Deciding what operating system to use for game development will depend on the tools/software that you need and their compatibility with the different operating systems out there.
Another factor that is generally considered is the “target platforms”. Are you planning to launch your game on the desktop? Mobile? Consoles?
If you are not sure about which operating system to pick based on the above factors. Here’s a quick answer for you:
What is the best operating system for game development?
Windows is the best operating system in most cases for game development. Windows is compatible with most of the tools needed for game development, and most of the target platforms. However, if your main target platform is iOS, then you might want to use MacOS.
If you are a programmer who is new to the game development world, then you might be surprised why linux is not on this list.
While linux is an excellent operating system for many development tasks, it lacks behind when it comes to game development. We’ll be talking about this more later in this article.
The rest of this article will be discussing the factors that you should usually keep in mind when deciding the operating system that you want to use for game development.
1- The target platform(s) of your game(s).
If you plan to build a game that is only going to be released on mobile, and iOS specifically, then the MacOS is the better option for you.
Mobile games generally do not contain resource intensive graphics due to the limitation of the hardware of mobile devices.
That said, you will probably not need a powerful graphics card to develop the game, which makes MacOS a good option for you.
The question is, why choose it over Windows in this specific case? Simply because you can’t build an iOS game without the MacOS.
That doesn’t mean that you can’t create an iOS game on Windows. You can absolutely develop the game on Windows, and then export the project to Xcode and then to a MacOS machine. However, you will be extending the time needed to build the game on iOS if you decide to go this route.
While this might sound fine, remember that you will have to test your game a huge number of times, and it is generally preferable to test directly on the hardware that you are targeting.
That said, developing iOS games on MacOS can save you a lot of time.
However, if your target platform is any of the other platforms, then I would highly suggest that you go with Windows.
Most indie games target PC, and for that, it only makes sense that you build your game using the Windows OS, and then test your game directly on it since that is the OS that most of your target audience will be using.
Windows is also used to develop games for the major consoles.
What if you want to target all platforms? PC, mobile and Consoles? Windows will be your best option here. The only drawback here will be the delay when you build your game for iOS, but this drawback is negligible compared to the drawbacks that you might face if you pick another operating system.
2- Compatibility with the game development tools.
Let’s talk about game engines here. If you don’t already know, a game engine is a software that is a collection of features and tools that you can use to build your game.
Almost all games out there are made either using a publicly accessible game engine like Unity or Unreal, or a private and custom game engine made by the company that released the game.
With that said, you need to make sure that the game engine that you want to use is compatible with whatever operating system you prefer.
Let’s take Unity as an example, one of the most popular game engines out there. Unity is compatible with Windows, MacOS and Linux.
However, while the compatibility with Windows and MacOS is great, its compatibility with Linux is not as good.
If you use Unity on linux, you might experience more crashes, errors that you don’t regularly see on the other operating systems, issues with sound, and so on.
If you just want to experiment and build games for fun, then trying out Unity on Linux is definitely not a bad idea, however, if you are planning on building and releasing a game, I suggest that you either stick with Windows or MacOS depending on your major target platform.
Game engines are not the only tools that you might consider when it comes to game development.
There are art tools, sound tools, animation tools, game design tools, and so on. All of these things are tools that you want to keep in mind.
For example, artists might prefer MacOS due to the tools that they have on their Apple ecosystem.
What about custom tools and custom game engines? Large companies usually build their own custom tools to make their work easier and faster.
These tools are generally only compatible with the operating system that the company uses, because there is no point in wasting time making them compatible with other operating systems that aren’t used in the company.
If we are talking about AAA games companies, then these engines and tools are most probably going to be built for the Windows operating system, since these companies usually build extremely large games with insane graphics that can only be handled by powerful graphics cards, and most PCs that run powerful graphics cards use the Windows OS.
In most cases, you will want to use Windows as your operating system if you are a game developer. If your main target audience are people using iPhones though, then MacOS will be your best option.
While Linux is an excellent OS for many tasks, as of now, game development is not one of these tasks.
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