Budget Range: ideally $900 After Rebates, willing to go to about $1100 if it's needed for what I'm doing (I'll list that below)
System Usage from Most to Least Important: Game Design (not sure what programs specifically, but currently maya, source SDK, torque game builder. In the near future, I'm going to be using more top end game design programs) and audio recording (mostly the programs reason rewire through nuendo, with video running with it.)
Parts Not Required: mouse, keyboard, monitor
Preferred Website(s) for Parts: newegg, open to whatever's cheapest.
Country of Origin: US
Parts Preferences: None really.
SLI or Crossfire: Is this needed?
Monitor Resolution: 1920x1080
Additional Comments: For doing audio work, is it worth it to buy a sound card or will I be fine using the onboard that comes with my motherboard? Thanks.
I suggest you get a parts list together yourself and we can give advice from there. Some general pointers though:
You'll definitely be wanting an unlocked (K version) I7 CPU for the hyperthreading, it will really benefit your usage scenario. So the I7 2600K will be my suggestion.
AT LEAST 8GB RAM (2 x 4GB), recommend 16 GB (4 x 4GB) at 1600MHz.
To keep the CPU cool under heavy use, i suggest a small after market cooler like the Titan Skalli.
SLI or Crossfire isn't needed, but i suggest a high end graphics card to help your work, like a GTX 570 or 580.
Yes, if you're purposefully working with sound in a professional manner then get a XONAR sound card. They are from Asus and offer the best sound to noise ratio's as well as a more comprehensive array of outputs to interfaces and speakers.
You'll want a decent PSU that gives you mission critical stability. So something like a Corsair HX 650/750 or an Antec TruePower 650W/750W.
Since you're not overclocking you won't need a particularly powerful motherboard, but i suggest one from Asus or Gigabyte. For the latest Sandybridge CPU compatibility (socket 1155) you'll want something from the P68 chipset range.
Getting an SSD is completely up to you, you'll be able to fit it into your budget if you want to. Get a small 60GB Sandforce based controller unit like the Corsair Force or OCZ Vertex 2, just to install Windows on. Then get a 1TB Samsung Spinpoint F3 for storage and programs etc. Heck, you may want a few if you're working with many big files.
I suggest dual Hard Drives in Raid for stability. In the event one dies you have a backup, and backups are important for development. You could just as easily go for a single drive so long as you back stuff up and can suffer the downtime in the unlikely event your hard drive dies. I also suggest immediately making an installable image of your Windows 7 installation after you have activated it. In case anything happens to your installation it will be alot easier to get your machine back and running.
If you go with a single Hard Drive, or otherwise increase your budget, you can go with a faster quad core Sandy Bridge CPU . At least with this build you can upgrade to Bulldozer latter on thanks to the AM3+ board. I also chose the GTX 460 over a 6850 simply because modeling software tends to like nVidia better.
Here's what I suggest. A faster cpu is much more important and you should be backing up on an external device although raid 1 has it's purposes. There's no point in getting more expensive caviar blacks when the samsungs are pretty much the same speed. Game design and audio are completely different jobs and if you're considering these as careers, you need to specialize in 1 if you ever hope to get a job. Although being able to do both will be a plus in smaller game studios who generalize jobs. I was not sure if you wanted windows in the budget but there is no reason to get pro over home premium, there's nothing in the extra features that you'd use. If you are a student or know someone how is you could get a student discount for windows.
There's a ide dvd burner free with the cpu but being ide, you won't be able to use it so added another. A sound card or ssd would be helpful but are less important and can be added later. You should consider overclocking, it's really easy with sandy bridge and a free performance boost.