DCS World Module Announcements: Our Thoughts
Right now it is a very weird time to be a flight simulation fan, as we seem to be in the middle of a new golden era. MSFS is still pushing forward, looking into adding several types of aircraft currently unavailable to the sim. IL-2 Great Battles just released the long awaited Normandy expansion, including a theater of war that many have wanted for a while now.
And then there's DCS World. They have been announcing modules at an unprecedented pace, many of which are aircraft that fans have been desperately asking for what seems like an eternity. But I have noticed something interesting in the community. There are those that seem excited for this never-before-seen stream of announcements and some that have taken them with a bit of confusion and distrust. After talking with several people about this subject and seeing different opinions, I wanted to dig a bit deeper to find why this reaction has been widespread amongst some members of the community. I now think I have found two clear reasons as to why someone would have an adverse reaction towards these announcements:
1. UNPRECEDENTED BOMBARDMENT OF ANNOUNCEMENTS
Since July 29th, there has been a module announcement a week. This means that in the span of two months and change, we have had 9 new modules shown to us in various stages of development. Many in the community are not used to this amount of modules being revealed in such a short amount of time. This leads to confusion, making people wonder: "What changed inside of ED to lead to this?" "Is there a reason for this?". After all, it is not like people should be expected to just take everything in with unquestioned excitement.
I suspect that this is due to the fact that some fans were used to these modules announcements not being frequent. For this "pattern" to be broken, they might see it as an aggressive marketing strategy change that is aimed at creating hype for these products before they are even complete. This is just speculation aimed at trying to understand this point of view, so please do not take it personally.
I do feel like spacing some of these announcements out would have helped with audience reception from this specific demographic. Something that I do know is that people tend to have an inherent resistance to change, and that is clearly a part of this conundrum.
2. DISTRUST IN NEW DEVELOPERS AND THE "RAW" NATURE OF THE ANNOUNCEMENTS
Another aspect that I have seen is that some people seem to see these announcements with distrust, seeing as the majority of them are from new third party studios which have no track record on any other simulators or even any other projects of any kind.
This is a point that I understand and can relate to. Why should I trust a new developer before they have shown what they can do? I have no doubt that many of these studios are led by passionate individuals who are professionals to the very core, but there is something that did not help in regards to creating this possible consumer distrust: the nature of the announcements.
Out of the 9 announcements that have been published since July 29th, 5 of them are aircraft. Of these 5 aircraft, only 3 have any kind of in-game footage(screenshots or video). The only one that showed a more advanced state was Aircraft Simulation Company's (ASC) C-130J, which showed two trailers where its systems are clearly visible and working in the cockpit. This means that 2 of these new new modules are nothing more than documentation and 3D models. From this point of view it is easy to understand why there is skepticism in some corners of the community.
Not that long ago module announcements were handled in a completely different way. Shamrock from Stormbirds even commented on this in his article, one that gave insight as to why this change in announcement policy happened:
In a post on the DCS World forums, community manager BIGNEWY, gives us some insight as to the reasoning.
In the past we generally waited until a 3rd party module was quite far along in development; however, this has resulted in duplicated efforts and inefficiencies. Instead, once a 3rd party module has a completed license agreement, we will now announce it to allow the 3rd party to “plant a flag” and avoid duplicated efforts. Once a 3rd party project is roughly six months away from release based on an internal evaluation, more news and updates will be made available. Because we have several 3rd party projects in development, and the change in announcement policy, we have had a flurry of announcement activity. BIGNEWY on the DCS World forums
It is natural for people to be skeptic of new products and new groups until they have proved themselves. While I do feel like these individuals have not given these developers a chance to show what they can do, I do understand where they are coming from. At least three of these projects are from people that have previous experience in the DCS modding scene (Grinelli Designs, ASC and Crosstail Studios) so they are already familiar with many of the workflows required to get something flying in DCS World.
That being said. I do not completely understand why this change of policy, which seems to be directed at reducing confusion between third parties, could not have been dealt internally. This would have avoided announcing modules that are extremely early in their development cycles, which is what seems to be leading people to their skepticism. Some of these people feel like these modules were announced too soon, with little to make them feel excited.
This leads to one last point: where do I stand?
MY POINT OF VIEW
I, personally, fall in between these two camps. I am cautiously excited for several of the modules that were announced. Heatblur's upcoming F-4E is the one module I have been the most excited about, seeing as I have a very unique relationship with that plane. Additionally, seeing that some of my favorite aircraft (Kfir, Skyraider and Hercules) are now official projects is honestly very heartwarming. The C-130J has to be the worst kept secret that DCS has had in a while. Almost everyone knew that it was already official and becoming a "graduated" module from the same guys that developed the mod, so that announcement did not take me by surprise. But to the point. I feel like some of the adverse reactions that I have seen are justified but some of the most extreme ones are not. I read the comment section of Shamrock's article about this very subject and I saw a couple of people acting, like he said in the article, a bit "grouchy". This even got Nineline, one of ED's community managers, to peek their head there and leave a couple of comments. He said this in one of his comments, which I feel is true:
What I found unusual is the terms used, and them seemingly being so aggressive in that I can’t think of anything that became vaporware from DCS, I don’t feel like we are “idiotic-ly incompetent” or “lying”.
I think that we, as a community, should strive to communicate better what we feel to the people that can do something about it. If we are upset about something that ED has done, we should try to communicate it in a more polite and civil manner. That goes both ways, too. I feel like ED could benefit from a bit more of transparency with these decisions, which they already did to a certain degree, but in a more public and direct manner. Not in a comment section or a forum post, but in an official publication. But for now, I will enjoy the modules that I already have and the mods that we just got. I will be cautiously optimistic about the modules that got announced and I will wait until they are further along in development to get more excited about them.
About the writer:
Santiago "Cubeboy" Cuberos
Longtime aviation fanatic with particular preference towards military aviation and its history. Said interests date back to the early 2000's leading into his livelong dive into civil and combat flight simulators. He has been involved in a few communities but only started being active around the mid 2010's. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and one of the main writers. Twitter | Discord: Cubeboy #9034