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Case Study: Case Modding Contests.
May 1, 2005
Author: Geno Manufacturer: Geno
Department: Modding Model: HL2 Project
Article Type: Case Study Time Spent: 14 days
 
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Introduction


I am often asked for advice on preparing for, and entering case modding contests. These contests can range from the simple LAN party peoples' choice style where the top prize is a little swag donated by a company or two, all the way up to thousands of dollars for the bigger shows and contests. The custom case we will be using today as our example is my HL2 project which was entered in last year's “Beat This” case mod contest from CompUSA. Over 1800 entries were fielded from across the nation, and around the world. First prize was $10,000 US, and duplicates of all the hardware in your machine. The winning computer was also featured in a two-page spread in the popular magazine, MaximumPC.

Looking back, there are several things I would have done differently. This informal Case Study will examine those, and offer some advice for others interested in entering a contest with their latest creation. This article is not intended as a "how to" for building any of the mods included in the HL2 project, although there are some pictures of the box under construction if you’re interested. For tips and tricks on building, visit our "how to" resources section.


Mistakes


The biggest mistake made was in attempting the project in the time frame I had. I found out about the contest about 25 days before the entry deadline. That would have been just enough time to build a machine of the caliber I felt would be competitive. Unfortunately, in true reality TV show style, my wedding and honeymoon fell almost in the middle of those scant 25 days. That left me with about 14 full days to build a totally custom PC from scratch. Not to overdo the dramatics, but I spent the last 5 of those working around the clock.


The Drama


The day before the machine had to be shipped, the PSU went up in smoke, taking my Abit IC7 MAX III with it. Remember this contest was weighted 50% on performance numbers. We live in far South Texas, and the contest machines had to be at CompUSA’s corporate headquarters in Dallas by the deadline, no exceptions. That meant a 10 hour drive. The only retail store that had the mother board and PSU in stock was the incomparable Fry’s in Austin…about mid way to Dallas. Even with my wife driving 100+ the whole way, we got there an hour after they closed. She had called en route, while I was asleep, explained the situation to the store manager, and they kept the whole HUGE beautiful store open for us. If you live in Austin, go thank them for me.


 
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