PC Gamer

Everyone still wants Half-Life 3. People feel its continued absence like a pain in the gut. Some people carry this weight around with them every day, and may well do so for the rest of their lives. Some people, when you say something nice has happened, silently whisper to themselves "Half-Life 3 confirmed?" 

This doesn't mean we ought to 'engulf' the lives of Valve employees, as a press release for a new crowdfunding campaign calls upon us to do. A ploy concocted by two interns at New Mexico ad firm McKee Wallwork & Co., the campaign is seeking $150,000 to organise a series of events and advertising sprees intended to persuade Valve to develop the anticipated installment. 

It's a unique idea - and it's probably not as dodgy as it sounds - but some of the wording is very problematic indeed, especially in light of recent harassment campaigns in the games industry. According to the press release received by VentureBeat, Half-Life fans have "never truly shown a united front", though "a little concentrated effort might finally get us what we want. The press release headline reads Indiegogo campaign to engulf Valve employee s lives.

VentureBeat reached out to the campaign creators Chris Salem and Kyle Mazzei, and this is what they had to say regarding the potential for harrassment. Obviously, lines like [engulf people's lives] is a little sensationalized to get people s attention, Salem said. But we think we re doing everything in a good-hearted way. We aren t going to have people camped out in front of Valve headquarters for weeks at a time. It s just going to be a one-day thing.

The IndieGoGo crowdfunding campaign involves the purchase of Google Ad Words, mobile billboards, a Valve doorstop campaign populated by Gabe Newell look-alikes and a concert. It's currently raised $36.

Community Announcements - Programmer Joe
The Beta for Half-Life 2 has been updated. This includes Episode 1, Episode 2, Lost Coast, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, and Half-Life: Source.

Changes include:
  • Fixed default refresh rate when using a Virtual Reality display at higher than the desktop refresh rate.
PC Gamer

There have been a lot of visions of the post-apocalypse, but if you've been waiting for one in which a sleepy-voiced robot guides you through a series train-based environmental puzzles in the year 2525, then you're in luck. Also, you're a little strange. Also, this mod is a little strange, even in name. It's called Steam, Tracks, Trouble & Riddles and it's for Half-Life 2: Episode 2.

First, some back-story, which is presented nicely through a series of hand-drawn images. It seems the Cuban Missile Crisis didn't end so agreeably in this reality. The nukes were launched, humans were essentially wiped out, and... well, frankly, how that leads to solving train puzzles in Berlin in the distant future, I'm not entirely sure. The important thing is, there's a bunch of train puzzles and a friendly robot to help you solve them.

At least he's on our side. I'm so used to fighting robots in the future.

It's notable that Ross Scott voices the robot, which is cool, though his voice has been slowed down to the point where it feels like it could be anyone reading the lines, which is sort of an odd choice. I'm fairly sure Scott didn't write the script, either, as the robot isn't particularly funny. The robot is, however, well designed and animated, and I enjoy the fact that he has another, smaller robot living in his head who pops out now and then. Also, for a robot who trundles around on a single wheel, I find him much more enjoyable than, say, Claptrap, especially in terms of volume.

Even the Space Marine from Doom never had to deal with a key this big.

The first thing you do in the mod is sort of the worst thing: you manipulate the slowest-moving crane ever built into picking up the parts of a railway handcar and drop them into a pile. It's not hard, and there's only three pieces, it just takes a while. If you can power through it, things get more enjoyable.

I'm no engineer, but a skull and crossbones on a blueprint probably ain't good.

Once built, you drive your handcar along the tracks, stopping at occasional obstacles. Maybe there's a bridge that's not aligned properly, or a wall that needs to be destroyed, or some other sort of obstruction or obstacle on the track, meaning you'll need to stop, get out, look around, and figure out what the heck you're supposed to do. Often, there's a bit of guesswork involved before you can even start working on the puzzles. A series of valves and pipes means you'll need to open some and close others, obviously, but it can take a while to figure out exactly why the ones that need to be closed need to be closed. Y'know?

Oh man, it's gonna take ages to walk to the end of this quote.

Of course there's a generator puzzle, and some batteries have to be fetched to power certain devices, and this being built in Half-Life 2, you'll naturally need to find a cable with a giant plug to plug into a giant plug-hole at some point. There are also some explosive barrels to be disarmed, as well as some electrified tracks and poison muck to avoid falling into. Finally, you'll face a massive gauntlet of moving trains while traversing narrow passages near the end, which is sort of like playing Frogger from a first-person perspective. You can't sprint in this mod (for some reason) but hopping will speed you up. I recommend hopping. I recommend hopping everywhere, in fact.

Wish my computer had a big light-up GO! sign. It'd motivate me like crazy.

Help from your robot pal is somewhat intermittent. Sometimes he'll tell you exactly what to do, but other times he'll only provide encouragement. "Good job!" he said at one point, when I had been opening and closing valves more or less at random for several long minutes. It wasn't terribly specific, but at least he'd let me know I'd done something right, which helped me figure out the rest of the puzzle.

I like a little honesty in my buttons.

This isn't a terribly long mod, maybe two hours, unless you get stuck. (If you do, there's a lovely and fully comprehensive walk-through PDF created by the modder in the download section below). It's a bit uneven: some portions are really beautifully done, especially the robot and some of the custom machinery you'll need to manipulate, while some portions of the levels can feel a bit plain and uninspired. It's also not something to speed through: a lot of time needs to be spent just wandering around the various puzzles, experimenting and trying to determine what needs to be done. If you're looking for a thoughtful, mostly gentle, moderately paced puzzle mod, though, this is a nice one.

Installation: It's easy! Just download it here, open the .rar file, and drop the contents into your /sourcemods folder in your Steam directory. Then restart Steam and you'll see S.T.T.&R. in your Steam library, ready to launch.

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

In almost every strategy, management or sim game I play, I will immediately turn off the music which comes with the game in favour of my own. That means that Steam Music Player sounds like a good idea to me even if I long ago abandoned mp3s in favour of streaming. The built-in functionality, which lets you browse your music library and control playback from in-game using the Steam overlay, has just left beta after its initial announcement back in February.

To celebrate, Valve have made the soundtracks for some of their games freely available to those who own the associated games, including Half-Life, Half-Life 2 and its Episodes, Portal, Portal 2, and the Dota 2 documentary Free to Play.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Mod of the Week: Double Action Boogaloo, for Half-Life 2">Mod of the Week



Amidst a flock of startled doves I dive left, my dual pistols blazing, and take down one enemy as another evades me by back-flipping off a wall. As I empty both clips, my dive becomes a prolonged sideways slide which takes me right off the roof of the skyscraper. I'm not alone: another thug sails over the ledge and joins me on my long plummet to the ground. While falling, I reload both guns and we trade fire all the way down to the street. Did I mention this happens in slow-motion? It's as if Jon Woo directed The Matrix when you play Double Action Boogaloo, a multiplayer mod for Half-Life 2.

Whoah.

What I described isn't some rare occurrence in Double Action Boogaloo. It happens roughly every ten seconds or so, because the mod is built on the elements required for such exciting, cinematic shenanigans: jumping, diving, sliding, flipping, running and gunning, and of course, slow-motion. Throw in some of Jon Woo's flapping doves and a few trench coats from The Matrix, and you've got a frenetic multiplayer action game consisting of nothing of movie trailer moments.

Fight ain't over til someone hits the ground.

Choose a player model of the three provided: Diesel, a biker, Vice, a hard-boiled detective, and Eightball, a somewhat familiar-looking gambler. Then, choose your specialty. The Marksman has better aim, reduced recoil, and faster reloading. The Bouncer punches faster and does more damage with his fists. The Athlete runs faster, dives farther, and slides longer (three things you will be doing a lot of). You can also pick a class that carries more grenades, and one that increases your slow-motion powers.

Startled doves included.

It's not just about shooting people, of course, it's about shooting people while doing awesomely acrobatic things. Shooting someone while diving is cool. Shooting someone and killing them while diving is cooler. Shooting someone in the head, thus killing them, while diving, is cooler still. The game rewards you for your coolness with style points that allow you to boost the skills of whichever specialty you've chosen. Gain enough points and you can activate bullet-time powers.

One sliding, two diving: the guy standing doesn't stand a chance.

Slow-motion doesn't seem like it would work in multiplayer. I mean, say I slow down the action. Doesn't the action slow down for everyone else, too? Well, yeah. Doesn't that mean anyone can enjoy my slow-motion powers at the same time I'm enjoying them? Well, yeah. That's why it's so cool! You have a slight advantage in that you choose when to activate it, but otherwise, it's like a gift to the entire server as everyone enters bullet-time and enjoys a cinematic shootout at the same time.

The kill-cam captures your finest moments.

There are a few maps to play, and they all feel perfectly appropriate for awesome movie-style shootouts. There's a subway station, complete with rushing commuter trains, perfect for leaping out of the way just in time to avoid being splattered. Also perfect for not leaping out of the way in time and being splattered. There's a couple of industrial maps as well, and of course, the best one, the rooftop skyscraper map, allowing for extended leaps through the air and long slides off of ledges, plus the awesome plummeting gunfights down to street level. Nicely, if you happen to fall off a roof alone, you don't have to fall all the way to the bottom twiddling your thumbs: a simple keypress will let you respawn topside.

Dive + headshot = Dive Kill. That's my kinda equation.

There are some objectives, sometimes, among all the high-octane carnage. Players may be targeted if they're doing well, letting everyone know where they are on the map so they can be hunted down. One player may be carrying a briefcase of cash, and sometimes a race will begin, leading players through several checkpoints. Mostly, though, this is a game about diving and rolling and sliding and shooting, and even when objectives pop up, the action never really slows down or changes.

Dodge, Dip, Dive, Duck, and Dodge!

In case I haven't been clear, this mod is super fun, full of crazy stunts and non-stop action. There's a first-person mode, which works quite well, though you miss out on seeing all the crazy moves your character is doing. There's a handful of servers available, and at least a couple nearly-full games going on around the clock. Get in there, load your double-guns, and dive in.

Installation: There's a self-installer right here. You'll need Half-Life 2 on Steam, and it'll even check if you've got Source SDK Base 2013 Multiplayer installed, and if not, will download it for you. Once installed, just restart Steam and Double Action Boogaloo will appear in your library.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Source 2 tools teased in Dota 2 update">Dota 2 tools



The Dota 2 Workshop update is even more interesting than it first appears. The new tools include an overhauled edition of Valve's Hammer level editor, and the update download adds a 64-bit build of Dota 2. Both contain allusions to the next generation of Valve's Source engine. Set the Half-Life 3 alert to DEFCON beige.

Technically-minded modders and map-making enthusiasts are busily dissecting the tools in detail, but it's immediately clear that Hammer has been greatly improved. The interface has been overhauled, and the editor now renders the level in real-time as you tweak level geometry. It also runs on a new file structure. When you open a file in the editor, you can now choose to open a new "vmap" file, or an old fashioned "Source 1.0 Map File". The community is still puzzling over the advantages offered by the new directory system, but it looks like Valve are laying important groundwork for future releases.

It's interesting to note how user-friendly the new tools are. Dota Redditors are already having fun with functions that let you sketch out levels quickly (via DarkMio) using tilesets. As well as Dota 2's traditional forest set, there's the wintry Frostivus set and this one. Valve have a history of encouraging user-created content, including campaigns and levels. Hammer's complexity surely stunted the potential of Left 4 Dead's ecosystem a problem Valve tried to circumvent with Portal 2's lovely level-creation tools. Nu-Hammer could serve as a friendlier entry point for tinkerers.



In addition to all that, the latest Dota 2 update also adds a 64-bit version of the Dota 2 client, which you'll find tucked away in steamapps/common/dota 2 beta/dota_ugc/game/bin/win64. It contains numerous references to second-gen elements, like "engine2.dll", "materialssystem2.dll" and "vphysics2.dll", and comes with a colourful new console. It's a bit premature to say that Dota 2 has been ported to Source 2 wholesale, we're likely looking at an interim step as Valve roll out tools designed to support their current games and future projects.



This is quite exciting nonetheless. Publicly Valve have been laser-focused on Dota 2, but are of course rumoured to be working on Left 4 Dead 3 and, what was it again, Hearth-Life? Bath-Life? As someone who likes Valve games, but can't quite get into Dotes, I wait in meditative stasis for a new Valve happening, be it an announcement or an ARG. Our time will come.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alec Meer)

I’m three columns into this series of Oculus Rift round-ups, and it’s telling that so far I haven’t covered anything that would fit the formalist description of a game. No, I’m not getting involved in anyone’s tiresome war about Proteus or Gone Home, but sticking to a more universal whipping boy – the first-gen Oculus’ issues with readable text, usable HUDs and motion sickness. Clearly VR still being the wild west plays a major role in keeping devs from making large-scale games for it, as does there being a limited install base for now, but the real problem is getting any of this stuff past experiment status. Let’s look at some of the games which try to regardless. … [visit site to read more]

Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Graham Smith)

Japan best country.

Every dog has its day, but can the same be said of mods? For every celebrated success story there are twice as many polished, lovingly crafted amateur works that never found the audience they deserve. NeoTokyo is one such example: a Half-Life 2 mod set in a near future Tokyo inspired by Ghost In The Shell. It had lush, detailed maps, a soundtrack of “brooding cyberpunk electronica” (Spotify, Bandcamp) that one listener (Alice) called “redonc”, and combat mechanics that one player (me) called “tops guns.”

Five years after its original release, NeoTokyo is now available as a standalone install via Steam. It’s still free and mostly unchanged since its last major update in January 2013, but hopefully this brings a new audience to the game. Perhaps every mod does have its day. Trailer below.

… [visit site to read more]

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Half-Life 2 mod NeoTokyo released as standalone package on Steam">NeoTokyo



Competitive first-person shooters love to depict the gritty 'realism' of soldiers locked in an endless war of explosions and swearing. NeoTokyo isn't entirely different, but supplements its urgent shooting with cyberpunk and a nice soundtrack. After being successfully Greenlit in 2012, the Half-Life 2 mod is finally available to download directly from Steam now entirely free from its SDK dependencies.

If you've not played the mod, it's similar in style to Counter-Strike albeit a class-based Counter-Strike that's been clearly inspired by Ghost in the Shell. As the title elegantly suggests, it's set in future Tokyo, where a war is raging between the NSF and JINRAI. There are two modes to play Team Deathmatch and Capture the Ghost. The 'Ghost' in question is the top half of a robot lady. It is cyberpunk as all heck.

You can now grab the game for free directly from Steam, and, if you'd like to know what you're getting yourself into, can read up on NeoTokyo's peculiarities here.

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