I’ve seen what has become a common refrain in the DCS and IL-2 communities. “Nobody is using SRS.” I’ve started to see it enough times from seemingly different people to conclude that there’s actually a whole bunch of people who want to use SRS but aren’t because everyone else also thinks that nobody is using SRS. It’s formed an infinite loop but I think I have some suggestions on how to break out of this impasse. Lets talk about multiplayer radio communication.
What is SRS anyways?
Short for “Simple Radio Standalone,” SRS has become a useful and in some cases popular utility for DCS and IL-2 virtual pilots to communicate. Until recently, neither sim had any integrated voice over IP options and even as DCS has started to integrate its own functionality in, at the moment SRS still offers the superior featureset. IL-2 doesn’t have a VOIP function and at the moment it’s not seemingly on any publicly announced plan.
SRS is useful because it has some “hooks” into the host sim. In DCS World, SRS can be controlled via the clickable cockpit controls in DCS World aircraft. An overlay and hotkeys can be used for aircraft without clickable cockpits in DCS and the same is true for IL-2 as well.
I’ve talked to a few recently who felt like the utility was too complex for them but my experience with setting up the utility was that it was a five minute job. Both IL-2 and DCS servers provide enough information when you login that SRS can connect automatically with just a quick acknowledgement.
That’s the utility but that’s just the start. Using it is the bigger hurdle.
Get used to talking to yourself
I’ve been using SRS for years now. I started making use of it not too long after I made my first forays into what I thought was a very scary DCS World multiplayer server. Fortunately, a few bumps aside, I learned the ropes quickly enough and before long was fumbling my way through my very own radio calls.
There are times, in virtual aviation (and probably in real aviation at smaller airports) where you may very well be talking to yourself. For example, if I’m on the ground at Anapa airport on the Georgia at War server, I might say something like this: “Anapa traffic, Magpie 1-2, taxiing, runway 04.” It’s a simple call and it’s just me telling everyone else, if they are listening, what I’m planning to do. I don’t need a response, I don’t necessarily need anyone to listen either, but if they are then it is useful information even if they don’t respond or have cause to respond.
I tend to do the same thing after I take off and I push to the guard frequency (253.00mhz). I’ll say something like “Magpie 1-2, checking in on 253, one ship Hornet, flying east to Sochi for CAP.”
All I’m doing is telling people that I am heading out to a certain area to do a combat air patrol. It’s a simple message but it conveys a lot of meaning to anyone who is listening.
Let’s use IL-2 as another example. On Finnish Virtual Pilots or Combat Box, I could be flying a strike mission against a specific target. I might issue a similar instruction “Shamrock, flight of four A-20s, departing Antwerp and striking Industry Target #2, eta 15 minutes.” That way my allies know who I am, what I’m doing, and when I’m expecting to arrive at target.
If someone wants to respond to any of these messages they can. Some are shy (and that’s ok) and may not want to respond but may be able to assist. Others may be busy on missions of their own. That’s ok too. But if someone is in a position to help then they may just join you on the mission or they may fly to your target and distract the enemy fighters or defenses located there.
Does this even work?
Yeah. It does!
I’ve talked to people who are skeptical that people could even begin to work together like that. But my experience has been opposite. It’s not to say that I haven’t been on a server with nobody on SRS or that I’ve checked in and never gotten a response. But I’ve also had entire sorties where people were on comms constantly, coordinating, and working together.
That example above with the A-20’s? It happened. A flight of Mustangs swept the start area and got in a big fight about 20 kilometers from our target. They blocked the enemy and kept them busy while we hit the target.
On Georgia at War? I was guided many times by a human GCI working with the players who were on SRS (even the ones responding by chat). And when GCI wasn’t available? I linked up many times with fellow pilots who needed help, or were able to help me, or we were able to provide mutual support. A few times I saw someone lasing targets for other people happily blasting targets, not with his own weapons, but with a laser designating for others who had more available weapons.
So, yeah these things happen and they aren’t that rare. But the point of this article is to make it even less rare.
Keep the chatter to a minimum
One of my pet-peeves is unnecessary chatter at the wrong time. Once you’re flying the mission, I find that I need to focus and stay alert and while I definitely still do participate in chatter… that’s usually to my detriment. It’s worse if people are talking over other people and “being stepped on” is a problem.
No matter if its Channel A or B on Combat Box or Guard 253.00 Mhz on Georgia at War or some other configuration, be courteous and find a separate channel to have your conversations and flight chat on. Or use Discord in combination with SRS to host that conversation. It’s up to you but be sure to keep chatter on the main channels to a minimum.
If you use the default channels for a lot of chatter, you diminish the communication that others can offer at a critical time. We’re here for fun, absolutely, but constantly taking up the communication lines isn’t ideal either.
But what if…
I’ve heard lots of reasons not to use SRS and they are usually “What if my microphone is broken?” and “What if I don’t want to chat to others?” I get those. I’ve been in both situations. I didn’t have a mic on my computer for the longest time and it was infact SRS, Discord and TeamSpeak that slowly drew me into using one myself.
In those situations listening is still valuable and you can still respond using the chat functions of both sims and let that person know that you hear them and are listening in. Even if you don’t, you’re still gathering information and data from those people who are otherwise talking to themselves. And that’s where that first point really comes into play because you don’t need to respond and no response is, strictly speaking, necessary but information is still being shared and information is worth its weight in gold in a semi-competitive combat flight sim environment.
And you may look at the channel indicator and say “well, it’s just me on here” and that’s true but if we want to change habits and get more people on SRS then we have to start somewhere. If enough of us care about it to want to make a difference then we will. If not, it stays at the status quo.
Of course, I’m largely an advocate for people flying their combat flight sim sandbox their way as much as possible. These are supposed to be fun and entertaining and while some of us, myself included, can take it too seriously sometimes it’s also not a bad thing to want to push just a little bit towards more team and collaborative oriented experiences when flying multiplayer too.
If you don’t have any interest in any of that and you want to fly by yourself on an IL-2 or DCS multiplayer server, I don’t think there’s necessarily anything wrong with that either. You can absolutely ignore everything above.
I have found it to be a less than optimal experience flying by myself but I’m not everyone and it’s important to recognize everyone has different ways that they want to interact. So, if none of this appeals to you, carry on. But if you’re looking to encourage more teamplay and you want to work together more, do yourself a favour and boot up SRS the next time you fly your DCS or IL-2 multiplayer sortie.