Ah, the eve of a big Apple keynote.

We're guessing that you're aware of the rumors by now, but just in case: word is that, tomorrow, at the Apple event, the company will announce two new products. One will be a taller iPhone. The other a smaller iPad dubbed iPad mini.

Like most people, we don't know what Apple is going to show off. But, let's pretend for a moment that both of these predictions are accurate. This means that in the near future two new devices with new screen sizes are going to be introduced to the market.

Our guts say that this isn't going to be a big deal for game makers, but we wanted to ask just to make sure. Earlier today, we posed the following two question to a group of some of the hippest developers out there, hoping to learn what hurdles they'll have to jump over, on an interface level, as they ready new and old games for the possible new devices.

If the rumors are true and the iPhone's aspect ratio is changing to be taller (or wider in landscape mode), how is this going to change how you design game interfaces?

Similarly, if the iPad mini is an actual, real thing, how are you going to approach that?

The answers are telling. No-one is out of their mind worried about the upcoming changes, but there are some concerns with the normal stuff, like say, processors. Let's dive into it.


Simon Flesser, Simogo: "I think a lot of people underestimate how much work it is to design a game that operates in different aspect ratios, especially for 2D games in which the players have to control the scroll themselves by moving the character. In some cases it's nearly impossible. That is why you see Nintendo locking their 2D games in an aspect ratio, New Super Mario Brothers Wii was 16:9 only and Wario Land for the same console was 4:3, and they added borders. You always have to be sure what the players can and cannot see, especially in platform games.

It is easier in autoscrollers like Bumpy Road though, because in these games the developer is in full control of what the player can and cannot see at any given time. For one-screen 2D games it is obviously the same case, but we still feel that it's important to fill that extra space with something valuable. In Beat Sneak Bandit the gameplay area is the same on all platforms, but for iPad we made brick walls that I actually think adds a bit to the visuals.

We actually thought a lot about that when starting to work on Year Walk. We've chosen to go with our own letterboxed aspect ratio. It is mainly to give it its own unique, very cinematic, look, but it solves a lot of problems for us too.

When it comes to the iPad mini it's a little easier, since it's the same aspect ratio -- but we'll have to be careful there again. Again, it's really underestimated how much thinking there goes in to making visuals that works both on small and big screens. When designing for small screens, all the details need to be really clear (often you have to make stuff a lot bigger to make sure they are visible), characters need to be expressive, text often needs to be a lot larger. It still has to look good when blown up to the iPad. And now we have a third size to think about! So a challenge, but not as big as the potential aspect ratio change.

Also, something that feels like a gentle little swipe on small screens does not always feel as good on the iPad, and vice versa and now we have one more size to consider.

So to sum it up: Yeah, cool to have our games run on new fancy devices, but a change of aspect ratio is definitely the worst case scenario for a game designer."


Jonas Wills, Phobic Studios: "We're already looking at making our games support flexible aspect ratios for Android, so it doesn't change much.


Adam Saltsman, Semi-Secret Software: "I guess interface design is almost the least of my worries. We already have two different aspect ratios to support, so we need some flexibility there already. Having more is a bit of a hassle, but not a huge impediment to development.

Something we're running into with Hundreds is it was originally a very iPad specific game, like, across the whole game itself, not just the interface (although you COULD argue that Hundreds is nothing but interface etc) so we actually have to manually customize and tweak a lot of the levels to … "localize" properly to the iPhone ratio a lot of interface stuff. I feel like it can be generalized into a formula you know -- like "this goes in the corner here, this element stretches, etc," but when your games are designed around a specific idiom or metaphor or whatever, then these different aspect ratios can have a pretty big impact but THAT isn't the biggest worry I have either.

The main thing is there will be more powerful devices out, which means the new OS will require more power, which means players on older devices that upgrade will have a bit less power available for their games. Keeping our stuff running 60fps on an iPad 1 is already pretty difficult. A lot of games are just dropping support for [the original] iPad, but since its an ARM7 device there's no way we can prevent iPad 1 owners from buying a game through the App Store that really won't be optimal.

The upside to new hardware is a new bump in the audience size, and people revisiting the "classic" games, which is always nice when your games are sometimes on those lists, especially Bit Blot's Aquaria, which we published, which is just ridiculously pretty on new screens."


Keith Shepard, Imangi Studios: "I'm looking forward to whatever apple announces tomorrow. I'm excited about the potential for a slight taller iPhone or a new smaller iPad."


Lee Petty, Art Director, Double Fine: "At Double Fine, we're used to shipping games on a wide variety of platforms with different aspect ratios and resolutions. As much as possible, we try and create our game's visuals at the highest resolution possible with an eye towards how our games will work on lower end platforms. With Double Fine Adventure, for example, we are authoring all of our art at 2048x1536 (a 4:3 aspect ratio and the iPad 3 retina resolution), but have several guidelines and templates that we can display directly on the game to make sure that everything works equally well with other aspect ratios and resolutions (such as 16:9, the rumored iPhone 5 aspect ratio).

Most of the cropping/downsampling of the art assets is handled in our build pipeline for the various platforms, but some of the UI requires different layout data so that the elements can be placed and scaled to be more appropriate for a particular platform.

As new devices are released, we should be able to adapt our current tools to support new aspect ratios and resolutions with relative ease."

  • Gemutlichkeit

    I have a feeling that Apple will release a default setup for older games not designed for the new ratio. You'll automatically get black bars.

    I'd say for the old games, leave them be if you must. No big deal. Like for Beat Sneak Bandit, I see no reason why they should feel they need to redo all the stages and graphics and what not just to fill that blank space.  

    But from here on out it's going to be cool to have more real-estate to mess with. So the change will happen. I'm just hoping Apple has made it easier for devs to adapt the old ratio to the new screen.

  • ILSc0p3z7I

    Stoked on new devices!!!

  • ducksFANjason

    Yea, I say black bars above and below the screen (on old completed apps) to compensate for the new taller aspect ratio is just fine by me.

  • http://twitter.com/teh_tommy Tommy

    Great article, just a side note - I believe that Double Fine dude's name is Petty, not Perry.

  • ImJPaul

    I'm pretty sure just the iPhone 5 is being announced tomorrow. That's according to cnet anyways. The iPad mini is supposed to come a few months later. But then again who knows?! I still can't wait to find out though. However, I won't be getting a new iPhone until early next year. That's okay though. I only use my iPad for gaming. iPhones just a phone to me.

  • Adams Immersive

    I’m with John Gruber: the iPhone 5 and iPad Mini(?) will get two separate press events. Evidence is that they’ll be released at different times, so why not extend the media attention with a separate event?

    Tomorrow is for the iPhone 5. (Although other “companion” stuff like iPods or AirPort accessories might be seen too. And the existing iPad will likely get the new dock connector, even if this isn’t mentioned.)

    • JCman7

       Boo I want iPad mini announcement tomorrow! lol

  • Greyskull

    I'm afraid of new iOS updates. Yeah, I said, AFRAID. I want real mapping software for the GPS (even though I use a 5" Magellan in my car). I want the Instapaper-like functionality that 6.0 will bring.

    But I hate the uncertainty. What will run. What won't. How much storage space will I have to sacrifice? How will it affect performance? What useful APIs will be deprecated? How about the battery life?

    I'll probably wait until the inevitable bug fixes before I update. I used to live on the bleeding edge. I worked for a 3rd party tech support company in the corporate client division, specifically Open Issues (bugs without a known fix); assigned to, at that time, one of the largest PC makers on the planet. I'm not talking about your minimum wage-earning call bank staffer; I was making just shy of 6 figures, so I knew my tech...especially networking and intranet database quirks.

    But that was over a decade ago. Change scares me now :(

  • http://www.facebook.com/aaron.marroquin.106 Aaron Marroquin

    Oh man this is a great article. Thanks for posting!

  • wingz

    Hmmmmm i heard tht they were gonna being out a new redesigned ipod touch with the A5 chip,bigger RAM and a better camera with possibly a LED flash i hope this is true cause i really like the ipod touch more than the iphone im not sure why i just like it more.

    • http://pinoyteens.net/ PinoyTeens.Net

      Probably because it's much cheaper? Hehe. That's the reason why I love the iPod touch. :)

  • Vertexpusher

    One thing is for sure, as long as Apple keeps pushing their hardware to the limits, developers will adopt and create better games for these platforms. Looking forward to the announcement tomorrow.

  • Gamer_Kev

    I'm really looking forward to the iPad mini. I love my iPad, but in truth. It's mostly a stay at home device while on the go I tend to use my cheaper 7" Android tablet or my 3rd gen iPod touch. I'd love to replace that Android tablet with a 7" iPad and have full compatibility between all my devices.

  • Benjamin Rodriguez

    So no ipod touch this year then?...again?

    • Nyan

      It is most likely the iPod 5th generation will share the stage with the iPhone. It will most likely feature the same A5 chip as in the iPhone 4S with a 4" display. Then again, these are rumors so I could be wrong.

  • albinosalad

    My biggest concern is that they replace the iPad with the iPad Mini. It's like using a 19" vs. 24" monitor. Sure, you can get the same job done, but the extra screen space a larger screen provides just feels more comfortable. I feel the same way about 7" vs. 10" tablets.

    • Gamer_Kev

      I seriously doubt it's a replacement for the main iPad line. It will be more of an alternative for those who want a more portable iPad or for more budget conscientious consumers. The current larger iPads are way too popular for Apple to consider replacing. It will be like it is on the Android scene were some people like a larger tablet and some prefer a smaller one, only now, the latter will have the option of choosing ios as well. I myself intend to use both, the big iPad at home and the mini on the go.

  • http://twitter.com/ezonecom Simon Edis

    Any developer that isn't designing for multiple aspect ratios and screen sizes is setting themselves up for a lot of extra work down the track. The release of new devices and platforms is a given, so design for it.

  • JCman7

    Well done TA great article I was just thinking about this question a few days ago and to see it answered is great. Glad to see that most of the devs are excited and up for the challenge.

  • regkilla

    iPhone 5 FTW!!!

  • http://profiles.google.com/karl.thoroddsen Karl Thoroddsen

    Annoying for us 2d developers to have to support all these different aspect ratios.  I thought that Steve Jobs had especially warned against it as well.  In any case the result will probably be more generic (uglier) interfaces from indy develpers while the bigger companies can afford customizing the UI for whatever the screen.

  • iqSoup

    We always develop for multiple reaolutions and different aspect ratios from the get go, but honestly the wider screen is a still going to be a bit of a pain. This is one of the annoying things about Droid, you have so many different screens you have to dev for. Now Apple is heading down that road--you have old school low res iPhones, iPhone 4, two different iPads, and now the iPhone 5 and a mini iPad. Again, not the end of the world but I wish there was magically just one screen you ever needed to dev for. Oh well...