Garry's Mod

Yesterday, Garry's Mod creator Facepunch Studios unveiled S&box—a prototype that aims to "take a powerful game engine (UE4 right now) and build a hotloading C# layer on top of it". 

In turn, so reckons the developer, this will allow users to sidestep using C++, waiting for things to compile, and closing games while developing. Overnight, a handful of Reddit threads reckon S&box is Facepunch's way of announcing Garry's Mod 2.    

We reached out Facepunch's head honcho Garry Newman to ask what exactly S&box is, if it is in fact Garry's Mod 2, and when we might expect to learn more about it.  

"So this might be a bit complicated," Newman tells us via email. "There's a lot of "is this Garry's Mod 2", the honest answer is "maybe"—but nowhere near that yet. We've basically built our own game engine on top of UE4. We're really using UE4 for its core features, rendering, networking, physics. It's all done in an engine agnostic way. We can lift our system off and put it on the source engine (it actually started on the source engine).

"It's too early to say whether this will turn into a spiritual successor of Garry's Mod, or whether it will even be released as a moddable platform (we might use it internally to make our own games on). But at the moment we're enjoying playing around with it and that's enough right now."

Newman also links to this—something he describes as "one of the many prototypes [he and his team] are working on."

Half-Life 2

There's been a lot of Half-Life 2 talk lately, what with Marc Laidlaw creatively writing some gender-swapped fan fiction that revealed his vision for the missing Episode 3 and Lever Softworks speeding up the release schedule of its Half-Life 2: Aftermath mod. In fact, it feels like there there's pretty much always a bit of Half-Life 2 chatter drifting around because it's a celebrated hunk of first-person shootery and we're still wondering (well, maybe not so much now) if we'll ever see Half-Life 3.

It wasn't this most recent surge of Half-Life 2 nostalgia that led me to play through the final chapter of Half-Life 2 a total of 15 times in 2 days. I love Half-Life 2, and I'll still play certain chapters of it every now and then. But when I play it, I never play the last chapter, and I didn't want to this week, and I certainly didn't want to play it 15 times in two days. Also: I'll never play it again.

Why I played it this week: I was working on some Half-Life 2 stuff for an upcoming issue of our magazine, and my contribution involved using Garry's Mod, which I have not used in a very, very long time. I had a specific goal in mind: to reach the end of the game, where (spoiler) there's an explosion on top of the (spoiler) citadel, Alyx (spoiler) is there and shields her face, G-Man walks out of the explosion and says (spoiler) some things before stuffing Gordon Freeman back into the interdimensional broom (spoiler) closet.

Seemed easy enough. I wait for the explosion, then disable the game's AI using the console, which will freeze everyone in their tracks. Then I'll spawn a G-Man ragdoll, pose him next to Alyx, and I'm done. Five minutes, tops.

Except it's wasn't, because when you load that final map (d3_breen_01), it loads at the beginning of the chapter, where Freeman has stupidly and willingly climbed into a locking metal coffin like an idiot, allowing himself to be captured. So you take a coffin ride, there's a ton of moustache-twirling from Dr. Breen and a lot of chit-chat from everyone else before Breen, being almost as stupid as Freeman, sets you free.

Cool, I'm free. I noclip up through the map to the top of the citadel, but then realize, oh yeah, I need Alyx (I don't think I can pose her as well as she poses herself) and the explosion. I'll need to actually play through the entire chapter to reach the climactic end. So, I noclip back down into Breen's office but apparently I've passed through a trigger or something and the sequence won't continue.

I start the chapter over, ride the coffin, listen to the chats, Breen frees me, we pursue, he gets distracted while Skyping with a large alien cyber-maggot, I get my gravity gun back, I fight the Combine and remember how to get to the top of the citadel without using noclip to fly, I shoot orbs at the thingie, the thingie breaks, and Alyx hops out of a window I probably could have used to avoid that entire fight. There's an explosion, Alyx throws her hands up, I disable the AI, and everything pauses. Perfect! I open the Garry's Mod menu, spawn a G-Man ragdoll, and take out the posing tool. Only the posing tool doesn't come out. Nothing comes out. The only tool I can use is the regular old gravity gun.

Hum. That won't do. I reload the map to start again. Coffin, Breen, Combine, orbs, explosion. Same thing. Either the game or the mod isn't letting me use the tools I need at the end of the game.

I begin again. Maybe I'm being denied the tools because at the start of the chapter all of Gordon's weapons are confiscated by the weapon confiscating machine Breen has installed outside his office, probably due to all the other weapon-bearing scientists constantly riding inescapable metal coffins to the top of his office building to kill him. When Breen frees me, I use a console code to give me all the weapons, which I wrongly assume will give me all the tools as well. I fight through the Combine again (using the rocket launcher, because why not) to trigger the final scene, but once again I can't use the posing tool.

I begin again. It's been a couple hours at this point -- this is like a 15 minute sequence -- and I'm not sure I'll be able to get this pose to work at all. After Breen frees me, I start noclipping around the map because I can't think of anything else to do. At one point I apparently pass through a kill-trigger, presumably the one that ends the game if you fall off the catwalk while fighting on the roof, and I die. Since this is G-Mod and not Half-Life 2, it doesn't reload the chapter but just respawns me back at the start of the level with the chapter still in progress—this time with all my Garry's Mod tools working. A-ha!

So I just need to play through the chapter and die at some point. I start again, Breen frees me, I disable the AI, and everyone freezes. I give myself all the weapons, then walk into the corner, drop a grenade, and squat on it. I die, respawn at the bottom with my tools, noclip back to the office, and enable the AI. Everyone wakes up and continues as if Gordon Freeman didn't just blow up his own ass and then rise through the floor a minute later with a buncha weird-ass physics tools.

I continue through the sequence, get to the top of the Citadel, blow it up, and pause. My tools are gone again. Dang! (I don't actually say dang.) I don't know what happened, but it's been like three hours of this and all I've done is watch people talk and have a grenade go off three inches from my testicles. I'm done for the night.

I wake up the next morning and sit glumly through the beginning of the chapter again. This time I wait until later in the chapter, pause, die, and return with my tools. I fight through the Combine and make it to the top. Explosion, pause. Spawn a ragdoll.

My tools. They're sort of working but not really. There's no beam extending from the poser, but I can pick up the ragdoll. I can't turn turn the ragdoll, though, no matter how I try. I can move it, but I can't rotate it to face me. This won't do.

Maybe I'll forget the ragdoll altogether. I mean, G-Man walks out of the explosion anyway and stands next to Alyx, maybe I'll just use the faceposer to give him a different expression while he's standing there. I seem to remember being able to pose faces on 'living' NPCs. I play through the entire chapter, again, making sure to sit on a grenade and die at one point, then reach the ending. G-Man walks out, I pause, then shoot him with the face-poser, only I don't because the game won't let me use it.

Okay, new plan. I'll go up and pose the ragdoll before the explosion. Well, first I'll take a break to scream into a pillow, and then I'll go up and pose the ragdoll before the explosion. Then I'll go back downstairs, fight my way back upstairs, then when the roof explodes and I disable the AI, I should be all set with the posed G-Man in place. I pause, I pose, I go back down. I've done something wrong, though, because Breen won't wake up. He won't rise up through the citadel in his force-field while mocking me, so the ending of the game won't trigger properly.

I start over. Again. After the coffin ride and family meeting, I make sure Breen starts rising through the citadel before I start messing with console codes. I disable the AI, kill myself, respawn and fly upstairs, spawn a floppy G-Man, use the poser and face-poser, and everything is all set. Then the game ends and the screen goes dark, because Breen, even with no AI functioning, has risen all the way to the top of the citadel and escaped, thus causing me to fail my mission.

After a break to put my face in my hands and moan for a bit, I start again. By carefully noclipping I manage to avoid messing with the chapter's routine. I die, I fly, I pose, I return and run through the sequence again. At the top of the citiadel, Alyx hops through the window and runs smack into the G-Man I've posed. I've placed him right in her path.

I shriek in horror.

But Alyx is smart. She doesn't miss a beat and sidesteps the obstruction, bless her. The explosion explodes for the umpteenth time. I pick up the frozen Alyx and reposition her a bit. Weirdly, I notice the explosion has actually undone some of my ragdoll posing.

Even though I've locked all of G-Man's joints, his leg is swinging away and his briefcase is askew. Thankfully, my tool is still working properly. I wedge his bits back into place, noting how his limbs are a bit floaty in the timeless portion of the chapter. I take a hundred screenshots for safety, check the folder to see that the pictures are actually there, then take a hundred more. I never want to have to come back here again.

So that's why I had to play Half-Life 2's final chapter 15 times in 2 days. I have no doubt there was a much easier way to get this done, and I'm sure there will be plenty of helpful comments below to point them out, and they will probably make me weep at my lost hours.

On the plus side, I've got some closure with Half-Life 2 and if we never get a sequel, at least the ending to this one will be forever burned in my brain.

Garry's Mod

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.

Note: Total owners approximated from SteamSpy. Verified achievement stats through AStats.

Devil Daggers

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.

Crusader Kings 2

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. 

Rising Storm / Red Orchestra 2

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.

Bit.Trip Beat

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 'SIXTH.SENSE' achievement, which required players to beat a level using Razer's short-lived Sixense motion controller. The backlash 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…

The Stanley Parable

Go outside - Don't play The Stanley Parable for five years Total Owners: 2.1 million Number of achievers: 2 verified through AStats (6.9 percent on Steam) 

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. 

Garry's Mod

Addict - You have wasted a year of your life playing GMod! Total Owners: 13.2 million Number of achievers: 9 verified on AStats (1.8 percent on Steam) 

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? 

Train Simulator

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! 

Ark: Survival Evolved

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?  

The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim

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. 

Black Mesa

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… 

PC Gamer

PC gaming has a long and storied history of menu and customization sliders. So long and storied, in fact, that I can't be bothered to research it. Instead, I'm just going to post gifs of some of my favorite game sliders, be they sliders that adjust a character's facial features, body parts, or accessories, or ones that let you tweak some element of a game from zero to 100, and beyond!

Okay, not beyond. Typically, they just go to 100.

Here are PC gaming's best sliders. If I missed one of your favorites, just slide into the comments and let me know.

Foot Size: Reign of Kings

Open world survival game Reign of Kings has a lot going for it—including the ability to kill yourself by bashing your face with a rock you can store in your own butt—and that includes a surprisingly robust character creation utility, which allows you to adjust nearly every aspect of your avatar.

Of all the sliders you can use to lovingly or comically sculpt your character, my favorite is the foot size slider. It's notable, I feel, that when maxed out it actually and appreciably changes the height of your character by about six in-game inches. More games should allow this: just imagine Geralt sitting in that tub dangling a pair of size 75 feet over the side.

Sex Appeal: Saints Row The Third

Saint's Row The Third's character creation menu is refreshingly unrestricted, allowing you to create any sort of character you like. This isn't one of the standard "You're a dude, so you have a dude voice and can't wear makeup" type of utilities: you can pretty much do whatever the hell you like. It's wonderful and inclusive and literally every game should follow its example.

The best of all its many sliders, however, is the Sex Appeal slider, which lets you embiggen your boobs or your junk, as seen above. Feast your bulging eyes on some bulges.

Flex Scale: Garry's Mod

Memes, comics, machinima—there are all sorts of wonders (and horrors) Garry's Mod can be used for. The Face Poser tool is just one of many useful gadgets, but it comes with an amazing slider called Flex Scale. Amazing, that is, when applied to a model it wasn't meant for.

As any comic creator can tell you, the TF2 models, while compatible with Garry's Mod, don't quite work the same way as the HL2 models when using the Face Poser. Still, the results are bizarre and disturbing and certainly entertaining. And if you're looking to create actual, usable facial expressions on TF2 characters, there's one or two mods for Garry's Mod that make it much easier.

Brightness: Every Horror Game Ever

As a huge scaredy-pants who doesn't like being scared in his pants, I'm always appreciative of the brightness slider that comes with Every Horror Game Ever. While its intentions are to make sure you can't see the dark and spooky places very well, and thus heighten the scares, I use it for the opposite reason. To make things as bright as possible. So the scares aren't so scary.

So no, Every Horror Game Ever, I will not fall into your trap by adjusting the brightness so the mark in the center is barely visible. I will use it so all of the marks are as visible as humanly possible. Thanks for the warning, though.

Eyelashes: Black Desert Online

I've never personally played Black Desert Online, and after tinkering with its character creation menu for a bit, I probably never will. That's no diss, it's a compliment: there are so many options in BDO's character creation menu I can't imagine ever completing the process of building my avatar. It's amazing.

Among the umpteen various sliders, however, I'm picking the eyelash length slider as my favorite. I'm used to selecting eyebrows for my character, but never lashes, and not only are there several type to choose from, you can dictate how long they are. That's customization.

Body Oil Intensity: WWE 2K17

Why yes, I did just buy a $50 game simply so I could use a slider to coat a beefy hairless man with oil. The character customization is pretty great in WWE 2K17, and even includes sliders for enhancing veins in your wrestler's chest and stomach, if you're looking to create a wrestler suffering from acute thrombophlebitis. But, I'm going with Body Oil Intensity slider as my favorite, probably due to the word 'Intensity.' I think it's a great word to describe the amount of oil one has smeared on their body.

Body Oil Assistant: "So, Bob The Wrestler, how much oil should I slather on your veiny, hairless body before the Very Important Wrestling Fight?"*

Bob The Wrestler: "An intense amount. The most intense amount there is."

*Sorry if that's not convincing dialogue. I don't watch wrestling.

Endowment: Conan Exiles

Well. I guess won't post an animated gif on this one, though if you want to see a naked man's dong getting rapidly bigger and smaller you can check it out in this post or contact me on Skype very late in the evenings (if anyone but me answers, hang up immediately). Conan's Endowment Slider is so great it's even been set to music!

I suspect players either opt for setting the endowment slider either all the way to the right, or all the way to the left. There's simply no middle-ground when it comes to video game wieners. Though, with modding tools now available, I suspect we'll see more options for genital sculpting sometime soon.

Dialog Volume: Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel

When I'm asked about my feelings on Borderland's Claptrap—note that I've never once been asked—I'd have to gently say I'm not a fan. The bot's got gusto, but when it comes to the mathematics of humor, the equation volume + quantity = comedy simply doesn't add up. To put it bluntly, Claptrap talks too much, too loudly, and I hate him.

While Borderlands 2 didn't have a separate slider for dialogue volume, Borderlands: The Pre-Sequel did. I can only assume the reason for it is fan feedback. Shush, little robot. You're trying too hard.

PC Gamer

This article was originally published in PC Gamer issue 298. For more quality articles about all things PC gaming, you can subscribe now in the UK and the US.

There s never been anything quite like Garry s Mod, and I d hazard a guess at there never being anything like it ever again. It s a mod of the Source engine, made to enable just about anyone to build, pose or simply mess around with its tools and tricks. It s a freeform sandbox designed to let you do whatever you want.

At least, that s it at the base level. On top of making it easy for players to toy around, it also gives modders a framework to work on new, often absurd ideas. Entirely original game modes have been created in Garry s Mod, short films have been made with it using players as actors, or utilising complex stop-motion techniques. And it s one of the most popular games on Steam. It celebrates its 10th birthday this month, and, as of January this year, has sold 10 million copies.

Since its release in 2006, Garry s Mod has grown into a hub for a host of other games and weird concepts, primarily developed by fans and small teams. There s one, though, that really took the cake in its size and ambition: GMod Tower. First publicly available in July 2009, GMod Tower had one primary aim: to create a large social space within Garry s Mod where people could chat, play together, and generally create a community that would accommodate and welcome anyone. A hotel-style lobby for people to meet and chat, with the capability for the infinite rooms of an endless hotel tower.

It was developed by PixelTail Games, a group based in Washington, but brought together contributors from around the globe.

A team of four, working under the names MacDGuy, Mr Sunabouzu, Nican, and AzuiSleet, were the ones that worked on the first public release of GMod Tower, after some years of people dropping in and out of the project. It was one of the most ambitious things ever made in Garry s Mod, and was greeted with the success that sort of ambition often warrants. Mere hours after release, GMod Tower s website hit two million views. It was far too popular so much so that Garry s Mod s server limit was upped by its developers just to cope.

Featuring at launch a couple of minigames, a mode akin to Half-Life Deathmatch: Source and another not dissimilar to Super Monkey Ball, the mod was already fleshed out. There were even movie nights: players could get together and watch streamed videos while hanging out in the tower s lobby.

Its popularity was perhaps one of GMod Tower s many downfalls: it was a mod of a mod, made by a few fans that wanted to create something new. It didn t have the support of a regular income through sales, nor the power of a massive development team. As 2011 rolled into 2012, GMod Tower shut down, closing its doors without any clear intention to return.

GMod Tower came back with a bang. Over time, the game grew to having seven individual modes wrapped inside the tower. From minigolf to a game inspired by Mother 3.

As with any social space that is shut down, closed, or built over, those who had enjoyed inhabiting it were left disappointed. In the Steam group for GMod Tower, users asked where it had gone. The development team were pretty quiet. One Steam user summed up the prevailing mood, saying simply, I want to play again in gmod tower :( .

Then, in April 2012, GMod Tower returned almost out of nowhere, with a host of updates. Almost like a version 2.0, it arrived to a fanfare from those who missed their hub, their place to talk. It did come with a caveat, however: it had not been profitable or sustainable for some months. Hosting the servers was costly, and the team didn t want to rely upon microtransactions or adverts to fund it.

And yet, GMod Tower came back with a bang. New features, a new and improved lobby map, and more. Over time, the game grew to having seven individual modes wrapped inside the tower. From minigolf to a game inspired by Mother 3, PixelTail Games remained committed, and the players recognised that, rewarding it with their love and support.

With its re-release, the initial core ethos was reinforced: this was to be a social hub. Be nice, friendly, and kind, and you were welcomed with open arms into GMod Tower.

What distinguished GMod Tower from many other projects with similar ambitions to be welcoming to all, regardless of who they were, was that it worked, and it worked tremendously. The vast majority of stories from players are of a positive community.

For the game s fifth anniversary, in 2014, the developers held a small raffle. There was one requirement for entering: you had to tell a story of your experience in GMod Tower. Some of these stories were short and over in just a couple of sentences, but many were filled with emotion and love. Over a hundred people told lengthy stories of their experiences, archived on the game s forums.

People were naming the many friends they had made, even partners they met through it. GhostDj told of how an admin changed everyone s player models to dogs for an evening, and they ran around barking like one big pack. Boltaction17 said they managed to get over 20 people to dance to The Safety Dance by Men Without Hats, and it just made them happy to see everyone coming together for something so fun and silly. One user, Davem322, simply ended their story with We are a group. We are brothers and sisters. We are the Gmod Tower.

Over the years, PixelTail Games finished off a couple other projects in Garry s Mod, from a horror map called Gm_Apartment to Elevator: Source, the one true elevator simulator. But behind the scenes, they were working on something new. Something beyond GMod Tower: Tower Unite.

A standalone release, Tower Unite would move the concept on from Garry s Mod, and onto its own two feet, the idea being to create an entire game that encapsulated the ideals upon which GMod Tower had been built.

Once Tower Unite was released on Steam in Early Access, however, GMod Tower had to go down. PixelTail Games couldn t host both games, and Tower Unite was now their sole project. There were no official tools ever released for hosting your own tower the only way to play was through the official server. That meant that once PixelTail Games took their server down, that was it for the original GMod Tower.

I spoke to Macklin Guy, the founder of PixelTail Games, about GMod Tower, and moving on. As for why the company had to do so, the Source engine and Garry s Mod itself limited us our creations and ideas, Guy told me.

It was a constant battle for us. We knew we had to expand past being a mod when we had to take advantage of undocumented features of Source s level format just to get it running. A good chunk of the things we have done (and continue to do) in Tower Unite would never have been possible in Garry s Mod.

On top of being a force for good in the community, GMod Tower meant a lot to the development team working on it, too.

The project fostered countless connections made by the community across the world. This had a massive effect on the lives of all of us. People would log on daily just to hang out with their friends.

Guy even met his wife on GMod Tower. They ve been happily married for a year and a half.

Tower brought a lot of people together. Just being a small part of that has had a huge impact on all of us and is one of the catalysts that drives Tower Unite forward.

The tower closed down in April 2016, after just under seven years serving as Garry s Mod s largest social space. The PixelTails Games team said their goodbyes too, through a video reminiscing about everything that had gone on in the tower. There is no longer a way to play GMod Tower. While all the relevant files are available on the Steam Workshop, without the server it s impossible to play as intended. The customisation systems are gone, game modes no longer function, and, most importantly, there s no one around.

Every map is now a ghost town, a set of what once was in GMod Tower, a relic of the stories told by those who were there. Without the chatter of people having conversations around the place, the lounge is eerily quiet.

Many people who played GMod Tower have moved on to Tower Unite it picked up over $73,000 in an Indiegogo campaign, and has received regular updates since entering Early Access. It s distinctly similar to its predecessor, but Tower Unite also has its differences: it s not a part of Garry s Mod, and so lacks that infinitely wide variety of players to join in on the fun.

Because of that, those previous stories are being left behind, but that s so that others can create their own so that a social space like this can flourish on its own. GMod Tower, like Garry s Mod itself, might well be a flashpoint in games, never to be recreated in the same way again. While other social games have found success, the broad and absurd appeal of Garry s Mod meant millions of players could be introduced to a hub that would welcome them.

It s still fun to walk around that ghost town, and find the places where those stories took place. The roof where someone was going on a wild goose chase for an item, the cinema where people gathered to watch funny videos, or the fountain where players waved goodbye to the tower.

I don t think anyone will ever recreate GMod Tower; the stars aligned to make it such a welcoming place. But it s heartwarming to look around the place that made so many people of all creeds, cultures, and types happy. You can t call GMod Tower abandoned: it simply moved on. But the patch of virtual ground it was built on will remain special.

PC Gamer

Garry's Mod was originally released as a Half-Life 2 mod in 2004, before being re-launched as a standalone sandbox physics games in 2006. Over the next eight years, it rang up a cool six million copies—an impressive achievement by any measure. But in the year and four months since then, it's sold another four million copies.

With all due respect, I share Newman's apparent surprise and confusion. Four million unit sales of any indie PC game in a single year is remarkable, but to do it in the ninth year of standalone release is unexpected, to put it mildly. Strange, even. Garry's Mod is clearly very good at what it does, but it's been doing it for almost a decade now. So the obvious question is, Why?

Newman attributed much of the surge to YouTube, Twitch, and Steam sales, which he said have been having a snowball effect on sales over the past few years. The more players, the more videos and streams, the more people watching, the more people buying and playing and streaming, he said. The steam sales really boost that effect. On a pretty average day it sells about 3000 copies. On Christmas Day [this year] it sold just over 75,000 copies.

He also pointed out that the age of Garry's Mod, which is built on the Source Engine, can actually work to its advantage. Most Source Engine games run on anything, from the shittiest ten-year-old windows XP laptop to the latest Alienware monstrosity. And it doesn't just run on the shitty laptop, it runs really well. I think that's something we overlook as game developers—awesome performance should be considered a feature, with higher priority than graphics, he continued.

There was a lot of outrage and negativity when we announced that we were going to charge for it so I wanted to show people that this was a good thing. That the money would be used to develop the mod further and allow me to concentrate on it full time. People are amazed that a ten-year-old game is still selling really well—but I guess Windows is over 30 years old, and it's still selling. The only real difference is that I didn't bundle up and re-charge people for the updates we made. Hopefully people don't see it as such a bad thing now, in retrospect.

I'd say it's sure looking that way.

Thanks, GamesIndustry.

PC Gamer

The sandbox physics game Garry's Mod has been around for just about forever—since late 2004, to be precise, first as a mod for Half-Life 2 and then as a standalone release. It's sold more than six million copies since then, and after all this time remains one of the most popular games on Steam, currently holding 11th place on the top 100 concurrent players list. And now, more than ten years later, there's finally talk of a follow-up.

The word came during a PCGamesN interview with Garry's Mod creator Garry Newman, when the site asked if he'd ever consider increasing the game's longstanding $10/ 7 price tag. "We wouldn't raise the price now, I mean we re kind of working on a sequel, so it d be stupid to the raise the price, really," Newman replied. "It s early days. We re looking at having more VR stuff in it—that s the big point of it. And it won t be called Garry s Mod 2."

That's a long way from an announcement, and given the way that Newman and Facepunch Studios work—"at their own pace," you might say—anything more official may well be a long way off. The future of virtual reality may be a factor as well: If Oculus Rift, Vive, or whatever else comes along goes over big, Newman ought to have a lot more incentive to push a VR-centric sequel than he will if they tank.

PC Gamer

The internet may break this week under the weight of Opinions About Paid Mods, but it's worth taking a moment to hear Garry Newman's position. As the creator of Garry's Mod a fully fledged paid title with origins as a free Source Engine mod Newman is in the unique position of witnessing the transition from free to paid nearly ten years before Valve's announcement last week

"It s probably no big surprise that I m all for it," Newman writes on his website. "I sold a mod once and everyone was angry that it was happening, until it happened and they got a much better product than they d have gotten when it was released for free, then they seemed to calm down a bit. It has given me a career for ten years. It s bought me two houses, a bunch of cars. It s created a company that has hired 30+ people."

Newman argues that the fledgling modding marketplace will balance itself out eventually, with supply and demand dictating what sinks or swims, and what's paid or free. In this way, free mods will still dominate. 

"Some stuff won t be worth charging for," Newman write. "Some people won t want paying for their stuff. If a mod takes ten seconds to make and someone wants to charge $10 for it then they won t sell any copies because it s not worth it. This is how the market balances itself. They ll either have to lower their price or make it worth the price."

Meanwhile, those unable or unwilling to pay will inevitably find a way to pirate paid mods, he continues, and the possibility of stolen materials being uploaded shouldn't render the whole operation useless. 

"There was a time where they d almost completely stopped making PC games because of piracy. Should we really let the fact that sometimes people are assholes dictate what we do? Or should we just deal with it when it happens?"

Newman breaks down the pros and cons for each participant in a transaction, admitting that the benefits are weighed too heavily in Valve and the game developer's favour. "It s obvious that Valve and the game developer need to make money here too, enough to cover costs at least but it s the modder s work that is making the money," Newman said.

"I don t know whose choice that is though, but it feels like someone is being a greedy asshole. This is something that will get better with time."

It's worth checking out Newman's full write-up here. Gabe Newell also addressed concerns about paid modding on Reddit at the weekend.

Half-Life

Welcome to our roundup of the best total conversion mods ever. Presented in no particular order, these are the mods that radically transform our favorite games into something different, with new and improved art, gameplay systems, locations, and adventures. Crafted through years of work, sometimes by large teams of volunteer modders, many of these mods have gone on to become PC gaming classics in their own right.

Here are the best total conversion mods ever made. 

Link: Sven Co-op on Steam

First released way back in 1999, Sven Co-op is still being both updated and played today. A cooperative mod for the original Half-Life, the mod allows groups of players to battle their way through the Half-Life campaign, where they'll find increased challenges and far more enemies, as well as new maps filled with puzzles and challenges. Over the years hundreds of new levels have been added along with new weapons, improved AI, and lots of customization options. Even if you don't own Half-Life, you can play it for free on Steam.

Link: A Game of Thrones mod site

For Game of Thrones fans, this mod is already at the top of your personal list or will be the moment you try it. It transforms CK II’s medieval Europe into the beautifully realised continents of Westeros and Essos and populates them with characters and events straight from the source material. Marry, mingle, or murder your way through the Starks, Lannisters and many other notable dynasties. Best of all, random game events will quickly spin the world into an enjoyable alt-reality of the fiction we’re so familiar with. This is an absolute must-have for gamers who are fans of the George RR Martin novels and the HBO series.

Link: Aliens TC ModDB page

Way back in 1994, this pioneer of full-conversion mods successfully recreated the 1986 sci-fi action film Aliens in Doom. It didn’t settle for just plopping face-huggers and aliens on a map, either: its custom levels mirror familiar locations and story beats from the film and even provide sound effects and voice clips lifted straight from the movie. Hearing Sergeant Apone through your headset reminding you to “Check those corners... check those corners!” not to mention Ripley furiously shouting “COME ON!” when climbing into her signature loader to do battle with the alien queen genuinely made me feel like I was part of the Aliens universe.

Link: Counter-strike ModDB page

You may have heard of it? The multiplayer Half-Life mod featured such team-based missions as hostage rescue and bomb defusal, each team with its own equipment and goals. With its quick rounds and exciting gunplay, Counter-Strike became an instant hit, and the community began creating maps of its own. Counter-Strike’s emphasis on teamwork and communication helped define a new genre of shooters, and the modders behind it were quickly hired by Valve.

Link: Nehrim site

Every full-conversion mod comes with a high degree of ambition, but it’s a truly special situation when the mod’s creators have the talent to match. Nehrim: At Fate’s Edge, created by German modding team SureAI over four years, does what the best full conversion mods do: reshapes the features that are lacking in the original game and provide hours of exciting new content. With original voice work by dozens of actors, big changes to several of the game’s familiar systems, and its own quests, story, lore, playable races, and a massive and beautifully designed new map to explore, Nehrim transforms The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion into an entirely new experience.

Link: Garry's Mod ModDB page

Plenty of games have a god mode accessible through console commands, but Garry’s Mod takes the idea to an entirely new level. A multiplayer sandbox limited only by your creativity, the mod has proven to be the ultimate tool for creating webcomics, videos and custom game modes, as it enables players to spawn objects and entities and pose them however they like. You can even play Half- Life 2 using all of the mod’s tools, turning Gordon Freeman from a simple gun-toting scientist into the ultimate expression of your will.

Link: Long War at Nexus Mods

Harder, longer, and with hundreds of changes to the base game, Long War extends XCOM's campaign, lets you play with up to 12 squad members at a time, adds new soldier classes, voice packs, weapons and technology, and lots of improved and completely overhauled systems. Long War wasn't just a hit with players but with XCOM's developers, who brought the mod team in to work on launch-day mods for XCOM 2, as well as create Long War 2.

Link: The Dark Mod site

This mod isn’t simply a celebration of the acclaimed Thief series using Doom 3’s engine, but actually an improvement on some of its features, especially the wonderful and engaging new lockpicking system. The open-ended stealth adventure lets you slink through a gorgeous, highly-detailed gothic steampunk world as you fill your pantaloons with loot and try to avoid detection. Most importantly, the mod comes with its own mission editor, enabling members of the community to create and submit their own custom levels and stories. The Dark Mod was released as a standalone game in 2013.

Link: Black Mesa site

It sounded like an impossible project: building the entirety of the celebrated FPS Half-Life in Half-Life 2’s Source engine, but after eight years of work by a large volunteer team of modders it finally became a reality. While it stops short of recreating the entire game (Gordon Freeman’s leap into Xen is the mod’s endpoint), it’s still a remarkable accomplishment. For Half-Life veterans it contains a mix of new design elements and familiar confrontations, and it’s a also great way to experience the ground-breaking adventure for those turned off by the dated graphics of the original.

Link: DayZ mod on Steam

In a game featuring starvation, sickness, and swarms of growling zombies, it still falls to other human players to provide most of the horror. While the standalone version of DayZ became a big hit in Early Access, the original open-world multiplayer survival mod is perfectly playable. The vast map and lack of global chat provide a feeling of intense loneliness, but the prospect of actually meeting someone else is a constant threat.

Link: Complex mod site

The name is certainly apt: this mod takes the real-time space strategy game and adds an almost absurd amount of complexity to nearly every single aspect. Alongside improvements to the AI, physics and graphics, the mod adds scores of new units and maps, constructible subsystems, deeper tech and research trees, and a diplomacy system. It even adds an actual calendar so gametime can be marked in years as in the Civilization series.

Link: Dota Allstars, a recent iteration of the original mod, worked on by IceFrog, who now works for Valve on Dota 2.

An exciting combination of RTS and RPG, the multiplayer battle arena mod for Warcraft III (based on a modded map from StarCraft) is a lot of things: simple to understand, difficult to master, and most of all, utterly addictive. In its early days DotA was a project that was passed from modder to modder, and like an unending stream of creeps it eventually spread through the gaming world to become a massive hit, as well as the first lanepushing game to have sponsored tournaments.

Link: NeoTokyo site

This team-based multiplayer mod for Half-Life 2 is set in a slick, futuristic cyberpunk city and features three different classes to choose from, each with their own distinct weapons and strengths. With lethally realistic gunfire and cloaking abilities available to some classes, NeoTokyo requires more stealthy and tactical play than many online shooters demand. Inspired by anime classics Ghost in the Shell and Akira, NeoTokyo also features an amazing and engrossing custom soundtrack that you’ll want to listen to even when you’re not playing the game. The mod was released as a standalone title in 2009.

Link: Mechwarrior: Living Legends site

Combining FPS action and simulation, this large scale multiplayer-only mod brings wonderfully realised Battletech mechs to life in Cryengine 2, though it began as a mod for Quake Wars. Tanks, jets, mechs and hovercraft strategically battle for territorial control in beautiful, varied, highlydetailed outdoor environments with full day/night cycles. The mod was so impressively made it was even sanctioned by Microsoft, who own the Mechwarrior franchise the mod is based on.

Link: Cry of Fear ModDB page

While it’s a standalone release now, Cry of Fear began as a Half-Life mod. It’s the story of a man who wakes after being hit by a car to discover his city is filled with gruesome monsters and his mind packed with psychological horrors. The mod has some interesting and immersive tweaks, such as an extremely limited inventory—and the fact that the game doesn’t pause while using it—that bring new challenges as you play through a disturbing, winding story with original animated sequences and multiple endings.

Link: Genkokujo ModDB page

The Sengoku period in Japan was a time of turmoil, political intrigue and near-constant warfare. What better time and place for a massive, openworld combat RPG built on the capable framework of Mount & Blade? The mod features actual clans and figures from Japanese history, new skins and armour types, new gunpowder weapons, and dozens of historically accurate locations spread across a map of Japan with twice the playable area of the original game. It also incorporates a number of other excellent M&B mods such as Diplomacy and Freelancer, which add even more great features.

Link: The Stanley Parable on Desura

You’re put in control of a clerk who suddenly finds himself completely alone at the office, but you’ll soon start to reconsider just how much control you actually have. While difficult to describe, the mod quickly proves to be a witty and insightful commentary on videogames, particularly the act of making choices. It’s also wonderfully narrated by a voice so soothing you’d like him to read you bedtime stories – if only you could trust him. It’s now a complete game with a lot more polish and an extended story, but the original mod remains a thoughtful, oddball delight.

Link: The Third Age on TWCenter

Every kid who ever picked up JRR Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings novels has longed to step into Middle-earth, and one of the best ways to do it is with this mod for the turn-based strategy game Total War, capable as it is of portraying epic-scale battles. Third Age features over a hundred accurate locations and a dozen factions straight from the fiction. It includes custom units such as ents, trolls, giant spiders and wargs, and lets you play not just as heroes like the men of Gondor and the Silvan Elves, but also as the evil forces of Sauron’s Mordor, Isengard, and even the orcs of the Misty Mountains.

Link: Out of Hell ModDB page

As Donovan Ling, a lone cop investigating a garbled transmission from the industrial town of Grinwood, you quickly find yourself alone and fighting to survive a relentless zombie invasion. This mod is packed with astounding visuals of a city gone to hell, and a chilling original soundtrack accompanies you as you battle your way through more than 20 harrowing and atmospheric maps. Despite an arsenal of deadly weapons and melee attacks, you’ll never really have time to catch your breath.

Link: Natural Selection site

With one team playing marines and the other playing aliens, Natural Selection converts Half-Life into a multiplayer hybrid of first-person shooting and realtime strategy. It brought to life the concept of a commander in an FPS: a sole player who views the map in top-down fashion, giving orders, issuing supply drops, and managing the map in a traditional RTS fashion. The aliens have no overlord or shared resources, so must rely on communication if they want to win. Despite big differences in the two teams’ abilities and tactics, the mod remains a tightly balanced experience.

Link: Team Fortress ModDB page

Long before it evolved into a cartoony hat-trading simulation, Team Fortress was a mod for Quake. It originally featured five classes, later blossoming into the full iconic nine we’re familiar with today, and even provided a tenth class, the civilian, playable during VIP escort missions. Instead of just red and blue teams, certain maps for TF included two additional teams, green and yellow, struggling for map control and engaging in capture the flag games. The mod’s popularity led to a proper release and, much later, the Team Fortress 2 we know today, although the original mod is still played on a few servers.

Link: The Nameless Mod site

With a hundred new skins, sixty maps, custom cinematic sequences,and two storylines providing a hefty thirty hours of playtime, The Nameless Mod grew, over seven years of development, from something of an in-joke to a true mod masterpiece and Deus Ex fan favourite. Part homage and part satire, the mod sports thousands of lines of custom dialogue, tons of tweaks, and dozens of great new music tracks, not to mention books, newspapers and emails.

PC Gamer
steamcommunity.com


Microsoft bought Mojang yesterday you may have heard something about that. You may also have heard grumblings from some corners of the community that Minecraft creator Markus "Notch" Persson "sold out" by taking the money and abandoning his game and, by extension, his millions of adoring fans to the fickle whims of of a corporate villain. But Garry Newman, the man behind indie darlings Garry's Mod and Rust, says he'd do exactly the same thing if he could, and you probably would too.

Newman pointed out in a blog post that went up shortly after the Mojang deal was was confirmed that everything changes for an indie developer once he starts hiring people to work for him, because you're suddenly responsible for a lot more people than just yourself. Citing the case of Blitz Game Studios, which shut down in September 2013, laying off 175 employees, and then effectively re-launched in November under a new name, he wrote, "Those are the guys you don't want to be."

"I am sure more than the top guys at Mojang became very financially rich due to this deal and that's something that should be admired not seen as a bad thing," he continued. "Long story short, I d have done the same thing. The money is enough to very much take care of all the staff. The game is in relatively safe hands. Mojang s legacy is as a huge success story instead of a one hit wonder. Everyone wins. Can you seriously say you d have done it differently?"

No, Garry. No, I cannot.

...

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