Baltic Dragon. If you fly single player campaigns in DCS World, by now you must surely know this name. He has become a prolific, focused DCS mission builder and campaign designer. Here at Mudspike, we have previewed his previous work: “Einstein” with the Mirage 2000C campaign, “BeachAV8R” with The Enemy Within and with Iron Flag and “Sryan” with The Georgian War (a collaboration between “Baltic Dragon” and “Viper”). His next project is a M2000C Red Flag campaign and he has been kind enough to share access to an early version for us to try. We will be flying out of Nellis during a ‘Flag’ event designed to prepare for a potential war in the Middle East and this time I have been rotated into the hot seat. Let’s get our single player game face on 🙂
This article features a preview/beta version of the M2000C Red Flag campaign . Further development and changes should be expected.
I want to start by pointing out that I am not a virtual pilot who has any experience in the Single Player environment of DCS World. I tend to buy the modules when they become available and either spend my time learning the systems alone in missions that I design or I fly cooperative, friendly, relaxed multi-player with the Mudspike Regulars. Though I have accumulated some hours in most of the modules, I shy away from these missions and campaigns because I am intimidated* by the systems knowledge requirement that is implied; generally I feel that I do not know ‘the things’ as well as I need to in order to properly execute the mission as fragged by the designer, within the time constraints required. As such, I have never flown one of Baltic Dragons missions/campaigns before … so this will be interesting.
*It could be argued that one of the drivers that keep virtual pilots away from multi-player events is the fear of embarrassing themselves in front of others who are competent in that environment; single player missions and campaigns can also easily fit that mold as moderate or higher complexity design can make failure in this environment a frustrating and un-fun experience.
As I will be flying a French Mirage 2000C, a genuinely French aircraft (as modeled and implemented in DCS by RAZBAM), I am going take a moment and dig out my favorite 80s/90s tape of Canadian French music featuring Roche Voisine and Celine Dion and have it play in the background while I review the manual or, better yet, the familiar and well worn pages of Chuck’s Guides – DCS Mirage 2000C. There we go. Mood set.
As I dive into the first few missions I am spending a fair bit of time with the briefing materials provided by Baltic Dragon: I am paranoid that if I do not, I am going to fall behind the jet and, quickly after that, behind the mission itself. To my delight the provided materials are immersive and detailed with a nice, readable briefing script, concise supporting documentation and a data card that contains all of the details necessary for me to prepare for what I can expect on the mission execution. The data card and some of the other info will appear on the in-game kneeboard but do not expect to skip through everything and ‘just make it work’ once you get in the cockpit.
Baltic Dragon has done a great job setting up the narrative and flow of the overall operation and in each mission you will need to expect some surprises: ‘The plan never survives first contact with the enemy’. This is not a case where the he is trying to throw you off your mission, instead he is designing in a certain level of challenge where you need to keep on top of things or you start to fall behind the jet. It is in your best interests to take notes, if anything it will help reinforce your understanding of what you are about to do. Preparation is the first step to better execution, followed quickly by practice.
This is not going to be a spoiler for anyone but on my first run at the first mission I started falling behind … quickly and literally. My formation work and my ability to stay on-speed while working the systems in the jet spoke directly to my lack of discipline and limited flight hours in the M2000C in a strict formation environment. The briefing materials provided me with a good background on the flight and allowed me to get back in front of the jet … eventually. When you are flying with a casual, friendly multi-player group on a semi-regular basis, formation flying is always (always) a challenge as speeds and direction are always … fluid … but maintaining position with the AI, who are a little strict in their flying, means that you can’t blame them when you have difficulty maintaining position. This should not scare anyone away from these missions (or multi-player flight for that matter) as I found it fun and extremely interesting to have this challenge pointed out to me in a single player environment in such a clear manner.
On to the Missions
One of the first thoughts that struck me as I was getting my jet, and getting it’s speed and systems under control, was what has become a standard feature of Baltic Dragon designed missions and campaigns – an excellent audio atmosphere*. Comms between the flights and elements are fully voiced. Tower, ATIS, Ground, Approach – it is all there. I do not want to spoil anything but if you are not impressed by the level of detail in the briefing materials, then you have to be impressed by the encompassing, enveloping experience of having everything that would be on the radio actually on the radio.
* Baltic Dragon has noted that there are some 3000 lines that have been voiced by more than 40 members of the community – an astonishing feat that showcases not only the quality and variety of the radio chatter but the ability of the flight sim community to work together and contribute to the enjoyment of our hobby.
As Beach wrote in the Iron Flag preview:
“I’ve never experienced a sim mission that was so realistically intense as far as keeping up with radio switches, responding to radio calls, and generally managing an aircraft while simultaneously navigating and communicating.”
And as Beach mentioned, take a moment to familiarize yourself with the radios of the M2000C. Hot tip: if the voices in your headset mention the Red and Green radios, they refer to the forward (UHF) radio as Red and the back (V/UHF) radio as Green (forward and back referring to the position of the radios on the left side panel). It’s also a good idea to have a look for the that ‘Pause’ key on your keyboard if you need to take a look at a manual .
As you can expect, takeoff and form-up times are going to be important and the Mirage M2000C has that excellent early generation INS system that needs time to align. It is not going to surprise you that you will be expected to not dally around in the cockpit as the rest of the flight hits their startup, taxi and take off times but most of these time pressures can be handled with a little practice.
Even in the early missions that show you around the neighbourhood, the immersion is excellent and the challenges are still real. I enjoyed the opportunity to have a little fun with an adversary pilot who wanted to take a look at the capabilities of my French ‘Chasseur’ before main Red Flag event started.
In all, the first few missions are fun to fly and I believe they give a good feel for how the rest of the campaign will unfold. I had fun re-flying them a few times and each attempt was a chance to compete with myself and how I had performed previously – learning from my mistakes and becoming more efficient and adept at the systems.
I have taken a brief look at a few of the missions that occur later in this 16-mission set and the level of detail and effort put into their crafting is impressive. This is a ‘must-have’purchase for me when it becomes available!