A look at DCS World 2.8

As point releases go, DCS World 2.8 brings in some nice new features and refinements but it doesn’t jump out at you the way DCS World 2.7’s new clouds might have. That doesn’t mean that what we’ve got now isn’t a couple of steps forward in most ways and so I thought I’d write a short piece on some of the standout features.

Overall visuals

One of the things that Eagle Dynamics has been very good at is making sure that DCS World is one of the most visually impressive sims around. DCS World 2.8 keeps that reputation as it punches the visuals up another notch or two – albeit in mostly subtle ways.

Unlike 2.7 where the clouds were a defining feature that fundamentally changed the visuals, 2.8 is more of a refinement of the overall system. Eagle Dynamics weren’t too specific what they changed but I know that the clouds received another pass with their team working to make the experience better for VR pilots – from what I hear that was a bit hit and miss. The effect for this 2D player here, however, is that the clouds look as good as or better than they have before.

Another change is the lighting. This is a more subtle update than past efforts but I do notice that areas where there’s a wide range of contrast that we have an overall better, more detailed, sometimes more subtle picture. Where necessary we get a great amount of contrast but in other areas where 2.7 was too dark and too contrasty we see the system back off and give us a better image.

The DCS: Mi-24P mission on the Persian Gulf map where you do disaster relief and take out some insurgents was always a bit dark in the mostly overcast scenario. Now, its still darker but its more readable than before. Less dark and more dull – if that makes sense.

Cockpits that were intensely shadowed before now have a more subtle shadowing effect. It makes it easier to see things but I think it’s also a bit more realistic. Even the Mirage F1 with its very dark cockpit seems to contrast a little better than it did before.

Meanwhile, the play of light and shadow across the aircraft remains impressive and none more than on Heatblur’s F-14 which, somehow, manages to look even more beautiful than it did before!

Cloud and weather system update

DCS World 2.8 brings in new dynamic weather systems as a headline feature for the sim. As near as I can tell, this dynamism at the moment seems to mostly be a matter of taking the weather patterns as they were before and then dragging them across the scenery.

It’s a simple thing but one that probably required some core updates to the DCS World engine. The result is that we do see weather systems now moving across the scenery in a convincing way. During some of those missions with denser cloud packs we now have instances where a target may start out with cloud over and then be unveiled later on. The opposite can happen too.

There are some new visual effects too including rainbows and ice halos which come in several varieties. The ice halos are an effect that appears around the sun and they typically happen when the atmosphere at higher altitudes is extremely cold. Usually this happens when surface temperatures are also very cold but not always.

AI dogfighting

I’m less of a details oriented person when it comes to dogfighting. This is something I more “do” than think about most of the time and while I can break down some of the basic moves that I make, its less about specific moves and more about an overall “dance” that matters to me.

Most of my testing reveals that DCS’ AI has taken several steps forward. In the limited tests that I ran, they seem to be smoother and better able to judge the situation particularly when versus aircraft that are a known quantity. They make somewhat better choices tactically and when looking at the whole situation.

I don’t think this completely eliminates the DCS “UFO AI” situation as the AI are still flying on a much more simplified flight model. But it does cut down on it some. This update, together with the BVR tactics update that came in several patches ago, does make the DCS AI overall more of a challenge at the highest levels and generally more realistic in their approaches no matter what skill level they are set to.

It’s not the end of a process but it is an excellent step forward. As someone who does a lot of single player or multiplayer PvE in DCS, this is a welcome update!

Some map GUI updates

It’s been a long time since DCS World made any changes to the map GUI but DCS World 2.8 brings in a few.

For one, we now have a placeable compass rose with both magnetic and true north plus all of the other degrees around the rose. From what I understand of the feature, the settings are tuned for the map that you’re on so you’ll be able to get an accurate course using just the rose should you be flying an airplane that doesn’t have its own INS/GPS nav system.

Another feature is a new bullseye feature that uses the bullseye position as a center point and then lets you draw distances and degrees out from that spot. The result? You have a new tool to use bullseye radio calls and then plot them on your own map. Nice!

There are a couple of other quality of life updates for GCI players. Aircraft icons now display altitudes and callsigns! So you will have an easier time finding people and knowing what their situation is compared to before avoiding the need for LotATC for the more casual GCI.

Final thoughts

There are countless other changes to DCS World 2.8 with dozens of items for several modules. I haven’t gotten into those details because it’d probably take me a couple of months to discover and report on the changes everywhere. The community have discovered changes to things like the F-15C’s radar range (which gets a long awaited buff) and undocumented changes to the AV-8B. There are changes to night lighting with lights casting light into the cockpit and onto aircraft now and more.

I have heard anecdotally that there are some performance issues for some with some VR players reporting significant FPS drops. On my 2D, 4K display, DCS World 2.8 was running extremely smoothly and looking fantastic at the same time.

DCS World 2.8 is available currently only on the beta release cycle. Those on stable won’t see these changes for some time to come but it will also hopefully mean that some of the growing pains of the release of 2.8 will be sorted by the time it gets to you.

This is a big update in a lot of small ways. It doesn’t address some of the long standing requests for core changes to the engine (better multi-core, Vulkan API, etc.) but it does still move DCS World forward in a bunch of different ways and that’s a good thing. Some of those core updates will hopefully come together in a future update… maybe that will be DCS World 3.0.

14 Comments Add yours

  1. 1_Robert _ says:

    That’s a great first write-up on 2.8, once again many thanks Shamrock.

    As a VR flyer, I was hoping we would have seen some big fixes for us 3Ders. Still us Varjo users need to do a workaround for the double crosshairs. As well, VR doesn’t appear to be anymore stable. Perhaps VR improvements are in the pipeline so I’ll be patient.

    Overall the sim is progressing nicely and the more dynamic weather is a welcome addition.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I’m really hoping that one day we get to a point where the VR setup is less of a challenge. It sounds like its incredible when it works and its a bit of a house of cards the rest of the time.

      I’m expecting some of those core updates that have been talked about will hopefully get DCS to a place where VR and everything is running more smoothly.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. CanadaOne says:

    Agreed, a lot of it is subtle, but I did have a smile on my face when I got into the clouds and flew around just to see what everything looked like. Definitely a great looking sim.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Here too! It just looked incredible!

      Like

  3. Urgent Siesta says:

    After seeing some of the forum drama re performance, I decided to wait this one out for a few days, so I only had a bit of time in it yesterday
    (which ironically motivated me to spend a lot of quality time re-discovering Prepar3D(!)).

    Other than a massive 22GB download(!), no issues with update and even noticed a bit of an improvement in FPS (certainly not any less than before).
    Stuck to Persian Gulf due to ED’s focus on that map in this update and it does indeed look better and more atmospheric (no pun intended). Going to fly some night time missions there to check out those improvements, too.

    Despite much snarkiness on the forums, I have to think ED is mostly getting it right in re DCS’ market position vs the other sims. After spending time in Prepar3D, X-Plane and MSFS this weekend, I was quite surprised to realize that a COMBAT flight sim measures up VERY well to the general flight sims, especially re general “get in and fly” experience.

    AND now that I think of it, it actually out-performs them, too. I generally leave head room for multi-player in DCS, so in the typical Single Player session I’m getting 60-70 fps, where same in the others are down in the 30’s…

    All this definitely shows that “Core” features are indeed getting significant attention. Kudos to ED!

    Like

  4. Marc says:

    From VR perspective, 2.8 is disappointing. Just have a look at the bugs section and you will see that a lot are getting 20-30 % drop. In VR, it is falling in the not playable anymore category. Maybe ED need to focus more on increased performance for a while. I think that DCS is looking awsome enough for now. A more accessible VR (or even 2D) experience to mid-class PC would surely widen the base. Now even with crazy expensive top of the line hardware, it is with a scaled down graphic quality that you can have an acceptable experience.

    Like

  5. Skycat says:

    I’m experiencing the drop in VR performance also. I tested in one of the most basic missions, flying the Bf 109 K4 under bridges on the Crimea map. I had choppiness and stutters even just cruising over the map. I don’t have FPS numbers, this is just anecdotal. I feel if there was more activity on the map the scenario would have been unplayable.

    Like

  6. Gretsch_Man says:

    2.8 has become choppier in VR for me too, but basically this happens only close to the ground. Up high, I haven’t noticed any real difference (no fps numbers here, either).

    But I really welcome the inclusion of dynamic weather. I would like to learn more about and deal with meteorological stuff to make missions more interesting.

    Oh, and the new lighting looks really good. With some of the modules, the MFDs have also become much more readable for me. That is especially true with the A-10. Only downside is some weirdness with some of the shadows, but I’m sure ED will fix that soon.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Usually things get a bit weird during the first point release and then they dial it in by the next patch or two. Hopefully you and everyone else get their frame rates back.

      Like

  7. Reinhard Eichler says:

    @shamrock15, there are ppl calling for you:

    https://forum.il2sturmovik.com/topic/81112-team-fusion/page/2/#comments

    😉

    Like

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      I see! I’ve reached out to the Team Fusion folks to learn more about what’s up.

      Like

      1. Reinhard says:

        And he told you to pm him, so you’ll get your shot 🙂

        Now i am curious what interesting things you’ll dig up 😀

        Like

  8. Osskozzot says:

    The lighting changes are really noticeable in the KA-50 as well, feels like they redid the cockpit. Indicators looks more sharp. There is a change that I couldn’t find info on is the Skhvl screen, its green tinted now. I don’t mind it, was just really surprised when I start up the ka-50 and that green screen pop up!
    Volk did put out a YT video about 2.8 changes to the KA-50.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. ShamrockOneFive says:

      Oh interesting! The Ka-50 I do intend to return to. I was having quite a bit of fun with it but I haven’t flown it for a while.

      Like

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