There has been quite a controversy about the DCS: AV-8B Harrier II Night Attack module being moved from Early Access (EA) to Released and pretty much all of it is based on the false presumption that it means the module as being “a done deal” hence no more work or bug support/fixes will continue.
As stated before, it is a false idea. Being out of EA means that the module reached a production milestone and it’s that it is feature complete as what has been promised in the product description page, it’s a process that comes in 2 ways, us as a 3rd party content developer company and ED as the main owner of where such content will be used. It’s a studied decision from both parties that also involves a high degree of confidence from ED towards (in this particular case) us that we will continue support, bug fixing and adding features even those not mentioned in the description page. One clear example is the M-2000C module which has been out of EA for quite some time and it still gets bug fixes, enhancements and a complete rework of systems in a regular basis, even the 3d work was overhauled and a new 3d pilot for VR users was included in due time, and there is a big reason behind all this besides loyalty to our customers, and it’s DCS constant evolution.
When the AV-8B was released on its EA format, many features and functionalities were not seen yet in DCS, no corners were cut, but a lot of clever coding was made in order to replicate the systems that we were allowed to do so without stepping into very sensitive toes, a lot of new ideas of code implementation was created and many were enhancements. As time passed by, DCS evolved again into a more systems implementation friendly platform( as you can see in the complex system of the F/A-18 Hornet and the F-16 Viper) and new way of adding code appeared, but we kept dragging our “old school” code until it was time to move forward into the new way of do things. For instance, when the AV-8B was released, Track IR was still the mandatory peripheral of choice for immersion, and VR setups was something new and not so popular (and affordable) as it is currently, not to mention lens resolution. But today, everything is different, and VR is here to stay as new setups are being offered, and the lens resolution keeps getting better and better. So, a decision was made, it’s time to rewrite the entire AV-8B code so it can perdure (in this regard, the M-2000C current code is newer than the AV-8B current code) and at the same time, go hand in hand with the new peripheral technologies available to the users, using the new tech that ED developed for their own (and very complex)new modules. So the 1st place to start, being the AV-8B a glass cockpit aircraft, is the MPCD’s and HUD, it was decided to move from old school texture map (DDS/TGA) screens into SVG.
What is SVG and how it relates to DCS?
SVG stands for Scalable Vector Graphics. It is an eXtensible Markup Language (XML) based vector graphic format for the Web. In practice SVG files are nothing more than text files that describe lines, curves, shapes, colors and text. Traditionally 2D displays in DCS, like the HUD or the MFDs, are created using image formats like dds or tga, which are used as texture files. What a developer does is tell DCS to place a region of the texture file in the display.
Everything in a DCS display is drawn using these texture files, from the fonts to the lines and symbols.
There are two drawbacks to this method:
1. Resolution: The larger the file the better the resolution, but at the expense of system (computer) memory. Resolution is also affected by the level of graphics details selected.
2. Performance: The higher the number of displays in the cockpit more memory is required. Specially if the displays are crowded like a moving map with interactive zones.
ED created a new way to draw displays using the SVG format, which is used in both the F-18 and F-16. The main advantage is that SVG graphics do not require as much memory as a corresponding texture file. Second, it is infinitely scalable. This means that unlike a texture file that when you zoom into it, sooner or later you will notice individual pixels, the SVG graphic will remain the same at all levels of zoom. For DCS this means that the HUD and MFDs are readable in different conditions, especially when using VR.
The only downside is that SVG graphics require some preprocessing before it is drawn, but nevertheless the use of memory is much lower than the one used by a texture file. The use of SVG technology in drawing a DCS display requires an entire rewrite of the Display code, because now we must take care of certain properties like scale, stroke width, etc. and of course the required preprocessing step. But once the job is finished the end result is crystal clear displays no matter the screen or VR resolution. It also meant that all what he have done up to the date, will have to be redone from the ground up to go hand by hand with the new code being written for this change. We were aware of some bugs being reported and perhaps the lack of information with the community led to the false idea that all this was neglected, but it was also supposed to be a surprise.
For us being out of EA and into release meant out with the old and on with the new, but since in many cases the customer have the reason, I decided to push back everything and include all the fixes in old code lines and then we’ll move with the new stuff, this also means the new code and SVG will take longer to arrive to your simulator, since we have to do double work. In the coming weeks you’ll see a flow of bug fixes in each changelog, I can’t put an estimate on when we’ll get the new code lines and SVG ready, but is our hope to get things moving in this regard shortly.
Here is a list of current bug fix/enhancements that will be available in the coming DCS updates (some are already available):
AV-8B Ready for Release This Week (Expected Patch 9/16):
- Added vertical tail damage parts and fragments
- Added INS course set keybinds
- Added DMT now slaved to AIM-9 seeker
- Fixed erratic control functionality with altimeter adjustments
- Fixed erratic control functionality with CRS knob adjustments
- Fixed Comm channel selector not sequencing correctly
- Fixed TPOD still in power-up mode when starting initial conditions to in-air or engines on
- Fixed HUD reject logic behavior inverted
- Fixed AGM-122 Sidearm seeker not aligning with RWR source signal
- Fixed AIM-9 Sidewinder incorrectly firing when cycling from AG to AA then back to AG
- Fixed damage model issue where parts would not fragment off
- Fixed damage model issue where weapons would sometimes remain on destroyed wings
AV-8B Pending Updates:
- Added ADI cage toggle keybind
- Added ADI pitch adjust keybinds
- Added GBU-32 JDAM
- Added GBU-54 Laser JDAM
- Fixed removed incorrect HUD limitations for AGM-122 Sidearm ready-for-release
- Fixed rudder trim in-cockpit switch not operating
- Fixed rudder trim indication in cockpit and in controls indicator
- Fixed SSS Left should now sequentially cycle between EHSD centered, EHSD decentered, and ECM pages
- Fixed ECM page not returning to the original MPCD format
- Fixed missing seat height adjustment control. Seat model animation work-in-progress
- Fixed EHSD course over ground incorrect in Mag heading mode
- Fixed EHSD decenter display overlay getting mis-placed
- Fixed default rocket range profile values inverted
- Fixed EHSD moving map on MPCD too bright
- Fixed Left MPCD brightness control not operating correctly
- Fixed Right MPCD brightness control not operating correctly
- Fixed EHSD resulting in symbology misplaced when zoom set to AUTO
- Fixed RWR still partially functioning when turned off
- Fixed RWR minimum volume too loud
- Fixed missing RWR power/volume knob adjustment increments
- Fixed pull-up cue not occurring when selected
- Fixed dual rack bombs not releasing in the correct order
- Fixed top-right rocker switch on left MPCD bleeding into bezel
- Fixed scaling of HUD repeater on MPCD to be correct size
- Fixed font for EHSD to be correct size
- Fixed engine efficiency table error at extremely high altitudes that was resulting in higher than expected thrust loss
- Fixed SAAHS paddle disable incorrectly resetting stick trim position and not resetting rudder trim and will now correctly restore rudder trim when released
- Fixed Speedbrake logic based on SME information to extend as long as OUT is pressed and will fully retract when IN is pressed (Allows for partial extension but will always fully retract)
- Fixed aircraft diverting in some cases prior to maneuvering tone envelope
- Fixed infinite coefficient values in some conditions of large body angular rates (out of control)
- Modified structural load damage to no longer be instantaneous, now require sustained over-tolerance for structural (wing) failure
- Modified TPOD axis dead-zone to be slightly reduced
I also included some pics of the new VR pilot body, which is a very much work in progress.
Hope that this covers most of your questions regarding the current and future state of our AV-8B module.