Building My First Custom Game Development PC

I have never owned a non-Apple computer in my life. The first computer my parents bought was an Apple ][ back in 1984. No, we didn’t buy a Mac.

Over the years I have found trying to purchase a PC to be overwhelming. Choosing a manufacturer, building your own, picking the parts… Couple that with the price of GPUs now that people have discovered Blockchain, it’s always just been easier to pick the most powerful Apple computer I could afford.

But it’s always bothered me that there are games and programs that only work on PC. It’s annoying to constantly get a look of pity when I ask if X technology, like VR, works on Mac.

I decided at the beginning of the year that I really want to make a go of doing game/graphics/ML programming. I need the right tools to work with these technologies. This blog post is about how I built my first computer.

Backstory

I told The Fiancé several months ago that I wanted to build a game development workstation for VR. For us, the biggest question was what GPU we were going to use. Everything else would work around that.

In March of this year The Fiancé won a trip to NVIDIA’s GPU Technology Conference (GTC). I had finished my book on Metal but was having trouble finding anyone in the iOS community who needed a GPU programmer. I wanted to see what things were like on the other side and to see what other options I had in this field, so I made him take me with him.

On the show floor, they had a VR exhibition. I wanted to get a bunch of pictures for a blog post I never wound up writing, so I asked The Fiancé to get some pictures of me in front of the Holodeck. Someone working the Holodeck noticed and asked if I wanted to use their photo booth. I got a few goofy pictures taken with my service pug. The guy working the photo booth gave me my photos and told me I should post them to Twitter because they were running a contest. I entered the contest with this picture and kind of forgot about it.

Ready Puggle One

A month after we got home, I got a notification from NVIDIA that I had won their contest. The prize package included the new HTC Vive Pro and an NVIDIA Quadro P6000 GPU.

The GPU wound up being worth four times as much as the rest of the computer. I am grateful to NVIDA for their assistance to me in getting my VR development environment up and running.

Components

We didn’t order the computer parts until we had the GPU because I was afraid I would forget to respond to an email and lose the GPU and I wouldn’t believe it was real until I had it in my hands. The GPU arrived about a week before I had to leave for WWDC.

The Fiancé asked me what I wanted for components for the computer. I know nothing about this stuff because I have never done this before, so I told him I wanted the computer to look like a unicorn puked all over it. I wanted it to be pink and sparkly but also powerful.

From that directive, The Fiancé helped put together this part list:

Word of warning! We accidentally purchased the wrong variant of mother board that did not have WiFi and we had to purchase a separate WiFi card to place in the computer. I asked why they wouldn’t all just come with WiFi and The Fiancé said a lot of people who do intense online gaming need reliable high bandwidth Internet access and that isn’t WiFi. So if you’re like me and just want access for like email or whatever, be sure to get the right motherboard!!

Assembly

One thing I absolutely wanted in regards to this computer is that I wanted to assemble it. I wanted some assistance from The Fiancé because he’s done this before and I didn’t want to break a thousand dollar plus component out of ignorance. But I wanted to do most of the work. When I was a kid my dad would insist upon “helping” me with various projects and would not let me do anything I wanted to and so I have a lot of bad memories of trying to do projects with my dad.

The first thing we did was install the power supply:

Next, we installed the SSD:

Then we had to assemble the components that compose the motherboard:

This included the CPU:

And the RAM:

Next we had to apply the liquid cooler to the CPU:

At this point we had to string a bunch of cables. The Fiancé helped me with this task and gave me some eye candy:

Last, but not least, we installed the special GPU:

Conclusions

It was really interesting to actually put a computer together from parts. I am grateful to both NVIDIA and The Fiancé for making my computer possible. I was sad I didn’t get to play around with it before I went to WWDC. I am trying to make sure I make the best use of the windfalls I have benefitted from.