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Avencherus

What are your thoughts on how to support 21:9 in 2D games?

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I can't imagine it's the first time this topic has come up, but I can't really find much being discussed very specifically about a 21:9 aspect ratio and 2D games.  Other than, tough luck, can't be supported.

 

It's the answer I imagine, given how the artwork is created and the camera is designed, but what would such support look like?  Has anyone tried or seen any interesting thoughts about what a 2D game might look like in an ultra wide format?  My intuition is that a lot of platforming games might be a bit strange, because you might be getting too much information, to the point of distracting.

 

It would seem if you designed around such a ratio you would end up making a game that would feel painfully like tunnel vision at a lower ratio.  The focus of the landscapes would have different requirements.  Is there a design that can blend between supporting 21:9 and 16:9 without losing something or suffering in some way?

 

Are there any interesting conversations or thoughts to be had about it?

 

Just curious.  X)

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It has come up way back when the first 16:10 and 16:9 screens became popular.  :wink:

 

Thanks for the response.  I see, that is a rather distant discussion.  I'll look over it.

 

I at least picked up some new terminology.  That might help with future queries.  I appreciate that too.

 

I was more wondering about the design itself if you were to support both, without letter boxing.  Just a curiosity really.  I can't really imagine it myself, maybe I'm lacking creativity, or maybe it is a design constraint.

 

Say you supported a 21:9 world, by filling it end to end.  Then to support the 16:9, you would scale down mainly the width to fit, and your scene would have a significant chunk of extra scrolling from side to side.

 

For the 21:9 format, the larger world might fit all on one screen without scrolling at all.  That would influence your design, since an entire area can be fully visible to the player all at once.  If you made a scene where it was somehow relevant to see two different events at two distant ends of the scene at the same time, you would have a very troublesome time in the 16:9 version with the requirement to run over and scroll the screen to see what was happening.

 

I was really wondering about what certain designs might look like in these situations, and if there were some happy middle ground.  Not that I plan on going that route, since I don't imagine people are getting 21:9 monitors to see more in 2D games.  X)

Edited by Avencherus

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There are still some 4:3 screens kicking around I'm sure, but its been nearly impossible to buy one off-the-shelf for ages, except for a handful of PC monitors marketed mainly to corporate environments. Back in the day, the question was "how do I design for 4:3 and 16:9?" and now its "How do I design for 16:9 and 21:9?". I think the difference is that 16:9 was clearly going to be where things moved to, but it doesn't seem so clear for 21:9. Oh, unless you're also dealing with iPads, or the myriad other devices as well (though, then you get a pass on 21:9, so far)

 

But the approach is the same -- either you design such that the extra information isn't beneficial, or you hide it. When you take the design approach, what you're really doing is letter-boxing the design process itself -- you can't place essential information outside the safe area, and you have to think about whether even revealing information sooner to players with different aspect ratios gives them an advantage. Letter-boxing the player's screen is essentially a design-choice to simply ignore these same questions.

 

Now, something to keep in mind is that this matters most for competitive scenarios -- that's when one player gets a direct advantage over another and fairness is the primary objective. In single-player, non-competitive scenarios, the questions can still matter, but the effect is different; there, your objective is more concerned with ensuring that the pace of progress and level of exploration is not affected. Even in single-player games, though, there can be competitive elements like leaderboards, speed-runs, etc. What's important will depend on what kind of game you're making.

 

I tend to think, myself, that the best way to approach this in this day and age is to employ a dynamic camera that adapts to a design-safe area that's independent of any particular aspect ratio, and which itself may not match any popular aspect ratio one finds in the real world. That approach doesn't really work for pixel-perfect, sprite-based 2D games, but is a very good approach anywhere that the pixels aren't crucial to the design or aesthetics.

 

You also have to address on-screen UI in a flexible way -- not only might it change how things are obscured as aspect ratio shifts, but you might also be inclined to deliver different UI properties to tablet users, PC users, and console users anyways. Most serious developers should already have moved to that way of thinking if its important to where they deliver their games.

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I tend to think, myself, that the best way to approach this in this day and age is to employ a dynamic camera that adapts to a design-safe area that's independent of any particular aspect ratio, and which itself may not match any popular aspect ratio one finds in the real world. That approach doesn't really work for pixel-perfect, sprite-based 2D games, but is a very good approach anywhere that the pixels aren't crucial to the design or aesthetics.

 

You also have to address on-screen UI in a flexible way -- not only might it change how things are obscured as aspect ratio shifts, but you might also be inclined to deliver different UI properties to tablet users, PC users, and console users anyways. Most serious developers should already have moved to that way of thinking if its important to where they deliver their games.

 

I see.  I suppose I was thinking that 21:9 was more vast a leap than before.  I think probably not if you compare it like you say to 4:3 heading into 16:9.

 

Maybe they are depending on the actual resolution.

 

I'm a bit new to all of these things, so I found a lot of these considerations very helpful, most especially the idea about UI scaling.

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There certainly are design challenges -- first wide, and now extremely-wide viewports aren't well-suited to games that benefit from a more equitable share of screen area between the horizontal and vertical axis. Imagine remaking Super Mario Brothers today for 21:9 screens -- the change in information presented has a huge impact on design, it forces a decision between revealing probably too much in the horizontal axis, or too little in the vertical axis. Or imagine Sonic the Hedgehog, with its faster, twitchier gamplay -- its even less suitable.

 

16:9 is only 25% wider than 4:3, but 21:9 is 30% wider again; cumulatively, 21:9 is nearly twice as wide as 4:3 -- the shape of the display area is dramatically different. The side-view scroller has to change a lot to fit in. For other kinds of sprite-based games, say 3/4ths overhead views as in classic RPGs or side-scrolling 2.5D games, they can be made to fit more naturally. I could imagine  an RPG that used squat tiles (say 32x24) instead of the traditional, square tiles (say, 32x32) to help compensate.

 

You can also compensate by adding additional, non-essential-but-useful UI in to letterbox the play area, without adding black bars. Maybe party status in an RPG, or other genre-appropriate information.

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