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The XBLIG submission check-list asks to ensure all gameplay-critical graphics be visible in the 'TitleSafeArea'.

I've received a bug report during play-testing that says parts of my scrolling 2D map are only half-visible (chopped off from the left of the screen).

I've tested the game on a 47" TV and a 19" VGA monitor and both look fine. However, the bug report says the issue occurs on a standard 20" TV.

How can I test different sizes without buying differently sized TVs?

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up vote 5 down vote accepted

Take a reasonably good 4:3 LCD monitor. Put electrical tape, or some other opaque tape, over the left/right/top/bottom 5% of your screen. Put scotch tape, or some other semi-transparent tape, over the next 3% of your screen. (So a total of 8% on all sides is covered.) Now do the same thing with a reasonably good 16:9 LCD monitor, but cover 5% on the left/right with scotch tape - so 8% on top/bottom, 10% on left/right.

You now have two serviceable approximations of crappy TVs - the very edges are completely covered, and some amount beyond that is visible but too blurry to contain text or other detailed graphics.

For extra credit, implement that effect in your rendering engine to save yourself some tape.

One myth I've heard repeatedly about overscan/safe areas is that HD TVs don't have them. That's not true. All HD CRTs have overscan areas and many LCD and plasma models do as well. Some don't but will simulate overscan for non-HDMI/DVI/VGA input, including HD Y'PbPr ("component") input. I suspect this myth exists because most people hook up their HDTVs using HDMI or VGA.

Another myth I've heard is that the title-safe area is a fixed size, e.g it's always 2cm from the edge, or it's always 50 pixels from the edge, so it's proportionately smaller on large or HD TVs. That is also not true. Safe areas are generally proportional to the TV size, and that size is fixed regardless of the resolution the screen is displaying - they're a physical property of the TV screen, or simulated as such. I suspect this myth exists because higher-end and newer HDTVs do have smaller unsafe areas.

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I don't think this will work - on a computer, TitleSafeArea returns the whole screen, while on the XBox 360, TitleSafeArea chops part of the edges off. So, by doing this you are actually chopping off part of the TitleSafeArea, which you're not supposed to have to do. – BlueRaja - Danny Pflughoeft Jun 28 '11 at 18:29
I am not suggesting using TitleSafeArea. – user744 Jun 28 '11 at 19:37
Thanks a lot. I implemented a debug border in my engine that hides everything that's not in the TitleSafeArea. I'll add another semi-transparent 3% border based on your recommendation. – Steve Dunn Jul 3 '11 at 14:34

Orthogonal to your question, but; when playing on a television, many games will have the user resize the drawing area (ie. "resize the screen using the joystick until these four white squares are at the corners of your screen") when the game starts up for the first time. Make sure they can access it again later, in case they get a new TV.

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I knew I was forgetting something! I was writing about that but I got distracted and forgot to put it in. +1 – AttackingHobo Jun 28 '11 at 21:38

Generally speaking you should design your game so that anything which has to be seen is drawn within the bounds of the TitleSafeArea, not the Viewport itself. You can find the size of the TitleSafeArea using the TitleSafeArea property of Microsoft.Xna.Framework.Graphics.Viewport structure. The size of the TitleSafeArea rectangle will change for different displays and platforms.

Without testing every size, type and model of TV ever made, you can't know that anything drawn to screen coordinates outside this TitleSafeArea will actually be displayed for a given user. On the other hand, you can be reasonably sure anything drawn inside this area will be displayed.

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"On the other hand, you can be sure anything drawn inside this area will be displayed." You can assume it with a high degree of probability, but you can't be sure at all. – user744 Jul 1 '11 at 17:56

Many CRT TVs are not perfectly rectangular. They have pixels on the sides and top that are cut off at the sides. Typically the 80% inner portion of the screen is guaranteed to be safe.

On HD resolutions it will most likely to have 0 to 5% missing of the screen area.

In your game engine, add some temporary guides so you can align all the critical parts in the viewing area, and test at all the resolutions that you need to support.

Even if your screen is wide, and the aspect ratio is wrong on it, your guides will be able to help you adjust it.

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