I recently caught up with Stuart Morton, producer at Irregular Corporation, about PC Building Simulator.
We talked about customising PCs, water cooling, modding, the game’s success and the company’s plans.
How did PC Building Simulator start?
Stuart: Claudiu Kiss from Romania posted his prototype on itch.io, where Irregular Corporation spotted it and saw an opportunity. We’re PC enthusiasts too, and offered help, as Claudiu had limited time once he attended university. We spooled up the development team on our side to take over from him full time ahead of release. Claudiu felt the simulator should allow people to put together a PC without the expense or risk normally associated with building a PC.
What other titles is Irregular Corporation involved in making?
Stuart: We tend to focus on strategy and simulation-type genres, such as the new bush flight simulator Deadstick. This game was created by a real bush pilot who travels around remote areas delivering things, and it has a fully-fledged flight sim engine underneath it.
Was there any influence from SketchUp’s PC hardware models in PC Building Simulator?
Stuart: I’m not entirely sure – quite possibly. Claudio was only 17 at the time, and this was his first project, but the overriding feeling we got is that the simulator was designed following his own experience with building PCs.
The simulator’s extensive database includes high-end hardware and water-cooling components. Is the simulator is aimed more at inexperienced newcomers or seasoned professionals?
Stuart: Both really, but a wide range of demographics use it – from people learning about PCs all the way up to enthusiasts that love PC hardware. It’s got licenced products, and while they’re not 100 per cent accurate, they’re accurate enough to make the game engaging for the types of people that find it interesting.
Have there been any major tweaks from the original game to get it into its current form?
Stuart: It had nine months in early access, and we had a lot of community feedback – we tried to include as many suggestions as possible, such as custom water cooling. It was interesting to see whether people just wanted to jump into free build mode and mess around with parts, or if the career mode would take off. It turned out that the career mode – the actual game part of the software – was the most popular.
What’s involved in bringing new products to the simulator?
Stuart: We receive high-polygon-count models from manufacturers, and then optimise the highly detailed models to work in the game’s format. We then have a process that looks into features such as how a case works, how cables are routed and so on. A single case can take two or three weeks, while graphics cards can generally be modelled and inserted into the game in a few days. It’s a fairly well-oiled machine now, though.
Do you obtain the actual products or is most of the modelling done using specifications and manufacturer models?
Stuart: Most of the data is based on what’s already available in terms of manufacturer models, and people such as yourself who do case reviews, which enables us to see how the cases work – we also use product manuals, which are readily available online these days. We have to check compatibility so that users can build a PC in the game, go out and buy those parts and know they will fit.
Antony: Is there a way to report compatibility issues?
Stuart: We have forums and an active Discord channel that we monitor. It’s usually down to manufacturers not listing certain specifications, or new cases sporting wacky new designs – if the data isn’t available, we go with the next best solution. We do reach out to the manufacturers and add these issues to our to-do list.
Antony: Once you’ve built a PC, the power draw and temperatures are displayed on the virtual OS. How are these figures determined?
Stuart: Background simulations determine them. For power, we know the specifications of components, so we add that information to the display. If the PSU is overloaded, the system will actually bluescreen. Similarly, airflow and cooling will impact on the stability of the PC. We don’t take ambient temperature into account, but instead use thresholds to estimate those heat loads and temperatures.
Are those virtual temperatures accurate to what you might expect in a real PC with the same spec?
Stuart: It would be unwise to say they’re 100 per cent accurate. It’s very data-driven, but there’s a limit to how accurate we can be given the number of variables. However, a logical next step is to improve this area and maybe add overlays of airflow, showing where heat is coming from and going to.
It’s great to see you’ve included lots of water-cooling components and rigid tubing. Will you be expanding beyond EK Water Blocks components?
Stuart: EK was keen to get involved so that’s why EK was first, but yes, our catalogue of parts is ever expanding. Raijintek parts are on our roadmap already, and more well-known manufacturers are also on the cards as we expand.
Are there any plans to allow additional case modding and customisation to cases?
Stuart: We definitely want to do proper case modding. It’s a big enough feature that a future version of the game could and should include it, but I suspect that would need to be done at the start of a new version, rather than being bolted on to an existing engine.
How do you decide which components and manufacturers to include?
Stuart: We try to include as many as possible. Unlike some online criticism might suggest, we don’t make lots of money from manufacturers. They’re allowing us to use their licences and models, so it’s mutually beneficial in that regard – we don’t have too many rules here.
What are you plans for the next year?
Stuart: We just released our first big update, which allows players to swap peripherals, plus we have a new Razer-themed workshop. We also want people to swap out monitors. Beyond that, it’s the never-ending cycle of adding new parts and manufacturers to the game. We’re also looking at bringing the game to other platforms.
How popular has the game been?
Stuart: On Steam alone we’ve sold around half a million copies. The prototype has around three quarters of a million via itch.io by now I think. It’s growing healthily.