I'm currently designing a competitive 2D, side-scrolling multiplayer game and I want support full screen play at any aspect ratio (e.g., 4:3, 5:4, 16:10, 16:9). Doing that is not so much a problem, my concern is that the viewable area of the game for a player with a 4:3 monitor will differ from that of a player with a 16:9 monitor quite a bit. In a competitive multiplayer game where being able to see more of the game world gives a player a significant advantage over players who cannot this is a serious problem.
So far I've come up with two possible solutions for this:
- Just support different aspect ratios and don't worry about it.
- Pick a specific aspect ratio (say 16:9) and do a best fit on all other aspects (i.e., letterbox or pillarbox)
Option 1 doesn't suit me because it's a lazy cop out. Option 2 is much better but then a portion of the screen will be unused for some players. Certainly not the end of the world but not incredibly desirable either. This could be mitigated by rearranging the UI based on the aspect ratio and filling the letter/pillarbox with UI elements instead of simple black bars making better use of available screen real estate.
How is this sort of thing handled in games like Quake, CoD, StarCraft and Battlefield?