Microsoft is still planning on bringing keyboard and mouse support to the Xbox platform, and have recently stated that the first titles supporting keyboard and mouse controls could be announced “soon.”
It’s a feature that will be tricky to implement, for many reasons.
“Keyboard and mouse support is definitely coming, we have to be very smart about how we do that,” Xbox director Mike Ybarra said during a recent PAX panel. “We’ll leave it a lot to the developer choice.”
The issue is that keyboard and mouse controls are innately more precise than playing with a controller, and that makes online play complicated. But Microsoft has some thoughts about how to make that work.
“A lot of people tweet me and say ‘you can’t do this because of fairness’ and we understand that,” Ybarra said. “We run two platforms: the Windows platform and the Xbox platform, and so when we bring keyboard and mouse we’ll coach developers and say you have to think about your multiplayer pools. If you have a competitive game, people will probably want the choice to say I’ll play with other keyboard and mouse people, I’ll play with only controller people or I’ll play with any of those.”
Mouse and Keyboard are still coming... pic.twitter.com/jbzcQvAsyS— Xbox E3 Fans (@XboxE3Fans) September 2, 2017
These are tricky questions that will have to be answered on a game per game basis, and there will likely be a bit of a learning process along the way ... but it’s coming.
“You’ll see our first games supporting keyboard and mouse soon,” Ybarra continued. “I can’t announce what that is, but soon. Then based on developer interest, they’ll choose to do keyboard and mouse support going forward, or not.”
The game everyone may try to emulate or learn from in this area? Destiny 2.
Say what, now?
Destiny 2 is going to be an important proving ground for mouse and keyboard support on consoles not because of what it’s doing on those console, but due to the controller options being given to PC players. The game already supported both mouse and keyboard and controller options during its beta on the PC.
Mouse and keyboard controls operated just as you’d expect them to, but the game also emulates the console experience once you plugged in a controller. That doesn’t just mean you’re using a controller to play the game, it means the game adjusts how the guns themselves operate. Recoil seems to be dialed down, and auto aim is turned on. It plays exactly like it would on the console.
Destiny 2 plays great with a controller on PC. If you want it to feel just like the console, you can. https://t.co/ghkoZvwZUl— Mark Noseworthy (@knowsworthy) May 23, 2017
A player made a quick video comparing the recoil experienced on the keyboard and mouse versus the recoil seen using a controller during the PC beta. The controller led to much more muzzle climb.
But that’s a bit misleading, since the weapons will act differently when aimed at an enemy. The console version of the game includes aim assist, which pulls your reticle toward the target to help you feel more precise than you actually are. It’s not good or bad — aim assist is common in console games — it’s just different than how we’re used to playing games on our PCs. Destiny 2 will let players using either control method play with or against each other.
Bungie knew this was coming.
“This is a topic we have anticipated,” Bungie’s community manager stated on the official forums. “Thank you for sharing your points in a constructive manner. It’s a conversation we will continue to monitor. Please continue to share honest feedback about your experiences in the wild. This is why we test. Thanks for playing. We’ll talk more after the PC Beta.”
How the inclusion of both control methods plays out once the PC version of the game is released, and how it will impact the competitive scene, is still a bit of an unknown. The beta wasn’t live for a long enough time for it to really become an issue.
This is one reason Bungie may have been noncommittal about how it’s planning on dealing with the issue; there may not be a clear path forward until everyone sees how players will use both control methods and what that will mean for PvP results.
There is also a pretty straightforward method to trick the game into thinking you’re using a controller while you’re actually playing with mouse and keyboard, which gives you aim assist even though you’re using traditional PC controls. That workaround has the potential to wreak havoc on the competitive scene if Bungie doesn’t find a way to fight it.
So what does this have to do with consoles?
Bungie is going to be running into all of the problems Microsoft will experience on Xbox One when Destiny 2 releases on PC, and it’s going to have to find a way to get both methods of play balanced and working well together.
It’s not going to be easy, and it’s likely the community will find ways to exploit the differences between controllers and mouse and keyboard. Making sure everyone has a good time while playing against each other is likely going to be a process as everyone involved learns what works and what doesn’t.
And it’s likely Microsoft will be paying very close attention, and taking notes.