Doak speaks on PC vs Consoles

By Kieron Gillen on October 7th, 2007 at 3:27 pm.

I notice that PC Gamer have lobbed the interview I did with David Doak of Free Radical online. Free Radical are best known for their console games of course, both in their previous life at Rare with Goldeneye, and with Timesplitters as solo entities. The interview came about when they were talking about co-developing for PC. In it, we talk about the differences between FPS on consoles and PCs and the differing attitudes of PC and console gamers. And he says things like…

“The biggest challenge for us, specifically for PC stuff, is what the hardcore PC gamer expects from a shooter is quite different from what console gamers expect. There’s a bit of PC snobbery there, I think [Laughs]. From a game design point of view, I’ve always found it’s funny dealing constantly with questions about analogue controllers versus mouse and keyboards. It’s a very thorny topic.”

Go read. I suspect there may be some venting in the comments thread too.

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54 Comments »

  1. CrashT says:

    I see Console shooters and PC shooters as almost different genres, the former can never provide the preision aiming of the latter so has to be designed in a way to handle that. Vertical aiming is even less presice than horizontal aiming with a thumb stick so most console shootes have very little in the way of enemies at different heights, which is a common stable of PC shooters.

    If you go into a Console shooter expecting the precision control of a PC game you’re going to be badly disappointed. When Console shooters are ported they never feel right as they’ve been designed for a less precise control system. There’s a degree of snobbery there, that assumes that because the control is more precise on a PC then it must be better, but that’s only true if the game has been designed with that precision in mind.

  2. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Between the lines, he’s clearly saying “PC gamers are wankers”. And who can blame him, eh?

  3. Andrew says:

    The one thing that gets me about console FPS controls (which I’m fine with normally) is in multiplayer. I feel that I don’t have the same situational awareness that I do in PC multiplayer, and I always feel that I die to enemies that I would have spotted if looking around was any easier.

    Bane of my life in Halo 3 multiplayer right now.

  4. Thiefsie says:

    My, my… I hate to come off as a rabid pc fanboy as I’m really not, but I think he just openly displayed why he will never make a good fps game on PC in that interview.

    I wholeheartedly agree with Andrew, I feel on a console my skills are borked up with a sluggish control system, stopping me looking around as I would like, and tracking my targets effortlessly when and where I want… The auto aim in Halo 3 is as annoying as it is useful for me, as I am a person who leads on pc and lets enemies run into my x-hair a lot. There is inherantly I feel a lot less skill involved in console shooters and a lot more luck, which could be good or bad depending on what way you look at it.

    Comparing a computer to a 64 is rediculous, consoles are more like pcs now, not the other way around… no pc has onboard video and can play a recent game?!?! What crack has he been smoking?

    CrashT is right on the money, with console and PC fps being fundamentally different. They can not be ported without major changes, and should be judged on their own separate merits. However I feel it would still be easier to downsize a pc FPS to a onsole FPS than the reverse… add some judicial auto aiming, simplify inventory etc and it’s fine… but as noted Console FPS are a lot less “3D” than on pc… and that’s a fact.

    I think the Halo port, even minus the speed issues shows this to be true. Halo is the best console shooter there is, and yes it is pretty good… but it pales in direct comparison to the best the PC has on offer.

    That being said, I believe BioShock has done a pretty decent job straddling both systems!

  5. essell says:

    I’m not sure that’s what Doak meant in his comparison of the PC to the N64, really.

    And I think part of the reason Bioshock (and HL2) works well on both systems is because its appeal doesn’t solely depend on how fun and challenging it is to kill things (unlike, say, Halo).

  6. Martin Coxall says:

    In my mind, the difference is this:

    PC gamers expect their shooters to be good.

    Consoletards are prepared to put up with shoddily thrown together crap like Halo 3.

    HTH.

  7. Crispy says:

    Having played Halo 3 I’ll say, like Time Splitters, it’s a pretty entertaining FPS (although I think the combat in TS is superior). What’s said about console first-person aiming is true; in a sense they do more accurately portray human turning speed than the vast majority of PC FPSs. What they definitely do not portray well is the sluggish and imprecise aiming at the centre of the screen, the simulation of your precise arm movements when you aim a weapon in real life.

    I prefer that Halo 3 makes a compromise with an auto-aim system that takes the bad aiming inherent to the analog stick out of the equation. What Thiefsie says about leading is true, you can’t put down strategic covering fire in Halo 3 or begin firing before you actually have the target in your sights. But it’s unbelievably frustrating to lose the awareness you’re afforded with the PC; I tried checking the left and right sides before stepping out of a doorway and was 3 metres into the corridor before I’d managed the full 180 degree turn!

    Going back to the accuracy of ‘gun aim’ versus the speed your character should be able to turn at: there are a few underappreciated games that have done this. ‘Move In!’ (http://moveinmod.net/), an unbelievably underrated late mod for Half-Life in the same vein as ‘Hostile Intent’, included a feature called ‘free aim’ which was also used previously in ‘InfiltrationMod’ for Unreal Tournament. Basically within a certain area at the centre of the screen you can adjust your aim without turning left and right or looking up and down. If you move the crosshair outside this middle circle you begin turning, but at a slower speed.

    I think it could be interesting if this were implemented in a console FPS because you would be able to get a high degree of accuracy where you need it (by turning up the analog sensitivity) without your view darting all over the place. Alas I’m yet to see even a prototype of such a system.

  8. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I would *love* to see PC FPS gamers play paintball or Quasar or something in real life. They’d be shit-hot for the first three seconds with their l33t h3dsh0t sk1llz, then so dizzy from constantly spinning around at 600rpm that you could just walk up slowly and shoot them in the back of the head as they lay on the ground vomiting and whimpering.

  9. Crispy says:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G38IT3YxdHA

    I found a video demo of this that just about shows it.

    P.S. Whaddya know? One of the comments for the vid is someone saying he’d love to see it used on a console. Why this hasn’t taken off is a mystery!

  10. Martin Coxall says:

    I would *love* to see PC FPS gamers play paintball or Quasar or something in real life.

    I should like to point out that I’ve seen Mr John Walker attempt paintball. Apropos nothing, really. It’s just one of those things To Remember.

    Games are not real life. This is one of the best reasons I can think of to play them.

    Martin

  11. Crispy says:

    Sorry to triple(!) post, but I’m a PC FPS gamer and I’ve played tourny paintball, and Quasar. The skills I learnt from playing competitively in PC FPS games (covering fire, feign fire, enemy awareness, checking corners) put me in far better stead than a console shooter would have. Console shooters have a sluggish aiming system and as a result players and enemies are given far more health points to make up for this fact (far more than some of the ‘realism’ shooters that can only really work on PC). In paintball and Quasar you don’t have the luxury of absorbing multiple shots before you get killed, so your example is a bit flawed.

  12. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    Ummm….paintball doesn’t have any more in common with consoles either? Or using real firearms for that matter.

  13. John Walker says:

    I’m very good at Laser Quest.

  14. Duncan MacGregor says:

    I think he’s right that the mouselook control on PC FPS games has forced them down a particular design path, and it’s probably why I lost interest in them a few years ago. I agree that the console fps games do need to do something about the awareness of your surroundings, the equivalent of driving games glance controls would be great but I’m not sure how you’d shoehorn more controls onto the limited buttons available.

  15. Kieron Gillen says:

    I honestly can’t believe Stuart Campbell has just used a “realism” argument.

    KG

  16. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    I wasn’t. I was merely opining that PC gamers look like penises.

  17. Stuart White says:

    Two small things

    1. “If you play a lot of console FPS you get used to the idea of there being some kind of weight to the turning, some kind of lag in it. When you go to PC, that’s almost completely gone.”

    I dont think this is an intentional effect of cosole gaming. It is more accidental surely? Moreover, it has nothing to do with the ingrained nature of PC gaming. You could quite easily program this if required.

    2. “The accuracy of the mouse means that, to make a game difficult, things like headshots become increasingly dominant. When you’ve had that kind of control, it’s hard to have someone take it away”

    The thing about a gun is that you point and click. With a mouse you point and click in a similarly smooth, albeit slightly different, motion. With a console controller (wii excepted), you cant do it so easily. The difference between that and real life is that with most FPS you dont get gun recoil and all the other aspects that make firing a gun so simple. Hence headshots become rather easy. Whether developers are afraid to take this away or not is a good question…

  18. WCAYPAHWAT says:

    this whole debate is making me want to just go outside and shoot stuff.

  19. Thiefsie says:

    So Crispy, you basically mean Operation Flashpoint’s control scheme =)

    A system that was equally lauded and approved by the public (I think?!?)

    For me it was a little hard to get used to (especially with invert combined with normal mouse movement) But it did work rather well.

    Maybe if mice came with rumble features (nothing terribly strong of course – just similar to a console gamepad) It would help the feedback (and realism?) immensely

  20. Arathain says:

    “The thing about a gun is that you point and click. With a mouse you point and click in a similarly smooth, albeit slightly different, motion. With a console controller (wii excepted), you cant do it so easily.”

    True up to a point. A mouse gives a better representation of basic aiming, but a console pad gives a better representation of the weight of a firearm. Which you like better is about personal preference and the quality and balance of the game in question (Console vs. PC in “Both are good, but different” Shocker!”).

    I think most of us who have played paintball or Quaser or whatever find certain skills translate nicely, like movement, covering angles, leading targets and the like. Although the image of someone playing paintball exactly like a PC FPS is hilarious.

  21. CrashT says:

    The problem with all shooters is that they are trying to represent the movement of both your body and your eyes. A PC shooter provides a representation that is closer to that of how fast and resposive the movement of our eyes is, whereas a console FPS is closer to the movement of our body itself.

    To be truely accurate, any control scheme would need to allow for our body and eyes to be aiming in different directions.

  22. Thiefsie says:

    Again, Armed Assault seems to do that with the TrackIR extension.. something I wish I had the motivation to spend money on buying, but a las I’m sure I’d tire of it within weeks and barely use it.

  23. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    “To be (“Truly” – Ed) accurate, any control scheme would need to allow for our body and eyes to be aiming in different directions.”

    Or, as we call it in highbrow gaming circles, Robotron.

  24. muscrat says:

    This weight of the weapon effect is compensated in plenty of PC shooters – your accuracy decreases when you move, or turn. Plenty of games have it – not to mention the PC sports the only realistic shooters – even when gamepad aming is supposed to be more realistic.
    Hell if the aiming in somthing like Halo is supposed to show the weight of the weapon, then how come you have almost 100% accuracy while moving and shooting. Or jumping ect.

  25. arqueturus says:

    It’ll never work, example:

    Look straight ahead. Turn your eye’s left then right – it’s a conscious movement of the eye’s right?

    Now, look straight ahead, hold your finger infront of your face, about 30cm’s away, look at the finger. Move your head left, then right, staying focussed on the finger. Your eyes are using the same muscles as before but it’s totally unconscious movement.

    How can they ever hope to simulate that level of subtlety with crude devices?

  26. Kieron Gillen says:

    Randomly, anyone who actively mocks someone else for who they are rather than what they say gets their posts deleted. I’m going to go through now and delete ‘em.

    KG

  27. Betsy Duncan-Smith says:

    Randomly, anyone who actively mocks someone else for who they are rather than what they say gets their posts deleted. I’m going to go through now and delete ‘em.

    To be fair, I was mocking him for who he is /and/ what he says. Anything else is a false dichotomy.

  28. Kieron Gillen says:

    By doing the former at all you undermine your latter completely, alas.

    Be cool, daddio.

    KG

  29. CrashT says:

    arqueturus, I never said it’d be possible. If anything I was trying to hightlight the fact that neither system is particularly accurate in terms of it’s representation of reality.

    PC control systems are more precise and so games are designed for that, Console controllers are less precise so again games are designed for that. Obvious, yet people still feel a need to directly compare the two… *Shakes Head*

  30. Crispy says:

    “So Crispy, you basically mean Operation Flashpoint’s control scheme =)

    A system that was equally lauded and approved by the public (I think?!?)”

    I didn’t play Operation Flashpoint… I lived it! No, seriously, it’s been some time since I played it last and for some reason OF was so damn good that I never even realised that’s how the aiming worked. Anyway, that’s exactly what I’m on about.

    “This weight of the weapon effect is compensated in plenty of PC shooters – your accuracy decreases when you move, or turn.” Descreasing accuracy while turning is not the same as decreasing turning speed. It means I can turn -really fast- and as soon as I stop turning my accuracy is back to 100%. Free aim is a better way of achieving a realistic shooter (not that I’m saying realism is always the way to go, it depends on the core gameplay), as it means you don’t get these ridiculous 180 degree spin headshots you often see in Counter-Strike: Source and -to a lesser extent- in CS 1.6. This way the player is forced to face in the direction of the enemy at all times, and in the open friendlies are forced to cover multiple angles through teamwork (or rudimentary AI scripting).

    Anyway, as much as I love the in-game Halo 3 map properties editor and the game mode editor, I can’t see myself lusting for its multiplayer (unless it’s to play ‘Hammerzeit!’).

  31. Monkfish says:

    Ahh. The age-old console FPS vs PC FPS debate. Nothing stirs up those latent tribal tendancies better.

    One thing I do like about console FPS controls is that often you have more control over your movement speed with the analogue controls. In fact, BioShock on PC lacked a “walk” option, whereas the 360 version allowed a smooth transition between being still, walking slowly and eventually running. I found myself having to crouch to get the feeling of sneaking on splicers, but still I instinctively kept going for the shift key in the hope that my character may remember how to stop running…

    Changing the subject slightly – is Haze ever happening on PC? It just looks like UbiSoft have been given flipping great wodges of cash by that nice Mr. Sony and it’s all gone a bit PS3 exclusive.

  32. arqueturus says:

    I should clarify – I wasn’t replying to your suggestion specifically (although it’s a fine suggestion). Just to the overall conundrum of simulating real movement in FPS.

    Actually, that might be why the mouse works so well – it’s instinctive, much like most reactions are (and the wiimote)

    I’m sure most folks are going to say mice instinctive at all now.

  33. Kieron Gillen says:

    Haze is, indeed, a PS3 exclusive.

    Looking at the history of exclusives by third parties generally, odds are you’ll see it on the PC about 6-12 months after PS3 release. Clearly no facts to back it up. It just happens a lot.

    KG

  34. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    If we’re being random, here’s something I was told by a TV person (no, not a transvestite) a few years back when I was involved in that world – PC FPS games are about 86% of the reason that there are no videogame shows on TV. Watching PC nerds screwdrivering their way around a level makes a very large proportion of viewers feel nauseous, and not just during the after-game interviews.

  35. Rev. Stuart Campbell says:

    Also, I wish I’d thought of the word “pogo-drilling” before I clicked “Post”.

  36. Monkfish says:

    Thanks Kieron – I’d seen Haze go from “simultaneous release”, to “timed exclusive” and finally to “pretend the PC version doesn’t exist” over the last couple of months.

    It had caught my eye specifically because it was the first game developed by Free Radical to find its way onto the PC. I’ll drop it off my “games to watch” list for the time being, then I can be nicely surprised if it does manage to make the jump to PC next year…

  37. Andrew says:

    Re: lack of analogue control with keyboard movement, I fully agree with Monkfish. Splinter Cell got around it to some extent by tying the mouse wheel to movement speed, but that’s not as instinctive as analogue stick movement.

    Bioshock’s lack of ‘walk’ annoyed me a bit, and I also remember missing it when playing Psychonauts with mouse and keyboard. Not because it made the game harder, but simply because Razputin’s walking animation was cool. And totally underused when playing with mouse/keyboard.

    Not being able to walk in Bioshock made my attempts at stealth completely pointless.

  38. Monkfish says:

    If we’re being random, here’s something I was told by a TV person (no, not a transvestite) a few years back when I was involved in that world – PC FPS games are about 86% of the reason that there are no videogame shows on TV. Watching PC nerds screwdrivering their way around a level makes a very large proportion of viewers feel nauseous, and not just during the after-game interviews.

    And there was I thinking the reason was down to most videogame shows on TV being absolute shit (except VideoGaiden), or that Dominik Diamond somehow had to be involved. I can’t believe Dominik only accounts for 14%.

  39. Stephen says:

    Did you call him Dr. Doak at all? Or ask him for a keycard? Or tell him that he should always stand in the same room in Facility when you’re playing on 00 agent and trying to get the invincibility cheat?

  40. Bob Arctor says:

    Well I think the PC > Consoles and stuff omg.

  41. Jim Rossignol says:

    Stuart: in Korea there is no FPS scene and they all watch Stacraft games. We should count ourselves lucky…

  42. Crispy says:

    That sounds disturbingly similar to watching Koyaanisqatsi.

  43. Kieron Gillen says:

    I love that I completely called this thread in my original post.

    KG

  44. Man Raised By Puffins says:

    “It had caught my eye specifically because it was the first game developed by Free Radical to find its way onto the PC. ”

    Second Sight, surely? Although I hear the PC port was pretty horrendous.

  45. Monkfish says:

    Oops – yeah, I did kinda forget Second Sight there.

  46. Kieron Gillen says:

    The PC Port was pretty horrendous.

    KG

  47. Matthew Gallant says:

    RE: the above comment
    I have no idea why my trackback suddenly kicked in a year later, how odd. It’s an old post full of silly ideas, try not to pay too much attention to it :P

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