The new iPad, if rumors are to be believed, has an extremely high-resolution screen — better than most monitors and packed into a quarter of the display space. The result? iPhone 4-like Retina goodness. But it’s actually kind of hard to visualize this, since most pixel-dense displays are small, and we’re used to a certain level of aliasing on our bigger displays.
Game developer Pixels on Toast has done the work of preparing their upcoming game Food Run to the expected 2048×1536 resolution. The results may help you get into your head just how many pixels we’re talking about here.
They did what most devs will want to do: go back to the vector-based source and re-render from that. Upscaling and cleaning up the art with fancy filters is only a temporary solution. If you’re doing 2D art these days and aren’t specifically looking for a pixelated look, you likely do it in a scalable vector form. Because then you can easily migrate from the above left to the above right. And remember, these pixels are packed into a very small amount of space compared with how they are displayed on your monitor.
The devs also talk about some of the likely side effects of the resolution increase. The GPU must be updated, of course. And the size limit for games is going to have to be raised as well to accommodate the higher-fidelity assets.
As far as the actual look, it’s kind of a matter of taste. Having grown up in the era of big pixels and art that more insinuated what it was instead of actually resembling it, I have a healthy nostalgia for the old style. Arcade games like Metal Slug typified an entire era and are impressive to this day, while personally I find the clean, machined edges of the graphics above (and in many other modern 2D games) to be a little over-polished. There is such a thing as too much detail. But mine is a perspective that was born in hardware limitations and is probably on its way out.
3D games will see a similar improvement in quality, and this level of resolution essentially obsoletes antialiasing filters. Infinity Blade, here I come. And, as previously discussed, the implications of high pixel density for text and photos are pretty serious. We’ll find out just how serious on the 7th.