The Pain of PC Fighting Games

What do you think of this? Should fighting games move to PC to get the sponsorship bucks and move out of the kiddie pool?

There’s an additional issue he didn’t address, the difficulty of setting up controllers on PC. Individual users don’t tend to notice it, because they’ve set up their PCs to run their controllers just fine, they’re not having a conga line of people over to each individually plug in their controller of choice and somehow make it work with the operating system and then with the game.

The controller manager in windows sucks horribly. You can’t reassign controllers from it, you can’t forcibly refresh the list of controllers to check what’s available, you can’t rebind buttons or bind buttons to keys from it. And controllers frequently end up in the wrong slots, or don’t let go of their slot properly when disconnected. I’m a primarily PC gamer and I play fighting games with tons of friends, so I’ve dealt with these issues on a recurring basis and frequently have had to outright give up on getting controllers to run.

And please let me wrap these into an xinput or dinput wrapper, or map them to keys!

It helps nothing that tons of these games have limited/bad controller support. It’s only recently that we finally got tap to set standardized for most games. How many games have an input setup as good as Skullgirls or Fantasy Strike does? How many games allow you to choose between all the available inputs which one will be assigned to player 1 or player 2, instead of just picking joy0 and joy1? How many games allow hotswapping controllers without restarting the whole program? How many games allow you to simply hold 2 buttons down on the menu to bind them, without needing to know which controller you’re binding? SFV still has all that BS with DirectInput, and it won’t let go of a directinput controller properly when it’s disconnected, even if you restart the game and have a new controller plugged in. Plus plenty of these games, including SFV, don’t value player 2 inputs in menus.

A lot of these issues are significantly lessened by being on console, you can directly reassign who is which player (except on PS4, where it’s tied to account; PS3 did this better), you can only choose between a certain range of valid controllers, and the drivers always properly grab and let go of controllers as appropriate (again, except on PS4, where disconnecting a controller is difficult), and read the buttons from those controllers accurately as they’re labeled on the controller.

If we ever want to run fighting game tournaments reliably on PC, we either need to accept a large amount of regular technical inconvenience, or we need to demand better controller support from developers (meaning hotswapping, tap to set, hold to assign players and set controls, versus mode letting you pick who’s player 1/2 from all the available controllers, accepting input on menus from all players, not just player 1) plus manually hack windows itself to add better controller management within the operating system.

Not to mention that it makes cheating a hell of a lot easier. Of course cheating is still possible on consoles, but it’s like locking your doors, sure, people can get in, lockpicking is easy enough that you can do it in seconds, but people lock their doors anyway, and rudimentary defenses (probably) deter crime a significant amount. If you put up even rudimentary boundaries to cheating, it’ll discourage cheating heavily.

High initial investment (buying game-capable computers so you can eventually earn bigger sponsor profits) is a big deal, but all of these factors are likely to eat up a lot of time at events, and games have been killed for less when it comes to increasing setup time. I’d love to see PCs become the system of choice and for us to ultimately earn more sponsorship bucks and hit the big leagues, but there’s a lot of unmentioned barriers here that also need to be addressed.

It’s worth mentioning skullgirls and fantasy strike again, they do a LOT in software to work around the deficits of playing on PC. Skullgirls allows flawless hotswapping, lets you select which controller is assigned to which player. Fantasy Strike lets you hold down 2 buttons at the same time on any controller to assign buttons for that controller, so you don’t need to navigate menus or figure out what the name of the particular controller you’re holding is to edit its configuration. This means if the controller is read by the PC at all, it’ll work and can be set up in seconds. It also has a menu that can be operated by mouse, not just controller/keyboard, so you never need to guess which keys are bound to buttons. Both have tap to set, which is thankfully a standard nowadays. Also, on console, you have hard-coded buttons that always interact the same way in menus, and on PC you can’t make that same assumption, so Skullgirls assigns LK as confirm and MK as cancel, which means you can accidentally reassign those, and your directional inputs to stupid things and mess up your ability to navigate menus, which fantasy strike fixes by allowing you to reassign everything by holding any two buttons on any menu, which isn’t dependent on your current button layout.

So here’s my checklist for what I’d like to see out of a controller manager on Windows:

  1. Let you reorder which controllers are in which slots (maybe starting from 1 instead of 0, unless that’s a legacy issue.)
  2. Let you refresh all the controllers, to remove controllers that are not actually plugged in, but the system thinks they are, and to detect controllers that are plugged in but the system isn’t seeing them.
  3. Let you bind keyboard inputs to controller inputs, so I can set the Dpad to do WASD for example. Xpadder did this flawlessly, but is not compatible with Windows 10.
  4. let you adjust dead zones and sensitivity on the controller, maybe have a better calibration window too.
  5. Don’t have any button on the controller grab focus from the damn game.
  6. Have some type of optional virtual dummy controllers that can be replaced with real controllers, to make hotswapping controllers easier for games that don’t natively have hotswapping.
  7. let you map non-xbox controllers to an xbox controller, since a lot of games are xinput only.
  8. Get some inspiration from the options available for this: (most of the options available in ReWASD should be native to windows. We should just have a list of devices, be able to set which slot they are, map to keys, and other accessbility features)
  9. Overall, make it as easy to plug in a controller and get it working with a game as it is on console. Playtest with a bunch of games and controllers until you’re confident it works. Try running a tournament for yourself and record every itty bitty problem that is run into.

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