Monday, 20 January 2014

Official world on DCS World

I see more and more requests for us to create the Apache Longbow for DCS World. For sake of clarity we thought we'd put out an official response.

For now, the answer is simply no. We talked about it, thought about it and started to look at what might be involved. In the end we had to draw a line and decide what we wanted to do.

It is not for lack of interest on my part. And I don't want to fully stamp on it as a future possibility (if we're here in 3 years time and someone still hasn't stepped up to build one). If someone with experience will take it on I'm sure it would be a superior study aircraft given the pedigree and changes in the Edge engine. We don't yet have the man-power or experience needed to create a quality aircraft for that series. With the unfortunate delays in production of Combat-Helo, taking on yet another project would be near impossible without skilled individuals with suitable experience. Even with crowd-funding it's hard to justify it as a spin-off project as it doesn't fit in with what we set out to do. Dave and I set out to create the kind of game nobody was making anymore which is the stand-alone combat-sim. And for all my talk, I've discovered that it's not as easy as it sounds.

Scott Elson (former EA and Microprose senior developer) reminded me way back that creating a flight simulation was not simply a matter of making an aircraft and flying it around. There's a lot more work involved, weapons, audio, UI, animation, events, triggers, file systems. All the glue that holds a stand-alone game together which would stretch a five man team, never mind two.

David and I began work on this in 2009. This started out as a full-time project and when the money ran out we had a choice, carry on as best we could working in our free time or abandon it. It was never going to be ideal but we carried on regardless, I had to trim features as time went by to pick up the slack to keep the end in sight. Eventually my output was struggling to keep pace with David's output and problems with our choice of game engine threw a spanner into the works. You don't find some problems in a technology until you really stress it, our issues were not apparent until much later in the project. Hindsight is awesome.

Recently, volunteers have allowed us to push past some of the older problems we had with Leadwerks 2.x. which has been fantastic (again props to Macklebee, Klepto and Shadmar who contributed). Technology has moved on and our ambition while humbled, stubbornly remains. It was clear we couldn't deliver the game we set out to make, the dynamic Afghan campaign will for now remain incomplete on our hard-drives, but from a future development point of view we now have more options available to us. The game development landscape has changed substantially thanks to crowd-funding. This is something we're currently preparing for. But more on that later.

We're still committed to a long road-map for Combat-Helo starting with the release of "Gunnery" in the near future (we're working really hard to release this quarter). Our focus is still creating an echo of the combat simulation scene that existed on the PC during the mid-90s. Building on foundations we've laid down. While frameworks like DCS World are an ideal platform for pure simulation, it's still a very different kind of experience which is well catered for.

Combat-Helo will rely on dynamically generated missions intermixed with narrative and maybe some comment. It has never just been about the aircraft. We are creating foundations for a worthy successor to legendary games like Janes Longbow. It may take a few iterations to perfect and we mail fail but it won't be for lack of trying. To carry us on beyond "Gunnery" we'll be looking to you, the community to help us take it further. What direction that takes depends on what happens in the next few months. Whatever happens, 2014 will be an exciting year for us and I hope you'll keep the faith and join us for the ride.

- Signed Richard Hawley, Director Tricubic Studios Ltd.

That done....incoming fire...deploying countermeasures!


  1. Thank you for the official word. I'm slightly disappointed but let me explain. I loved Longbow, I loved the atmosphere, I loved the dynamic feeling of the battlefield around you, and I even loved the briefings. It all just came together to make the player that much more involved. I appreciate what you're trying to do with Combat-Helo. To bring that feeling back would be incredible. I am disappointed because THOSE very things are what's lacking in DCS: World. I don't feel as involved in the missions, in the universe, as I did in Longbow. I guess some part of me really wanted your team to join DCS: World, and not only add a new helicopter to my hangar, but add the atmosphere that you and your team care about. I thought, maybe, you could use your skills to improve DCS: World, with more than just an add-on aircraft. But, I'm sure that's mostly out of your hands, and I'm excited either way about your product being stand alone, and re-living the good old Jane's experience. =) You've got a backer here regardless.

  2. i wish you guys would just make a base engine, as in make the aircraft functional and some baseline assets (i.e. tanks helis buildings, A.A, some terrains) release it, but the community will mod out everything else to populate the combat-helo world (sort of what arma is doing- game with mod tools so users can create quality content).. but i like ur direction , u seem to be building out a modern day janes longbow! :)

  3. Thanks for youre words Flex. Good to hear that you stick to your original plan!

  4. I think it would be nice, but I prefer Your version of the sim with Your scenario etc....flares are awesome. Hope it works well. :-)

  5. Like I said here in the past, I'm glad that Combat-Helo won't become some DCS addon/module and the reasons are also well known: The lack of immersive gameplay feature that DCS has, such as the lack of dynamic campaigns, totally unimmersive GUI, dull battlefield atmosphere, etc... things that makes DCS a "weak" combat simulation (albeit technically great in terms of aircraft modeling). Resuming DCS is great when inside the aircraft (great flight models, damage models, avionics, etc...) but once outside the aircraft DCS is simply dull and uninteresting.

    Together with this, there's also the fact that the success of 3rd party aircraft addons/modules for DCS is yet to be seen.
    How many 3rd party addons/modules were already released for DCS? The answer is simply: NONE, ZERO!
    Well, we could count 2 (two) with the DCS:Huey and DCS:Mi-8 made by Bellsimtek but the truth is that those were official addons/modules for DCS completely and totally supported by ED (despite officially not being made by ED) and if we look at closer perspective, Bellsimtek seems to be and IMO is a "de facto" branch of ED itself.
    With this, I strongly believe that even if Flexman decided to make Combat-Helo a DCS module we wouldn't have any guarantee or greater guarantees that Combat-Helo would ever see the "light of the day" (be released) as a DCS module compared to being a stand-alone project as it is now.

    1. Well, I hear what you're saying. I don't have any issue with the quality of DCS at all, it's quite remarkable for desktop software. It IS a very different kind of experience and I don't think it was ever meant to be. That's why it attracts a certain audience. I would love to implement an Apache D with the same level of fidelity as DCS A-10, well I'd just love to fly it and skip the hard work part (frankly that's a pain in the arse I tell you).

      There's a generation that didn't experience PC sims the way we did. I've had contact with Apache crewmen over the years and there's a generation of them you talk to and they go "Jane's Longbow, that's what got me started." I've never met one that mentioned any other PC sim but that's not too surprising (timeline etc.) But LB2 is the one that often surfaces and not much in between.

      Even if we had the people to convert our Apache for DCS I doubt it would have been up to scratch. Dave built everything to my 2009 specs and detail is good enough for our game but it's not in the realm of FSX "aircraft porn" with 4096x4096 textures everywhere. You need to really create it from ground up and create the geometry and texturing as you go. It would have been like starting over on the modelling front.

      By day I'm a professional tester (software engineer in test) in a field where getting stuff wrong is more than serious. Quality of software is my bread and butter, when you think of all the stuff that goes into a study sim and just how much code there is to go wrong. Those modules you mentioned for DCS, complex. Next to the Apache D? I'm guessing it's a drop in the ocean and without an army of resources, impossible to be faithful to a significant degree. We can only scratch the surface and focus on the core systems we know about.

      To bad I can't debate this in a forum yet (it's coming early Feb I think).

    2. Hello Richard,
      Since I also have an IT "background" I can easily imagine and understand that turning Combat-Helo into a DCS module would be like almost staring a project from scratch (with only a very few parts of the work already done in Combat-Helo usable in a potential DCS module).

      But the point of my previous post is that I really have strong doubts regarding the feasibility of DCS in "accepting" or "easily accepting" 3rd party addons/modules or resuming the feasibility of DCS addon modding. It seems clear by now that DCS won't be a "plug-and-play" or "easily moddable" platform like FSX or Strike Fighters series are and this is a MAJOR minus for any 3rd party that wants to create addons/modules (such as extra aircraft) for DCS - Resuming: creating and adding new aircraft to DCS it not and will not be a "straight forward" and "rather easy" task as it is in FSX for example and as opposed to FSX, in DCS in order for any 3rd party to add new addons ED must always step in the process (to finally integrate de addon/module into DCS) this again as opposed to FSX. Please, correct me if I'm wrong.
      Again as some sort of proof (of what I'm saying) is that so far no 3rd party addons/modules were ever delivered/completed and fully integrated to DCS and again I don't consider Bellsimtek (with it's DCS:Huey and Mi-8 modules) a true "3rd party" but instead some sort of ED branch.
      This of course makes will make things much harder (than they already are) for any 3rd party that may want to implement addons/modules for DCS.

    3. Yes I agree such a module (for want of a better term) would require building from scratch.You can carry the research over, a lot of the work was literally years in gathering. Talking to people, pilots, ground crews, vets, technical journals. Interpolating stuff from the A model flight manual, 3rd party vendor descriptions. All of that went into creating the specification for our game (and it's hard to keep in your head).

      I took your point about 3rd party development, it's a hard one to call since unless you know the details any judgement is based on speculation. Most people only care about end-product anyway, not how it ends up on their hard drive. One of my worries has always been getting involved with another project and having legal fall-out on my own IP. There's a lot of small print in NDAs.

      As for the difficulties of creating a new aircraft, I guess it's no different from adding a new aircraft in this version of Combat-Helo. Lots of code is required to add new classes for boxes in the cockpit. For the CH-47 Dave was building there are many many more discrete avionic boxes in the cockpit. Our Apache implements avionics as discrete bits of code, often derived from a base class that other aircraft can use. But the derived class can be pretty huge. Each radio (5 of them) have their own frequencies, squelch settings, volume. That figure shoots up in the CH-47 with duplicated radios and specialist ones.

      The classes are fairly generic so they can be moved to other engines, rendering is often done as a separate class but putting it all together the second time around is going to be a lot easier. Should we need to do so.

      Ideally a future project will have enough of these classes so that creating new vehicle avionics was a matter of pulling them off a tool-bar into a flow-graph. They will need interfaces (input and output) so that evaluators can get and set sim variables.

      Making that efficient in code is hard but we found a way to do it. Alas it's something that will have to wait for Combat-Helo 2 if that ever becomes a thing. We looked at UnigineSIM, loved it. Wait and see.

    4. Hi again Richard,

      Thanks for the heads up and explanation.

      Yes, I can imagine that adding new aircraft to Combat-Helo is a very hard task just as it should be in DCS if not more but there's still a big difference: with Combat-Helo you have the code while with DCS it's ED that has the code.
      Indeed it's speculation on my part that adding new aircraft in DCS is or will be a very hard if not extremely hard task that must in the end of (or even during) the 3rd party aircraft development evolve ED itself but everything that I've seen so far and as time goes by I believe even more in my speculation - again not having what we can call a 3rd party aircraft for DCS so far (and if it was FSX we would have literally dozens of addon aircraft for the same time period and without any dev in this case Microsoft involvement) seems to somehow confirm this "speculation" or suspicion of mine.

  6. Hi Richard, it's always a pleasure to read you. My english is very bad and i have certainly missed something but no word about multiplayer ? Gunnery will be single player only ? That's correct ? Best wishes for this first release and happy new year for you and your family.

    1. Gunnery will initially be single player until we've had chance to fix all the issues for network play. Co-op multiplayer will be turned on via a patch later. It's logistically difficult for me to code/test/fix two clients at the same time as fixing other features. Our helicopter systems mostly all work via internal messages to make it easy to network.