Ever been in a combat flight sim slump?

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?

Getting shot down in my P-51D-15 on the Combat Box server.

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.

Lost the fight and my throttle connection while crashing into this tree line.

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.

Traded an Su-27’s R-27 for a AIM-120C from my jet. He lived, I didn’t.

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

Formation flying on the Combat Box server.

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.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. ianpsdarkcorner says:

    Or you could just be succumbing to too much time talking to me and therefore your brain cells are being slowly bored to death, resulting in you dropping to my normal level? It can’t be ruled out!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Haha well anything is possible.


  2. Dan Freier says:

    You’ll snap out of it. 🙂 Dan Harrington (poker player) refers to it as the baseball player syndrome/dilemma where you’re doing the same things but not getting the same results. Suddenly those ground balls are finding gloves instead of holes etc. Bummer to hear about your stick. Is it super serious warranty replacement stuff?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That sounds about right. A recharge is probably necessary!

      Out of warranty and likely dead. I’ll pull it apart sometime this weekend. I fortunately have a lead on a replacement and some older less capable sticks around if I have to. So I’m not hard done by but it is part of the frustration for sure!


  3. Gretsch_Man says:

    To be honest, doing dumb stuff as a virtual flight combat pilot sounds all too familiar to me. So you are certainly not alone here.

    In the end, getting into a slump is, IMHO, mainly a mental thing. So, do whatever works for you to reset your mind, then have another go at it.

    There’ll be more triumphant moments awaiting you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. afergFerg says:

    firstly thank you so much for the blog. It’s probably the first thing that I look at in the morning.
    And yes, this is my first reply.
    I think a lot of it is that sometimes , we’re just rubbish. There’s no real reason other than a bad day, excluding of course a better opponent or hardware/software failure.
    Heaven help real combat pilots!
    If you think you’re struggling now, try flying a mission straight after a couple of 12 hour night shifts.
    I tried this a couple of years ago to try and simulate the strain that might have effected say a Battle of Britain pilot.
    I can assure you the results were not pretty!
    Thanks again, and all the best.


  5. bigalrico says:

    I feel your agony!
    The other day, I also had some stupid situations happen to me, where I also thought to myself how this could have happened. Just yesterday I crashed into the ground at 700 km/h because I misjudged the position of the enemy, my buddy in the same mission over our temporary airfield more or less shot up, manages to make an emergency landing, only to be strafed and killed by an friendly^^.

    Sometimes it goes sometimes not, that’s just the way it is. But sooner or later the bad luck is over again 😀 And every now and then distract yourself with other games is also a great thing and brings a breath of fresh air.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I’m glad I wrote this and published it because I’ve been hearing a lot of similar stories like the one I shared and the one you shared. Sometimes it doesn’t come together at all and it’s good to refresh!

      Liked by 1 person

  6. CanadaOne says:

    I have the answer that will cure all your woes: Clouds!

    I have flown very little lately, both because I’ve been hooked on a game I’m embarrassed to admit to playing, and because I’m waiting for the new clouds. When they arrive I’m going to binge fly every plane on every map at every time of day.

    Take some time off and refresh your brain.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Diggun says:

    My solution to a bit of a slump is to jump in an a20 and go and wreck something in attack configuration. Those bombs rarely miss when you post them through the letterbox, and the big booms are very satisfying.

    And triumphantly breaking your slump is such a rush. This never happens to me but last night I got a 109, a 190 and a 110 on Finnish, in under 3 minutes. A total rush and all my recent frustrations just vanished….

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Percy Danvers says:

    This happens to me. In my case its a vicious cycle where I lose a fair fight that I could just as easily have won. I get angry about this and in my next fight I’m a little more desperate for the victory, making me a bit impatient and careless, I lose this fight too, making me more angry and so the cycle repeats until I can’t seem to win in situations where I have an obvious and overwhelming starting advantage.

    The only way I’ve found to break the cycle is to just stop flying for a bit. Or at least flying combat.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Lucas says:

    Good article as always. It’s only natural to end up in those, around the summer of 2019 I found myself in a slump that dragged on until April 2020. No matter what I thought I’d tried, it either didn’t work or it worked but still felt lacklustre. What did the trick for me was to stop and relearn every DCS module I owned from scratch, including a full manual read and at least ten hours (though usually 15-20 were needed) of non-combat controlled training missions, with a little after action report written for each of them. The challenge of learning and doing things ‘the right way’ made mundane things much more engaging.


  10. BlueHeron says:

    Thanks for that, it therapeutic to know other people have their crap phases too. 🙂 One of my methods to getting out of the slump is to go back and fly basic GA / PPL training missions. It helps foster patience and discipline that you can take into combat.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      That’s a great suggestion and a little back to basics can really do some wonders. Thanks for sharing!


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