By Sunjammer 9 Comments
I've been playing DCS A-10 since release, and I can feel myself getting incrementally better at it. Understand that being better at DCS A-10 is much less about split second decision making, and much more about understanding and applying protocol, and as such the learning curve is somehow both boring AND exciting. Boring because you are repeating long, drawn out tasks with little immediate feedback, but exciting because as these repetitions become second nature, you realize you've learned something directly applicable to a real world context you would otherwise have no chance of messing about with.
I'll echo Drew's statement and multiply it by two; Put me in a maintained A-10C, and I can start it up and get off the ground, and I won't need a checklist to do so: This is just something I can do now.
But landing... As a friend of mine said "So what you're saying is you're dead anyway". Don't get me wrong. I could align with a runway and touch down just fine, but landing at the right speed has been a huge problem for me. Until yesterday, I'd never carried out a landing I felt was anywhere near acceptable, with way too much emergency break and nail biting tension as I'm coming in too low and too fast, and finally rolling off the end of the runway. In a game like DCS, not only have you failed at the task, but it just leaves you there, looking like an idiot. Like a play where everybody but you is doing their part perfectly, you desperately want to fall in line and perform.
The landing fundamental that I've struggled with, specifically, isn't aiming the HUD TVV indicator (a small airplane-like indicator on the heads up display that shows where your plane is headed) at the end of the runway and keeping your airspeed down with gear, flaps and airbrakes. It's the fact that once your airspeed goes down to the acceptable level (around 120 knots + so and so much for every extra ton you're carrying, or something. I never remember this. See? Horrible.) you start having to pitch up to maintain lift, and *increase* throttle to *maintain* speed. It changes, or accentuates, the rules you otherwise follow in flight, and not too far removed from piloting a helicopter, where you are gaining speed with pitch and have to maintain lift with throttle. As you come in for your final landing approach, you are coming in facing a direction you are not actually flying in, and the transition between the two "modes", and doing so gracefully..
I made my very first by-the-book perfect landing yesterday, and I was practically dancing afterward. It's typical for DCS; It's a combat simulator, but combat is not Top Gun, and in the end, you're just doing stuff as you've been taught to stay alive. Dropping a GPS-guided cluster bomb on a convoy is much, much simpler than landing, and as such, ironically kind of like Top Gun on the NES, the landing becomes the "level boss". Finally beating the boss on a single life, so to say; You feel like a god.
I realize this kind of game isn't for everyone. But I can't help but think of it as a counterpart to Dark Souls, another game where repetition and routine is absolutely necessary for progress. Ask any Dark Souls veteran about what makes their character effective, and it's not stats or equipment, it's skill and practise. This is what makes Dark Souls a fantastic game, and it's why DCS is fantastic. Actual mastery. What an amazing gaming experience.