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The Science Behind Boundary, the FPS in Zero Gravity

The concept of Boundary makes it seem like the developers saw the space mission from Call of Duty: Ghosts and thought to themselves, “we should make an entire game of just that.” But, even if this is the case, Boundary is still able to separate itself from the mechanics of the typical first-person shooter by incorporating laws from astrophysics. In the broader picture, the game seems like less of a rip off of Ghosts and more of a government simulation to see how Space Force missions would play out. So what are some of the examples of the realistic science behind Boundary?

Boundary
Courtesy of Surgical Scalpels

The tactical space-based shooter game will involve teams of astronauts fighting against enemy astronauts while orbiting space satellites in low-gravity. The concept of low-gravity is a reference to the condition in which the force of gravity is small enough to allow heavy objects to move weightlessly. This is a fairly elementary fact that even kids know about space: you float around and eat food squeezed out of toothpaste tubes. But if you’re weightless in zero gravity, how do you move around?

This depends entirely on the manipulation of Newton’s third law of motion, which states that for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction. If you ever go kayaking, you will notice that you move forward by paddling the water backwards. This is Newton’s third law at play. The ‘astroperators’ in Boundary maneuver through space by either bouncing off of space station panels or using their jetpack. It’s not one of those flashy action hero jetpacks, but one that propels short bursts of gaseous nitrogen at several different angles. The force of the nitrogen gas being shot one way will send the astronaut in the opposite direction. Having multiple angles of which to shoot these bursts of gas allows the person in the suit to have adequate control of where they are going in space. In the game, your character will also have the ability to move by shooting grappling hooks at satellite components.

Something else that can be shot to alter your direction are bullets, and in Boundary, you will be shooting a lot of them. The game is a class-based shooter with six classes to select from including Assault, Support, Recon, Sniper, Medic, and Flanker. You’ll have access to guns of all different sizes with different levels of firing power. Depending on the size of the gun compared to the size of your character, firing it should send you backwards only a few centimeters a second after each bullet gets shot from the gun barrel. 

This effect apparently gets compensated by the jetpack being able to keep you moving forward and even allowing you to do dashes in space. Although useful in the game, the dashing feature is a little fishy when it comes to obeying the science and could prompt a response tweet from Neil DeGrasse Tyson. But I’m sure it’s fine.

Most likely the biggest question being asked about the game is, “How does a gun fire in space?” Since there is no oxygen in space, fire can’t burn. However, bullets contain chemicals known as oxidizers that trigger the combustion of gunpowder and will still be able to fire a gun in any part of the universe. The exploding of the gunpowder would also commence without any sound. Along with oxygen, there is no air in space at all. Since sound requires the medium of air to travel through as vibrations, it is impossible to generate sound in space. Radio waves are able to travel through space just fine, which is why Houston is easily able to let astronauts know that they’re having a problem.

We are normally used to bullets making noises and having a certain range of motion. But in space, bullets from any gun will keep going forever. This has to do with Newton’s first law of motion. Yes: there are a couple of laws before the third one. Who would’ve thought?

Newton’s first law states that every object at rest or in motion will stay in that state unless acted upon by an outside force. This means that when you fire a gun in space, both you and the bullet will be moving in opposite directions forever. That is, until you dash with your jetpack and the bullet gets sucked into the gravity of another planet only to shoot through the head of one of the little green men on Mars.

The developers of Boundary had to have had all of these concepts in mind when programming a first-person shooter set in the vacuum of space. They might not have only made a competitive shooter with exciting gameplay, but they may have also created an environment grounded in actual science. Well, maybe “grounded” isn’t the right word to use given the context, but you get my point.

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