Tech Life Remember when aiming mattered?

Still Playing Destiny (On a PC)

I’m currently on the Pro Leisure Circuit, and with a lot of time on my hands, so I have been playing a lot of video games. Strike that. I’ve been playing one single game, Destiny 2. Yes, I am still playing Destiny, but there’s a twist.

I bought a PC.

No one is more surprised than I.

Before I explain why Destiny remains my go-to video game, let’s talk about why I left PCs many years ago. The short answer is: Apple. I joined the Mothership in July 2002, and Apple hardware quickly dominated my life. Joyfully. The longer explanation of what was frustrating me on a PC was:

  • I was spending an excessive amount of time tweaking my PC. A new piece of hardware usually meant an extra 30 minutes digging up and tweaking drivers. This sometimes “just worked,” but this was a time before all support was credibly done on the Internet, so the exceptions were notable and lengthy. (This is now better in Windows 10.)
  • The Window registry. The black magic necessary to debug random problems was legit and usually involved hacking on the registry. (This is also better in that I’ve required less black magic, but I’ve already been to registry once and it’s exactly the same black magic situation.)
  • The hardware design. I bought an Alienware PC, and there is industrial design going on, but it’s still a ginormous wind tunnel sounding thing sitting on my floor. When I bought the machine and set-up it on the floor, my wife walked and immediately said, “What… is that?” (This is pretty much the same.)
  • There’s a yard sale of random software on this PC. It’s not being shoved in my face. Alienware does an excellent job of keeping me focused on the video game task at hand. Still, whenever I wander the operating system, there’s random software from whomever the hell software vendor. What is the “Killer Control Center”? Do I need it? Who is “Rivet Networks LCC?” Do I trust them? (This is worse than before.)

There are things I missed about Windows:

  • It’s fast. Super fast. Jumping between full-screen window A and B is a blink of the eye. It’s fast on Mac OS, but I am now aware that it’s microseconds slower. This isn’t a big deal until you’re furious Alt-Tabbing between windows. You think this a function of the beefy hardware I purchased, but I remember the fast window switching situation from prior much slower machines. This is a Windows thing.
  • Window management is a non-negotiable religion on an operating system. I’m a deft operator on Mac OS with the additions of SizeUp and LaunchBar. They give me the ability to organize windows and jump to random parts of my computer easily, and I never have to use the mouse. Here’s the thing: in about an hour, I was again a deft operator on Windows 10. The window management is the same. Sure, I had to remember how to close a window, but getting around was fast. I remembered that Windows out of the box gently promotes a full window lifestyle1, and I remember liking this. It focused me on the thing I was doing, and when combined super-fast window switches, I could move hither and fro effortlessly.

Windows 10 presents a polished face. They’ve worked hard to clean up the common areas, but dig deep… dig deep anywhere, and you’ll be shocked to find to windows and dialogs that are precisely the same look and feel as Windows from a decade ago. I was shocked by their lack of change.

Wait, I was going to write about Destiny. I bought a PC for Destiny. Right.

I Want to Aim Well

I’m not going to dig up the number of hours I’ve played on Destiny. It’s a lot, and there’s a lot more coming. Given the number of hours I’ve played, I’ve been noodling a PC for a good year. Why? It’s simple: a mouse and a keyboard.2

I’ve become competent at controller-based first-person shooters, but every part of my being remembers the Quake 2 mod of the Grappling Hook on that pyramid level. Jump off the top ramp, swirl around and grapple a side wall, and swing into the pyramid to grab the invulnerability artifact. Jump into the now harmless lava where the quad damage artifact is hiding, jump through the portal, grapple the ceiling, starting swinging, and… just destroy everyone.

All of this is theoretically do-able on a console controller, but the fidelity, the precision… is alarming. Destiny (and most video games) have “aim assist” built into consoles, which helps with target acquisition. Bullets literally get pulled towards the enemy — larger hit boxes for critical hits. On snipers, you’ll find the reticle stickiness will slow down as you get closer to the enemy.

THIS IS CHEATING. Ok, it’s not cheating, but it’s a game mechanic designed to account for the fact that controllers on the console are imprecise and inaccurate. I’ve been the great beneficiary of aim assist for years, but it makes me feel dirty because I remember when we were supposed to aim without help.

I can confirm that the mouse and keyboard lifestyle presented by Destiny 2 on a PC is an absolute delight. It was a few days ago when I was grinding out the Undying Seal. I needed bow kills against Vex. I stood in the corner of an area and PLUNK PLUNK PLUNK CRIT CRIT CRIT with my bow. I haven’t felt this in control of my character for years. I realized that aim assist had been helping for years, but the fact it was messing my aim ultimately (and subconsciously) left me feeling out of control.

It’s only been a few weeks since the PC landed, which means I’m still getting comfortable with this set-up, but each day that passes, I feel more competent and in control of my character.

Wait, What About the Frame-rate?

Oh, yeah. Frames. I got all the frames. Alienware Aurora. NVIDIA GeForce 2070. It’s an incredible amount of frames, and the game feels smooths and looks just gorgeous. Running on all the highest settings, Destiny’s a different game. Menus load much faster, item management is a delight, and scenes you’ve taken for granted are worth another look:

But it’s the details of the gameplay that make Destiny great, and those details revolve around the gunplay. I gave Borderlands 3 a recent whirl. Beautiful game, but after years of Destiny gunplay made the Borderland guns feel like clumsy toys. Bungie obsesses about how a gun feels, whether it’s the look of the gun and the sound of how it shoots.

Bungie gives their weapons personality. This is why you play Destiny – it’s acquiring, understanding, and mastering the weapons. To do so, yes, you must learn the ways of the Crucible, Raids, and Strikes and exploring this with others is ideal, but the constant tools are the weapons you choose to master.

  1. I’m sure there is a SizeUp equivalent for Windows. Do tell. 
  2. Another game-changer for me. Destiny 2 started to provide Cross Save, which allows me to play on both PS4 and PC. 

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3 Responses

  1. Stephen Rothlisberger 4 years ago

    As a SizeUp equivalent, I’ve been using WinSplit Revolution for years, and it’s an amazing keyboard-based window manager that is especially useful for large / multiple monitors. It’s fast, has a small footprint, and is completely unobtrusive once you’ve configured it to your taste. I use it in a development environment where I have an IDE, graphics software, text editor, wiki and multiple browser windows all in use at the same time. I couldn’t work without it.

  2. Stephen Rothlisberger 4 years ago

    Update: WinSplit Revolution (free) has been replaced by MaxTo (paid). WinSplit Revolution works great for me so I see no reason to upgrade (lean, does one thing well), but MaxTo would also do the job if you’re looking for something with ongoing development.

  3. Windows Key + {Up/Down/Left/Right} will give you a lot of the same capabilities as SizeUp on Windows for free, although doesn’t have anywhere near the full capabilities of SizeUp from what I can see from their promotional video