This weekend, my daughter and I (with the wife and other daughter watching on a cast) played us some PC Building Simulator. I’ve played a lot of simulators and as a common theme, they all do an admirable job at exploring how monotonous any task can be. There are spikes of “WoW”, very long periods of tedium, and then plenty of “ah shit” moments. What I’m getting at is that the game is a true reflection of building PCs.
(Side note first. I went back and specced out a CDN build of a RTX-capable desktop. The core parts came in around $1300. The video card starts at $800.)
There’s a simple tutorial that explains how PCs are built and which components are used. It’s impressive how simple PCs are today compared to 10 years ago. PSU, mobo, CPU, cooling, RAM, storage, and a case. That’s it. In the real world, the only extra component would likely be a network card if you’re not going on-board (few do). I clearly remember managing sound cards, printer cards, modems, limits on hard drivers, jumper placements, mouse cards, and a series of nightmares that followed with drivers. Thankfully, none of those are here.
But the simplicity of the pieces belies the true complexity of managing PC builds. To say anyone can build one is a lie for the simple fact that PC parts themselves are a labyrinth of half truths, interfaces, parity, and wattage. First there’s the simple stuff, like AMD and Intel chipsets, which dictate the rest of the build. You need the right chipset, which means half the available motherboards won’t work. The mobo’s RAM speeds determine both the quantity and the speed of your RAM. Mobo also decides what type of video card is available (SLI or Crossfire support). Hard drives don’t appear to matter here, since all I’ve seen so far is SATA connections. Cases matter, since they can only support a given set of mobo standards (S-ATX/ATX), and they limit the size of certain components (video card may be too big). Entirely possible to buy some stuff that simply will not fit together.
Then there’s the arcane math of PSU, making sure that the listed wattage draw is supported, and if you happen to add any over-clocking (OC), you’re going to need even more power. Cooling is certainly impacted by OC, which pretty much forces you to get into water cooling.
And then the magical PC Part Rank lists. Multiple times a year the makers will send something new to market that is either a major or minor tweak. Instead of “clear” lines of a 590 being better than a 570, you’ll end up with 10+ versions of the 590 that meet niche requirements and bloat your options. Prices often dictate performance, but sometimes not as was shown last month, you’ll get a 3070 which is on par with a 2080 (for cheaper), but less good than a 3080. And I haven’t even talked about the game yet!
In truth, the game covers all of this and rather well. You have a shop with a great search function, a Part Ranking list that’s damn solid, 3DMark testing, RGB settings for many parts, a build order requiring paste before cooling, and clients with very strange habits.
More often than not you’ll get a box that’s filthy and full of viruses, on top of a fundamental issue. Could be they just want an upgrade, or know a part needs to be replaced. Those easier items are eventually replaced by “I don’t know what’s wrong” and you need to figure it out by reverse building the PC and checking each part. That alone brought back nightmares from IT support in my younger years. The worst offenders are those who want a NEW build, saying they want it to meet some benchmark, and then give you a budget that gets you a sandwich at the deli. And you’ll often have 5-6 requests all going at the same time.
And this is where the game both shines and suffers through it’s accurate reflection of the real world. You are spinning plates and have a wall of parts, a list of PCs to address, budgets for each, compatibility issues galore, and you can’t label pieces destined for builds. You have a pile of work, and a pile of parts, and no real link between them. God forbid you end up 100pts under a benchmark (the test takes 2 real world minutes) and you’re over budget. Now what?
Now you OC the crap out of it and pray to the gods in the sky that you don’t burn it out. You pray that you have enough power to the box, and that the cooling won’t turn it into a marshmallow roaster.
And as you progress, more and more parts come down the pipe. What was top of the line a month ago is relegated to mid-tier today. Making you doubt if it’s ever really worth it to spend triple on a PC that will be relegated to “ok” in less than a year. Of all the things PC Building Simulator does well, it’s the accurate reflection that ultra amazing is a carrot that cannot be held.
This is an amazing simulator.