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No "Arc" in "Archery"

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"The Archer's Paradox: Because a perfect arrow flies forever, and that's impossible. I'm Daenlin, and I have no perfect arrows."
Daenlin, owner of the shop "The Archer's Paradox", The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion

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, which really should result in the arrow flying over the target.

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 rear 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.

Just as other tropes have transferred from 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 bullet's 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 an 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 and, at extremely long distances, the Earth's rotation. Grenades, including those fired from Grenade Launchers, seem to be the one kind of projectile that near-universally avert this, even in video games that use hitscan for most firearms.

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.

This trope is often used in video games due to technical and/or resource limitations, particularly First-Person Shooters. Keeping track of proper physics for projectiles like arrows is CPU-intensive, which mostly forces games to use Acceptable Breaks from Reality such as hitscan. It's only since around the Seventh Generation that consoles have gotten powerful enough to keep track of physics consistently without affecting gameplay (wasting all of the CPU power on physics and leaving none for the actual GAME wouldn't be a good thing). And even if the consoles are powerful enough, depending on the design of the game this sometimes isn't incorporated if it detracts from the enjoyment of the game — in many cases (particularly with shooters with fantasy weapons), players would be shooting targets that are close enough that compensating for gravity would be an unnecessary waste of processing power. Games with larger maps and with a higher focus on realism, however, don't use hitscan weapons and do require the player to take both bullet travel time and bullet drop into account while firing at long range. In some cases, the technique of arcing is often used as a skill challenge and to make the player feel personally competent. See Wreaking Havok for more on how video games can avert this.

Subtrope of Bows and Errors and Guns Do Not Work That Way. Not to be confused with The Straight and Arrow Path.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Bleach:
    • Played completely straight with the Quincy. Their arrows aren't physical and therefore don't follow the rules that mundane arrows follow.
    • 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 noticeably at thirty feet or so.
  • Averted in Kaguya-sama: Love Is War: when tasked with lighting a bonfire with a fire arrow, Kaguya, star member of the Kyudo (Japanese archery) club, shoots up even from a small distance, and the arrow has a noticeable arch when it hits the target perfectly.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Arrow: 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 explained at some point 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.
  • The Punisher: Reversed in one 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.
  • Averted in Tex Willer: Indians at times carry both guns and bows and arrows because a volley of the latter will strike opponents behind cover, and in one occasion Tex was able to shoot an enemy well beyond the theoretical range of his Winchester by shooting above him and let the bullet drop do the rest.

    Films — Animation 
  • Brave doesn't have any shots at a great enough distance to require this, but still shows its work in the way arrows fire; the three champions of the other clans show errors in their technique that novices often make, and this would be noticed by any experienced archers in the audience. Also, the slow-motion close-up of Merida firing her third arrow clearly shows the arrow bending and flexing as it accelerates, as it would in real life.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Avengers (2012): Every one of Hawkeye's long-range shots shows some notable arc, which he is shown compensating for almost automatically (and in one case, without even looking at the target). One of his most impressive shots involves using the wind and the movement of the aircraft he's riding to arc an arrow into an engine of the Helicarrier from the opposite side of the airship. A close-up of an arrow flying also shows it spinning as it should be.
  • 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.
  • For a Few Dollars More might have averted this a bit too hard. The Bounty Hunter Colonel Mortimer shoots at an escaping bounty with a rifle, leaving the bounty wounded with a colt pistol on the other side of a long street. The Bounty fires at Mortimer, but his bullets drop enough that the land in the dirt before they can reach Mortimer. Mortimer pulls out his colt pistol, with a much longer barrel, and is able to fire and kill the bounty, showing how his pistol has a much longer range.
  • King Arthur (2004) both averted and played straight, sometimes within seconds of each other in the same scene.
  • The Lord of the Rings: There's a classic example in The Fellowship of the Ring with 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.
  • 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.
  • Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves: the Arrow Cam shot goes straight forward without an arc.
  • Shooter: The DVD commentary 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.
  • 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.

  • Invoked in Codex Alera to show the power of the Knights Flora. In real life, a longbow has a maximum range of about 300 yards and is then only useful as a volley-fire area of effect weapon. The Knights Flora, on the other hand, when facing an enemy at 300 yards, start making near-flat shots at individual targets more often than not putting the arrows through enemy visor-slits.
  • 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, though it's never stated how far apart they are. Since the axes are set up in a hall, it's presumably a short total distance. The bigger part of the test was being able to string the bow (which had the massive draw strength required for this feat) to begin with.

    Video Games 
  • ARMA: All rockets and recoilless projectiles travel in a perfectly straight line until they explode. It's especially puzzling given both that ARMA's predecessor, Operation Flashpoint, handled the same weapons perfectly, and that bullet-firing weapons still are affected by gravity.
  • 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.
  • Bladestorm The Hundred Years War: Largely played straight. Arrows do arc if you fire from an extremely long distance, but most fights take place up close so you may not notice it. Averted with one ability longbowmen receive, where their shots do arc and can be fired from a much farther distance than a regular straight shot.
  • 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!
  • Dark Messiah: The arrows do have arcs, although 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.
  • Dark Souls: Arrows and crossbow bolts fly perfectly straight until they hit their maximum range and plummet to the ground.
  • Destiny 2:
    • Grenade Launchers have a realistic arc, and have to be carefully aimed... with the exception of The Mountaintop which acts more like a miniature rocket launcher than anything else.
    • The bows added in the game's year two expansion, however, play the trope completely straight.
  • Distorted Travesty 3: Played with. The player's bombs and arrows have arcs, but many enemies fire gravity-defying projectiles. Later in the game the player gains throwing knives and missiles which do not arc, thus giving players the ability to use or ignore this trope at their pleasure.
  • Divinity: Original Sin II: Zig-zagged. Basic attacks with bows follow an arc, as do some archery-based Skills and Projectile Spells; other spells and archery skills follow a straight line. As an Anti-Frustration Feature, the game displays these paths before the projectile is fired, highlighting any interruptions.
  • Dragon Project: Bows avert this trope at first, but an update after the Heat Bow's release pulls this trope straight, aside from Normal Bow. Now aiming with any non-normal Bow (Heat, Soul, and Burst) will create a perfectly straight line, making it easier for Hunters to hit the Bow markers on the Behemoth's body. That being said, sometimes aiming at the Behemoth's Bow markers may not hit them despite being directly aimed at.
  • Dragon Riders: Chronicles of Pern: Although you never see the actual projectile, the variables are taken into account. 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • The Elder Scrolls: Goes from being played straight to heavily downplayed over the course of the series, in large part thanks to technological improvements. To note:
    • Played straight in Arena and Daggerfall.
    • Also played straight in Morrowind, at least for full strength pulls. If you fire an arrow before the bow is fully drawn, the arrow will noticeably tumble in the air.
    • Oblivion is the first game in the series to include a physics engine, and as such, has arrows drop the farther they fly. However, it is heavily downplayed instead of being fully averted because the arrows still fly unrealistically far before dropping.
    • Skyrim is much the same as Oblivion, but also has the arrows arc up slightly in relation to the crosshair. If your target is fairly close, aiming straight on for a headshot will actually cause the arrow to sail over the target's head. This is wholly Truth in Television as anyone who's used a barebow will tell you. It is also possible to hit stationary targets with arrows fired into the sky with an extreme arc, but understandably very difficult to pull off.
  • Fable The Lost Chapters: Arrows fly on a flat path, then inexplicably plant themselves in the ground once they get out so far.
  • Final Fantasy Tactics Advance is a strange example; perform a regular, basic attack with a bow and arrow, and the game will calculate multiple different arcs (within the bow's range) that would intersect with your chosen target, and show the arrow moving along whichever of those arcs would actually hit the target rather than hitting something else first. If no such arc exists, the arrow will in fact end up hitting something other than your intended target. What makes it strange is that this isn't a proper aversion; do almost any special move with your bow, and the arrow won't be drawn at all and will hit the target regardless of intervening obstacles. Past the very start of the game, there's typically no reason to use a basic attack rather than a special move, and so the complex physics simulation rather goes to waste.
  • Fire Emblem:
    • Until Fire Emblem Echoes: Shadows of Valentia, no Fire Emblem game depicted archers or other bow users as arcing their shot. Could be considered a subversion, however, in that generally units are too close for arcing to be needed: the ballista users, who do fire at that kind of range, are generally shown firing at an angle. In addition, since arrows can be shot over walls in all games, one can only assume that, while it's not shown in the animation, their shots are being arced there.
    • Fire Emblem: Radiant Dawn: Rolf (and then Shinon, when he chickens out) has to mimic 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 than with a bullet), 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.
    • Fire Emblem Fates: Justified by Takumi's Fujin Yumi, an Energy Bow that shoots laser arrows. Similarly, the Skadi also shoots laser arrows and is a justified example.
  • God of War (2018) generally averts this: the Leviathan Axe drops after Kratos throws it, making a puzzle out of Odin's Ravens and Nornir Chests. It can be deliberately invoked however if you have the Axe Pommel from defeating the Valkyrie Queen: it makes 90% of axe throws fly perfectly straight!
  • Heroes of Might and Magic: It's played straight in the first four games, but then the graphics in those games are so stylized it hardly matters.
  • Kirby:
    • The Star Spit technique always shoots a projectile straight forward.
    • Shots from the Archer and Ranger abilities always go straight, even across long distances. However, arrows shot by enemies follow an arc in Kirby's Epic Yarn.
    • Shots from cannons almost always go in a straight line, even when shot upward. Player Characters can even be shot out of certain kinds of cannons, going in a straight line until hitting a wall.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Link always fires straight.
    • Interestingly enough, the arrows are subject to gravity in Super Smash Bros. yet he still fires parallel to the ground.
    • Ocarina of Time, the first 3D title and thus the first to which realistic physics can apply, justified this by it being a "fairy bow", thus implicitly magical.
    • In Twilight Princess, arrows fired by Bulblins and Link's Bomb Arrows do arc, but Link's regular arrows travel in a perfectly straight line for a considerable distance before suddenly arcing straight down toward the ground.
    • They do arc in Skyward Sword.
    • In Breath of the Wild, thanks to its extensive physics system, each bow has its own range, which determines how far an arrow fired will travel before it arcs. However, there is one bow, the Ancient Bow, that sports an impressive range of 40 as well as a greatly decreased gravity acting on the arrows it fires, resulting in arrows that fly nearly perfectly straight. However, it requires rare materials to obtain one to compensate. The Bow of Light and Bow of Twilight fire their own special ammunition, arrows made of pure light, which actually do fly perfectly straight and aren't affected by gravity at all.
  • Mana Series:
    • Secret of Mana: arrows shot from the bow (and thrown javelins) travel in an arc and are one of the few weapons that can hit flying enemies.
    • Legend of Mana: while regular attacks fired from the bow travel in a straight line, they are shown to curve (and even home in on the enemy) in some of the Limit Break special attacks.
  • Magic and Mayhem: The first game has an elf unit that plays this trope straight and then averts it with every alternate shot. In practice, it means that they shoot their melee allies in the back with every other arrow.
  • Metal Gear: All games play this straight until Ground Zeroes added "effective range". Every gun in the game has a preset range limit (marked by red crosshairs), after which the projectile from said gun quickly loses altitude. The crosshair shape helps in determining how the bullets drop, but it still mostly comes down to trial and error.
  • Monster Hunter: From Monster Hunter Freedom 2 onwards (when the Bow weapon class is 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.
  • Mount & Blade: 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. This isn't as noticeable if your character is built as a horse archer.
  • Myth: Completely averted. Arrows arc, archers visibly aim higher to shoot farther; and even gain increased range from high ground.
  • NightFire plays with this. The crossbow's arrows travel at such impressive velocity that the arc only becomes apparent at great distance. That being said, you're not supposed to use it at long range: It's a silent, One-Hit Kill weapon, extremely potent at almost any range.
  • Portal Runner: There is no apparent limit on the range of Vikki's arrows.
  • The Sniper Elite series changes this up depending on selected difficulty settings. On the easiest difficulty, bullets fly straight to where you shoot them, notwithstanding muzzle accuracy, but on higher settings you have to adjust for gravity and windage because the bullets actually do arc.
  • Suikoden: Played with. 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.
  • Robin hood and enemies in Super Robin Hood fire arrows straight and they never fall.
  • 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 in Brawl and 3DS/Wii U). 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.
  • Tales Series: In most 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.
  • Team Fortress 2 zig-zags this trope:
    • Weapons that travel in a straight line — all guns (they're hitscan weapons) and rockets.
    • Weapons that travel in a realistic arc — the Demoman's grenades, the Medic's various syringe-shooting devices, the Pyro's flares, the Scout's baseballs, and the Sniper's Huntsman arrows (a bow).
  • Thief: Most arrows in the game avert this, and the player will have to take their arc into account when firing, but gas and fire arrows fly perfectly straight. The former can be seen as justified since it's an air-elemental arrow, while the latter is basically a medieval missile.
  • Total War: All bows have an arc in their ballistic path, with archers, ballistae, slingers, trebuchets, catapults, and even cannons able to angle shots over the top of infantry and even some obstacles to hit targets beyond them (which gives them relevance even if you have gunpowder units, which require a straight line to hit their targets). Interestingly, the precise angle that the arrows are being shot at tends to impact just how much damage they do; the higher the arc in the trajectory of the arrow, the less accurate and less damage it does, and as a result, you want to get your archers into a position where they can fire their arrows at a flat angle toward the enemy (barring situations like gun unit/arrow unit fights, in which case you probably want to keep the archers behind cover so the guns can't return fire).
  • Unturned: After a long while of playing the trope straight, the series averts it: bullets and arrows all drop after a distance, sometimes (surprisingly for an FPS so far into the "simulation" end of the Fackler scale) far more than the caliber is known for IRL.
  • Valheim:
    • Averted with arrows, which always have some degree of arc depending on the bow used (stronger bows provide more arrow velocity).
    • Crossbows fire bolts at much higher velocity, so there's little to no arc at any reasonable distance.
  • Vantage Master: The Blexe fires straight shots, although it uses a powerful crossbow and has fairly short range.
  • Warframe subverts this and plays it straight: projectiles fired from most bows and throwing weapons will have an arc after a fair distance, which can be extended with projectile flight speed mods. The lone exception is the Daikyu bow, which plays the trope straight on account of it being a massive longbow with a fair charge time that cannot be fired early.
  • 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 several boss abilities that arc, but this is more of a visual effect.
  • Wynncraft mostly averts this with physical projectiles shot by both players and enemies having a noticeable arc. Then, an Archer focusing on Sharpshooter abilities can unlock Homing Shots, where all non-spell arrows fired are not only Homing Projectiles, but are unaffected by gravity. They also have the Shocking Bomb ability, which does this trope to their Arrow Bomb spell.

  • Gunnerkrigg Court uses a variant — while the distance the arrow travels isn't enough to create significant arc, hitting another arrow in flight along the way should definitely have changed its direction.
  • The Order of the Stick uses this most of the time, occasionally with motion lines demonstrating a straight flight path. Though they are often at ranges where the arc would be negligible anyway.

    Web Original 
  • Justified in Worm, in which Flechette has a superpower that explicitly allows her to imbue projectiles with an effect that lets them ignore gravity, as well as several other laws of physics.

    Real Life  
  • 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—until a group of 15th-to-16th-century Italians trying to figure out (among other things) how to aim cannons took an interest in the subject...