FPS games, a look back and why I seem to still need a keyboard + mouse

WASDFirst Person Shooters ( FPS ) games are great, and it’s the genre that I really got into for a while — mostly in my late high school / early college years. The first game in this genre that really grabbed me and put me in this zone was the FPS game Wolfenstein 3D, followed by Doom ( modem to modem style ), and then my big time waster QuakeWorld w/ Threewave CTF ( old timers remember that QuakeWorld was an optimized Quake version for 56K/ISDN usage /200+ms ! Until QuakeWorld, the folks at id were all playing on T1s and had no idea what lag was like on a 56K connection ).

I played Wolf3d, Doom, and Quake1 all with a keyboard, no mouse. I used tons of keyboard shortcuts for certain moves, and it felt crazy to not use a joystick, but it all seemed to work great, and I was always near the top of the list for any given game.

Then came the 3dfx grafx card that I had to have, and it really changed the PC gaming scene. 3dfx was formed by a bunch of former SGI folks, who wanted to bring big time 3D grafx to the masses. The first generation Voodo card was an add-on card that kicked in any time you fired up a 3d game, and it really upped the stakes ( brought OpenGL into the mainstream too ), and made 3d style games look great and feel much more immersive.

All of the sudden I actually wanted to look around in 360, and I made the switch to keyboard + mouse, using what was then called WASD ( W to move forward, A for left, S for back, and D for right ). The mouse acted as my viewpoint, so that I could now move at will, and look anywhere. Capture the Flag (CTF) QuakeWorld games also introduced a grapple that made the maps much more 3D and meant that you had to be aware of your surrounding – and be ready from any angle.

And so the controls were set, a super fast laser powered mouse, plus a few simple keyboard keys, and every FPS I played from that point on – Quake2/3/Arena/UT mods, and Halife 1/2, were controlled in the very same way.

It became like second nature to play keyboard+mouse, and the pro players, and tournaments that followed, all were based on a similar controller setup.

I then fell out of gaming as RealLife took over, random free time was diminished, $$ spent on upgrading a PC seemed like an irrational thing, and the overall learning curves for games seemed to get higher and higher.

I didn’t play much of anything for a while, until I received a PS2 as a gift. I dipped my toe back in, mostly playing sports games, but tried a few FPS games as well. Sports game were great with a console’s controller, but FPS games seemed just wrong. I needed my mouse + keyboard, and I needed a true FPS angle, not this 3rd person stuff that seems to be the rage on consoles.

I’ve now picked up an Xbox360 – and if I’m lucky I get to play 1 hr per month. I still enjoy sports games – Tiger Woods, Fifa, etc — but I kept reading about how great Gears of War was – so I picked that up too. And yes, it’s a great looking FPS game on my 40″ LCD HD, but the controls still seem all wrong ! I’m pretty good at learning new things, but how do you aim with precision when it’s a controller ( hint: many of these games auto aim for you ).

What’s wild is to see a generational shift from keyboard+mouse –> console controllers all because of one game — Halo. People who grew up in gaming with an Xbox have only played with a controller and look at us old guys as relics. To be fair, there are some hardcore gamers out there that say “get a keyboard+mouse and hook it into the Xbox360″ – gizmodo reviewed such a product, and the comments could have come from me:

“I always prefer keyboard and mouse – more controls, more configurable, easier to combo. Not to mention that I’ve spent/wasted way too much time honing my keyboard/mouse skills in Quake to give it up.”

Fantastic idea. I’m a PC gamer and could never see myself using the standard Xbox controller for FPS’s. This has me one micron closer to a console, but for now i’m sticking with the PC

I’m personally not keen on introducing more gadgets that into the living room, but I do wonder how many people do that.

So not sure if I’ll ever quite master using a controller for FPS games on the console. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing — as RealLife does have many advantages over gaming :)

9 thoughts on “FPS games, a look back and why I seem to still need a keyboard + mouse”

  1. I went looking at that XCM XFPS last week. It’s on Ebay and Amazon and a bit pricey. Seems to be laggy too which sucks. If it was half the price I’d risk buying it just to try it out.

  2. MW2 on PS3 here, also play SOCOM.
    Not used a kb/mouse combo since I tried Wolfenstein back in the olden days. I’ve been using consoles since the Megadrive (Genesis) and SNES days to trying to go back would be impossible.
    I also gave up any sort of battle to keep a PC up to date. Better and cheaper just to have the console. It used to irritate me that they would code against new hardware for their new game instead of looking at the userbase they actually had. At least with the consoles you and they know what is there.

    There is also the fact that a PC is a computer. Sounds daft but I sit in front of two monitors all day every day so a computer = work. The consoles are hooked to the family TV. It means I have that divide which if I played games on a pc I would not have.

    And fps? There’s lots of other stuff. How many in the company have a ps3 or 360? We could all get online for some shooting :)

    1. Yup — the whole PC upgrade cycle was insane.

      But how do you get around the whole “aiming” when playing with a console ? On a PC with a mouse it was all about perfect aiming / precision — something I just don’t see possible with a controller.

      My xbox360 is collecting dust right now — but we should get some company online gaming thing going — maybe a racing game given our recent Quebec get together :)

      1. In the Call of Duty games they have “aim assist”. If your crosshair is close to an enemy and you zoom in (press LT isn’t it?) your gun will lock on the enemy.

        If the enemy moves the crosshair doesn’t follow them, it remains in the same locked in position (until you move it) so it’s not a cheat, and it helps.

        I expect that some people have the discipline to use the analog nature of the controller to press it lightly in the heat of battle but I rarely do.

        I had Operation Flashpoint 2 with me in Quebec, had bought it in Heathrow and was dying to try it out. Great game, and would have been great if someone had an Xbox and 2 controllers – I think it does 2 player split screen!

      2. It’s like Donncha says in that you can aim better by pressing a button but that costs you time too. I will check the map and pick the gun accordingly. Close quarters map? Submachine gun – who needs to aim when they’ll be right in front of you? :) But it’s still about being sure your reticule is close to the right height – I shoot legs far too often in Socom – but also about reactions just like a PC version.

        But everyone else on the console has the same controller as yours so the field there is as level as the PC.

        We should all get MW2 and have company deathmatches. Have an clan even :)

  3. lol this post is awesome…

    I remember when a new FPS shooter would come out, and I would say to myself “This is the coolest game ever.” Wolfenstein, Doom, Duke Nukem, etc… At one point all of them were my favorite games on my poor little Pentium 100 Mhz Packard Bell. :)

    Lately I’ve been totally addicted to Fallout3 for xbox360, which doesn’t have any player vs player, but the combo of it being a FPS and RPG works really well, and the game is FOREVER long, but you can accomplish tons of weird little things in an hour or so…

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