Spotting aircraft in Multiplayer
There are two modes for spotting that servers can run one is normal post update and the other is expert spotting.
The dust has mostly settled from this advancement and I have noticed some new aspects emerging.
Best thing I note is I can now actually navigate very well, by looking FAR into the distance in any direction and I can see a city or a lake out there and reference it on the map. This is so excellent.
On the day of the update I went on a server and I was amazed to see the sky was full of activity – there were contrails and smoke trails and flak bursts and multiple aircraft dotted the sky. I thought that was very good.
As of the last 24 hours Combat Box has been running Expert Spotting and the vid below is a long flight I did in this environment. My conclusion was that I couldnt see any aircraft.
It occurs to me that possibly higher screen resolution like 1440p makes spotting more difficult and I will be testing this idea soon. Many pilots say reducing the gamma makes spotting easier, but I dont really notice much difference whenever I try it.
One aspect is that if I see a plane in the distance and I zoom in on it, as soon as I zoom in it disappears and only reappears when I zoom out.
The VR pilots are often engaged in discussion about spotting as they have a different graphical representation than the rest of us viewing the game through a monitor panel/screen.
Often I only know a plane is there, because I see tracer fire either from another plane or the ground AAA units. I can see the tracer no problem, but the plane is totally invisible.
Often I see a plane over forest just disappear as I dive on it and am looking straight at it.
I reckon – this is again just my perception – that long distance I can see aircraft quite often, but as I fly to them they disappear. Ie in short distances/range the plane ghosts and vanishes, even though a minute or two before and from longer distance I could see it. My opinion is that the long distance spotting ability is GOOD and enhances things, but also the blind spot type thing in the near distance wants addressing.
So often in multiplayer I fly for a long time (40 minutes) without spotting a single plane, even though there are 20-30 player in the server. This is usually at higher altitude looking down, I just hardly ever see anything below. My multiplayer spotting technique basically is to hug the deck and spot silhouettes on the horizon.
This works for spotting, but then one loses any altitude energy advantage.
Another high visibility thing is lights, so when the lights are on, a plane can be easily seen near or far. Basically gun-fire-tracer and external navigation lights on a plane can be seen very very well, but the plane itself is usually on the subtle end of the visibility spectrum and often confounds a pursuer by phasing in and out of the scene as though it were visually a stealth fighter.
I dont want icons as a vis aid, but if some way could be made to make the planes more visible and consistently visible. Another idea is to use some stylisation like how in Battlefield V, the sniper scopes glint in the sun as soon as they are pointed at you so thats how you know the sniper has a bead on you – you see the stylised sun-glint. Stylisation is not as good as realism though.
There is also further complexity because it may be the case that different monitor types and also VR headsets may yield different spotting capabilities by responding to the game differently. In multiplayer this would give a potential advantage/disadvantage to whoever has the right hardware. That is a theory and I dont have an answer for it and I havent tested it.
I think IRL sun-glare and movement are two big visual cues to the presence of a far off moving metallic object.
In WW2 the pilots in 1945 would mostly have coordinated where to go to find the enemy by being in radio contact and also had radar guidance from ground fighter commands and also IFF would have debuted at some point in the aircraft. So spotting has an additional non-visual dimension to it.
Surprisingly there are quite a few players saying now spotting is too easy, to them I say what planet are you on! My take is that ease of visual acquisition should be increased, a great deal more, without going to the point where it might decrease FPS or impact another key metric like multiplayer ping, speed, general performance etc.