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Friday, June 27, 2014

From War Thunder to Hard Core flight sim: how?

So, like me you've been playing War Thunder for a year. You started in arcade mode, using a mouse, then you went historical, and finally full real/simulator.

You're ready for a new challenge, but the hard core flight simulation choice is daunting, the learning curve looks too steep, and most of the players on those forums are total SNOBS.

Well, a few months ago I took the plunge! I bought three different 'hard core' flight sims, and have been trying them all out. Now I feel ready to make a recommendation, not based on all the different features of the game (they all have their good and bad points) but on how well they fill the role of 'transition game' from War Thunder player to hard core simmer. and how FRIENDLY the players are in their communities, who you can turn to for information and newbie type help.

But here is a funny fact: they're all Russian!


Just forget this game, right away. Blot it out of your mind. You look at the website and you think - cool! Jet fighters! P51 Mustangs! Helicopters! This game has it all! And man, it looks beautiful...

Then you install it (I chose the basic free DCS World module, which has an Su25 jet you can fly, plus the P51 Mustang which cost about 25 quid or 40 bucks) and the suckiness starts.

Yes, it has easy and hard modes, but the easy flight mode is still way too hard for someone coming from a flight game like War Thunder. I simply could not takeoff, even in the tutorial mission - just to give you a taste of how hard core this sim is, the first tutorial mission is all about just how to start the engine! It takes about a hundred steps. Then the next 'mission' is just about how to taxi out to takeoff! Third mission you actually get to take off. I think you are getting the picture.

Then there is the fact that even in 'simple' flight mode, the flight model is so tricky that I find it impossible to dogfight in the Mustang without sending it into a spin.  I got a ton of advice on how to set up my joystick, how to tweak the in game settings, you name it - but I pull back on the joystick and the darn thing goes into a death spin almost every time. Then I realised - IT ISN'T ME! Hundreds of players have this problem. See a typical post here:

DCS fanbois will argue until blue in the face that DCS has it right, and every other sim in the world (where the Mustang is actually flyable) has it wrong. I don't care actually, all I care about is whether I can fly the darn thing, and I can't. So, if this is hard core, then it is too hard core for me!

The community is so so. As with a lot of games, there are semi-religious fanbois who abuse anyone who seems to even ask a question which might be critical (which I learned asking about why the DCS Mustang spins so badly) and DCS seems to have more than its fair share of those. But there is also a large number of people who genuinely want to help you, and a lot of videos and tutorials they can refer you to, which really helped me at least to take off and land the thing!

Also on the plus side, it does have a lot of different HUD modes and help cues for new pilots, showing where targets are, and putting a lot of things on screen if you want them, such as airspeed and target locations. It also has a cue to help with deflection shooting, which works really well.

And, it costs you NOTHING to try it. The free game comes with an Su-25 jet with missions and campaigns to fly. The Su-25 is actually a lot of fun, kind of a Russian tractor version of the A-10, and I found it a lot easier to fly in simple mode than the Mustang. But coming from War Thunder I wanted a good WWII flight sim game (learning a hard core sim, as well as moving from propeller planes to jets was a big jump) and the DCS Mustang just made me feel too inferior.

Left in the Cold: IL2 Battle of Stalingrad

There is an apparently legendary flight sim series from about ten years ago called IL2 which most War Thunder players have never heard of. This is the latest installment in that game series. Like the old War Thunder beta, it is still in beta release, but you can already buy and play it and it is actually quite easy to play.

Unlike DCS Mustang, it comes with several planes already so there is a lot more to learn, and they are each very detailed, but that is a good thing. Because instead of starting in something as tricky as the Mustang, you can start in a flying tank called the IL2.

This machine is freaking awesome! Almost indestructable, flies fast, hits hard and doesn't punish inexperienced pilots.

Battle of Stalingrad has a simple flight mode, which actually is SIMPLE. You can set all sorts of options to make the flight model more or less challenging, you can set up the HUD to show a lot, or a little (or nothing), in the way of cues and the cues themselves are much better implemented than in DCS because it is clear that this game actually WANTS new pilots to start playing it.

The community of people around it is a bit like DCS, a lot of rabbid fanbois, but also a lot of people willing to answer and help with my many dumb questions.

So I have spent a lot of time flying the IL2 (and lately, trying to fly one of the German fighters, the Bf109G) and gradually getting more and more confident as I increase the reality options.

So why would I not recommend this game, right out of the box, to someone considering moving from War Thunder to a hard core sim?


Yes, you heard me. You can try DCS World Su-25 for free, or with the Mustang for 20 QUID or 40 bucks. The next sim, which I WILL recommend, can be bought for about 5 quid (yes 5) or ten (yes, 10) bucks. But the pre-release beta version of Battle of Stalingrad will cost you fifty quid and this is just too much - both for a beta product, but also in the context of just trying a hard core game to see if you like it or not. There is currently no free-to-try option.

Unless you love throwing money at a game you may never play, stay away.

The Green Fields of England: Cliffs of Dover

Finally, I get to the game which I actually recommend! Sorry about the delay dear travellers...

This game is freaking brilliant!

If you search for reviews online, you might get scared away, because apparently it was a total disaster when it first game out a couple of years ago. But that is GOOD for you, because it means the game is very cheap now!

Cliffs of Dover, or CLOD as fans call it (are they being funny? probably!) has been completely modded/fixed by a company called Team Fusion and it now plays beautifully, and looks even better. It is the closest thing to the graphics excellence you are used to from  War Thunder, of all three of these sims. Battle of Stalingrad aircraft are nice, but the landscape is just a mass of snowy boring nothingness. CLOD has the lovely French and British summer landscapes done perfectly (I live there, so I consider myself an expert!) and you can also get Mediterranean, Desert, Winter and Autumn landcapes and missions.

The 'simple' flight mode really is simple, so if you don't want to worry about engine management, flaps, trim tabs etc etc you don't have to. But as soon as you are ready to go hard core, you have a lot of options you can customise entirely to your own level of difficulty. It gave me exactly what I needed in the way of fine tuning the realism.

The online community is super friendly - especially the Team Fusion people. They will even offer to meet up with you online, and one of them met with me on TeamSpeak, and talked me through how to fly the Spitfire from start to landing and then took me on a combat mission as well. Unlike War Thunder where sometimes it is hard to find a SB battle with more than a handful of human players, the Cliffs of Dover servers have nearly a hundred players each, online, and ready to fight!

And the kicker? I bought it for ten quid (20 bucks). And I have seen it on sale for half that!

There are a lot of flyable aircraft (you have access to them all, not like in War Thunder) and you don't have to keep earning points to fly them, maintain and repair them. It is a real joy to crash your Spitfire, and restart in a fresh sparkling new one, without any penalty! So far I have stuck to the beautiful Spitfire, but there are bombers, twin engine fighters, German, Italian, and British (no American).

So this is the one for me. I still spend most of my time in War Thunder, because I have my favourite kites in my hangar now and a lot of time and pride invested, plus it is the best game for a quick blast of dogfighting. But I am spending more and more time in Cliffs of Dover.

And I recommend you do, too!

The best air combat advice online!

This fantastic free resource bills itself as 'a real pilot's guide to online air combat' and it is FANTASTIC!

Check out the table of contents below, and download HERE:

Introduction 4
Preface 5

Part I: Environment
1. The world 7
2. The players 10
3. Fear of death 15
4. Internet and mechanical effects18

Part II: Flight and Combat Basics
5. The platform 20
6. Energy 30
7. Lift vector, Gravity loads and other terms of combat 41
8. BFM 45
9. Pursuit modes 52
10. Situational Awareness 54
11. On guns and gunnery 61

Part III: Advanced Combat Manoeuvres
12. Separation and timing 70
13. ACM 75
13.1 Split-S 76
13.2 Immelman 77
13.3 Cuban-8 77
13.4 Chandelle 78
13.5 Rope-A-Dope 79
13.6 Defensive spiral 82
13.7 Hammerhead 83
13.8 Scissors 84
13.9 Lead Turn 89
13.10 High yo-yo 90
13.11 Low yo-yo 92
13.12 The Sliceback 93
13.13 Lag displacement roll 94

Part IV: You are the enemy
14. Psychology 96
15. Aggression 102
16. Thinking ahead 106
17. Common Situations 110
17.1 The Merge 110
17.2 The Bounce 113
17.3 Six o’clock high! 115
17.4 The extending bandit 116
17.5 The low quarter lag 117
17.6 The vulture 117
17.7 Getting stuck 117
17.8 Common errors 120

Part V: Never alone!
18. Formation tactics 123
18.1 The Fighting Element: 126
18.2 Fighting doctrines 129
18.3 Bracket attack 132
18.4 Trail attack 136
18.5 Cross Split 137
18.6 Sandwich 139
18.7 Half Split 141
18.8 Thach Weave 142
18.9 Engagement and Disengagement 144
19. Missions 149
19.1 Fighter sweep 151
19.2 Combat air patrol 152
19.3 Barrier combat patrol 155
19.4 Close air support 156
19.5 Armed Reconnaissance 157
19.6 Bomber intercept 157
19.7 Bomber escort 158
19.8 Ground attack 162

Part VI: Community 166
20 Squadron life 167
20.1 Training 168
20.2 Communications 170
In closing 173
Select bibliography 174

Thursday, June 26, 2014

E3 2014 marks the revival of flight games

By Charlie Hall on Jun 09, 2014 at 12:00p

Before the rise of the first person shooter the flight simulation genre made up a healthy part of the gaming ecosystem, enjoying a popularity that lasted decades.
But in many ways the era of the flight sim ended in January 2009 when Microsoft announced the closure of the Aces Studio. After 29 years the people behind the Microsoft Flight Simulator series were out of work.
For the last five years flight sims have struggled to remain relevant, spiraling off into niche titles like the X-Plane and the DCS series that, while they push the limits of modern computing power, strain the patience of most gamers.
That’s about the change.
The flight sim genre is coming back in a big way. This year’s E3 marks an inflection point where developers, publishers and hardware manufacturers are coming together to create new kinds of flight sim experiences. It’s a confluence that will push flight sims to the forefront of gaming for the next several years.

World of Warplanes

One title that loomed large over last year’s E3 was World of Warplanes.’s booth featured dozens of PCs running the game and giant screens attracted crowds as people passing by watched the action in real time, a display that generated a lot of buzz for the game.
Over the next year has taken its massive player count from World of Tanks and used it to establish a healthy community for Warplanes. This year and the next will be all about Warplanes’ expansion, and the current generation of consoles are a likely target. has already shown an interest in console gamers with World of Tanks: Xbox 360 Edition, and news of a console port of Warplanes can’t be too far away.

War Thunder

Stepping into the ring this year is Gaijin Entertainment, who just last week launched its flight simulator, War Thunder on the PlayStation 4. The free-to-play title is a nearly direct port of the PC version, which has been in beta for the last several years. It even goes so far as to feature cross play, pitting PC players and console players against each other on even footing.
One thing that makes War Thunder unique is that players duke it out in the air and on the land, with tanks, on the same maps. The game also offers three difficulty levels ranging from arcade action to full realism, which limits the player’s view to the cockpit and makes increasing demands on the virtual pilot to actually know how to fly a plane.
Gaijin’s investment in Sony’s technology is strong. The game even features head tracking, allowing players to look around their aircraft by utilizing the Playstation Camera. Expect it to show prominently during Sony’s press conference.

Elite: Dangerous

Frontier Developments is expected to have a big presence on the floor of E3 this year with its space combat simulation Elite: Dangerous. In stark contrast to the free-to-play titles mentioned above, Frontier is selling Elite right now as an early access game for a premium price of $150.

Eve: Valkyrie

Finally, CCP will have its space combat simulation Eve: Valkyrie playable as well. The game began as a demo, built internally to utilize the Oculus Rift virtual reality kit laying around the office. But it’s grown into something much, much bigger this year. The team recently added actress Katee Sackhoff’s voiceover talent to the game, placing her in a prominent role in the game’s fiction. Polygon will likewise have hands on time with Valkyrie this year to see how the game’s development is progressing.

Star Citizen

Two high profile flight simulators will not be shown at this year’s E3. The first, Chris Robert’s Star Citizen, has raised more than $43 million on crowd funding, proving that there is an audience willing to pay for premium content like exclusive ships. The dogfighting module has just been released last week and, after a few bugs, seems to be seeing heavy use by early access players.

IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad

Also not present at this year’s conference is IL-2 Sturmovik: Battle of Stalingrad. Announced in December 2012 and being published by 1C, developer 777 Studios is already well known for hard core flight sims like Rise of Flight: The First Great Air War and Wings of Prey: WWII Air Combat. The game is already open to alpha testers and has a stated release date of September of 2014.

World of Warships E3 trailer!

Good advice for online flyers...

I think of this one, as I try to make the transition from War Thunder Arcade to full realism/SB mode. I am really struggling with the restriction of only being able to see the world from within the cockpit, and without all the HUD cues - even with the help of TrackIR.

But there are plenty of misconceptions about full real battles and you do need to learn a few things to get the most out of this mode, when you are ready to go Big League. Here are the main reasons people hold back, and what to do about them, from cmasupra!

Reason #1: I don't want to spend the money on TrackIR for headtracking.
Then don't. I did but you don't need to. Some pilots use their mouse to look around, others use the hat switch on the top of their joystick (if they have a joystick), and some others use free headtracking options, such as FreeTrack and FaceTrackNoIR. I personally used FaceTrackNoIR when I first started playing SB. It requires a webcam and nothing else. It's not great, but it is definitely more than adequate if you want free headtracking.

Reason #2: I don't want to spend the money on a joystick.
Then don't. My first month in SB was spent using the Mouse Joystick controls, and I was still able to shoot people down just fine. If you don't know what Mouse Joystick is, watch the video below. If you don't want to fly SB with Mouse Joystick controls, there are cheap joysticks out there. I personally use a $30 USD Logitech Extreme 3D Pro.

Reason #3: I don't want to deal with manual engine controls.
I have flown SB for many months now and have never touched engine controls. I don't even have keys set up for the engine controls. The game handles it all for you unless you specifically want manual engine control for some reason.

Reason #4: SB is too difficult to learn. The jump from RB to SB is much bigger than the jump from AB to RB.
I fully agree that SB is difficult to learn, but it's very rewarding. Watch the video below for a tutorial on how to takeoff and land. Don't forget, all of us who fly SB are also more than willing to help a new guy out. The more, the merrier!

Reason #5: I'm not interested in uber-simulation.
War Thunder's SB is not as close to an uber-sim as you might think, thanks to the automatic engine control that the game uses. There are really only 2 things you need to think about that are not related to combat: 1) Throttle, and 2) Flaps. You already think about both of those in RB, so they're nothing new.

Reason #6: I don't want to play "Spot the Dot".
In all likelihood, you already play "Spot the Dot" in RB. It's exactly the same in SB! To help with spotting enemies, there are even special graphic settings you can use that can be found in this thread. Various people posted various settings that worked well for them, so browse through the thread and try out some settings for yourself and see how much they help. I also made a video about the settings I personally use, which can be found here. Lastly, remember that spotting an enemy doesn't get you the kill; out-flying them and shooting them does.

Reason #7: The rewards aren't high enough.
I fully agree. Help us get higher rewards for SB! Kindly (not rudely) ask Gaijin for bigger SB rewards and we shall all receive.

Reason #8: Not all the countries are available at the same time.
That is true, but it's because of the relatively low playerbase currently. I recommend just flying SB anyway. The more players Gaijin sees flying SB, the more likely they are to make all countries available. If you really don't want to fly any of the available countries, then just keep checking which countries are available every few days. The countries do rotate, so they're all available at some point or another.

Reason #9: I don't want to spend 30 minutes waiting for a game.
Most of the time it takes less than 5 minutes to get a game. Sometimes it does take longer, even over 10 minutes, but not very often. Be sure to set your server to Any Available!

Reason #10: I don't want to deal with all the friendly fire from people not knowing who is friendly because there are no icons.
There actually isn't much friendly fire that happens in SB. This is because a blue icon (with the playername or just a dot for AIs) will appear over a friendly plane when you get within 800m of them, well before you're within shooting range.

- cmasupra

Monday, June 9, 2014

DCS WWII project collapses, lead developer exited

Eagle Dynamics announced this week it had terminated its partnership with RRG Studios' Ilya Shevchenko, and was assuming sole rights to the DCS WWII project in development.

Some RRG staff have been hired into Eagle Dynamic/DCS to continue their work, ED said.

This blog has frequently documented the warning signs that all was not well at DCS WWII:

We have listed them here just in case we are accused of 2020 hindsight. It became patently obvious the project was going nowhere when Shevchenko posted 'update' after 'update' of screenshots of MSWord files, mixed with only the occasional in-game shot from a game that was supposed to be in alpha state; told the world he had spent a month working on flight manuals (clearly the priority a lead developer should be focused on); refused to engage with his Kickstarter backers by discussing any work in progress with them (perhaps because this could have exposed him to legal concerns) and then went totally dark in April, issuing no further updates.

We raised early concerns given the track record of the devs. These were the people who gave us the self-confessed disaster that was IL2 Cliffs of Dover. Before that, was Project Galba, the Korean war sim that never saw light of day.

It beggared belief that a publishing house like ED/DCS would then agree to collaborate with this team, on a new sim - DCS WWII - and risk their brand value by doing so. They have now taken the consequences of that decision and cut their ties with RRG Studios, assumed control of the project again, and are trying to save their reputation.

The ED/DCS plan is to roll out their WWII warbirds now module style, as they do with all their DCS World releases, and finally some time in 2015 to release the Western Europe map for DCS World and a standalone DCS WWII game for those who have not been buying the modules.

If they do so, they will need to dramatically change their pricing policy. Currently DCS modules retail for about 50 USD each at full price. Buying the six aircraft planned for DCS WWII, and the new map, at that price would mean you are paying 400 USD for DCS WWII!

Compare this to Battle of Stalingrad, where 100 USD early access fee gets you the map, and every month or so the devs add a new aircraft, weapons and features as part of that fee.

Wait for the full game release.

If you buy a module like the DCS P-51, you get a nice aircraft simulation, but no game. You can set up dogfights against the in game AI FW190, but that is it. When the new WWII warbirds are added you will have a few more opponents to go up against.

But flying WWII warbirds over a modern Europe battlefield, quickly feels stupid.

You might as well get the same aircraft in MS FSX, with A2A Accusim, where at least you can adjust the scenery to feel a little more 1940s France and Germany.

Releasing the DCS WWII aircraft as modules, before you have a map to fly them over, is a dumb way to sell an alpha

What ED is planning to do, by releasing the aircraft as modules, is the equivalent of giving players early alpha access to the game. Or, are they just cashing in on the DCS WWII assets, selling them off, before they walk away from the title altogether? I hope not. I hope they are just trying generate a cash flow by releasing the aircraft individually, and then finally the Western Europe theatre and stand alone product.

Compare this to Battle of Stalingrad, which released the map and a couple of aircraft first, and then went about adding more aircraft. BoS has generated thousands of buyers this way - I confidently predict ED will be much less successful by doing it the other way around because ED is not giving the player a GAME in which to fly their new aircraft!

ED you have your development priorities all wrong!

I know a sim project is not a linear thing, it has multiple tracks, but focus is the key of any large project.

ED should focus on getting the Normandy map completed, and some sort of game mechanics (eg a quick mission builder, online servers etc) in place using the P51D and FW190D.

Once that is done, sell alpha access and start generating cash flow.

THEN start releasing the other aircraft as modules.

Going the traditional ED/DCS World 'module' route, releasing WWII warbirds into a modern battlefield and expecting to generate sales, is an idea doomed to fail.