Epic is removing a controversial “legacy” aim assist mode for Fortnite players who play using a handheld controller. The move is the company’s latest effort to improve competitive balance between controller users and players using the increased speed and precision of a mouse-and-keyboard setup.
Looking back on a “legacy”
While Epic initially made efforts to segregate controller and mouse-and-keyboard players, an October matchmaking update started placing PC and console players in the same matches. “With the rollout, we’ve seen a lot of discussion about potentially unfair competitive advantages from pooling players together across platforms and input devices,” Epic wrote at the time. “The new matchmaking system, however, accounts for various skill levels across different platforms and control inputs, and groups players of similar skill levels together.”
Around the same time, Epic also made a significant update to its controller settings, allowing players to tune the game’s analog stick sensitivity in a number of ways. That update also “implemented a new aim assist system” that used a new weighting algorithm to “calculate targets in screen space, which allows a more consistent feel regardless of that target’s range.”
Importantly, that September aim assist update “removed the ability to use target snapping (aka ‘Left trigger spam’),” as Epic put it. This is a reference to controller players repeatedly tapping the L2 button to snap their aiming reticle to an opponent. Besides helping with accuracy, even at relatively long-range, this auto-snapping also let players find opponents hidden by walls or brush cover and essentially track them as they moved.
A clean break
While “left trigger spam” was officially removed with the new aim assist options in September, Epic has allowed players to continue to use the old system by choosing to “use legacy look controls” in the settings menu. That option will finally be removed on March 13, Epic announced over the weekend, citing “improvements we’ve made to aim assist” as the proximate reason. Players using the legacy options will have a week to copy their controller sensitivity settings over to the “linear” or “exponential” aim assist profiles, which use what Epic says are more accurate and balanced algorithms.
Wtf @UnknownxArmy1x literally tracking people through bushes LMAO pic.twitter.com/htIVyQGFdo
— The Fortnite Guy (@The_FortniteGuy) February 26, 2020
Some keyboard-and-mouse players have been complaining loudly about “legacy” players for months, using the auto-snapping aim as an excuse and/or explanation for their losses to controller players. But the issue has taken on new salience in recent weeks as a number of sample videos showing how to abuse the setting have spread on social media.
Despite the potential advantages, specialist site Fortnite Tracker notes that players using “legacy” auto-aim settings “were a dying breed” even before this announcement. Many players had already made the move to the “linear” auto-aim settings, the site says, which remove the L2 spam option but allow for better accuracy at close range.
But the legacy controls had their share of die-hard adherents, including a few popular streamers. “You do realize they removed the [legacy] setting which has been in the game since the start, and kept the [linear] one which has made 100s of players decent because of the broken aim assist,” WavyJacob tweeted in response to the news. “They didn’t remove legacy, they got rid of the legacy I made,” UnknownxArmy tweeted in reference to his streaming promotion of the control option.
Those players and others who have grown used to the legacy options will now have to adjust to a new control method for the first time since the game launched. In the long run, though, this kind of clean break is probably necessary as Epic continues the difficult work of balancing a game played by millions of players on both controllers and mouse-and-keyboard setups.