A gaming desktop setup.

As gamers, our interest in video games can sometimes lead us to great career opportunities in the industry. Video game development is a good example, and many game studios offer nice incentives, apart from stable income, for those qualified for the job.

Still, video game development normally makes use of a robust computer to manage multiple processes occurring simultaneously, and in some cases, photo-realistic 3D visuals. Since we already have gaming computers for our pastime use, are they suitable for developing games too?

Yes, gaming PCs are usually sufficient to be used for developing video games. However, this can differ based on the respective project at hand, because a game that’s expected to deliver triple-A (AAA) gaming experience and visuals will require a high-end workstation to handle the due workload instead.

That’s probably why many console games are poorly optimized on the PC since both game platforms have vastly different specs and hardware to cater to. If a game’s development was structured around it being released on consoles, porting it to PC requires its comprehensive development cycle too, something which costs more time and resources to be utilized.

Our computer’s drivers need to stay updated as well, to ensure that a game’s development process can be done smoothly, minimizing the risk of issues cropping up during the whole project. If we’re targeting releasing small indie games instead, then a mid-tier gaming PC is more than enough for the task.

Is a High-End CPU Required for Game Development?

When it comes to computer-related work, the central processing unit (CPU) – basically, the PC’s ‘brain’ – does all the programming, calculations, and problem-solving processes behind the scenes. The more powerful a CPU is, the faster it can run simultaneous programs at once, especially ‘heavier’ applications/ software.

In terms of game development, our computer will be doing all sorts of work at the same time, such as running command scripts, debugging processes, and many more. So, does this mean a top-grade CPU is needed for creating video games?

Yes, a high-end CPU is important for video game development because it provides the required processing power needed for the PC to solve complex algorithms, programming, and coding. If our computer processor is slow, it’ll struggle to keep up with the many processes being run in the background during a game’s testing or simulation.

Professionals who depend on computer-aided design (CAD) software to work also ensure that their CPU is up to scratch, optimizing their workflows and design processes as a result. That being said, most of the time, a fully-decked gaming PC is more than enough to run entry-level CAD programs, so it all depends on the general project in question.

Does Game Development Need a Lot of RAM?

Now, the next piece of hardware that is important for video game development is our computer’s random-access memory (RAM) stick. When running multiple programs, a portion of the overall memory load is shared with the PC’s RAM, allowing more room for the CPU to run at its best.

Noting how intensive game development can be, abundant RAM seems necessary, right?

Yes, ample RAM is crucial for game developers to lessen the burden on CPUs, enabling quicker asset retrieval and program loading times. For many video game developers, 16GB RAM is the sweet spot, although 32GB is the ideal RAM for those working on ‘bigger’ projects.

Nevertheless, if we’re developing indie games, such as a 2D platformer or 3D side-scroller, then 8GB or 16GB RAM is already adequate. Again, the project scope and expectations will determine how much RAM we need to prepare our PCs beforehand. 

This is within the spec range of household gaming PCs too, so unless we’re using a 20-year-old computer to play games with, then our current gaming rig can handle basic game development work with ease.

Do Gaming GPUs Matter in Game Development?

Every time video games are discussed, graphics cards – a.k.a. graphics processing unit (GPU) – are among the first few things that come to mind, and justifiably so. So, do gaming GPUs play a major part in a video game’s development?

Yes, gaming GPUs do matter when it comes to video game development. Nowadays, even the most trivial indie games might have 3D assets made using the latest graphics engines, most notably Unreal Engine.

Our computer needs a compatible GPU present to enable the PC to render various 3D models, animations, and textures being used for a particular video game project. Nonetheless, unless we’re part of a massive AAA team, mainstream graphics cards, such as an NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050, should suffice in the creation of ‘lighter’, personalized games.

Put simply, basic GPUs can manage the stress related to smaller, indie game development. In terms of more ambitious projects, premium video game graphics cards are recommended, like an AMD Radeon RX 6800.

What are the Ideal Hardware Specs for Video Game Development?

Everyone has different hardware installed on their computer, making it difficult for anyone to discern whether their PC is suitable for proper video game development work or not. Other factors come into play as well, such as the general scope of the video game being created.

Here are my thoughts on the recommended computer specs that a prospective video game developer needs to prepare, assuming the games are to be made entirely in 3D:

Indie game development:

  • CPU: Intel Core i5 7th Generation/ AMD Ryzen 5 Series
  • RAM: 6GB – 8GB
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce GTX 1050/ AMD Radeon RX 5000 Series

Normal/ AAA game development:

  • CPU: Intel Core i7 8th Generation/ AMD Ryzen 7 Series
  • RAM: 16GB – 32GB
  • GPU: NVIDIA GeForce RTX 3060/ AMD Radeon RX 6000 Series

Bear in mind, the hardware benchmark for developing 2D games is far lower than the one proposed for indie games here, so knowing what type of video game we’re planning to create goes a very long way.

Additional requirements should also be factored in, like a large-memory hard drive and a big-sized display monitor, so it’s best to have some finances saved up if we need to upgrade our current gaming desktop for video game development use.

If we’ve been playing Cyberpunk 2077 on Ultra settings at 60 frames per second (fps), though, then our computer can handle game development work without a hiccup!

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