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The Current State of DCS World and its Community

DCS as a platform had been very stable the past three to four years, with constant releases and a steady stream of content both from Eagle Dynamics themselves and also from all the third parties. Anything from the unbelievable hype train behind Heatblur's F-4E Phantom II module, or the amazing excitement at the release of RAZBAM's F-15E Strike Eagle, and much more. It felt kind of like a golden era for DCS, with many new pilots coming to the platform to join in on the fun that this simulator can provide. That period is still alive, the golden era still hasn't finished, yet it feels like some of the steam behind it has disappeared and has been replaced by a haze that covers the immediate future of this simulator. I do not mean this in a demeaning way, in the slightest, but this is a feeling that seems to be more common in the community than I initially expected when I started writing this article a couple of days ago.
Initially, this frustration started as a very mild and subtle feeling of unease at the sudden declarations from RAZBAM and their relationship with Eagle Dynamics. Without getting into any of the details, as this is not the focus of this article, these declarations would affect the future of all RAZBAM products currently released for DCS World and would mean that all in-development projects would come to a halt. I have no information at my disposal other than what was publicly declared by the companies themselves, so I want to emphasize how this has affected the public and not just the relationship between companies. For many people in the community, this meant:
That it might be harsher for third party developers behind closed doors than we initially thought. That despite the previous track record, Eagle Dynamics might have allegedly mismanaged their professional relationship with a third party. That previously announced products by RAZBAM were now at risk of never being completed, and existing products might not receive any further content updates.
As a regular user, it would only be natural to be worried about this situation. It is muddy and confusing, which has left almost everyone in a state of stress and with feelings of disappointment now being directed towards both of the parties involved in this. Since then, the situation has changed a bit and both parties have now taken this conflict behind closed doors and RAZBAM has stated that they are looking forward to solving it in the best way possible, reassuring the community that they have a commitment to them. And yet, this feeling of unease still remains, since the problem has not yet been resolved fully and the future of these products remains a mystery. The second situation that has affected how people look at DCS products has to do with the state of early access in the game, and how inconsistent it can be. Let's use two upcoming products as a comparison: Heatblur's F-4E Phantom II and ED's CH-47F Chinook.

Heatblur's Phantom, while releasing in early access, seems to be very feature complete with most mission-critical systems being very much complete to ensure that the Phantom will have all of its capabilities at launch, which means that it will behave and have everything you expect it to have gameplay-wise. The radar and its capabilities, Jester 2.0, ground assets and even secondary features like dynamic writing on the canopy glass, etc. ED's Chinook, as per the information available at the time of writing, will be missing critical systems and gameplay features at launch that would have otherwise been necessary to experience this aircraft to the fullest. The most important of them all is the core game's logistics overhaul that will come at some point in the future, but it will be missing at the time of this module's launch. ED's statement on this is: We can say that we are developing a novel logistics system for the CH-47F that dynamically allows the player to determine what is loaded and unloaded from the aircraft based on weight and area. Whilst this will not be available at early access release, it is a high priority for the CH-47F and other cargo/transport aircraft. For regular users, both of these modules are still early access modules, and both are being sold with that in mind. This means that it is very hard to distinguish which level of quality and completeness at release for early access modules. Both of them are available for pre-order as well. This adds to the discomfort some people felt towards the CH-47F feature list, as it is only natural to compare feature lists and have expectations after seeing what one product offers and what another one does, when both have the same "early access" label.

Third and last, which is the smallest one of them all, is the fact that Eagle Dynamics have now shelved Modern Air Combat, the game that would have been the newest entry in ED's low-fidelity line of games. The result of this is that we are now receiving an update for the Flaming Cliffs line of modules in DCS, one that will see the addition of low-fidelity variants of the F-5E, the MiG-15Bis and F-86F modules. While this by itself is not a problem, I see myself puzzled as to why they chose to add low-fidelity versions of aircraft that already were in the game. The only advantage I see is that this will allow more people to fly these aircraft, with a lower barrier of entry. That by itself is positive for the game, but I cannot help but feel confused out about it.

This would be the first time that clickable/full fidelity modules have been re-added to the game as low-fidelity aircraft, but it would also be the first time that a Flaming Cliffs module releases without completely new aircraft. That in itself is not a problem, but the public does have certain expectations from new modules and adding what, at a glance, are simpler versions of pre-existing aircraft can seem to be a lazy or low effort move to monetize a product further. I am sure that it will be a successful product, and I hope it is, regardless of my personal feelings on how it should have been tackled. Before I conclude, I want to clarify that I am still an avid supporter of this simulator, its developers and all third parties. I felt the need to express my inner thoughts on this situation as I have, until now, only watched it develop from the sight lines. I have faith that, despite the way that the worries the community might have and the numerous bumps in the road, this game will prevail as an experience unlike anything else out there. 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 2000s, 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 2010s. Joined as a Spanish to English translator in 2017, he has been active as the co-founder and writer ever since. Twitter  | Discord : Cubeboy

The Current State of DCS World and its Community
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