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Aspect ratio in C&C games TD, RA1 and TS


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This has been on my mind for almost 2 decades, and I've been thinking about making a thread here for a few years but never really got to it. But with remasters imminent I feel this matter is most urgent, and I've finally taken the time to do this.

The main question is simple:

What is really the correct graphical aspect ratio for the first three C&C games?

Since TD and RA1 are DOS games made for 320x200 in 4:3 monitors, I always assumed that that was what the games were supposed to look like. The Windows conversions where just unfortunate results because of technical limitations. One could choose the correct aspect ratio resolution, but one usually wanted to have a high resolution for better overview, and 640x480 was unfortunately the highest, so people usually went with that.

Then comes Tiberian Sun and messes everything up exponentially. It's a Windows only game where you have the option to set 640x400, a resolution not really supported in Windows (sysreq for Win9x is 640x480). Why in heavens name does TS have that?

I always felt that the square pixel resolutions were off. It looked cramped. The unconventional 640x400 one felt much better, but not quite right either. Some things looked much better, like units, especially after having seen concept art with scale comparisons, while other more went from one disproportionation to the other, like cliffs. Menus filled the screen, which felt much better considering there were a lot of circles going on and it felt weird to have them end abruptly on-screen. But circles were now distorted. Nothing was really good. And again, if one wanted higher resolution one had to go with the cramped graphics. What the heck happened here?

With the advent of digital displays people were kinda forced to use incorrect aspect ratios to get a clear image. This has bothered me ever since, and been my main motivation to keep old computers and, above all, monitors.

When I heard that there would be remasters, this was the first thing I thought about. This is a golden opportunity to fix it and portray C&C as it was intended. Getting both the old makers as well as proven remakers on the boat looked hopeful. But as EA is ultimately the ones who pulls the strings, so I've veered away from any further news to protect me from a long and painful letdown and insult fest.

However, just a few days into this year I come across what I thought was a retrospective video of Command & Conquer on YouTube. I clicked on it to watch. And holy smokes, the first thing shown are screenshots from the remasters! I was shocked, first afraid of imminent huge disappointment, but to my surprise I felt it looked good and really succeeded in keeping the old feel.

Shortly after I also realise that they used the Windows version cramped aspect ratio. So the natural follow up question on this subject is:

Why isn't the correct aspect ratio used in the remasters?

It is very important to portray the work in the way it was meant by the creators.
If they're actually redrawing all art, then make it right.

They have lots of resolution to play with this time around to compensate for possible iffiness with uneven pixels. There might even be no problems. They take the liberty to add details that obviously wasn't really meant to be there originally, so if some edge is a small fraction of a pixel off when compared to the original it would be acceptable.

I could kinda accept the wrong aspect ratio in TD and RA1 as they kinda look okay that way anyway.

But it will be very disappointing and a waste of otherwise very good effort. The thing is, one kinda already does accept the wrong aspect ratio with the current freeware iterations, so why would I buy a new one with the same wrongdoing? Why would one? It's the same thing again, why pay for that?

And I'm very worried that this sloppy approach will transfer to a possible remaster of Tiberian Sun, kicking the most beautiful but flayed and disgraced horse even further, an insult that surely will awake and enrage my inner keyboard warrior.

There is a realistic opportunity that Tiberian Sun finally could be finalised, the game that had potential to be the greatest RTS ever. If they blow that and treat the released alpha from 1999 as final...

Edited by GilbertGuld
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