The Edging Out of Standard Definition Gaming

When it comes to this generation of consoles, players expect their games to look as good as possible. But it doesn’t matter how much effort a developer puts into their game to make it as crisp and clean as they can when players don’t have an HDTV to play it on.

I remember the day I upgraded to high def. Skyrim had been out for about a month, and I was too absorbed into the world and rich lore to care about anything technical. Then, one day, I remember sitting back after a long play session and thinking, “Man, I’m sick of squinting at my TV to read subtitles and text.”

It clicked. I had to move on. My standard TV wasn’t small, but it just wasn’t getting the job done anymore. Important markers, small details, and even words were just too grainy to notice. Taking the extra effort to pay attention to such things pulled me from the immersion in my games. However, not all of this is the television’s fault.

Test PatternDevelopers no longer create games with SD players in mind. From cut-off HUDs and compasses that make managing things like your location and current health nearly impossible to important details being just too darn small to notice, games today are being created solely for HDTVs, and those without them are getting left behind.

Upon the release of Dead Rising, many players complained that the text was too small and hard to read. To no one’s surprise, these cries came from those in the standard def paradigm. “Unfortunately, Dead Rising was optimized for high definition TVs,” the developer Capcom said in response. They offered some obvious solutions (like adjusting the settings on your television display), but nothing was really done to fix this. The game was created for HDTVs, and those that lacked one suffered for it.

Dead RisingGames like the Xbox version of Minecraft simply leave out features if you don’t have a high def resolution. Splitscreen is a popular way to play some couch co-op Minecraft with friends, but if you don’t have an HDTV, you’re out of luck. The option to have more than one player available per Xbox isn’t even available on standard definition TVs. One could argue that even on an HDTV, splitscreen makes Minecraft menu and inventory navigation significantly more difficult, but shouldn’t the option at least be available to all?

These examples aren’t necessarily typical, but the number of games that alienate SD gamers is staggering. It’s hard to play an RPG or shooter on a standard definition television nowadays without the minimap or some significant HUD item bleeding into the edge of the screen to the point of it being rendered useless.

MinecraftI finally decided enough was enough.

Once I moved on to HD, it was as if I was meeting the Xbox for the first time. Seeing my favorite games in 1080p quality changed how I experienced them as a whole. Not only did they look better, but it was no longer a chore to micromanage my health, ammo, mana, questlog, or whatever else the game offered. I believe developers can do a better job of making those still stuck with standard definition sets not feel like they have to go the extra mile to play their games the right way. No one expects that an old TV will ever look as good as an HD one, but that doesn’t mean their experience of a game should suffer for it.

To those of you without HDTVs, are you bothered by how developers build their games without you in mind? With the new console generation approaching, do you plan to upgrade your TV soon, considering the shift to high def is only going to get stronger?

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