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Most PC games nowadays obviously come with the standard option to change the game's resolution from between 640x480 to 1920x1080 on average, depending on your monitor and whether or not you are playing in windowed mode. However, when developing a retro pixel art game, allowing the resolution change to be between 640x480 and 1920x1080 is rather absurd.

So in a pixel art game where, at default resolution, one frame of the main character's sprite is 16x32 pixels, what would you like to see the game's default resolution to be, and by how much would it scale with each resolution option? Would a square screen be better than a widescreen? How many map tiles (at 32x32) would be best to display across and down?

So, in general, what would be the optimum game screen size and at what resolution for a pixel art game now? Your opinions are appreciated.

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3 Answers

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Depends on the game, if the game is single-player, let the user select a resolution, if they are happy for small characters, they can have it, if they want to feel connected with the game, they can use a lower resolution.

Games like Civilization opt for this method.

However, if you're building a multiplayer game, you're going to need a fixed resolution, providing players with different view-ports is somewhat unfair - if I can see more of the map because I run at 1920x1200 and you're stuck at 640x480.

Games Command and Conquer (at least the old ones) opt for this method.

You could render your sprites at a high resolution, and then scale them at render time, someone at your pristine resolution would see the characters at 1:1 someone at the lower resolutions would see a scaled image.

I believe Diablo II did this, as it allowed 640x480 or 800x600

What is the perfect resolution? well, personally I think 1920x1200 because that's what my monitor is :) However a more objective answer may come from some statistics, perhaps the Steam Hardware Survey would be a good place to start.

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Thanks, that summed everything up nicely. –  GamersIncoming Mar 5 '12 at 16:49
    
Just to complete: if it wasn't a question for a 2D game, then those advice doesnt hold. Supreme Commander don't follow at all your recommandations, and it's a widely aclaimed 3D rendered RTS that allow and support dual monitor and different screen resolution because what you see is the same whatever the resolution. –  Klaim Mar 5 '12 at 20:54
    
No, it's 2d, that's fine thanks. –  GamersIncoming Mar 5 '12 at 22:13
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In order to still get something that looks decent by modern standards you should choose something around 512x320 (16:10). I'm not a big fan of the retro pixel look, I guess it makes the art job smaller, but you could go with a simplistic cartoony look to make the same saving and still let players keep all their pixels.

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IMHO you should allow your game to run at a native monitor resolution which typically will be some kind of widescreen aspect ratio, 1600x900, 1920x1080 or 1920x1200 etc. For the unusual case of a 4:3 monitor leaving black borders on top and bottom should be fine, unless you want to be extra flexible.

If your art is too small for this, scale your game up but leave the resolution high as changing it may be a pain and is sometimes tricky, especially on multi-monitor setups. By allowing your game to run in a high-res window you'd be dodging the problem altogether.

For retro-style image scalers these links should get you started:

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