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Why no widescreen support?

posted by Anonymous on - last edited - Viewed by 860 users

(Please bear with the post length. I didn't realize it was so long until I was done. Hopefully the busy folks at Telltale will have time to get through it all.)

So, I'm a big proponent/evangelist of widescreen. (I own the website linked as my homepage at the bottom of the post.) I downloaded the Bone demos to see if they worked in widescreen. I'm a fairly "casual" gamer, and a comic book geek, so they looked interesting to me. Unfortunately they didn't support widescreen, so I set them aside - I've got plenty of other widescreen compatible games to still play.

I bought a subscription to GameTap the day that Sam & Max came out. I'd been meaning to check GameTap out, and this was the final straw. While the GameTap interface does support 1680x1050 and 1920x1080, Sam & Max did not. I like the game, and will finish it. I'm old school enough to remember release days for the original King's Quest, Ultima, and LucasArts games; so it's basically a requirement to play. But, needless to say I am disappointed in the lack of widescreen support.

But, I have to wonder why the developers don't embrace widescreen. All Macs now are widescreen. A large portion (if not majority) of notebooks from the major manufacturers are widescreen, and widescreen monitors are now very affordable. HDTV is taking off, so the widescreen landscape is hitting it's stride and maturing.

Over this past year we did an interview (link) with some of the folks at Sigil Games, who are making Vanguard: Saga of Heroes, after Brad McQuaid has stopped by our forums. In the interview their Director of Technology, Ryan Elam, said:
[quote]"With almost no exception, 3D programs use the mathematical equivalent of a ‘pinhole camera’, one with an infinitely small aperture. Converting a game to widescreen is actually quite simple, and any game maker who is making a PC game is going to already have everything in his engine that he needs to support widescreen. You can think of the typical ‘camera’ as having a completely adjustable aspect ratio.

The same math that allows us to render at 1280x1024 or 1024x768 is used to render at 1600x900 or 1920x1080. The only real difference is the number of pixels and a larger ‘viewport’ which would cause more things to be rendered, but programmers don’t really have to take extra steps to account for such a change."[/quote]
He also went on to say:
[quote]"Widescreen is certainly a friend of the MMOG game designer... it offers us the ability to grant the users a panoramic view of a landscape that our artists have spent so much time on...[/quote]
I would certainly agree with him, and go on to say that widescreen is friend of adventure games and gamers as well. Many titles offer great immersion with their characters and story, and/or expansive worlds to explore (adventure in). And, while the landscape of Sam & Max may not have "vistas" it does have a wonderful, quirky design of which I'd like to see more of. And, you have characters that certainly immerse you into the story.

All of this rambling exposition is not to pimp my own site, or toot my own horn. It's to provide some background as to my stanpoint and experience, and to say/show that I'm not someone simply swooping in to say, "you suck" or "why can't you do what I want." I honestly what to understand what may be barriers to developers implementing widescreen. So, to the real questions:

Is there a reason that Telltale has chosen not to include widescreen support? (Ryam Elam indicated it would be relatively easy for 3D programming.)

Is it too small of a market? (Heck, I'd love to partner with Telltale and help spotlight great games that offer great widescreen support.)

Is it just something that hasn't been a priority, or requested?

Great game (event without the 16:10 love), and I'm glad that you got all the press you did for picking up a franchise and genre most people have forgotten about. I can't tell you how happy I am to see adventure games come back, and how much happier I am to see old franchises come back. Thanks for your time and indulging me.

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  • I am not affiliated with Telltale Games, but I may be able to tell you something about widescreen and 3d.

    This is a key sentence in your quote:

    [quote]The same math that allows us to render at 1280x1024 or 1024x768 is used to render at 1600x900 or 1920x1080. The only real difference is the number of pixels and a larger ‘viewport’ which would cause more things to be rendered, but programmers don’t really have to take extra steps to account for such a change." [/quote]

    The 3d engines that Ryan Elam is referring to are the ones where the player has the ability to move and look in any direction. The "viewport", or the angle of view (commonly called the fov, field of view), is changed when rendering in widescreen. Rendering from 4:3 to 16:10 the way Ryan Elam is describing it is akin to taking a step back to see more (increasing the angle of view), except only on the left and right.

    The problem with this in Sam and Max is, in my personal point of view, what do you put in the extra space on the left and right?

    Think about scenes in the game where the entire scene is displayed in one, 4:3 sized screen, and there is no scrolling. You can't just tell the engine to change the angle of view, because there is a set number of things to see in a set sized envinronment - you would have to add something to be displayed to the left and to the right.

    If you stretch things out to fill the extra space, it will be disproportionate (which is what Sam and Max does on widescreens).

    If you stretch everything proportionately, you have to cut off some of the top and some of the bottom to have it be widescreen, which is not something you want either, because then you are missing out on (possibly important) detail.

    Therefore, it is not a totally simple matter to have a widescreen mode. To add things to fill out the screen on the left and right would probably take a decent amount of time, and telltalegames was probably under time pressure, especially since this is an episodic game. Perhaps they just didn't have the time to add widescreen support.

  • You might find some of the comments fropm Jake in this thread and this thread interesting.

    @Jake said: Better resolution independence is on the to-do list. Widescreen is tough when you build environments and in-engine cutscenes that are all framed to be shot at a 4:3 aspect ratio. When you widen the view, suddenly things are showing on the edges that you don't want to be there! (for instance the edge of an environment, or a character who isn't on screen yet) It will take some mucking before this happens properly - maybe not by the end of Sam & Max season one - but we all want to see widescreen support and better resolution independence as much as you guys, I promise. Hopefully whatever's next from TTG can be presented Now in Widescreen or something like that :).

  • You wouldn't need to stretch anything in the engine to have widescreen format. The data is still there already, you just can't see it because you're not looking in that direction. The view in Sam & Max Season 1 is from a "camera" viewpoint, and everything is in 3D. So there wouldn't be any worry about where to get the data for the extra width for.

  • Stretching isn't an issue. The issue is like... for instance the Midtown Cowboys set in episode 2. The camera angles used when you're actually taping the episode of Midtown Cowboys were all framed to look like a TV sitcom - everything you do when Midtown Cowboys is filming all takes place within the set - you never see the director, you never see the lights, you never see the edges where it fades off into the soundstage. If that part of the game suddenly went to widescreen, you would see those things, and suddenly the joke would no longer work as well, because it wouldn't look like Sam and Max were actually on a live sitcom on TV... it would still look like they were just wandering around a sitcom set.

    Now, if you take that a step further, outside the fictional reality of WARP TV, and into the technological reality of the game itself, think about maybe when they're down at the edge of the street by Sybil's. Right now when you're at the far left end of the street, the edge of the screen is at the edge of Sybil's store - you can never see past that far edge.* If things suddenly went widescreen, you'd have another 300 pixels of space displaying off to the left, and what's there? Not a whole lot! This could be fixed by keeping the camera from going over that far, but it wasn't something we had time to go and retroactively correct in each environment and each camera angle while still in production of the season. We had to make a lot of decisions about what things got the time and focus spent on them, and what were low prioroties that could wait. It's a problem which is easy to fix from a tech standpoint (and it's fixed - our engine does widescreen no problem), but when the art itself is built to be framed and filmed in a 4:3 window, you have to be careful when you're suddenly displaying its hairy edge-bits, some of which were generally never meant to be seen.

    For what it's worth, CSI: Hard Evidence supports widescreen, and widescreen is on the books for future Sam & Max episodes as well.

    * Except in Reality 2.0, of course, but that was deliberate. :)

  • Thanks for the response Jake. About Episode 2 at WarpTV, situations like that could always just switch to 4:3 aspect, even if you're in widescreen mode. :) I don't have a widescreen monitor myself, but I think it's something worth implementing. People always enjoy options, and a widescreen option would be useful to lots of people.

    Even if people can't use something, when they see support for something or elaborate options in a game they are impressed by them. So it would always improve ratings, even if not everyone can use it. :)

    P.S. This has nothing to do with widescreen support, but I would consider implementing the "warp speed" for Season 2 as well. It could just simply double or triple Sam & Max's speed, even the animations (I think you could get away with speeding up all the animations with warp speed, it would just fit with the cartoonish theme.). :)

  • @AdamG said: Thanks for the response Jake. About Episode 2 at WarpTV, situations like that could always just switch to 4:3 aspect, even if you're in widescreen mode. :)

    I was just using WARP / Midtown Cowboys as an example, and as a bit of an analogy, of the issues. I didn't mean that it or any other part of Season 1 isn't widescreenable. You cant just make the window bigger and have everything look 100% perfect is all :) The reason we didn't just drop in a "widescreen!!" button is because, while the problem isn't insurmountable (it has in fact already been ..surmounted), it wasn't a one-button fix, either.

  • I know, I was just saying. :p

  • @AdamG said: Even if people can't use something, when they see support for something or elaborate options in a game they are impressed by them. So it would always improve ratings, even if not everyone can use it.

    I tells ya, the only reason I stuck with Sam & Max was because of that newfangled "warp speed' checkbox in the options. My PC doesn't support "warp speed" of course, but it sure is reassuring knowing the option exists.

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