PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds‘ developers are considering adding aim-assist functionality for console players should the multiplayer shooter enable cross-platform play in the future. Developer Bluehole has recently said that cross-play between PC and consoles is something, “We want to do down the road.” Yet Bluehole acknowledges the difficulty of creating a balanced competitive environment with the title’s cross-play, hence the debate over how to empower console players.
According to Bluehole Executive Producer Chang Han Kim, who recently discussed the issue with VG24/7, balance will be what makes cross-play difficult to implement in PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds. As Kim explains, “If we’re going to allow players to use controllers we need to have the aim assist added in and things like that. We’re not going to be supporting it right away, but it’s something we’d like to look into later.”
Balance is ever an issue with cross-play, which is in part why it’s not a mainstream functionality even in 2017. The success of Gears of War 4 cross-play and both Rocket League and Minecraft implementing it mark a watershed moment. Yet, as PlayerUnknown’s Battlegrounds is saying, balance will continue to be a topic at the forefront of the debate.
The issue is rather straightforward. A mouse and keyboard player has much better accuracy and control with regards to both movement and aiming than a player using a controller. This is especially true with first-person games where split-second precision makes the difference between winning and losing. Aim-assist nudges console players’ targeting to give them better accuracy. It can then be adjusted to be stronger or weaker until console players are effectively winning as much as they’re losing again PC players. For example, Blizzard’s often adjusts Overwatch‘s console aim-assist.
Cross-play communities effectively fall into three camps regarding aim-assist for console players. The first camp loves the idea and welcomes aim-assist, as cross-play effectively multiplies the size of the player-base and reinvigorates the community. So long as player skill still decides winners and losers, if not necessarily precision, then everyone’s a winner.
The second camp believes in cross-play, but that aim-assist should be removed, meaning console players would be at a natural disadvantage. This point of view usually goes hand-in-hand with functionality to allow players to opt out of cross-play. It would be a console player’s choice to go against players with an aiming advantage or not.
The third camp doesn’t approve of cross-play, because they believe aim-assist would hurt the game overall and/or cross-play with opt-in would fracture platform player-bases. If some players opt-in to cross-play – with aim-assist or not – it leaves less players participating purely in console multiplayer. It’s a reasonable point of view, as are all three camps’ perspectives, which is why the debate over cross-play is so heated. Time will tell what decision Bluehole will eventually come to.
PlayerUnknown’s Battleground is available now on PC, with plans to come to Xbox One as a timed exclusive. A PlayStation 4 port is also planned, but would obviously be released some time after the Xbox One version.