Make that first flight just to find out that your system isn’t setup properly? Getting started with DCS World? Here’s a quick guide on things you will want to do to avoid frustrations down the line.
Before you try to boil the ocean, make sure that your goals are realistic. For your first session you might just want to identify the systems and sensors in the cockpit. Then you might want to work on the start up procedure, and so on.
Read the manual and keep it handy for reference. Obviously no one is going to sit down and read it cover to cover in one go. But the history of Flight Simulation involves tomes of knowledge that are poured over like scientific research. Feed off it for weeks, if not months. I recommend adding the PDF flight manuals to your Smart Phone or tablet if you have one. This makes it easily accessible whenever you have a moment and the inclination to dive in.
2. Use online information
The supplied information with each module is enough to get you going and teach you everything you need to know about the aircraft systems. What you may not know are some tips and tricks, tactics and general oddballs of information that pop up.
Google is your friend. Bookmark the DCS Forums and subscribe YouTube channels of people who have taken the time to put together tutorials. You shouldn’t need to ask many questions as they’ve all been asked before. While flying, try to keep a browser window handy for looking up anything you get stuck on.
I have an iPad on a dock/keyboard next to my PC so that I can keep up any apps, docs or a browser with information that I need.
3. Set-up your controls
Obviously you’ll need to setup your controls to be able to fly proficiently but many people, including myself, assume that the system will make a pretty good guess at the axis and buttons that are used by default. WRONG. This is only the case for the Thrustmaster Warthog though. With the TMWH you’ll just need to adjust the trim hat if you want it to control trim without a modifier key as by default it controls the camera orientation for looking around.
Let’s start with the basics. Jump into the DCS World Options screen and under the controls section you will see there is a list of modules you can define controls for. Select your module and setup the bare minimum axis controls:
- Wheel brakes (if applicable)
- Thrust (or collective)
For the axis’ you MUST ensure you only have one controller configured to control that axis or strange things will happen in flight resulting in expensive holes in the ground. Example: If you see your rudder pedals, throttle and joystick are all controlling pitch, make sure you clear all the controllers except one.
You may find it easier to find a preconfigured control profile that matches what you want. You can download this and use a corresponding image of the files to Keybinds: Axis, HOTAS commands. Print out a diagram of your joystick with the commands you have configured for reference:
Here’s an example of one.
Next tune your axis so that they are more easily used in flight. In the real aircraft the cyclic and sticks have longer throws, allowing the pilot to have finer control over their movement. To counter this you may want to add curves to your pitch and roll, especially if you want to jump into Air to Air Refuelling! Or you could modify the throw on your stick:
Next, invert the wheel brakes axis. This may be a bug that is fixed but I’ve found that by default pressing down on the pedal’s brakes takes the brakes off instead of the expected opposite.
Setup a HAT switch for trimming the aircraft. This is trim: nose up, down, left wing down and right wing down. These controls are very important. If you’re jumping into a helicopter you want to set a button up for force trim, or trimmer. This sets a new centre position for your cyclic. Trimming is the most common function in flight so don’t go without it.
If you don’t have many HATs available on your HOTAS or joystick you will need to use a modifier key when setting up bindings. This actually removes a button from being able to be used for binding but opens up every other key for use with that modifier. It may seem complicated but with time it will become natural to hold the modifier and push the same button or HAT switch for a different function. It is common to bind the Target Management Switch and Data Management Switch to the same HAT with a modifier to switch between them.
As a guide look at the HOTAS functions in the real aircraft for what to bind. Here’s the A-10C HOTAS commands:
And here are the associated keyboard commands:
If you some how find you have a wheel or axis spare, such as the friction control on the TMWH HOTAS, then it’s a good idea to assign this to the zoom axis. It’s a great way of scanning for targets with your eyes. There are some others that are unused – Mic switch in and Mic switch up. I use in for Push to talk on Teamspeak 3.
4. Adjust your video settings
Not all settings are equal. My advice is to crank up the cockpit resolution as high as you can. This will give you nice clear video feeds from the Maverick, Shkval or the Targeting Pod. There’s no point in trying to find targets in a pixelated mess.
Other settings such as tree shadows are nice to have will lower your framerate so your mileage may vary. Since trees block your view but the AI can see through them just fine you may not want to max out the distance that they are drawn at if you are flying a ground attack chopper.
Now that you’re ready to start training, jump in and tackle the beginner stuff. Don’t try to do too much too fast. It takes 10’s of hours to be able to be mildly competent in the DCS modules. The journey of learning it is still fun and the reward for getting it right is huge.
Good ways to start practising are the built in training missions. You’ll probably want to do these several times. Next jump into the editor and just start doing free flights to work through procedures in your own time. If you can, jump online with a friend to help out. Nothing beats having a tutor. But don’t negatively affect others games by imposing on them.
With that I leave you to it… good luck.