When the Overwatch team decided to bring its new game to consoles, they were up to a huge challenge. Along with the difficulties of simultaneously patching the game, the way that players aim has been a discussion point for the developers. Lets get something clear, aiming is hard on console; instead of moving your mouse and clicking on the enemy’s head, you have to move the crosshair with god-like precision and then proceed to pull a trigger. As a seasoned console player myself (I play a lot, maybe not like a pro, but surely a lot), I have been struggling with this since the release of the game. A few days ago, this was addressed in the Blizzard Forums, and it was revealed that we are getting a third option for aiming. However to understand how necessary this is, let’s analyze the game’s history with its aiming techniques.
Release: Exponential Ramp
Ah, the good old release days. Not a lot of players experienced this aiming technique, it was the default option for EVERYONE who used a controller. Explaining this system can be a little bit hard, so I will try my best with the help of some diagrams.
The image above represents how the system works. The movement of the aim is exponentially increased as you move further from the center, this means that if you just tilt a little bit the stick, the movement will be slow. However if you push it all the way to the outer rim, it will move faster gradually according to where you stop pushing. This system has its advantages such as higher precision when moving, but it also meant that you had to have god-like reflexes when a Genji was on your back and wanted to attack it by pushing the stick all the way to the outer rim. This technique requires a little bit more of experience and a higher reaction time. It could be solved by amping up the sensibility on either axis, but this did not felt neither as organic nor comfortable as it supposed to be. Players still prefer this system to date because of how well it works for heroes that do not require a lot of aim (Pharah, Hanzo, Mercy, Roadhog), however as the game gained popularity more experienced players joined the battle, requiring the rest of us to become better and faster.
Mid-September – October: Dual Zone
The current equivalent to “mouse” on consoles, however not as fast nor precise. This system brings two zones (as seen above), the one with low sensitivity is just the part in which you can aim slowly and precisely, while on the outer rim it goes fast. All. At. Once. This meant that players can move all the way to their backs without having to wait for the gradual increase in speed. With this system McCree mains got better, because of the ability it provides to control your shots in the middle area and at the same time move really fast when needed. The problem with this system, as with the Expo Ramp, is the acceleration.
As we can notice, both systems provide specific patterns of how the acceleration of the aiming works, while not allowing the player to decide for themselves how much they wanted to accelerate. That has been the problem, until now…
Tim Ford, Overwatch’s Lead Engineer, posted the following a few days ago:
We hear you loud and clear. We’re going to add two options in an upcoming patch. First, we’ll add a slider for aim smoothing. It will default to the current smoothing/acceleration in the game today (full smoothing, low acceleration). As you drag it towards zero, you’ll get less smoothing (higher acceleration). At zero, smoothing is disabled (instant acceleration).
We’re also adding a new aim technique to compliment Dual Zone and Exponential Ramp. The new technique is called Linear Ramp. If you use this technique along with disabled aim smoothing, you will rotate commensurate to the angle you deflect the aim stick multiplied by your sensitivity.
This new system will look something like this:
With this the smoothness will hold back the player less and the movement (angle) of the crosshair will be accordingly to the one of the stick multiplied by the sensitivity. This way, players can have a more personalized experience in the way that they play Overwatch and control better the speed of their movements. This way we do not need to hold back thanks to the aim assist and can actually aim, did I also mention that those 180º movements are now possible?
Blizzard, thank you for acknowledging us. Now let’s hope this actually solves the problem for us, the console players who actually use controllers and do not give up in favor for the old reliable mouse.