Widescreen and me.

Not too long ago, on the Retro Remakes forums, I was asked why my games doesn’t support full HD resolution or scale better, and although I answered there I want to put the answer up here as well.

Not too long ago (in 2008) I had a 4:3 monitor that only ran 1024×768 natively, so games I’d made until then were also in the 4:3 format – and I was happy with it, so therefore it didn’t occur to me to  make my games scalable or widescreen-y before then.

By mid-2009 I’d changed to a 16:9 monitor. It wasn’t the best monitor – it was cheap and had a max resolution of 1680×1050. But more annoyingly it didn’t center a 4:3 game in the middle of the screen – it would stretch games to fill out the whole screen so that everything became wider. Actually, I didn’t mind much – I guess I got used to it, but I could see why other people perhaps wouldn’t like it.

I must have bought that 16:9 monitor around May 2009 while working on Omega Race 2009 because I remember starting out in 4:3, but since that game has those silly widescreen options that all my vector games since has had, I must’ve gotten it while making that game. The idea was to let the user set the right format from the options menu so the game could center the game in the middle of the screen, so that, if the game is run in fullscreen it would keep the right aspect instead of stretching the graphics (if peoples monitors was as bad as mine).

Personally I don’t mind much if a game only runs at 1024×768 as long as it fills out the screen when it’s run in fullscreen mode. It’d be different if a game is run in a window – then you’d end up with a small rectangle in the middle of the screen. And all the vector games I’ve done since 2009 (Omega Race 2009, Star Castle & Black Widow) all has the action centered in the middle 4:3 section of the screen anyway, so all that extra room at the sides wouldn’t have been used anyway, so making them fully scalable HD wouldn’t make much of a difference …unless I change the gameplay a lot, but as you probably know – I try to avoid changing my remakes to much compared to the original games.

I was asked: “It’s vector graphics – why don’t you just re-code the games so they scale better?”.

Sure, it would without doubt be better if the games would just scale properly and run at the desktops resolution, but take Black Widow – I started coding that in 2010 and had it perhaps 75-80% complete when I put it aside for more than two years, and when I began working on it again I just wanted to complete it as fast I as could. Sure, since it uses vector-graphics it’s relatively easy to scale up the graphics, but there’s also a lot of calculations and math on which the gameplay is depending and that would have to be changed too, and making such changes to a game that is as complete as it is – well, that’s just too much work and too much can go wrong. Keep in mind that this is old code, it’s for a game that will be given away for free, and I’d want to finish it as soon as possible. Re-working code so drastically this late in development could potentially screw things up badly and make it take even longer to finish (which happened to me on Rip Off which I started developing in 640×480 and changed to 1024×768 in mid-development).

Since then I’ve upgraded to a nice 27 inch monitor that runs Full HD. Unfortunately my current batch of projects that I hope to finish over the next 3-4 months are also all old projects, so they’re not getting a Full HD upgrade either.

But at some point I would like to develop something that scales better and uses my new monitor fully (and yours too :-)). I’ve always had a soft spot for Tail Gunner and might remake that one day. That’s also a game that will better utilize the whole 16:9 screen, so it’s not a bad choice. I’d have to develop some new core routines instead of just re-using old ones, and I’m looking forward to starting from scratch and enter the HD age. 🙂

But all-new stuff will have to wait a while…there’s some old stuff that needs finishing first. 😉

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