Building the Ultimate Game Development Machine
When it comes to gaming development, there’s no doubt that building your own setup is going to be far superior to anything you get out of the box. The type of games that you will be building will dictate what sort of setup that you’ll need. If you’re just getting started with simple text-based Android games or 2D PC games, then any old machine might do. But if you’re serious about development, and/or planning on doing heavy graphics or 3D video work (or VR) with a powerful game engine, then you’re going to need to build your own setup.
A word about laptops
If you want a laptop, purchase a laptop, but remember that it’s not going to have enough power to do much more than dev lite. If you are serious about gaming dev, then even the top of the line “gaming laptops” (such as the Alienware series from Dell) are only going to get you so far. If you want to save the trouble with overheating or crashes from heavy workloads, then just use the laptop for other purposes.
Think you could build a laptop to support your gaming development needs? It’s probably not worth your trouble. If you need a laptop (e.g. for work or school), then purchase a cheaper one for this purpose, and a desktop for heavy dev purposes.
A word about Macs
You don’t build a Mac. You can’t create your own hardware setup. Some desktops Macs may be powerful, so if you’re already a Mac fan and are used to doing graphics and video work on one of these machines then you may as well stick with it, or upgrade. Development tools are generally available across platforms, so you shouldn’t be hindered by this choice – even though using a PC is the general consensus among game developers.
And now the basics
Dedicated graphics hardware is essential. That means a powerful GPU, and the two main manufacturers of top of the line GPUs are Nvidia and AMD. Games these days are built specifically for types of GPUs, so think about your game’s target audience and what sort of setup they’ll be using.
Top of the line is what is required.
Get a top of the line processor to go with your top of the line GPU. As with all of these components, they’re always getting better so the best of the best right now might not be top of the list in a few months. Presently, game developers consider the AMD Ryzen 3000 series processors to be your dream CPU. Look into the number of cores you need (8?) and ensure multi-threading is handled well. Bottom line: there is no such thing as too much power.
The more RAM the better! Game developers (and other devs) often have a million high powered application instances running at once, all doing different things, plus 40 different browser tabs open. More RAM means you’re able to do this. Try 16GB, even though 8 should be enough – it’s not that much more expensive.
Using a Solid State Drive is essential if you’re doing game development. While you might think that your hard drive isn’t the most important item on your list, it’s right up there. Use an SSD for far better performance and load times. Don’t skimp or you’ll be waiting around for things like your code to compile for far too long.
You’ll need at least two of these. One for coding, one for testing and/or web searching to try and find out why your code isn’t working. Go for a larger size and better resolution to fit more on the screen in better visibility. Some people choose to work with three monitors even!
Other bits and bobs
Those are just the basics of your ultimate game development machine. You also need to think about other components such as your tower case, cooling, network card, etc. You need to make sure that all your components are equipped to work together in symphony. Take your time picking out and researching every single component of your machine to ensure that it works as expected when you (or the builder, if you go that route) put it together.
Another thing we should touch on is ergonomics. If you’re planning on doing dev work for many hours at a time, then it’s not great on the body – much like gaming for many hours at a time. An ergonomic keyboard is recommended, as is an ergonomic mouse or track-ball type device. This way, your hands won’t ache after hours of work. Safety first!
Before your machine is built, you should also consider the software tools that you’re going to use for development.
Building the ultimate game dev machine is a lengthy and expensive exercise, but if you’re serious about game development then it’s worth your time.