Team Fortress 2

Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Team Fortress 2, Portal 2 and other Source Engine games were all affected by a particularly nasty exploit until recently. Basically, by uploading custom assets into a custom map, hackers could use them to trigger a "buffer overflow vulnerability" which resulted in the victim PC being open to remote code execution.

In other words, merely shooting at an enemy could cause your machine to be remotely hijacked. The exploit was identified by One Up Security (via Motherboard) who notified Valve. 

"Valve's Source SDK contained a buffer overflow vulnerability which allowed remote code execution on clients and servers," OUP's statement reads. "The vulnerability was exploited by fragging a player, which caused a specially crafted ragdoll model to be loaded. 

Multiple Source games were updated during the month of June 2017 to fix the vulnerability. Titles included CS:GO, TF2, Hl2:DM, Portal 2, and L4D2. We thank Valve for being very responsive and taking care of vulnerabilites swiftly. Valve patched and released updates for their more popular titles within a day."

For a demonstration of how it worked, this very short video tells you all you need to know. Death has never been so scary.

Team Fortress 2

Last week I asked our community to share their sleaziest stories of scamming or being scammed in online games. I expected we'd get some fun tales that we could all laugh about, but instead the comments section filled with anecdotes of such absolute savagery that I lost hope for humanity. Not only are some of you unconscionable in your unwavering commitment to screwing over your fellow person (or friends), but a few of you also suffered dearly at the hands of strangers on the net.

I've sifted through hundreds of comments to bring back what I feel are the worst, sleaziest, most underhanded stories. Whether it's screwing over your best friends for a quick buck or falling for the same scam twice in a row, all of you should feel bad. Really bad. For better and for worse, here are your most underhanded stories of scamming.

Cat fishing anonymous 

It's one thing to use a silver tongue to trick someone into handing over a few items, but it's another thing to get your girlfriend to pretend to be a cam girl in order to scam some poor, lonely soul for 10 million gold. That's exactly what commenter Mugen did while playing Vindictus.

"I once scammed a guy from Italy out of 10 million gold in Vindictus," he explains in the comments. "I told him I was a cam girl and I'd Skype him if he transferred the gold to my character."

Apparently Sleepless in Italy needed a bit more proof before he was willing to part with his precious gold, so Mugen somehow convinced his girlfriend to play the part. "I got my girlfriend to go on Skype with him and she posted fake cam girl pics and pretended it was her," he says. "After we got the payment we let him know he shouldn't trust people online and then deleted and blocked him on Skype. I've never felt so horrible."

Mugen's comment doesn't offer more details, but I have a million questions. How does someone even convince their girlfriend to pull this off? I don't know what makes me more depressed: That someone would stoop so low for gold or that someone would actually fall for it.

Need a lift? 

You should never take a ride from a stranger—especially if it's in DayZ and there's zero reason why that person shouldn't break your legs and leave you for dead. It might not be a traditional scam, but FixTheBloodyGame (let's call him Fix) has a story so brutal that it's only made worse by the fact that they got nothing out of it.

"Back when DayZ was an Arma 2 mod, myself and two friends had become fully geared, had a helicopter, and basically hit the endgame without much else to do," they explain. "What we ended up doing was offering lifts around the map using our helicopter and arranging this via side chat. Needless to say, we had some ulterior motives."

I shot him in the leg with a DMR, snapping them instantly.

FixTheBloodyGame

They stumbled upon a freshly-spawned player trying to get across the map so he could team up with his friend. "We met up in Electro, got him to drop all his gear and loaded him into the chopper and set off flying northeast. After 3 minutes of flying, he got very confused and asked where we were heading. 'Just a quick stop at our base,' we said."

As Fix explains, in the far northeastern corner of the map is an island so small that no zombies spawn on it and most players don't even know it exists. "We dropped the guy off on the island and said he should follow us to get some gear from our 'buggy tents that go invisible.'

After watching this poor sap run around trying to find the invisible tents, Fix decided to get nasty. "I shot him in the leg with a DMR, snapping them instantly," Fix writes.

But it gets worse.

"We quickly bandaged him, healed him up (his legs were still broken) and got him to crawl across this island to our helicopter. As soon as he got close we flew away. After he started getting sad in side chat we flew back to him and fixed his legs—only to snap them and repeat the whole process again."

Fix explains it was only when the island was a tiny dot on the horizon that they fully realized what an ass they had been. "This poor guy just wanted to meet up with his friend. He now only had a few choices: Swim to shore (which would take multiple hours), starve to death (again, multiple hours in real time), or quit the server and never return. There was no suicide button and he had no gear to kill himself with."

"We got a lone message in side chat after all this, a simple ':(.'"

Reading this story, the optimist in me hoped that maybe Fix and their friends would find their conscience and head back for their crippled passenger. Nope.

"Our pilot got very sad for him, the rest of us laughed our arses off."

Sorry for your loss 

XyzzyFrobozz's story is legitimately infuriating and proves that EVE Online isn't the only MMO where you can't trust your closest friends. "I started a guild in Lord of the Rings Online on the Nimrodel server called the 'Rangers of Arnor,'" they write. "I worked hard at recruiting and raiding to the point where we were becoming a medium-sized guild of about 50 people. Word was spreading that we were active and friendly, and so we started getting quite a few applications." 

"A good friend of mine unfortunately took his own life. I had to travel out of state to be with his family and help with the arrangements, so I handed over some of the control of the guild to a 'trusted' friend in the game—specifically the ability to recruit or ban people from the guild. I explained what was going on and that I wanted the guild to continue growing by admitting people while I was away."

Apparently even a real-life tragedy won't stop some people from abusing power. Xyzzy returned to a terrible surprise. "When I returned I found the guild had grown by five players... and that my 'friend' had kicked me from the guild and taken it over as his own."

"I never played LOTRO again."

I don't blame them.

Insanity is doing the same thing twice… 

We received a mountain of entries involving Runescape. This MMO is a madhouse of skullduggery, but Jake Brandt's story stands out because he was so hilariously naive as to fall for the same scam twice in a row.

As he explains, his pride and joy was his full set of adamantium armor, which was the second-most powerful in the game at the time. Around that time, Jagex had released special sets of armor that had ornate gold or silver trimming along the outer edges. It was highly fashionable and Jake wanted some. "I had heard about gold trimmed armor but knew nothing else about it, so when a guy on the road offered to upgrade my armor I happily accepted his generous offer and handed over two pieces of my gear."

There's just one problem: there was no way to convert normal armor into trimmed armor. Instead of learning this lesson, Jake decided to roll the dice a second time.

"After a brief mourning period for my lost adamantium equipment, I kept walking down the road and there were a couple of people at a crossroads. One of them walked up to me and offered to add gold trim my remaining armor. I don't remember how I could have possibly thought it was a good idea to try this again, but I did. I even made him swear he wouldn't keep my armor like the last guy."

"And that's the story of the time I ragequit Runescape, never to return."

On the next page, someone gets the shit kicked out of them in real life.

Mistaken identity 

Zed's willingness to think on his feet is astounding. While playing Diablo 2 one day, he found an open public game named "Cody come" and decided to play a trick: He was going to pretend to be Cody. "I joined the match with a stupid idea in my head that I was going to pretend to be the guy's friend," Zed writes. "After joining the game I went to my stash checked out some items and was just doing my thing and the other guy in that current game said 'Hello' and I replied "Hey man, one sec gonna get a drink' and he said 'Cody?' I waited a minute or so and said to him 'Yeah this is my paladin account.' So at this point he was gonna either call my bluff or believe me."

But before the other player could decide, another player joined the game.

It wasn't Cody, but a random PvPer who immediately turned hostile and challenged the two to a fight. "I quickly invited the other guy to my party which he accepted and we ran out of town only to be slaughtered. We lost a boat load of gold and this guy was getting very upset," Zed explains. Then Zed saw his opportunity to strike.

"Now I knew what item he had because I was a dork and could tell if someone had an ethereal weapon. It was obviously one of the high end game rune weapons because we were in hell mode," Zed says. "I told my buddy that with my current build I could kill the amazon if he would just give me the item. I requested trade and to my surprise the trade window opened."

"'You better give it back dude, I'm not joking,' the guy said. I got the item and left the game."

Again, please don't give strangers your rarest items. Even if you think they're Cody.

Don't lose your head 

Many of the stories we received took place while playing games, but BunnyBot 5000 had the unfortunate experience of being scammed through Steam's trading interface. "Several months after Team Fortress 2 had gone free-to-play, my most sought after dream at the time was a Max's Head to accompany my rabbit-themed username, BunnyBot writes. "I had acquired the illustrious hat by way of birthday money, and was open in my flaunting of it."

"Now here's where it gets weird - I had, by this time, made several friends through Steam." As BunnyBot explains, one friend, "Andrew" lived just down the block from him. "Late one night, I began messaging with Andrew and he requested I trade the Max's Head to him as part of some sort of elaborate prank. In my tired, sleep-deprived mind, I figured that Andrew was the kind of guy to do this kind of stuff, and if he tried to skimp me, I could just walk down to his house and chew him out. In my moment of weakness, I traded him my most prized possession."

There was just one problem: BunnyBot wasn't speaking to Andrew.

As BunnyBot quickly realized the moment "Andrew" unfriended him and ran off with his Max's Head, "another one of my Steam friends had a very similar screen name to Andrew's."

When BunnyBot began messaging him thinking he was Andrew, "the sleazy fuck" played along with it and "pretended to be [his] friend."

"I traded this stranger my most prized possession and he immediately unfriended me and made off with his ill-gotten gains," BunnyBot laments. "I learned my lesson that day: Scammers are not always just some kind of weird broken-English bot that tries to add you out of the blue. They could already be on your friends list, lying in wait for just the right opportunity."

Keep your friends close 

Of all the stories we received, Jirka Týr's is easily my favorite. A common theme in most of these stories was that the scammer always got away without consequence, but Jirka paid dearly for his scam.

Back in 2006, Jirka and his four friends, barely teenagers, got into playing Runescape. As he explains, they knew very little about the game and spent a great deal of time on YouTube learning how to play. That's when they came across a video teaching how to lure people into the open-PvP Wilderness so you could kill them and take their stuff. They were very excited. "We were all around 11-12 years old so we had boners harder than steel."

I ended up with 5 really small open wounds, broken nose and few cuts on my face.

Jirka T r

Using computers at their school, the five friends decided to give the scam a try. "We tried pretty hard for a good hour and almost everyone looked through us and reported us," Jirka says. " After another four days of trying and no result, I was kinda pissed off it doesn't work—probably because English isn't my native language and all I could say back then was yes, no, hello, and bye. It was kinda hard and we were just copying and pasting every word we saw in the video."

Frustrated by his inability to trick other players, Jirka decided to turn on his friends.

"One day I started yelling that I finally got some guy and I'm going to kill him," Jirka writes. He explains that he convinced his friends to drop everything to come to his aid but only bring their cash so they had more room to pick up his victim's items. Except there was no victim.

Earlier, Jirka had used all of his cash to purchase a set of rune armor—some of the best in the game. When the first of his friends arrived, he immediately attacked and quickly killed him. "All I saw was his red, steaming face over the monitor," Jirka writes. "I kept my cool and tried my best to have the most serious poker face. He yelled at me 'Why did you kill me you dipshit?' And with all my skill I turned slowly on him, tilted my face a bit and said 'What are you talking about?' I said that couldn't be me because I was somewhere else—I was lying and all it would take to catch me was for him to come to my computer and look at what I'm doing."

Over the next few days, Jirka succeeded in pulling the same stunt on the rest of his friends, looting their dead bodies until he had over 100,000 gold. "I bought every single expensive thing I could find and what did I do when I had all this expensive gear and cosmetic shit on my account? I showed it to my friends!"

This would prove to be Jirka's undoing. Immediately his friends deduced who had scammed them and taken all of their gold. "They didn't react by calling me a swine or an asshole," Jirka says. "It was literally punches, kicks, hitting me with a chair…"

They beat the shit out of him.

"I ended up with 5 really small open wounds, broken nose and few cuts on my face," Jirka writes. He explains that this all happened at his school in the Czech Republic, and his teachers had to call his parents to come and get him. "After my mom saw me she nearly cried and my father was angry as hell."

At the time, however, no one knew that Jirka had broken his nose. "My nose hurt like hell so I went to my mom and told her about it," He says. "She just grabbed me by the nose and yanked it to the side. When it moved, it scared her to the death and I went to the hospital that night, we had no car at the time and even no driver license so we had to wake up all of our neighbours and ask them to drive us."

But getting beat up wasn't even the worst punishment. "My account was completely wiped out.

Nobody from those friends talked to me that year, and I looked like an ogre because my nose was four times bigger than usual."

I guess the lesson here is not to scam people who are within arm's reach of you.

Or, you know, just don't scam people at all.

Comments were edited for grammar and clarity.

Half-Life 2

Cars, confirmed.

Earlier this week, we watched some SGDQ speedrunners surf and fly through Water Hazard,  Half-Life 2’s wettest level. Normally, you coast through with a boat, stopping here and there to shoot aliens and open gates. It’s a relaxing venture compared to Nova Prospekt’s turret hell. 

Ditching the boat makes sense if you’re trying to go fast, but modder WALLe’s anti-boat agenda runs deep. They’re redesigning the entire Water Hazard level to be playable from start to finish without a floaty friend. That doesn’t mean they’re just putting out a mod that lets Freeman fly or plops handy planks throughout the entire sequence. It’s being completely redesigned, featuring a small story, voice acting, music, and maps made for feet. See it for yourself in this early demo playthrough.

The footage doesn’t look too thrilling, but I suppose it’s the novelty of the mod’s intent that overrides what a quiet experience it might be. I mean, if you take the boat out of Water Hazard, I’d expect it to be quiet. There’s no boat making boat sounds. It’s boat-less. Er, BOAT-LESS. The capital letters are there to emphasize exactly how little boat there will be in the final release. 

We don’t have a word on a release date quite yet, so keep your eyes on the BOAT-LESS ModDB page for any incoming information.  

Half-Life 2

It’s possible to ignore the boat almost entirely in Half-Life 2’s first notorious vehicle level, and speedrunner Woobly demonstrated it last night during his Summer Games Done Quick run of the classic FPS. Dubbed Boatless by the HL2 speedrunning community, the strategy isn’t exactly new, but for those who only hear about speedruns when the Games Done Quick carnival rolls into town and hate the Water Hazard chapter, it’s a revelation. 

A few tricks go into making the run possible, the most important of which is save deletion. It’s a method of creating and deleting saves to reset Freeman’s weapon inventory and health. Since most of Water Hazard’s water is, well, a hazard, it’s nearly impossible to swoop through the radioactive liquid without marooning yourself eventually. With save deletion, runners can just save, delete the save, and die to get healthy again. It will also spawn the boat nearby, no matter where the runner leaves it behind. 

Before save deletion was discovered, the run wasn’t possible even if players somehow survived the ordeal. Throughout the entire level, there’s a single trigger that requires the boat, and it’s right at the end. Gordon doesn’t have to even be there. Save deletion lets runners spawn the boat right at the end when it’s needed, so some NPCs can talk to it and open a gate. 

But to swoop around like a damn bird on a surfboard and fly over most of the map, runners use variations well known Source exploit to gain speed called accelerated back hopping. To do it, you need to jump forward, turn around in the air, and jump right when you land. The Source Runs wiki explains how this process actually gains speed: 

“When you exceed the game's speed limit, the game tries to slows you down whenever you jump, back to the desired speed. By default the game thinks that you're moving forwards, so when you exceed the speed limit, it'll accelerate you backwards. If you are facing backwards, this will only increase your speed. So, the faster you're going, the more you will get accelerated.”

By gaining speed and hitting certain surfaces at angles that don’t trigger damage, runners can treat level geometry like a stunt course. It’s just like real life, basically. 

As impressive as Woobly’s SGDQ run is, it’s nothing compared to the World Record run by Rainnt, set just under a month ago. To see their near perfect Boatless run, skip to the 20-minute mark or so. 

Team Fortress 2

Nine years. That’s how long I’ve been running around cp_badlands, and it’s never once felt stale. Added to Team Fortress 2 in 2008, it quickly became a staple of the Control Point mode, where teams are tasked with sequentially capturing five areas of the map and pushing the enemy team back towards their own spawn building. 

It’s a remake of a Capture The Flag map from Team Fortress Classic and it shows, retaining two large bases at either end. Between them lies everything you could ever want as a TF2 player: long sight lines for the Sniper, vantage points for the rocket-jumping Soldier, and hidey-holes where a Spy can lurk in wait of a wandering opponent’s back. 

That’s pretty standard for official maps, which are fairly well designed, but there are a couple of things that set Badlands apart. On most maps, it feels as if the control points have been plonked down and the terrain built around them. In Badlands, they feel almost incidental parts of a wider arena, itself designed to give combat as much variety as possible. 

Take the area around the central point: the point is on a bridge, and below lies a wide valley where players can fight around and between the supports. To the left and right of the bridge are safe houses, with balconies that overlook the area.

It’s a vast space, and at any one time you can expect three or four secondary fights alongside the main battle for the point. Scouts duke it out with their Scatterguns for control of the area below, snipers camp in their buildings trying to take each other’s heads off, and, inevitably, a flanking Heavy wraps around to come at the opposition from behind, being as sneaky as a giant Russian with a minigun can be. It’s manic, and utterly brilliant. 

The same is true of the second point. Once you’ve captured ‘Mid’ you push on to ‘Yard’, another open area with plenty of peaks and troughs. There are three ways to get there, providing plenty of flanking routes, and you’re never sure where your opponent may come from next. 

The control point itself sits close to the defending team’s base, on a towering spike of rock called ‘Spire’. It’s easy enough to reach the top if you’re a double-jumping Scout, rocket-jumping Soldier, or a crafty sticky-jumping Demoman. The rest of team is forced onto a snaking path. It’s a long climb, and the defenders have battlements from which they can rain down hell. 

Some people loathe this, but dodging rockets and bullets on my hike up the path never fails to get my adrenaline going. And once you reach the top, it’s your turn to have the high ground. I play mainly as a medic, and some of my best TF2 moments have come on the top of Spire, barely keeping teammates alive as I tiptoe around its peak.

These open areas mean Badlands avoids tight chokepoints that the defensive team can spam with explosives. Even its most claustrophobic zone – the final control point—has multiple access points and a fast capture time, so you don’t have to grind down the enemy team in order to win. 

Sadly, Badlands has fallen out of favour. Last year Valve removed it from the rotation for the public competitive mode and community servers now running it are usually empty. If I want to get my Badlands fix, I have to watch the pros. It’s part of the rotation for a lot of serious competitions, and it shows the map at its best. There’s nothing like watching a well-oiled team push all the way out of last point—avoiding a back capture from a sneaky Scout—onto Spire, through Mid, and then rolling through the enemy team. Tactics have been tried, improved and bested, and watching new tactics put into practice is always a thrill. 

As the TF2 competitive scene wanes or moves onto shinier maps, Badlands will die out. That will be a sad day indeed, and I fear it could come sooner rather than later. This is my chance to publicly declare my love for it before it fades away. cp_badlands: gone—almost—but never forgotten.

Team Fortress 2

Videogames that are a decade old tend to be pretty well locked-down, which is a nice way of saying that their developers stopped paying attention to them years ago. Not so with Team Fortress 2, however. Valve announced in a TF2 blog post that new balance changes are coming to the game in a "major update," and this time around it's actually telling people about the update before it goes live. 

"In the past, we've made blog posts about changes we've already shipped or stuff we've tossed onto the smoldering scrap-heap of failed ideas," Valve wrote. "This time—based on your feedback—we're going talk about changes while we’re still working on them." 

The list of changes, "based on online community discussions, emails, playtime data, conversations with players of all skill ranges, and play testing," is not complete, but is instead a "sneak peek" at what Valve is moving toward. Some changes, to both items and classes, are still being worked on and aren't "ready for review," and some that are listed may be changed prior to the update's release.  

Valve is also "going deeper" with some classes than others. The Scout, for instance, will see a number of changes: The triple-jump enabled by the "Atomizer" bat, for instance, "is just too strong" because opponents don't see the bat and thus can't anticipate the Scout's enhanced jumping ability until it's too late. Because of that, the update will require that the bat be deployed, rather than simply carried, in order for the triple-jump ability to be used. It will also suffer a 50 percent "deploy time penalty" in order to prevent a "quick-switch by-pass." 

The Engineer, on the other hand, is getting far less attention: The only listed change for that class is that the "Rescue Ranger" weapon will consume metal (at a 4:1 metal-to-health ratio) when used to make ranged repairs to buildings. Previously, ranged repairs with the weapon required no metal, which made it a little too powerful.   

Ahead of the update, Valve is inviting player feedback as it tunes and finalizes these and other changes. "Hearing from you helps us prioritize our work and influences the direction the game moves in." 

A rollout date for the latest TF2 update hasn't been set. 

Half-Life 2

Brace yourselves, but we may never see Half-Life 3. We will, however, always have Half-Life 2—and, thanks to the efforts of a group of modders, it may soon be playable on current Oculus Rift and HTC Vive headsets. The Half-Life 2: VR mod that first saw the light of day back in 2013 has been resurrected on Steam Greenlight, with updates that will allow it to run on current VR hardware.

As explained by Road to VR, the original mod fell into disuse because Valve didn't update the Source engine to keep pace with changes in Rift and Vive headset software. Now, however, members of the original mod team, along with some new additions, have figured out how to make it work with current headsets, and also to support motion controllers, a feature that wasn't previously available. 

The mod will also offer "updated effects, textures, models & maps," a 3D interface designed specifically for VR, "realistic weapon interactions," and "multiple VR locomotion methods," which I assume means ways of moving around in the game world.  It'll be free too, but will require ownership of Half-Life 2, and HL2: Episode 1 and 2, in order to run. If you like what you see—and it's Half-Life 2 in virtual reality, so by all rights that should be a big ol' "Yes please, and thank you."

Team Fortress 2

I tried.

Without bagels, I’d probably live to be 100 years old. But I have regular access to bagels and sourdough loaves and this sandwich bread always in my house called Birdman that’s covered in seeds and I don’t know why. I eat the stuff so fast I’ll be surprised if I make it to 50. 

In videogames, bread often gives you health instead of slowly seeping it away, a beacon of hearth and health. It’s been this way since the earliest games, and as technology became more capable of producing detailed environments and uncanny human likenesses, so too advanced the fidelity of the loaf. But the evolution of bread didn’t happen in a straight line. Diverse genres, art styles, and game engines shifted the purpose and priority of bread throughout the ages.

To get a clearer picture of how game bread has or hasn’t evolved, we’ve taken a look back at its implementation in some best games ever made to some of the most obscure.

BurgerTime (1982) 

As one of the earliest depictions of a hamburger bun, BurgerTime did a decent job. And it should have, given the name. Notice the inference of sesame seeds on the top bun and how the light diffuses on the bottom bunk. Early pixel art set a high bar for bunwork. 

Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1992)

A decade later, the burger genre fell out of vogue and fantasy roleplaying games stepped into the limelight. Ultima IV didn’t feature bread in a major way, but was an early example of inventory art, proof that you didn’t need the latest in computer graphics to make a great loaf. 

Jesus Matchup (1993) 

As a preteen, I went to a Catholic church camp even though I’m not and have never been Catholic. I ate the body of Christ even though I wasn’t supposed to and my friend Brian chastised me after the fact. He said I needed to get confirmed first and that I broke some kind of holy rule. The bread was just a thin wafer, like a sugar cone without the sugar, and maybe the aftertaste of it was a taste of hell itself. Jesus Matchup’s brown lump captures my disappointment exactly.

Ultima Online (1997) 

Pixel loaves hadn’t evolved much between Ultima IV and Ultima Online, but for one minor detail that changed the bread game forever for a few months. Ultima Online’s bread features a small blemish, giving the impression of a bite or piece ripped away for light post-adventure munching. The loaf went from inanimate prop to inanimate prop with history

Thief: The Dark Project (1998) 

Whether Thief should commended or condemned for its early attempt at modeling a 3D loaf is beyond me. All I know for sure is this: that’s a log. 

Someone’s in the Kitchen! (1999) 

You may know Steven Spielberg for his hit films like E.T. and Jurassic Park, but did you know his name was once mentioned in a trailer for a game he probably had nothing to do with? Someone’s in the Kitchen! isn’t just good reason to call the police, it’s a bad point-and-click edutainment game with one hell of an opening theme song. Also, you make a sandwich in it while a demon toaster—who is going to kill me, I saw it in a dream—judges your creation. The bread looks like my little brother sat on it, and is a shade of yellow I’ve only ever seen in bathrooms built in the 70s. Clearly, the late 90s weren’t great for game bread. 

The Elder Scrolls 3: Morrowind (2002) 

Even the modern masters of 3D bread had to start somewhere. In Morrowind, Bethesda drew inspiration from something other than felled trees and instead turned their eye to the sky, probably. I’m guessing here. They managed to suggest bread by texturing a footballish shape with what look like photos from the visible surface of Jupiter, a perpetually storming gas giant. 

World of Warcraft (2004) 

Just two years later an MMO, known for prioritizing multiplayer features over looking good, managed to bake bread that an Orc could tolerate. While the left loaf looks like a water chestnut, the precise angles and light divots up top are a convincing enough illusion. The right loaf, except for it’s undercooked coloring, nails the shape. And the inner texture marks a defined border between crust and light, fluffy inside. I’m tempted to throw some mayo, lettuce, tomato, and a bit of thinly sliced night elf meat on there just looking at it.

The Elder Scrolls 4: Oblivion (2006) 

Maybe Bethesda should’ve prioritized bread resolution DLC over horse armor. At a glance, one out of ten times I’m going to say that’s bread. The other nine times I’m going to say that’s a large misshapen potato. I lived in Idaho for a while. Got invited to a ‘Baked Potato Party' and yeah, they get that big.

Recettear: An Item Shop’s Tale (2007) 

While 3D game bread moved into potato territory, Recettear reaffirmed that pixels were still the way to go. Its depiction of Walnut Bread takes a good squint to make out, but when you get up close, the shades of gold and brown and white light diffusing on the outer crust nearly flash the entire baking process on the back of your eyelids. “Walnuts, soft dough and a bit of sugar…” do more than an extra dimension ever could.

Dinner Date (2011) 

I’d flake on a guy who thought it’d be a good idea to dip that twisted loaf in some red shit too. And look at that distribution! I’m not sure what’s being distributed, but half of that isn’t even bread, it’s Dark Brown Stuff. Jesus, man. We should never be able to see inside the bread if the tech isn't ready and can’t simulate a good bake. 

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim (2011) 

Star Baker goes to Todd Howard this decade. Look at the fidelity of this loaf. A nice rise, detailed textures, and I can nearly hear the muffled tip-tap from the even bake. Forget adventure and the snowcapped mountaintops and vampires and dragons—like a toilet in a Tarantino movie, a good loaf is the keystone of any open world. 

Minecraft (2011)

Well regarded for its wild redstone contraptions and horrifying monuments to pop culture, Minecraft’s bread has been largely ignored, and for good reason. You’re one of the most successful games of all time, and a brown lump is the best you can muster? I’ve felt more love radiating from an old hotdog bun.

Scribblenauts Unlimited (2012) 

You can tell this was made in a bread pan, small specks imply the bread is airy and light, you can summon it whenever you like, and nearly every humanoid creature will eat it. It’s a crude child’s drawing, sure, but Scribblenauts built put time into simulating natural, albeit simple, bread world behaviors. Consider it this immersive sim, the System Shock, of bread. Place it in the world, and the world reacts to its presence.

Bioshock Infinite (2013) 

Source: David Miles on YouTube

If one game knows how good its bread is, it’s Bioshock Infinite. If you were to press pause and inspect the 3D baguette, it’d be possible to nitpick small design decisions, like texture resolution, flour distribution, and grain density, but because the bread is sandwiched with context—the dancing bread boy and his believable reaction to owning a baguette inside a big patriotic amusement park city held up by balloons that Ken Levine imagined using his brain, his very own personal brain—it doesn’t feel out of place. Realism is helpful, certainly, but the game world needs to feel alive, like a natural home for bread above all else.  

Team Fortress 2: Love and War update (2014) 

Bread is only monstrous when left to mold, and Team Fortress 2’s Love and War update bottles the essence of in a cute, tragic short film. There’s little purpose to the bread in-game aside from a few dough-themed items. Personally, I interpret it as a commentary on the state of game bread as nothing more than a simple prop and HP potion skin, new ideas and advances left in the pantry to rot. I see you Valve.

I Am Bread (2014) 

As a goofy physics playground, I Am Bread is fine. I do take issue with how controlling a slice feels like maneuvering a heavy sponge. Bread isn’t heavy and sandwich bread isn’t durable. One fall off the table and it’s over, usually. I Am Bread forgoes natural bread behaviors for the sake of a joke, but I’m not sure we’ll be laughing when our kids start to think they can wash the dishes with a sandwich.

The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (2015) 

Everything about The Witcher 3’s world feels hand-placed. Small villages, big cities, and even monster-infested caves are brimming with life and purpose, but in order to maintain such a sprawling illusion, nearly all props and people are static. NPCs sit in the same place spouting the same lines and props like bread just sit there, looking delicious, but forever out of reach. What an awful game.

Fallout 4 (2015) 

After setting a new standard for 3D loaf work in Skyrim, Bethesda dropped the atom ball in Fallout 4, spending more time on the bread box than any bread at all. Modders came to the rescue again, modeling slices, sandwiches, and adding recipes any old ghoul could follow.

Dishonored 2 (2016) 

Karnacan bakers know how to bake bread. Lovely rise, nice crust, but a bit low res I’m being honest. Eating it gives you a small dose of HP, but the animation is a simple swipe-and-swallow maneuver. It’s pan for the course, and not much else. In 2016, it’s a good bake, but it’s not a great bake. 

The future of videogame bread

How far have we come, really? From BurgerTime’s advanced bun art to Dishonored 2’s simple dark loaf, videogame bread feels without a sure destination—a lumpy mass that needs more time to prove. Perhaps the future holds loaves we never could have imagined, or abominations, such as virtual reality pumpernickel that virtually tastes like sourdough. 

Will Call of Duty: WWII pay proper homage to the history and show families turning their nose up at National Loaf? Maybe someday we’ll spend as much money on naan as we do on spaceships in Star Citizen. All we know for certain is that bread will be there, a short roll for every dodge roll and an abundance of biscuits to crowd every RPG inventory.

Half-Life 2

"I finally got to a point where my skills don't match what the mod is anymore," Curtis, aka Enzo.Matrix, tells me. "To me that's insane." 

The mod Enzo is referencing is one he co-founded in 2005: the Half-Life 2 modification and modern adaptation of Rare and Nintendo's first-person shooter GoldenEye 007—GoldenEye: Source. 12 years on, the mod that he and one-time partner Nicholas "Nickster" Bishop founded has been updated and reworked on several occasions, and is now almost unrecognisable in its current state. Nevertheless it continues to maintain and grow its thriving player base, and last year celebrated the launch of its most sophisticated and accomplished iteration yet in its 5.0 build.

"When we first started out, Nickster and I were working on a different mod that fell by the wayside called Project XX7," Enzo says. "When Nick came up to me and suggested we try something new, we decided to create something that was fun and enjoyable that you wanted to play with your friends. That's what the whole idea was: we wanted to recreate this experience that's enjoyable for everybody."

Enzo and Nickster chose to reimagine one of the most celebrated FPS games of a generation in N64's GoldenEye 007—and sought to capture the passion that'd elevated the '97 classic to cult status, without being hamstrung by the technical limitations the original faced eight years prior. Enzo recalls launching he and Nickster's Source variation into alpha on Christmas Eve, 2005 and quietly sneaking away from the family dinner table the following day to ensure everything was running smoothly. It was and people loved it. He was, in his own words, "utterly blown away." 

As two hobbyists operating remotely in IRC rooms, Steam Chat, and on forum pages, development of GoldenEye: Source in the early days was slow but open, and as many as 20 people had volunteered their services within its first few months. Some folk dedicated more of their time, commitment and effort than others—Enzo highlights Killermonkey, Fourtecks and Luchador as three particular modders who "took things to the next level"—but, much similar to any part-time project that doesn't have the means to remunerate its contributors, this is perhaps to be expected. It was then Enzo was dealt a very personal blow, as he discovered in May of 2006 that co-founder Nickster had committed suicide.

"He was a very fun and pleasant guy," Enzo says. "It was just unfortunate that he went that route. He was a great friend that loved to chat." According to this archived thread featured on the mod's official site, Nickster, aged just 27, had spent some time in the lead up to his passing battling depression, and had shown a recent interest in the perceived concept of the afterlife. Despite the mod's fast-growing success at the time, GoldenEye: Source had lost one half of its pioneering founders, and his father paid tribute to the outpouring of well-wishes from his son's mod's community. 

"I'm finding writing this message to be very helpful in helping me cope," his message concludes. "Nick twisted my arm for years to get me to play Half-Life. I've gotten to know and play with some great people. I can't tell you what it means to me to read all the wonderful things people have been writing about Nick. From the bottom of my heart I know Nick didn't want any of us to be sad."

The controls, for instance, can have such a big impact on how you play the game and without them the game is essentially entirely different. Nowadays, nobody wants to deal with all of that.

Noah, aka Entropy-Soldier

With this sentiment in mind, GoldenEye: Source soldiered on and spent the next several years growing and refining the GoldenEye experience. Its classic maps were reinterpreted and made less linear; its guns were modernised and mechanics such as invulnerability were removed; and stalwart settings such as You Only Live Twice and License to Kill were reintroduced on top of a number of altogether new modes. 

When GoldenEye: Source launched into alpha, its inspiration was the best part of ten years old—an influence that celebrates its 20th anniversary this year. While it still enjoys a celebrated cult status today, though, it's easy to forget how much of it isn't worth saving. As Evan rightly noted in his review of Source's most recent 5.0 launch last year, the 64's four-player capacity, horrible controls, and slow turning speed, among others things, are best left behind thus reinterpreting something so highly regarded against modern hardware and, crucially, expectations is perhaps more complicated than it first seems.    

"Recreating GoldenEye is a very interesting endeavour because there's a lot of stuff that people will remember from the original—specific weapons, characters, levels and all that—but there's also a lot of details that, as a result of the original's mechanics, the most people don't recall," says Noah, aka Entropy-Soldier, who became the mod's project lead ahead of build 5.0. "The controls, for instance, can have such a big impact on how you play the game and without them the game is essentially entirely different. Nowadays, nobody wants to deal with all of that, though. We definitely had to experiment with how much of the original game we wanted to port over to GoldenEye: Source, but I think we struck a pretty good balance of stuff that's essentially original content but heavily revamped for the modern gameplay environment."  

Entropy-Soldier continues to say that simply recreating the old game within the Source engine is equivocal to copying someone's homework assignment, and that these bold sidesteps alongside the challenge of maintaining the mod's enduring appeal are what keeps everything interesting. He points to the original's infamous Dam map as a particularly relevant example of this.

"It is very difficult to strike the balance correctly where it's like: this shouldn't be as it was, but we don't want to just completely change everything," he says. "The Dam Map was a perfect example of that. Remaking the Dam from the original was tough because it's a very linear map and there really isn't a whole lot of leeway for layout changes. As such we had to change it quite a bit to make it feasible for multiplayer environments, while keeping its lineage intact."    

And it's here where GoldenEye: Source thrives today. Whereas other prominent shooters operate automatic health regeneration mechanics, for example, GoldenEye: Source instead still relies on armour. There's also no crosshair by default, which encourages the fast and frantic twitch shooting the original executed so well—hitting shift pulls up an oversized reticule, but aiming comes at the expense of maneuverability and speed. Crouch dodging and crouch sliding return which, across its 20+ expanded maps, adds a whole other 'easy to learn/difficult to master'-type dynamic to combat should you desire. With that, there's enough here to draw the attention of new players, even if nostalgia plays a huge part in its overall appeal. 

But nostalgia can surely only take players so far. An obvious question, then, is: what keeps players returning in their droves? 

Back in the day it was like, we hit Slashdot and the site would almost be crippled. This time, the video went viral and we were second top trending on Facebook which was completely unexpected!

Curtis, aka Enzo Matrix

"I think there's always been a lot of people who've wanted to see a remake or remaster of the original game and there was a project in the works that was shut down," says Lewis, aka Mangly, the mod's lead artist. "It's a very memorable game and a lot of people want to experience it again but maybe not put up with all the notable constraints of '90s videogames."

"Yeah, we've added more modes, gun modes that's more relevant to the likes of Counter-Strike and what not, which has resonated pretty well with newcomers," Lyndon, otherwise known as Tweaklab, the mod's music composer interjects. "I've only been here for the past couple of years, but our organisation has also led to a more accomplished game in 5.0. Even as a newcomer it was making shift from Steam Chat then the forums, and then six months after that we moved to Discord and I noticed a huge change. It was really good getting frequent feedback and collaboration and even though I'm only doing music, there was no time wasted—the music was able to evolve naturally through the feedback. 

"Before I joined the team I was making music just for fun, and I've been doing since around 2003. Since joining the team I'd say the quality of production has probably doubled, just because it's not just for fun. I mean, it is but it's more guaranteed that people are going to hear it now - that you're going to get feedback from others and not just your own. Even the stuff I make outside of GoldenEye now, I'm able to notice all the new techniques I've picked up and the extra attention to details and the layering—it's all come from the mod, it's really good."

With communication at the forefront of its 5.0 development, Entropy-Soldier reckons a smaller, more intimate team has allowed GoldenEye: Source to flourish into the focussed and polished article it's become today. The original GoldenEye 007 celebrates its 20th anniversary later this year and while the Source team don't have anything planned by way of celebration just yet, they do plan to maintain its latest build and grow it over time. It's unlikely we'll see such ambitious leap between 5.0 and its next step against what's come before the current build, however it's in a great place now to continue pushing itself into the future. 

The team has set its bar high, but says it will never monetise its work—not least because so many faces have came and went along the way, and it'd hardly be appropriate for the current team to cash in on its predecessor's building blocks, some of whom have graduated to full-time employment with companies such as EA and Adobe. With this in mind, GoldenEye: Source is an archetypal labour of love, and a perfect example of hobbyist modders working with and for its community. Yet despite its most influx of players, the GoldenEye: Source team remains humble. 

"We're always getting new people coming in and saying: 'my god, I've never heard of this project'," says Enzo, "and we've been around for such a long time, it's really interesting that's there's people that haven't heard of it. I love that, and it's always great to see new faces [getting] involved.

"It was pretty shocking when we hit the first big release like that. Back in the day it was like, we hit Slashdot and the site would almost be crippled. This time, the video went viral and we were second top trending on Facebook which was completely unexpected!"

You can download the GoldenEye: Source mod from ModDB.

Half-Life 2

Back in 2007, Ross Scott posted the first episode of Freeman's Mind, a YouTube comedy series which explored the (very loud) inner monologue of theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman as he traveled through the events of the original Half-Life. Longtime fans, rejoice: yesterday, Scott posted the first episode of Freeman's Mind 2, in which Gordon arrives in City 17 to internally shout his way through Half-Life 2. You can see the new episode above.

It's natural to be a little suspicious that this is just a tease, what with the video being posted on April Fools' Day, but Scott has said in the past that he someday planned to tackle Half-Life 2 so we're hoping this is just the beginning of another long and enjoyable series of videos.

You can visit Scott's site, Accursed Farms, and find an archive of all episodes of Freeman's Mind here.

Originally this article stated the Freeman's Mind series began in 2013. That has been corrected above.

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