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Let Me Steady That For You

Auto aim in shooters. A helpful tool that does not seem to be used nearly enough. What are it's best uses and implementations given the input controls we have to work with?

Auto aim in shooters. From Uncharted to WET (unless your in slow mo, as far as it seems from the demo) there’s no auto aim! Bioshock had the auto aim toggle which was great. Warhawk has different weapons with different levels of auto aim. That’s an acceptable solution for the most part. Player’s with low accuracy can perform decently with the game auto rifle. If they don’t need it they can run around with the sniper rifle. Getting a kill with the sniper rifle while shooting from the hip is a definite “hell ya!” moment.

Especially in this day and age, where enemies have smarter AI and nearly all move as quickly as the Arch-vile in Doom II, I’m for the wider use of auto aim. Basically, I, as the player, just want to shoot things, and if I’m not good as tiny incremental movements with two thumb sticks then my experience will be extremely hampered. I think it’s fair that as long as the player aims in the general direction of an enemy, as long as the game can properly discern, “ah, the player wants to shoot this guy” then it should lock the player’s weapon on that enemy (I wouldn’t go so far as a hard lock, but a soft lock that wouldn’t make it too hard for the player to break or switch targets).

Auto aim certainly isn’t required for all games, but trends in “challenging” the player certainly could use a nice counterweight in the “fun” department. Personally, I found playing through Doom II with a joystick to be a great experience. It’s hugely inaccurate and slow, compared to keyboard and mouse, but it worked well for Doom. The game’s design (from its resolution to monster design and AI) worked well with it. The entire game was balanced to allow that to be such an enjoyable experience. I wouldn’t dare try Half Life II with a joystick, the accuracy required is just too great. That’s the tradeoff that seems to result when you replace dumb, plodding demons with limited attacks with machine gun totting meth crazed special forces bouncing off the walls.

Just like in my previous posts on brawling games, it’s the same idea, that if the player knows what to do, and is actively trying to do something, the game should give it to them (provided they have the required tools). I think adding layers of difficulty that exist only due to the limited input device the player has to use appeals only to a very small niche group of hardcore players. If we can recognize that certain input devices have certain handicaps then we start down a road where those handicaps can not only be eliminated, but the challenge originally imposed by such handicaps can be replaced with more challenging gameplay.

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