New details on DCS carrier ATC plus controversy UPDATED

We have new details and a new controversy when it comes to carrier ATC for DCS World. The details include a new video as well as some follow up comments on the Eagle Dynamic Facebook page that has generated a lot of talk.

Bolter bolter bolter!

We have a new video posted to Matt Wagner’s YouTube channel showing off the revised and still in progress carrier air traffic control for DCS World. This overhaul of the comms involved with carrier landings is a significant upgrade from what currently exists. The video is long and it showcases a lot of different stages to the test. It gives you a solid understanding of all of the different conditions they need to program for.

Details we’ve learned

The system being built here will feature an API so that third-parties such as Heatblur and RAZBAM can make use of the revised technology. Imagine a more sophisticated set of comms for the AV-8B’s approach to the Tarawa or the same kind of tech for the DCS: F-14’s Forrestal-class carrier.

The new API will also work with the Tomcat and other carrier aircraft.

Great, that all sounds pretty good then. Where’s the controversy? Well…

It sounds like most of this is payware

We know that a high-fidelity Nimitz-class experience is coming soon. By and large I think the community has accepted that, however, the comments posted to Eagle Dynamics DCS World Facebook page tonight suggest that even this ATC upgrade is being locked behind a paywall.

When asked about how this will work in multiplayer, the answer came back as the following:

If the host is using the new Nimitz-carrier module with new comm, animated deck crew, new ship, player LSO and air boss stations, etc., the clients would have to own the module to join.

Eagle Dynamics DCS World Facebook page

That was followed up with:

If you and your friends want the best carrier experience ever experienced in a game, then you would all want to pick up this module. -NineLine/Norm

Eagle Dynamics DCS World Facebook page

Regular airfield ATC was also asked about:

All part of huge, new carrier radio communications. Once complete, airfield ATC will be on high on the agenda that uses some of the new tech developed for carrier comms.

Eagle Dynamics DCS World Facebook page

Two elephants in the room

With all of that out of the way I think I want to address both of the elephants in the room. First, I understand that the high-fidelity Nimitz-class is going to be something that is a pay-for module with the kind of attention to detail that you’d expect when shelling out some extra cash for. That seems reasonably sensible and I’d hope that Eagle Dynamics could somehow still make that carrier work in multiplayer.

What isn’t is the ATC system being also locked into this experience. For years we’ve been waiting on Eagle Dynamics to bring the ATC functionality up an extra level as its current functionality is limited and sometimes even broken. While the rest of the Nimitz module seems sensible to make part of a module, I don’t think the ATC should be and that should be shared with the John C. Stennis that is part of DCS World as a core piece of technology.

At minimum, the people using that module have already paid around $80 USD for one of two carrier capable aircraft and so this doesn’t seem like a charitable action.

Doing it this way ensures that the feature doesn’t get used, even by people who own the added module, as it won’t be available in many public servers. Squads who are carrier ops dedicated obviously will but everyone else will continue to use the standard system.

Let’s move on.

There’s two elephants in this room and the second one is what Eagle Dynamics plans are for land-base ATC upgrades. I hate to repeat myself but what we see with carrier ATC currently is repeated on land as well with something that is barely adequate and frequently seems to have bugs and issues (i.e. repeated messages, delayed, late, or non existent clearance for start-up, taxi, takeoff, etc.).

DCS World should have a more functional ATC system built into the core systems and we’ve been waiting on one to arrive for years. If Eagle Dynamics does decide that this is not a core function and makes it a module that people need to have to be able to share it on multiplayer, it will likely be the case that nobody will be able to use it in multiplayer – even the people who own the module due to incompatibility.

There’s still a lot we don’t know about right now. What will happen with the Russian ATC systems that Eagle Dynamics maintains? We don’t know what Eagle Dynamics plans are for airbase ATC and they may approach it differently too. It does, however, seem likely now that carrier ATC will be unique to a specific module and not part of the core experience. Frankly, I think its something that should be core to the experience and paid for by all of the modules that we buy.

This information has, as I wrote at the start, caused significant discussions to break out on Reddit, Facebook, and elsewhere in the community. So I’m curious what your take on this is. Does it make sense to do things this way? Are my expectations for the core DCS World experience too high? Let me know in the comments!

Updated response from Matt Wagner and additional thoughts

This post was updated at 4:51 pm EST on May 19. The following section was added.

We’ve got a response from Matt Wagner on this issue that I wanted to share in the interests of making sure that this issue is covered as completely as possible.

At no point has it ever been said that the Nimitz-class aircraft module would be free.

We aren’t just selling new comms, we are selling a fully functional carrier experience, from new comms, an incredibly detailed and animated carrier, animated deck crew, crash barriers, control of the carrier, and the ability to man positions such as LSO or the air boss station. The amount of time, effort, and capital going into this is massive, and it will be the most immersive and complete carrier environment available for a game or even a professional training tool. I would expect that someone could enjoy just being in control of the carrier, launching AI and/or Players on missions, in defense or offence… this is not just a few new sound files.

Of course, on the technical side, there will be so many network inconsistencies between module owners and non-owners of the carrier that it would cause havoc and look terrible (particuarly deck crew and the new comms), as such making it available to non-owners in MP makes no sense. Other carriers will be available to non-owners still, and many will be happy with the new, free carrier that was added just last year along side the Hornet. This module iis for those that want to take carrier life to the next level.

Because the core software of DCS World is free, we will continue to make enhanced module content available for purchase.

Matt Wagner on the DCS World forums

If I can add some additional thoughts in response to this. Largely, I agree with Matt on the level of detail and effort that Eagle Dynamics is putting into this carrier module. For people who want the extreme level of detail that this allows for with carrier ops – this is something that they should really be looking for. It sounds great, it has great potential and as someone who is slowly growing to appreciate that side of aviation… I’m really really interested and am willing to spend some money on it.

Where the issue remains is with multiplayer and community fracturing. DCS World already suffers a fair bit from this and while the community has worked hard to offer up compelling experiences online, something like this just adds to the complexity and the frustration.

I wanted to share a comment from r/Hoggit’s Zelly who is also responsible for the Georgia at War and Persian Gulf at War (article on this coming soon):

I just want to let you guys know that as long as there exists a paywall to use a module or add-on on the Caucasus map (I hate to use the term paywall because if my software developer senses are correct, I feel like this is as much a technical limitation as much as it is a business decision) it won’t run on our servers.

Our mission has always been noob-friendliness and so a lot of people just getting into DCS probably are going to start with a module or two before they would purchase an add-on, so we want to make sure that they will be able to get online with a great community (that’s you guys), and ease their way into our hobby with as low a barrier of entry as possible.

Zellyman on r/hoggit

I think this highlights the challenge of a server owner dealing with an issue like this.

The people who do end up with this module will only be able to experience it in certain contexts and will otherwise have the standard experience. While I do think that this expanded carrier module should be a paid for, in-depth, high end experience, I also think that the people who paid for that should benefit from it as often as possible. They won’t be able to do that if its inaccessible.

I still go back to my original point that its important for the core experience to remain as free and multiplayer compatible as possible while added content that adds depth to the experience.

As Zelly says above, it may be a technical limitation rather than a business decision… Nonetheless, its a difficult one to accept.

31 Comments Add yours

  1. fouckface says:

    Seems a bit rubbish in my opinion that you need to buy the carrier to use it. I was already planning to buy it, but I am unsure how it’ll work out with people who don’t. I have a friend that plays DCS but not on a regular basis, don’t think I’ll be able to convince him to buy it. :/

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mischiew Rithe says:

      Yeah, maybe they could at least have a basic carrier showing up instead of the Nimitz, for people who don’t own it. Like we see AI aircraft of the modules we don’t own.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Absolutely. The upgraded carrier should still exist in multiplayer so that everyone can get basic use of it with the added and expanded features being available only to those who own the module. In this way everyone gets to enjoy it but especially so for the person who owns that module – making it a all or nothing prevents the owners from enjoying their purchase more than the people who don’t own it.

        Liked by 1 person

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That’s a good example of how something like this can degrade the experience. Somehow they need to find a way to make it a bit more compatible – even entice players who don’t have the module by giving them a taste.

      Like

  2. 79vRAF says:

    The Carrier module does sound really interesting, but I was under the impression it would be like the Tarawa in that those that bought the Harrier got a full fidelity model of the carrier; those that didn’t saw the basic release version. It does seem like another neglect of multiplayer audiences to keep doing things like this.

    As for the ATC it’s pretty crappy all around at the moment; in fact it has been for ages. To put that behind a paywall would be incredibly disappointing; as I am sure it will apply to IFR and AWACS calls as well – as those calls don’t alway work very well either. I’m hoping they don’t do the same for the proposed addition of an SRS type functionality too; although a small fee for that would be ok it would need to be cheap enough for everyone to get – so no more than $10. Maybe they could do the same for the ATC functions, a small fee for the work that has been carried out on it, $5-10 and it wouldn’t be so bad; but to tie it in with a big purchase like a Carrier that not everyone will want does not seem right.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Agreed. That’s what I was hoping to see as well.

      Like

  3. Mischiew Rithe says:

    Apparently they didn’t want to answer the question on the airfield ATC.

    For the Nimitz, I don’t find it shocking, the ATC and all the other features seem optional and cosmetic, if someone wants to play with an advanced carrier, he/she has to buy the module. Fair enough. I’m not sure about the impact on MP, I’m usually avoiding that part, but I don’t see a system that would work without making players pay, unless they are content with the basic carrier. If only the host had to pay, as suggested in the FB (what a silly place to put that kind of news and discussion), it would be too easily abused, so I understand ED on that point.

    My speculation is that there is also a need to get increased revenues at some point, they now have a lot of modules that are requiring more and more time to maintain since the world the assets are based on is evolving and sometimes breaking back-compatibility, or offering new possibilities that must be fulfilled by each of them not to become obsolete (like the A-10C, the Ka-50, …). When we look at the standard model in other sim, every single feature is paid: airfield, plane, helo, map, weather, and so on, otherwise it’s just a basic experience. Upgrades are often paid too, when the sim is upgraded (like X-plane 10 to 11).

    Until now DCS users were spared this otherwise-accepted practice because the separate features were simple enough and perhaps that ED had enough revenues with only a few modules to maintain and develop. Or more likely, they didn’t have the critical mass. I wouldn’t be surprised to see airfield updates requiring a fee, or even aircraft equipment, after all the NS 430 opened that door long ago.

    The trick is, once a user owns a nice shiny feature, it’s getting harder to accept crappy features in other areas, it somewhat ruins the experience. So the user is eager to get the other shiny features. That’s probably a good part of what makes people fall for all that simware in the other platforms.

    We’re f###ed! 😉 (in a good way?)

    Liked by 1 person

  4. LDD88 says:

    Seems that ED should really rethink their approach. I’m primarily SP, but the MP side of it can only help ED in the long run. If they were to take the gray area stuff (WWII assets, maps, and similar MP deal breakers) and enable those on MP, I strongly suspect it will drive a lot more participation & likewise resulting sales. As it is, it seems MP is a pretty small portion of DCS users (at least on regular basis). As a SP, I’m fine with paying for most of the enhancements (though WWII assets should have been a core DCS feature).

    Liked by 1 person

    1. LD88 says:

      By “enable those on MP”, I intended say without requiring the client to have the modules.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I think that’s very fair and taking a page from 1CGS playbook where multiplayer compatibility trumps the modules you own when it comes to core things like maps and basic player experience.

      I would likely help rather than hinder the experience.

      Like

  5. Eviscerador says:

    When you thought that selling the WW2 units as a paywall had taught them something…

    We will see the module cost, but if it is something over 20$ it will be a big flop and a massive letdown. I don’t think any popular server will risk losing a lot of their player base because they don’t have the carrier module.

    I expect them to “force” campaign editors to include this module, but I guess the lackluster sales of the WW2 campaigns will be also a point to consider.

    As it is now, barring sales you need to invest 100$ in having one module, one theatre and one set of units for DCS WW2, considering there are “other” very popular WW2 sims out there which offer almost the same realism at a cheaper price, you can see the point as well.

    Now they want us to buy a carrier module after paying 80$ for each of the carrier planes to fully experience carrier ops.

    They should add the new carrier ATC to any Carrier available, even the new Kutnezov.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. William T Taylor says:

    I agree with most statements as a 100% multiplayer pilot i am once again in a rage about ED causing MP to have problems .. .this is the kind of stuff you add in as a foundation for improving your game. i understand the new carrier with flight crew and if its not too pricey ill be buying it but the ATC is improtant to all modules and the more paywalls in a game the number of new players that join drops dramaticaly.. with the sim going the way it is to $100 modules they need to expand their free aircraft library. put the F-15C in as free with SU-25T. lets be honest there will be some young pilots that dont buy in but young adults will be drooling over the F-15E/F-16/F-18/F-14 and will buy in but you got to let them learn the game and get into it. if they see both sides they will want to get into it more and that will make them buy not just videos and pretty screen shots. anyway im rambeling now … i think they need to look at the future of their sim and were its going and also bring in how much the aircraft cost. is it realy worth putting all these things behind a paywall or should we include them to keep new players joining

    if they play the paywall game to much for too long the amount of new customers will drop DCS already has a reputation for being expencive and having a bunch of anoying paywalls.. this is kind of counteracted by the quality of the aircraft and the fact that you do not need to own an aircraft to see it or play online.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. boxcarleader says:

    i dont even want to try and count the times i have talked about DCS with friends and tell them that there are two free aircraft. they get excited and interested but when they ask what is available on the lure on a russian ground attack jet and an unarmed Mustang… intrest dies.. then they ask about the cost of moduels and the light goes out… i try to salvage it by saying there are plenty of sales and preordering helps… but lets be honest a lot of players buy only durning pre order or sales… the modules are getting to expensive and god forbid you go back and calculate how much money including monitors possible VR / trak IR and joysticks and throttles +modules i did it quickly in my head and i can say im getting close to $2K so knowing that i have already given them $2000 i ask why cant you make this ATC useable by all and why cant you make the nimitz multiplayer freindly

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Absolutely right boxcar! Trying to get people into something like DCS World is difficult but sometimes it’s made more difficult by the types of content that they offer for free. I’d absolutely support a freeware F-15C at this point – the aircraft has been out for so long and there are so many more high fidelity options now that I could see this only helping draw more players into the world.

      They don’t do these sales anymore but I bought into DCS World through Flaming Cliffs 3 when they did a crazy sale – I think I bought it for $7-8. That got my started and I’ve spent far far more on the platform since then.

      Like

    2. Francesco Kasta says:

      I understand what you mean, I am one of the biggest spenders when it comes to hardware (I have recently gotten myself a motion platform which I looove to brag about) but the money spent on hardware alone cannot and should *not* be blamed on ED since they don’t earn anything from what we spend on our peripherals and we are definitely *not* forced to play DCS alone.

      That is money “invested” into customizing and enhancing the experience.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. boxcarleader says:

    on another note … wtf Heatblur were is the F-14A and when are you anouncing the next module

    Like

    1. Blue 5 says:

      Companies have pipelines so announcing one does not bar progress on another. However, they might want to check how they handle announcements given the lack of ‘A’ model release details.

      Liked by 1 person

    2. Błażej Seremak says:

      It’s an EA module, they are way faster than ED anyway. Look at F-14 and F/A-18 completness, and Bug was released many months earlier.

      Liked by 1 person

    3. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Best guess is that Heatblur really crunched to bring the F-14 into play before the end of winter. They did an admirable job but I wouldn’t blame them if they took a bit of time off. I’m sure they are still working on it but I’m sure the team needed to take a short break before they jump back in.

      I would like to hear from them sooner than later on future plans and rough timeline. The F-14A, the carriers, the campaigns, etc. They have a lot on their plate so another module announcement may still be a ways away. I do hope in a way that they double down on their investment in naval simulation and go for the A-6 Intruder next. Seeing as they are building the exterior model to that level already.

      Like

  9. Francesco Kasta says:

    I am afraid that too many paid modules are going to severely fracture the user base. That is why perhaps it would make much more sense to have a single module containing an aircraft (or more) and its assets. You’d definitely pay an higher price but the experience would also be complete and everybody purchasing that module would have access to the same resources.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. William T Taylor says:

      GOOD POINT but basicaly what they are doing is fracturing the module so people only pay for what they want. i will say they just need to implement the ATC and maybe even the ops crew for free to keep people in buecause as new aircraft is awesome the game itself is falling behind the moduels

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Francesco Kasta says:

        I get that they are dividing the module so people only pay for what they want but it actually feels like they are trying to squeeze every possible penny from an update which would make perfect sense to have in the base game, just to bring it up to date to today’s standards.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        It has that kind of feel to it doesn’t it?

        IMHO, if they can create a really cool premium experience for the carrier then I’m happy to pay for it. I also think that the ATC comms should be separated from that and multiplayer compatibility should be preserved at all times.

        Liked by 1 person

  10. p51dmatt says:

    Hoggit is in full bore meltdown mode over this. Hopefully ED will quit censoring opposition and will listen to the concerns of the community.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Fingers crossed. At this point I think the right message from them would be along the lines of “We hear your concerns, we’re going to look at this again and see if we can come up with something that addresses those concerns.”

      Its the fracturing of the multiplayer community that is the biggest concern from what I’ve been reading. Almost nobody is worried about paying for something that’s really in-depth.

      Liked by 1 person

  11. jakesixx33 says:

    DCS isn’t free, it has a free set of components so you can try before you buy. It costs money to develop the modules and I will gladly pay for a better carrier environment, if you don’t want to pay, fine. Paid for content shouldn’t be accessible for free on MP servers and no one ever promised upgraded carriers or ATC for free. It costs $200+ an hour to fly a Cessna, $70-150 for a 4 hr. round of golf, $20 for a 2hr. movie, $100+ for a PS4 game. Stop expecting free and support the developers that give us hours of enjoyment. Buy the maps and modules that interest you with a smile on your face and realize that spending money on your hobbies is what gives you and life enjoyment. If you don’t like early access then sit on the sidelines, but stop winging about it to those of us that enjoy the opportunity to participate.

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Hi Jakesix,

      The cost for entertainment value on DCS World is certainly good. The amount of time I’ve put into this sim and IL-2 versus the dollars I’ve spent make it pennies on the dollar.

      The cost is actually not much of an issue for most people. The community splitting and preventing one or two features that should be core from being part of the core are. The best example would be a public server like 104th or Georgia-at-War where the advanced carrier module wouldn’t be used because of it being locked away.

      The people who fly M-2000C, F-15C, AJS-37, etc would not necessarily buy the module. The people who bought they module couldn’t use it because everyone else doesn’t own it.

      That scenario hurts the people who bought it even more than the ones who didn’t.

      Like

  12. Mischiew Rithe says:

    Interesting update, and not entirely surprising. Except the bit that confirms there is no alternative in MP for non-owners.

    The vague justification that network data would be inconsistent between owners and non-owners “particuarly deck crew and the new comms” seems like a typical entranched-position argument to me. I’m a developer so I’m not underestimating the difficulties of networked-synchronization events in MP, but I can also recognize arguments that show little will to find a solution for the customers in favour of what would be easier for the developer – or perhaps more profitable.

    Often such a statement comes from not taking the trouble of thinking hard enough about a solution.

    Desk crew and comms are purely cosmetics, and could be masked by non-owner clients. So for them it wouldn’t be a problem, but maybe we don’t want to ruin the owner’s “cosmetic” experience with a non-owner rolling on the crew at the wrong time, for example. It would require the basic non-owner model to have basic “gates” so that the user acts in a timely fashion, and so that owners see something normal for them. That doesn’t seem impossible but would require a little bit of work… if we don’t want to annoy the owners’ experience. Still, they may even accept that trade-off if it means their friends can participate.

    There is obviously more than cosmetics, but I’m pretty sure it boils down to the same trade-offs. It’s just a matter of priority for ED, profit / amount of work / satisfaction of the customers. I’m not blaming them for that, but I’m not buying their “explanation” and providing an honest clarification would be the least they can do.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. arkhamuk says:

    Anything that splits the player base to different servers is bad for a game. The basic functionality should be made available to all as default so everyone can keep their communities together and keep server populations high. Don’t get me wrong I’m more than happy to pay for the Dev’s hard work but not if it harms peoples ability to all play together. seems to defeat the object of the game itself. Ill buy the module if people can still all play together.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Home Fries says:

    I think a good compromise would be to allow Case I to be free, but include Case II/III in the Carrier module. This would take care of 99.9% of the multiplayer missions out there (which start at noon with CAVU weather), and public servers that have CAVU weather wouldn’t need to change a thing. Groups that would make custom missions at night or with weather could enforce the purchase of the add-on without fracturing the community.

    Like

  15. homefries94 says:

    I think a good compromise would be to allow Case I to be free, but include Case II/III in the Carrier module. This would take care of 99.9% of the multiplayer missions out there (which start at noon with CAVU weather), and public servers that have CAVU weather wouldn’t need to change a thing. Groups that would make custom missions at night or with weather could enforce the purchase of the add-on without fracturing the community.

    Like

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