Plane visibility – spotting – In IL-2

Plane visibility – spotting – In IL-2

I have a 2K monitor but in multiplayer I turn the resolution down to 1920×1080 instead of my native 2K resolution of 2560×1440.

At 1080 and with all the enhancing tick boxes unticked and everything turned off, I get acceptable spotting. This is on the basis that with tracer gun fire I can detect a plane and fly to the tracer and eventually hopefully see the plane.


Some possible pathways to improvement:

One possible solution: To differentiate planes from the background, a formula could force the colour of the plane’s pixels to be at least X % different than the background colour. This might solve the problem of planes disappearing over forests when viewed from above. Example if a plane’s pixel is black and a forest’s pixel is also the same black colour and the plane is over the forest, the viewer above could see instead a black forest pixel, but a plane’s pixel made by formula automatically say 14% lighter than the forest pixels behind it.

To solve the problem of 2K and 4K monitors making planes too hard to see, the shrinking factor could be discovered and then a formula could be employed to bloat up the planes. Result might be that one can run a 2K or 4K monitor at native resolution, but still see planes as well as 1080p Full HD monitors do. Example, If I set in IL-2 settings resolution 2560×1440, the game automatically will respond by increasing far away plane’s pixel count by 1.4 times in relation to a benchmark. If I select 4K resolution the game automatically increases a far away plane’s pixel count by 1.7 times in relation to a benchmark. The benchmark would probably be what far off planes look like in 1080p Full HD monitors. There could probably be some objective way to count a far off plane’s pixels and to measure their size. The desired result would be that 1080p Full HD, 2K and 4K monitors would all display far away planes as the same size. For example that a far away plane at 500m might be measured in size at say 2mm or 3mm, on all types of 27 inch monitors, and at 4mm or 6mm on all types of 54 Inch monitors etc. Note the numbers I gave are not prescriptive, but to use to describe the overall concepts.

  • If aircraft visibility improves, that means the game becomes more realistic.
  • If aircraft visibility improves, that means the number of players will increase.


Another thing that might be useful is that Flak black cloud explosion bursts, and tracer bullet gun fire are very visible, so whatever mechanism makes them visible, could possibly be the way forward to apply that to planes to improve visibility of planes. Example, I often see flak, then I fly to it and then after some time has passed  and I get a lot closer to the flak bursts. I see a plane or several planes. But I can only see the Flak bursts against the blue sky, but not looking down at the ground, but with tracer bullets I can see them the best, both against sky and against ground.

Another thing: Looking down at a plane I can often not see the plane itself, but I can see the smoke trail behind it and I can see the plane’s shadow on the ground next to it.


Multiplayer Servers

Multiplayer Servers

Across IL-2 and other sims there is a phenomena in multiplayer server lists where, if sorted by player numbers, there will be a few viable servers – maybe two to five servers with viable numbers, at peak times, and worse at dead time zones, yet also vast numbers of empty servers.

Clearly there’s no shortage of servers – excess capacity you could say, but not nearly enough players to fill them all. To remedy this I recommend the following key concepts for every server.

If you’re running a server – make sure it has these attributes, for the good of all players and for the popularity of your server.

Terminology note: “Map” in this context means the placement of ground features, such as airfields, objectives etc. A big map is one with these spread far apart and a small map is one with airfields and objectives placed closer together.

Problems to overcome:

  • Excessive transit time to combat, 
  • Cant find combat,
  • availability of ME262,
  • Server culture,
  • expectation of finding combat
  • More on WW1
  • More on Tanks

Server map design

  • Ensure a player can takeoff and fly to a combat zone where there is a high probability of air to air combat in no more than 3 – 7 minutes. ie from takeoff to the zone of combat we want 3 to 7 minutes. On a actual game map, that is 3 grid squares distance. Keep in mind that when players are shot down, they need to fly that distance again. If the distance is 15 minutes each time, then most session time is wasted in transit flights. In a session where you are shot down 4 times, you could spend 1 hour just getting back to the zone of combat and perhaps 4 minutes each time actually in combat.
  • Look at your graph of player numbers over a weekly cycle. Ensure your maps are big on high popularity times and smaller MUCH smaller on dead popularity times. Principle: The Combat World must shrink if the player numbers are less. This solves the problem of Cant find combat, for players who are awake when the servers are dead. The maps you rotate on a popularity cycle need to reflect the expected player numbers. Often there are two opponents only on a server, but they never see each other let alone get into a duel, because the combat area is too vast to cater to 2 players only. The concept of cycling big or small maps as per timezone, is one of the most important things a server can do to maximise popularity. Players also begin to expect combat even in low usage times and will pile into your server more often than others, having greater confidence of finding combat on your server.
  • Match the map size to the plane speed. WW1 servers need to have small maps in peak popularity times, and even smaller maps in dead times. Again 3-7 minutes transit flight time to the zone of combat. Pilots need to have the confidence in your map design that they can get on your server any time and find a fight. Time, Speed and Distance relating to WW1 planes is very different than WW2 planes. Consequently everything’s gotta be closer together in WW1 maps.
  • The ME262: The 262 is very hard to find anywhere on multiplayer servers. You should try to find ways to increase the numbers of 262s available on your maps, because hardly anyone gets to fly them online. The ME262 is the most discriminated against planes in all the servers, but there should be a way to keep a steady availability of them throughout most Bodenplatte maps.
  • If your server gets popular, it will face cultural challenges. The best possible guiding principle with your server’s culture is that the competition takes place in the air/arena, and not by means of complaint.


  • Expectation of finding combat: Principle: Pilots will flock to the servers where combat is most likely. This is probably a virtuous cycle where more begets more.
  • More On WW1:  Combat is often hard to find in general, and also hard to find at the proper altitude. Very often one spots planes at high altitude far above, but with no hope of reaching them. Often I climb from around 2000 feet to around 17000 feet (which takes 15 – 20 minutes) chasing an already high-up opponent (who doesnt know Im there) and I finally get to the same altitude and if Im lucky I can catch up and horizontally close the few kilometers gap and get close enough to initiate combat………………………………………And then I fire and the opponent ends up quickly descending until the fight finishes much lower, often on the deck! This is a VERY COMMON EXPERIENCE on WW1 servers and it sux big time. You should come up with ways to keep the combat zone below 10 000 feet – preferably below 5000 feet and certainly not at 17000 feet. I dont know how but for a popular WW1 server you need to incentivise lower-altitude flying. There is a reason why pilots often fly up to 17000 feet in there WW1 planes and that is because the WW1 planes if left to their own devices will climb. Vast majority of pilots dont apply constant forward stick pressure…..So they end up climbing to insane altitudes. WW1 planes are naturally aspirated and operate strongest at sea level. Theres no performance advantage at 20000 feet etc. Three-dimensional combat zone containment is particularly important with WW1 servers owing to the above factors. I often tried to start combat by intentionally firing a flare or my guns at an opponent who is very far above me or far off in the distance and flying away, knowing that my plane is slower than theirs and I simply cant catch them and that they have absolutely no idea that I am there. These are common problems on WW1 servers and these are the main reasons for failure of WW1 servers. If you run a WW1 server: Address these things and see the difference! The bluntest and most immediate instrument to improve WW1 servers is making smaller maps. Its very simple to do and there’s nothing more effective than that.
  • More on Tank servers: 3 to 7 minutes drive to get into the combat zone, no Ai tanks, dont forget to add AAA protection for the tanks: Suggest a ideal tank server is on the Prokhorovka map only, has 5 tanks on each side and 5 aircraft on each side. Emphasis on smaller vehicle numbers, as that makes it all work better and smooth. This tank server idea, the aircraft are in support of tanks and not so much the main event. Tanks can be attacked at the spawn point, however you have strong AAA guns protecting the spawn point.

Other success concepts

The above points were the most important. Below are some more concepts that are less important, but still important.

  • Don’t use Ai aircraft for anything except static objects on target airfields. the unsatisfactory attempt to always provide combat by adding Ai planes, actually results in pilots ignoring perceived Ai combat in servers and saving the Ai stuff for single player. Same goes for tank combat – I dont want to fight Ai tanks in a multiplayer server. Principle: The main reason for multiplayer is to avoid playing against Ai opponents. Multiplayer best for human opponents, Single player for (particularly for new combat pilots) practice against Ai opponents.

If you run a server and you implement these things, your numbers will improve and that really is the bottom line.

Go ahead and put these concepts into practice and I wouldnt be surprised that if you do, yours could easily become the most popular server.

This article is from my IL-2 How to and tips section of this website here: IL-2 How to and Tips