At this time last year, DCS World and the community around it, were struggling with the latest 2.5.6 open beta patch which had introduced new lighting effects but also brought in plenty of bugs and performance problems. Things were rough for a while, statements were made, and eventually the problems were solved with promises to develop better and do more testing before releasing to the community. Fast forward a year and we are now at the launch of a very different update to the DCS World ecosystem. DCS World 2.7 appears to be transformative for the sim and in more ways than one.
A graphical feast
An irreverent post on the DCS World Facebook group featured a tombstone and a message of “rest in peace” for the Flanker 2.0 clouds 1999 to 2021. The reality isn’t too far off as DCS has made use of the same cloud technology for over 20-years managing to stay current by improving the visuals only slightly as the series pressed forward in other areas. Flight sims often are judged by their cloud technology and, as Microsoft Flight Simulator has demonstrated to positive effect, they can really make or break the visuals in a sim. Now DCS is doing the same and it is a magnificent change.
DCS World 2.7’s new volumetric clouds have been shown, tantalizingly, in various screenshots and trailers since before start of the year but now they are finally on our own PC’s. The clouds are unsurprisingly a visual treat offering both a visual effect that is better than DCS has ever done before as well as having multiple tactical effects as well.
Clouds now come in multiple layers, multiple types, and range from a few light clouds to near or full overcast with multiple layers sometimes stretching up to the highest of altitudes. Nothing feels painted on anymore and instead feels fully realized inside the sim world.
The clouds don’t rotate on their axis anymore in VR and they feel like they have volume as you fly through them. There’s none of the harsh lines between cloud and wing or terrain that you saw before. Perhaps most importantly, the clouds are now fully network synchronized. That means that the clouds that you see on your screen will be in the same place as the clouds that another player sees on their screen in a multiplayer match. IL-2: Great Battles has been using a similar technology with network synchronization for years so it feels like DCS has finally caught up in that respect.
There’s now no excuse for multiplayer servers not to experiment with different weather states and for players to need to adapt to flying in different weather conditions. Some servers have long embraced that philosophy despite the lack of synchronization but now every server potentially could. A dogfight between cloud layers no matter if it’s being fought by WWII aircraft, cold war era or modern types is going to be way more interesting than we’ve ever seen before. That is certain!
I’ve heard that a few people were doubting if the clouds are actually synced… so Growling Sidewinder did this excellent video showing off just how good it is.
There are a few glitches with the new clouds and some caveats to the technology at the moment. The biggest caveat is that the clouds right now are pre-patterned and although they have the appearance of moving thanks to some good animations, they are also stationary. This will likely change once the new weather system comes in so this is a very small issue.
There are some visual issues such as some cube shaped lines show up in some lighting conditions, at a distance there’s a noticeable shimmer, VR users have reported some issues with clarity, and there are some oddities during specific day/weather conditions. In one case I saw falling puffballs during a storm which just looked… weird. Fog and sandstorm effects also seem to not be playing all that nicely with the new cloud system as the dust storm will leave its colour imprint on the clouds above… until you fly up to see it. That might need some work still too.
Some players have also complained about the added glare that you see in some situations. The realism and accuracy of these may be spot on but they can make your canopy become very opaque suddenly and some aircraft seem to be worse off than others. I can see the effect being toned down slightly.
It’s not quite perfected yet but that doesn’t diminish the incredible visual, tactical and technological improvements that are already on display. We’re just at the start of 2.7 so there’s a room to improve, refine, and solve these minor glitches.
A plethora of other features
The clouds have sucked up so much of the oxygen in the room that it’s been the focus of nearly every 2.7 discussion. Nonetheless, 2.7 has also introduced some worthwhile changes.
One of the best new features is the totally revised weapons screen in the mission editor. We now have a 3D rendered model in place of the line-drawing and this comes with some key features. You can now see the livery you’ve selected as well as the weapons on your wings which makes for a much clearer understanding of what you’re about to kit your aircraft out with. To be clear, this only applies to the mission editor but there is where it is most useful.
ED has also taken the effort to provide better descriptions of each weapon system on the screen. For example, what once read as ‘AGM-88C HARM’ now says ‘AGM-88C HARM – High Speed Anti-Radiation Missile’ and ‘AGM-65G’ becomes ‘AGM-65G – Maverick G (IIR ASM – Lg Whd). It still takes a bit of deciphering but I now can instantly know which one is using the IR and TV seeker and which one comes with the larger warhead. This is such a small thing but it makes a giant difference especially if you’re not as knowledgeable about specific weapon systems. It’s smart and it will help a great many players.
The DCS: F/A-18C is also one of the biggest recipients of new features as Eagle Dynamics is working hard to push the Hornet towards full release. We’re very nearly at the cusp of that and although there are a few features still on the table (towed decoys for one), the changes and updates in 2.7 are impressive and include new modes for the HARM and new autopilot modes.
The Hornet wasn’t the only aircraft to see updates and there were plenty of features and fixes for everything from the various WWII aircraft to the AJS-37, F-14, JF-17, and AV-8B. The F-16C was also the recipient of a few changes including a revised flight model that makes the aircraft feel a bit sharper and snappier in some maneuvers – I’m looking forward to a renewed emphasis on this aircraft now that the F/A-18C has progressed to a near release state.
There were also new weapons like the S-60 57mm AAA gun which were and still are a common weapon in widescale use. They not only add a tactical challenge but also add a visual feature of the arcing tracers flying up into the sky that many of us remember from the newscasts during real world conflicts such as during Desert Storm in 1991.
It also seems that Eagle Dynamics has managed to work closely with a wide variety of third party providers and quite a few of the single player campaigns out there have all been updated to use the new cloud technology. So you can already load up some of Baltic Dragon’s campaigns such as ‘Raven One’ or ‘Crime and Punishment’ or ‘The Enemy Within’ and get to playing with the new clouds right away. Other mission creators are all doing the same as well.
Performance is…. Good?!
After the challenges of DCS World 2.5.6 last year, a lot of us were not quite sure what to expect with 2.7 with many feeing a great amount of concern over the performance of the new patch. In what may be a surprising move, 2.7 feels like it has quite a lot of polish on it already. For most players, performance has remained steady and smooth despite all of the visual changes and in a few cases players have even seen their frame rates increase. A few unfortunately have seen their frame rates drop off but as of yet I’m not sure if this is because of some other background issue or not.
There have been an increase in the number of times that I’ve seen a multiplayer server crash. I don’t know if this is unrelated or a direct consequence of 2.7 and I suspect we’ll learn relatively quickly on if the new update is to blame.
Performance on my now aging 5+ year old system (Core i5 6600, 16GB of RAM, 1070ti, etc.) is surprisingly smooth and seemingly unaffected by all of the new visual flourish. On DCS: Syria in a single mission flight I was able to push around 60-75fps in all but the heaviest of scenes.
That’s great news all around and an indication that Eagle Dynamics did not rush this launch and instead made sure that it was already at a good level before releasing it. There were comments made about the delay in a few quarters but I remain of the opinion that the delay and a few extra weeks to make sure that this was good out of the gate has gone a long way to improving a reputation of sometimes buggy and performance ridden patches. I feel vindicated and Eagle Dynamics should be congratulated.
This appears to reveal a positive change behind the scenes. Eagle Dynamics has seemingly taken to heart the challenges of last year and adjusted their practices, whatever they are, to ensure a steadier release. They could easily turn around and release a disaster of a follow-up patch but I remain optimistic. I’m sure DCS World 2.7 will present it’s share of challenges to come, but this update is putting the sim in a really strong position and there’s genuine positive buzz around the community that I love to see.
The headline for this piece says that DCS World 2.7 is transformative and I think it is in several ways. From the visual overhaul that the new cloud technology introduces to the sim to the overall polish of the update in generally providing for a solid experience despite all of the changes under the hood. Be this better practices in releases to a greater emphasis on testing, the 2.7 release is everything that the 2.5.6 patch was not and this speaks to good things ahead for Eagle Dynamics and for us of the series. More like this one please!
More from around the community
Don’t just take my word for it, there’s lots of other opinions and first impressions popping up about the new DCS World 2.7 release. Check out some of these videos from around the community!