PC Building Simulator teaches practical tech lessons

I'm no expert, but that seems like a lot of case-fans

Owning a gaming-spec PC is brill. Nothing quite like it, but the first time you have to crack open a case to swap out some RAM or install a new GPU is a harrowing experience, fraught with potentially terrible and expensive outcomes.

Enter PC Building Simulator, a piece of tech-nerd edutainment software that might seem frivolous at first, but I can see it being of real use to some folk, assuming it grows beyond its initial launch via Steam Early Access today.

We’ve covered PC Building Simulator on and off for some time now, with an early prototype of the game(?) still being available for free via Itch.io. The version that rolled out onto Steam today is the first commercial iteration, containing officially licensed components from a range of big-name manufacturers, and features a basic ‘career’ mode that challenges you to incrementally upgrade your machine.

While I doubt it’ll ever go into the finer, more nerve-wracking parts of the experience (undoing overly tight internal screws, or trying to get your fingers into a barely-visible latch holding RAM into place), it does cover a lot of the fundamentals, and demystifies a lot of the process. It does help that they use nice and spacious cases with minimal cabling shown, the latter of which is a little less realistic than the former.

The developers have extensive long-term plans for PC Building Simulator yet, with a development road-map covering the key features they want to implement between now and the end of the sim’s time in Early Access. Among the more advanced tricks they want to teach are installing dual GPUs (less common nowadays, admittedly), cable management skills (my previous PC is a tangled mess of wires, admittedly) and overclocking, along with the installation of water-cooling systems.

They reckon that they’ll have all those features and more squared away in just 2-3 months, at least according to the Early Access plan on Steam. The current build of the game is out now on Steam via Early Access, and is priced at £13.50/18€/$18. As mentioned, an earlier demo version of PC Building Sim is still available free here.

36 Comments

  1. fuzzyfuzzyfungus says:

    Does it include a “$2000 worth of bits mysteriously won’t POST and you are running out of things to desperately triple-check…” boss level?

    • panzerkampfwagen says:

      This hits too close to home.

      • thither says:

        Oh my god, yes. I actually enjoy building PCs, but this game sounds about as fun to me as playing an RTS with no screen.

    • Premium User Badge

      The Almighty Moo says:

      Last time I did that it was because the RAM was installed in slot 0 and not slot 3 where it should have been. Thankfully the motherboard had a bleep speaker connection if not an actual speaker so a minute with a volt meter and the error codes at the back of the manual told me it was RAM and not just ‘everything is DOA.’

    • n0s says:

      You have no idea how much I identify with your comment…

  2. Evan_ says:

    That sounds like a gimmick without the fun… or the reward. I believe for that price, you could buy a few boxes of last century parts, and play lego with it. An evening or two of enjoyment, and you could boot up your first genuine MSDOS or so.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Wouldn’t really apply to modern machines though, which tend to be vastly easier, yes, but also quite different in a variety of ways.

      I remember the days of DMA and IRQ conflicts with horror.

      • rodan32 says:

        Oh man, yeah. Remember using jumper switches to configure IRQ on ISA cards? Or trying to get a VESA local bus card to seat properly on some of those DX/2 boards. Good times.

        I’m a very old man, huh.

        • anevilyak says:

          And once you’re done with that, setting your config.sys up with the right drivers such that you still have enough conventional RAM for the game you want to play.

          • thither says:

            Yeah, and I hope you’ve got the modem AT string configured correctly in your Winsock settings!

          • n0s says:

            Then fiddling with emm386 variables to squeeze out those last 2kb you need from your basemem…

          • syllopsium says:

            You have a computer with a Pro Audio Spectrum in it. Do you have to choose:

            1) Adlib
            2) SoundBlaster
            3) SoundBlaster ‘compatible’

            to achieve the highest audio quality?

  3. GoatForSale says:

    But I need a PC that can run VR to learn how to build a PC that can run VR.

    Could be cool in an educational setting like a school I guess

  4. cardigait says:

    Burned my first motherboard inserting an Isa Genoa sound card on a Vesa slot.
    Good times, or maybe not; nowadays the worst i’ve burned is an underpowered power supply.

    • Dominic Tarason says:

      Back in the dark ages, before we had auto-switching power supplies, I straight up managed to blow one out by forgetting to set it to UK voltage. Lovely plume of sparks.

      Managed to convince the store to take it back under warranty, too…

      • Tiax says:

        Similar thing happened to me.

        PC wasn’t booting, for some reason the dumb 12-years old kid that I was thought “Hey, maybe the computer isn’t getting enough power !” and promptly used the red switch on the power unit, thinking that the voltage would increase by 1 or 2 volts (for some unfathomable reason).

        Voltage setting actually instantly went from 220v to 110v, the power unit blew right in front of my face, my head hit the desk under which the computer was located and I was left half-stunned, frantically crawling away from a computer that was now smoking…

  5. kud13 says:

    Does it include a feature of “drop a brand-new CPU on a carpet and bend half the pins” feature with the associated “squint for an hour with a precision screwdriver bending the pins back in shape, one by one” minigame?

    Otherwise, not realistic enough.

  6. Turkey says:

    Can you play PC Building Simulator inside the virtual PC you built?

    • Turkey says:

      Can you build a virtual PC in the version of PC building Simulator on you virtual PC in PC Building Simulator?

      • Turkey says:

        When you’ve built your virtual PC in your Virtual PC in PC Building Simulator on your PC, can you run PC Building Simulator on your virtual PC and build a virtual PC in the PC building simulator on your virtual PC in PC building simulator on your PC?

  7. Raoul Duke says:

    With current prices, this will be the closest most people can get, I guess.

    That said, I don’t really see the point of this. If you can match two different objects by shape like a 3 year old, you can pretty much build a modern PC.

  8. Frankie The Patrician[PF] says:

    Does it have an achievement if you drop a component called Linus Drop Tips?

  9. chudbabies says:

    holy cow, what a blessing this is.
    My entire life, I have felt too much apprehension at not being able to learn how to correctly identify pieces of computer hardware, I have felt so much unclear confusion about cleanly putting together computers, that I have never successfully been able to scrounge my left over and dead computers for their parts, in order to construct some sort of brutish nether-thing, a living dead zuvembie, and definitely not a Frankenstein’s monster, of a machine.

    I love this. This is an amazing learning experience!
    I read that children who have fathers capable of accomplishing tasks are more comfortable doing the same thing. Makes sense. Stupid sense. Of course, watch someone else do it, someomne else you think about a great deal, and pay intense attention to, watch someone else do something, and you’ll retain the memory of how to approach the same task with a favorable condition, instead of being confused as a rat.

    Virtual 3-dimensional computer modeling. Very clever, very flexible. I’m sure you could hardcode the same program into a text file, and make building a computer into a choose your own adventure novel, as easily as a 3-dimensional model.

    LOVE THiS! Think about how the Afrofuturist kids dropped tablets without instruction manuals will take to something designed for them, like, “How does modern science understand my physical geographical region, such that our village could construct some natural terraforming of the planet (which we may not have felt comfortable gambling on imagining, because we are simply trying to survive a bug bite) which we could learn or practice with, in a village sized CITIES: SKYLINES for dirt and trees and rivers?”
    I’ll buy twelve, please.

  10. zauberkraut says:

    Umm, no. Much like setting up a hifi stereo system, building a gaming pc is all about percieved, unnecessary mysticism and price points. Sure, there are tons of heavily opinionated people and self-styled YouTube experts about, but it really comes down to just slapping the parts together, there is really no skill involved what so ever. A 7 year old can do it. 700€ buys you a rig you can run triple A games on 1080p. As with hifi, obviously, you can spend as much as you like for increasingly negligible gains in performance.

    Now, building and maintaining a good commuter bicycle for daily use, there is a real challenge.

  11. Spacewalk says:

    I am not ready for this.

  12. Blowfeld81 says:

    I want a year 2000 edition where you frantically exchange RAMs cause your motherboard does not really support them which results in mysterious crashes that appear totally random.

  13. Gothnak says:

    Is there a software edition?

    I’ve been trying to install the March Cumulative Update for Windows 10 for the last 30 mins. It’s been installing the update for every reboot for the last week and i decided it was time to use a hammer (Or CMD as i call it).

    • MajorLag says:

      Windows 10 Update Simulator: just poke yourself in the eye with a pencil every week.

  14. PiiSmith says:

    Coming up next, the PC financing game.

  15. Marclev says:

    Why not just open the PC up that this would be installed on, take all the bits out, and put them back in? Same experience, cheaper (it’s not like you can damage anything these days)

    For added “fun”, make sure to unplug the case from the motherboard and then get all its wires back into their correct sockets…

    • Cederic says:

      “it’s not like you can damage anything these days”

      You jest, surely? There are still circuits to be shorted by a dropped screw, the hidden knives waiting to unleash a torrent of your blood across the delicate electronics, the thermal paste spillage of destruction and that old classic is still poised and ready for the briefest of foot movements on a carpet: The static discharge of frying.

      All of which are modelled in the game. I hope.

  16. savagegump says:

    They seem to have put alot of effort into this and it probably does have a niche audience of certain tech geeks but it seems a bit ludicrous to me. I’ve been building my own systems since a teen and the only real enjoyment or satisfaction I get from it is the actual reward of finally booting up it up and seeing the marked difference in performance – which is something the simulator can’t do :/

    I can see the value as an educational tool and personally would expect it to be provided free as a promotional product for the licenced manufacturers – so you could trial a dream build and lament the lack of funds to make it a reality – or of course shell out all your hard earned cash with the confidence that you can build it yourself.

    It takes all sorts I guess and if this is your bag then at least it looks like a well produced game.

  17. Premium User Badge

    Drib says:

    This seems like a fun novelty and all, but $20? Really? For a game about… building a PC?

    Again, neat idea, and I did enjoy building PCs back when I had to upgrade fairly often, but twenty bucks is a lot for a “card A goes into slot B” simulator.

  18. syllopsium says:

    Looks pointless, and far too capitalistic. Unless it includes spilling blood over a pentium era shitty metal case I’m not interested. Should also have a boss level of installing DOS on a 486 and trying to get at least 610K free in DOS 4.01 base memory, so that you can play Wing Commander 2.

  19. Jernau Gurgeh says:

    I’m so skint that I probably couldn’t even afford a virtual GTX 1060 in this game. Damn those bloody crypto-miners!