The quest for superior visuals, systems and flight modeling depth, and making this all operate smoothly at 4K resolutions and on VR headsets is one that offers a challenge for all fight sim developers. DCS has struggled at times over the years to achieve all of this at once and that has lead for many in the community to ask when the sim will make strides forward in that area. Today we have an update on multi-threading for DCS in the latest DCS World Weekend News update.
Dividing the threads
In the early 2000s, the race was on for CPU manufacturers (primarily Intel and AMD in the PC space) to offer great performance through greater clock speeds. Those are those MHz and GHz ratings that you still see on CPU specifications. The more cycles per second that the CPU can offer, the more performance.
That race ended in the early 2000s as the difficultly of cooling a 3-5 GHz CPU meant that manufacturers had to do more clever things to get more performance. One of those ways was to add more than one CPU core to the package and thus we now have CPUs with two, four, eight, sixteen and more cores. Even our smartphones frequently pack multi-core processors.
The problem is writing software that can take advantage of such a process is challenging and, from what I hear, even more-so when it comes to simulations. I’ll let Eagle Dynamics latest update tell the next part of the story.
As DCS evolved, GPUs have become much more powerful whilst the performance of a single CPU core remained practically unchanged. Instead, CPU manufacturers increased the number of cores rather than the clock speed of individual cores. As a consequence, DCS performance has become CPU-limited. In parallel, DCS World has become much more complex with increased reliance on CPU calculations that has exacerbated the problem.
For years now, Eagle Dynamics has been working on efforts to move more of DCS World into a multi-processor way of doing things. It’s been talked about for a long time and it’s even appeared on the roadmap for 2021 and been mentioned in past years too.
The latest update suggests that progress is still being made on this core change to DCS World. There may even be some light at the end of the tunnel!
To improve efficiency of CPU resources usage, we have reworked the core of our engine. First, at the architectural level, it has been divided into two main threads: graphical and logical. This opens up new possibilities for further thread parallelization of calculations in both the logical and graphical parts of the engine independently.
Second, to meet the requirements of scalable multithreading, and the needs of modern graphics APIs, the graphical engine part has been significantly enhanced. In addition, many subsystems have been updated, or written from scratch.
This is probably a bigger thing than many might give it credit. Re-writing DCS from the core level is no doubt a massive job and it sounds like Eagle Dynamics really have gone back to the basics to make that happen. Critics have pointed to the need for DCS World to do this and it sounds like they are well into the process of making the update happen.
But when is it coming?
This all sounds good but I know a lot of DCS fans have been holding out hope for this to come for a long time now. It’s become an almost perennial ask. In that context, the next quote is really interesting as its a bit more definitive than we’ve had for some time.
Internal testing has begun, and we plan to release the updated DCS graphic engine (EDGE) next year. The initial release of Multithreading support will contain a fully reworked engine including preparation of the graphical frame and the separation of the graphical and logical parts onto two independent threads.
Picking that apart, the news that internal testing has begun sounds encouraging to me because it means that this has gone beyond a prototype/engineering stage to something that is testable. Next, it sounds like this will be a multi-step process much like 2.7 and 2.8 brought separate but related improvements to the cloud and weather rendering.
They also state that the biggest improvements will be in larger missions and in VR – both are places where DCS has and continues to struggle. If this can make some significant strides in this area, that will be a tremendous boost for DCS.