Building a Monster: King Ghidorah by Cameron Watkins

By Chris Stolze, on June 19, 2018

It’s not often we see an insane concept such as the three-headed gaming beast, King Ghidorah.  Cameron Watkins, the mastermind behind this stunning creation, was kind enough to share some of his thoughts regarding planning out and building such a complex system.

Who are  you?

My name is Cameron Watkins, I’m a case modder from Dallas, Texas.  My full time job is that of a software developer, but I really enjoy just about everything computer related.  Getting my own computer at a young age led me to wanting to make my own games, which lead me to building my own computer which lead me to more programming, and the cycle just repeated itself and here I am.  I started off getting into modding when my brother started a business and got a laser cutter.  I realized with a laser cutter I could easily design cases and make pieces for computer builds.  I started off with several simple acrylic designs, then made a computer with a functioning fish tank, and now tried my hand at a mobile LAN party system with this build.

Why are you building this?

I built a smaller version of this for QuakeCon last year, meant for two players, while I had trouble with the actual virtualization at the time with Ryzen being so new, I was given the opportunity to go bigger with Threadripper.  Around the same time many of the bugs that hindered the last build on the software side were fixed, so I knew what I had to do, go big or go home!  With the concept of scaling up three gamers I looked around for a visual theme and somehow came back to King Ghidorah from the Godzilla movies.  Growing up my best friend had a lot of Godzilla toys and I remember King Ghidorah being one of my favorites.  I think Gigan was actually my favorite, but he didn’t fit the bill for this build.  With sixteen cores and being able to reasonably sit three people next to each other, the mobile LAN party idea solidified as three games each with four cores and the last four cores for a dedicated server (and host).

How does CORSAIR hardware make this build possible?

CORSAIR is most of the build honest. RAM, SSDs, Power supply, Case, Fans.  It’s everything but the GPU, motherboard, and watercooling!  Functionality, I knew some of the hardware that I needed to use, a Threadripper 1950x and three RX480s.  Next was to find monitors that pair well, after looking around for something large enough to be enjoyable but small enough to not be silly, I settled on some 21.5 inch screens. King Ghidorah is gold, and when I mean gold I mean solid gold.  I needed RGB and lots of it. The HD120s have an excellent sparkle look, with strong LEDs that aren’t hidden behind frosting and with the CORSAIR Commander PRO, I was actually able to run eight fans, temperature probes in the watercooling loop

The next issue was deciding on the RAM, the Zen architecture is a little finicky with RAM, but that was no problem for this CORSAIR VENGEANCE LPX 2933MHz.  And as much as RGB can help with this build, I also wanted it to be grounded in gold, physical gold, something that looked like King Ghidorah’s scales.  CORSAIR VENGEANCE LPX fit the bill perfectly.  With a simple mod aided by a gold sharpie, a solid black stick was transformed.

The last component to pick was the power supply, running three dedicated gaming stations means powering three dedicated gaming stations. Simple napkin math quickly showed that this was going to be drawing close to 1000 watts, even with relatively power efficient components.  The RM1000x saved the day, providing good, clean power at a 80+ gold rating (ha ha gold) with modular cables, exactly what this build needed.

What sort of obstacles did you overcome during the planning and building process?

Fitting this many components into a relatively small case was a challenge, most of the build problems were a matter of getting everything to fit within the case itself.  The case is spacious but with that the custom watercooling I had an interesting problem, the water block I was using for the CPU had the inlet on the right side and could not be re-orientated.  My options for routing looked something like this:

I decided on the left layout meaning I needed four pass-throughs to the back of the case.  After a lot of drilling and dremeling, I had a path to the back of the case through a clean pass-through plate that I made.  Even with the triple hard drive cage directly behind my top two holes I was able to go through it and still leave it functioning with room for two disks!

And the pass-through plate turned out amazingly after getting V1tech’s aid in printing on it.

The last issue I was afraid of turned out to not even be an issue, with this many components in a case, there is a lot of cabling.  But this case is a double wide, where the back side has a lot of empty space.  That coupled with the Commander PRO made cable management a lot less of an issue, sure there were a lot of cables, but I didn’t have to be too neat with them, at least not on the back side.  Everything had room and it was easy to close it all back up.

So how does it run? Mission accomplished?

The build runs really well. Sixteen cores is more than I knew what to do with at first so with the help of 64GB of CORSAIR VENGEANCE LPX RAM, I knew it would be an excellent platform for virtualization.  As defined by Wikipedia, “virtualization refers to the act of creating a virtual (rather than actual) version of something, including virtual computer hardware platforms, storage devices, and computer network resources.”  With that many CPU cores, RAM, and GPUs, I wanted to scale up my idea of a mobile LAN party.  This really is a no compromise, all-in-one solution.  It offers an excellent 1080p, up to 75hz, FreeSync, gaming experience without having to sacrifice on the muscles to get real tasks done.  Each user gets four cores and eight threads with 16GB of RAM, along with their very own AMD Radeon RX 480.

What would you like to try building next?

My last two builds have been rather large with monitors directly attached to the case to allow for a one step mobile LAN party, but I’ve realized while it’s one step, it’s really difficult to move such a massive, heavy construction.  I think my next project will be to go back to my roots.  I’ve always loved small builds, but I’m not one to like compromising on performance.  I loved the possibilities offered by PCI Express bifurcation, which is literally splitting PCI Express lanes.  In this context I mean using a riser cable to turn a mini-itx motherboard’s one 16x slot into two 8x slots.  I did that in my previous project “HailFire” but this time instead of just running a multiple GPU set up, I think a utility PCIe device and a GPU would be a more practical solution.  That said, I really enjoy watercooling, so I’m sure it will involve a good amount of that.