Sunday morning, I picked up PC Building Simulator on Steam. I’m still not sure why I did, because on the surface, the game looked boring. I didn’t even realize that I had clicked Purchase for Myself on Steam, and had started downloading the game already. Since then, I’ve downloaded the game, and played it exclusively. I’m sitting at 27 hours played as of this post, and I have plans to continue playing the game the rest of today. 

If you aren’t familiar with any of the real life job simulators out there, and there are a ton, this one in particular is in Early Access. From Car Mechanic Simulator 2018, to House Flipper, and who knows how many other titles I can’t remember right now.

On startup, the game offers 3 modes. Career mode, which was recently completely re-coded in the last update, a sandbox Build mode, and a tutorial mode. The tutorial kind of gives you a basic rundown of controls, as well as general disassembly and reassembly. It’s extremely simple and doesn’t cover all of the options available in Build or Career modes.

If you play the career mode, you’ll be put in charge of a shop that wasn’t functioning well under the ownership of you in-game uncle. You start with $-15 in your account, and a single, simple virus removal job that will pay you $100. The first week of in-game time, you’ll be doing forced jobs that kind of explain the mechanics, but don’t really do much once you get above that level. Water cooling is not explained well, though the AIO variants are pretty easy solutions to tide you over. The custom water cooling loop setups are locked until you reach level 16. And overclocking is an entirely different matter, but it’d probably help if I had done any overclocking on my own gear.

Additionally, you can just play the sandbox mode that opens up all the current in-game hardware for free. You can build whatever abominations you want, entirely for free. It’s pretty aimless, but if you want to learn about building water-cooled loops, it’s a good place to get started. You’ll have to experiment, because again, the tutorials and hints aren’t much help. I used it to figure out how the game wanted water-cooled setups to be installed, as well as the best cases for custom setups. You can install completely pointless loops and turns with the rigid piping configurations… Kind of neat, and definitely gives you a “trademark” ability for all your work.

PCBS features several officially licensed parts. From real graphics cards, to real cases, you can find some of the best hardware in-game. Everything in-game is licensed, and more were added with the latest update.

A job, with the checklist on the right. The latest update provides an updated cost tab with replacement parts.

Going back to career mode, you earn experience for each job completed, as well as cash. In the newest update, you’re giving a job description. Some of the things are just handed to you, like replace my motherboard and RAM. Others are simple statements like, “I found my hamster but now my dirty and dusty PC won’t turn on. It was running slower and I was getting weird popups.” The objective being listed as “Diagnose and Fix” and it’s your job to completely dismantle and check every available component. And others will be build requests for a certain game within minimum or recommended specs. With the descriptions, you also get set budgets. The first you’ll notice is the Labor charge. Basically, it’s how much you’re getting paid for the work. Second, you’ll notice the Budget cost, which is how much the customer will pay for the hardware only. Both costs together are what you’ll get paid, which isn’t explained very well in the beginning. Pro-tip: Any jobs that come in requesting a certain benchmark and upgrade requirements, reject them. You’ll lose money, and it’s extremely hard to beat the benchmark requirements. You’ll usually need to spend the entire job payment on upgrades, if not more, and you’ll usually lose money instead of making it.

So, how’s the progression? At first, it’s slow. You don’t have any special tools, so if you take off a side panel with four screws, you’ll have to click and hold on it screw until it turns green. This probably adds 2 minutes to each repair or build, making the early stuff slow. Once you gain some levels, you’ll be given the option to purchase upgrades. A second (or third at level 8) workbench, a storage cabinet, software for diagnostics, and tools like auto-connect for powering up. Much later in the game, you’ll get access to auto-screw abilities, and auto-connect abilities so that you just click on a component and it’ll automatically remove all the screws without you having to manually click/hold each one.

Given that this is an Early Access title, I wasn’t really expecting much. It’s a $19.99 game with no DLC. It’s extremely simplified, as cable management is predetermined and you just click on the connections. Some things I’d like to see added:

  • Difficulty modifiers: Hard means you get more difficult diagnostic jobs, you manage cables, and you pay other utilities like internet bills
  • Individual workstation storage: currently, you disassemble a PC and it gets put into your overall inventory. Some things, like CPU/GPU/RAM will get sticky notes indicating which PC they belong to. Instead, I want a cabinet that stores all of the components ONLY for that workstation.
  • Cable management features: while you are able to add various colored wires to PCs, either upon request or because you forgot to switch back to basic black, the ability to manually route each wire would give me some satisfaction. It’s not a big want but I’m a neat freak and seeing shitty wiring triggers me.
  • Better tutorials: the few in the game are simple popups, no images, with text descriptions explaining some things. I’ll give this one some time, but I’ll be making some tutorials for the current version of the game in the next few weeks. Especially would help for those with no real life knowledge of a PC and it’s hardware.
  • Haggle: the profits are all set by the game, but I’d like the ability to haggle on prices. If you save money and install a used part, if it saves $100, you’ll get paid $100 less. At least let me haggle to get some of the money, instead of flat-out denying me.
  • Storage Cabinet: the current doesn’t have much information on it. Is it unlimited storage? Can I store 300 cases in there and just save them for when I need them? I can’t store my hardware in there, unless it’s in the case I’m storing.
  • A UI that you can scale. Most of the UI is so large, you can only see one row of items in a menu. When buying things in the shop, or looking through the inventory, I want the option to remove the pictures from the items listed. Or at the very least, be able to scale them down to a smaller size.
  • This originally was a bullet point about wanting the USB stick to be mentioned as a device for installing fresh OS’ on new hard drives. I went back and took a look, it’s actually described in the inventory as doing exactly that. Next time I’ll try to read better.