DCS World: Winning the Entire Mission in a Single Sortie?
Updated: Sep 22, 2022
Join a public Digital Combat Simulator player vs. environment (PvE) multiplayer server. Nine times out of ten, you'll be seeing F-16Cs carrying enough cluster munitions to make a B-52 blush, A-10s with more weapons than they have targets, and F/A-18Cs attempting to sink boats, bomb tanks, and outturn aircraft in one flight. It's so commonplace, seeing an aircraft accomplish a single objective with a reasonable loadout is uncommon. Why is that? Where is this need to win the war in a single sortie come from?
This question has been on my mind for a long time. I can't help but wonder after having countless missions ruined by a marauding allied aircraft. The dreaded singleton operating in the blind carrying every weapon under the sun. After months of assuming it was just bravado and devil-may-care decisions from random players, I was forced to think about it one day. While flying 100nm back to base because my targets were destroyed minutes before I got in range. While staring at my four useless AGM-154 JSOWs since I had no targeting pod onboard, when I began thinking hard about why this happens so frequently. To the point where I formed an actual opinion.
To my surprise, I found myself less annoyed (but still very annoyed!) and more understanding as to why this may keep happening.
Open-Ended Design of Most PvE Servers
As a combat simulator, DCS missions can become highly complex according to the mission planner's intentions and effort. To the point where specific aircraft and weapons are required, radio channels must be managed, flights have assignments, and a mission can take hours to complete. Very much in the style of community lead missions Spudknocker and the Grim Reapers post on their YouTube channels.
Very realistic combat scenarios can be created. But for the most part, public PVE servers are designed to be open-ended experiences that forgo many restrictive mission parameters. These missions are designed to allow anyone in any aircraft to show up and fly as they please. With loose objectives, uncontrolled radio channels, and other mission parameters left up to the players. Any target is on the table as long as you can get there first.
Unlimited Resources, Unrestricted Ambition
Related to public PvE server mission design, they usually have access to unlimited resources and unlimited aircraft. Both from the primary airfields players spawn from and/or the captured airfields along the way. While having every resource available sounds ideal, having no limits in the simulator also changes players' mindset in preparing for combat. This is why the previously mentioned overloaded aircraft is almost a standard in public PVE. The only thing holding them back is the capability of their enemies, how many weapons and aircraft can load, and the distances they must fly.
But even though an aircraft can load tons of munitions, it's not necessarily because they are meant to complete multiple missions in one flight. Expending most of your fuel and weapons on the primary objective then wandering the battlefield looking for any enemy that appears isn't the wisest of choices. All that added drag and weight from weapons being lugged around the battlefield while searching for extra trouble has gotten more than a few overly confident players shot down.
And yet, the practice of flying dozens of miles to strike a target then meander off to chase bandits or seek out new areas of operations is a part of the collective mental image of a public PvE server is. In settings where players can have anything they want and fly as they please, over-extending and trying to do too much at once is commonplace.
Going it Alone
Digging deeper, this urge to try and single-handedly defeat a small army also comes from how the player views themself as flying solo. While public PVE servers can get packed with dozens of players, a high level of pre-mission planning and mid-mission communication between all players is uncommon. Even with all those people around, no communication essentially means they are essentially on their own. It's only with allies you can talk or text with that coordinated operations can be effectively run. Feeling as though they are on their own, they prioritize their own objectives without consulting others, causing the overlap in target selection. This is how a flight of aircraft's well-thought-out attack can be derailed by another pilot's final yolo rush.
Finally, the amount of time needed to complete the mission or objective is a factor. The average PvE Digital Combat Simulator sortie takes at least an hour to finish, but not everyone always has a few free hours set aside. A single flight may be all that their schedule allows for. Those players are attempting to maximize the potential number of targets destroyed in the one sortie they may fly for the day.
Now, I'm not saying PvE servers need to change the way they operate or that they're bad experiences. I often find myself flying online in PvE scenarios more than anything else. So, while this is clearly not a grand scheme to troll others by disrupting their missions, it doesn't change the fact that it's rather inconvenient. I think I can better understand why the solo players operate the way they do... but at least slow down a bit, type in chat and try to coordinate! Haha!
About the Writer
Aaron "Ribbon-Blue" Mendoza
Co-founder of Skyward Flight Media. After founding Electrosphere.info, the first English Ace Combat database, he has been involved in creating flight game-related websites, communities, and events since 2005. He explores past and present flight games and simulators with his extensive collection of game consoles and computers. Read Staff Profile.