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Late last year, Crowbar Collective released the first screenshot of the Xen area of its Half-Life remake Black Mesa, which was not included with its original release. The team said that it was focused on "crafting a fun and cohesive experience from start to finish," and that it wanted to "push the boundaries and explore this unique and varied setting." The plan at the time was to have Xen out this summer; unfortunately, getting it right is taking longer than expected.
"As some of you may have already predicted, we are going to need to push back our planned release of Xen to later this year, in December. We know that this is not what anyone would want to hear, but after taking a long and hard look at what we want to achieve, we have decided that this is for the best. We do not want to compromise on Xen’s quality in any way," the studio wrote on Steam. "That said, we consider December to be a do-or-die deadline."
To soften the blow, Crowbar posted the first two public images of a Xen exterior, and also provided more information about what exactly it's doing with the level. A new dynamic lighting system for use in situations "where we want the lights to be particularly gorgeous" has been implemented, a "color correction pass" on the entire game is underway, and enemy soldiers will now hold their weapons properly, without their hands clipping through their guns.
Crowbar didn't get into the specifics of the delay, but if I had to (or just wanted to) hazard a guess, I'd say it's probably at least in part because the original Xen level was awful: A dull, utterly un-fun area that was completely out of sync with the rest of the game. A fresh coat of paint is enough for most of Half Life, but making Xen itself "fun and cohesive" is a whole different ballgame.
So committed is third-party Half-Life remake Black Mesa [official site] to emulation of its much vaunted inspiration that it has now fully embraced ValveTime. Black Mesa was first released as a free mod in 2012, followed by a spit’n’polished paid version two years ago, but still with the notorious jump’n’fail alien world section from Half Life’s final act missing. Plan was to rethink rather than merely remake Xen, in a planned act of historical revisionism to make people think Half-Life was brillo all the way through. (Note: Half-Life was> brillo all the way through).
Last Autumn, the team declared the Gordon would finally be bouncing his away across fleshy coral oddities once away this summer. Well, no – there’s been a delay. The good news is, they are now showing off Xen’s great outdoors for the first time, as well as revealing a few changes planned for Black Mesa as a whole.
Achievement hunting on Steam is serious business. While Valve's storefront might not have Xbox's Gamerscore or PlayStation's Trophies, there are still plenty of PC gamers who appreciate the way Steam achievements challenge them to play games in new and interesting ways. Then there's the satisfaction of knowing you're one of just a small percentage of players who've explored every nook and cranny, maxed out every stat, or earned every gold medal a game has to offer.
The thing is, a lot of Steam achievements are kind of boring. Kill 10,000 enemies, hit level 99 in every class, finish the game on Ultra Nightmare Hardcore difficulty—most of the objectives feel like they've fallen straight out of a free-to-play MMO's quest log. Even the rarest achievements are often little more than tedious grind fests, requiring you to play 500 online matches in a multiplayer game with no active player base, or fight alongside a game's developer when that developer has long ago moved onto their next project.
These achievements aren't particularly fun to earn, let alone read about. But buried in Steam's massive catalog of games are some truly obscure, brutally difficult achievements that less than 0.1 percent of players have managed to accomplish. These are achievements worthy of the name. Most of us will never earn them, but we can dream.
Devil Dagger - Survive 500 secondsTotal Owners: 236,000 Completion Percentage: 0.1
For something you could complete in the downtime between Dota matches, frantic FPS Devil Dagger's one and only achievement has managed to defy 99.9 percent of players for well over a year now. That might seem odd given how simple its requirement sounds: all you have to do is survive for 500 seconds. I mean, I do that all the time. See. That last 500 seconds? I just survived that.
But yeah. Surviving Devil Daggers is a wee bit tougher than running out the clock in real life. Despite the game selling for a mere fiver, just 0.1 percent of players have managed to avoid croaking for the 8 minutes and 20 seconds necessary to snag the 'Devil Dagger' achievement. Watching replays of those runs is equal parts mesmerizing and depressing, making it painfully clear just how amateur my own skills are. I could probably spend the next year playing nothing but Devil Daggers and still not come close to the graceful death-dealing of players like the world-record-smashing bowsr. When the apocalypse hits and the whole world goes to hell, I'll be the redshirt incinerated in the first ten seconds.
Not so Bad - Survive the End Times Total Owners: 1.4 million Completion Percentage: 0.1
Crusader Kings 2, champion of the grand strategy genre, is full of intricate, multi-layered achievements few players have managed to unlock. From installing a female ruler in the five baronies of the Orthodox Pentarchy, to trampling the Pope with a horde of elephants, over a dozen eclectic achievements are currently sitting at a completion rate of less than 0.1 percent.
The one I want to shout out, though, is the 'Not so Bad' achievement awarded for surviving the End Times. Ostensibly, you unlock this achievement by surviving the rise of the Prophet of Doom and the Black Death he's convinced will destroy humanity. A Crusader Kings player going by the username Xolotl123 on Reddit, however, inadvertently earned themselves the achievement due to their investment in high-quality hospital care and their imprisonment of the Prophet for disturbing the peace. The Prophet then hanged himself, but not before sending the player a letter that read: 'If you are reading this letter, I am with God, or with Lucifer..., if so, then you were right. If not, then I was right.'
I've not had the time to play Crusader Kings 2, but after reading this story, I think I'm going to have to clear my schedule. Any game where you can avert the End Times through hygiene is a winner in my book.
Bringing a sword to a sword fight – As an American soldier kill an Axis soldier wielding a Katana, with a Katana. Stick it to Tojo – As an Allied soldier, kill 100 Axis soldiers with a bayonet. Total Owners: 2.7 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.1 - 0.2
Rising Storm's focus on historically authentic, asymmetrical WWII combat means that, naturally, American soldiers do not spawn into the battlefield with katanas. In order to get one, you have to defeat a Japanese soldier who's carrying one. And in order to get the "Bringing a sword..." achievement, you then have to pick up their katana, find another Japanese soldier with a katana, and then defeat them with the weapon of their ancestors. It's a hard scenario to concoct in an FPS where rifles and grenades are the preferred way to fight.
MEAT.BOY SMELLS - Get a perfect in 1-1 using only a game pad.Total Owners: 311,00Achievement percentage: 1.6
Heresy! An achievement that requires ditching the holy mouse and keyboard for a filthy gamepad? What does BIT.TRIP BEAT take us for, console players? Everyone knows a good M+K combo is the only way to play. Sure, it makes driving games a bit twitchy, and performing combos in third-person action games can be tricky without analogue sticks, and fighting games don't always work so great, and stealth sequences tend to be a little wonky with WASD…
Okay. So maybe gamepads aren't that bad. Still, locking an achievement to a specific piece of hardware is a surefire way to tick off achievement hunters. The BIT.TRIP devs found that out the hard way with the game's, which required players to beat a level using Razer's short-lived Sixense motion controller. to 'SIXTH.SENSE' drove the devs to delete the achievement from Steam completely, which technically makes it one of the rarest achievements out there. Not quite as rare as a game with motion controls that don't feel like total garbage, but still…
Games are meant to be played—we usually take that much for granted. It's a little odd, then, when a game actively encourages you not to play it. Odd, however, is what The Stanley Parable's all about. I mean, one of the game's endings involves running back and forth between two buttons for four hours. And that's not to mention the pointed commentary on the nature of free will and the human tendency towards obeisance. Like I said, odd.
The Stanley Parable's weirdest elements, however, are definitely its achievements. In addition to an achievement simply entitled 'Unachievable' (paradoxically earned by 3.9 percent of players), there's the 'Go outside' achievement that tasks players with not playing the game for five years straight. Since The Stanley Parable released in October 2013, no one can legitimately earn this achievement until October next year. Of course, that hasn't stopped some unscrupulous Steam users from setting their computer clocks forward to unlock the achievement early.
Cheating to not play a game? I guess some people will do anything for their sweet cheevos.
You can do a lot of things in the 8760 hours that make up a single year. You could play 105,120 matches of Rocket League. You could marathon the entire current run of The Simpsons—all 617 episodes—38 times over. You could hitch a ride on a rocket and fly to Mars, with enough time left over to plant the seeds of an interplanetary rebellion.
You could also spend every one of those 8760 hours playing Garry's Mod in order to unlock the 'Addict' achievement. And when I say playing, I don't just mean booting up the game and letting it idle in the menu. You have to be connected to an active server for your time to count. Unsurprisingly, the hefty investment involved has kept the achievement's completion percentage at just 1.8 percent, even with achievement hunters over at AStats devising strategies for minimizing the resources used by Garry's Mod so you can leave it running in the background while you tend to other tasks.
I have to wonder, though, how many people left their computers on while they were working or sleeping solely to unlock this achievement? At a modest estimate, 8760 hours' worth of electricity would cost roughly $210 USD, which is a whole lot of money for a single achievement. Kind of puts all those pesky microtransactions to shame, doesn't it?
DLC scenarios Total Owners: 995,000 Completion percentage: 0
Speaking of money, Train Simulator boasts some of the rarest achievements on Steam, but that's not because they're brutally difficult or stubbornly obscure. Heck, the achievement descriptions make it pretty obvious what you've got to do: the 'It Works For Dogs!' achievement reads 'Awarded for completing scenario [RailfanMode] Barking. It's not like the game's unpopular either, with nearly a million owners on Steam and a median playtime of a respectable 7.5 hours.
No, what makes Train Simulator's achievements so rare is that fiendish friend of ours: DLC. Train Simulator is notorious for having the most expensive DLC on Steam, with its total value currently sitting at $6254.43 USD. Worse, Train Simulator ties many of its achievements to its DLC, leading to a wealth of 0 percent and 0.1 percent completion rates across the board.
But that $6254.43? I'd want a real honest-to-god train if I was forking over that much cash. If it was anything like Train Simulator, though, it'd probably lock out the train whistle as premium DLC. Steam whistle: only $0.99 per toot!
Artifact Archaeologist – You personally retrieved all Eight Artifacts! Total Owners: 4.7 million Completion Percentage: 0.2
A whole lot of people play ARK: Survival Evolved, and yet even the most common of its seven achievements has been earned by less than 5 percent of players. But while 95 percent of ARK players haven't defeated the game's first Ultimate Life Form, 99.8 percent remain vexed by its toughest achievement: 'Artifact Archaeologist', rewarded for retrieving every Artifact in the game. It sounds simple enough, but this is where ARK's nature as an Early Access game comes back to bite it on the rump.
According to the achievement description, there are only eight artifacts in ARK: Survival Evolved. This isn't true. There are 14 artifacts in total, 10 of which can be obtained through normal play, 3 which are locked to the Scorched Earth DLC, and one which can only be spawned through a console command. For a game that has already seen its fair share of controversy, ARK has left quite a few achievement hunters pretty disappointed. Still, at least they can take solace in the giant bees that have just been added to the game. That's something, right?
Dragonrider - Tame and ride 5 dragons Total Owners: 11 million (unreliable due to free weekend) Completion percentage: 0.8
I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you've played Skyrim, or at least heard enough about it to understand the game's premise. You're the dragonborn, you need to save the world from an evil dragon, yada yada yada. In short, the game basically revolves around dragons.
How, then, is the achievement for riding dragons so rare? Only 0.8 percent of the millions of Skyrim players have tamed five or more of the mythical creatures and taken to the skies, which makes exactly zero sense to me. Who wouldn't want a dragon as their personal chauffeur? It's not like you'd have to worry about anyone jacking your scaly pal; any thief foolish enough to try would be charred to a crisp before they could shout Fus Ro Dah. I guess Skyrim players are just too busy getting busy and fighting Macho Man Randy Savage to spend their time becoming certified dragon pilots.
Rare Specimen – Send the Hidden Hat to Xen. Total Owners: 500,000 Completion percentage: 2.1 percent
Hats are all the rage these days. I have it on good authority from my stock broker that the hat economy is only going to go up—and that's coming from a man who wears a top hat, so you know it's legit. My wardrobe is already full of baseball caps, bowler hats, fezes, and beanies, just waiting for the day when my fabric fortune will be ready to claim. The only thing I don't quite understand is why my broker keeps mentioning Dota. Eh, never mind. I'm sure it's nothing.
Video games, it turns out, are just as keen to cash in on the hat craze. Black Mesa, the fan-made recreation of the original Half-Life, adds in the 'Rare Specimen' achievement that tasks good old Gordon Freeman with locating a hidden purple top hat and lugging it all the way from the Black Mesa Research Facility on Earth to the alien dimension of Xen. It might not sound that tricky, but apparently Gordon's more interested in trivial things like saving the world instead of securing his future in the hat economy--only 2.1 percent of players have carried the top hat all the way to its new interdimensional marketplace.
Wait, that gives me an idea. What if I started selling digital hats instead of physical ones? Ooh, I think I'm onto something here. I better stop typing before someone beats me to the punch…
The Black Mesa [official site] gang have shared a first look at Xen in their Half-Life remake. You might remember that they launched Black Mesa without Half-Life’s oft-maligned final chapter, set in the alien world of Xen, because doing it right was taking yonks. You might further remember they’re planning to launch Xen in summer 2017. You might… well, I> was surprised by this first peek at a Dear Esther-lookin’ cavern. … [visit site to read more]
Summer 2017 is when Crowbar Collective hopes to launch the Xen portion of its Black Mesa Half-Life remake—an area which won't feature in the original mod variation. In October, the developer said this decision was made due to its desire to "to do Xen the justice it deserves, and have it be the definitive climax to the Half-Life 1 story." Crowbar has now teased a Xen-flavoured image alongside a new update post.
"The team remains, as always, hard at work on Xen! Currently our specific focus is on gameplay: crafting a fun and cohesive experience from start to finish," reads the post. "We want our version of Xen to feel like it really belongs with the rest of the game in terms of mechanics, cohesion and progression. But we also want to push the boundaries and explore this unique and varied setting; to build an experience that feels both fresh and familiar to players from all walks of Half-Life veterancy."
The post continues: "While our Xen is certainly going to be gorgeous, we are first and foremost really committed to making sure that the gameplay works on every level. To give a bit of an exciting tease into what we’re doing at the moment, and as our own little holiday gift to you lot, please enjoy our first ever publicly released screenshot of Xen."
Crowbar goes on to say more Xen-related media will be teased in the "coming months", as well as detailed progress updates ahead of summertime next year.
For more on Crowbar Collective's Black Mesa, check out Chris' Early Access review.
Off the back of its Halloween update and coinciding sale, Crowbar Collective has announced a rough timeline for the Xen portion of its Black Mesa Half-Life remake. Still living in Early Access, Black Mesa's take on the otherworldly locale that rounded off Gordon Freeman's first outing will portray what Crowbar reckons Valve would have done "without the limitations of the time."
That means its maps have been redesigned and expanded both in size and in number. "We wanted to use the holiday and the sale to announce our rough timeline for Xen. We are currently targeting a summer 2017 release," says Crowbar via an update post. "We will keep you up to date on our progress and we plan to show off some media as we finish developing Xen to give everyone a glimpse at what we are working on."
In mid-2015, Crowbar confirmed the original mod iteration of Black Mesa would not receive Xen levels, however the process of getting them onto Steam and into the Early Access game has taken longer than planned. The team now has summer 2017 in its sights, though, and wants "to do Xen the justice it deserves, and have it be the definitive climax to the Half-Life 1 story."
The update includes the following similarly-scaled shots which show the original game against Black Mesa's reinterpretation:
For more on Crowbar Collective's Black Mesa, check out Chris' Early Access review.
The makers of Black Mesa [official site] have announced plans to add the final section of their Half-Life remake, Xen, in summer 2017. They explain that it’s taking so long because they’re really fleshing out that alien world.
I do admire the confidence to declare you’re making Xen bigger, given how unpopular that section is with some players. They might be happier to hear you’ve decided Gordon Freeman’s muteness is because he’s really three dogs crammed into an HEV suit, so you’re replacing his pain sound effects with barks and yelps. But no, the Black Mesa gang are determined to make Xen proper good. … [visit site to read more]