Minimum screen resolution?

Discussion in 'Indie Basics' started by kookyflamingo, Dec 13, 2005.

  1. kookyflamingo

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    Hi,

    I'm going to attempt a simple puzzle game.

    I would like this to run on a large proportion of PC's running Windows 98 and upwards, with DirectX 7 capable graphics.

    My question is, what is the minimum screen resolution I can use that is widely supported?

    800x600? 1024x768?

    I was thinking that by using 3d I could scale things appropriately and run at any resolution, but it would be nice to have a minimum. I've noticed quite a lot of indie / shareware uses a fixed resolution, but I'd like to give my players a choice if possible.

    Cheers
     
  2. dxgame

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    Others will tell you 800x600 is the "new low res" and should be the standard resolution for casual games. But I personally prefer to use 640x480 for most projects. Even 320x240 looks good for old school projects. ;) Even though more and more casual gamers have decent hardware, I still think we're about a year or so away from saying 100% goodbye to 640x480.
     
  3. Desktop Gaming

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    Your best option is to check what graphics modes are available.

    Use 640x480 as an absolute minimum - in my opinion things can get 'ugly' on anything less, but ultimately, let the user choose.
     
  4. soniCron

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    You most certainly do not want to let the user choose if you are making a simple puzzle game. A valuable experience for any developer targetting a non-hardcore audience: Go over to your best friend's mom's house, and watch her use the computer for about an hour.
     
  5. Sega

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    Windows XP cannot go below 800x600 desktop resolution, right? How many people are still using 98/ME that buy these games?
     
  6. Tom Gilleland

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    We've made a few games that have shipped over 100,000 units in retail that were 800x600. We've only had a handful of these users email us saying that they were using 640x480 and had problems. Normally these beginner users don't know how to change their monitor settings. My estimate is that it is less than 1/2%. One of the web statistics sites says that 1024x768 is the most common, with 800x600 next. Currently, I think it is best to design for 800x600, but then have your program scale for other settings.

    Tom
     
  7. Sharpfish

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    Hold on, there is some confusion here (at the other points in other posts also not just your stats and "scaling" point which I understand but apply possibly to a different question than the original?). Desktop res only comes into it if you are using WINDOWED mode game (of course) in which case an 800x600 game is "too big" for an 800x600 desktop - which is why 640x480 us still viable in WINDOWED mode games.

    Now if you are talking fullscreen then also, none of that matters as it uses exclusive mode and the GAME dictates the resolution so the surveys are only useful for judging potential audiences for fix res windowed mode in games. Fullscreen is whatever the monitor can do but you can surely be safe with 800 or 1024 in fullscreen (choose which suits you best) and 800 in windowed IF the desktop is set at 1024 or higher - just check the desktop res and if its not the next one up from your windowed res then give a warning and go into fullscreen mode (assuming your game only does for ex 800x600).

    Agree also with SoniCron - for casual games you may as well stick with what suits the game and saves on filesizes. Pop cap have a 1024 mode but I doubt it is essential. As for me, doing a 3D game (but NOT hardcore in the slightest) I am sticking with 800x600 (obv not for filesize reason - being 3D that doesn't come into it - rather for clean options integration for casual users) in fullscreen and windowed mode. The game checks for desktop res of > 800 x 600 and runs in fullscreen if not found. (obv runs in fullscreen as default anyway but in case the user selected windowed mode).

    To clarify my position. I am attempting to take all the collective wisdom that applies to 2D casual games and apply it to 3D ones - trying to avoid the user unfriendliness of many 3D shareware offerings which usually do NOT care so much about easy interface/setup and instead throw driver config/selections up on startup or allow a thousand and one options to scare away the "casual gamer". Obviously if I was making a Doom4 or UT2k7 then of course I would do it the 100% correct way (convetional hardcore player/developer wisdom) and allow all the modes the hardware supports and allow the user to select. Developing the final product is just as much about what you leave out as what you pack in when it comes to the prime markets in SHAREWARE (retail = different).

    But notice how many console players just pick up and play. Just because you CAN allow more options on a PC you don't have to, especially if it runs the risk of your technical support calls going through the roof when some less experienced gamer messes up their config.
     
    #7 Sharpfish, Dec 13, 2005
    Last edited: Dec 13, 2005
  8. kookyflamingo

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    Yes I read that 1024x768 was the most common res, but I believe that was from a Steam survey so it might not give a good indication of the type of audience I will be targetting.

    Ideally I want to start the game in fullscreen mode. As I understand it, Windowed 3d is generally 'less widely compatible' than fullscreen.

    Ok, so my plan is to do the following:

    1. On first load, check if 800x600 fullscreen is available - if so, try to enter fullscreen 800x600 mode. If not, try 640x480.
    2. Once in 800x600 allow the user to switch to whatever resolution (full-screen or windowed) they pick through the options menu.
     
  9. Desktop Gaming

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    I disagree with that completely. Its all about maximising compatibility and you simply cannot do that by assuming ANY resolution will be supported. You're setting yourself up for a technical support headache.

    Give your user an option to choose a resolution at first startup (from a list that their PC actually supports), then give them the option to change it from within the game if they don't like it.
     
  10. Fabio

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    What I'm doing is start in the desktop resolution and color mode, and then (depending on the type of game) let the user select any other video mode.

    I.e. start as Default, then eventually choose Custom.

    You can be sure that the Default, being it the Desktop, suits the player's video card and monitor at least decently (or why would (s)he have chosen it for his/her desktop?).
     
  11. kookyflamingo

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    Sure, but even for 3d modes? I don't know for certain, but is it possible some cards can't handle the same resolution in 3d?

    For instance, on an old PC running at 1280x1024 on desktop might be fine, but the performance of 3d at that resolution could grind the game to a halt?
     
  12. Sharpfish

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    The day I see a PC that does not support 800x600 I will be too old to care ;)

    And please understand casual games are different worlds to the retail sector. It is all about minimum fuss and clean implementation. Anything you throw at the generally not-so-computer-savvy players could cost you a sale.

    This all depends on the gametype you are working on and strictly is a good idea for casual games. Anything approaching semi-core you could provide an options list as long as your arm and people may find thier own ideal set up.

    I think 2 res modes in a casual game is fine though - it is the throwing up the card driver mode selection at the start of the game (letting you go from x all the way up to 1600x and higher) that will cause support issues for CASUAL games. Not to mention (if it is 2D) that you are going to have your work cut out providing assets for all those resolutions or suffering nasty scaling issues.
     
  13. Sharpfish

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    I do agree with that. It really is best to think of it all in the simplest compatable + performance way, regardless of whether you are using fixed res (ie keep it LOW 800x600 or less to be widely useable) or multi-res (start it off in LOW to keep it running fast). That is of course if your game is not CPU limited in which case the res changes may not make so much difference.

    I had been toying with the idea of including 1 higher res for my game (being 3D it is not as much hassle - just the guis need scaling and positioning) but would never offer the full range because crazy people will attempt to run it at 1600 and get 10fps and then decide not to buy it (or email support asking why it is slow and how can they change it back!)
     
  14. kookyflamingo

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    Well, I don't see the point in limiting people, if some users want to buy a 24" widescreen Dell running in a stupidly high resolution I'm happy enough to cater for it - after all 3D Gui's are easily scaled.

    If there are other seasoned developers who have faced this before, I'd be interested to know what your rule of thumb is.
     
  15. Sharpfish

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    Absolutely, but only for the "Right games" ie anything NON CASUAL. That is not to say you can't do what you like with your game be it casual or otherwise, but there is a reason all the most sucessful *casual* games have very clean interfaces and limited options. It is MORE appealing to a casual player to jump straight in and play and not spend their 60mins trial time messing around with different resolutions and texture filters (guilty here as I offer anisotropic filterering as an option in my upcomming game - but MAY reword it to "texture quality" for instance for the very same reasons).

    I am a hardcore player, been into UT etc for years and I would hate it if they forced me to use a res or didn't allow me to tweak it to my requirments.. but then I'm a techy geek and I NEVER buy casual games! Think of the target audience and adjust the amount of options to allow just enough for the simpler games. That is if you want your game to appear less cluttered and confusing for (again) the casual user. It makes sense really. Keep it clean just like a console game.

    And for many there is a bonus in keeping one resolution (the art assets if they can't scale them in code being just one set) which keeps filesize down, which keeps downloads up blah de blah.... ;)

    Anyway you should know if your game needs the full options or not because it will just feel right and be obvious that the game needs it.
     
  16. Tom Gilleland

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    Sharpfish is exactly right on everything except the definition of casual gamers. We create casual games and sell the bulk of them through retail channels. Downloads are just another channel. If you are making a Casual game then go for 800x600 and limited options, or total ease of use. Design your software so that your mom or grandma can play it. If you are making the next 3D shooter then include lots of options. Basically create your software for your audience.

    (Sharpfish, what's your name in UT?, I'm RunAway)

    Tom
     
  17. Sharpfish

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    Sharpfish :)
     
  18. kookyflamingo

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    Well, a puzzle game such as I'm thinking of creating (think similar to Tetris) is targetted at the casual audience.

    However, I don't believe for a second there's a clear distinction between your 'cutting edge gamer' and your grandma running in 800x600. I say this because people like myself who have a fast PC and a big display STILL play the most mind-numbing games even with the latest kit - for example Solitaire, Worms, Tetris, Minesweeper - really basic stuff! Because these games are easily accessible and often more fun or a better way to pass time than your latest cutting edge FPS!

    But what annoys me most about most shareware / freeware is that they don't scale up to run natively in high resolutions - often games limit themselves to 1024x768. I can't see any reason other than the fact the developer doesn't have a large enough screen to test it on, but even then a little expenditure to remedy this, or more beta testers, could make a proportional difference in sales.
     
  19. Sharpfish

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    Hang around these forums long enough and you will see how you are missing the point. Saying that YOU play casual games on a cutting edges system and you wished you could play them in higher res is flawed because:

    1.The main audience probably won't be able to or even want to.

    2.It is not about whether the machine can do it - or if a certain percentage of the players actually want it, it is about making the best polished/rounded product for the specific audience.

    If you are making a casual game, look at the people who have made $$$$$$ doing just that and learn from their findings ( no not me - but try Popcap etc).

    You can still PLAY the game on a low end or a high end system @ a fixed res, but that is avoiding the issue of "clean interface" and "non confusing setup/options" for the largest percentage of casual games players who won't use it or attempt to set it up wrongly.

    I am just saying this because it may help your future sales. Going to extra effort to add more could actually harm them.

    I thought the same way as you when I started out looking at more casual games, but came to accept they shouldn't be confused with a hardcore players OR a developers outlook but purely from the target audience of that game.
     
  20. mahlzeit

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    The magic words: reasonable defaults. ;) Options are fine but don't shove them in your user's face. Ideally you would have your software examine what the optimal resolution etc. for the system is and use that. Otherwise, choose a good default -- something that will work fine in 90% of the cases.
     

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