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Why do developers love making games for PC?

Frozen Synapse

We think the PC is pretty great. We love how many different niche interests it caters to, we love how thin the barrier between developers and their communities can be, and we love how many utterly fantastic harebrained games are out there. But you could argue that we’re a little biased, we’re a PC gaming website.

So, to make our case for us, we contacted developers who choose to make games for PC. And they replied in their droves.

John Romero (id, Ion Storm, Doom, Daikatana)

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I’ve always been a PC gamer, as in Personal Computer, whether it’s an Apple II, C64, Atari 800, Mac, or DOS/Windows computer, because I prefer the keyboard and mouse as input devices, I like being able to choose how fast my games will run based on the hardware I’ve bought, and I love games that are designed to be played for long periods of time. When a new FPS comes out that I like, I want to spend all my time playing it, which might mean 12 hours a day.

Because I love playing games on PC more than anything else, I choose to make games for it as well. I’ve only made one game in my entire career for a console first (Gauntlet: Seven Sorrows), and few for mobile first. Mobile is definitely interesting to me, so I’ll be making more of those. But for big, involved games, it’s all about the PC (OS X preferred).

David Goldfarb (DICE, Overkill, Battlefield 3, Payday 2)

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Clive Moody (Codemasters, Grid: Autosport)

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Certainly for racing games, we know it’s a place where our core audience are. It’s their platform of choice. These are guys who are not afraid of having a decent rig and a decent racing setup. Also, the PC, because hardware’s constantly updating, faster than the console cycle, it means we can find new ways of pushing, new techniques. Whether it’s graphics techniques or fun stuff with new peripherals, there’s always something new or cutting edge. It’s a lot of fun for us, it’s a lot of fun for the tech guys to get their hands on that, but it also means that we can do some special stuff that we can’t do on console – just because of the nature of how they are, they’re a closed system.

Mark Skaggs (Zynga, Westwood, Farmville, Command & Conquer: Generals)

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Chris Taylor (Gas Powered Games, Supreme Commander, Total Annihilation)

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For me it started in 1980, when I got my first computer… Though not really considered a PC by today’s standards, it very much was (a TRS-80). For years PC’s were more powerful than their console counterparts, and for good reason, they were 10-20 times as much money. They were the Ferrari’s compared to the console econo cars.

During the late 90’s (or so) the price/performance argument for consoles was undeniably compelling (and hardware subsidy played a part in this I’m sure). But alas, consoles still did not, and do not, give you what a PC gives you, despite the price. PC’s are evolving monthly, and this new round of consoles will be underpowered within a year or two, but we’ll likely be stuck with them for a decade.

Though I’ve gone from a desktop to a laptop, my heart, and mind, belongs to PC.

Henrik Fåhraeus (Paradox Interactive, Crusader Kings II)

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To put it succinctly, I love making computer games because I love playing computer games. Of course, there is more to it than that, but mostly it really is about the kind of games I play myself – and those games are not well suited to tablets or consoles. Unless we’re talking about some very specific genres, computers, with their mouse and keyboard, allow for an interface that is both more powerful and more accessible than any I have yet to see on a console or tablet. Although I personally prefer strategy and role-playing games, I even think shooters are best played with mouse and keyboard – the only time I find a controller truly superior is when playing fighting games. When it comes to the kind of games wemake at Paradox Development Studio, with all of our tooltips and buttons, it is quite hard to conceive of a GUI and control scheme using a pad or controller that would even be acceptable (although the touch interface of Civilization V does a pretty good job).

There are also various rating and certification issues that we simply don’t have to factor in when developing computer games for PC. E.g. console and tablet games are thoroughly scrutinized by the platform owners (Sony, Microsoft, Apple) during a strict approval process where they may want significant changes made to the game prior to release. Publishing through Steam makes our lives so much easier these days with its simple deployment and patching system. In the end though, it comes down to the fact that complex strategy games – the games I love the most – are best suited to computers. I only fire up my Xbox when I want to play a fighting game, and only play on my iPad when traveling, or in front of the TV while my fiancée is watching some sitcom.

Richard Garriott (Portalarium, Origin, Shroud of the Avatar, Ultima)

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Paul Taylor (Mode7 Games, Frozen Endzone, Frozen Synapse)

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We’re PC gamers at heart: our major influences were mid- and late-90’s PC games. We really felt like, in that era, developers took time to thoroughly explore an interesting concept and fully flesh it out.

We still believe that’s what the PC audience want today, so that’s where we feel that our work fits best.

The freedom you get from developing on PC is also very important to us: you can sell your games direct to customers, you can support or integrate any new tech that comes along and you can basically choose to develop in any way you want.

John Smedley (SOE, Planetside 2)

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Mark Morris (Introversion, Prison Architect)

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It’s because no one controls the PC. We’re free to make whatever kind of game we like and even if no one in the whole wants to help us sell it, we can still set up a website and start shifting units. There’s no certification or quality requirement, no expensive dev kits and a long tail which we’ve seen last for 13 years. The real question is why the hell would anybody develop for anything else?

Garry Newman (Facepunch Studios, Garry’s Mod, Rust)

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It’s the platform I game on, it’s the platform I totally understand. I mean, what are the options?

I could make games for iOS, but I don’t think they’d be as usable, as fun. They wouldn’t be the games I want to play. I probably wouldn’t make a decent living from it, because even though there’s millions more potential customers, there’s also millions more competitors. And even worse, millions of competitors that know the market better than me.

I could make games for the Ouya – but I want more than 15 people to play them.

I could make games for the PS4 and XBone, but it’s a lot more of a risk. It doesn’t feel like it’s at the same place that the PC is at. It doesn’t feel like you’re free to experiment with game ideas. It feels like you need to have everything planned out and written down. That’s the opposite of how we work.

Corey Rollins (Klei Entertainment, Don’t Starve, Mark of the Ninja)

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We work on PC because it allows us to do rapid development. Our current workflow has all games start on Windows / PC and then move to Steam / Linux when possible and then to any other platforms. Using things like Steam and Humble Standalone versions let us deploy updates / changes to games like Don’t Starve and Invisible, Inc. on the fly, so we can act on feedback and discussion within our community while the game is in Alpha / Beta access.

Soren Johnson (Mohawk Games, Firaxis, Mars, Civilization IV)

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Mike Diskett (5 Lives Studios, Bullfrog, Satellite Reign, Syndicate)

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I’ve been making PC games since 1997 before that I was making Amiga and Atari ST games, which are still PC games, just not wintel PC’s. But I’m not just a PC game dev I’m very much a PC gamer.

There is so much to love about PC gaming.

For me its all about the input, the mouse and keyboard combo is just so versatile. Tablets touch sensitive input pretty much makes them useless for 90% of games. Console joypads are great for a lot of games but there’s still some genres where joypad is terrible, such as real time strategy which is what Satellite Reign is.

The open nature of the platform is also a huge win, being an open platform has allows indie games to thrive, without PC we wouldn’t have the likes of Don’t Starve, FTL, Paper’s Please,Stanley’s Parable and many others, a list that could go into the hundreds.

Steam! Steam has allowed PC to remain a strong gaming platform despite years of assault from various console iterations. 75 Million active users! I’m still able to play games I bought on PC ten years ago because of steam.

From a developer’s financial strategy point of view there’s a huge potential customer base of PC gamer’s out there buying games at reasonable prices, the games are cheaper than console but still at a price that can sustain small dev teams.

Jason Kingsley (Rebellion, Sniper Elite 3, Alien Vs. Predator)

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Rebellion’s always supported the PC as a games platform as many of us are veteran PC games players. Personally I’ve grown up with mouse and keyboard, and though I also love console controllers, I spend much of my working day handling a mouse and keyboard so gaming that way is also natural to me. I love fast shooters have played through our Nazi Zombie Army games many times over!, but also love time-munching RPGs and strategy titles that lend themselves to a more slow methodical style of player interaction.

JP LeBreton (Double Fine, Irrational, Space Base DF-9, Bioshock)

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I’m leery of any sort of tribal identity when it comes to platforms, but PC (personal computers, not Windows specifically) is where my roots are and I probably have some secret pro-PC biases. However, a lot of my love for PC is also very practical.

PC matters to me because it’s by far the most open platform with the lowest barriers to entry. Back in the day it enabled the great technological forward-leaps of Doom and Quake, and more recently it has enabled legions of DIY and indie developers to make a huge range of work, from polished bestsellers to the personal/experimental work featured on sites like Freeindiegam.es or forestambassador.com.

Then of course there’s Steam, which allows us to release bugfixed builds to 100% of our players within hours of finding an issue for our Early Access game Spacebase DF-9. None of the console platforms come even close to that kind of turnaround time and direct connection to players.

PC is also still the platform where integration with the web feels tightest. You can click on a link from within a PC game and it will bring up the game’s forums in your web browser, you can start up a twitch stream simply by launching an application alongside your game, you can run servers for a multiplayer game just by running an executable. All of these things are either impossible or far more involved on other platforms, though PS4 and Xbone are playing catch-up on the streaming integration front – Sony especially deserves credit for realizing how big a deal it was and making it a core part of PS4’s design.

The point stands though that all those things – twitch streaming, Let’s Play videos, game forums, IRC – came about on PC, and would never have come about without the PC’s openness (combined with the openness of the web). Big companies didn’t come up with those things, they emerged naturally from people feeling free to tinker. That freedom to innovate, without permission from a big company is invaluable – the future of games depends on it. Furthermore, anything that reduces the openness of the PC platform is probably bad for most of us in the long run.

Jordan Weisman (Harebrained Schemes, FASA Interactive, Shadowrun Returns, Mechwarrior)

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Since Mitch and I are from Chicago it’s only appropriate that we view and love the PC like that proud city. You see Chicago is a huge city that is made up of a collection of diverse neighborhoods and the PC is a huge platform made up of an incalculable number of niche audiences. This allows indie developers like Harebrained Schemes to create small to mid-sized games for small to mid-sized audiences as opposed to the consoles which have become almost exclusively about huge games for huge audiences.

Chris Roberts (Roberts Space Industries,Star Citizen, Wing Commander)

I make games for the PC because it’s the platform that is never static – It is always evolving, it’s the first platform that new technology is debuted on, and year over year the price to performance ratio steadily improves. I can upgrade my PC as I go – add more memory this month, plug in a large volume SSD the next, plug in a GPU that has more computing power than supercomputers did not so long ago. Because of this it is constantly providing new opportunities in game design. My games, from Wing Commander to Star Citizen, have always been designed to push the boundaries of technology in order to create a more immersive experience. The PC platform gives me the most tools to do this, and provides new possibilities every year to build even more engaging and immersive games. And that’s a challenge I relish!

Brendon Chung (Blendo Games, Thirty Flights ofLoving)

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I choose to make PC games for a variety of reasons. I like the mouse and keyboard controls. I like that the barrier of entry for uploading a build or update is practically non-existent. I like that the more open nature of the platform allows and encourages people to fiddle with your files, remix things, break things, and experiment with things.

Chris Avellone (Obsidian Entertainment,Planescape: Torment,Pillars of Eternity)

Scripting and coding on the PC and then simply running the game from there is a plus. Modding the game is possible on PCs, as well as playing around with mods and new adventures, and some of the most creative uses of the engine and its assets come from the mod community, which leads to seeds for brand-new experiences beyond what the developer ever intended or could have thought of. Also, on the PC, while there’s a lot of different system configurations that can put a strain on compatibility testing, there’s no console certifications for each system to meet each console’s standards, and we don’t have to devote nearly so many man-hours to optimization and downscaling assets, characters, models, and animations.

Cliff Bleszinski (Epic Games, Gears of War)

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Because that’s where the god damned community is, both socially and mod wise.