This DCS World Weekend took an opportunity to highlight some of the new content that has been released into DCS World 2.7 as part of the big update released just over a week ago. The focus if this update was to show off some of the new airbases included in The Channel Map as well as some of the new ground vehicles. The update also ignited a controversy in the community with news that weapon parameters were being locked down. Let’s dig into the latest.
The good stuff
I prefer to focus on the positives so lets start there. DCS World 2.7 has been largely a success in its roll out with an update to core systems in DCS World that have made a big impact on the sim and Eagle Dynamics was able to do it while keeping frame rates high for most and in some cases improving the efficiency of the sim. The update clouds are having a dramatic impact on gameplay and on the visuals of the sim.
This week, the newsletter focused in on some of the new content that came with 2.7 which may have been overlooked. That new content includes new vehicles which have been rendered at the usual high level. They include the LAZ-695 and Liaz 677 city buses, SA-6 Gainful (NATO) 2K12 Kub with both TEL (launcher) and STR (radar) units, and the BTR-80 APC.
There was also mention of all of the new airbases included in The Channel map that have been added in the 2.7 update. They include East Church, Biggen Hill, Headcorn and High Halden. Two are pictured below and more are included in the update.
And the ugly stuff
With just over a week since the release of DCS World 2.7 and the community basking in the glow of what was a strong update to the series and messages of appreciation being shared across the community, it’s with some disappointment that I have to report that there is new controversy and it all stems from one sentence in the latest update.
As our online community grows and grows, we recognise that ensuring a level playing field for all has become an important matter and therefore, on popular demand we have locked the LUA files relating to weapon systems.DCS World Weekend News Update
This has ignited a firestorm in the community from two key angles. Before we get into it, the simple version of what has happened is that the weapon parameters for DCS World were previously available in a plain text file and it has now been encoded into a LUA file. LUA is a popular programming tool that has a wide variety of uses including the encoding of data.
Two arguments have come up in the community as a result of this happening. First, the modding community enjoys a relatively healthy existence building unique aircraft and combinations such as the community A-4 Skyhawk mod which is held up as an example of an excellent mod that rivals some payware types.
Some of those mod teams have made use of custom weapons values and contributed their own weapons to the list to be used with their mod. Encoding the file appears to make it difficult to continue to add custom weapon options to the list.
The second argument, is that encoding the files makes it harder to point out issues and errors to Eagle Dynamics. There have been some valuable community discoveries over the years including the A-10C gun dispersion issue and more recently the revelation that some weapons such as the 88mm flak gun and other explosives were using incorrect assumptions or calculations for explosive power. Eagle Dynamics has been hard nosed on some of these issues in the past and laying bare the raw values has eventually swayed their programmers to realize mistakes or assumptions that weren’t right.
The power of a thousand eyeballs on these issues, some of whom are former military and/or trained experts, has made for a better sim.
This second point does ring a little hollow, however, as data mining of the LUA file has already occurred and Eagle Dynamics appears to have given the blessing to that information being released.
Potential fallout and other thoughts
The glow of 2.7’s release has, for many parts of the community, now dimmed. There is once again an element of antagonism between ED and the DCS community. It’s not my favourite thing to report on but it’s happening and so here we are.
The way that the statement was worded, particularly the “popular demand” line, has not gone over well with many asking who was asking for this. That is a good question.
As someone who works in the public relations space, this is not usually the kind of statement you want to make when its obvious that this change will have negative impacts on the community. It’s best to avoid jokes and the potential for miscommunication when dropping a small bomb like this one. Clear communication is essential.
Other messaging has been more calibrated with NineLine writing the following back on Wednesday:
I know it’s not gonna be the answer you want, but right now this is what we have decided is the best for DCS going forward. I will talk to the team about concerns as far as modding and bug reporting. Sorry guys.NineLine on the DCS forums
I have asked for:
1. Modding use, another solution to work with this
2. being able to see the values some other way or form for testing
Our intent certainly isn’t to stop modding or hide mistakes, I can understand some jumping to that, but I promise, it’s not about that.
Arguably, what’s still missing is a better explanation of what the benefits of this move are. Are there performance improvements by using a LUA file for these values? If this really does prevent some cheating that goes on, how does it do that (in laymans terms)? So far we haven’t heard that yet and it would be a good thing for Eagle Dynamics to expand on that as soon as they can.
Finally, I’ve seen yet another round of people calling for boycots, saying they won’t pre-order this module or buy that module, and frankly we’ve heard that before and those comments tend to fade away rather quickly. For a large majority of players, this change won’t affect them and this latest bout in community/developer relations will be forgotten. But it all does leave a bad taste in the mouth and I really wish it weren’t so.