How do you sim? An ethical question

Greetings fellow mudspikers.

I’ve recently been stung by a MiG-21 bug. Refusing to fly anything but the Fishbed. It’s a wonderful aircraft and very well simulated. A clickable pit is great on any aircraft, but I find it really shines in the Fishbed. Want to change from rockets to bombs and reflect the change on the reticule? Twist the rotary and flick some switches. Switch to guns? Press a button to load it and flick the switch to make the reticule lead for guns. Master arms? what self respecting plane has a master arms? Just flick some switches to power down the stations and gun. You need about half a dozen handlings just to operate the gear (without draining the pneumatic system) and there’s even a “cam” switch on the right wall wich will, in good Russian fashion, install a dashcam on the MiG wich will hopefully keep the “only in Russia” youtube video’s going for another 50 years in real life.

My existential crisis today struck me when I found myself in the Saitek H.U.D software. Normally, taking off is awkward but funny. Holding the stick with the left hand as I click my way through the procedures to retract the gear and flaps (and usually turn on the aileron boosters in a panicking matter, I guess this is why real pilots use checklists). This was my creation in H.U.D.

I was so preoccupied whether or not I could, that I did not stop to think if I should

The above macro does the following. It releases the gear fixator, pulls up the gear, waits a few seconds, then puts the gear handle in the neutral position to preserve pneumatic pressure and finally puts the gear fixator back in place. All in a single switch on the throttle. I thought it was pretty cool when I made it untill I realised I also destroyed part of the attraction. Sacrificing some authenticity for ergonomics. The chance of realizing I forgot to put her in neutral and trying to land with emergency brakes nullified. I had similair thoughts when I was watching someone fly the MiG-21 on youtube. Switches and the like where manipulated but the focus of the camera stayed firmly in the center of the ASP glass on the target. I thought to myself: “Is this guy simulating the operation of a MiG-21… Or is this just gaming?”

So how about you? Do you MinMax your gear? Trying to get the most out of your periphials and put functions on them the real plane did not have? Or do you try to stay true to the real deal as much as possible? Mimicking the real stick as much as you can with yours. Or perhaps somewhere in between.

Curious what you guys have to say! Thanks for reading.


Whoah. That’s deep.
I think of it really as a victimless crime.

I mean the simple fact that you can be judge and jury of the immersion/fun says a lot about this.

Personally, as long as my Warthog HOTAS was 100% functional I really enjoyed flying the “Hawg” as it should.

Now… I realised that (for me) managing the correct operating procedure is more rewarding than “switchology”… but then again I may be professionally biased!

In any case very nice writeup! :smile:

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I like to flick the switches in the pit, where I can. When I am landing or taking off, or otherwise ‘Task Saturated’, I need to not be flying with my left hand while clicking switches with the mouse.

My criteria is thus: If it can be done/should be done at a time that is not critical, I do it in the pit. If I need to do it while doing other things, then I need to get it onto a HOTAS button. If I could use my left hand to unlock the gear handle, flick it up, down and then re-lock, I would. If I need to use the mouse, well my lift hand is not going to suffice. :slight_smile:


First thing I like to do in a new plane is to read documentation on primary controls on throttle and stick. I try to map it as close as possible to my G940. I think this really enhances your sim feeling, e.g. there is a little speed brake button on the stick of the MiG-15 to operate the airbrake as long as you hold it. If you let go of the button, the boards go in. It’s a nifty little feature and an advantage to the way airbrakes work in the Sabre. I love this kind of detail and would never try to emulate it with a macro. It robs the soul of an aircraft.

Clickable cockpit always felt strange to me when I have to act quickly. I tend to loose control of the aircraft when trying to hit the tiny switches with the cursor. It is so much more complicated compared to just flicking a switch with your fingers and I suck in using the mouse with my left hand. Hence I built a small panel with switches and buttons which I hooked on a Bodnar USB controller. I try to map the most important controls to these physical switches.

The problem with HOTAS systems and sim pit panels is, that you cannot rearrange the layout of the buttons. Eventually you have to make some compromises.
Switching aircraft frequently also may cause issues. Thus I map same controls (flaps, gear) to the same buttons…

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I, like @Fridge, like to click the buttons in the cockpit where it can. Although since I picked up some mfd’s last year I find myself binding things to them. As best I can I try and keep stuff as realistic as possible: in the mirage I have bound the fire control system buttons to their relative positions on my left mfd. I think that If it made some kind of optimized control setup that could be used for any aircraft, DCS especially would lose something.


I try to map my stuff to whatever the real aircraft layout is, within reason. Ever since the Warthog I think I enjoy the process of looking up the real aircraft stick and throttle layouts and then trying to map what they use to my sticks and things. My thinking is (a) they probably thought about the human/machine interface issues a lot, so why should I try to beat that (unless it is the MiG-21bis, where they obviously fiercely hate all humans) and (b) my bar of enjoying study sims is a lot related to how hard/awkward they are, i.e. I’m not trying to make it easier to fight or play MP, as I’m mainly a single player masochist. DCS is a ‘controls simulator’ for me. :slight_smile:

Ironically, it sometimes puts me off DCS for a bit after a new version comes out, as I put off having to remap things or just set everything up again. Something like X-Plane seems so different, in that there is a common control set for everything, no individual aircraft set-up at all.

I do wonder if the ‘core controls’ of DCS could be saved in a ‘common profile’ and then we just do the differences per aircraft. I’ve often considered writing a small app to do that (my trim is always the same hat, my gear/flaps always the same throttle switches etc etc), but the edge cases per version are tricky I think. Hmm.


I use xpadder ( ) to externally map my devices to the stock keyboard commands. This makes it a little bit more “update safe” an reusable. Also when mixing things with stable release, open beta, etc. this saves a lot of time. Plus it’s one tool for my Logitech/Saitek/Thrustmaster/Bodnar devices.

It costs a small fee but I can recommend it for its ease of use and set of features, Same could be done with free Auto Hotkey but this is mostly editing in notepad without the benefits of a GUI.


Yep, I guess the Thrustmaster and Saitek binding software for the devices is a way forward too, as in I could save a ‘common’ profile with ‘G’ for gear that maps to the switch I use etc, and then always use that to start configuring from in DCS (rather than in-game changed bindings). Generally the DCS keyboard set is common and logical, and survives updates.

The trouble with the devices is that the profiles aren’t hierarchical, i.e. ‘use this common one PLUS these additional bits’ and are more aggregate, i.e. ‘use as a starting point, but if anything changes in common redo all’.

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Why I fell in love with the DCS A-10C and the Thrustmaster Warthog. But with years experience mapping HOTAS buttons to more functions I’ve no problem loading up all my aircraft profiles with as similar extra functions as are practical. Lately I’ve made use of the Thrustmaster MFCDs to control additional functions, with inserts.

I like to read through the manual in the first few weeks of a new aircraft.

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I’ve got the same feeling about the Mig-21bis - it’s immensely immersive to fly, and the cockpit implementation is big part of it. Much of the charm is the very hands on way you manage the systems, and I actually quite like the extra work involved. I’ve thought about mapping more stuff to buttons, but i’ve gotten used to shuffling between throttle, stick and mouse and now quite like the frantic take-off process.


I did exactly what you did, mapping the whole gear up sequence to a macro in the X-52 software. But I have learned of my ways! I now use the trackball in my left hand to do the gear up, and unlocking the mechanism before I accelerate down the runway. I now only have to right click on the gear up handle and can release the pneumatic pressure on it when I am stable in the air.

Honestly, get a mouse you can use with your left hand :wink:

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Like a few others, I will click everything that is at least feasible to click with the mouse. Although, depending on the plane and my button requirements for it, I’ll brake out the MFD’s for some of those little switches that are a pain to get with a mouse unless you get trackIR looking in exactly the right angle, start up sequence switches in the 190/109/MiG-21 come to mind. But I guess that is probably closer to reality since what I am doing more closely simulates the action, switches aren’t the same, but I can place them so that I am at least pressing buttons in the same general area as you would have to irl.

Between all the various gear, I’ve only used the joystick software to adjust the brightness of the LED’s on the X-55, Adjust the brightness on the MFD’s and I once tried to combine my CH gear to one virtual JS, but I was unsuccessful.

If the issue is “ethical”, i.e. if it is cheating to automate the “realistic” workload, I say that you need to look at the other side of things. In the real aircraft, the pilot doesn’t need to look at the gear to change its state (as we do if we are using mouse functions). If his training was anything like mine, he was blindfolded, put in the cockpit, and had to find individual switches on demand by feel alone, so he can find and operate the gear lever while still actively flying the aircraft.

In my TARGET profiles, my philosophy is to map the HOTAS as close to the actual aircraft controls as possible, but I always include mapping for gear and flaps as required. Using the MiG-21 (with its 3 position landing gear switch) as an example, I would map this to the Boat Switch (WH) or Dogfight Switch (Cougar), with the Up, Down and Neutral positions each represented. I also mapped the gear lock/unlock toggle as a modified function using the same switch. Sure, it’s easier than the real aircraft, but you still execute all the steps, and when the limitations of the sim mean that your visibility is effectively looking through a straw, you need all the help you can get to offset that disadvantage!


Just want to chime in by saying I really like the Mig-21 too :mudspike:

I concur. I have an ambidextrous trackball behind my throttle for this very purpose. I’ve found exactly one affordable ambidextrous trackball that has a scroll wheel:
Kensington Trackball Mouse with Scroll Ring (Amazon)

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I do have a trackball too on my left side, although the market is very very limited for some reason.

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Ordered. I had never really put thought into having a trackball next to the throttle.

Will probably help with VR as well when I go down that road someday.

Trackballs are awesome! Love using them.

In addition to mapping hardware ethically (How do you sim? An ethical question), what about the software side, like mods and labels and F10 views? When is a mod a cheat? I saw this video in a post on DCS Forums about integrity checking. There is NSFW talk in this video –

This “Leavu3 By Flame” addition to DCS looks pretty nice to me for getting SA in the F-15C. In our massive on-line mission last month I felt blind in the jet; and the Fog Of War setting was not showing me anything, even when there was an enemy MiG flying under me. I know that many don’t like labels and F10 All and F5 views, while I allow them in a lot of my missions. This Leavu3 uses exported data from DCS; I think as part of planned integrity enhancements that the export capabilities will have blocking options.

Yes but this is the local data. it’s nothing the F-15 already doesn’t tell you, except then formatted in a different way more akin to what one might find in the actual yet.

Besides, if they start blocking it like this, then helios/DCS-Export and all the other perihpheral equipment will stop functioning. Not quite a positive thing IMHO.