DCS World 2 Preview – WWII Air Combat

In a preview of what WWII combat in DCS World 2 will feel like, Charles “Chuck” Ouellet gives us some impressions on his early access to DCS World 2…

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Note – this article contains images that depict a pre-alpha state of DCS World 2. Features are constantly being added, improved, fixed, and reworked, so these images may or may not represent the final product. Of particular note is that the version featured here contains old clouds that will be replaced by improved clouds. – Chuck
All observations, mistakes, or errors are solely those of the author. Features of DCS World 2 are subject to change.

A couple of days ago, I received a rather unexpected e-mail from Eagle Dynamics producer Matt Wagner, better known as “Wags” on the DCS forums. He kindly asked me if I was interested to be a part of the Tester Team for DCS World 2. Being an insatiable DCS enthusiast, I saw this as a perfect opportunity to help the developer team while doing what I love most: flying. Early access to the current DCS World 2 build included NTTR (Nevada Test & Training Range) and a most interesting selection of aircraft. In this pre-alpha preview, we will see what Eagle Dynamics has in store for World War II junkies like me.

I remember when the DCS P-51D Mustang was announced as if it was yesterday. It was the very first module that was neither a modern jet nor a helicopter, which lit the forums on fire. While the majority of community members were thrilled with the inclusion of one of the most iconic fighters of the Second World War, others were skeptical about the lack of a “proper” WWII theater, units, and plane-set. While the gradual inclusion of other fighters like the FW190-D9 “Dora” and the Bf.109K-4 Kurfürst showed great promise, a number of issues and limitations from the DCS World 1 engine made the DCS WWII experience great, but not perfect. Target spotting, framerate, and performance issues during air combat were among the chief complaints. While the sim engine could handle AMRAAM guided missiles with ease, firing six .50 cal machine-guns with tracer rounds with complex ballistic models caused in-game stutters that highlighted the need for further optimization.

Well, after a couple of sessions with the old warbirds in DCS World 2, I was very pleased to see vast improvements in terms of in-game performance, target “dot” spotting, lighting, and visual effects like oil & glycol leaks, smoke, and slick high altitude contrails.

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Of course, the first thing I tried to do in the mission editor was to break the game. I placed 15 AI-flown Mustangs and pitted them against 15 Bf.109s. A similar scenario in DCS World 1 would typically bring my system to its knees the minute a plane started firing his guns, especially if all those planes were within visual range. To my surprise, I saw that the framerate was butter smooth. A new “Enlarge” setting in the game Options allowed me to see enemy fighters with a clarity that simply blew me away. Not only could I spot planes easier at long ranges, but I could also clearly distinguish its silhouette without having to zoom or change my field of view.

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WWII air combat occurred at close ranges and the majority of pilots who were shot down never even saw their opponent until it was already too late. Since most air-to-air engagements were done within visual range at that time, target visibility is all the more critical. This is the difference between a multiplayer server full of “blind” pilots who can’t find each other and a server where pilots are able to scan the sky for enemy contacts and make tactical decisions based on the altitude, heading, speed, and silhouette of the contacts they spot. Thankfully, Eagle Dynamics listened to the community’s feedback and after a couple of sessions, I found out that trying to spot a target in a Mustang with the improved DCS World 2 visibility is nothing short of a complete game-changer. I always had terrible vision, but even I could spot dots from almost twice as far away. At least that’s the impression I got. I didn’t even feel the need to use the zoom in/out button anymore: it’s just that good. I felt like a real hawk soaring through the Nevada sunset, looking for dinner.

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This brings us to the real meat of the article: in-game performance. Obviously, with the small number of testers I haven’t been able to stress multiplayer to a point where I would know for sure what the player limit would be. However, what I tested so far in single player is very encouraging. To give you an idea, I created a scenario where 30 Mustangs would face 15 Doras and 15 109s. With graphic options cranked up, bullets flying everywhere, and some fighters trailing smoke, oil, and coolant… I could maintain without difficulty a steady framerate whether I was yanking my stick to turn into a Messerschmitt’s head-on pass, firing my guns on a Focke Wulf, evading a hail of cannon shells ripping through the ground, or narrowly escaping death by avoiding a collision at contrail height. I would be curious to see how performance is impacted by 88mm flak once the WWII ground units are implemented, but to me the DCS World 2 engine seemed to handle projectiles and smoke effects better. Stutters are mostly gone, and the smoother performance at ground level gives a better sense of speed when you graze tree leaves at breakneck speeds. With an Nvidia GTX 970 and an i7-4770K, my DCS World 2 experience so far showed that a mission could handle more units with better graphical effects than the current DCS World 1 build. Whoever worked on optimization on the ED team truly deserves a barrel of the finest Canadian whiskey.

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Dogfighting is one of the most difficult elements of flight sims to get right. Some have great visuals but arcade flight models, others have great system fidelity but poor performance. Finding the right balance between eye-candy, performance stability, complexity, and fidelity is a never-ending dilemma among flight sim developers. As a guy who has flown almost every major sim on the market, I think DCS World 2 is on the verge of achieving a major breakthrough. Not only is it a training platform that is applicable to real life flying, but it has the potential of bringing together people from the four corners of the flight sim community to fly in an environment that feels full of life and danger. The WWII fans will have Normandy and a decent selection of aircraft to choose from while the jet jockeys will have Straits of Hormuz and NTTR to fight for the skies in iconic aircraft like the Hornet and the mighty Tomcat. I can easily see communities grow up and host their own 24/7 servers. While DCS  World 1 showed the possibilities of a study sim, I think DCS World 2 will popularize the genre and make it much more accessible to the general public since it feels like a smoother, prettier, and faster brand new game.

In conclusion, the World War II air combat improvements I have witnessed in DCS World 2 are:

  • Lighting
  • Visual Effects
  • World rendering distances
  • Aircraft and ground unit visibility distances
  • Smoother gameplay
  • Improved game performance when using weapons
  • Larger air battles without performance loss

So far, DCS World 2 is everything I hoped for and more. I see a bright future for DCS. This is what we’ve been begging for: better performance, better effects and better theater/aircraft variety. Eagle Dynamics has definitely not forgotten its warbird fans and I am certainly glad they didn’t.

Charles “Chuck” Ouellet

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Notable Replies

  1. Wow! That looks beautiful!

  2. Well done, Chuck!

    I'm very interested to see how the the new smart scaling works. In general, I don't like the use of "visual aids" like labels or other non-realistic tools, but in this case this particular fix is to help with a real limitation of our hardware - our eyes can resolve much finer details than modern monitors can provide ... yet.

    There will always be that camp of folks that label devices like this as a "cheat", but I am hoping that the right balance will be struck. WWII air combat never gets old.

  3. Many thanks to Chuck for sharing his thoughts on what he's seen thus far - and thanks to Wags for allowing us to feature the article.

    BeachAV8R

  4. Great review ! I am very excited and looking forward to new planes and a different WWII scenery
    area ! Thanks for the updates !

  5. I like this content and want more of it! smile

  6. Thanks for this short view of the upcoming DCS World 2 - i wish we all could join you in the air.

  7. GREAT JOB!! Looking forward to DCSW2...

  8. @SenorDroolcup - smile I like where your head is..

  9. Cib says:

    Simply awesome. Although I have the modules the WWII planes never leave my hanger, that I imagine will change as soon as DCSW2 is out. Like IL2 MP but better visuals, plane models and flight models, DROOOL heart_eyes

  10. Awesome! Great job Chuck! smile

  11. Everything looks perfect. But I miss one type of aircraft. I think about multi crew bombers - HE-111, JU-87 and B-17.

  12. Indeed. There is a ton of work to do to bring forth a believable WWII theater. From vehicles, to weapons, to bombers, to buildings, and landscapes. My hope is that World 2 is going to be the "operating system" that, once released, will provide a foundation for more rapid development in other areas. I see no reason why World 2 couldn't be the base for a long, long time to come into the future.

    BeachAV8R

  13. Glad you folks liked it. Having a blast so far.

  14. Could you tell us a bit about the stability of DCS2 and whether you think public alpha is around the corner or that it will be a while yet?

  15. Unfortunately, I am not at liberty to talk about the status or stability of the pre-alpha.

    It's ready when it's ready.

  16. Kadin says:

    Thank you for doing this and since I have been following all your beautiful work for DCS (and others sims) that you so unselfishly shared with us, I bet good money that it is spot on smile
    Please, if you do any further tests and are allowed to show, keep it coming.

  17. Good to hear that the visibility issues have been addressed

  18. Bombers are one of my favourite aircraft types to fly as well. I really hope one day we get to see a DCS B-17/B-24/Lancaster.

  19. Amen, I make sure to bug Yo-Yo about that every so often :smile:

  20. NEVO says:

    Great preview Chuck!
    Thanks goes to @wagmatt and ED team for providing someone from community like you @Chuck_Owl with such privilege as to preview their new DCS2. Thumbs up! thumbsup

    @EinsteinEP in the second stream @wagmatt mentioned that they are not going to apply "smart scaling" as such as ED "dont actually consider that a smart option". The mentioned new MODEL VISIBILITY option "essentially place icon over the location of the unit...".
    And I am fine with that. Bigger dots are OK. Plus the better VISIB RANGE will definitely make the MP life for some guys easier.

  21. I certainly feel like this is a more "realistic" option. I have read many WWII accounts of pilots having to get right up on another planes tail before being able to ID them as friend or foe. So being able to spot early but not ID should add for some good MP fun.

  22. Anybody else remember the "black dot" drama from IL2 days? LOL

    I'm glad ED is tackling the visibility problem with some thought. I'm very interested to try out the results firsthand, of course.

  23. It's good that they is some improvement.

    Game is quite strange as it. In FW-190 I'm okay at spotting P51, however in P51, they is no chance i see a FW190 at all. Must be some LOD magic with it.

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