Getting DCS to run just right in VR can take an investment of thousands of dollars and dozens of hours. It’s not the most optimised game on the planet, so we do what we can. This guide will help you get the settings just right and its based on my own personal experience of running DCS in VR since early 2016.
1. In-game Graphics Settings
Texture – As high as you can push it. This determines how objects look. It won’t kill your GPU and it does impact quality. So don’t skimp on it unless you have to.
Terrain Textures – This determines how the terrain looks. Not super important unless you are a ground-hugger but not a big GPU hog either. Crank it up!
Civ. Traffic – Civilian traffic is essentially civilian ground vehicles which are dynamically generated based on this setting. This setting does not effect civilian air traffic which is coded manually via the mission generator. These things do impact CPU performance in large numbers and are generally terrible to look at so I just turn them off.
Water – How good the water looks. Medium is fine as going higher will unnecessarily imapct performance, but not by much.
Visib Range – How far away objects are drawn. Things like mountains, clouds, buildings. Medium is fine for most people.
Heat Blur – This looks cool in 2D, but not really suited for VR. It’s essentially the distortion caused by hot air.
Shadows – This is a BIG one. This setting determines how sharp the shadows will be in the cockpit and from the stuff that is near you (like rotor blades, tankers, wingmen which are close to you etc.). Despite the performance impact of this settings, many keep it high because otherwise your cockpit can look pretty bad. I have it on max. but if you are having performance issues, you can reduces it.
Aspect Ratio and Monitors – These are for monitors, not for VR.
Resolution – This is the resolution of the mirror image that will be on your 2D screen. I set it as low as possible because you are in VR and no one is looking at it anyway. Note that full screen is inferior to windowed mode in term s of performance in Windows 10. So run it in Windows mode.
Res. Of Cockpit Displays – This determines how good your cockpit displays look. Cockpit displays includes things like MFDs, mirrors, radar monitors, TV screens for the Russian birds and things of that nature. You need this to be as clear as possible as it has a material impact on your gameplay. Max it out, it is important.
MSAA – Ok, so this is the big one. Anti-aliasing is essentially the technology that programmers use to fix shimmering and other such issues in digital videos. Objects in real life have infinite resolution. But a screen has a limited resolution which means you need to decide which pixels to light up and in which colour. This can lead to shimmering on the edges of objects and the way to fix it to increase resolution of your display or use AA technologies like MSAA.
The downside is that this is a massive performance hog. I suggest you set it to either off or 2x based on your GPU power. If you have a high end GPU like a 2080Ti, 3080, 3090, you can set it to 2x otherwise try turning off to gain a decent performance boost. Remember that super-sampling is also an AA technique. So if you are using super-sampling in SteamVR, MSAA will have a less of a visible impact while using the same amount of GPU resources.
Depth of Field, Lens Effect, Motion Blur – Looks cool in 2D, but better to turn off in VR.
Clouds – Clouds are important after 2.7. They look awesome in 2D but not so much in VR. They suffer from a lot of shimmering which looks terrible in VR. Even on Ultra they look bad and cause a LOT of performance. So you have two very bad options now: Set them to standard and get very bad aliasing. Set them to Ultra to get moderately less shimming but at a HUGE performance cost. The addition of these new clouds is probably the worst thing that has ever happened to DCS VR.
SSAA, SSLR, SSAO – SSAA is just Super Sampling Anti-Aliasing technology. Very expensive, even compared to MSAA. Just set the super sampling in SteamVR. SSLR and SSAO are also best left off in VR.
Clutter/ Grass – This is a personal preference. Do you want grass, bushes and other stuff on the ground? It does affect performance. I set this to zero because the grass looks terrible in every single VR game anyway.
Forest visibility – This adjusts the the distance as which trees are rendered. The slider determines how close you need to be to trees before they pop up. Remember that all the tress will always exist, this only makes them invisible unless you get close to them. This is important because some helo missions require you to land in forests and the trees will appear invisible if you have this set too low even though they will be physically still there! Trees are a big performance killer when you are close to the ground so use this judiciously.
Forest Details Factor – This settings allows you to reduce the detail factor of trees and forests. 1.0 was the default setting before patch 2.7 but after 2.7 you can reduce it to get some performance boost. The boost is negligible. Start with 0.5 and adjust up or down.
Scenery Details Factor – This affects the details on scenery objects like buildings or airfields. On max setting, you will notice fences, brick work on buildings, air conditioning units on rooftops, antennas near airfields and things like that. Not much of a performance hit either way.
Preload radius – How much of the map will be loaded when you load the mission. The higher it is, the longer it will take to load missions. However, the advantage is that you will need to load less stuff during the actual mission. I set it to medium normally. Get a super fast SSD and at least 32GB RAM to make the game load faster.
Chimney Smoke – Meh.
Gamma – Personal preference. I think 1.5 is fine for me although I think the default is higher. It will also depend on your VR headset since some are brighter than others. No performance impact when changing this.
Antistrophic Filtering – It makes things like roads etc. look better and has a very low performance cost. I always set it to 16x in all games.
Terrain Object Shadows – Shadows are a BIG resource hog in all games. Cockpit shadows are controlled through the other setting mentioned earlier. This is just for terrain objects which are less important because you belong in the sky! So you can turn them off to get a very decent boost in performance.
Cockpit Global Illumination – It allows for outside light sources to better light up the cockpit. At least that’s the theory. I haven’t noticed it doing that in VR so I just turn it off. I have asked a lot of people and none of them can vouch if it does anything in VR.
Message Font Scale/ Scale GUI – This is just plain old UI scaling and honestly I dont see the need for it. Probably better for very very large 2D monitors but not needed for VR.
Rain Droplets – Yes, please! Who doesnt like rain?
Vsync- Not applicable for VR.
Fullscreen – Yes.
Cursor confined to game window – Yes, otherwise when you move the mouse in VR and click somewhere, it may de-focus the DCS app.
2. In-game VR Settings
Pixel Density – This is essentially super sampling (SS). SS here is multiplicative with what you set in SteamVR or elsewhere. Therefore, as a best practice, set it up at one place only. I recommend leaving this to 1.0 and adjusting in SteamVR or the Oculus Tool.
Also, keep in mind that setting PD to, say, 1.2 here is the equivalent of setting it to 144% in SteamVR because this is per axis. So 1.2 x 1.2 = 1.44 or 144%. That means 44% more pixels need to be rendered and 44% more GPU load.
Force IPD Distance – The most important VR setting! This is essentially world scale. Meaning if the cockpit seems small, then changing this number will make it bigger. And vice versa. This has nothing to do with your actual physical Inter-pupilary distance. I wish ED had chosen a better name for it to avoid confusion, even though it is technically not wrong.
MSAA Mask Size – Makes the area where MSAA is applied bigger or smaller. At least in theory. In practice, people are still divided on whether it works or is bugged.
3. NVIDIA Control Panel Settings
Assuming you have an Nvidia graphics card, there are a few settings you can tweak here. Or rather that other guides tell you to tweak without knowing what they even mean.
Virtual Reality pre-rendered frames – The one setting that often gets talked about is “Virtual Reality pre-rendered frames” and setting that to 3. Note that there is a trade off here between frames and latency with this setting. Increasing it to 3 means the CPU will buffer some additional frames ready but it may cause higher latency/ lag/ input delay and even mess up re-projection. So don’t just blindly put it to 3 and call it a day – it might make things worse. Try 1 or 3 and see which one your brain prefers.
Anti-aliasing – Some guides also tell you to set anti-aliasing to 2x MSAA from here instead from the in-game setting as it is faster. That is also not true. You can’t set MSAA at the driver level for DirectX11 games. You can switch MFAA on from here though and that does work.
4. SteamVR Settings
Motion Smoothing – Your headset will most likely have a refresh rate of 90Hz, 80Hz or 120Hz etc. Sometimes your GPU will not be able to keep up. So what happens is that SteamVR, Oculus or WMR will look at the previous few frames and use predictive algorithms to extrapolate or guess the next frame. This means that if the GPU can’t keep up with the refresh rate, you will see some guesstimated frames.
Motion Smoothing is Valve’s name for this tech. I think it is best to keep this on even if you hit 90 FPS normally. It does have some downsides, but it is better than not having it on. If you ever do go below 90 FPS (which you will), it will prevent frame drops.
Note that WMR’s motion reprojection is also turned on by this same setting for now. Read the next section on WMR to know more.
Resolution – This is where you set your super sampling level. You have two choices here. Push it up and then aim for 45 FPS with reprojection/ motion smoothing to make up for the rest. Keep it low and aim for 90 FPS or whatever is the native FPS for your headset.
With my Reverb, I use 150% SS and it looks crisp as can be. But you wont get 90 FPS even with a 3090 that way. So you will have to tinker with it based on your graphics card and VR headset.
5. Windows Mixed Reality Settings
Note: The old method of editing the text file has been done away with. Read the new instructions here:
5.1. Motion Reprojection Setting Changes
This beta makes changes to how motion reprojection settings can be managed. Like before, the default.vrsettings file can be modified to specify the reprojection mode to use for all titles. As a reminder, the possible values are:
- disabled – motion reprojection is never applied.
- auto – motion reprojection is applied if the running title cannot maintain native framerate.
- motionvector – motion reprojection is always applied.
Alternatively, if you’re using Windows Mixed Reality for SteamVR in conjunction with the latest SteamVR release, you can now use SteamVR to manage motion reprojection settings on a per-application basis. To enable this functionality:
- Ensure you’re running a supported version of SteamVR (1.10.28 or greater).
- Remove the “motionReprojectionMode” line from default.vrsettings. Location: \Steam\steamapps\common\MixedRealityVRDriver\resources\settings\default.vrsettings
- In the SteamVR settings, select Video > Per Application Video Settings.
- Select the title you’re interested in, and change the motion smoothing option.
5.2. Motion Smoothing Setting
- Use Global Setting – no application specific override. The global default mode is auto.
- Enabled – motion reprojection runs in auto mode, applying reprojection if the application cannot maintain native framerate.
- Disabled – motion reprojection is never applied for the application.
- Force Always-on – application runs at half-framerate with reprojection.
6. OpenXR OpenComposite
A big problem with WMR headsets is that you have to use both SteamVR and WMR which causes performance issues. Its like having an unnecessary additional layer in between the hardware and the game. What if you could remove SteamVR from the equation completely? Well, you can do that in MSFS and Eagle Dynamics had promised it for DCS to but that was years ago and nothing happened. But thankfully, community members have created their own implementation of this.
Now you can use OpenXR for DCS instead of having to use SteamVR. This shaves a lot of unnecessary overhead and leads to performance (aka FPS) gains of 25%-30% based on your system. Here’s hot to do it.
Step 1: Remove any other VR performance hacks from DCS. Most of them wont work and only cause you issues. Things like Reshade, FSR, PerfKit etc. if you had them. Also, clean out your metshaders and fxo folders located at C:\Users\your username\Saved Games\DCS.
Step 2: Download the latest release of OpenComposite from Github. Copy the three files (openvr_api, opencomposite, D3DCompiler_47) inside the folder to your DCS/bin folder. There may be another folder there too, no need to copy that. Overwrite any files if prompted (you may want to back them up somewhere).
Step 3: Open your Windows Setting, go to Mixed Reality, then Startup & Desktop, then Automatic Startup. Make sure the option to automatically start SteamVR is off. You dont want SteamVR to start or it defeats the whole point. I have always had this setting off but just to make sure.
Step 4: Download “OpenXR Developer Tools” from the official Microsoft site. It’s free and I have already been using it for MS Flight Sim so I already had it installed. Set the runtime as OpenXR in the app. If this setting is not visible, you may already be using this. You can leave the render scale at 100% for your first test. This is essentially the resolution the game renders at and you can tweak this later based on our graphics card. You can also turn reprojection on/off from here instead of using SteamVR.
That is pretty much it. Run DCS and enjoy more frames! Just make sure SteamVR is NOT running. Note that if you do this, then you should skip all the other VR hacks (listed below) for now because they are not currently compatible.
7. Reshade Mod for OpenVR
There is a Reshade mod that I have been using in many VR games. This mod has become essential for me given the noticeable improvements in sharpness it provides. The terrain as well as cockpit objects look a lot sharper. The buttons, knobs and text are clearer to see. I set the sharpening value pretty high (1.8 to 2.0) to see a noticeable difference. The default value is 1.0 and you can try going up from there. There is a minor performance cost supposedly, but I could not measure any noticeable difference. There are colour and saturation settings as well which you can set according to personal preference. I left them all at default.
There are also some shader mods you can use to get better performance. What these mods do is simplify shaders for things like the canopy glass, grass, water etc. which improves performance by a fair bit. I have not tried this myself as I have had some issues with it in the past but it is still worth mentioning.
8. OpenVR FSR
FSR (FidelityFX Super Resolution ) is a supersampler by AMD but it works with Nvidia cards too. This is essentially an upscaling algorithm developed by AMD which is used in some other games. This mod adds that support to DCS and can give you a ~20% increase in FPS!
Step 1: Download it: https://github.com/fholger/openvr_fsr/releases/tag/fsr_alpha1.1
Step 2: Go to your DCS bin folder (\DCS World\bin) and backup file openvr_api.dll somewhere. You can rename it or save it elsewhere as a backup.
Step 3: Extract the contents of the file you just downloaded to the bin DCS bin folder.
Step 4 (optional): You can tinker with the values in .cfg file. I set render scale to 0.9 to 1. Sharpness I set to 0 because I already use the reshade mod listed above for sharpening.
Enjoy your higher FPS! I personally do not use this as it tends to add some shimmering in the clouds and the horizon because it is still just upscaling an image that was rendered at a lowered resolution. But for some people a 20% boost in FPS may be worth that or they may just be less sensitive to shimmering.
9. Windows Settings
Windows Game Mode – Turn this off along with Windows Xbox Game Bar. Also, go to your graphics setting and turn off Hardware Accelerated GPU Scheduling. These settings cause issues. In fact, the latter was preventing my system from achieving motion reprojection when in auto mode.
10. Hardware Guides
At the end of the day, it all comes down to your hardware. There is only so much you can squeeze out of an old lemon. And since DCS is both CPU and GPU intensive, you do need to invest to extract its full potential.
Want the best DCS VR rig? Check out these guides: