cruise control

Two types of gameplay do not work on a mouse and keyboard, no matter how staunchly one stands behind PC gaming: platformers, and driving. At heart I’m a console gamer, but when it comes games involving shooting, PCs have always held the high ground. PC enthusiasts, be quiet for a few minutes, because this is the undeniable truth and you know it.

I recently started playing Mafia 2 via Steam, and buried within the game’s climactic turf wars and lookalike Studebaker Champions was a teensy little mechanic that would never be noticed, if it were not pointed out to the player: a speed limiter.

The main deterrent in the realm of driving mechanics is that in driving, some form of progressive input is required. Turn the car a tiny bit, or turn the wheel hard over for a hairpin at top speed. A joystick (or better yet, a steering wheel) achieves exactly this. Tip the stick a small fraction and the car meanders to one side; get to maximum tilt and the car will swing around. A keyboard is a collection of binary switches–each key is essentially on or off. The best you can do with this mechanic is constantly tap the key for a fraction of a second, making the car turn a smaller amount over time. But it’s awkward, at best. The same problem happens when trying to control one’s speed:

By pressing the L key while driving, the player invokes a “safe driving mode” that limits the vehicle’s top speed to 40 mph. Being that this only has the one setting, and is essentially a binary switch, its usefulness is limited, but it has its uses. Some of the roads in the game are marked as 40-mph zones, thusly I was able to activate the limiter and then just cruise with my finger on the gas, always moving at a good clip with respect to traffic, but never too fast to lose control.

This wormed its way into my brain after a few minutes, planting a parasite of an idea.

What if these games incorporated a form of cruise control?

Say you’re driving around in a car. While some people don’t mind fracturing the rules and blazing down side streets at ridiculous speeds, others may prefer to stick to the speed limits, not just for the law-abiding-citizen factor but also because zipping around in slow traffic may cause some…physics issues, shall we call them. Anyway, you drive off, and when your spedometer hits 20 mph, you double-tap the “accelerate” key (in most cases it’s W). This locks your speed at its current number, freeing you to worry about making turns. To unlock the spedometer, you double-tap either the “accelerate” or “brake” keys, and viola.

And perhaps a complementary system of double-tapping the turn keys, to lock the angle of turn? Not sure if that would work out so well.

2K Games, I hope you’re reading this.

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