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Norman Barrows

how much PC do you need to build a given game?

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how much PC do you need to build a given game?

 

its getting time for me to get a new dev pc.  so the question is how much pc does one need?

 

when a game is released, some set of system specs will be the "average" game-capable PC at that time.  it seems that set of specs should be the recommended specs for that game. does that make sense?

 

so to test the game during development, you'll need a PC that at least meets those recommended specs.   and you can draw less on slower PCs, and draw more on faster ones.  you could also do a similar thing for update with a cap for max active entities (more entities on faster CPUs and fewer on slower ones). and for DX games, WARP could be used to test graphics beyond recommended specs that your card couldn't do. does all this sound right?

 

i'm not doing anything crazy like pre-computing all the possibly visible surfaces in quake on a mips alpha running 24 by 7 for an entire month, so the recommended specs should be good enough for development as well as testing. granted - a better PC would speed development, but for the moment i'm figuring out what i need at a minimum, not what would be nice. 

 

so would it be safe to say that at any given time, you should be developing for - and testing on - a PC that will be "average" when the game is released?

 

so far i've spent an entire day looking at recommended system specs for new games, i7 6700 series chips, fury x cards, r9 cards, cache size, type, and speed, benchmarks, and stuff like that (til my brain turned to mush!).

 

seems there are 6 parts to consider: CPU, vidcard, ram, cache, HD size, and a power supply big enough for the vidcard.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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Cache is part of the CPU and cannot be purchased separately.

If you want to build a PC from parts, this is the process I use:

- Find desired CPU in my price range.
- Find desired GPU in my price range.
- Find a motherboard that is compatible with both (Supported CPU socket type/generation, PCI Express version).
- Find a case which is large enough for everything (Large video cards can sometimes be too large to fit in certain cases).
- Find RAM that is compatible with the motherboard (there are RAM compatibility lists provided by motherboard makers). Buy them in bundles, not separately. Bundles are tested together.
- Find a good quality PSU with enough watts to feed your CPU and GPU.
- (Optional) Get an aftermarket CPU HSF (Heat Sink + Fan) if you want it to be quieter/cooler than the stock HSF. These are specific to the CPU socket type, and you also need to make sure the motherboard layout has room if the HSF is large.
- Find a SSD/HDD with zero customer complaints related to hardware incompatibility and minimal complaints about failures.

My current PC is:
CPU: AMD FX-6300 (midrange)
GPU: Nvidia GTX 980 (high end)
MB: Gigabyte GA-990FXA-UD3 (midrange)
RAM: 32GB (4x8GB) G-Skill Ripjaws X (midrange)
Case: Cooler Master CM690 II
PSU: Corsair 750-watt (This is way more than I need for my PC but I reuse it each time I upgrade so it's somewhat future-proof)
HSF: Zahlman CNPS 9500

Overall this is a "high end" PC for my use cases simply due to the GTX 980's outstanding performance and the fact that most games I play are GPU-bound. This PC would be overkill for game development.

Suggestions:
- Take all benchmarks with a grain of salt; I have had a perfect time with AMD processors even though they look terrible according to benchmarks.
- AMD CPUs and compatible motherboards are MUCH cheaper than Intel's.
- AMD's motherboard chipset drivers are much more reliable than Intel's. Intel tends to be really flaky when it comes to drivers.
- Nvidia is far better at supporting new games with updated drivers than AMD is. However, as a game developer you MUST test on both.
- For game development, buy midrange GPUs of both brands so you can tune your performance and cater to a larger audience.
- Try to get your game to use 4GB or less. The more RAM you use the more likely you will cause your players' unknown amount of RAM to start paging to disk, which kills performance. Edited by Nypyren

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Like Nypyren said cache comes with the CPU you don't buy it separately. 

 

Do you care for accelerating your compile time?  If so look into 6 or 8 core intel cpu's.  Out of them if price is a concern look into the 5820k.  It's not a bad choice for testing either since you can disable cores to match a dual core or quad core machine and it only has a stock clock speed of 3.3ghz and is easily overclockable so its can be fast but comes at a decent stock speed.  Its also a haswell based chip which isn't the newest but that might again be a good thing in regards to performance testing.  Most people nowadays have 8gigs of RAM, but I'd suggest 16 for development especially if you keep alot of things open at once.  Video card is a harder choice since it depends on your target audience, but a 200 dollar video card wouldn't be a bad choice for recommended specs which leaves you with the nvidia 960 or amd 380 or 380x.  I would suggest a 500W power supply minimum but 600 watts to be safe especially if you get an AMD video card and get one of the more expensive ones.

 

Also a good idea would be to check out the steam hardware survey to help you decide on your recommended specs.

 

edit - BTW new video cards are on the way in the next few months.

 

edit- http://store.steampowered.com/hwsurvey  thats the steam HW survey, might be useful for determining your target hardware demographic.

Edited by Infinisearch

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Right now, any standard commodity PC is powerful enough for building a modern game.

 

A typical off-the-shelf machine is more than enough for any hobby game an individual can build.

 

You may not be able to reach some of the highest-end, most cutting-edge features, but you aren't making that type of game without a multi-million-dollar budget anyway.

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Recommended specs are what happen at the end of the dev cycle, post-optimization work. During dev, a game requires much more power because it hasn't been optimized yet, and you may have any number of quick and dirty hacks to get things done. There are also productivity concerns - our game doesn't use a hexcore i7 effectively at all, but the build sure as hell does.

QFE. When it comes to compiling giant C++ codebases, you'll want as many cores as money can buy, and an SSD or two into the bargain.

GPU tends to be less of an issue, so long as it's of the generation you plan to support, and somewhere in the mid-to-high end of things.

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Personally I work it down to these factors.

 

Cache, Cores, Memory Timing, Memory Capacity, Mobo throughput (PCI -> CPU/Memory & Memory -> CPU), Storage Space, Storage Speed, GFx card.

 

Personally I don't believe in CPUs with less than 6 cores. I figure 4 cores for the game, and 2 for the system and background/idle applications. An L3 cache of about 2mb or more, usually I'll trade this off though for a better speed, so long as the L2 and L1 get a boost for the shortened L3. I think we could all agree a PC with less than 8GB is asking for headaches as a user, so 8, preferably 16 though. In a development environment though, I'd say 2 sticks if its cheaper but I would prefer 4 if multi-tasking is a factor being optimized. As for the Mobo throughput, a memory rate of 1600MHz seems adequate; it is probably beneficial to grab some paper and start calculating your requirements. Find your payloads, add them all up for a single frame and then calculate your throughput based on that. The rest of it is ultimately trivial decisions to make, don't buy the worst card you can find.. and don't buy a 5000rpm hdd running on SATA 1.

 

edit:
Scratch the bit about the L3 cache, I think the last time I upgraded 2mb was the average.. I'd shoot for a 8~15MB now.

Edited by coope

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I would say it's best to have a pc that runs the game comfortably so mid range.

You do need extra ram though to hold your Dev tools, debugger, profiler, art tools etc and not have to close it all out to have enough resources to run the game.

I got tons of ram with my latest pc for this reason alone, so that I don't have to worry about keeping everything loaded at the same time.

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>> Cache is part of the CPU and cannot be purchased separately.

 

but different chips have different cache sizes, cache ram types, and cache memory speeds. i've been looking at all kinds of chips from 4 core i7 6700's to 8 core 4th gen EX chips.

 

>> If you want to build a PC from parts, this is the process I use:

 

that's the same one i use. my last two PCs wre store bought. the one before that was custom built for me, and all the ones before those,except my very first one (an XT), i built myself just as you describe.

 

>> - Take all benchmarks with a grain of salt;

 

oh definitely. they only prove what they actually test.

 

>> I have had a perfect time with AMD processors even though they look terrible according to benchmarks.

 

i've always liked AMD for the price to performance ratio they provide. probably 80% of my rigs have been amd rigs. my current one is.  i might just hold out for their new chip coming out soon. herd some good things about it.

 

>> For game development, buy midrange GPUs of both brands so you can tune your performance and cater to a larger audience.

 

that would be "midrange by the time the game is released" right? so if you were starting a new project today with a 2 year estimate (that would likely grow to 4 years), you'd want a higher than midrange GPU, so it would be "merely midrange" by the time the game cane out. same deal for the CPU, with respect to clock speeds and number of available cores. you need to use what will be "tomorrow's midrange" - not use today's midrange GPU. todays midrange will be old hardware by the time the game comes out.  its the old problem of having to anticipate (perhaps years in advance) what the average system spec will be when the game is released, before you really even start it - as the spec will limit the possible scope of the game.

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>> Do you care for accelerating your compile time?  If so look into 6 or 8 core intel cpu's. 

 

first i want to determine what i need for testing and development, then i can consider what i want and can afford beyond that for enhanced development.

 

>>  I would suggest a 500W power supply minimum but 600 watts to be safe especially if you get an AMD video card and get one of the more expensive ones.

 

yes, i think it was the r9 and fury and fruy x that recommended 600w, and i've only found PCs with 500w so far.

 

>> Also a good idea would be to check out the steam hardware survey to help you decide on your recommended specs.

 

one really needs the survey results from 2 to 4 years from now, not from right now - assuming a game with a longer development cycle.  if you're just going to bang out something in six months in unity - sure you can just look at steam to see whats up  today - no problem. it won't change that much by the time you release. for bigger games you have to start with where the market is now (steam survey), and estimate (guess) when the game will be released, and where the market will be at that point in time, as far as what is the "average.game capable PC" when it comes to processor speed, cache speed and size, number of cores, total ram, GPU, and GPU ram.

Edited by Norman Barrows

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