As 2018 draws to a close I wanted to have a look at some highlights over 2018 for DCS World, Eagle Dynamics and the small constellation of third party developers they have attracted to the series. Overall, the year has seen some significant releases and a fundamental update that has finally brought together years of work on Eagle Dynamics part. These are some of the highlights for DCS World in 2018!
DCS World 2.5 finally arrived
The biggest highlight of the year was the release of the new 2.5 client for DCS World. This was not only a major update to the series but also a revitalization of the very old Caucasus map and a foundation for all of the future updates for the series.
Until this release came out, we were stuck between DCS World 1.5 on the one side using the older version of Eagle Dynamics simulation engine and DCS World 2.0 alpha on the other with a cutting edge but not quite there yet alpha version on the other. Maps were split between versions and that created a difficult situation for all. DCS World 2.5 eliminated those complexities and ushered in a whole new era for the simulation.
DCS World 2.5’s beautiful graphics and advanced simulator physics really come together in a speculator way creating a visually stunning sim that has incredible depth for system and physics modeling. As new features come online and new content is built, it will all be built with this 2.5 client as a foundation so this above all else has been a real highlight for the series this year.
DCS: F/A-18C Hornet
DCS: F/A-18C Hornet represents one of the biggest new content releases for Eagle Dynamics since the DCS: A-10C module. While the A-10C pushed the limits on system fidelity and modeling, the Hornet represents a whole new ballgame when it comes to sensors and systems that will have an influence not just on the Hornet module itself but on future 4th generation fighter plans for the series as well.
When it launched, the Hornet had extremely limited capabilities with AIM-9L/M, AIM-7, and a handful of unguided bombs and rockets. That was how things started but the module has grown since then!
Several months later and the Hornet is now sporting an array of weapons including the AIM-120B and C, AIM-9X (a first for the DCS World series), the JHMCS for locking and firing that AIM-9X at incredible angles, two version of the Maverick, Paveway II laser guided weapons, and a host of systems fixes and upgrades too.
The buggy radar has been mostly sorted out recently and the Hornet continues to gain features and weapon systems that has made it more capable than when it first launched.
It still has a ways to go and its detractors will point out that it isn’t done yet. Still, it continues to race towards that goal of being “finished” and I think it’s been a great year to be a fan of the F/A-18 Hornet in DCS. You can already have a ton of fun with the Hornet right now even without its full systems in place and that’s what matters in my book
DCS: Persian Gulf
Another big content release for DCS World this year has been the new DCS: Persian Gulf map.
Initially panned as being too small, Eagle Dynamics has added immensely to the geography of the map extending it north and west into Iran and as far south as Abu Dhabi making it one of the largest theatres available and lending itself to some absolutely epic gameplay.
Persian Gulf has gained new bases and all kinds of unique buildings and features over the year as well and it is now looking like an extremely worthy expansion map for many players interested in modern combat scenarios.
There is also plenty of interesting and varied scenery from the endless mountains in the north to the open sands in the south, blue sparkling water, immense cities such as Dubai, Abu Dhabi, and Bandar Abbas and all of the scenic land marks to go with these.
The map itself provides an excellent ground for telling stories with the Straight of Hormuz and the strategic chokepoint that it offers providing a suitable ground for high end scenarios. Used in some multiplayer and single player scenarios already, Persian Gulf will hopefully continue to grow in its use in the new year.
Updates for RAZBAM’s M-2000C and AV-8B
RAZBAM has had plenty of wins and a few darker spots this year although by December things appear to be looking up. Work progresses well on their new MiG-19 and F-15E modules. Meanwhile, early concerns in the year that the M-2000C and AV-8B wouldn’t see much attention has been semi-squashed thanks to the hiring of a new programmer by RAZBAM to support those modules.
The M-2000C has seen a few bugs squashed, a new HUD brightness system added and a PBR texture upgrade both inside and out that helps it keep up with all of the other modules out there. RAZBAM has announced some major upgrades will be coming likely year with their their art team returning to the Mirage interceptor and their programming team will implement all new procedures and operations for some of the aircraft’s core systems thanks to a collaborations with the L’Armée de l’air which should provide increased realism.
The AV-8B has had some longstanding issues but many of them have been sorted out this year. As of December, the AV-8B has finally had issues with its bomb release timing, RWR sounds, RWR icons, raindrops on the canopy, bomb drop delay settings and other issues fixed. Many bugs still need to be squashed but RAZBAM is now making solid progress on that and communicating it to the community via a bug tracker. The AV-8B is looking much more solid at the end of this year than when it started the year and that’s a great thing for fans of this jet!
Updates for Heatblur’s AJS-37
Although much of the year has been spent talking about Heatblur’s forthcoming DCS: F-14 Tomcat module, it has been their other module that got some attention too.
The AJS-37 Viggen picked up some major bug and systems fixes including one that now enables the Mjolnir munition dispenser to work correctly in multiplayer (a joint ED/Heatblur fix), a new campaign, a new skin for the aircraft, lots of texture corrections and fixes, and Ground Radar 2.0 which boosted the fidelity of their previous ground radar mapping effort.
Heatblur intends to move the AJS-37 from early access to full release status as soon as possible and certainly the quality on this module is already there. The AJS-37 has also been a good aircraft for the team to build their skills on while work on the F-14 continues. This jet has fast become a fan favourite and a great example of the outstanding workmanship that Heatblur is displaying on all of their modules.
Deka Ironworks introduced the J-11A and the China Asset Pack
Something interesting happened this year with the introduction of the first “new” aircraft to be added to the Flaming Cliffs 3 aircraft list since that title was first released. The Su-27 derived J-11A represents the first aircraft catered towards Chinese aircraft fans.
Deka Ironworks put in some considerable effort to make the J-11A not just a skin of the Su-27 but rather a unique type with its own features. Available with R-77 active homing missiles not on the Su-27 in DCS World, using a Chinese only ECM system, and configurable with its own bomb rack system, and a slightly modified cockpit, the J-11A comes with a host of other small details that make it subtlety unique.
The rest of the China Asset Pack includes a half dozen modern Chinese ships (including destroyers), missiles, AWACS and other aircraft types with more planned or already on their way.
The work here is adding in interesting new dimension to DCS World by starting to add adding military equipment that is neither NATO nor Russian but Chinese in origin. Though the J-11 is a Su-27 with a different name and some well represented tweaks, next year we’ll likely see some new assets join the already interesting naval vessels added, that are definitively Chinese. The JF-17 may even be among them.
Enter the Yak-52
The Yak-52 isn’t exactly your typical or conventional civil aviation aircraft but thanks to a professional contract, Eagle Dynamics built one including all of the detailed modeling necessary for radial engine simulations into DCS World.
Though not particularly useful in combat situations, the Yak-52 has become a favourite with some virtual aerobatics pilots, and a few real life Yak-52 pilots have spoken about how good the modeling is. It’s a fun diversion from flying missile and bombed up jet fighters.
The MiG-29 finally got its PFM
The long awaited Professional Flight Model for the DCS: MiG-29A/G/S finally arrived this year replacing the last aircraft using the original simplified flight model system that dates essentially back to Lock On Modern Air Combat. With the PFM, we are now treated to a far more accurate and enjoyable rendition of the MiG-29 to fly.
The new flight model gives the MiG-29 its own character and personality and more than a few tweaks to the way that it flies. It also has quite the bounce on landing if you don’t do the approach right which caused a bunch of trouble at first but players have quickly adapted to it.
The MiG-29 now has flight dynamics modeled on the same level as the F-15C, Su-27, F/A-18C, A-10C and other Eagle Dynamics products and it makes a huge difference.
DCS: WWII updates
One of the areas of the DCS World simulation that has been a little under-served has been their WWII themed content packages which include DCS: Normandy 1944, DCS: Spitfire IX, DCS: P-51D, DCS: Bf109K-4 and DCS: FW190D-9. There’s also the DCS: WWII Content Pack which includes a growing list of ground vehicles, AA systems, and some AI aircraft.
This area of the sim did get some attention this year although more slowly than most would like to see.
In December the P-51D, Bf109K and Spitfire all saw some upgrades with the P-51D seeing the largest improvements to the visual quality. Further back in the year, DCS: Normandy 1944 saw both visual improvements as well as content updates and performance changes to improve the map in all aspects. Finally, the Spitfire IX got some long awaited added features with the clipped wing and bomb carrying being the biggest among them.
Still not yet available is a revised damage model that would bring a more nuanced experience to DCS’ WWII air combat.
A few items missing
As exciting as 2018 has been for DCS World, there are a few notable pieces of content that we haven’t yet seen appear that don’t seem like they will make it in these last couple of weeks of 2018.
Last year I felt pretty certain that we’d see Heatblur release their DCS: F-14 in 2018, however, it now is certain that their premier module will be a lock for early 2019. The added wait is contributing to a more polished early access aircraft so I think few will feel any real disappointment. We’ve waited this long!
Another type that I felt pretty certain would release in 2018 was RAZBAM’s MiG-19 which we were already looking at some fairly nice cockpit renders at the end of 2017, however, that was also not meant to be. With the most recent news showing off the types start-up sequence and moves towards a finished visual appeal, it is likely that DCS: MiG-19 will be an early 2019 launch.
There’s also some of the AI assets for DCS: WWII such as the Ju88, C-47, and A-20G that we’ve been looking at for a while that haven’t yet materialized. So too are some of the other AI assets for DCS World that seemed like a sure hit for 2018 that didn’t come – though the Su-34 has snuck in at the last minute and we’ve seen images of the Arleigh Burke-class show up in the most recent trailer.
RAZBAM’s A-29 Super Tucano seemed to be making solid progress in 2017 but we’ve seen only a few minor updates in 2018. It could still appear in 2019 although I will now hesitate to make that same prediction twice.
Finally, we had high hopes for things like a new Dedicated Server in 2018 which haven’t yet materialized but with the first DCS World server now testing a dedicated server, it appears to be closer than ever before.
For DCS World, 2018 was essentially what I had thought it would be at the beginning of last year. This was a year that DCS World brought together their disparate alpha, beta and legacy releases together under the 2.5 banner and from there were able to launch into serious content upgrades. New content additions spearheaded by Eagle Dynamics and by their third party contributors have added significantly to the breadth of the experience over the year.
DCS world is by no means perfect or finished nor will it ever be but this was definitely a great year for the series, for fans of the aircraft within, and for promises for the future that we always anticipate. What we have right now is a healthy and growing sim world at large and one I can’t wait to see grow in the new year.
I also want to hear from all of you. How was your year with DCS? Did you see things you were expecting? Did you have fun with the available modules and which ones stood out the most? Love to hear from you in the comments.