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Drew_Benton

Hardware requirements for serious game development

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Hey guys! I think this is the best sub-forum to ask this question. No other seemed to fit it. Here's my question: For heavy duty serious game development, it is advised to have a separate game development pc. One that is used solely for game programming and compiling. This provides a level of security for your work, since you won't be installing anything or *trying* out stuff, as we all like to do, as for other reasons. My question is: as of now, what would be the best type of computer to do accompish the fastest compiling. I'm thinking on a large scale game being developed, those types of games that take more than 5 minutes to compile, even though I have no projects of that magnitude. Right now I have a P4 3.2ghz that sastifies my programming needs. it compiles whatever I need fast, however, I have no exposure to the AMD 64 bit computers. I'm trying to decide whether or not a 64bit would provide me more power to develop and test games. I don't want this thread ot turn into a Intel-AMD flame war of which is better. I just would like to find out if the 64 bit AMD processors, clockspeed of 2.2-2.4ghz range would outperform a P4 ~3.2ghz computer in compiling. Thanks! [Edited by - Drew_Benton on May 25, 2005 9:27:14 PM]

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Read the actual model number on the A64 to figure out appromately how it compares to the Pentium 4s (ie an A64 3200+ (2.0 GHz) should be roughly equivalent to a P4 3.2). Obviously this is subject to bias (AMD names the product), but they seem to be more or less accurate. IOt also tends to depend on what you are doing. The difference in speed is do to the difference in architechture of the types of chips. Athlons do less passes per second, but more operations per pass...

Anyway, to answer your question. I am using a fairly ghetto P3 500 MHz, 256 MB SDRAM, and a 64 MB Radeon 9200 SE which is plenty to develope what I want. I am using DirectX 9 and some simple shaders to create a space-y type combat game. If you are going to be making hardcore Doom3 like FPS in your spare time, you will probably need a fairly high end system in order to compile them rapidly, but your system sounds pretty decent.

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For a small-time production, the best route in my experience is to develop on your target hardware. If you want to hit mid-range, aging 1GHz level machines with 256MB of RAM, do your development on one. This lets you keep a good benchmark for whether or not your performance is getting out of hand, and can be a good limiter to keep you from going overboard with features and gimmicks (creeping featurism) that are just time-wasters and may end up destroying the project.

Unless you're working in codebases of several hundred thousand lines of code with complex build processes, you don't really need much of a beast to do development - your system is perfectly fine. I do my day-job development on a PIII 433; granted it isn't game work, but it is perfectly adequate for the performance-intensive software I do work on.

I'd guess that it would take well over 60,000 lines of code and a fairly nasty build process before you really started getting burned by a slower machine. In your case what you have is perfectly fine. I can do a scratch build of the game I'm working on (including asset compilation) in under 5 minutes on my Athlon 2400+, and it is over 250,000 lines of code with several gig in art assets when unpacked. Even in this case it would be a waste to go to a 64 bit system, especially considering potential 64-vs-32 compatibility issues, which AMD has historically been very good about, but you never know - mission critical projects shouldn't be risked for the sake of snipping a few seconds off the build times.

Yes a better, heftier system would outperform your current box in compiler races - but unless you have a very sloppy (or huge) build process, you won't really notice that much in practice. A good build process should allow you to recompile single code modules without rebuilding the entire binary, for example. A good engine will support reading data in an unpacked form so you can avoid having to pack and (possibly) encode and sign your assets every time you change a texture and need to see it in-game. Basically it boils down to "work smarter, not harder."

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Benchmarks generally show Athlon 64's gaining a *huge* advantage in compiling code. (30-50% faster than the equivalent P4). Of course, in certain other tasks, they're more even.

But you asked about compiling, and an Athlon 64 is unbeatable there.

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There is no "one answer solves all".

The obvious disadvantage of a second computer is that it costs money. There's the price of the computer, electrical bills, building bills - some of these may allready be paid for (aka, you have plenty of room, or have a flat rate electric bill).

The obvious advantages of a second computer are decreased cycle times (you can recompile changes faster), and security (if done right).

The basic question is wheither the advantages outweight the disadvantages. Put a value on your time - I prefer to use my current wage. Then ask how much time you would save by using this second computer before it is obseleted - aka, when you would purchace a new primary computer. If the cost of the second computer (minus the price of the computer once "obselete") is less than $10 x Hours of wasted time recovered, then it's worth it.

It's basic economics.

* I should note by obselete/obseleted, I mean the point where you decide it needs replacement.

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