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Why are nuclear bombs are so weak in StarCraft? The scale of the explosion and the amount of damage done seems very limited compared to what is commonly associated with nukes.

Should I understand the in-game buildings and units as vast cities and large armies, or can nukes really be that small?

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Maybe in the future building materials are amazing... –  Michael Jan 16 '12 at 20:30
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Nuclear weapons don't have to create larger explosions than can be created by a conventional explosive weapon. Have you never heard of a tactical nuclear weapon? –  agent86 Jan 16 '12 at 20:39
    
@agent86: Even the smallest tactical nuclear weapons have bigger explosions than those in starcraft. In this case, however, comes another question: why don't the Terrans use big, strategical nuclear weapons? I'm just looking for a possible in-universe explanation, I did not ask this question to criticize the game! –  vsz Jan 16 '12 at 20:42
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I've made an edit based on the answer & comments here. Hopefully it keeps the essence intact while reducing some of the concerns... –  Matthew Read Jan 19 '12 at 17:14
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Because game design decisions should not be made with too much of a regard for reality. –  Decency Feb 1 '12 at 13:21

2 Answers 2

up vote 32 down vote accepted

According to the StarCraft wiki, the use of large-scale nuclear weaponry was banned in the late 2490s due to their (mis)use in quashing the Rebellion of Korhal:

The colonists of Korhal IV rebelled against their former masters, the Terran Confederacy. The latter resorted to assassinating its first leader with ghosts but still failed to control the rebellion. The Confederacy resorted to firing a thousand Apocalypse-class nuclear missiles at Korhal from the distant Confederate capital of Tarsonis, killing four million people and destroying most life on the planet and setting the forests on fire.

After the Korhal incident, full-scale use of nuclear weapons were banned on habitable worlds. The Confederacy began using smaller missiles, targeted by ghosts

RavenDreamer also found this from the SC1 manual:

Nuclear Silo (Add-On to Command Centre):  After the Korhal incident, full-scale nuclear weapons were banned from use on habitable worlds, but smaller tactical nuclear weapons are still used by Confederate forces.

Although our typical image of a nuclear weapon is something that obliterates a large area, tactical nuclear devices exist today, and were deployed as far back as the 1960s during the cold war. Although nuclear weapons generally produce a much larger and more devastating/deadly explosion than conventional bombs, there are conventional bombs with more explosive force than the smallest nuclear weapons.

Theoretically, a bomb launched from a silo and laser guided to a ground target could do damage consistent with the StarCraft nuke, although I do not believe this has ever happened in a war scenario.

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which makes no sense in the context of defending against a huge Zerg onslaught :D –  Anon Jan 16 '12 at 21:36
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For what it's worth, the original Starcraft manual (which the wiki alludes to, but does not quote) mentions using so-called "mini-nukes" with ghosts, rather than the big bombs. –  Raven Dreamer Jan 16 '12 at 21:41
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@vsz: It seems likely that once they were banned, The Confederacy would dispose of all the ones that they could find. –  Ullallulloo Jan 19 '12 at 16:53
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Part of the problem is that this law was created in a time before the confederacy of man, pre-SC 1. Since the events of SC most of the governments in power have been working harder to weponize the Zerg then outright destroy them. I would also suggest that given Zergs ability to burrow into the earth, and survive in deep space, not to mention other extremophile characteristics, a nuclear device would not actually guarantee the destruction of the Zerg. The Protoss weapons they use to cleanse a planet is clearly more destructive then a normal nuclear strike. –  Pyrodante Jan 19 '12 at 21:13
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Also: Mengsk is barely holding on to the Confederacy as it is, if he revered the very decision that led to the foundation of his power block (Sons of Korhal), it would be a very bad move politically. –  Pyrodante Jan 19 '12 at 21:15

Well, the units in SCII, in-universe, would actually equate to whole platoons/armies of that unit..... when one takes that into account, the nuke size is very large indeed, or would be in-universe comparatively.

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