"Spotting" is a military term for relaying the coordinates of the enemy to an allied unit (usually an artillery battery or a sniper) so it can take them out from a long distance, without putting itself in danger. The spotter is usually a small mobile unit that approaches the enemy hopefully undetected, calls in a shot and moves on—but really, any unit can act as a spotter, given long range backup. A snipers' spotter also has the additional job of guarding the sniper from flanking attacks, something that is a little hard to do when they're currently focused on lining up their shot through a zoom scope.
Target spotting is often a gameplay mechanic in tactical games where some units deliberately have longer firing range than viewing range. This allows these units to target enemies even without a direct line of sight, provided another friendly unit can see them. Whether they need a direct line of fire, depends on their type: snipers usually do, artillery usually doesn't.
For handheld target designators (with which these spotters may be armed), see Puppet Gun.
May overlap with Seeing Through Another's Eyes in speculative settings.
Examples of this trope as a game mechanic:
- In Mega Man Legends: The Misadventures of Tron Bonne, this is the job for the Servbots when they are in the Gustaff (a Mecha where Teisel and then Tron rides), curiously this is called a "Sniper" as the designated spot.
- Recruiting Craig Boone as a follower in Fallout: New Vegas will give the player the "Spotter" perk, causing any enemies to glow red while the player aims down his iron sights. A Courier with above-average Intelligence can also reference this when convincing Boone to join as a follower, by pointing out that snipers normally operate in teams.
- The Minutemen storyline in Fallout 4 grants access to howitzer-style artillery pieces you can build at your settlements. Once built and crewed, you can throw smoke grenades to paint areas for bombardment by any guns in range.
- The Battlefield series features this sort of mechanic in most of their games.
- The older games like 1942, Vietnam or 2 sometimes feature a manual system of spotting, where a pair binoculars are issued to certain classes and whatever they mark would appear on your teammates map, but ultimately boils down to team initiative to act on your spotting. Newer games have a universal spotting system where anyone can point at an enemy and mark the target on the HUD for a short period of time, even getting or recieving point bonuses if friendlies gets the kill as a reward for your spot.
- In Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, the Recon character class can use laser designation binoculars or SOFLAMs to mark enemy vehicles, enabling missiles from friendly attack jets, helicopters, and man-portable rocket launchers to lock on and hit targets far beyond their normal effective range, as long as the spotter maintains the lock-on.
- Battlefield 1 features the trench periscope; while it doesn't increase any damage potential, it is able to mark enemies by painting a bright red outline for all your teammates to see while netting score bonuses for the spotter.
- Operatives in Brink can learn the ability to mark enemy players by pointing the iron sights over them for a few seconds. The marked enemies will emit a red aura that makes them visible to all friendlies for a few seconds, even through walls.
- Shows up in the Call of Duty Franchise:
- While fighting in North Africa in Call of Duty 2, the player has to call an artillery strike on a number of panzers.
- In bot the campaign and MultiPlayer of the Modern Warfare series, players can call in, and control, predator missiles, AC-130 gunships, or other types of air strikes on enemy positions.
- The appropriately named Spotter in PAYDAY 2 will highlight security guards that are patrolling the area during a stealth mission. Originally, if the heist went loud, the Spotter would bail. The Spotter now stays regardless if the heist goes loud and he can highlight special SWAT that appear.
- In Civilization V, siege units such as catapults and cannon have a 1-hex sight range, as opposed to their 2-hex firing range, encouraging them to travel with another unit as a spotter (and to keep the enemy from directly engaging the siege unit, which is weak in melee). Artillery and Rocket Artillery are even more reliant on spotters as they have a 3-hex range and the Indirect Fire ability, allowing them to attack over hills and other obstructions, but only if another allied unit has the target in sight.
- In most RTS games, siege equipment with a huge range needs another unit or intel of a building being there to fire at said spot. However, when a unit fires from outside the Fog of War, it becomes visible to them. Accuracy for units detected this way is shot to hell, though, since they can move.
- World in Conflict:
- Infantry squads have an enormous viewing range, which is not obscured by forests, but are quite vulnerable in the open. Anti-air units and particularly tanks, on the other hand, have extremely long firing ranges but limited viewing range, so skillful players hide their infantry quietly in the woods close to the enemy position, while the tanks bombard it from safe distance, covered by hidden AA.
- The one-shot tactical aids include airstrikes, bombs, and artillery barrages that arrive after a delay and must target a location, not a unit. Paratroopers also have an ability to call in a delayed artillery strike near their position, working similarly to the tactical aids.
- Warzone 2100 allows you to build sensor vehicles and towers that can act as spotters for artillery and VTOLs.
- In Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars, the GDI Juggernaut can fire anywhere on the map provided a Sniper team is near the target. One campaign mission had fire support from a GDI Battleship that worked similarly. The Nod forces in the same game have a strange counterpart: their Beam Cannon can reflect its fire off the hull of a friendly Venom gunship, hitting anything within a radius around it. The relationship between the two units is thus very similar to the Juggernaut and Sniper.
- In the Expansion Pack Kane's Wrath, Nod gets a new artillery unit type called Specter and its spotter infantry are the Shadow Teams, who gained a new ability to make it possible.
- In StarCraft the siege tank can actually fire further than it can see in its immobile siege mode. To get maximum range out of it you need a second unit acting as spotter (or use the radar scan). StarCraft I also arms Ghosts with a laser target designator for short-range ballistic missiles tipped with tactical nukes. This ability is transferred to the new Spectre unit in StarCraft II (if you chose it in the campaign).
- Dawn of War:
- This is a feature of every artillery unit in the game. Blind firing reduces their already less-than-stellar accuracy, though the fact that they're more useful as infantry-dispersal weapons means it doesn't matter as much. Special mention should go to the Imperial Guard's Basilisk, which has the highest range of all (there are some maps where no unit can ever be out of range), and the fact that the Guard has a radar ability that allows them to briefly remove Fog of War from any point on the map.
- The Tau may be the only army with a unit for whom this is the specific job: Pathfinders have a special ability to mark targets, which will increase the damage done to them by any other units. Unfortunately the Pathfinders themselves are rather weak and the target-marking ability requires them to get within grenade range, so getting them back out of harm's way can be tricky.
- This becomes a plot point in the IG stronghold mission of Soulstorm. They will occasionally send cloaked spotters that order a barrage on their position as soon as they're seen.
- Snipers serve as their own spotters (and for artillery), being invisible (and in the Vindicare's case, able to extend his own sight and attack range).
- In Company of Heroes, indirect fire units, off map artillery strikes, and offensive air support runs cannot target anything in the fog of war, requiring the use of a unit or ability to reveal it.
- RUSE is an interesting take on this due to the nature of the game. Every unit can be seen on the battlefield by default, however in the form of unidentifiable markers (only classified as small units or large units) and buildings are completely exposed to artillery bombardments. Furthermore, players can take advantage of terrain like forests or town squares, and the titular "Ruses" to either conceal their units or disguise them as completely different ones. Recon units or certain "Ruses" can reveal exactly what are, opening up your options on how to go about engaging them.
- Treasure Planet: Battle at Procyon allows spotters to be assigned as a crew member for spotting ships and other objects, the higher the spotter's 'spotting' skill, the further away things can be seen from.
- In Foxhole, artillery requires a two-man team, partly to shove the thing into place. A spotter with binoculars is required to accurately land shells on targets; needing to calculate the range between the target and their location before adjusting for the actual position of the artillery gun.
- In X3: Terran Conflict and Albion Prelude missile frigates' Macross Missile Massacre has a maximum range of about 80 km, but scanner range is limited to under 30. The solution, of course, is to use another ship (or a spy satellite, or some other player-owned object) as spotter.
- M 1 Tank Platoon. If any of the NATO commander's units can see an enemy unit, he can call in an OB (off board) artillery bombardment on that unit.
- This is the role of light tanks in World of Tanks. They lack armor and heavy weaponry, so they are forced to use their speed to protect themselves while they spot enemy tanks for the big guns.
- In World of Warships, destroyers take on a similar role to the light tanks from World of Tanks, although this time they have torpedoes, meaning they can dish out damage as well. Aside from these, battleships also have spotter aircraft which can not only detect targets, but also temporarily increase the range of your guns.
- Aircraft carriers play this trope as well, thanks to being able to send hordes of fast moving aircraft. This is especially useful against destroyers, as there are normally very few ways to spot them without aid of other destroyers.
- A variety of spotting mechanics exist in MechWarrior Living Legends. C3 computers share your Enemy-Detecting Radar with all allies within 1km, the Target Acquisition Gear fires an infrared laser to guide in allied missiles, and the NARC launcher fires a magnetic missile homing beacon. Using C3 is critical for the Long Tom Artillery tank, as its cannon's range exceeds the tank's own radar range. TAG and NARCs allow Arrow IV cruise missiles to attack targets from far beyond the normal Missile Lock-On range; additionally, by dumbfiring a missile and having an ally then engage the spotting mechanism a few seconds later, missiles can be brought down at odd angles (such as straight above) to get around cover.
- In War Thunder's ground forces game mode, various mechanics that incorporate spotting exist. Any enemy target hit by friendlies will have a marker pop up over it, to indicate its rough position (allowing you to use your machine guns or main cannon to spot a target). Most light tanks have the "scouting" ability, which allows them to scout an enemy vehicle they are aiming at via the gunsight or binoculars, which makes it visible as a marker on the map and pointed out via a marker in-world. All players can also click on the minimap to place a marker there, to manually bring a spot to the attention of their teammates. And finally, medium and light tanks and SPAA vehicles have the ability to call in an artillery strike.
- StarCraft: Ghost, the infamously vaporware stealth shooter title, was to include a laser target designator by which Nova could call in nuclear attacks.
- In Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain, Snake and Quiet can share these roles; Quiet can provide reconnisance and point out enemy locations, so Snake can neutralize them. Snake can also find enemies and order Quiet to fire on them.
- One segment in Dino Crisis 2 has Dylan and Regina take turns navigating through a massive hoard of Allosaurs, with the playable character armed with a flare gun and signaling to the other character where to fire artillery.
- Classic Traveller had the Forward Observer skill. If a character with the skill could see a target, they could transmit instructions to an indirect fire weapon (such as artillery) and call in attacks on the target, improving the weapon's aim with each attack.
- Avalon Hill's Panzerblitz World War II game. If a unit could see an enemy unit out in the open or was adjacent to an enemy unit hidden in cover, it could allow another long range unit (such as artillery or self-propelled artillery) to attack the enemy unit even if the long range unit didn't have line of sight to the target.
- In BattleTech, units armed with Long-Range Missiles can indirect-fire them at a target in cover if it can be seen by another friendly unit.
- Games Workshop games:
- Warhammer 40,000
- Tau Pathfinders can use a targeting laser to fire a missile from a nearby Skyray tank, even if the Skyray doesn't have line-of-sight.
- Adeptus Astartes Land Speeders often act as spotters for Whirlwind Artillery Tanks and other artillery units, using their speed and manoeuvrability to scout out enemy positions before relaying their positions to their allies. During 7th Edition this was represented by the Suppression Force Formation that teamed a Land Speeder with a pair of Whirlwinds while 8th Edition has the Datalink Telemetry Stratagem, with both these rules greatly increase the accuracy of Whirlwinds firing at targets visible to a nearby Land Speeder.
- The Master of Ordinance is an officer who is often attached to the command section of front line Astra Militarum infantry regiments to act as a liaison with the forces' artillery companies. These officers use various auspex-arrays, and other scanning devices, to relay targeting data to off-table artillery batteries to call down supporting barrages with far greater accuracy than would otherwise be possible. The 8th Edition rules represent this by giving the Master of Ordnance a one off artillery barrage attack (representing the model calling in fire from off table artillery units) and by allowing the player's artillery units to re-roll long range shots when there is a Master of Ordnance nearby.
- The 8th Edition Astra Militarum Stratagem 'Aerial Spotter' represents the aircraft of the Aeronutica Imperialis acting as spotters for the player's artillery, allowing them to re-roll failed hits.
- Early editions of the Epic version of the game system allowed Battle Titans to purchase a Carapace Landing Pad that came with a recon Land Speeder. This Land Speeder ranged ahead of its Titan partner, relaying targeting information that allowed the God-Machine to fire at targets of its line-of-sight with far greater accuracy.
- The Squat Colossus super-heavy vehicles from the 2nd Edition of the Epic version of the game system are always accompanied by an Iron Eagle Gyrocopter that maintains a constant data-link with the massive war machines fire control centres so that it can instantly relay accurate targeting data. In game terms this partnership allows the Colossus to use the Gyrocopters line of sight when firing its massive artillery weaponry.
- The 8th Edition Dark Angels Sourcebook introduced Talonmasters, the Ravenwing's version of a Lieutenant, who ride in specially adapted Land Speeder outfitted with advanced auspex scanners and vox-links. The Talonmasters use these targeting mechanisms to direct the fire of his fellows, ensuring that there is nowhere for the Ravenwing's quarry to hide. In game terms the Talonmaster increases the accuracy of nearby Dark Angels and allows Ravenwing to ignore any cover their targets are sheltering behind.
- Warhammer 40,000: Kill Team:
- In the 2018 Edition of the game, Scout specialists with the Level 3 Skill Vanguard are able to relay targeting information to their comrades, granting them re-rolls to hit against enemy models close to the Scout.
- The 2018 Edition's Comms Specialist is able to use scanners, radio positioning and other equipment to accurately identify the position of enemy troops. In-game this is represented by a number of skills and Tactics that boost allow the shooting abilities of nearby allies with.
- Several of the 2018 game's factions have access to equipment, such as the auspex available to Astartes Tactical Sergeants and the markerlights used by T'au Pathfinders, that can be used to target enemy troops to give the wielders allies bonuses to their shooting.
- Warhammer 40,000
- The Spotter is a unit in a sci-fi version of Stratego, it has a special ability where you can guess the rank of an adjacent enemy and if correct destroy it with an Orbital Bombardment.
- A useful ability in the multiplayer of The Last of Us. You can mark enemies and get bonus Supplies if you kill them while the marker is active. The skill "Hawk-eyed" makes the spotting mechanic even more useful by making the enemies glow and marking additional players in range of the marked foe.
- In Mass Effect 3, Commander Shepherd is given a Puppet Gun and sent to Rannoch to find a large power signature, suspected to be the main power core of an enemy base, so that s/he can call in the Normandy for an air strike. Soon after the airstrike, it is revealed that the power signature is actually a concealed Reaper destroyer, and the rest of the mission has Shepherd painting the target so the Normandy and the Quarian Flotilla can bombard it from orbit.
- All of the Sniper Elite games after the first feature this as a function of their campaigns, allowing the player to track them for future shots, or for a co-op partner to see them. In 4, it increases your score if you tag them all the way to completion of a small bar, which also lets you collect intel on them. There are co-op modes (called Overwatch) that take things even further: one partner has no rifle at all and must tag targets for the second partner, who is watching from an inaccessible area.
- In the X-COM series, you can target aliens outside of a soldier's sight range as long as there are no obstacles between them and you know where to target, and the latter is usually achieved via a soldier/tank/mind-controlled alien who acts a "spotter".
- A level two perk of the Sniper class called "Squadsight" in XCOM: Enemy Unknown allows the sniper to target any enemy that any of the Sniper's squadmates sees, as long the Sniper has a direct line of fire (but is not necessarily in visual range). It's also extremely handy when combined with a suit of flying Powered Armor.
- By XCOM 2, developers acknowledged Squadsight's usefulness by making it the default perk of the game's Sharpshooter class. Additionally, Rangers can act as spotters - especially if you give them the perk that lets them stay in concealment even when the rest of the squad is revealed by the enemy - by sneaking within sight of enemy groups so that your Grenadier on the other side of a building knows exactly where to lob an explosive.
- Nintendo Wars uses this as part of its Fog of War mechanic, which features on many of its maps. Under Fog of War conditions, only visible enemies can be targeted by units note (the AI of the earlier games notwithstanding), so the otherwise weak Recon units (as well as fighters and submarines) become invaluable for scoping out enemy troops. Additionally, infantry-type units gain a significant boost to their vision range when they stop on a mountain space. Lastly, ground units in forested areas and naval units atop reefs are hidden unless either discovered by an enemy unit on an adjacent space or if Sonja activates her CO Power. Given that ranged units can't move and fire on the same turn in this game series, all of this is vital if the player uses them on a Fog of War map, and they'll likely need to.
- Steel Panthers adds yet another layer of complexity by restricting who can call in fire: an average rifle squad sergeant isn't typically trained in adjusting fire, for instance, so very often it's not enough to see your target: you need someone who's trained to do so call in fire. One common tactic is to use specially-trained (and expensive) spotters to call in the initial strike in the general vicinity of the target, then use platoon and company commanders who can see the shell splash radio in corrections. Note that using a trained spotter instead of a random company leader typically results in a faster response from the artillery or air units.
- BattleTech lets you fit mechs with long-range missiles that can hit a target from behind terrain, if you have another mech or vehicle spotting for it.
- The Lyrical Nanoha series has a spell called Area Search that seeks out remote targets and transmits its coordinates to the caster's Device, allowing for long range, no line of sight aiming. In StrikerS, this is how Nanoha finds and defeats the Smug Snake Quattro, who believed herself safe by hiding on the deepest levels of the Cradle: the moment the AS found her, Nanoha simply blasted through the entire installation separating them.
- Pain from Naruto has six bodies, each with a pair of Rinnegan; among its functions is sharing one body's sight to another. This gives them, among other things, awareness of each other's locations, elimination of blind spots, and easier targeting.
- In Aldnoah.Zero, after Inaho and friends blind Trillram's surveillance drones with smoke grenades, Slaine has to act as a spotter in his sky carrier and direct him where to move, since the Nilokeras's dimensional barrier renders him completely blind to the world outside his cockpit.
- Inaho serves as a spotter during the battle for New Orleans, relaying the coordinates of the enemy Solis Kataphrakt to the Deucalion. The Solis's Frickin' Laser Beams can One-Hit Kill any Terran unit, but can only fire in a straight line, while the Deucalion can lob cannon shells from beyond the safety of the horizon.
- In the Dressrosa arc of One Piece, Viola acts as this for Usopp, using her Magical Eye Devil Fruit powers to give him the exact location of a target so far away and behind walls Usopp can't hope to see her himself. It's thanks to this, his own prodigious sharpshooter skills, and the spontaneous development of Color of Observation Haki that Usopp is able to make the shot.
- This is a common role of aerial mages in Youjo Senki. One of Tanya's first duties is spotting for an imperial artillery battery.
- Bait and Switch (STO): Ens. Kate McMillan to sniper JG K'lak during an away mission in chapter seven. Played for laughs during the second firefight of the chapter, where McMillan's overheard giving the following instruction to K'lak:
"Reference, large stump that looks like your—" (K'lak shoots)
- Beat the Drums of War has a segment told from the perspective of a Bajoran Militia artillery spotter fighting the Heralds on Bajor, with an exchange of well-researched back-and-forth between him and the battery before a HEAT shell finally comes out of nowhere and lands on his target.
- Dungeon Keeper Ami: In Hunt's End, Ami has her warlocks use scrying to target an invisible, but scryable target:
Torian, use scrying to triangulate his exact position and tell me, she ordered. I need the best possible precision.
Just a moment. Hmm. Yes. Imagine a straight line between the wide end of the emerald-studded sarcophagus and the right foot of the statue on the wall. Imagine a second line between you and the garish double-headed axe on the wall. Hes standing right on their intersection.
Are you absolutely sure? she verified.
To about a hands span close, yes,
- Blackhawk Down: During some intense night-time urban fighting, the Rangers' air support can't distinguish between enemies and friendlies, so SGT Eversman runs across the street while under fire to toss an infrared strobe marker onto the roof of a building that Aidid's militiamen are using to fight from. No sooner is Eversman able to get back across the street and under cover do the friendly helicopters begin their strafing run, liberally spraying the targeted building with miniguns and rockets.
- Flight of the Intruder: In the climax of the film, Tiger Cole is seriously wounded, and realizes that the North Vietnamese Army forces are trying to use him as bait so they can ambush the Air Force Search and Rescue team which was sent to retrieve the downed American aviators. Instead, he lights off a smoke grenade to paint his own position for an airstrike, taking out the NVA forces lying in wait along with him.
- Wesley Snipes' character, The Painter, from The Marksman gets his nickname from his skills in infiltrating hardened locations and painting them for Death from Above.
- Used in a couple ways by the humans in the Transformers film series:
Simmons: I'm directly beneath ... the enemy's scrotum.
- In Transformers, a communications officer on foot marks a target for an AC-130 Spectre gunship, which is the first time humans damage a Transformer in the film.
- Later in the same film, the same officer marks a Decepticon via a laser for a fighter jet for missile bombardment.
- In Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen Simmons phones a railgun-armed Navy destroyer in the Persian Gulf to have them triangulate his cell phone signal and destroy Devastator. As part of its formation Devastator had absorbed a pair of wrecking ball-equipped cranes and left the wrecking balls dangling, leading to the unforgettable line:
- Commissar Ciaphas Cain (Hero of the Imperium!!) was first assigned to an artillery regiment whose commanding officer never quite bought into Cain's reputation, and so took barely-disguised joy in sending Cain to forward observation posts near hotspots, and was always quick to send a barrage of Basilisk shells his way whenever Cain spotted trouble. That said, Cain was in one case counting on this when he found out that a mansion he was taking shelter in was home to a daemonic cult.
Cain: Cain to command. Full barrage, danger close, immediate effect. Don't argue, just do it!
- In Mass Effect 3 Shepard uses a targeting laser to paint a landed Reaper destroyer as a target for the Normandy and the Quarian Migrant Fleet, letting them destroy it with Orbital Bombardment.
- Star Trek Online: Episode "Romulan Mystery", mission "Cutting the Cord". An optional objective in this mission has you marking locations so that your ship can take them out from orbit. The resulting accolade is titled "Death from Above". The mission's final objective has you call in another orbital strike to take out an Iconian gate.
- Crysis has a few instances where Nomad has to paint targets for airstrikes. One example is a North Korean cruiser parked in the island's harbor whose ack-ack and ECM are preventing the Marines' VTOLs from landing.
- The Halo 4 level "Reclaimer" has the mission plan being for a group of Pelicans to laser-designate targets for the mini-MAC Wave Motion Gun mounted on the Mammoth. They all get shot down by their intended target and the Master Chief is forced to do it from the ground. (Fridge Logic ensues when you ask why the Mammoth's crew can't just eyeball a shot on the freaking enormous particle cannons they're after.)
- In the ending for Metro 2033, Artyom climbs the collapsing Ostankino Tower in Moscow after a nuclear apocalypse in order to use a military laser guidance system to guide tactical nuclear missiles towards the Dark Ones' hive.
- In one strip of Turn Signals on a Land Raider an allied Imperial Guard spotter calls in an artillery barrage. Unfortunately, when they launch a spotting round, bad things happen. (This strip was praised for accuracy by a former US Army artilleryman.)
Guardsman: Battery Bravo, this is Alpha Charlie Kilo Four Niner Niner. Uh, direct hit on our allies' Land Raider. Adjust scatter and fire for effect.
Kren and Frep: (walking past, smoking) See you on the shelf!
- The first chapter of Terra shows a ground battle between UEC and Azatoth forces, with Friendly Sniper Grey O'Shea's spotter calling out targets for him, mainly Azatoth officers. Unfortunately they're flanked and an Azatoth shoots the spotter in the back of the head.