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/NormEagle 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.Matt Wagner on the DCS World forums
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.
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.Zellyman on r/hoggit
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.
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.