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Lets talk about screen resolution

Posted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:37 am
by Roots
The default screen resolution for Allacrost is 1024x768 (4:3 aspect ratio), with support for 640x480, 800x600, and 1280x1024 (also all roughly 4:3). This default resolution was chosen waayyyy back in 2004, when widescreen displays weren't so ubiquitous and we had a goal of allowing Allacrost to run on virtually any hardware that wasn't ancient. This decision doesn't make as much sense these days, and I've been wondering why we continue to use it. What really caught my attention was playing Stardew Valley on my Nintendo Switch, which has a 16:9 aspect ratio widescreen resolution. Playing Allacrost on my home computer, I always have the large black bars on the side in fullscreen mode because of my widescreen monitor. Space that is completely unused.

So I want to humor ourselves for a bit and imagine what would need to be changed and what we'd need to do if we were to move to a widescreen format. We'd continue using the same art dimensions (we'd be absolutely insane to change that at this point). Let's just consider two resolutions in a 16:9 aspect ratio: 1280x720, and 1920x1080.

Map Mode
Map tiles are 32x32 pixels, meaning that these resolutions display the following number of tiles on the screen if we do no scaling:
- 1024x768 => 32x24
- 1280x720 => 40x22.5
- 1920x1080 => 60x33.75

Changing map mode to support different numbers of tiles that are visible on the screen shouldn't be difficult to do. The GUI elements are all easily resizable and movable as well. What has me concerned is how far the player could "see" to either side, but they'd actually being seeing less above and below the character. And Allacrost already has an issue where the structures are too large that you can't see them entirely on the screen at once.

Battle Mode
Sprites are created in increments of 32x32 pixel squares here too. But its the backgrounds that are the real problem. These are full size 1024x768 images that were never meant to be scalable or repeatable in any way. We'd need to come up with some solution to fill the background space. I'm also concerned again about losing vertical space in the 720p resolution. However, we gain a lot more horizontal space, and that could be utilzed for GUI menus, which are really crammed tight right now (so much so that you have to hold buttons to toggle the view of different contents in certain menus).

Other Modes
Other modes are primarily GUI based (boot screen, character menu, shop menu, save screen) so screen resolution isn't much a problem there, although we may want to tweak the layouts and menu sizes some.

I know that moving to a different screen resolution isn't a high priority. It detracts from what we really need to get done to get to our next release goal, but I wanted to write my thoughts out anyway. I'm also not sold on the idea of going to a widescreen resolution. Just in the stages of wondering if it is the right thing to do at some point (ie, it makes the game better).

Re: Lets talk about screen resolution

Posted: Wed Nov 08, 2017 12:55 am
by Roots
On a somewhat related note, I wanted to mention about the zoom level of map mode. Even though we in a 1024x768 resolution we can fit 32x24 tiles on the screen, we are actually fitting much less than that. The game currently zooms in by a factor of 4, so on a given screen you are seeing 16x12 tiles. There's almost no way we'll ever see a single building on one screen with that.

Here's what that looks like today:

If you played Allacrost in the old days, we didn't do that image zooming on maps. We kept everything at its native size. Here's what that looked like. Same resolution, only this time now we fit 32x24 tiles on the screen (4x more than 16x12)


Why did we make this change? Well, people felt that the earlier perspective was too "zoomed out". The characters were tiny and it would be difficult to see any animations or expressions on their faces. Also in dungeons, we found that for a small-ish dungeon, you could see so much of it on your screen at once there wasn't much surprise or exploration involved. You could literally fit a small dungeon on 2-3 screens.

So both views have their pros and cons. The native size allows us to show a lot of the map at once, which is great for the large structures found in the game. But as I said, sometimes we don't want to allow the player to see that much, and it also made it harder to appreciate the finer details in the artwork and animations. The zoomed in view is pretty much the opposite of the native size pro/cons. Nice details and the ability to make dungeons feel larger (because the player doesn't see so much of it at once). But it becomes a challenge around certain maps that can make seeing complete objects and navigation tricky.

Unfortunately, pixel art does not scale well (although there are algorithms for that, but I'd prefer not to use them). So an "inbetween" view isn't a viable option. What I had thought we could try in the past was to support both views, and use the appropriate one. For example, zoomed in view would be the default, but we'd do the native size view when roaming towns and not in scenes. We'd do some quick pixel art scaling when going inbetween the two.

The point of all this is, if we change screen resolutions in the future then we can revisit this.

Re: Lets talk about screen resolution

Posted: Fri Nov 10, 2017 10:24 pm
by Lordakius
Hey, good to see you back here :)

Screen Resolution was one of the first things I thought could be changed when I started trying out this game back in the day, though now I don't mind it really. It gives the game a nice touch, having a 4:3 display, but if we have the time, we should definitely make it an option to set it to 16:9, just because most players are used to it.

The zoom-thing is actually much better than the "native" view imo, seeing the second screen, I feel so far away from the character.