|Widescreen Gaming: How To Set Up Your Video Card|
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If you're one of the many who are jumping into widescreen gaming with the purchase of your first LCD, there are a few things you need to learn.
Most games simply aren't designed with today's widescreen aspect ratios in mine (16:10 is most common for desktop displays, and 16:9 for home cinema displays). Although more and more developers are factoring in widescreen gamers when designing their games, one look at our Widescreen Games Database will show you things are moving along slow, in terms of native widescreen resolutions.
The first thing you should do before attempting to play a game in widescreen is visit our database. Is the game listed there? Even though widescreen resolutions aren't often supported officially, there are many ways to get a game to run in your native widescreen resolution. Sometimes this requires a registry edit; sometimes you need to change the command line a bit. In some cases, games will work perfectly, and even open up some of the view for you (widescreen monitors feature about 20% more width than standard screens of a respective size).
If the game is not listed, and you are confined to non-native 4:3 resolutions, there are several ways to handle the display. This is what I'm going to tell you about today.
I'm going to use Half Life 2 as an example - even though it DOES have widescreen support. This will allow me to show you exactly what you'd be missing if the game you want to play supported widescreen resolutions, with a correct field of view. I am only going to use a true widescreen resolution once.
All screenshots will be in a correct 16:10 aspect ratio, scaled down to 560x370 to fit the website.
In this screenshot, you can get an idea of the scope an extra wide screen gives you. Not only can you see past the two trains, but peripheral vision is increased about 20% compared to a standard 4:3 resolution. This is how games should be played.
However, if Half Life 2 didn't support native widescreen resolutions, this is what your video options would look like with a 1680x1050 display:
The game will only allow you to select a resolution as high as the maximum height of your monitor. Since my Dell 2005FPW 20" can only display up to 1050 pixels high, we only get to choose a resolution as high as1152x864 (or in some games, 1280x1024, which is another non-standard resolution which could put me on a whole other tangent). So even though you have plenty of pixels to spare on the sides, the 1050 height will keep you below the 1600x1200 mark. Some games might only go up to 1024x768, if they don't support the rare-but-still-4:3 resolution.
An 1152x864 image is only filling up 56.4% of the total pixels in a 1680x1050 monitor! That leaves a LOT of space potentially going to waste. What to do with all that extra space? That is what I'm going to tell you...