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DCS A-10C Interview

DCS A-10C Interview

Written by Dave Gamble on 7/12/2011 for PC  
More On: DCS A-10C
After having "flown" the DCS A-10C for a few weeks and coming to appreciate the deep complexity and obvious high attention to detail of it, I looked forward to having Matt Wagner, the producer of the consumer version of the simulator, answer some of the questions that came to me while I was experiencing the simulation. Matt was very forthcoming with detailed answers, some of which surprised me:

I postulate in my review that after some intensive practice with the DCS A-10C simulator, I could probably sit down in a real A-10C and get it started. Following an even more Mitty-esque train of thought, I also suggested that there is a good chance that I could fly it. How realistic is this?
Assuming you are playing in "Sim" mode, then quite good. From my own personal experience: After working on this project for the past five years (military and game versions), I had the opportunity to get in the full dome, cockpit trainer for the A-10C. This is a 1 to 1 replica of the real A-10C with all the systems. From a cold start jet I was able to get everything up and running, taxi, takeoff, navigate, kill my target, navigate back to my base at night and land. The A-10C instructor pilot (IP) there was amazed and a little baffled that I was able to fly an entire mission having never been to the A-10C B-course, much less flown one.

As a follow-up to the previous question, are there any areas/functions of the simulator that are deliberately "dumbed down" or changed from the actual aircraft?
After getting the go-ahead to do an entertainment version of the military training version of the A-10C we developed, we had to provide a detailed design document of exactly what would be in the game version. Overall, they removed very little. The only areas we had to back off a little on were the defense countermeasure systems, some aspects of the data link, the IFF/SIF system, and we tuned the sensors a bit.

In fact, the game version is overall more realistic than the military version because we fully modeled the flight dynamics, engine, fuel, electrical, hydraulic, lighting, emergency, back up, radio, and navigation systems at a fidelity level much higher than the military version. The military version was only designed to train pilots on the avionics changes between the A-10A to the A-10C and then later suites of the A-10C.

I also discuss the cost of developing the simulation as compared to the revenue to be expected from the limited consumer market for a simulation with such a daunting learning curve and theorize that the consumer market is simply the icing on the cake, with the initial development costs having been paid under a military contract. How close to the truth is that theory?
Actually, pretty far off. The game version of the A-10C only used about 25% of the development investment from the military version (i.e. a lot of the avionics work). The vast majority of the game had to be developed outside the initial project and funded internally.

I cannot help but notice that the Thrustmaster HOTAS controller has the same relatively limited appeal in the consumer market, especially considering its price point. Beyond that, it defies belief to think that the timing of the development of such a perfect controller and such a detailed flight simulation, both for the exact same aircraft, was purely a happy coincidence. Was there coordination with Thrustmaster for the design and development of the controller? If so, was the controller also part of the government contract I hypothsize above?
In fact, we did not know of Thrustmaster's plans until they were well into development of their HOTAS. As such, there was certainly no collusion between the two companies. You will need to talk to Thrustmaster to best understand their decision, but my understanding is that they wished to create a new HOTAS system and they felt that the A-10C system could be very versatile, provide split throttles, and take advantage of an upcoming study sim.

Where we did cooperate was that after they had working prototypes, they sent us copies to ensure compatibility and allow our software to recognize the HOTAS and automatically configure all of the controls to match the real A-10C.

It seems that the development of such a sophisticated virtual battlefield and the physics that go along with such a diverse collection of flying/dropping weapons could be re-purposed to use with other aircraft. Are there any plans for future simulations of other aircraft to follow the A-10?
Most certainly. We envision DCS as an open-ended simulation environment. While we are currently focused on high-fidelity simulation of modern aircraft, we also intend to later broaden it to other types of vehicles, at different levels of fidelity and at various historic eras.
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About Author

I've been fascinated with video games and computers for as long as I can remember. It was always a treat to get dragged to the mall with my parents because I'd get to play for a few minutes on the Atari 2600. I partially blame Asteroids, the crack cocaine of arcade games, for my low GPA in college which eventually led me to temporarily ditch academics and join the USAF to "see the world." The rest of the blame goes to my passion for all things aviation, and the opportunity to work on work on the truly awesome SR-71 Blackbird sealed the deal.

My first computer was a TRS-80 Model 1 that I bought in 1977 when they first came out. At that time you had to order them through a Radio Shack store - Tandy didn't think they'd sell enough to justify stocking them in the retail stores. My favorite game then was the SubLogic Flight Simulator, which was the great Grandaddy of the Microsoft flight sims.

While I was in the military, I bought a Commodore 64. From there I moved on up through the PC line, always buying just enough machine to support the latest version of the flight sims. I never really paid much attention to consoles until the Dreamcast came out. I now have an Xbox for my console games, and a 1ghz Celeron with a GeForce4 for graphics. Being married and having a very expensive toy (my airplane) means I don't get to spend a lot of money on the lastest/greatest PC and console hardware.

My interests these days are primarily auto racing and flying sims on the PC. I'm too old and slow to do well at the FPS twitchers or fighting games, but I do enjoy online Rainbow 6 or the like now and then, although I had to give up Americas Army due to my complete inability to discern friend from foe. I have the Xbox mostly to play games with my daughter and for the sports games.
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