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Dragon Age 2 fails to consider standard-definition TV owners

Have you bought Dragon Age 2? Have you been playing it all week? Are you enjoying it?

Before you answer, let me ask you this: Do you still play games on an SDTV?

If so, then even if you did buy Dragon Age 2, there's a much greater chance your answer to those first few questions is a resounding "hell no." An almost laughably sloppy glitch portrays every cut-scene in the game (including every conversation scene, which is like half the damn game) in the wrong aspect ratio — they're 16:9 widescreen format but squished for an SDTV's 4:3 display.

So, in other words, instead of this:

You're looking at this:

Dragon Age 2 Squished

And it's actually worse than that because, on top of the squished display, the image also weirdly flickers during cut-scenes too, so it's not even a consistently broken display.

 

How this glitch made it into retail copies befuddles the mind. It is instantly noticeable 10 seconds into the opening cutscene of the game. So this means either A) BioWare didn't once test the game on an SDTV, or B) they did, but didn't care and released the game anyway. And if that's so, then A) they released it with the intention of eventually fixing it with a patch post-release, or B) they still don't care, and have no intention of fixing it ever.

I wish I knew the answer to that, but so far (from what I've seen) all BioWare has said on the subject is that they're "looking into these, and other issues" (in a thread that indeed mentioned other glitches in the game, so it wasn't even specifically an acknowledgment of this particular glitch). And word of the first patch planned for the game mentions nothing about this problem.

Oh, but I can already hear you now: "So what? Get with the times and upgrade to an HDTV!" Fair enough, but this raises the bigger question I want to consider here: Should I have to? At what point does the industry cross the rubicon of no longer offering any support whatsoever to SDTV gamers…and what do developers owe SDTV gamers when that point is crossed?

What's almost even more remarkable than the glitch making it into Dragon Age 2 to begin with is that, at least from everything I read, there was absolutely no warning about it — not from BioWare (which, as we've established, probably knew about the problem before release), nor from any review I've read. Could it be that no publication tried the game on an SDTV before publishing their review?

Evidently so, because again, there's no way someone would have played the game on an SDTV and not noticed this. So I ask again: Should they have? Did they have a responsibility to their readers who still play on SDTVs to warn them about this problem?

SDTV
Relic, yes — but do gamers still playing on
these no longer deserve any consideration?

You could, I suppose, make a case that they didn't — SDTV is in fact a dying technology, and you can't presume every outlet will continue serving SDTV gamers who haven't upgraded yet (even if they have perfectly good reasons for why they haven't). In fact, most reviewers may not even own an SDTV anymore, so logistically they may not be able to test games on one even if they wanted to.

But when it comes to BioWare, I'm having a hard time envisioning a scenario where their handling of this issue is justifiable. Whether they want to continue offering support to SDTV owners is their own choice — and certainly, even if this aspect ratio glitch didn't exist, the horribly tiny text still makes this game and many others frustrating as hell to play on a standard def display. (Although Gran Turismo 5 offers such a nifty solution to that problem — a zoom button to push in on menu screens — I have to wonder why all games can't simply add that option too. Maybe that feature alone is where one of the five years of its development time went into?)

But if abandoning SDTVs is the choice they want to make, wouldn't the least they could do be to warn SDTV owners before they drop $60 for the game on day one? There will come a time when no game developer puts any consideration whatsoever into how their games look and play on an SDTV, and that's the inevitable march of progress. Fine. But all I'm asking for is a little heads-up, first.

(Unless of course I've upgraded to an HDTV by then, at which point this will all immediately cease to matter, and I couldn't care less about what those backwards-ass stone-age SDTV owners are forced to deal with. Fuck 'em. Seriously fuck 'em.)


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