When you’re flying in a flight sim, especially one with a lot of tension like a combat flight sim, things can go wrong. Very wrong sometimes. Your strategy can be flawed, your tactics can be ineffective, and sometimes even when you’re flying your best there are still things that just aren’t working out. The great thing about sims? You hit the refly button and you try again. The other great things about flight sims? You can review everything!
I’m reviewing more of my combat missions and I think others may benefit from it too. Here is some of my thinking behind why I’m reviewing more and more of my flights.
It doesn’t matter if you’re flying in Falcon BMS, DCS, IL-2, Rise of Flight or any other flight sim out there – reviewing the after action report and re-watching your flight can be useful. There are a bunch of different ways you can do this.
One of them is to record a track file. In most of the flight sims out there (DCS, IL-2, Rise of Flight, etc.) you can hit a record button which starts tracking the status of your flight. Track files are not video files but rather a record of what was going on in the flight. The great thing about them is that you can go back and review the track and then replay it again from different angles and viewpoints.
Sometimes track files aren’t entirely accurate (I’m looking at you DCS) but they still have value to them.
Another way you can review your mission is to use Tacview.
Tacview is a third party software package that can be used to review missions. Tacview offers some unique angles and features that a regular track recording doesn’t including the speed, angles. energy states and other stats of aircraft flying with you and against you.
A free version is available while more fully featured versions are available ranging in price from about $30 to $90. Depends on what you want and what you want to get out of it.
DCS has good support for it and IL-2: Great Battles added support in 2017 although I hear that it may not have all of the bells and whistles yet.
A third and maybe less optimal way to record things is to use a video recorder like nVidia Shadowplay which can record a video of your game while you play it. This is easy to play back (using any video playback software) but it doesn’t let you revisit your gameplay from alternate perspectives. Still, its an option.
In the heat of the moment
A lot of flying happens in the heat of the moment. Especially when it comes to a combat flight sim where you apply everything you learned in a sometimes tense exchange with enemy pilots.
Concentration, reflexes, muscle memory, and a little bit of intuition all come in to play during the heat of a moment. It’s a good time to fly and complete your mission but its not always the best time to learn about the bigger picture. Your too busy doing too many things to sometimes see the bigger picture. Sometimes, its just not something available to you despite being as aware as possible of it.
Only debriefing after the mission can you really pull back, think, and see the bigger picture. And that’s when the real learning happens!
A great example
The Reapers, easily one of my favourite DCS groups to watch, has recently being doing an interesting thing with their gameplay sessions. They are debriefing after them and talking about everything that went right and everything that went wrong.
In a recent mission they flew a low altitude strike mission. These are the kinds of missions that I love to watch as the tension ratchets up quickly and the action is punctuated by some intense action.
With those parts of the mission in mind, here is where the main part of my point comes in. It’s not the mission but the after mission piece that really is illuminating both to the pilots who flew the mission but also to me and hopefully you as well.
This is where there is time to look at tactics, to examine energy states, talk about altitudes and where you should take the shot and where you should wait. Things don’t always go to plan and tactics are really important to keep in mind when your flying.
Using Tacview (mentioned earlier) the group watches the fight with the bigger picture in mind. This where they look at all that went wrong. And things do go wrong! Even experienced flight sim pilots who have been flying for a while make plenty of mistakes.
Things go right too and its important to recognize that as well. Either way, there are lots of things to learn and I’ve picked up plenty of nuanced details about things like missile fights and the correct angles, distances and energy states to launch at. Stuff I was slowly learning on my own but now figuring out much more quickly by watching this stuff.
I recommend watching the video above first to see and enjoy the mission and then watching this one.
Knowledge is power
The more you learn the better you can perform on the next mission. Doing the right job instead of doing the wrong one is essential to complete the mission.
When players post on the forums, on Discord, or in-game and say that things aren’t working out for them and they keep getting shot down or they can’t do something. A lot of that is because they are doing the same things and making the same mistakes.
So, when things aren’t going well or even when they are going right. You can always learn more. Another reason why flight sims are so much fun. You can do well and keep coming back for more – to learn, to do better, and fly better ultimately!
Good luck out there!