For a PC gamer, no game is ever complete without a keyboard and mouse. It is second nature for us PC gamers and we simply can’t think of using a gamepad, especially for FPS games. With gaming consoles though this debate has largely stayed muted simply because of the incompatibility of the conventional keyboard/mouse combination. Thanks to third-party accessory makers though the debate is once more back on in full swing.
It really does not matter which side of the spectrum you fall on. Whether you love analog stick controls or keyboard/mouse dual combination. The fact remains that almost everyone on a particular platform sticks to the same control schemes. It is only because of the third party adapters that gaming consoles now are starting to take keyboards as dedicated controllers. But then why is this is an issue?
Overwatch director, Jeff Kaplan believes there is a major problem with this development. Before getting to the specific issue that Kaplan speaks on, let’s first investigate the pros and cons of keyboard/mouse controls with console gaming.
The pros are numerous especially for those who game on PCs. One major reason why so many PC gamers are anti-console is because of the lack of keyboard and mouse usage. Let’s be honest, first person shooter games are way more enjoyable when you use a mouse. There is no way an analog stick can be as accurate as a mouse pointer that you move in a split second to target someone or something. Then there’s the advantage of multiple keys of a keyboard to configure specific skill moves, which you simply cannot do with a gaming console.
The cons however are all restricted to gaming consoles. Firstly, gaming consoles historically were more interested in peddling their own brand and design of controller that cannot be used with anything else. Thankfully, Xbox controllers are plug and play with a PC but a PlayStation controller isn’t. However, PlayStation does allow USB and Bluetooth connectivity of the keyboard and mouse but unless game developers explicitly provide support for these input devices, you are out of luck. Games that migrate from a PC environment over to PlayStation tend to retain keyboard/mouse functionality but games exclusively developed for the Playstation tends to miss out on such features.
Okay so, now that we have highlighted the pros and cons of keyboard/mouse combination as opposed to a game controller, let’s get back to why Overwatch director Kaplan has an issue with it.
Kaplan left a comment on Battle.net forums stating that the Overwatch team officially objects to the combination of keyboard and mouse for its games. They have even gone ahead and contacted console makers, expressing their concerns over the input conversion devices and the duo of keyboard and mouse.
The Overwatch team isn’t explicitly against keyboard and mouse. What they have an issue with is that these devices are not inherently compatible with the gaming consoles and players need to purchase expensive third-party adapters in order to use them. This means that only some of the users can use a keyboard and mouse and because of the inherent advantages of this kind of input, it puts the rest of the conventional console gamers with analogue sticks at a severe disadvantage.
Their request is to either outright ban any such conversion device or to provide complete and open support for mouse and keyboard. This ways, the entire community is benefited. With open and free support, the issue of cheating no longer arises as anyone can use a keyboard and mouse. And with complete ban on this kind of input adapter, gamers have to revert back to the conventional controllers.
The products questioned by Kaplan and his team include the XIM4 or the IoGear Keymander. The former costs about $125 but it lets you use specific keyboard and mice combinations intuitively with a few PS4 and Xbox One games. They even work on older Xbox 360 and PS3 titles too. The Keymander costs about $100 and does a similar thing though it is cross-platform for all console games.
What these devices to is to emulate a general controller using software settings and hardware. The mouse and keyboard input are then disguised as controller input thus developers really can’t detect their presence. This is a huge issue in competitive games such as Overwatch where a mouse is too quick and precise for anyone left on an Analogue stick. Controllers will always be bulky, leggy and clunky but a mouse is too precise and it shows in the game. Those terrible at such games will end up having a better chance of registering more points over seasoned pros who use controllers.
In fact, Overwatch forums are filled with complaints of “blatant cheating” in the console edition as players are starting to use the mouse and keyboard instead of the controller. It is this particular issue that Kaplan and his team are sympathetic to.
In fact, the question isn’t about allowing or disallowing control options. Remember Gears of War 4. They actually held a competition between PC gamers and console gamers to find out whether the debate of keyboard/mouse versus controller does hold up to be true. At the end of this trial run in December, it was observed that while certain figures were slightly higher, average score, kills, KD and a lot more all were relatively the same depending on skill ratings. Or in other words, the competitive advantage is limited between controller and a mouse aiming mechanism.
Nevertheless, Kaplan simply wants the option to use mouse and keyboard on consoles available to all his customers and not just those who invest into expensive third-party adapters. This would definitely help even things out. As it stands, Microsoft is currently working on an official support but it is still “months away” as reported by their own technical team. In fact, there is no official release date for the support.
As for PS4, they already provide support for Bluetooth and USB devices but developers do not usually utilize this support for their proprietary PS titles. Only games that have come from the PC platform have this kind of support and that too mostly MMO titles. Nevertheless, the idea of having cross-platform keyboard and mouse support is enticing, at least for us PC gamers who simply cannot imagine playing a first person shooter on a gamepad! Oh, yes we exist!