Aliens & Asteroids: Designing Weapons for the Future

Looking into the crystal ball a few hundred years is a challenge. Understatement of the year. But as I look to the future and what humankind has wrought upon our universe, I’m left with one very obvious fact: weapons have to be tough. It’s tough to get replacement parts when you’re light years from the gun shop.

So working through some weapon designs for Aliens & Asteroids with artist friend Peter Saga, I’m left making some interesting choices.

First, we’re still using bullets in the future. Why? Metal and raw materials are plentiful when you can mine other worlds and asteroids.

Second, 3D printing is our friend. 3D printing of rocket engine parts is already happening today, so in a few centuries I think we should have that perfected and spread to the edges of our solar system and beyond. So the whole “parts is parts” mentality will likely come with us.

Third, personal 3D printing and more industrial printing will make 3D design by technical folks that much more interesting. Small improvements will make a lot of shops have much more of a boutique feel — BUT keep in mind it’s hard to replace those unique pieces when you’re in the field. So mass production of consistent quality will be key to maintaining any kind of military presence far from home.

And because of that last point — the practical and predictable will trump the pretty and the marginally improved. We’re back to 90 degree angles and basic mechanical principles more than anything.

Individuals may decorate their hardware, but in the field as a military group you’re going to want to know you can rely on your weapon rather than look at as a piece of art. Art won’t save you in the muck on an alien world when your back is to the wall and you have some sort of eldritch horror coming to consume you.

As I come to know the nature of the Dominion’s military forces (and the Dominion Space Forces or “Space Marines”), I’m left with a clear mandate. Function over form. Because a good looking gun isn’t going to save your butt when it breaks in the middle of the void.

Nobody has time to machine a gun part in the middle of a battle to replace that custom work you had done by that artistic gunsmith back at BANCE-5 near Gilese 832. He’s a great guy, but he’s not going to arrive in the nick of time with a custom piece… So your squad gunsmith Jimbo is going to do the best he can to keep your good old pulse rifle working when that key piece breaks inside after firing 20,000 rounds in the dark.

Now, the same rules don’t apply to some of the other alien races our Dominion forces will face. So there will be some funky forms coming, never fear!

But the Space Marines don’t muck around. Ooh rah.

(Alien art in the header is from Jason Adams — it’s a Skaali — and the gun art is from the Sci Fi Guns art pack by Peter Saga – check out Peter’s gallery)

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