Matt, how did the concept of Digital Combat Simulator come about?
After the release of Lock On: Modern Air Combat and then Flaming Cliffs with the Su-25T, we released two high-level simulation products: Ka-50 Black Shark and then A-10C Warthog.
Although these used the same engine as Lock On / Flaming Cliffs, they were stand-alone projects. As stand-alone products, the complications of product updates and network play became more and more apparent. It was time for us to establish a new product series, one that would enable us to use a freeware “simulation operating system” as the core and allow add-on (DLC) products to plug into it. This was the genius of DCS World. This also allowed us to move to self-publishing and allow us to sell our products through our online store and e-retailers like Steam.
Today with DCS World, we have an ever-evolving “simulation operating system” which we can continually plug into. These come in the form of additional aircraft, campaigns, maps, etc. Not only does this apply to the work done by Eagle Dynamics, but it has also afforded us the chance to open DCS World development to highly talented 3rd party teams.
The next big step of DCS has been the release of version 1.5 that includes our new graphics engine. Later we will release version 2.0 that supports map modules.
It really depends on the aircraft. In the case of the A-10C, this was an outgrowth of a desktop trainer we developed for the US military. Other aircraft like the Su-25T, F-15C, etc. rely more on open source data, involvement with Subject Matter Experts (SME), and a great deal of research through various archives.
For example: with our WWII aircraft we used the Mustangs that we own to create the most accurate simulation of the pony ever done. For the German aircraft, we accessed hundreds of old test and performance documents and even interviewed WWII German fighter pilots.
By using a combination of publicly available data and SMEs to scrub it, we can get quite close to the real articles.
Another highly important element is having the staff to then implement that given data into functional systems within DCS World. Be it radars, targeting pods, flight models, sound, and so on, it’s the engineers and artists that in the end make it all possible.
Probably the diversity. We now have aircraft ranging from the Second World War right up to the modern age, and all with various levels of simulation sophistication (from A-10C level to the Flaming Cliffs series). Within these eras of aircraft we have fighters, close air support aircraft, and multirole fighters (in the works).
We are also set to launch the ability to fly in various maps. We will start with the Nevada Test and Training Range, and then after that, Strait of Hormuz and World War II Normandy maps. In addition to our map projects, there are also several 3rd party maps in active development.
Another key element we are expanding on is the ability to play ground units in the form of Combined Arms. Be it commanding units from the strategic map, controlling numerous ground units from first person, commanding surface to air missile batteries, or playing the role of a JTAC, the “ground” element of DCS World is, as you can see, rapidly expanding.
It is this combination of factors that brings a level of gameplay diversity that I think is unmatched.
Whilst I am proud of each project in their own way, I think the A-10C would be my favorite child (if that is allowed). The extreme accuracy regarding the cockpit systems, flight dynamics, weapon systems, and 3D art, all go towards creating a highly immersive simulation. Combine that with the massive manual, interactive training missions and other content, it’s easy to see why it’s such a great product and one that I think has set the bar in PC flight simulation. To add to this, I just love the role of the Hog!
Did you utilize the expertise of current or former A-10 pilots during the development of the A-10?
Yes, during the development of the A-10C Desk Top Trainer (DTT), we received a lot of active assistance. After we completed the DTT, we then created the entertainment version, in which we were able to use about 90% of the systems we developed for the DTT. There were a few systems they asked us not to include (or be modified) in the entertainment version, which was entirely reasonable.
How many members make up the DCS team and what are their roles?
Between our studios, we have about 70 full-time staff which includes engineers/programmers, artists, researchers, game designers, IT and network engineers, and management.
In addition to our full-time staff, we also sub-contract out certain tasks.
Yes, we have a couple L-39 pilots, one of which also flew the MiG-31. We also have several civilian pilots on the team. My “previous life” work was in combat aviation intelligence.
Matt, what environments are you hoping to cover in the future?
Our first priority is the alpha release of the Nevada Test and Training Range map. After that, there will be the Strait of Hormuz and World War II Normandy maps. Once those are done, we will announce the follow-on maps. We realize that most customers are ready to fly outside the Black Sea region!
As mentioned before though, we also have multiple 3rd party teams working on maps (more to come on those later). As we move into 2016, I see one of the biggest changes coming to DCS World being map modules being a large portion of our product line.
So far DCS has covered aircraft, helicopters and with the Combined Arms mod, land warfare, so with that said, do you have plans to introduce a naval element?
With Combined Arms you already have the ability to have command level control over naval units. At some point in the future however, we hope to add direct, 1st person control to these units.
We do have some big news on this front coming soon…
Our aim is to see DCS World as a true Air-Land-Sea simulation.
Currently we have a highly active and successful set of 3rd party developers that include Belsimtek, Leatherneck Simulations, VEAO and AvioDev that have all released aircraft modules for DCS. In the not too distant future, RAZBAM and Polychop Simulations will also be added to this list.
At DCS, we are always happy to discuss projects with qualified 3rd party teams, teams which we feel can meet our quality standards. However, the process is not for the faint hearted as we require teams with exceptionally high qualifications before we can grant a development license.
For those not interested in the massive task of developing an aircraft module, the door is always open to individuals/teams who wish to create content such as campaigns. Interested parties with development experience can contact me at email@example.com.
Matt, thank you for taking the time out of your busy schedule to answer these questions for FlightSim.Com.
It certainly looks like there are exciting times ahead for DCS, so from everybody here at FlightSim.com, we wish you and the DCS team every success!