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Why Blizzard won't add controller support to PC Diablo 3

When is a control scheme more than just a control scheme?

There's been a great response from players of the console version of Diablo 3 - yours truly included - to the more immediate feel of its pad control scheme. This has naturally led the game's PC fanbase to ask if controller support could be patched into their version of the game.

Blizzard is ruling that out, though - and it has its reasons, as Matthew Berger, senior level designer of the console version, explained to Eurogamer at BlizzCon last weekend. The developer views the two versions of the game as distinct and tailored, with control method, camera, interface, pace and gameplay balance all going hand in hand. You can't change one without changing them all - and you can't support both in the same version.

The disparity between the two versions boils down to the way movement is handled, where the player's focus is on the screen, and what this means for the number of monsters attacking you at the same time. On console, the player moves more, using the new rolling evade move on the right thumbstick, and is attacked by fewer monsters at a time to make allowances for the fact that movement isn't handled automatically and the player's focus is narrower. In other words, there's a subtle but important difference in pace and combat balance between the two games.

"The rhythm on PC is tactactactactactac - you're clicking the mouse, you're telling your character where to go," Berger said. "On console, the rhythm is very different. It flows more, because you're constantly repositioning your character with the thumbstick; you're really never stationary on console, whereas on PC you're a lot more stationary... When you're playing on the PC, you're not really looking at your character as much, you're kind of focusing on the cursor. Whereas on console it's the exact opposite, you're drawn in.

"Adding the evade... means that you're once again, even more repositioning yourself. It's added a new dimension to the game - the game is more dynamic. And it feels in some ways it's faster - in no small part because the camera's in closer. Your character's bigger on screen, the enemies are bigger on screen, when you're surrounded by enemies the threat level feels higher. So it has translated really, really nicely to console, there's a wonderful sort of rejuvenation of the game in that environment.

"The evade was kind of a levelling off factor with the fact that when you're on PC, you can click somewhere when you're surrounded by enemies, and the game will find out how to get to that location. On console, you have to find that path yourself. So the evade gives you that brief window of opportunity to distance yourself from the enemy and reposition yourself a little bit faster, and that helped out a lot. We've also lowered a little bit the number of enemies who attack you at once. You still have just as many on screen... it's so you don't get overwhelmed."

All this means that console and PC Diablo - or rather, controller and mouse-and-keyboard Diablo - are two quite different games, however similar they might look. Patching controller support into the PC game would effectively split its audience.

"It's a bigger issue than just allowing players to use the controller on the PC. Because if I let you use the controller on the PC, then I have to let you use the user interface that goes with it, and if I give you the roll and I haven't throttled the number of enemies attacking you because the mouse-and-keyboard players can handle all those enemies, but with a controller you have too many guys... The games have really been structured to take advantage of their environment and their ecosystem, so in the same way it would not be a good fit to put a mouse and keyboard on the console. It wouldn't work."

While unquestionably disappointing for PC players, Blizzard's dedication to producing carefully tailored versions of the game for each format is impressive. And though some features will remain exclusive to the console game, others have a chance of making it back to the PC parent.

The avenger kills feature planned for the PlayStation 4-exclusive Diablo 3: Ultimate Evil Edition (which includes the forthcoming Reaper of Souls expansion) is not being brought across to PC - not yet, at any rate. Berger said that this was partly because it was easier to achieve on PlayStation Network than Blizzard's own Battle.net, because of the way the two online services are structured, but also because Blizzard needed to draw a line under adding any new features to the PC version of Reaper of Souls in order to ship it. (The PS4 game will release "a little bit after - it's going to be staggered"; both are due next year.)

He didn't rule out porting avenger kills to PC, though, and pointed out that other aspects of Diablo on consoles are feeding back to the PC original. "If players love it, then we're going to find a way to bring it to PC - which is something we've already done. Loot 2.0 is a direct evolution of Loot 1.5 from the console. We've added a new buff on console, Nephalem Glory - that's making its way to PC. Changes go back and forth."

One thing's certain, though - if you're playing Diablo on a PC, then you're going to be clicking.

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Oli Welsh


Oli was Eurogamer's MMO Editor before a seven-year stint as Editor. He worked here for a colossal 14 years, shaping the website and leading it.