Wednesday, June 20, 2018

DCS World - Eagle Dynamics Continues to Be Great at Small Things but Small at Great Things

With the release of a new DLC map (Strait of Hormuz) and a new DLC aircraft (F/A-18C Lot 20), Eagle Dynamics has secured a firm hold to the crown of modern air combat simulation.

However, I can't avoid the impression that every single DLC release (internal or third party) leaves Eagle Dynamics in a deeper hole of debt for updates and for missing battlefield assets.

Make no mistake, I am thoroughly impressed with the talent the developer has demonstrated over the years. We are flying in a simulation engine that, except for the Normandy map maybe, can render detailed virtual environments without breaking a sweat. Other civilian flight simulators can only dream of this type of detail, visual appeal and performance.

Thanks for the hard work of Eagle Dynamics and its third party associates, I had the privilege of flying study-level simulations of multiple platforms, both rotary and fixed wing. With some exceptions here and there, I bought plenty of DLCs and flew in and every single one of them. And DCS continues to be a great part of my simulation daily diet. No regrets.

In the last few years, we have witnessed the wild expansion of Eagle Dynamics' portfolio. The casualty of this expansion has been turn around time. Pre-releases, betas ... Alphas! Even the internal development cycle clock of Eagle Dynamics has chilled down like if it was inside of a container of gas that was quickly released (no pun intended). Why the F/A-18C took so much back and forth? I know is a complex aircraft, but this other guy apparently figured out and popped an even more complex one in a relatively unfriendly flight simulation engine.

I am a patient man and I can wait. I have no reason to believe that all the DLCs will be completed sometime in the future. That's not a problem.

The problem that I see is that all efforts in platform simulation -which are not minor, but still focused in small things- have taken over the meta-simulation, or how these platforms perform in a realistic simulated battlefield. The great things, so to speak. The shortcomings of the virtual battlefield are many.

Lack of assets is one. Just to give an example, the recent Strait of Hormuz DLC map features just an up-gunned weekend fishing boat for the Iranian Navy's surface ships. You can "fake" the Iranian Navy by using Russian warships, but you will be shorthanded doing so because those Russian warships do not align well with the sea-denial operational approach of the Iranian Navy. The Iranian Army has insurgents for infantry. I realize there is no chance of getting every single fighting platform crammed in DCS World, but a bit of effort identifying which ones are critical would be great.

The second shortcoming puzzles me: how come that even having the capability to use Lua scripting, DCS World is not able to simulate a less stale virtual battlefield? The virtual battlefields I flew above are either small, entirely focused on your virtual character, non-persistent (if you are flying a campaign) and non-dynamic. Some honorable mentions are due here, like this one, or this other. This issue has been discussed in extenso at several venues, but there is not an official statement. At least that I know of.

Here is to hope that in addition to platforms and procedures simulation, Eagle Dynamics spends some time bringing the DCS World into a more authentic battlefield.



Erich said...

DCS and CMANO need to get drunk one night and conceive a child. DCS has all these beautiful toys, but no larger context within which to actually *use* them (unless you’re happy with 1980’s style single missions and such). Meanwhile CMANO has context galore but zero eye candy or visceral payoff to reward all that planning effort (though I enjoy it immensely from a purely intellectual standpoint). So imagine if you could actually drop in and *fly* in that strike package you created in CMANO. Well, that would be pretty much the modern reincarnation of Total Air War.

Johan said...

Erich, they are two completely different games. Combining them is not possible with today's technology. A much more plausible combination are to combine two first person simulators. There were rumors that the developers of Steel Beasts approached the DCS people, asking about a possible collaboration, but Eagle Dynamics supposedly said no.

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