From Tales of the Rampant Coyote
Posted by Rampant Coyote on July 13, 2018
Eagle Dynamics, creators of DCS World (Digital Combat Simulator), just announced a new flight sim to be released this fall, “Modern Air Combat.” This simulator comes with a whole bunch of aircraft that are all extremely familiar to fans of the DCS series. The major difference is that this is a “survey sim” – an all-in-one offering of several aircraft with greatly simplified controls. The aircraft include the F-15C Eagle, the SU-27 Flanker B, the SU-33 Flanker D, the J-11A “Flanker B+” Chinese version of the Flanker B, the MiG-29 Fulcrum A, the MiG-29S Fulcrum C, the A-10A Warthog (does anyone actually call it by the official designation “Thunderbolt II?”), the Su-25A, Su-25T, F-86F Sabre, MiG-15bis, F-5E Tiger II, Mig-21bis Fishbed, and the L-39ZA (a Czech trainer & attack aircraft).
More after the really cool trailer:
Okay – my thoughts: It sounds like Modern Air Combat is really a new, improved version of Flaming Cliffs, but with twice as many aircraft and better branding. Perhaps it will be sold as more of a stand-alone game than as a DCS module, which might reduce customer confusion.
The key feature here is the shallow learning curve with a common keyboard interface between all of the aircraft (or as common as you can get between some pretty different planes). They still use the professional flight models from DCS modules, although that can be simplified to be made more forgiving for new pilots. This product is clearly oriented towards new players, not existing DCS World players (except for those who have no modules beyond Flaming Cliffs). It’s a high-end flight sim geared towards entry-level play with combat aircraft from the latter half of the 20th century.
I’m actually pretty happy with this, because it is an area that has been sorely lacking over the last 15 years. Flight sims used to be a staple of gaming, but nowadays it feels like the only options for combat sims are completely unrealistic arcade-style games (the “Ace Combat” series, etc.) or the steep learning curve of the highly realistic sims (of which the DCS modules, other than Flaming Cliffs, are the hardest of the hardcore). I think there are a lot of gamers with a casual interest in more “realistic” flight sims but who are unwilling to spend weeks and weeks of self-imposed training getting to “the fun stuff.” (Yes, the hardcore are a weird bunch, and we actually find the training part to be fun, but that’s another story, and it really is time consuming).
The “flight sim community” needs new blood, and interested players need a modern (ish) air combat game where they don’t need to spend an entire week learning how to work the radar. DCS intimidates potential players. It intimidates me, because I don’t have the time to devote to flight sims like I once did. And even back in the day, as much as I was a Falcon 4.0 devotee (which was pretty dang hardcore for its time), I had a ball playing Jane’s ATF Gold. This could be a gateway to the more hardcore simulators of DCS (I am sure that’s Eagle Dynamics’ hope). But even if it fails in that… we need a modern, entry-level combat flight sim for jets.
Now, I do have some concerns. For one thing, this package seems to be modeled after Flaming Cliffs (some fans have been informally referring to it as Flaming Cliffs 4), and in my opinion even Flaming Cliffs is a tad on the complicated side for new players. Again, if they make the simplified avionics the default (and can reduce the stigma against people using it), maybe this is less of an issue. I’m not talking “dumbed down,” but I am talking streamlined. Naturally, streamlining the pilot workload too much yields pretty unrealistic results, but some of it may be necessary.
The other issue as I see it is the aircraft. Granted, they had to work with what they had. The aircraft are all painstakingly modeled to be ridiculously detailed, and they can’t just throw in a quick-and-dirty TurboSquid model into the mix. The aircraft currently in DCS represent a broad swath of eras and roles to say the least. These are not planes that are going to mix very well in head-to-head fighting. A Korean War era F-86F is going to fare very poorly against a player in a modern Su-33. It’s an odd mix.
The other issue with the aircraft is the target audience. A military aviation buff might get excited about the chance to fly a virtual MiG-21, but probably not the more casual player. Those people are probably already part of the hardcore DCS crowd. We are the ones who were deliriously enthusiastic when they released the F-5E Tiger II. It’s not such a draw for your average Joe (or Jane) with a passing interest in jet fighters. They’d be far more interested in flying the sexy new aircraft that are too classified and require too much guesswork for the DCS people to feel comfortable making a “simulator” out of it. Hopefully Modern Air Combat can lure these potential fans in with the F-15 and Su-33, and they’ll discover the joys of flying the more primitive aircraft. And then, maybe, start giving the full-fidelity DCS modules a try.
I hope this works out for Eagle Dynamics. The flight sim community definitely needs some growth, and I think the potential audience is there. And, for my own selfish reasons, I want Eagle Dynamics to prosper so they can keep coming out with the full-fidelity simulations.
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Original URL: http://rampantgames.com/blog/?p=12015