How to build a PC on a console: PC Building Simulator Case Study
A selection of factors, including the global chip shortage, made building PCs a pretty expensive hobby in real life. Thankfully, our partners from The Irregular Corporation came up with the idea of making a realistic simulation game so that PC building enthusiasts around the world could satisfy at least a part of their hobby.
Eventually, PC Building Simulator got released on Steam in January 2019. The game got its audience, and players from other platforms became curious. So, the decision was made to bring the game to PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch. Providing game porting service, Pingle Studio entered the stage.
After a short period of estimating and planning, we at Pingle Studio offered a team of 10 people to bring PCBS up to date on consoles and started working. The project was challenging due to special gameplay and game design. Let us tell you more about how we brought PC Building Simulator to consoles.
A team of 4 Unity C# developers took an active part in adapting the game code and the engine to console requirements. Olexandr Duzenko, who has worked on PCBS since Pingle’s first iteration of porting, shared what he considers the biggest coding challenge of this project.
The game was built in a way that the generation of tasks and getting detail on the PC parts (essential for the gameplay) provoked constant uploading and deleting of full-scale objects. This caused constant freezes and data leaks.
After some research and experiments, we came up with a solution. First, we managed to drop down the number of processes required to complete the task in the game. Secondly, we replaced some PC details in the game with their copies, but without meshes. We took data from the copies, which required much fewer resources to complete.
Apart from that, some more general porting process activities took place in the projects, like optimizing the code and developing the asynchronous scene and details upload functionality. There were a lot of common tasks with the Tech Art department regarding better optimization.
A team of 2 Technical Artists helped Pingle Studio increase the FPS and make the console gameplay smoother. We mostly had to reduce the polygon count, and texture quality on the console builds.
But some more specific console-related issues came up during the optimization works. Andriy Vertolyiotov, who took part in optimizing PCBS on consoles as a Tech Art specialist, shared that build for every particular console often had console-specific visual artifacts, including wrong geometry and weird light behavior on some objects. The solution was to “crawl under the hood” of every console and research the shaders for the objects with artifacts. The cure for most of the projects was adding a few lines of shader code to the objects and post-process shaders.
Also, working with object culling helped to fix a lot of issues. For example, it was culling the small PC details. Culling also helped to optimize the dust effects in the game. Original PCBS had pretty heavy dust effects that affected the performance even when it wasn’t on the frame. We developed a custom culling system for the dust effects on consoles.
A team of 3 QA engineers, one per required console, and a QA lead worked to provide the consoles' expected quality and fast certification.
Apart from the usual manual testing of every console build, there were some out-of-the-box related challenges. As Taisiya Vivchar, QA engineer for PCBS recalls, there was a life-related moment.
Initially, Pingle had to take a PC build as a sample and bring it to the consoles identically. But one of the core parts that makes PCBS attractive for players is its correspondence with real life. As a Quality Assurance team, we checked every PC detail in the game for its suitability in real life. And we detected some parts that could be connected in the game, but not in real life. We documented each of them as a gameplay bug and sent it to the Irregular Corporation.
QA team also took an active part in establishing the communication with the side of Irregular Corporation. It took some time and iteration to manage proper communication because the core team that developed PCBS's initial build wasn’t working on a game anymore
But, it was not the biggest management-related challenge on the project.
Pingle Studio happens to be a Ukrainian game development company. And on February 24th, 2022, Russia attacked Ukraine with a full-scale invasion, which is an evolution of an 8-year-long hybrid war provoked by Russia in 2014. All the PCBS part of Pingle Studio team was either in Dnipro or in Kyiv at that moment.
Once we made sure everyone was safe, we organized an evacuation to the safer parts of Ukraine. We also performed some planned activities to provide remote-work possibilities for everyone who wanted to do so on the project. It caused some days of inactivity for us.
But Pingle Studio decided to stay in Ukraine and inspire our partners with our courage and professionalism. After some hours of crunches and team replacements, Pingle Studio went to the pre-invasion development stage. We even managed to pass the certification for Nintendo Switch Store in only one iteration.
We had to invite and teach two more QA specialists to the PCBS project. That’s because Dmytro Lupu and Olexii Chernenko, 2 of the original QA team on PCBS, joined the Ukrainian Armed Forces. Both of them and 10+ more people in Pingle Studio, who serve in the Armed Forces of Ukraine now, will receive their full salaries throughout their service.
Bringing a game like PC Building Simulation to the consoles requires a decent level of game experience, technical background, and attention to detail. We want to thank Irregular Corporation for sharing the honor of bringing this game to a wider audience. Can’t wait for an upcoming sequel!