Challenge #2: Use Windowed or Fullscreen?

Yesterday, there was a post about different ways to annoy people. Today I’m throwing a challenge for you.

The Challenge
Let’s presume there’s people who want that when game starts, it automatically starts in fullscreen – without any hassles, no ‘ask for windowed/fullscreen’ – just start the game in fullscreen and be done with it. Then there’s people who want to run the game in windowed mode. They’d prefer if the game would ask before setting a fullscreen mode.

Now, the challenge: as you know that some people want fullscreen and some people want windowed game screen, how would you design your game to start?

Feel free to leave a reply and tell us what you think about this.

Juuso Hietalahti


  1. I’d suggest checking that out from some technical forums such as gamedev.net – it depends on how you are making your game (what tools you have).

  2. Guys,

    Hope you are still running this forum.

    Is there a way you can actually force a game that launches itself in full screen, to launch or switch to windowed.

    (having pbs with default graphic settings with Anno 1503 implying an “out of Range” )

  3. With an option in the preferences section that will allow the user to set wether to open the game in windowed or in fullscreen modes.

  4. My personal preference would be to have a small application that’s accessible through the game’s listing in the Start menu. The app would give you the options for screen resolutions and settings. Then, the app would store the results in a configuration file that the engine could load. Max Payne made good use of this method.

  5. See how much great variety there is in opinions… some people want game to start in windowed, some full screen, some with launchers… and some people are strongly against any one of these options.

    Here’s a brief summary what’s suggested:
    – depends on game
    – casual: windowed
    – launcher
    – launcher (where you can mark ‘show launcher on startup’)
    – launcher should also ask resolution, and bit depth
    – no complicated launchers (especially for casual games)
    – two separate shortcuts
    – two separate shortcuts would annoy
    – change in game menu
    – change using keyboard shortcut
    – change mode in small corner-art icon (minimize, window, close)
    – installer should ask and store the settings
    – go fullscreen without asking is annoying
    – box that asks windowed or fullscreen

    I don’t have the correct answer, but I’m leaning into the following ways:
    – Casual games in windowed
    – Other games in fullscreen
    – or all games have easy-to-use game launcher where you could also tick ‘show launcher on startup’

    It depends on the game. Some games could use corner art, some could use shortkeys, but a minimum would be in-game options screen (or launcher) where you could change settings. I would never use more than 1 desktop shortcut icons. If there would be need for additional ‘launcher’ icon, I’d put it in the start menu.

  6. Personally, I enjoy World of Warcraft’s method the best. It doesn’t let you choose at the beginning, but it has a “Switch Windowed/Full Screen” hotkey listed under the controls. I press Ctrl-M and it painlessly goes from full screen to windowed and back. Better yet, if I quit the game in one mode, it restarts it in that same mode.

  7. And I should add, these settings are obviously saved across sessions :)

  8. Pick one or the other. Don’t confuse people with popups and complex launchers where you don’t have to, especially if your game is for a casual audience.

    Personally, my games start full screen and have the option to change to windowed mode via a very simple settings screen which contains only:

    Music Volume
    FX Volume
    Fullscreen/Windowed Toggle

    This way, if a user really wants the game windowed, the option is very, very easy to find.

  9. Thomas White Says:

    For casual games which can run in a window or fullscreen I would suggest having two separate shortcuts.

    As a gamer, that would really tick me off.
    I’m quite picky about my icons, and having 2 just for one game sucks IMO.
    Some games have 2-3 and it is very cluttering, I usually delete the ones I don’t use.

    As a programmer I would probably either,
    1. Pop up a dialog with Windowed/Fullscreen options, or
    2. Start fullscreen and have options for starting in prefered mode from then on.

  10. I always on FIRST run ask if user wish to run fullscreen or window (and if program has support for different resolutions I have choice for that too).

    Simple and works.

    I personally get extremely annoyed if program (be it game, demo, or anything) go fullscreen without asking so I prefer this aproach and sofar I haven’t heard any complaints.

    After program start, user can change settings from options, or use alt + enter. Program remembers last setting so in next launch it use it, be it fullscreen or window.

  11. 1) Perhaps add it as a selection box on an anstall window you have already, like “create desktop icon” – having it default to what YOU like, but letting them change there might e the least painful option.

    2) I like the games that have a small corner-art that looks like any other window, with a minimize, window, and close icon. That’s pretty intuitive, and saves me the trouble of going to a menu.

  12. Once you choose full-screen or windowed mode in my games, it will always load up the same way each time, it’s just that the first time will always be full-screen.

    Two icons is NOT a good idea imho, imagine if all games were like that, you’d have double everything on your desktop (or some other folder). It might be allowabale on the Start Menu though.

  13. I say that not only should it ask it should also ask what resolution and bit depth (when applicable) you want to run it at. Like others have suggested it should include a little checkbox for showing or not showing this dialog at every launch.

  14. The installer should ask and store the setting.

  15. For me the best solution is to have a small window at startup ask the user if they want to start in full screen or windowed version. A small tick box would be present for the user to specify the default option they desire, so that dont have to deal with selecting this at game start. An option within the game would allow the user to change this as well as reset default options and to redisplay this small startup.

    Thats my tuppence!


  16. I was going to write exactly what Thomas just said above. Two shortcuts or a small dialog the first time the game runs. That should please most folk.

  17. I did on the fly mode changing in my Bonus games. You can press F at *ANY* time and it will flip modes. You can also press M in full-screen mode and it will change to windowed mode, minimise and pause the game/music (in case your boss comes in) :-) Actually this proved a bit of a bitch to code because the screen must be completely redrawn after going back into the game to overwirte any corrupt graphics on the video card.

    I think most games should start full-screen. A prompt on boot is just another thing to get in the way of the player. Anyway, it’s been a long time since full-screen games messed all my icons up, that used to happen years ago with some commercial shop bought games.

  18. i thought about this when i was first writing CG_01, and the best i could come up with was a separate window, appearing at launch of the app, that allows users to select which one they wanted.


  19. my games let yuou toggle between windowed and fullscreen using alt-enter, even in the middle of the game. You can also use a button under options.
    Those little startup selector programs are only used by people who cant be bothered to support on-the-fly mdoe changing, which is actually trivial to do.

  20. Yeah, that was weak! :) Every game should start like Oblivion does. It gives you all the options you’d need before starting a full window by first opening a smaller sized window that gives you access to their website, options and a bunch of other things that you don’t have to go all the way into the game for. A game like BF2 needs to have a prompt that comes up each time the game starts because if you start the game, wait through all the company videos to display and finally login and get into the graphics options, changing some of the graphics options requires a restart. If the designers knew that changing these options would require reloading the game, why didn’t the game ask the user what they wanted before they logged in? It’s probably easier for the first time user to just go right into the game because they don’t know what graphics options they’re going to want yet. But people only start a game once. After that it should at least give the option of changing the settings before reloading the game.

    I also think that the video graphics that show up before many games are insanely frustrating and a waste of my time. I always watch them the first time I load the game and then I just pull my hair out waiting for them to finish every other time I load a game.

  21. For casual games which can run in a window or fullscreen I would suggest having two separate shortcuts, so the user can select which way they want the game to load by using the appropriate shortcut.

    Otherwise you could use a dialog on the first load to ask what they’d prefer, then use that as the default for every subsequent load (with the in-game options allowing them to change the default).

  22. As wussy of an answer as it may seem, it completely depends on the game. If the game is intended to be atmospheric or entrenching, then fullscreen without a doubt. If the game is intended to be casual and played while multitasking, and/or has no real-time gameplay components, then I’d say windowed. Things that fall in neither or both categories are shades of gray and should be judged on an individual basis.

  23. A possible approach: on the first run, show an alert dialog* asking the user whether he wants to run the game in fullscreen or not. Quite simple yet effective.. I don’t think any user would feel confused or annoyed about that.

    *-message box- for the Windows programmers out there ^^

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