As More Titles Offer Crossplay PC Users Are Getting Worried About Competitive Integrity

As More Titles Offer Crossplay PC Users Are Getting Worried About Competitive Integrity
Credit: Respawn via YouTube

It’s difficult not to get excited when massive titles, such as APEX Legends, announce that they’re receiving even more features as the title rolls out to Steam and the Nintendo Switch. It’s even difficult to be let down by the idea of having a larger player base as Electronic Arts have announced one very specific aspect that is beginning to concern PC users: cross-play.

On the surface, cross-play sounds absolutely superb; spend less time searching for matches and more time actually playing them, with a far larger user-base based on multiple platforms. With some titles, it works well: Rocket League offers no advantage to users whether they play with a controller (as must users opt to on any platform) or a keyboard (which some very zany players opt for such as Twitch streamer ‘2FastRL‘).

When it comes to something as precise as first-person shooters, however, a conundrum lies waiting to skew results one way or the other.

Let’s consider Halo: The Master Chief Collection: Users that are using a controller absolutely decimate keyboard and mouse users in every game mode that relies on engaging the enemy with projectiles; everything other than Grifball.

The reason is that players using a controller have very little possibility to out-aim a keyboard and mouse user, based on shifting your aim using an analog stick; you have 360 degrees of movement at different speeds, and that’s all you get.

Versus a keyboard and mouse, which offers a massive surface (depending on your setup, granted) that allows users to flick to a specific point on the pad for near-instant engagements.

So developers add in an auto-aim function for titles on consoles so players can at least engage enemies easily. In some titles on console, such as Battlefield 3 and Battlefield 4, the auto-aim is almost imperceptible if you aren’t watching attentively for it; in other titles (Halo), it’s blatantly obvious.

So when we’re discussing cross-play between consoles and PCs, developers have an option: how much auto-aim do you add to even the playing field between the two inputs? In PC gaming, any auto-aim is considered a cheat, and titles that feature auto-aim rarely make it off the ground as a competitive title simply based on the idea that auto-aim removes a tremendous amount of skill necessary.

If developers don’t offer auto-aim (also known as aim-assist) to console users, they won’t want to play as they’ll constantly be slapped by users that have pinpoint precision using a mouse. If they do add aim-assist, console users get a sizeable advantage in all aspects of the game; from quick-scoping large areas to see if they’ll lock onto anything, to hectic battles where the can shift their focus from player to player with ease, and PC players will leave the platform as they’re tired of losing due to an advantage.

This isn’t to mean that consoles aren’t competitive in their open right; when all users are using a specific controller, there is absolutely competition primed and ready (and enjoyed) via consoles. The issue comes with mashing the different platforms together; if one platform has an advantage, then you lose all competitive integrity in your game.

So while many are celebrating the ‘new and exciting’ world of cross-play, realize that someone, somewhere, is going to suffer the consequence of getting to play with your friends on different platforms. It’s an easy decision for companies if they can swing the development man-power towards integrating it, as it allows them to have a larger audience ready to interact with each other. The question is, which platform is going to get the raw side of the deal?