Handling variable resolutions
Neil Roy

On a new project, I want to be able to handle different aspect ratios, like 16:9 and 4:3 perhaps. But I don't want the standard routine where you make say, a 1920x1080 screen, then scale up a 4:3 ratio screen to fit it with black side bars. I done that before, and it worked, but I think it looks ugly and dated on today's hardware.

So I'm wondering if anyone else has done this? Say, create different graphics, vary placement of different on screen assets depending on the ratio etc? Which resolutions to support these days; which is a REALLY big question, so I'll limit my platform to desktop systems for now. I don't have a clue about mobile, but any ideas about them would be interesting to discuss.

In some limited research I done today, the most common desktop resolution was surprising to me (and maybe I shouldn't be I guess), and that was 1366x768! It was 35% of the market, and in second place was 1920x1080, at 17% of the market for the past year. I guess the 1366x768 is probably due to more laptops. In 2011, just 6 years ago, 1024x768 was the top resolution at 17%. I only checked two sites for these stats, so they may vary, but it sounds about right to me. Other desktop resolutions had a much smaller percentage, I think 1920x1200 was like 2%, which actually surprised me a little.

Anyhow... thoughts?


I guess that for a 2d game, scaling is unavoidable unless you want to spend ages hand drawing high resolution sprites and tiles.

However, say, with a tile engine, an alternative to letterboxing would be to actually use the extra space if available. So, you show more of the tile map if possible. Or put some HUD elements there. This does mean that on "wide" displays the players will get a better display than on "narrow" ones, butwe can't have our pie and eat it.

Chris Katko

Here's the best page you'll ever need for PC development:


11024 x 768 0.68% -0.39% 21280 x 720 0.30% -0.20% 31280 x 800 0.61% -0.43% 41280 x 1024 1.61% -0.99% 51360 x 768 1.30% -0.80% 61366 x 768 10.60% -6.76% 71440 x 900 2.34% -1.51% 81536 x 864 0.42% -0.28% 91600 x 900 2.67% -1.72% 101680 x 1050 1.74% -1.02% 111920 x 1080 71.38% +14.59% 121920 x 1200 0.55% -0.33% 132560 x 1080 0.71% +0.04% 142560 x 1440 3.40% +0.72% 153840 x 2160 0.52% -0.27% 16Other 1.16% -0.20%

1080p IS the most used resolution. (Over 70%! That can't be understated!) But make sure all those listed right there work and you're basically set. Or at the very least 1366x768 (widescreen version of 1024x768), 1080p, and 4K and you've basically got all the DPI range of anything from decades ago to the next 5-10 years. We're not gonna have 6K or 8K viable for games for years. You "can" support extra widescreen 21:9 monitors but nobody is gonna really hate you for supporting such a niche market. ("omg, no BSD port?! You lost my $3.")

beoran said:

However, say, with a tile engine, an alternative to letterboxing would be to actually use the extra space if available.

Unfortunately, it's got to be game specific. How do you handle multiplayer games where "more screen" = "more viewable area" = advantage? That's a situation for my game I'm working on. Your view distance is extremely important and having more would be "completely OP".

You can scale. You can use fog-of-war. You can refuse to scale at all. I can't think of any other options off the top of my head...

Neil Roy

Well, with my current project, I decided to make things like my main title screen 1080P, then in windowed mode it will just be scaled down to 1280x720 so it will fit on all common screens in 16:9 aspect.

I read online where one developer, who develops for mobile, which is really scary for resolutions, plus the fact you can have wide or tall.

His main game play area is a square area in the middle, as are his menus, in the centre. He moves the game controls around the screen depending on the orientation which was a nice solution. I says that he creates his source graphics at a slightly higher resolution that his target. So his target is 1080P, so his source is all 2048x2048 and he just scales down as needed.

I don't know if I will target mobile ever, I don't even own a cell phone of any sort, but it is good to keep in mind. I may redesign my scores and other information so it can be moved to accommodate wide screen. Like in my Deluxe Pacman game, you have the two player scores plus the high score in a thin strip at the top, with the lives and other information at the bottom. It makes more sense to redesign this so you have the play area centred and this extra information on the side of the screen. There would be more room and I may add in extra information with larger graphics to fill in the sides and make it look nicer. This could also free up more room for a larger game play area.

If designed right, I could even design it so the score and other outputs could be moved in the future for mobile.

1080p IS the most used resolution. (Over 70%! That can't be understated!)

Wow, over 70%, that makes sense. Thanks for that. Those steam stats would be more accurate for desktop gaming. Most monitors people buy are 1080P, they're also quite cheap these days so that makes sense. I think targeting 16:9 and just having the smaller 720P window and larger full screen 1080P for the game makes sense.


Another idea which I have even seen in some commercial games that are arcade conversions is to letterbox with a user selectable background image in stead of black bars. Sure, it's a bit cheap, but it does provide some eye candy.

Neil Roy

For my older game that would be ideal, but I am recoding it. Making a "Remastered" version that fits 16:9 properly.

I decided to move my score bars and information bars, which are normally on the top and bottom, off to the sides, with perhaps more info, larger icons etc. The main game screen still in the centre.


That sounds very reasonable. I would love to see a screenshot once it is finished.

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