Did the pause in DCS World patches make a difference?

In mid-June, Eagle Dynamics announced that they were moving to longer patch cycles. This was in response to a long list of complaints and some grievances that came up in the community after yet another open beta patch emerged with significant issues including bugs and performance robbing problems that affected users in both VR and regular 2D players. A month and several days later, a new open beta patch has emerged. Was the slowing in cycles worth it?

Balancing content and bug fixes

One of the most annoying bugs in recent past, no cockpit loading. I joined and rejoined, tried a different aircraft, that day it was just not going to happen. Fortunately it seems to have been banished!

I’ll be the first to argue that content production doesn’t need to be slowed while programmers work on bugs. And that is certainly the case most of the time. An artist working in 2D or 3D creation software can’t contribute to the bug fixing process in any significant way. You need programmers not artists (although programming is arguably something of an art in itself) to solve the kinds of performance glitches and bugs that we’ve seen recently.

Of course, you do need the programmer ultimately to bring new content into the sim. So there is a strain on bug fixes when new content emerges from the artist ready to be implemented. With good project management and a solid plan to work from, it is doable to do both, but when the speed of releases increases things tend to get out of control and I think that’s exactly what happened where a push for content and development clashed with a need to test both the old and the newest stuff.

Blinding lights at random on landing. How? Why? We don’t know but it happened to everyone in my group.

The big complaint has been of course that new content has been rushed out and there hasn’t been enough time to bug fix. But I would take that a step further that the constant beta release schedule has made the process of releasing new content and improving and fixing past issues difficult as there’s always a rush to release and to do it quickly. Do that on a weekly or bi-weekly basis and there is a stress on the team that eventually leads to a breakdown.

From crashes to performance slow downs and buggy features, being a DCS World fan has been a challenge for the last few months especially. It had gotten so bad that problems with performance had turned me off of my usual hop into a multiplayer server for some fun. I did some training flights – stuttery, unpleasant training flights complete with bugs like random blotches of light that nearly caused me and everyone in my group to crash on landing.

It also extended to making changes to systems but not having time to test them. Changing the reflectivity of the Hornet’s displays, for example, made it impossible to see them in bright sunlight. Maybe that was a more accurate depiction, however, in a sim environment where I can’t block the light with my hand… it just wasn’t fun or usable. It may not have even been tested.

Can you read that MFD? It’s so washed out in sunlight that you just can’t.

At the end of the day, none of these bugs were fun to deal with as a regular player and jumping into a multiplayer session and genuinely not knowing if you’d run into game halting problems caused me to drop my DCS time to a minimum in favour of other more reliable sim experiences. So the real question then is, is that all behind us now?

…is it fixed?

The updated MiG-21bis cockpit is looking great! (But the radar performance still needs a solve)

Last month when it was announced that the release cadence was slowing down and that the team was going to turn all attention to bug fixes I was cautiously optimistic but also feeling a little let down by the last few months.

Enter the latest open beta patch which came out last week and I am pleasantly surprised at just how solid the sim feels again. The new lighting system that came in months ago was causing me some performance problems and most of those seem solved. The glitches on the datalink page causing a drop to near single digit frame rates on my system while flying the F/A-18… solved. In-fact my frame rate is up at levels I haven’t seen in months.

Cranking out a constant 60fps over Dubai with no problems. A few weeks ago it was nearly a slideshow on the same GTX 1070ti.

Until this update, I wasn’t able to log in to Georgia at War and sit on the ramp at Al Dhafra without seeing low frame rates. I’m talking about 14-22 frames per second instead of my usual smooth 60 fps. Now, it’s back where it should be with a solid 60 fps or even higher with Vsync off. That means smooth taxiing, no frustrating pauses, and no waiting. The new P-47 glides along brilliantly and the highly detailed Channel Map both looks great and performs great too. I am pretty happy with the result and it’s nice to see as I haven’t had this much fun with DCS World in months!

Even with all of these buildings, the new Channel Map flies great in the latest patch.

Now… it’s not perfect. People with VR are still reporting major problems on some systems and some bugs still remain such as the MiG-21’s low altitude radar returns which cause severe frame rate loss. Multiplayer network code is still hit and miss on different servers running different configurations although the last few days have felt better than they have for a while.

There are countless other bugs still in the tracker, of that I have no doubt, however, there is a change here. Most things are working again, performance is up to levels I haven’t seen in months, and I’m having fun with the sim again.

Can Eagle Dynamics can now transition back into building new content while maintaining and ensuring that current content stops breaking on a more regular basis with a less hurried open beta release schedule? If they can, I am all in! This is good progress and a step back on the path forward.

19 Comments Add yours

  1. I salute this new approach! I think that rolling out a new update every week or two is tiresomely and somewhat annoying to users. You barely have time to digest the patch notes & report new bugs. And by the time you decide to “just play”, there’s next update. So yeah – monthly or bi-monthly updates (with hotfixes in case something goes terribly wrong) is the way to go.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Agreed! Let’s hope this is how it goes!

      Like

  2. Blue 5 says:

    1) Interesting and balanced as always – though I think this is the closest to your expressing anger that I have read at your site

    2) Good use of ‘cadence’

    3) Check the title for typo

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Thanks Blue 5! As always I try and report with different perspectives in mind while telling my own narrative.

      Being a fan of DCS World has been challenging as of late and my frustrations with the software certainly have bubbled to the surface a few times. There’s other sims to direct my attention to of course.

      I’m looking for the typo and I’m not seeing it right now. I might need to be awake for longer.

      Like

    2. ShamrockOneFive says:

      NOW I SEE IT! 🙂

      Like

      1. Blue 5 says:

        Yours has become the go-to site for all things sim! Wanted to point out the error without sounding patronising 👍

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Oh not at all, thanks for pointing it out. A gentle note works well with me!

        Like

  3. Coolts says:

    One month is not enough. The giant bug mound needs a few more patches to sort out. I fly the hornet and that’s still got lighting and mfd/ddi issues.
    Whether the devs are given the time is another matter.
    Longer term they need to get out of the no win situation where normal users have to fly beta. It’s just wrong on so many levels and causes it’s own problems.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I am hopeful this is a signal of a change and certainly I feel much better about this new patch. Not everything is solved but it’s feeling much more solid right now.

      I do hope they give it the proper time and don’t slide into old habits.

      Also agree on the beta patch for normal users. I’d love to see us get out of that, however, we seem to be in the minority view on this as much of the community argued against my article on that.

      Like

  4. PHANTOM1 says:

    Program bugs tend to be endless in any case, but I would feel much better knowing that the one wiping hard drives out completely is dead, cremated and shot off to Mars. Until then, there’s plenty of other content to enjoy on IL-2, plus the early surprise (honestly expected at the end of year) release of FS2020 which will buy some time for ED to get a few more things corrected. Certainly not discarding the product, just shelving it for a while and trying the patient tactic myself. Kudos that at least there seems to be an acknowledgement of the situation followed up by the willingness to put the effort in to fix things. Just may take some time is all to really bring everything forward to full potential.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      It’s always good to step back from something frustrating and do some other things. Recently we’ve had plenty of good simulation content to check out which is always a good thing – and I often find it makes me appreciate the little things I had stopped noticing in a sim that I’ve put down for a while.

      Like

      1. harryvoyager says:

        Very true. This is one of my favorite news sites, in part because it tends to be an upbeat but honest take on stuff going on in flight sims. 🙂

        On a side note, if you do start expanding into space sim stuff, apparently the X-Wing Alliance Upgrade now has VR support, and it might be interesting to see how amy of the old Freespace projects have fared over the years.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        Thanks Harryvoyager,

        I’m always focused on the big picture and how good things are generally. When they aren’t, I do my best to point them out but still keep that big picture in mind.

        I occasionally dip into space sims. I’ll have to have a look. Fun fact, once upon a time I ran a FreeSpace website.

        Like

  5. PHANTOM1 says:

    100% agreed! It’s been a good reminder on how fun IL-2 is to fly – from serious campaign to just test flying something new, I’ve liked it from the start. Somehow they’ve got something a bit more “right”/special that some of the other combat sims don’t quite do the same way. Which is a good thing – keeps people interested and the community involved. If they were to ever explore outside of WWI/II arena, I’d definitely consider having a look at what they do next!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. mplichta says:

    “Can Eagle Dynamics can now transition back into building new content while maintaining and ensuring that current content stops breaking on a more regular basis with a less hurried open beta release schedule?”

    New content means new bugs/issues this how software development works in small teams/company.
    I see one pattern, ED release new content, all complain on bugs, ED focus on bugs comuneete ask where is module we paid for.
    Of course there is something called regression tests, but in small team there is no more resources to be dedicated only for this task, and probably whole batch of tests can not be automated or automation isn’t cheap.
    So hold on, relax let ED do the job, I can image DCS is quite camplex peace of software….

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      While I largely agree that new content means new bugs, the issue seems to have actually been reverse that new content was tested and regression testing was not done in a rush to get the new content out the door.

      A slower cadence means less of a rush and more testing. Finding a balance between cramming the next new feature/airplane/map out the door and making sure the other tweaks and changes to the lighting system, for example, don’t make a whole bunch of aircraft unintentionally difficult to use is something they NEED to do better at.

      I’m very relaxed and as I said in my article, I think they can do it and applaud what I hope is a change in direction and a more conscientious approach.

      Like

      1. emc says:

        I meant no personal offence 🙂 I was speaking of general observation. Yes, I agree less release pressure of new content make more room for testing! 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      2. ShamrockOneFive says:

        None at all 😎

        We’re all passionate fans with lots of ideas. Great to share and please continue to do so!

        Finding a balance is good here as in most things!

        Like

  7. Blue 5 says:

    Very interesting discussion that you have started. I have always been a little skeptical of their business model and I wonder somewhat if these issue are not somewhat self-inflicted owing to the loose collaboration they have and need to incorporate both their own agenda and that of their contributors.

    BoX hold the reins pretty tightly, but behind the scenes maybe ED are overloaded to develop their core path and incorporate all the Early Access tech to which they are beholden and on which the 3rd parties depend.

    There are bugs, poor releases, steps backward and then updates / hot-fixes of varying quality. I remain suspicious that the manner in which they approach content inclusion and the problems that they face are inherently linked.

    But again, maybe it is something else. From the outside maybe I am reaching the wrong conclusion.

    Like

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