Getting Worked Over by a Mouse

yet another blast from the past. tho, this one isn’t from so far ago. summer of 2002, i believe. shortly after that e3 where xbox live was first playable.

I remember when I first started playing Castle Wolfenstein. I was a keyboarder all the way and, in fact, I’m not even sure if a mouse worked with Wolfenstein. All I know is that I raged on everyone with arrow keys and the number pad by the time I started playing Doom II. I worked over my small group of friends in deathmatches over and over again. Six or sever hours at a time even. We were animals.

Then I played my friend’s friend. Rob was his name. He whipped me so badly in Duke Nukem that I can’t even think about that game without getting chills down my spine. It was embarrassing to experience that kind of hideous defeat.

He was a mouser. One hand on the keyboard, the other on the mouse and he owned me.

Still hoping that it had just been the game itself, that Duke had somehow cheated me knowing I was a hard core id software guy, I started to download demos of other mousers playing Doom II and watching how they played. It changed my life forever. I watched this guy smoothly weave in and out of the Imps (I think that’s what they are really called. We always called them Wookies for obvious reasons if you’ve ever seen them.) fireballs as he spun to a precise facing with grace and poise. That’s when I started to use the mouse.

Once I got used to it, my friends started to fall to me five or six kills to one. They switched too. It was this amazing transformation that I have never seen the likes of again in my gaming career. Here I was cranking up the sensitivity and twisting and turning with an uncanny accuracy to wail on all comers. This spawned a crazy addiction to the FPS. I remember cranking out 20-30 hours a week of deathmatch or capture the flag with Quake II. I was king of ‘rush in and kill them all.’ In fact, at my peak, I was ranked in the top 200 of the world. Sounds paltry until you realize that was in a field of some 600,000 players. That put me in the top 0.03%.

It was sometime around then that I had my first experience with Quake (my game!) on a N64. Talk about brutal. I was so frustrated with the terrible joystick controls that I dropped it and never looked back. I can’t even describe the frustration I felt when my friends would beat me. Me! How could I lose a deathmatch to Ron when Joe and I, just the two of us, would take on a team of 12 people and beat them 8 captures to 0? “I can’t play this without a mouse!” I would holler, disgusted and throw down the controler.

And then I found the XBOX and a little game called Halo. Soon afterwards, I fell in love with the double joystick control. I can circle-strafe properly again! It doesn’t completely replace a mouse, but it is a helluva lot better than the digital joystick for steering, the ‘a’ button to walk and the ‘b’ button to strafe. Bungie slowed down the gameplay just enough to make a joystick comfy and added the slight acceleration to those 180 degree turns to reduce the ‘turning in molasses’ feeling that comes with using a joystick. This control scheme of using one stick to look and the other to move seems to be catching on. Max Payne uses it currently and I can’t even count the number of FPS style games that I previewed at E3 that used the same setup.

As a testament to my newly acquired skills with the double joysticks, I stepped up to the Unreal Championship (kicks ass!) competition at the XBOX LIVE (kicks more ass!) booth and decided to test my l337 skills against a bunch of members of the press. They stuck us in booths connected to the LIVE servers and turned us loose. I spent the first 2 minutes just getting my bearings, checking out the environment and adding the UC control feeling to my muscle memory. I managed to score 1 kill in that time for a miserable showing even for last place. Then I unleashed the Halo skills and rocketed into first place to win the match all the while hearing whoa’s and nice’s through the communicator. I even have the T-shirt to show for it.

Despite this seemingly unstoppable set of deathmatch skills I seem to have (not really, but doesn’t it sound good?) I just can’t help but feel short changed on the console. Even one as impressive as the XBOX. I still need that solution to the instant 180 degree turn. Halo doesn’t feel quite like molasses, but it still isn’t fast. I even have the sensitivity cranked up to 12 or 14. I want it to be instant.

So, here’s my suggestion. I think the double joysticks should stay as they are and the dialpad needs to become a facing mechanism. Depending on where you push, it will instantly face you in that direction. If you push left on the dialpad, you turn, again, instantly 90 degrees to the left. If you push the bottom of the dialpad, you flip around 180 degrees. Having the movement and the facing controls on the same side allows you to aim at the same time and moving back and forth between the joystick and the dialpad with the left thumb is not prohibitive at all. I do it all the time in SSX Tricky.

Surely, someone else is feeling as mouseless as I am. And as we all know, one day, console gamers will be gaming on the same servers in the same games as PC gamers. And as a reformed PC gamer, I know the power and the seduction of having a mouse at your disposal as well as the powerlessness of being deprived of one.

Give us our facing and let thumb-busters win!

looking back on it, tho, it seems like the dial pad might not be the best way to work it into the 360.

remember the old days when you had the ‘strafe’ button for pc-based fps games? (i guess it’s still there, but god knows if anyone actually uses the damn thing) you’d hold down the strafe button and when you moved the mouse from side to side, it’d strafe instead of turn? how about a similar control for the 360 and the ps2/3? (who really knows about that crazy revolution controller. but, the ‘cube? well. that controller is absolute crap. gives me the willies just thinking about it.)

the key, i think now, is the shoulder buttons. both on the dual shock and the 360 controller.

here’s how it might work:

default the ‘movement’ stick to a facing stick. as you’re leaning on it forward and you walk forward. flick it in any other direction and you immediately face that way. hold down the shoulder button and it plays as traditional console fps games do today. push forward, walk forward. left and right strafe. back walks backwards.

it’s the ‘flick’ that’s the key. while you are running forward, flick it backwards to the opposite side of the control (like you are immediately starting to walk backwards), it’ll flip you around, then, push forward again to walk forward.

the same thing can work for instant 90 degree turns too. anything more than 5-10 degrees would kick in the facing — just to keep it smooth when you are walking forward but still want to veer a bit.

think it might work?



5 comments so far

  1. Isurus on

    Doom 3 for the Xbox did something very similar to what you are suggesting. If you held down the left trigger you could run and turn much faster. It wasn’t and instant 180, but it was still a lot faster and pretty useful. I would love to see something like this implemented with the instant 180 instead of just faster turning. It is the one disadvantage that is hard to get used to on a console.

  2. Grindstone on

    I wouldn’t mind if they implemented a function on the D-pad, such as pressing down on the D-pad enabled a quick 180 turn. Then add “sprint” to the top function, and strafe to the other two positions. Whether this actually detracts from the gameplay or makes it feel un-Halo-ish remains to be seen. But, it would be a nice function, especially the 180 turn.

  3. Oncnawan on

    In the alternative, why not just use the thumbstick ‘click’ function for that? The right or left, depending on your preference, thumbstick would change from traditional FPS control to flick movement when you depress the thumbstick. Let go, and you are back to regular move and look functions. I find that all movement and targeting functions work best without removing the thumb from the stick.

  4. peteremcc on

    i guess this is something nintendo are trying to solve.

    of course its one of those things you won’t know whether you like it or not until you try it.


  5. Grindstone on

    I’ll agree to that, Oncnawan. So long as something along those lines is implemented, I’m onboard.

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