Friday, 5 September 2014

Back to Work: Aspect Ratios and Talent Trees

My goodness, the last post was in April. How lazy I've been.

In my defence, quite a lot has happened since then. In May I started the full-time crunch/panic appropriate for the end of my degree (actually that started quite a bit earlier, but playing games and writing about them is a pleasant form of procrastination), and then in June I got married. July was mostly spent on my honeymoon, and now August has passed while I sit at my desk, calling strangers and asking them for a job (or rather, another job; I've been employed for the last two years as a writer/editor/VBA developer by a law-publishing firm but it's getting rather dull now). However, I have not been completely idle.

For example, this blog now has more draft posts than published ones. Why? As usual, there's someone who can explain that better than I can:
‘My problem is that I’ve now reached the stage where I really can’t work out what I think unless I write it out; the process of writing is now so intimately connected to my broader processes of cognition and judgement that I can’t really do without it. I’ve got those writerly blue-on-blue eyes now, and without my regular doses of ecriture ‘Melange’ I’d be in a parlous state’ - Adam Roberts
In short, I've been writing posts to work through various game design problems and then, having reached a conclusion in my head, gone away and implemented that solution without writing the rest of it down. Without the need to work through an argument on paper/screen, the post withers and dies like the grass and the flowers that fade, while the word of the LORD stands eternal. Sorry, not sure what happened there.

Anyway, I've been dallying with the idea of working all these little problem-solving exercises into full posts, but I can't quite bring myself to do it—partly because it would represent hard work, to which I am ideologically opposed, and partly because in hindsight the solutions are so obvious that I'd feel like a right muppet admitting that I'd had to think about them at all. On the other hand, it may well be that there are some people out there as stupid as I am (unlikely but theoretically possible), and so someone, somewhere might gain some small benefit from my conclusions. As a compromise between dignity and mistaken do-goodery, I'll make mini versions of each post, summarising the problem and my particular solution. Two will do for now and future ones may get their own posts. Enough waffling.

Aspect Ratios
Problem: Not everyone's PC monitor has the same aspect ratio. Most (players) have 16:9, but many still have 4:3 or others. The usual solution to this, at least with FPSs and similar, is to make exactly the same game but reduce the field-of-view or camera angle for the narrower screens, reducing the amount that you can see on the screen at once. My game is a top-down turn-based team-strategy affair, and I want the entire arena to be visible on-screen at once without having to scroll/zoom, so this camera-based approach isn't going to work.