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FEATURED MODS AND MODDERS – PROJECT ISOLATION BY ALEX CIOBANU

written by: Terrence Sellers

Short and Sweet

Alex Ciobanu has only been modding for about two years, but he’s already one of the top modders in Australia. In this very short amount of time he has already accomplished a number of great achievements. He’s completed more than 15 mods and will probably have completed or nearly completed 20 total case mods by the end of this year.

He’s placed well in multiple modding competitions, been featured in events, and won third place in this year’s Case Mod World Series ANZ edition. These are all impressive accomplishments that many modders have yet to achieve even after several years of competitive modding. The fact that Alex is barely in his mid-twenties makes this modder all the more impressive.

We’re not even talking about a lifelong PC builder whose been honing his craft since he was a child. Alex built his first PC at only about 11 years old with the help of an older friend, but this was pretty much a onetime experience. Like with most boys from that era, his PC needs centered on gaming. But his living arrangements made PC gaming extremely inconvenient.

Having lived in Romania, New Zealand, and eventually settling in Australia made the prospect of PC owning and building quite difficult, because moving that type of equipment is never fun. Having to do it safely multiple times as a youth would be nearly impossible. Because of this, Alex got his gaming fix from consoles. This was the easier, much more sensible choice and it suited him fine for years. Then one day everything changed.

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A Conscious Decision

Alex Ciobanu didn’t have some magical moment that inspired him to start building and modding PC’s. He simply needed something to do. After quite a few years of console gaming he decided out of the blue, during his second year of college, that he was going to build his own gaming PC. It wasn’t an offhanded thought or something that slowly built up over several months or years of wishing and planning. He just decided one day that he was gonna do it. And he really did it. He did research online first and basically self-taught himself everything he needed to know about PC building. Being a college student and living in a country with extremely marked up prices, he didn’t have the money to buy brand new, high end parts. He scraped together the necessary components second hand and built his first gaming rig. He was now officially a PC gamer.

After a number of months he had finally completed his goal of building a gaming PC, but this newfound achievement left him hollow. He had gotten so interested in PC hardware and building his machine that he couldn’t bring himself to stop. “Now what?” he thought to himself as he looked at months’ worth of effort and money. The process couldn’t just be done for him. So he did more research and decided to keep going. Thus his journey into modding began.

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Vault Boy

A modder’s first mod is a special type of project. Like a painter’s first canvas or a composer’s first music sheet, it can have lasting effects on the entirety of one’s career. Alex Ciobanu’s first mod was Vault Boy. As a dedicated gamer, he intuitively decided to mod his first PC based on a video game. What game would be a more appropriate theme for a PC built with second hand components than Fallout? For those of you who have been living under a rock, which would actually be very relevant to this particular game series,Fallout is a about surviving in a post-apocalyptic world that has been ravaged by nuclear war after having spent the bulk of your life in an underground bunker. The game’s mascot and in game tutorial guide is known as Vault Boy, which is where Alex’s first mod’s name obviously comes from.

“I just wanted to pimp out my case.”

Alex does not half step anything. He took it upon himself to mod his first custom built PC and he took the process as far as his could with nothing more than Google searches and looking at other people’s work logs. Even just to make the choice to mod a PC is a big step for many people and they usually start out small. That’s not Alex’s style though. He opted to do custom paint all around, including the power supply, and a DIY liquid cooling system. Even many advanced PC builders and modders never take the plunge into DIY liquid cooling. To do it on a first PC and mod is an achievement all by itself.

Vault Boy did better than Alex could have ever imagined. He decided to do a work log of it online because that’s what he saw other modders doing. For whatever reason he opted to post it on overclock.net. There was overwhelming support for the mod and he was told that he should enter it into the site’s mod of the month contest. It was close, but he won the contest and his modding pursuits have only grown since.

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Modding With The Pros

After only a short time, but several mods later, Alex Ciobanu had created a name for himself as one of the premier modders in Australia. Multiple companies approached him with sponsored modding opportunities. What had started as a hobby had now evolved into something much bigger. This led him to participating in bigger competitions and there is no bigger than the Cooler Master Case Mod World Series.

Alex wanted to create something special for his CMWS entry. He wanted to challenge himself and push the limits of his skills to new points, making use of new techniques and experimenting along the way. For this build he decided to go with what he knows best and do another video game themed mod. But this time he wouldn’t hold anything back. Enter Project Isolation.

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Project Isolation

The mod that Alex used to win third place in the Case Mod World Series ANZ edition was appropriately named Project Isolation. This mod was inspired by the game Dead Space. This is a game that centers on loneliness and darkness as main themes to induce fear. An ill-equipped space minor stumbles onto an abandoned ship and what follows is a descent into madness as he struggles to survive on a ship infested with an alien parasite that has turned everyone on board into horrifying, blood thirsty monsters.

Alex wanted to create a mod that adequately expresses not just the appearance of the game like he did with Vault Boy, but also the feelings behind it. The fear, darkness, and violence of the game all had to be encompassed by his mod. This forced him to try new techniques with things like rust painting and more stylized cutting.

Project Isolation came out quite well, but Alex didn’t get to submit the mod he wanted to. As with all mod competitions, there was a deadline and time waits for no man. This mod was meant to be even more impressive than it already is. But even at an unfinished point, it still managed to take 3rd place in the competition.

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The Philosophy Of Winners

What’s most impressive about Alex Ciobanu is not the fact that his was a winning modder out of the gate. Nor is it the fact that he’s managed to do like 18 mods in two years. Or even the fact that he made it to the podium on his first Case Mod World Series entry. What’s most impressive is his overall philosophy on modding.

“If you have the passion for computers, I believe anyone can be a modder.”

Alex doesn’t see modding as an exclusive skill set that only certain people can be a part of. For him, it’s not a super serious craft that should be left to those who have the time to dedicate their lives to it. It all just comes down to passion. It’s an extension of PC building and anyone who has an interest in building PC’s can be a modder. The more passion they have, the better their mods will be. He believes they just need to go ahead and do it. This just do it mindset is very apparent in his own modding process.

Alex doesn’t make sketches or models to plan his mods. He just takes the case, gets a non-rigid idea in his head, and starts modding. The best part about modding for him is the process of taking apart and altering a case. That’s why he does it and that’s what he enjoys about it. It’s all about the hardware. He just mods and mods until it’s done. And for him a mod is never really finished, only changed. Many of his mods are made from past mods which he’s disassembled and used in future mods. Modding is a fluid part of his life. It’s not his job, nor is it just a hobby. It’s a life style. It’s a community. It’s a world view.

The modding community is not very big in Australia. In fact Alex truly was one of the first to be noticed on the world modding stage. He claims to have even mentored a fellow Australian modder who ultimately beat him in this year’s Case Mod World Series. He is not unhappy about this. He takes pride in the fact that he has contributed to the Australian modding community and hopes that it continues to grow.

Alex continues to mod at a very high volume. He currently has at least three new projects in the works and several mods, including Project Isolation sitting in his apartment waiting to have additional changes and additions made. He hopes to remain an active part of the modding community and keep making mods that continue to impress others and himself.

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