Flightsim fans have the choice: MS Flight Simulator, WarThunder, DCS: World. Last game is considered a very detailed simulation with a steep learning curve. Why would someone do this voluntarily?
We fly under the radar. Off the coast of Georgia we are racing towards our target at a height of twenty meters at supersonic speeds. Speed and altitude no longer allow you to take your eyes off the heads-up display for more than a fraction of a second. We’re about to destroy our target, a small fleet of enemy ships. The HUD now flashes indicating that we can now fire our anti-ship missiles while we are warned via radio of enemy interceptors rapidly approaching our position. The ship’s radar didn’t detect us, but the enemy AWACS did. One thing: unlock, fire! With a jerk, the two rockets release one after the other and stab away. And now turn away as quickly as possible, with the highest afterburner setting and a lot of sweat on our foreheads, towards the safe mainland, where we land on our advanced base, a country road that has not been used for its intended purpose, and can refuel and reload our ammunition. If the enemy Migs don’t stop us first…
DCS – short for Digital Combat Simulator – focuses on military aircraft from World War II to (shortly before) today. DCS started as a simulation of individual modules. The first module was the Ka-50 Black Shark in 2008, followed by the simulation of the A-10C Warthog in 2011. But back in 2012, the two standalone titles were combined in DCS: World. And many more modules followed: As of today, there are 28 usable (read: purchaseable) jets, ten propeller planes and eight helicopters on eight maps, not counting free mods (some of which are on the same level as full-price modules). These modules must be purchased after a trial period. The price is in the range of a full price title.
The aircraft are then recreated in detail from their real models. This means: Clicking on the windshield wiper lever switches it on. In a real airplane, the radar cannot be switched on when you are standing on the ground (i.e. there is weight on the wheels)? This is exactly how it is implemented in the game. The inertial navigation system takes an agonizing 21 minutes to calibrate and work accurately… You got it: It’s just as painfully slow to implement; Fortunately, it can also be started in a few seconds by default. The radar simulation or now the voice chat function can be as detailed as you like. So detailed that it is said that the US Air Force uses a specially adapted version, just like the French Air Force in the past and Ukrainian pilots today, at least to train the use of the system with it.
The tension is real
The scene described above can be similar to you in one way or another DCS:World happen. The special thing about it: Although the ships are NPC targets, the enemy hunters are human players on a multiplayer server who are pursuing us just as focused as we were on our target before.
And the article could end right here: People play DCS because it is a very immersive game. Because the very detailed simulation of the entire system makes you absolutely focused and concentrated on the moment. And if the mission succeeds, that can be very, very satisfying.
But of course this explanation falls short, because it can sometimes be a long road to successful missions. That’s why we’re looking into the question of what is so fascinating about this flight simulation, a true study sim.
Fascination Study Sim
Part of the (gaming) fun for some players is actually poring through the several hundred page manual or a several hundred page community guide or looking through the countless aircraft-specific playlists on YouTube in order to be able to use their aircraft. And then a few more training hours to really master the moves blindly. Newer modules in particular (but by no means all) also have really well-made and detailed training missions that introduce you to the basics of manned flight and the use of the individual weapon systems.
And it actually has a feeling of success in you Soulslike, in which you finally defeat the hated boss. When you start routinely for the first time, successfully master missions for the first time – and I don’t even want to start celebrating after the first PVP multiplayer kill – grinding and learning skills pays off. A classic case of easy to learn but difficult to master. You can usually be in the air after just a few minutes.
|In addition to modern jets, DCS also simulates vintage cars like this Mig-19 from the 1950s.
Fascination with technology
Not everyone is intrinsically enthusiastic about aviation or aircraft technology, especially in a very limited military niche – but it is actually a classic motive for taking on the steep learning curve in DCS: Many members of the community want to fly their favorite aircraft: Top Gun fans ? Psst! There is an awesome F-14 and an aircraft carrier module here. Attended an air show as a child and loved the Apache attack helicopter or F-15? There is! Did you have anything to do with Eurofighters during your military service? There is this mod…
Admittedly, technology that is currently in use will not be found in DCS. After all, it isn’t one WarThunder Forum, but for many imaginable niches there is a development team that develops a module or a mod and puts their heart and soul into it.
However: The scenarios or aircraft can be quite realistic. Anyone who buys the Sinai Map today can virtually recreate the Middle East conflict in the Gaza Strip live. You don’t always feel like playing war when the real one is just a few hundred kilometers away.
The fascination of competition and community
Competing against each other is particularly appealing because of the learning curve. A quick kill is not a given – there is no matchmaking. In case of doubt, the better pilot wins even in an inferior aircraft, as tactical finesse is important in addition to pure flying skill. This means that after each sortie there is one more experience and a very satisfying feeling when the first kills are achieved.
The fact that fighting against other human players has its appeal even if you are not yet an ace pilot is due to the community. Generally helpful and not very toxic, tips for dogfighting are sometimes even given if you were too easy prey. Another example are human AWACS and ATC players: They sacrifice their Sunday evening and don’t fly, but instead observe the map and assign targets via radio or ensure orderly traffic during takeoff and landing. This adds to the immersion.
Co-op is also fun, either with human players as wingmen or in modules with several seats as a co-pilot or weapons system officer.
Inbound article series
There is a lot to tell about the individual facets of DCS: World. So if you want to find out more about this simulation veteran, get in, buckle up and put your seats in an upright position: DCS article series: World you are cleared for take-off when ready, climb 300 at QFE 29.86 .
|This F/A-18C is about to be catapulted from the flight deck.