PC BioShock 2 lack of gamepad support intentional

BioShock 2 developer 2K Marin left gamepad support out of the PC version, and it's made some PC gamers furious.

The Windows version of BioShock 2 doesn't support gamepads, and while that's been public knowledge for months, it's apparently causing a stir on the game's official message boards.

After a handful of gamers complained last week about the lack of gamepad support in the PC version and a handful more politely chastised them for doing so, the thread pretty much exploded into a "please bring back gamepad support" appeal, including a petition.

I heard about the decision to axe gamepad support a few weeks ago, listening to the design team chat up the PC version in a podcast. The reasoning seemed logical enough. They wanted the PC interface to capitalized on the upsides of using a keyboard and mouse, to in that sense reward PC gaming's faithful by making the Windows version of BioShock 2 as "PC" as possible. Dropping gamepad support, they argued, freed them to craft an interface--both visually and mechanically--streamlined for the sort of massively-multi-button, ultra-precision advantages PC gamers enjoy. Supporting gamepads in a way that lived up to design expectations would mean shipping with different, alternative interfaces. They chose specialization over generalization.

Sound like a head-slapper? That's how I see it, mostly, except for one or two wrinkles.

Check out the complaint thread's first page, third post from the top, where someone's written this:

"Please can someone from 2K explain why your excluding all the players who have to use gamepads like me or even PC players (who I am aware of exist) who cannot even use mouse + kb due to physical disabilities so have to use gamepads!"

I hesitate to use the word 'disabled, but what about PC gamers who depend on gamepads to work around issues that prevent them from effectively gaming with a keyboard and mouse? Should they feel obliged to buy the console version? To jury-rig a workaround using a utility like Xpadder?

Not as straightforward as it seems, when you consider who you've left by the wayside.

Then you've got users who jack their PCs into 40- or 50-inch TVs and want the sort of extremely high-definition experience (greater than 1080p) the Xbox 360 can't deliver. Playing games in your comfy chair with a keyboard and mouse works about as well as hunching in front of a desk using a gamepad plugged into a laptop to play something like World of Warcraft or The Sims 3.

Incidentally, if versions of those latter two ever manifest for consoles, they'll look nothing like their PC peers. Why? Because a game's interface is everything, more important than its story, its puzzles, its visual style--anything. Getting an interface right can dominate a game's development cycle. It's not just an overlay, casually tacked on and tweaked at the last minute after some beta tester feedback. Louse up the interface or settle for cross-platform mediocrity and you change every facet of the gameplay indelibly.

While none of that precludes 2K from adding gamepad support somewhere down the line, I support their decision to prioritize the keyboard/mouse interface, while sympathizing with those of you marginalized by it. It's a tough call, but we're hobbling game developers if we expect them to support outlier peripherals, or assume that doing so ought to be inexpensive and simple.

Connect with Matt on Twitter (@game_on)

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Matt Peckham

PC World (US online)
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