Command & Conquer Remastered – My personal tribute to celebrate and honor the 25th Anniversary of Command & Conquer!
Welcome back Commander!
FOREWORD: It was a typical Saturday morning at the Santee Swap Meet (near San Diego, CA). It was winter at the time, I was bundled up with hot chocolate in a paper cut. I clearly remember that day as I burned my tongue on the hot chocolate giving it the tongue fuzzies. Randomly a large, white box truck showed up for the first time. Swap Meets didn’t really have these kinds of sellers shop up in our small corner of East County. My father and I were intrigued to say the least. We witnessed a new method of selling things; it was so unorthodox. 3 guys got out and opened up the back and crowds of hundreds gathered around. Two of them would hold up a single item each, usually some sort of electronic component or some random stuff in a now familiar shaped box (software or games I later found out). People would yell out prices and whenever they heard a price they wanted, that person would get it. Cash only here folks! This went on as a single item live auction frenzy. I began noticing some consistency in the items he was selling. I saw this weird name on a box, it said Windows 3.1 and the year was 1993! I was barely 11 years old at the time.
Apparently personal PCs were still a huge luxury item back then. It was Superbowl Sunday 1994! We were a family of nerds, we didn’t watch sports. What we did do though was go to CompUSA The Computer Superstore. After that winter day at the swap meet, my dad developed an itch…and the only prescription was apparently a Compaq 386(?). If I recall, our PC cost nearly $5,000, with a ballin’ 14.4K Modem and a HUGE (“You will never fill this up!” sales pitch) 750MB(?) Hard Drive. At the time, I didn’t understand any of this. I only knew about computers from Macintosh PCs in monochrome playing the Oregon Trail for a few minutes each week in our Elementary Schools Library. Back then, Joust and Pitfall were the best games out and on an Atari. Even if the Atari hardware wasn’t the best quality. Little did I know this would change my entire life. My father, a copier repair man by trade was also an Electrician. He became my idol as he introduced me to the wonderful world of PCs. Weeks later my dad taught me how to use the PC while he learned himself. I quickly learned the basic functions of DOS and how to install and launch games. Which to me was the only thing PCs were needed for.
All of a sudden video game stalls began popping up at the Swap Meet. I still had no idea what it was all about. I was too into Little League. Though I did find my new favorite game for the time. Tony LaRussa Baseball in beautiful MS-DOS format. I found a oversight in the game that allowed you to build your own “dream team”. It had a feature that would auto-calculate the Baseball Season and World Series. I would do all kinds of combinations to see how close I could get to a perfect season with zero losses. So even while playing games at 11 years old, I was trying to find loopholes. Or what we call it now, Easter Eggs.
Then 1995 came around and we all know where this is going. I was finally 12 years old and having the best time of my life in little league. I had scored over 18 home runs in pre-season! But all of this was about to come crashing down as I was told we would be moving from El Cajon, CA to Las Vegas, NV. My emotions were all over the place. BUT…we just got a CD-ROM Drive for the PC – YAY!!! To this day I still can’t find a way to convey how life changing this really is for a young kid slowly getting into PCs. My dad did what he could to buy my happiness back and allowed be to get any new PC Game I wanted. Back then there wasn’t really any internet. Research or game reviews were not a thing you could just go find and read up on easily. Dial-Up Internet had only started just a few years prior. Having no idea what game to get I just browsed the tablecloth covered folding tables under a canopy at the Santee Swap Meet. All I could do was look at the cover art on the CD-ROM. This guy didn’t have Big Box games. Only Jewel Case Games…
…and then I saw this Soldier looking guy on the front and it read Command & Conquer!
It was a a normal Winter in December 1995 like any other. The game didn’t have any color on the cover art except his goggles. It was so simple, yet so interesting to look at. I could only get one game though. I had no information to base my decision on since there wasn’t even a box to read! I went back and forth for what seemed like 30 minutes. I think we can all guess which game was selected. Command & Conquer (Tiberian Dawn) 1995 Gold! Not much happened in in my Command & Conquer Story. We were moving and my best year in Little League was coming to and end. My batting slump sunk in with strike-out after strike-out. Being forced to leave your home for some barren wasteland in the desert. My soul was crushed and I felt I had very little to look forward to. It wasn’t until the Summer of 1996 that I was able to really get into the game. Once I began playing I was pretty much hooked. The Full Motion Video Cut Scenes were like nothing anyone ever experienced before. The game dynamics and strategies required were all brand new! Although I wasn’t addicted quite yet, that would soon change. That started in 1997 when my best friend (Thanks Kyle) introduced me to Command & Conquer Red Alert!
This may sound odd or funny to some of you, but I wasn’t aware that game studios made more than one game with the same Style/Genre/Name. It was like finding out there was more than ONE flavor of soda. But again, up until this point I still didn’t know a whole lot about the world of computers and computer games. I simply knew what I had which was just a few games. I was getting really into Little League again but PC gaming kept taking more of my free time. Command & Conquer Tiberian Dawn was ground breaking and planted the RTS Genre firmer than nearly any other game before it. Yea you heard me Warcraft nerds, fight me!
Red Alert took RTS Games to an entire new level very quickly. Since it was my friends game and lending out games wasn’t really a thing just yet, I had to play on his shiny, new Gateway PC (MOOOO!). I know those from OG Westwood Employees will remember the store on Warm Spring Rd. But yea, Red Alert was more awesomer! First of all, you could build dogs; that was freakin’ awesome. That is until a Soviet Tank ran them over. I was sad and flustered, my friend was laughing hysterically. I frustratingly pointed out that I put up the sand bags around my base. This only compounded my friends laughter as he blurted out “Do you think tanks care about sand bags in real life?”. That is when I was hooked. The newer levels of strategy required with planes and dogs was almost too much.
This is when I discovered Big Box Games. Browsing CompUSA game section (also on Warm Springs Rd) was my new nerd heaven! I mean you had UV Reactive Round Ribbon Cables for your IDE Hard Drives! Then came the expansion packs! What the heck is an expansion pack? It adds MORE levels, units, etc to the same game for a fraction of the cost? This was genius! Naturally I quickly snagged up the Expansion Packs. Oddly enough, I didn’t buy Sole Survivor. I only saw it once or twice on the shelves then it was gone. We all know why (Big sad!). This was also around the time my dad started to build his first custom PC. This is when my real addiction started taking hold.
Custom PCs were all the rage in the late 1990s. It was all fairly new to most people. Plenty of adults were into these things, but many kids weren’t introduced to it til the late 80’s and early 90’s. With MS-DOS quickly making way for a much nicer UI, Windows 95 was a godsend. 56K Modems and Dial-Up Internet. AOL Online and all those free “X Free Hours of AOL” CDs. Then you had custom cooling fans for your HDDs, pretty UV Lights and cool cables. My mind ran wild with cool stuff to do. Of course being a young teen, my dream PC was obviously limited by cost.
This is when I began learning about Graphics Accelerators and Sound Cards. This was the epic battle or ATi vs nVIDIA. You want to know how nVIDIA Won the battle? It wasn’t necessarily better hardware. It was better support! ATi was originally a Canadian Owned company. So the website and driver support was pretty terrible. Plus with nVIDIA being right by Silicon Valley, they really had an upper hand. Then AMD bought ATi and well, drivers still fall behind nVidia today.
Westwood Studios then launched Tiberian Sun on August 20th, 1999. Possibly the best Command & Conquer Game ever made!
It was so much more refined. The acting from Joe Kucan and the Cut Scenes were even more amazing! The Collector’s Edition…..er….PLATINUM EDITION!?! I was in C&C fan bliss! This thing had a Pewter Figurine? I took to this a lot harder than most as my mother loved and collected Pewter items such as Dragons or Wizards & Wands. To be fair, that was a super rough time of my life. PCs and Video Games were all that kept me going. At the time, my mother was fighting a very brutal, rare form of cancer. Sadly, she lost her battle on January 1st, 2000. My computer and video game hobby was the one of the very few things I found comfort in. I had given up on baseball at this point mostly due to my not-giving-a-shit attitude getting in the way. At this point I was 15 and my lifelong dreams began forming. I envisioned an elaborate Computer Store that included things like a coffee shop and a book store (yes, book stores were cool and I miss them). At this time of my life I was day dreaming as much as I played video games. This is also where a very weird habit formed.
I would never again (a few exceptions) finish a video game from start to finish. I think the idea of completing a game was a dark reminder of my mothers passing. Kind of like this is the end. I hope you enjoyed it because it doesn’t matter anymore now. You know the ending so you can’t go back. Maybe you loved the ending and begged for more or maybe you hated it and now its ruined for you. My love and passion for the C&C Franchise was more than I was willing to lose. I couldn’t let that love and passion extinguish. I simply kept filling that joyous release of endorphins with more and more games with new mods or maps or rules.ini edits. Red Alert 2 has Entered the chat! Thank you Red Alert 2 Collector’s Edition! I now have more Pewter Figurines and a badass new game to spend hundreds (thousands?) of hours on. Bay Of Pigs map is still the best map ever!!!!
What the hell is Command & Conquer Renegade? A FPS, huh? I never liked FPS games! They have very little conventional RTS methodology mixed in. Meh, we shall see. I still remember getting the Demo Download from a slightly shady site for nearly every Game Demo released that the Studio didn’t want you to know about. If I recall correctly, it was a closed-demo. I remember the two Maps perfectly. Under and Field! What sold me on this game? You had bases to defend and you could fly aircraft! It was a real life miniature of Tiberian Dawn. I know this game wasn’t popular. Mostly because it was EA’s beginning of milking the dying cow. It was a rushed FPS that was build on an outdated, obsolete game engine by launch. It had its bugs and wasn’t well polished. Sadly, you could tell it was forced into completion. Still not dissuaded, I dove right in and drank the Kool-Aid more than most! I played that game so much I was regularly in the top 500. Occasionally in the top 50 players at my peak. That ios without cheat programs like Big Heads. I ran a clan and we kinda sucked, a lot. I guess my eye for talents was lacking. Although I was a quite late to start a clan, maybe the talent pool dried up. I really loved that game more than anything else. It truly was the outlet I needed to keep me planted as much as possible in my very troubled late teens and early 20’s.
From that point on I was fully absorbed into GameSpy Arcade/Chat Rooms and C&C Games! My Command & Conquer Fanboy Syndrome had peaked.
I won’t bore you with the details as I don’t want this to be dreary. But to summarize I had dropped out of High School due to the loss of my mother, lost my father to Suicide on July 4th, 2004 and became homeless a few years after due to poor life choices. Once I hit rock bottom, it was only up from there. I am thankful I screwed up early in life. It is a bit easier to pick yourself back up. One day it just clicked for me. It wasn’t some random Hollywood-esque epiphany of joyous celebration. It was a decision made out of desperation and survival. I randomly gave up on a roughly 8 year career path in my early 30s. I went and got my GED just because why not. One day I was working a really shitty job with a legit Coke Head Boss. I just up and called it quits working in the auto industry and for other people. It was 2016 when I then started my own Mobile Computer Repair Business out of my house. I was fortunate enough to receive a decent amount of unexpected money. I was able to pay off all my debts with enough left over to help kick start everything. If I recall my entire business started with roughly $6K. It was really rocky the first year making only $18K and blowing through money I didn’t have to buy tools and parts. I remember my first electronic tool set only cost $9 because the $35 set was too expensive at the time.
About 2 years in I moved my business into a small office and have been gradually growing since. I also switched over to a Used Computer Store for local and online (eBay) sales. That’s when I decided to start advertising. Of course I immediately went to advertise on Google since to be fair, there really isn’t anywhere else you can advertise effectively. That was a big mistake. Let’s just say there is very little transparency in how your money is spent. For the world largest data collector, they refuse to give any up, even if you pay for it. They also charge a hefty premium. I had to find a better way as I was wasting up to $250 a week without any results.
Around 2 Years ago Command & Conquer Remastered was announced (Nov 14th, 2018). I knew right then I had to make these PCs!
This was a once in a lifetime opportunity for me and I had to take it, no matter the cost. I had planned a 9-Month build time to complete. I factored in roughly $6K-$8K in parts and build-time labor, for both PCs. The estimate, like all things custom, more than doubled in cost AND time (You know, because Race Car!)! Some people travel the world, others have an awesome hobby in real life. My hobby is my job. I mean no one REALLY wants to work for a living, but building cool PCs is much more fun than being an Automotive Service Advisor. Not to mention owning a computer shop has been my dream since I was a teenager. Until this point I hadn’t really done a lot of high end or exotic builds. AT the time, my business wasn’t the glorious visions dancing in my head, but I was my own boss. I could take this risk and only blame myself if I fail; so I did. I told my only employee at the time my plan and set off. Shortly after I hired a 2nd (part time) employee. This only deepened my goals for these builds. You see, my part time guy was going to school at The Art Institute studying Photography, Videography and Graphic Design. I knew I had to leverage that newly acquired talent.
These builds couldn’t be like any others. It has to be as extreme as I could afford. Both parts wise and and talent wise. There was no plan, I made it up as I went along. I chose to do the GDI Build first, mostly because I knew the Nod Build had to better. Why you ask? Because Nod fan(atrics) are exactly that. They needed to be pandered to. I’m a GDI fan, so remember that when you see how meticulous my builds choices are!
I had to start GDI with a Military Theme. They were more GI Joe than Nod was. It needed…..camo! That meant the Asus TUF Line and it’s “Military Grade” (LOL! Marketing Yo!) designs. I knew at the time the 8700K was better than the 7700K, but the Z370 Chipset didn’t have a cool Asus Tuf Z270 Mark 1 style motherboard! Also, up until that point nearly every Intel i7 only increased about 8%-10% over its predecessor. TheZ270 Chipset was the only available choice to match my build design. I gave up a bit of performance for looks, but I made up for that! The GDI’s i7-7700K is De-Lidded with Liquid Metal between the Die and IHS. The original IHS was replaced with an Oversized, Polished All-Copper version. So while I was on the Asus TUF Camo look that (with color matching themes that year) I went and got the Asus TUF GT501 PC Case. This case has a very nice aesthetic to it that matched perfectly. This case is still one of our favorites to use in builds. Once the overall design and color theme was determined I set about finding all the appropriate pieces to complete it. The Crucial Ballistix AT 32GB CL16 @ 3.2Ghz DDR4 Ram was TUF Themed and color matched precisely to the motherboard. Next was the unicorn on the build. The EVGA GTX 1080 Ti Kingpin. This was abruptly decided as for one, I discovered its existence. The natural copper look matched well. I was extremely lucky to find two units in box locally which is the only reason I went with these. Of course the 2080 Ti Kingpins are better, but at over $1700 for a single one, it simply was out of the budget.
As the visually matched PC parts all started coming together I simply added the logical choices for the rest. an EVGA 1200W Platinum Power Supply, a 512GB Samsung 960 Pro M.2 NVMe SSD as the OS and 4x 500GB Samsung 860 EVOs in RAID 0 (2TB Total) for storage. I didnt want the build to be over saturated with RGB. Thankfully this generation had not gone full RGB yet. All the chassis fans (10 of them) are Corsair ML120 Mag Lev. Great air flow and no lights. Only LEDs added were 4 light strips as accent lighting. With all the pieces in placer I could begin customizing the units.
I know, I will just duplicate the Asus TUF Camo Pattern theme throughout the PC case. While I am at it, let’s take apart a fully functioning, top tier GPU to paint it. I will admit some of my ideas were ambitious, but rubbish. I ended up going with the Asus TUF Camo printed on Vinyl. It looked ok to me. I wish it could have been better. So to make up for this I put a 5″ LCD Display inside the bottom PSU Shroud. It is hooked directly up to the GPU making it as select-able screen from within the OS. I then found a local sand blaster to make the really cool looking custom glass side panel art. All the art and designs were made in house by my graphic designer. There were a few oversights in the design, but it turned out amazing in my opinion. Tempered glass turns out much nicer than plexi ever will. It remains nearly scratch free with more transparency than Plexiglass.
The GPU work was the most time consuming. The unit was completely disassembled with Liquid Metal on the GPU Die. The heatsink shroud cover was painted in wrinkle black. The little mesh pieces and fan blades were painted in a matching metallic gray/silver color (forget what it was called). The matching yellow aesthetics were added on the inside of the fan ring area. The paint isn’t perfect but its as close as I could do. Masking was difficult. Lastly, a set of custom, hand-made power supply cables were ordered in. The cable colors and combinations were specifically selected and match on both the GDI and Nod Builds. Due to the nature or the cables, they are about 2.5x the cost of normal custom cables. The end result is a superior product.
With all that I could envision as the time being done the GDI PC, I called it finished. It was time to move onto the Nod PC, which has to be much bigger and much better than its predecessor.
It was time to move onto the Nod PC, which has to be much bigger and much better than its predecessor.
The Nod PC started out with a PC Case choice, of course. You cannot design a proper PC without getting a case that will fit everything and allow the option to add more if necessary. The Nod PC planning started around June 2019. I already knew the PC would be water cooled with dual radiators. At the time, Computex (Taipei) 2019 had just wrapped up. Asus had announced a partnership with Lian Li to release the Lian Li Dynamic PC-O11 XL ROG Edition PC Case. At the time, this PC case choice seemed great. The XL line offered more room for water cooling and was at the time the most popular PC case to build in. I went online and ordered one immediately. Overpaid a fair amount to be one of the first to get it in my hands ASAP. After a few weeks of trying to get the case to be what I wanted it to be in my head, we had to throw in the towel. The case itself was very poorly designed at first with many quality control over sights. The case itself was so bad that we wrote off the entire Lian Li XL product line for nearly a year. We ended up selling it for roughly a 50% loss just to get rid of it.
So the hunt was on to find a larger, better case. After a lot of back and forth I settled on the EVGA DG-86 which is a Full Tower, E-ATX. The case offered tons of space with the ability to have dual 420mm radiators. The chassis was fully encased in a very cool black plastic fin design with metal mesh throughout. The case itself would need to be modified first. The entire case was taken apart. Metal mesh was to be added to certain areas it was missing as well as removing some of the dust filter components. Every dust filter mesh area was painted in wrinkle red paint, giving it a more weathered, industrial look. Once the case was ready for parts, it was time to test fit everything.
With an all our, fully custom water loop build, you need to start with a Motherboard that will allow it. Enter the Asus ROG Maximus IX Extreme Z270. The motherboard came water blocked from factory. The CPU, Top M.2 SSD as well as VRM, etc were all water cooled. The motherboard being an EATX in size meant the case would be filled out a bit nicer than a smaller board.