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Zakwayda

Aspect ratio and gameplay

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I'm at the point in my game project where I need to make some decisions I've been putting off, one of which is how to handle the issue of aspect ratio as it relates to gameplay. There have been a few threads recently on the topic of different resolutions and aspect ratios in 2-d games. One of the issues that frequently comes up is how different aspect ratios can affect gameplay. People's opinions on this topic seem to fall into two categories, more or less: 1. If different aspect ratios can affect gameplay significantly, the aspect ratio should be fixed (e.g. by black-barring) in order to make for a uniform player experience. 2. The native aspect ratio of the monitor should be used (whatever it may be) so that people can make use of the full capabilities of their hardware. Whether the aspect ratio will affect gameplay depends on the game, of course. The game I'm working on doesn't have a multiplayer component, but it does have a rating system, and one of the features I'd like to add at some point is an online leaderboard. Unfortunately, being able to see more of the play area does offer an advantage (for example, it allows you to use long-range weapons more effectively). As such, it seem the ratings could end up reflecting not only the players' skill but also the hardware on which the game was played. At this point I'm stuck as to whether to: 1. Use the native aspect ratio and drop the leaderboard idea. 2. Use a fixed 4:3 resolution. 3. Use the native aspect ratio and let the leaderboard ratings be (potentially) affected by the players' hardware. This is probably one of those issues where there's no 'right answer' per se, but I thought I'd ask here to see if anyone had any advice or suggestions. Are there other options that I'm overlooking? Or do I just need to accept that there's no ideal solution to the problem?

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I like drawing at 720 pixels high at the native aspect ratio, scaling up/down to the native resolution. This strikes a good balance: HD resolution, people with huge monitors don't see twice the gameworld, but no ugly black bars. Yes widescreens see a little more on the sides. Some advantage maybe, but so is a higher framerate or lower latency.

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Quote:
I like drawing at 720 pixels high at the native aspect ratio, scaling up/down to the native resolution. This strikes a good balance: HD resolution, people with huge monitors don't see twice the gameworld, but no ugly black bars. Yes widescreens see a little more on the sides.
Yup, that's how I'm doing things currently, more or less - fixed height, with the width dependent on the aspect ratio.
Quote:
Some advantage maybe, but so is a higher framerate or lower latency.
I assume by latency you're referring to multiplayer gameplay? This particular game doesn't have a multiplayer mode; as for framerate, the game uses a fixed update rate, so I don't know that a higher framerate would offer any advantage.

In any case, as you note, it really just comes down to being able to see a little more of the play area to each side. Not a huge deal, but I do think it could make certain parts of the game easier for folks with widescreen monitors.

I don't currently have a widescreen monitor available, so I'm not really sure how most games handle varying aspect ratios these days. Should I even consider pillar boxing? Or would that really put off people with widescreen monitors?

(Thanks for the reply, by the way :)

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I don't mind too much with black bars on the sides, though I do find it a bit worse than having them at the top/bottom to force wide-screen. What you could do is set a maximum reasonable wide-screen resolution, of say 16:10. Any wider than that gets bars on the sides, but any less wide instead sees less of the play area. Balance the game for that 16:10 resolution, and add the option for non wide-screens to play 16:10 with bars at the top/bottom.
Optionally do the same but the other way around, letting wide-screens see less vertically if they insist on using the entire screen.

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Considering the availability of 16:9 and 16:10 devices, I personally think that the old 4:3 devices should be letter-boxed (i.e. punished), rather than vice-versa. Yeah, it's a bit unconventional.

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I pretty much do the same thing - constant height and expand the width to fit the aspect ratio. More details here. Menus are designed to be contained in 4:3 and centred within wider displays. And I agree with Krohm - most new displays are widescreen now (especially laptops) so it makes sense I think to default to 16:10 for your 'proper' resolution.

One nice compromise option you can offer is allowing the user to run in a widescreen window on a 4:3 display. They'll gain the "advantage" of seeing the game how it's supposed to be played even if it's not fullscreen. Plus you'll usually end up having to code this in for testing anyway.

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What's wrong with doing both? If somebody just wants to play the game at a resolution that might give them an advantage, give them a "non-competitive" mode to play. Let them know that any score they achieve won't be eligible for online leaderboarding, but they can still just enjoy the game on a "casual" level. Also have a fixed-ratio "competitive" mode to level the playing field. I've often found myself in both camps (ranked play and play for funsies) with regards to games, and would appreciate the ability to have both available.

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You can also make it impossible to have an advantage, making a non-standard ratio strictly a disadvantage. Whenever a screen-size doesn't fit the correct ratio, and the user has selected fill-screen mode, stretch the direction that would have bars to the edges, and let the other direction go outside of the screen. This way no one can have an advantage, but if someone feels OK with with a disadvantage they can still have their screen filled. This way you don't have to handle different modes of play, other than the way you display the graphics to the screen.

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It is not that hard to accommodate both ratios. Unless you plan on having some special scene where an object fills the viewport exactly, the code to support both is relatively painless.
=

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