DCS multiplayer issues pile up in community note to developers

DCS community members, primarily based around r/Hoggit (although not exclusively) have been gathering complaints and questions for developers on multiplayer issues that exist with DCS and the server software that supports the series. And they are numerous. I haven’t yet spent even a minute with DCS multiplayer so the following comments are all based on what I’m hearing from around the community plus the official responses from Eagle Dynamics.

Multiple issues with multiplayer

DCS has had a great 6 months with the official launch of DCS World 2.5, a much anticipated merging of the series into a single iteration of DCS that brings with it a great deal of potential for the future. We’ve also seen DCS: Persian Gulf, DCS: F/A-18C Hornet, and plenty of action around third party developers as new modules are promised and developed.

MiG-29-IRIAF-sightseeing.jpg
Sightseeing in a MiG-29 on the DCS: Persian Gulf Map

These positive news stories for the series is the backdrop and the sunny side of the picture for DCS World. However, there is another side of things where DCS’ multiplayer experience is simply not living up to players expectations.

Without going too far into the details, players are concerned about issues with server stability where long multiplayer matches are sometimes interrupted by unanticipated server crashes or other scenarios where the server desyncronizes for players. Additionally, there are a lack of features like a dedicated server (players have requested one specifically for Linux in order to keep costs down), the ability to load datacartridges with waypoints and countermeasure programs prior to mission start, and so forth are all on the list.

I am an avid watcher of The Grim Reapers, Ralfidude, and 104th_Maverick and all of their multiplayer experiences. I’ve seen the good side of DCS World’s multiplayer where lots of players get together to have some truly engaging combat flight sim experiences. This is where DCS can shine, but it’s also a frustrating exercise for many of them, as there’s always issues in the background. Issues where things go wrong and multiplayer servers get in the way of their fun is problematic when it happens on occasion. Its so much worse if its happening all the time. This is, in effect, the status quo right now and players are not happy about it.

A message and an official response

Things have been building through the week on r/Hoggit with players venting their frustrations with multiplayer and all of the issues that they are having. Quite rightly too, players have pointed out just how good multiplayer can be when its working correctly. Multiplayer is probably the most engaging way to play DCS but the barriers to entry are many.

Eagle Dynamics community forum member jers took to the forums to voice the issues to the community and to the developers. Here’s what he had to say:

I want to keep this respectful as possible and I’m going to attempt to do this without whining, but we’re trying to run a online community here at Hoggit (and I’m sure many others) and it’s really difficult to do that with the anemia around the multiplayer side of things. I know there’s a huge singleplayer base and but I’m trying to make the case here for the online communities who are trying our best to keep your product up and running (and more importantly keeping interest in more of your modules)

The two biggest issues are we desperately need dedicated server software that can run on Linux. It’s prohibitively expensive to run dedicated Windows hardware to support dedicated servers.

The second problem is stability is a joke. For years and years we’ve put up with desync and crashes for all but the most trivial of missions.

We have a community of 14 thousand people that want to play online and most of them have given up, and I can’t blame them. We try to give them better mission experiences with things like scripting and complex missions but anytime a mission reaches any amount of complexity at all it grinds to a halt after just an hour or so.

Are we just not driving enough interest in your sales to be worth it? With decent multiplayer our community would probably *triple* and with that comes sales of modules old and new. I’m basically begging at this point to get some kind of definitive answer out of Wags or someone. Even a strongly worded “It’s not going to happen” would be better than this limbo.

Thanks for taking the time to read this, maybe we’ll get some kind of response. Maybe not, but I’m begging you here guys.

Although this is coming from a single user, the problems that have been reported have been widespread and DCS World has a reputation that stretches back for being a problematic piece of software when it came to multiplayer. That is not new in my experience as I’ve heard rumblings about this many times in the past and more than a few server owners were desperate for Eagle Dynamics to release some sort of dedicated server software – something that has been on the list of items to be developed since the early 2010s.

Matt Wagner has stepped in with an official response to this thread with his own statement:

Dear all,

No one is being ignored. We certainly recognize that DCS World network multiplayer needs improvement and it’s actively being worked on. In fact, we have a big announcement on this front for this week’s newsletter. We certainly agree that there is a lot of room for improvement, both in regards to stability/smoothness, GUI, and features. We hear you.

Much or our current network work is focused on the new carriers (like spawning) and cooperative multiplayer in the same aircraft (like the Yak-52 and other two seat aircraft). That’s not to say we are not trying to improve stability at the same time, we are. Our team is working network code VERY hard on several fronts.

However, please keep in mind that the server can also have a massive effect. Many factors can affect network play that range from server hardware, over-populated missions, bad scripts, too many clients based on the server hardware, connection ping/packet loss, etc. I am not saying that poor network performance only lays at the feet of the server, just that it can often be a factor in concert with needed network improvements on our end. This is why you often have some servers performing great and other so not great.

Moving forward, we are investigating “official servers” that will offer many benefits. One of the chief items will be that the server and missions must provide a quality online experience. We’ll be talking more about this later in the year.

So, moving forward, we have what I believe are some good plans to help improve the online experience (very important to us), but we also hope that you can understand that a large part of it is out of our control until we can institute some official standards for servers.

Thanks,
Matt

I think it was important for Matt to respond to this as the issue has been fermenting for weeks (and years) within the community. The response is good and a necessary step to making sure that users know that Eagle Dynamics is listening and working on issues. To really move the needle on this, Eagle Dynamics will need to be able to show some concrete action in shoring up the stability of server software, offering up a dedicated server, and/or doing something like what Matt is taking about when it comes to dedicated server software.

Understandably, this isn’t going to happen tomorrow but hopefully we will see things improve dramatically now that the initial launch of DCS World 2.5 (a major overhaul of everything to do with DCS World) is out of the way. And feedback from the community is also necessary.

Additional notes from ED’s Community Manager, NineLine, goes at least some of the way towards providing the kind of response that should hopefully hearten players towards future efforts. In a post on r/Hoggit NineLine says:

They have some pretty cool ideas in the works, I cant wait for them to be more ironed out to share, but I think most of you guys will be pretty happy with what they have in mind. Since 2.5 has stabilized more, a lot more resources have been thrown towards items like this.

Another thread has been started by NineLine and users are hopefully encouraged to provide their constructive feedback.

A few notes of my own

I wanted to add a little extra here at the end from my perspective as well. With no DCS World multiplayer experience yet, I can’t add my own anecdotes of multiplayer troubles to the growing chorus of players who want to see more done on this area.

I’ve read over the months and years that, in addition to being a demanding competitive/cooperative environment where aircraft knowledge as well as tactics and lingo are key factors for doing well, there are also steep hardware requirements and needs in order to make everything work well. Complex voice communications as employed on many servers further adds to immersion but also to potential barriers.

Eagle Dynamics together with the community need to be able to drop as many of those barriers as possible. High system requirements, aircraft knowledge, and complex voice communications are all part of the experience but they do make it harder for new players to jump in. Some do anyways, and some are like myself who have hung back and studied up before venturing forward into multiplayer.

AV-8B-sunlit
A sunlit AV-8B during a training mission – getting ready for a future venture into multiplayer?

I have, when asking questions in community forums, been met with nothing but encouragement and support. My questions have always been answered respectfully and helpfully when trying to get a handle on what I need to join in on the fun. So, what we need is for a stable experience so that those other complex hurdles that should be part of the experience of a high-fidelity flight sim aren’t compounded by what is ultimately unnecessary technical difficulties.

I’m optimistic this will be worked on and issues will be solved slowly over time. I’ll continue to report on it when new information surfaces.

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8 Comments Add yours

  1. 79vRAF says:

    For what it’s worth I don’t play DCS Single player much at all, I may jump into the odd instant action mission if I am short of time but all of the missions I build are for multiplayer. I may play some of them on my own, as training, but it’s far easier to get a new aircraft if you mess something up in multiplayer than it is in single player; as you don’t have to reload the mission!

    When I’ve been hosting I don’t think I’ve had many more than 15 online at any one time and we’ve been ok. I’ve got a good connection and a reasonably spec’d PC. However, there are servers with really good missions and they’re really enjoyable but they can suddenly fall over with no warning and you’re back to the server list having just spent an hour dodging SAMs and EA to get to the target and that can be more than a little frustrating. However, this happens in BoX and Cliffs too; so it’s not just a problem for DCS.

    What is a really annoying problem, that didn’t used to happen, is the amount of time it takes to load in to a multiplayer server. It can be over five minutes from the time that you have got to the list of aircraft before you can actually select one. Then, to make things worse you have another few minutes before your cockpit loads in around you. While that is happening your spawn causes a lag spike across the server for all the other players. This happens each time you spawn into a new type, so if your first flight was in a Harrier it would happen, then your second flight you took a Mirage 2000 it would happen again, then if you take a Mig-21 it would happen again…etc. That needs to be fixed because it detracts from everyone’s experience and not just the person spawning in. They say it is a RAM issue, but it seems to happen with different levels of RAM equally. A fix for this would probably go a long way to helping people feel better about multiplayer.

    It’s not as if my PC has poor specs, it’s an i7 4770K with 16GB RAM running DCS on it’s own SSD with a GTX1070. For me to upgrade to 32GB RAM is silly money, that I don’t have, so I have to live with it for now. It’s something that only started happening in the later stages of the Open Alpha/Beta before the 2.5 release – probably December time as far as I remember.

    It’s interesting news to hear that they’re working on something big and potential support for dedicated servers – that may go some way towards more stability, but big news just prompts more “2 weeks be sure” jokes and speculation. Would be good if, like the Hoggit post said, they’d tell us what the plans are – even if they won’t be implements any time soon.

    None of this is going to stop me playing DCS in multiplayer, I still enjoy it too much, and like you enjoy the YouTube videos of others, but it is in definite need of improvement and greater support.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Great commentary here! Thanks for filling me (and other readers) in on your experiences here. Like I said in the post, my experience is currently at zero here although I’m hoping to venture into multiplayer a bit. I’d love to get some co-operative gameplay in but I know I can never commit to more than a couple of hours irregularly.

      I agree at this point about 32GB of RAM. It’s just too expensive for most players now. Even sim pilots 🙂

      Like

  2. Mischiew Rithe says:

    Hum, the feedback I’m reading here is strange and it’s not how I perceive DCS today.

    My personal experience after painstakingly reporting many different bugs over the last years is that for the last 18 months or so, NONE of them was ever tagged “reported” nor replied to by the support team.

    I’m trying to be factual and to provide the system setup, the DCS version, what’s expected, what happens and so on, with screenshots, sometimes tracks, which is more than one can see on average, but it seems it’s in vain. And without any feedback I simply assume it’s lost – which seems to be confirmed by any fix for most of the reported bugs.

    In a few cases I even provided patches that were ignored as well – in one occurrence I provided a patch for the many inconsistencies in the A-10C cockpit mouse-switch interactions. A guy of the support did answer (it happened more than 18 months ago), took the patch and the notes coming with it (summary of the tests and modifications) to the dev’s bug tracking system… it was never integrated. It’s just a file they have to replace, and it’s risk-free.

    So I’m just not bothering anymore, if I see a bug I put up with it but I don’t report it. It’s sad to come to this, really. But their reporting system is non-existent and that there is no visibility about it, especially since they’re providing us with a beta branch to gather this precious information. Perhaps there is some secret rule of the forums I don’t know about, or maybe my reporting is badly perceived or annoying, I don’t simply know, and don’t much care anymore.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Mischiew Rithe says:

      (to be precise: I’m not playing online, so those reports are general but not related to that part of DCS)

      Liked by 1 person

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It’s really unfortunate that you’ve had this experience. I get the sense that you’re not alone on this and that bug reporting has been a problematic experience for many.

      ED and 1CGS both suffer from being small teams doing big things and so tackling the issues is sometimes put off in favour of doing something that enables the team to survive through to the next development cycle. Things like bug reporting surely suffer in this. They aren’t alone in this regard but it’s no less frustrating.

      I think in this one instance, complaints about multiplayer boiled over into a fairly large mass complaint. That definitely gets the attention of everyone for good and sometimes for ill as well.

      Thanks for commenting. Appreciate the perspective and the thoughtfulness!

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Mischiew Rithe says:

        I’ve seen hints at similar frustration from others, indeed. We have to admit it’s not easy to wade through bug reports in a forum, I had this experience a while ago and it is tough sometimes.

        The team was also quite small but they took profit of the regular players to help, probably a little bit like here in DCS. We were organized enough to sort out the reports and translate them to the bug tracking system, it’s not always funny but it’s very necessary and definitely possible.

        Let’s hope DCS can get to this level, preferably sooner than later, there have been a lot of changes going on for the last months!

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        I have hope that we’ll see some positive progress in a bunch of areas now that some fairly significant hurdles and growing pains have been cleared.

        In the meantime, I think its still valuable and I hope the sim community continues to make their voices heard. Respectfully I hope!

        Like

  3. MacTire says:

    Putting aside any issues with how DCS functions and its direction, this response from Wags is a great example of how to manage your community and respond to criticism online.

    Jason Williams (Battle of Stalingrad producer) could stand to take a look at Wags’ statement, and then spend some time thinking through his own community engagement strategy with the BoS forums.

    Like

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