Since the dawn of time, humans have considered mouse and keyboard to be superior to controllers when given the choice between the two control systems. Mouse and keyboard offer superior accuracy, precision, and response time. The pantheon of gods have long scoffed at controller players, for console peasants do not understand the true gnosis of mouse and keyboard.
Now, a great evil force known as “aim assist” threatens to upset the balance created at the very start of our Universe, and it’s all Epic Games’ fault.
Aim assist: the hiccup in the story of crossplay
When I was in high school, circa 2008, the economy had just collapsed and investing in a console was a serious decision to make. First you had to ask all your friends what consoles they had, figure out which console exclusives you wanted to play, and most importantly figure out where you were going to play the next Call of Duty title. The ability to play with your friend on Playstation while you had an Xbox wasn’t a thing.
Since that time, crossplay has been introduced for a large number of relevant titles. Modern Call of Duty titles have crossplay. Rocket League was one of the earlier titles to go out of its way to support crossplay, including Playstation 4, Xbox One, and PC in its online matchmaking.
In 2017, pushing crossplay was all the rage. Now we, the humble gamers, are blessed with the benefits of being able to play with our friends regardless of the system they have, so long as it’s not a Nintendo Switch. The benefits of cross play are clear: you can play with folks regardless of system. But crossplay also introduces some inequalities that are hard to balance: namely, PCs are more powerful and precise than consoles, so how do you balance those two playing in the same game?
Most recently, Fortnite has been dealing with some issues related to their crossplay mechanics. To make a long story short, crossplay comes with some odd balance questions when it comes to controller versus keyboard use.
When Halo 2 came out on PC, they had online matchmaking multiplayer, which made it easy to get into a competitive online match with your friends. Tons of people flocked to the game at the prospect of avoiding the server browsers of the time period.
Most people on PC played with their keyboard and mouse. Many of these people jumped online, only to get trounced by some rando with a controller. It felt as if the people playing with controller had a huge advantage, because they did. The Xbox team left aim assist on for the controllers, so even with the extra precision of mouse and keyboard, PC players were doomed unless they went out and bought their own controller for PC. This severely hurt the popularity of Halo 2 on PC as a result.
Now that was 2007. That would never happen again, right?
Well, Epic apparently did not learn the parable of Halo 2’s aim assist, and like the old saying goes, “Those who do not read history are doomed to repeat it.”
Epic’s laser-guided aim assist
A lot of Fornite streamers and professionals have been learning and mastering the controller for Fortnite over the past month or so, even when they are playing on PC. The aim assist on Fortnite controller is an aimbot. Streamers, including Myth, Bugha, Tfue, and Ninja, have all addressed the rising controller issue. So many people have been switching to controller on PC that many lobbies in Fortnite now feel like non-prime matchmaking in Counter-Strike: Global Offensive: There are aimbots everywhere.
Not only are console players obviously using controllers, PC players who benefit from things like higher frames per second and more powerful systems are also switching to controller. Some outlets have reported that aim assist is actually stronger on PC and it is on console. Tyler “Ninja” Blevins decried the PC players doing this calling them “losers” and saying, “Anyone with a brain can go on Twitter and find some professional players who are now switching from mouse and keyboard to a controller and the clips that they’re tweeting, they’re disgusting. It makes me want to vomit.”
Ninja has been an outspoken critic of aim assist on PC for more than a year now. Back in 2018, Ninja and Nick “NICKMERCS” Kolcheff had a bit of a tiff over whether or not using aim assist was appropriate. NICKMERCS has been using a controller in competitive games for a long time now. Back then, Ninja stated “Controller auto-aim dude. . . I don’t think it should be in the game. If you plug in a controller to a PC, have fun, there should be no aim-assist.”
Back then, NICKMERCS replied saying, “Anybody with a brain – they know that controller players, in the grand scheme of things, are at a huge disadvantage when it comes to the game of Fortnite.”
It is increasingly apparent that NICKMERCS may have been wrong about the disadvantages of controller play, considering the mass migration to PC controller play taking place right now.
In summary, PC players are taking all the advantages of aim assist without any of the disadvantages that come with playing on a less powerful console, and the results are nothing short of unfair according to many Fortnite players.
But who is to blame for the sudden jump in PC controller usage? The players switching over are just doing the most strategic thing in taking every legal advantage possible to win games.
Fixing the aim assist problem in Fortnite
This aim assist issue have been going on for years. The biggest hangup is that you can’t just remove aim assist from Fortnite to solve the problem. If you removed aim assist, then mouse and keyboard would be godly in comparison controller players on console or on PC.
Fortnite has attempted to adjust aim assist several times since release, but the issue seems as problematic as ever. In patch 7.4, Epic turned down the aim down site mechanic on aim assist, hoping it would lead to a more fair balance between aim assist and controller aim. They soon reverted this change, after players complained. In patch 10.4 they nerfed left trigger spam again, but the primary part of aim assist continues to snap onto targets, even at long ranges.
Like most problems in game balance, there is no magical silver bullet solution. Most adjustments will leave someone unhappy, but we do know that right now controller players and mouse and keyboard players are at each other’s throats, and something needs to change.
Here are a few of the ideas going around about how to resolve the aim assist controversy:
- Do nothing and leave the situation as is. This solution would force players to just deal with the idea that controllers might be better and if the community thinks controllers are that much better, players should consider using a controller.
- Ninja suggested adding some guns into the game that don’t benefit from auto aim, such as the hunting rifle. Since the hunting rifle has bullet drop, players using a mouse and keyboard would have an advantage over those using controller aim assist since aim assist won’t automatically adjust for that bullet drop. As an extension of this idea, you could have a whole class of precision weapons that have less aim assist or no aim assist at all.
- Others have suggested straight nerfing aim assist, making it less sensitive or less active. This solution is doubtful since they have tried nerfing elements of aim assist in the past, only to receive a huge backlash from the competitive and casual communities alike.
- You could separate PC and console for competitive events and ban controllers in PC tournaments, but that introduces its own set of issues since it would split the professional community permanently between console+controller players and PC+Mouse and keyboard players.
- You could turn off aim assist on just PC controllers. If you want aim assist on your controller, you have to also then play with the disadvantages of a console. This would work, but wouldn’t leave everyone happy.
These are just a few ideas. I am sure that professional game designers could come up with some even better ones. Whatever the solution, Epic needs to act soon. This discussion comes up every few months, with very little action taken on Epic’s part to try to improve the relationship between controller and keyboard players. Remember, this same controversy killed the Halo 2 PC community. Epic needs to address this brewing civil war, before things get worse.
- Nerf aim assist 54%, 13 votes13 votes 54%13 votes - 54% of all votes
- Do nothing, it's already balanced 33%, 8 votes8 votes 33%8 votes - 33% of all votes
- Introduce a new class of weapons without aim assist 8%, 2 votes2 votes 8%2 votes - 8% of all votes
- Ban aim assist from tourneys 4%, 1 vote1 vote 4%1 vote - 4% of all votes