As you know, spotting aircraft, and ground targets for that matter, in DCS is extremely difficult. While perhaps closer to real life than any other sim we've played because the sim doesn't scale the object or employ some other artificial gimmick, the pendulum swings too far in the opposite direction.
While backpacking in Colorado, I was standing atop a mountain, approximately 11,000 feet, and could clearly see both jets in the distant sky and cars on a highway. The jets, of various sizes, were due west of my position, and likely five miles and of course thousands of feet above me. At least a few of the jets were Leer jets and there were also some Cessna, but most were jumbo jets cruising above 30,000 feet, as you would expect. The cars on the highway were, according to my backpacking guide, about fifteen miles away. I would estimate it was more like ten. Even at those distances, the objects did not appear like a single grayish, blue pixel! This is particularly true of the cars, which are much smaller than the jumbo jets.
Needless to say, I actually think it is easier in real life to spot aircraft than it is in this sim. Granted, available light, contrasting terrain, horizon line, clouds, aircraft profile, and perhaps most importantly, speed of your target play a major factor. But, universally, the community believes it's ridiculously hard to spot enemy aircraft, and my experiences in Colorado have persuaded me to agree. Perhaps, once I get a larger monitor it won't be as hard, but I doubt it won't be such a dramatic change; in fact, Hammer recently shared data that suggests the change won't be very dramatic. So, I've decided on a possible compromise.
As you know, I keep dot labels activated in the missions I make for you guys. Full labels are distracting, immersive breaking, and wholly unrealistic, and so I've opted not to use them in my missions. Dot labels still present problems:
1. The biggest problem with labels appear even through solid objects, like the back of your cockpit's seat or a building.
2. Even dot labels are very large from great distances, and more importantly they are colored red or blue. The coloring negates the necessity to IFF, which is total BS.
With these problems in mind, I've opted to do the following. Essentially, I'm going to fly with labels off and rely solely on my skill and the aircraft's resources to find targets. However, yesterday I spent several hours practicing dog fighting in the F-18. All things considered, I did fairly well. But, in numerous instances, even with the F-18's resources, pointing my radar at the right altitude and direction, using a broad scan with plenty of time to pick up the target, I couldn't find the bandit. Mind you, this bandit was often within visual range of one to two miles and I couldn't see him even the SA page indicated that he was turning to circle around to my six. In such instances, when there are no obstructions between myself and the target, I plan to use dot labels as a last resort. When I'm staring in the right direction, sometimes with my view zoomed in like you see so many do on YT, and I still can't see the bastard, there is something wrong. Now, I got pretty good at it yesterday without labels. But in those rare instances, I'm going to have the keystroke for dot labels bound to my HOTAS. I've simply had it with losing SA unnecessarily and prolonging dogfights because I have to repeatedly shake the enemy of my six, and all because he's a pixel instead of a reasonably sized object that should catch sun reflection in a flat face turn.
Just thought I would share with you guys in case you're struggling with the same issue of whether or not to use this "cheat."
For the DCS World series of games.
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