Can a PS4 Keyboard and Mouse combo level the playing field VS. PC gaming?
I have always been a console gamer, and in current times where more games in the first or third-person shooter variety are being released, it definitely sounds like a good time to invest in a PS4 keyboard and mouse.
Now before we start asking questions about the overall usefulness of this product beyond beyond what they are originally manufactured for, I think it would be of merit to everyone to dial back on the scope of things for console and PC gaming.
Console Vs. PC Gaming – where are we at right now?
I recall that it was at the E3 in 2013 when they had announced a couple of new titles on the PS4 and XBox One that got the label of “highly anticipated”. A good reason for this was because the titles had featured multiplayer capabilities from multiple platforms.
One of this year’s early hits, The Division, had featured hands-on live gameplay which featured users joining a team in the midst of a mission via their tablet. This “proof of concept” made a lot of gamers excited because it meant that they could stick to a single console of their choosing, yet they could connect to their peers on the PC and experience the game together. It all sounded well!
That is, until recently.
Within that span, several titles had backed off from their promise of multi-platform (or cross-platform) play. This struck a huge nerve with the gaming community at large as the expectation of playing with a buddy regardless of console had been reneged by the publisher. Fighting games in the form of Street Fighter V and Killer Instinct were exempt from the sudden shift (and are doing well despite some issues from either console or PC), but for titles that had a large syndication or following pre-release, it was hampering.
Why would a publisher do that? There is no question that their titles would have guaranteed sales in the millions REGARDLESS of platform that it was purchased. Consumers will still be playing their games regardless of platform. So what is it that stops them from adding a feature that, while complicated in terms of development, opens up a larger spectrum of the gaming experience because it is shared with other people?
The default control input for PC trumps Console any day of the week
This unfortunately is the harsh reality. There are plenty of advantages to the PC master race that keeps them far ahead of the on-going console wars.
Consoles have tried to one-up each other with better graphics and a stronger processor that will prove advanced for the current times and stay relevant for the next 5 years. On the other hand, the PC will be able to constantly upgrade its parts and stay relevant for much longer even until the supportable specs will be able to run games from their minimum requirements. That is a big thing.
What’s an even greater deal is that the PC uses a control input that is so common to everyone* that it does not take much of a learning curve to become proficient at playing using these control inputs.
(*In the US alone back in 2009, there were approximately 46 million households with at least one computer in it)
And because of this common familiarity, it’s no surprise that there is a larger gamer base that can be see on the PC than on consoles. I am talking about the keyboard and mouse.
So how bad is it?
A story that was published back in 2010 tells of a study where a team of the best console players were pitted against a team of mediocre PC players in a game of Call of Duty, and the former got beat so bad it was embarrassing! And it wasn’t because of know-how or plain skill that was a deciding factor because the PC players would win 7 times out of 10. It was because there was a great deal of freedom to go about the game through a keyboard and a mouse, than to do the same on a controller.
Let’s break this down even more:
How does Keyboard + Mouse = Pwnage over Controller?
I have had the opportunity to experience multiplayer games on both inputs and let me just say that the amount of adjustments needed to get good at either is like comparing a sprint to a marathon. There is just way too much familiarity on the Keyboard/Mouse combo that is easier to pick up on.
Because typing on a keyboard (or any type of keyboard for that matter) can be practically second nature, fingers on the keyboard’s directional and jump input and other quick commands make for any in-game action easily accessible. For the controller, you would need to get comfortable with the control mapping that works best for you. In recent games where the aforementioned study was replicated, it was this quick access to commands that made PC gamers more aggressive during play; and just as important, it was the need to be comfortable that had console gamers looking to be more conservative in their approach.
It is not too much of an issue though when it comes to zooming in or firing as both provide actions that are quick and efficient for gamers. Instead, it boiled down to look and aim.
Aiming in the mouse operates similar to how you would look around in real life – it notes a starting point on a surface and adjusts cursor/crosshair location based on proximity of the mouse from that starting point (with more precise movement being associated with a dots per inch, or dpi, that is higher.. more surface area tracked). So you could basically look to your top-left at one moment, then quickly center your crosshair in another in fast succession.
Aiming with a controller’s analog stick, on the other hand, works more like a lever, where pointing it one direction makes you look that way in-game, and pointing it to the exact same direction makes you look that way faster (oh, and guiding the analog stick back to origin is required to stop the movement. There is lesser precision in doing this that even if the sensitivity level of the analog stick was lowered, you would still end up with the same clunky result.
It is because of this discrepancy that gives the significant edge to the PC gamer – looking and aiming is critical in online play (especially shooters) that a second to adjust would result in you losing a life in your game. I would probably be able to aim quickly on a mouse than with an analog stick.
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The change of input = Change of favor?
I guess at this point, the only logical way that a console gamer would be able to compete well enough against a PC gamer is if they decide to go keyboard and mouse as well. And fortunately for console gamers, there are several possibilities for them to go about setting this up without having to shell out the equivalent of a console or a gaming PC.
It is crazy that this possibility would be considered – console versions of shooters and the like tend to configure aiming in a different way than on PC in that the actions of looking and aiming are jarring if a mouse was used in the console. To combat this, each product has its own technology to seemingly transition the aiming methods from console to what is very familiar to PC gamers.
This sounds great and all, but then again…
If you think about it, you are transferring a primary input method of a computer into what is, essentially, a gamer-centric PC (sans any complicated means of computing, of course). Consoles all have their own processor, memory, harddrive and graphics card that are pretty much PC parts, and in turn use the same standard when it comes to plug-and-play devices (that would be USB).
So having said that, does it defeat the purpose of having a console packaged as an entity unique from a PC if they use the same input? Does this remove any bit of uniqueness that can differentiate both machines? Is having a controller so much of a handicap that a console gamer would want to literally fight fire with fire?
My closing thoughts on this matter
To the last point, I personally think this is hurtful to the manufacturer of controllers – you put a lot of time and effort crafting a device that should work seamlessly with your console ONLY to have it shunned in favor of a product that is considered conventional and familiar to a large demographic in the world.
But at the same time, I am not totally against it. I feel that gaming in multiplayer regardless of the competitive setting does boil down to what products provide you comfort in-game, and what gives you that competitive edge over other players. Just as important is that the choice of controller feels natural to the point that all you have to focus on is other aspects of the game such as area awareness, strategy, and on-the-fly decision making.
A couple of my buddies in Manila used to go with the saying, “Wala sa porma ang lakas”, which more or less refers to how performance takes precedence over aesthetics. You could be playing with the best equipment out there, but if your gameplay is bad, it will not save you.
I would recommend giving the keyboard and mouse combo a shot for your console. It might hurt your game at first, but once you get familiar with its usage, you will surely find moments to excel. In fact, you can try out this product and see how it goes!
Got an opinion about this post? Let me know in the comments section.