NVIDIA Presents The Duke Nukem Forever PC Mod
June 11, 2011
By Andrew Burnes
For several months, Richard Surroz, a.k.a. DarthBeavis, has been toiling away on a custom-designed PC for NVIDIA. Unlike traditional modding where changes are made to an off-the-shelf chassis or component, Richard built his creation from scratch, and such was his attention to detail that he even made custom wiring for the power supply to ensure that the case wasn’t aesthetically compromised. The theme? Duke Nukem Forever. For a game fourteen years in the making it only seemed appropriate to create the most extravagent, insane mod possible.
Built around three 'pods,' every element of the mod is custom-designed, right down to the surrounds holding the ASUS 3D monitors. There's a replica, rotating chaingun, top-end NVIDIA hardware, and all kinds of cool world first's, all of which can be read about below in a detailed account of the case’s creation, direct from Richard.
Project: Hail to the King
Shortly after our huge success with the Kegputer at CES, Kris Rey from NVIDIA and I were bouncing ideas back and forth about what project we wanted to take on next. In late January I suggested we do a mod for the upcoming Duke Nukem Forever. This particular title intrigued me because I played the heck out of Duke Nukem 3D back in the early 1990s when I was a deputy sheriff - I guess it is ironic that a cop loved a game where he got to take out ‘pig cops.’ And anyone who has followed my mods knows I also love dark and mature design themes so Duke was a perfect opportunity to explore that avenue. Kris and the crew at NVIDIA loved the choice of game title for a mod as well.
During the concept phase we had several different design ideas, some of which were too wild, while others were too mellow. The one we chose was designed and drawn in Solidworks by my long-time friend and project-partner Gene ‘Geno’ Phipps from BoxGods, and once all involved parties signed off on the design Kris and I contacted our favorite vendors to see if they were interested in joining the project. Those eager to participate in Project: Hail to the King included Danger Den, EVGA, Crucial, Silverstone, Frozen CPU, and ASUS.
The first step in the “Hail to the King” project was to have the acrylic pieces fabricated. Who would be able to pull off laser-cutting such large yet detailed pieces? The clear answer was Danger Den, a leader in water-cooling components and cutting-edge acrylic computer cases. Geno took his Solidworks drawings, converted them to an Autocad DXF file, and sent it to Danger Den. Within a week or so Danger Den cut and shipped all the parts and also a nice bundle of water-cooling hardware and lighting.
After the acrylic was laser cut by Danger Den I started on a two-week long adventure of routing, sanding, polishing, heat bending, and gluing. The acrylic ‘ribs’ for the case needed to have the top surfaces rounded due to the case’s design, which involved using my new tabled router to make rounded corners on each side of the rib. Next, I used a polishing wheel with Novus number 2 polishing compound to make each edge smooth, and once all ribs where rounded and glossy I used a special jig and drill press to drill and tap holes in the ends of the ribs. The circular frame rings had all the holes laser-cut by Danger Den but some needed to be counter-sunk so I used the handy drill press for that task as well.
Once all the holes were done I assembled the ribs and other frame pieces using screws and Weld-On 3 acrylic glue. The frame assembly was made especially easy due to the nice wooden jig also designed by Geno. One of the unique aspects of the build is the radiator assembly - I made a reverse manifold system out of laminated acrylic. This manifold allows the three radiators to act as one unit by passing the flow from one radiator to the next. Up to this point the entire build was just an abstraction in my imagination but once I saw the assembled skeleton of the case I found myself in love. Even without the skin on or painted this rig was beautiful!
The next step was to create the pod skins. This was probably the trickiest part of the project as we had to find a way to make a nine inch by five foot piece of flat acrylic into a perfectly rounded shape. Geno again made this process simpler by designing a wooden buck for shaping the acrylic pieces. This device came in so handy I gave it the name ‘Uncle Buck’.
The pods were so large I could not use a strip acrylic heater to bend the material so I had to use a powder-coating oven large enough to fit a truck into to heat the acrylic. Finally, my wife and I bent the material over an Uncle Buck to form the desired perfect circular shape, and all in all the bending took two trips to the powder coating shop and about three hours total.
Once the pod skins were ready they were glued to the frames and masked for painting. An important part of the masking process was to delineate windows that would not be painted, and to match the Duke theme the case was painted with gold-orange auto-quality paint with tons of metallic flakes in the mixture to make it pop, and while that was underway Geno had East Bay Manufacturing fabricate the metal hub and gun assembly. Arriving in great shape, the gun assembly needed a few additions to make it fully operational and I installed a remote-controlled 100 RPM motor which allowed it to rotate.
With all the case structure completed it was time to for Chris Fletcher and I travel to NVIDIA HQ to do the build out. Once in the lab at NVIDIA we installed components including the radiators, fans, pumps, power supply, and motherboard into their respective pods. Three radiators are connected together in a first-ever acrylic manifold system making them essentially one huge radiator. The pumps, the only ones in existence, are prototype units, designed yet again by Geno.