Tribes games, Even the Hover Tank has a driver and gunner, to say nothing of the larger aircraft where there is always a pilot who only handles flight and a tailgunner whose main duty is chucking flares at incoming missiles. Bombers have a weapons officer to handle the onboard ordnance and gunships have four passenger slots whose occupants can use their own infantry weapons to rain Death from Above; a single-man gunship is just a big fat target but a fully loaded one with everyone sans the pilot wielding mortars and missile launchers is a flying fortress. If you want to switch positions, you have to physically disembark the vehicle first.
- An example from Real Life. Sterling Marlin became one of these during the 2002 Daytona 500 NASCAR race, climbing out of his car during a red flag stoppage to look at his right front fender. Unfortunately, according to NASCAR rules, this is illegal, and he was sent to the back of the lead lap when the green flag came back out. The worst part is that he was leading the race when that happened!
- Sergey Lukyanenko's Competitors novel mentions this absurdity several times in relation to starships. Humans on the Platform build these ships using matter synthesizers (i.e. replicators) based on plans in the station's database and available raw resources. While there are plenty of small fighter-type ships, even the giant ships have only one standard control console. Also, the entire thing has controls similar to a car, including pedals for acceleration and braking, in order to allow any human to use them. This is justified in that the station and the plans were created by aliens to be reminiscent of a web-based space exploration game (the game actually exists in Real Life). Later on, though, a group of rebels modify a large ship to function as a command ship of sorts with multiple consoles jury-rigged so that the ship would have an actual crew.
- Diesel and electric locomotives usually require just one operator. This would have meant firing countless thousands of firemen when steam engines were being retired, so the locomotive men's brotherhood lobbied for all heavy locomotives to carry a crew of two.
- Uncommonly inverted by Metal Fatigue, a Humongous Mecha RTS developed by the late Psygnosis. The Combots are controlled by a crew of several men, explicitly shown to consist of a team of at least three pilots. In spite of this, the Combots are also explicitly shown to be Motion Capture Mecha, at least for the primary pilot. However, the non-Combot vehicles, including missile cars, tanks, and hovertruck worker units, appear to be crewed a single individual due to a sheer lack of space—a complete 180 of the usual expectations in Humongous Mecha settings.
- Numerous vehicles in the G.I. Joe action figure line. While many had extra places for gunners and other crew, some only had one. Notably, the franchise's first tank was like this, even though in the comic it was shown to have space for a drive and radioman.
- BattleTech normally has just one pilot (a MechWarrior) to control a Battlemech, albeit assisted by the mech's computer for movement and aiming. However, some models designed for field commanders come with an additional seat and console for a radio operator. The disastrous Clan Jade Falcon attempt to reintroduce the LosTech land-air-mechs resulted in a mech with two cockpits - one for an Aerospace pilot, the other for a MechWarrior - which controlled the LAM's different movement modes. The bullheaded Clan warriors rarely cooperated.
- Far Cry 2 has a bit more of a realistic take on this than other games. For land-based vehicles, the player has the usual button dedicated to switching between the driver's seat and the mounted gun, but pressing it actually has an animation of the character climbing between the two positions rather than instantly teleporting between them. For boats, the player instead has to manually move between the driver's seat and the gun because they're further apart.