When it happens and why it happens is a bit of a mystery but I can now definitively say that I’m in a bit of a combat flight sim slump. For a few weeks now my tactics have been all wrong, my aiming worse, and my luck has run out. Oh, I’ve had a few victories but then right back into it. Here’s a few of my thoughts on getting in and out of a slump.
Nothing really quite working out
I’ve done a lot of flying recently. Most of the time I feel like I’m a competent combat sim pilot able to tackle the complex scenarios of a PvE or PvP server and come out on top. Flying with friends and alone, the most satisfying thing is often finding your way into and out of those tense combat situations – preferably with a victory or two along the way. Recently, however, I haven’t be able to replicate my usual successes. I’ve been plagued by my own bad tactics, unlucky situations, and some frustrations with both the hardware and the software and all of them are contributing to the slump.
What was I thinking?
The the last few weeks, I’ve been plagued by a combination of bad luck and poor tactical decision making. Rather than taking my time to get into combat situations, I’ve just been charging in. And as a result, I’ve been paying the price for my impatience.
In a recent Combat Box sortie, I charged in with a Mustang, depleted my energy and got low and slow with a half dozen Bf109’s, Bf110’s and Fw190’s all mixed up in a 10 or more plane furball. I had the advantage of height and speed and I could have kept it but I traded it for a shot on a Bf109 that wasn’t particularly well connected. It wasn’t too long after that a MK108 and some MG-151/20 cannon shells hit my aircraft and knocked me out of the sky.
In another scenario, I was on the Finnish Virtual Pilots IL-2 multiplayer server flying an I-16. It’s not my best aircraft but I usually do well in it. That night I was bounced twice, stalled it, lost my situational awareness, missed every shot with the 20mm wing cannons, only mildly damaged on MC.202, and then stalled it some more. Then, my throttle’s USB connector decided to slide out just enough to disconnect the throttle mid flight (it may have been bumped by my cat). It of course did this at low engine settings and without enough time to recover.
My recent sorties on Persian Gulf at War in the DCS: AV-8B mostly went well. Except on two occasions where I allowed myself to get too close to what I thought was an inactive SAM site – and then was shot down by an errant missile anyways. Or in another situation where I tried to take on an AAA emplacement that clearly had better aim than I thought it should have. I didn’t need to attack it either as I had already had a relatively successful strike sortie. Instead, I was promptly shot to pieces.
Flying an F-16C, I thought I’d be able to help my team clear the skies. In a situation where I thought I had the upper hand, I instead took an IR guided R-27 directly to the cockpit while my AMRAAM connected with the Su-27 that I was shooting at. Equal trade for both of us but I had the advantage and still managed to squander it.
None of these were particularly smart moves on my part and the blame firmly rests with me. It sits in stark contrast to just a few weeks ago where I went on to shoot down six aircraft in a F/A-18C Hornet on Persian Gulf at War (4 in the span of about a minute) or a 7 plane spree in the Tempest V on Finnish Virtual pilots together with the rest of my team of Tempest and Spitfire pilots.
Sometimes things just don’t seem to line up.
When things just go wrong
Sometimes things just seem to keep on going wrong. Recently I’ve had plenty of times where I had just started to get to the target after a long flight and only then seen the 5-minute warning that the server is going to restart leaving me muttering, “Of course it is!”
That’s just bad luck but there’s two scenarios that are worse.
When the software stops working the way it’s supposed to is one and then when your hardware gives you problems is the second. For example, spawning on the deck of a carrier in DCS multiplayer only for the aircraft next to you to suddenly warp through you and the next three parked planes. Of course, this invariably happens just moments after you’d completed the lengthy start-up procedure and had just finished inputting all of the waypoints you needed for a good combat sortie. Time to start over again.
On my last flight, the Ju52 I was flying in IL-2 suddenly started to behave in an odd way and once on the ground, it immediately ground looped. I blamed myself but I later learned that the Z-axis on my stick wasn’t working properly and then none of the buttons on the stick were. That just takes the frustration level to the next level.
These are just some of my recent experiences but I know that everyone else has fought their share too. From TrackIR malfunctions and problems with internet connections to random bugs and crashes, it all serves to amp up the frustration.
Breaking the slump
I’m not yet there but this isn’t the first time I’ve struggled to break a slump and nor will it be the last. But for those of you in a similar situation, I find the best antidote is to do something different. You can still play your favourite flight sim but if competitive fighter vs fighter isn’t happening or if those CAS sorties are just not working out… do something different.
My next sorties might be more strike or bomber focused for example. Or I may decide to hop on and fly some transport missions. Or maybe a brief break is needed and I should go fly some more Microsoft Flight Simulator or break out X-Plane and do something there. And if none of that is happening, I may drive some more trains around in Train Sim World 2 or build a new city in Cities: Skylines. Whatever the case, a little reset might be all that’s needed to break out of it.