How improvements to Visual Studio 2019 helped improve Forza Horizon 4

Forza Horizon 4
Forza Horizon 4 (Image credit: Microsoft)

What you need to know

  • Visual Studio 2019 has several improvements that speed up build and link time for game developers.
  • The improvements help developers of games such as Forza Horizon 4 spend more time writing code.
  • Link times in Visual Studio 2019 are 18.15 times faster than in Visual Studio 2017.

Visual Studio's C++ team improved the build and link times for Visual Studio 2019, which resulted in link times that are 18.15 times faster than in Visual Studio 2017. As a result, game developers of popular titles like Forza Horizon 4 can spend more time coding and improving games and less time compiling things.

The improvements and explanations of these changes are rather technical, especially for non-developers such as myself, but the end result is that game developers get to spend more time doing what they do best, developing games. The improvements to Visual Studio 2019 and how they affect game development are outlined in a new blog post from David Li, Microsoft Visual Studio C++ program manager.

Andrew Sage from Playground Games explains:

Using full linking removes the debugger stalls associated with fastlink and allows our engineering team to focus on debugging the current build rather than waiting for the development environment to become responsive. Coupled with the overall improvements to build and link times, this leads to less workflow interruption and productivity improvements across the team.

As a result of these changes, the developers can compile files much quicker. The blog explains (emphasis from Li):

The compilation time has been improved by a factor of 1.52. When doing a full rebuild, the compile time decreased from 4 minutes 39 seconds in Visual Studio 2017 to 3 minutes 5 seconds in Visual Studio 2019 16.8. For a single file change, a 19 second reduction was observed. On average, the link times improved by a factor of 18.15X. The full rebuild link time in Visual Studio 2019 16.8 decreased by 10 minutes 18 seconds, a monumental improvement.

The impressive improvements that the move to Visual Studio 2019 brings result in very concrete changes. Sage from PlayGround Games explains (emphasis added):

Reducing iteration time to build and test changes allows us to be more productive, especially as gains add up over the course of all of the engineers multiple times per day. The main benefit was the removal of stalls when debugging with fast link when switching to full link, as these would add 30-45 seconds per debug session, which can be repeated multiple times per build.

This blog post from Li is the second post on this topic. You can also read Li's work on how the Coalition saw a 27.9 times iteration build improvement thanks to Visual Studio 2019.

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Sean Endicott
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Sean Endicott brings nearly a decade of experience covering Microsoft and Windows news to Windows Central. He joined our team in 2017 as an app reviewer and now heads up our day-to-day news coverage. If you have a news tip or an app to review, hit him up at