The current trend for today's next gen gaming appears to be "cinematic experience". Besides the usual move towards realism, as if adding that brown filter isn't enough, game developers these days also like to add some "cinematic" filters into their games, such as those horizontal blue lens flares, film blur, and deliberate overexposure effect. Sometimes even with film grain. Console games even suffer from a severe case of "30fps cap", because, again, "cinematic experience", when in reality that's just because those consoles became so overwhelmed from rendering all those aforementioned cinematic filters that they cannot render at a smooth 60fps.
But that's not all!
The final element in making a game look "cinematic" is to render all of that in an unusual gaming aspect ratio: the CinemaScope aspect ratio. Enter the black horizontal bars.
Historically, black bars were reserved to only cutscenes. It's the easiest way to make a game's cutscene look cinematic, while also helps to differentiate a cutscene from the actual gameplay. When the gameplay starts, those black bars normally disappear.
Some games, however, keep those black bars permanently present all the time, even in normal gameplay.
Sometimes, it's because the game was rendered that way, in a fixed aspect ratio. For example, games like F.E.A.R. 2 and Mirror's Edge have a fixed 16:9 aspect ratio: playing at any other aspect ratio, such as 4:3, would result in black bars, in order to maintain that 16:9 aspect ratio. Such examples don't count. To count as an example, the native aspect ratio of that game must be something wider, at least 2.00:1 or more, and the developers should clearly and consciously intend it as a way to make their games look more "cinematic". The developers of Sine Mora, a bullet hell game, clearly state their decision to render their game at CinemaScope as to make it look more cinematic.
I noticed that there is now an increasing trend to deliberately and consciously add black bars during gameplay,
in an attempt to make them look more cinematic. The upcoming The Order: 1886 is already being confirmed to run at CinemaScope ratio, which, along with the decision to run at 30fps to make it more cinematic, is one of the game's biggest criticism. This morning, I found out that The Evil Within also runs at CinemaScope, which annoyed quite a lot of gamers, though hacks exist to optionally remove these black bars.
Do you like to play games with black bars in them? Or do you think that these black bars are actually deterrent to gameplay and you would rather have them removed? From what I've gathered, it seems that a lot of gamers are very annoyed by it. Unless you're using a 21:9 monitor, of course, those black bars can indeed be distracting. Running a game at CinemaScope ratio means the game is confined to a much smaller space on the screen. I'd call this "squint-o-vision". Most gamers prefer to have their games fill the entire screen, because it's important to be able to see what's above and below you as well, particularly in an FPS game. Plus, there's even more gameplay immersion without those bars. Games and movies are two different mediums. And the fact that movies were also shot at a narrower, more common 1.85:1 (close to 16:9) makes this "cinematic" argument invalid.
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