PC Gamer

Less than 24 hours remain on the countdown clock at the Black Mesa Research Facility website, which has switched to a new and rather alarming emergency broadcast. I'm pretty sure it's actually the same message the site began to broadcast over the new year, although some details may have changed. Either way, it's a chilling (and exciting!) notification that something has gone very wrong at Black Mesa.

The teaser website is fun, but practically speaking it's the appearance of the Black Mesa Workshop on Steam that points to all of this hype being somehow related to Black Mesa, the Source engine-based remake of the original Half-Life. It could be that the Xen levels, which aren't currently part of Black Mesa, are ready for release, or it could signal the long-awaited launch of the retail version of the game on Steam.

The Workshop contains seven maps, all for multiplayer battles, as well as an eighth, entitled, "asdf0," which as we all know is computer-speak for, "This is a test." There's no store page link, however, and the home and discussion links lead to either the Steam storefront or the Steam Workshop front pages; trying to "manually" reach a Black Mesa store page by using the app ID number from the Workshop page in a regular Steam URL is also a bust.

Despite the near-certitude that this is all tied into Black Mesa, more resolutely optimistic fans may still maintain hope that it's all a lead-up to the announcement of Half-Life 3. Buried in the code of the BMRF.us website is an ascii image of the mysterious G-Man, above a link to "THREE.WebGLRenderer." It's not exactly "confirmed!" but dare to dream, right?

Whatever it is, the countdown clock will hit zero at 9:47 Mountain Standard Time on May 5. Be ready.

PC Gamer

Like the debonair Prince Adam, you, dear PC Gamer reader, have a power inside you—a power that can turn you into He-Man, mightiest PC builder in all of Eternia. With your Magnetic Screwdriver of Power, you can turn a pile of PC components into a mighty gaming machine. Nothing can stand in your way—not tight thumbscrews, not awkwardly short cables, not mysterious error codes, not even Skeletor himself.

But let s be honest: even if you can successfully build a PC, some part of the process is going to be a pain. You re may be annoyed by the CPU cooler while you try to bolt it in place. You may curse a few times as you drop screws into the dark nooks of your case. These are the small annoyances that slow us down, even if they don t stop us from completing a PC build. And those are the problems we re here to help you with.

Here are our tips for taking the pain out of PC building: techniques for overcoming some common annoyances and tools you can buy (or find around the house) to make the build process easier. If you ve never built a PC before, we recommend following the step-by-step process in our beginner s guide after reading these tips.

Always ground yourself before touching expensive components

This one s almost a no-brainer, but just about the most painful thing you can do while building a computer is destroy it. Ground yourself before handling the motherboard and other components, just to make sure you don t short anything out. If you want extra peace of mind, buy an anti-static wrist wrap for a few dollars.

Use a magnetic screwdriver

Building a PC involves a lot of small screws. And smaller screws. And black screws that perfectly blend in with the interior of a black case when you drop them. Point is, dropping screws is a pain, and it s probably going to happen when you re working on a case from above, or at awkward angles. But you can spit in the face of gravity by using a magnetic screwdriver to assemble components. It ll keep those screws from falling into awkward corners and make the process of screwing in the motherboard, power supply, CPU cooler and more far breezier.

We recommend the Snap-On ratcheting magnetic screwdriver. It s our favorite for a few reasons: the great grip, the ratcheting mechanism that easily switches between forward and reverse, the magnetic bits that keep us from dropping screws. The handle doubles as a storage compartment that holds several bits. It s an expensive screwdriver at $65, but we think it s worth the money. If you want to be thrifty, though, you can find a magnetic screwdriver on Amazon for less money. Just make sure the bits (or the head of the screwdriver) are magnetized.

And if you re worried about using a magnetic screwdriver around your PC components, don t be. The magnet s not strong enough to do any real damage, but if you want to feel safe, keep the magnetic bits away from exposed circuitry and your hard drives. The hard drives should be shielded enough that a little ol screwdriver bit won t do any damage. If you ve got some old floppy disks lying around, on the other hand, watch out.

Use a headlamp or positionable light source

Once your motherboard is screwed into the case and you re plugging in and screwing in components, it can be pretty tough to see what you re doing. If you re working on the case from the side, your ceiling lights probably aren t helping illuminate the interior. And if you re working on it from above, your head is probably blocking most of the light, casting shadows into those nooks and crannies you need to be able to see.

Solution? Wear a headlamp, of course. Strapping on a headlamp may feel a little dorky, but it ll save you time and aggravation while you re assembling your PC. If you find yourself pulling out your smartphone, turning on its LED light, and trying to position it somewhere in the case to light up the corner you re working on, just spend $10 on Amazon to buy a headlamp.

If you refuse to strap a light source to your face, you may be able to make do with a positional light from around the house, such as the reading lamp on your nightstand. Any light with a flexible neck (bonus points if it s a clip-on) should be positionable to provide some valuable spot illumination inside your PC case.

Have a nut driver handy for motherboard standoffs

Motherboard standoffs are those little screws that you mount in your case, and then screw the motherboard into to keep it nice and secure. Most PC cases come with all the screws, standoffs, and other bits and bobs you need to put your PC together, but if you lose those pieces, disassembly can be a major pain. The standoffs are installed with a nut driver, which should come in that bag of parts. It s easy to lose, so to be on the safe side, why not add a nut driver set to your toolkit? Standoffs can vary in size a bit, so spending a few bucks on a set of nut drivers will ensure you can move those standoffs when you need to upgrade to a new case or swap out a new motherboard.

If you want to take the cheap path, you can probably remove the stanoffs with a pair of needle-nose pliers. The proper nut driver will just save you a bit of effort.

Keep extra screws in a cheap storage container

I have a bad habit of losing thumbscrews, and then not remembering which component box I threw all my leftovers into. Was it the motherboard box? The bag of power supply cables? If only I was organized...Well, getting organized is actually pretty easy. For $12 on Amazon you can buy a great Stanley storage container that can hold tons of different types of screws and small parts, and you can probably find an even cheaper plastic container at a local hobby shop.

For a cheaper and even smarter organizing system, you can alternately use a pill organizer to hold your screws. This one is only $8 on Amazon and has great reviews. Each storage cell is big enough to hold small screws, and since each one has an individual lid, you can flip the whole container over to dump out the screws you need without the rest flying loose.

Make CPU cooler installation easier with a socket wrench or hex wrench

Installing an aftermarket air cooler in your PC is usually the most difficult step in the entire PC building process. You have to attach the backplate, get the mounting brackets in just the right place, and bolt the whole thing down straight. Every cooler s a little bit different, which means they can be annoying or tricky in a bunch of different ways. But two tools should make the installation of just about any cooler a little bit easier.

A socket wrench will allow you to bolt down a cooler much more quickly than the pack-in wrench that comes with some coolers. Those crappy wrenches let you turn the bolt a tiny distance with each turn before you reposition, turn a little bit, and repeat. With a socket wrench, you ll be done in a few seconds.

Some coolers need a hex wrench instead of a socket wrench to be tightened. Those coolers should come with an allen wrench, but it may be short and difficult to work with in the confines of a PC case. Buying a longer hex wrench set, or a hex wrench with a handle, will take some of the cursing out of CPU cooler installation.

Refer to your motherboard manual for error codes

gigabyte debug led

When you boot up your PC and it doesn t work, it can be hard to tell what s wrong. Many motherboards today make troubleshooting much easier with a small LED readout that displays a couple digits. Those numbers don t tell you anything at face value, but if you open up your motherboard manual and search for the truth, you shall find it. Meaning, there should be a section explaining what those codes mean.

The codes differ between motherboard BIOS, so there s no universal list. But you should be able to find the ones for your motherboard easily enough. If you lose the paper manual, search the motherboard manufacturer s site. You should be able to find a PDF download of the manual.

Use power supply extension cables for neater cable management

If you re fine with a messy case as long as your computer works, ignore this one. But if you like everything wrapped up and tied off nice and neat, the cables that come with your power supply might pose a problem. They re often too short to wrap around the back side of the case and plug in where they need to go. The solution: power supply extension cables. You can buy extenders for the 24-pin motherboard power, or SATA or PCI-E power cables. They ll set you back $5 - $15, but doesn t that squeaky clean PC case give you some wonderful peace of mind?

Adjust fan speeds in the BIOS or install sound dampening for a quieter PC

If your PC sounds whiny, rattly, or just plain too loud, you ve got a sound problem, and a few different ways to deal with it.

When you hear rattling or clicking sounds are coming out of your case, check for loose screws or other parts around the case fans and CPU cooler. Also, make sure no cables are slapping against your fans. That s a common noise-maker.

If the fans are just loud, in general, you should be able to adjust them from your motherboard BIOS. It s possible the fans are running at full blast when they don t need to be. After you adjust the speeds, make sure to check your temperatures to make sure your case is staying plenty cool. You can also use software like Speedfan to adjust fan speeds in Windows.

And if the thing is still too loud, you can line the inside of your case with sound dampening foam to block out some of the noise. When your graphics card spins up to full volume, that foam will help keep your rig nice and quiet.

A note on affiliates: some of our stories, like this one, include affiliate links to stores like Amazon. These online stores share a small amount of revenue with us if you buy something through one of these links, which helps support our work evaluating PC components.

PC Gamer

Oddly, Jason Voorhees' appearance in Mortal Kombat X doesn't coincide with one of the regular Friday the 13ths we see throughout the year. You've missed an opportunity there, Warner Bros.

Instead, the masked slasher appears in MKX from tomorrow (May 5) for those who own the Kombat Pack add-on, while those who don't have to wait until May 12 to purchase the big hunk of horror separately. Do you want a trailer? It's not for the squeamish:

Those owning the Kombat Pack also get three horror-themed skins: Vampiress Mileena, Kraken Reptile and Pharaoh Ermac. If you don't own the Pack it's $8 ( 6.49) to purchase Jason and the horror skins together, or $5 ( 3.99) for Jason on his own/$4 ( 3.29) for just the horror skins.

PC Gamer

Did you hear about Steam introducing paid-for mods as an option, ostensibly to get money into the hands of people creating (sometimes) incredible extra content? Yeah, it didn't work out too well for Valve — at least not first time around.

But in an interview with GI.biz, co-creator of modding golden child Doom, John Romero, revealed id Software actually wanted to pay modders for their work on Quake back in the mid-90s.

"I've always believed that mod makers should be able to make money from their creations," Romero told the site, going on to explain the studio had the idea to create something called id Net. "This company would be the portal that players would connect to and play other mod maker's creations," he explained, "It was to be a curated site, levels and mods chosen by us at id, and if we put your content on our network we would pay you an amount equal to the traffic that your content drove to the site.

"The idea was that players would log in and be in a big level that felt like a castle with lots of doorway portals and signage that explained where you were going and what was there."

Ultimately the idea was dropped, as the famously tough development schedule for Quake required everyone to focus on making the game before doing anything else. The rest, of course, is history.

But Romero did go on to say that he believed modders should still be rewarded for their work: "That's what we do in our game companies, why would it be so different for outsiders?"

PC Gamer

It's a photograph taken by a NASA astronaut, apparently, but when it's tweeted out by the producer on Mass Effect 4 and done so just over a month before E3, the biggest gaming expo of the year, people start talking.

Still, Mass Effect producer Michael Gamble did just that, setting tongues a-wagging and causing a minor internet meltdown at the same time. He soon clarified the image was indeed taken by an astronaut, but this hasn't really dampened the speculation.

What do you think? Is this some high-risk trolling by the next Mass Effect's producer? Or is it just a handy situation where an image from real life can be used to help hype up a game that'll be shown off at E3?

PC Gamer

Steam might well have a competitor in the client stakes soon enough — we've known about GOG's Galaxy client for almost a year now, but reports on the functionality of its alpha are starting to be seen in the wild.

One such piece comes from the folks at Wired, who have had a fiddle with Galaxy's bits in their current form. Generally speaking, it's a positive piece saying that — even though it's still very early along — there's enough functionality to put GOG's previous efforts to shame. Admittedly that's not hard, as the GOG downloader is a tool from, like, 1904 or something.

The client doesn't yet have features like auto-update — the main reason I'm looking forward to it, as GOG's current update system relies way too much on me having to pay attention — but generally speaking sounds like it's on the right track.

You can sign up for the GOG Galaxy alpha right here, and I'm going to do that right now as I hadn't already.

[image credit: Wired]

PC Gamer


As spotted on RPG Codex, Larian Studios - the Belgian team behind Divinity: Original Sin - has inked a deal with Focus Home Interactive to work on a 'new title'. Details don't go much further than that aside from saying there will be a 'beautiful surprise' for players (and journalists) at this year's E3.

The better translation probably isn't 'beautiful surprise', but that's what Google Translate goes with so it's what I have to stick with - the French I picked up during school having left me the minute I left said school. You can read the full investors' information page here, if your French is a bit better than mine.

Focus is an independent French publisher that has brought titles like Styx: Master of Shadows, Blood Bowl II and Farming Simulator 2015 to shops in Europe. Safe to say it operates a mixed bag policy, but Larian collaborating with a publisher that can give it any additional distribution should be a good thing.

We'll have to wait until E3 to see what's actually going on though. And no, I don't have an inside track even though PC Gamer is involved with the PC Gaming Show.

PC Gamer

The Megalodon has returned to Battlefield 4, now making its massive shark home on the Paracel Storm map. The easter egg has been discovered by those in the community test environment, and it was added to celebrate the 100th patch coming to the CTE:

The Megalodon previously appeared in the Naval Strike expansion for BF4, scaring the bejeesus out of anyone who hit some strict criteria on the Nansha Strike map. It was removed from the game quite a while ago, and I did think it was relatively safe to go for a paddle once more.

Apparently not. There's no word if the Megalodon will make its way into the game proper and stay there, but seeing as EA is happy to patch out all the fun we have in Battlefield, I wouldn't hold my breath.

PC Gamer

It's the fourth of May, so it's Buck Rogers day or something, I don't know. To celebrate the fact, Bossa Studios has released a free update for frustrating loaf simulator I Am Bread: Starch Wars.

Ahhh, it's Star Wars Day - now I get it! Beam me up, the fourth of May!

Anyway, the update - which you can get gratis if you own the game proper and have completed the first chapter - takes things in a slightly unexpected direction: up. Into space, actually. It's genuinely, actually, I-am-not-making-this-up, a space combat game. Look:

Bossa sent some words, too. Be warned, there are many awful puns in here: "Following the destruction of the petrol station, the remaining crumbs of the rebellious fleet have been intercepted as they head to the planet of all-dough-naan. A lone freedom fighter with the call sign bread leader picks up the distress signal and speeds to their aid. And yep, you guessed it; he's their only hope."

While a clever little addition to the game, it's a shame the original package isn't all that. It's not awful, but by no means is it as great as a game all about bread should have been.

PC Gamer

If you've ever questioned the value of hobby drones, the above video perfectly demonstrates why they need to exist. As spotted by Kotaku, a bunch of clever folk have recreated GTA 2 using a drone, several cars and lots of red jumpers. If you've ever controlled a drone for five minutes without it plunging to the ground or colliding with something, you'll understand the skill at play above.

While the sleepy suburban setting doesn't really channel GTA, the creators have added some neat touches: collectibles and bullet fire have been added after the fact, there's a mild instance of pedestrian carnage, and gangs are out in full force, enjoying impromptu scraps with the local constabulary. All it needs is a good tank. Maybe next time guys.


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