Soon our console brethren will be joining us in the weird, wonderful and hyper-accurate world of mouse and keyboards. Xbox director Mike Ybarra has said official mouse and keyboard support is "definitely coming" to the Xbox One, which should go some way to levelling the playing fields when it comes to Xbox Play Anywhere titles. PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds, in particular, seems like a logistical nightmare in terms of balancing between PC and console. Implementing console mouse and keyboard means those overly bothered can just switch to this alternate control method.
"We have to be very smart in how we do that,” said Ybarra during a panel at PAX West. “We'll leave it a lot up to developer choice. A lot of people tweet me and say, 'You can't do this because of fairness,' and we understand that. We run two platforms; the Windows platform and the Xbox platform".
Interestingly, Microsoft’s plans don’t end there. Due to the disparity between the two control methods, Microsoft is also considering offering options to splinter player bases by control method. "If you have a competitive game, people probably are going to want the choice to say I'll play with other keyboard and mouse people or I'll play only with controller people, or that I'll play with any of those. So you'll see our first games supporting keyboard and mouse soon; I can't announce what that is, but soon. And then based on developer interest, they'll choose to do keyboard and mouse going forward, or not". It’s a noble idea, but ne'er-do-wells are always going to find a way to circumvent these measures and trick a console, PC, or server that they’re using a gamepad.
Of course this isn’t the first time consoles have had mouse and keyboards. There have been many (often failed) attempts over the years. I can remember having a mouse and keyboard for my Dreamcast which was essentially only necessary for Phantasy Star Online, although I did buy a second copy of Quake 3 for the express purpose of absolutely slaughtering gamepad uses. Ahhhh, those were the days.
You can also use keyboard and mouse on both the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One already, but they’re gimped approximations that fool the consoles into thinking the mouse and keyboard is a gamepad. This leads to some awkward aiming issues wherein the console treats the mouse as a left analogue stick. Due to the strange vagaries of movement acceleration, moving the mouse as if it were an analogue stick can be pretty unpredictable, although it still offers a competitive advantage.
At its most basic level, the good news for Xbox One players is that this now opens up the potential for genres previously designed for keyboard and mouse play. Rather than the simplified likes of Halo Wars 2, Xbox One players could instead get a full-fledged version of Age of Empires 4. A far better deal in anyone’s book.
How do you think Microsoft plans to balance all these impending changes? Would you be open to the prospect of separate mouse & keyboard and gamepad servers, or would this prove impossible to police? Let us know!