Monday Night Combat designer explains tweaks for PC version


— 11:17 AM on January 25, 2011

There's good reason for PC gamers to cringe at the thought of yet another console port. And even more cause for concern when the game in question is a first-person shooter. The FPS genre may have been born on the PC, but it's become a fast favorite in the console world despite the fact that dual analog thumbsticks are a poor substitute for the tried and true combination of a keyboard and mouse. Shooters are all too often dumbed down to compensate for what amounts to an inferior control mechanism, and PC gamers can suffer as a result.

The latest shooter to make the leap onto the PC from the console world is Monday Night Combat, an Xbox Live Arcade title that garnered a Metacritic score of 79 (with a user score of 8.2) on that platform. A PC version has been released on Steam, and Penny Arcade has an interesting email from its designer, John Comes, explaining the changes that were made to re-balance the game for a keyboard and mouse. Here's the central theory behind Comes' approach:

It all comes down to how each input mechanism affects your ability to turn. On a console, the angle in which a player can turn is a function of both time and displacement of the thumb stick. No matter how far players want to turn, they have to pay a time cost. Even at the highest controller sensitivity, there is a time cost to be paid. On a PC the angle of turn is a direct mapping of how far you move the mouse. The time cost is variable and the better players get that time cost to approach zero.

Comes goes on to explain the specific mechanisms that console titles use to mitigate this time cost—the dumbing down, if you will. However, he doesn't really address the fact that it's much easier to be precise when moving a mouse over a smooth surface with one's hand than it is to control a tiny joystick with just a thumb. I've played shooters on the PC and consoles, and that's easily the most apparent difference between the two control schemes, at least for me.

Looking over Comes' explanation of the balancing tweaks applied to the PC release, it's clear quite a lot of thought has been put into this console port. With an asking price of just $15 on Steam, it might be worth a shot.

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