Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

After a grand fourteen years of development, splendid Half-Life mod Sven Co-op is wrapping things up. It's gone out with a bang, releasing on Friday a new version which adds co-op support for Gearbox's expansion Blue Shift. For old times' sake, gather a few friends, put on your HEV suits, and go adventuring in Black Mesa again.

"Version 4.8 will most likely be the final SC mod release, but this is by no means the end of Sven Co-op," the announcement says. "We have a major announcement to make soon," it teases, and we should hear something interesting in a few weeks.

Sven Co-op was jolly welcome back in the day, when co-op campaigns were pretty rare and Half-Life was ridiculously exciting. Yes, having a load of players running around as Gordon Freeman can make things a little silly, but it can also be a right lark.

Grab the mod from the mirrors. You'll need Half-Life to play it at all, and naturally Blue Shift too to join in that campaign. The 4.8 update also brings a ridiculous number of fixes and changes beyond Blue Shift, so do check the full changelog if you're interested.

PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Unforeseen consequences: when a joke about Half-Life 3 gets out of hand">HL3Diagram



In early May I visited Valve to do some research for a Dota 2 feature, which you can find in PC Gamer UK issue 254. While I was there, I asked no questions and received no answers about Half-Life 3. I'm as excited about it as anyone, but if Valve were planning to announce anything through me I assume I would know about it in advance.

I got home and I wrote the feature. Then, towards deadline on the issue, I wrote 'All Over'. That's the joke page at the back of the mag. Every month we close off with something that we hope will make our readers laugh, and it's usually based on the feature on the cover. For this issue, we thought we'd make fun of Valve.

The result was a fake elevator control panel with funny names for various floors in their building. Following yesterday's Half-Life 2 patch, a lot of people have become convinced that it's all part of an elaborate scheme to reveal the long-awaited sequel.

It's not. It's a joke, in the part of the magazine where we do jokes. It was written by me and designed by one of our art editors, Julian. Here's Julian's desk and the InDesign file.



There's no significance to the crossed-out entry for 'Half-Life 3 Development' being on floor 13 beyond the fact that American buildings tend not to have a 13th floor. The fact that it's crossed-out and that someone has replaced it with 'FPS developer terrarium' was intended to be so silly that nobody would take the suggestion seriously.

Valve also doesn't have a floor dedicated to knives. As far as I know, there's no 'Money Hose Control Centre'. 'Laser Bay 2' is an oblique reference to Tron.

I know that people are desperate to play a Half-Life sequel and that any scrap of news is seized upon, but this really is time to put the conspiracy theories down. Unless you're having fun! In which case, keep going - but don't expect any answers, because I don't have them.

I've also had quite a lot of angry messages on Twitter today from people who have taken it personally. Comments have ranged from the comically insincere - "you're worse than Hitler!" - to the comically might-be-sincere - "you're worse than Todd Howard." The rest are mostly just regular internet abuse.

I'd like to say sorry to anyone who got swept up in this and was disappointed, but I would also suggest that anyone willing to insult a stranger over a joke about a videogame should take a look at their priorities.

Don't confuse causation and correlation. Sometimes a coincidence is just a coincidence, and not the trigger for an ARG - or a witch hunt. I would love Valve to announce a new Half-Life game, but I don't think it's a topic so important that it can't be joked about.

Either way, I wasn't prepared for unforeseen consequences.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Behind the scenes of Valve’s Portal 2 ARG">Portal 2 ARG



When Portal 2 was announced, the news dropped through an elaborate scavenger hunt puzzle that sent thousands of players crawling all over the internet. Years later, we finally get to see some of the work that went into making that alternate reality game, as told by celebrated Half-Life modder (now Valve employee) Adam Foster in a blog post at Gamasutra.

Foster, one of the designers of the ARG puzzle from Valve, describes the elaborate trail of puzzles that the Portal-playing community was able to decipher. It began with a seemingly mundane game update for Portal 1: “changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations.” That update changed the radios found throughout Portal into Morse Code-dispensers. The code was deciphered into slow-scan television images. Somehow—my knowledge of information theory and cryptography ran dry a paragraph ago—these images were combined into an elaborate code, which was then hacked. Remember: none of us is as smart as all of us.



The result? A phone number to an ancient modem in Foster’s kitchen that slowly drip-fed Portal 2 concept art to announce the game to the world. The ARG team at Valve did a fun thing with no budget, and it caught the attention of the world’s games media. It was also an intricately designed puzzle that, despite a few false positives, played out exactly as Valve designed. As Foster writes, “Estimated time to 'solve' the initial puzzles: seven hours. Actual time to solve: seven hours and sixteen minutes. This wasn't an accident.”

We are all just puppets dancing on Gabe Newell’s strings, aren't we? Check out the full blog post from Foster for a lot of fascinating details about ARGs and the devious geniuses at Valve.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Rumor: Leaked Valve project tracker shows Half-Life 3, Left 4 Dead 3, Source 2 in development">Rumor: Half-Life 3?



Are we finally going to be able to play Half-Life 3? While Valve isn't exactly holding press conferences or sending marching bands through the streets yet, a recent slip in its system supposedly exposed the details of every project it's ever worked on—including the long-fabled conclusion to one of gaming's best series, as well as Left 4 Dead 3 and Source Engine 2.

The tip-off comes to PC Gamer via ValveTime, who recently received alleged screenshots of Valve's internal project-tracking software (Jira) during a momentary lapse in which is the system was made public (it has, of course, since been locked up tight again). The images show a 42-employee mailing group for a project entitled "Half-Life 3," as well as a mailing group for "Left 4 Dead 3" with 68 recipients.

Meanwhile, the development of Source 2 appears to be plugging along nicely, with the numerous groups devoted to the project hinting it's in full swing. Other project listings include familiar names such as "Return to Ravenholm," "Steam Box," and "Episode 3," as well as the more mysterious "F-Stop" and "SteamMMO."

One of the screenshots sent to ValveTime.

Before we start waving about banners emblazoned with Gordon Freeman's handsome face, we have to keep in mind that this info dump is in no way an official confirmation of anything. Firstly, these screenshots come from an anonymous source and cannot be verified. Secondly, Jira catalogs everything that has ever been worked on within Valve's walls, regardless of development stage, and some of the listed titles may very well have been canceled years ago.

ValveTime hypothesizes that games further in their development cycle have multiple mailing lists, as Left 4 Dead 3 does—suggesting that it is in active development. This is in contrast to Half-Life 3's single  group, which suggests that its development is either inactive or in the very beginning stages.

We'll be keeping our ears perked for further details. In the meantime, let's pray that a tiny Half-Life 3 embryo is kicking about somewhere in the Valve HQ, preparing to grow into something grand.
May 16, 2013
Community Announcements - alfred
We have updated the public release of Half-Life. This update contains all the changes from the recent beta, thanks to the whole community for their help with testing and suggesting new features.

Changes in this update are:

  • Added "con_mono" convar, when set to 1 a monospaced font is used in the console. When toggling this value you must restart the game for it to take effect.
  • Fixed dedicated server logs so they don't go into _addon or _download folders by mistake
  • Fixed game directory not being set correctly under Mac OS X or Linux
  • Fixed music tracks to correctly play across level change and to not stop (or restart) at unexpected times
  • Clamped health values to fix display issues when it dropped below 1 or above 255
  • Draw the "Paused" message when you pause the game
  • Fixed custom game menus (like ones displayed by AMXModX) not rendering correctly
  • Updated sound track to 44kHz, 128kbit MP3 for better listening experience
  • Fixed test microphone button not working
  • Updated SDL drop, fixes some mouse input issues
  • Fixed 3rd party mods that use the base Half-Life 1 client.dll having bad mouse input behavior
  • Fixed view jumping when coming in and our of VGUI1 menus under Half-Life, Team Fortress Classic and DeathMatch Classic
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to The incredible story of Reykjavík mayor Jón Gnarr and the birth of EVE Online">eve online featured



The story of Jón Gnarr, who in 2010 was elected mayor of Iceland's capital and largest city, Reykjavík, could be mistaken for a story from EVE Online, the sandbox MMO created by Icelandic developer CCP. In EVE, players form corporations and take part in fascinating, often-bizarre political and military shenanigans. In Iceland, Jón ran for office as founder of "The Best Party," which he says wasn't, and still isn't, a real political party.

"It was supposed to be a complete nonsense party," said Jón during a Q&A after last week's EVE Online Fanfest in Reykjavík. "We promised whatever people wanted us to promise, but also promised to break all of our promises."

Icelanders apparently appreciated Jón's honesty, and he earned international fame after becoming one of the world's most fascinating and whimsical mayors. Though he claims he didn't even know what he was running for, he wasn't surprised when he was elected. "I could sense that people appreciated The Best Party," said Jón. "I mean, it's the best party."

Jón Gnarr, CCP, and Hættuspil
 


With a population of only 320,000, stories about Jón and stories about CCP are really stories about Iceland, all intertwined as part of the country's recent history. And here's where they intersect:

Before becoming a politician, Jón was already well-known as a comedian in Iceland, and appeared in one of Iceland's most popular board games, Hættuspil, which translates to "Danger Game." The man on the cover, dressed as a perturbed woman, is Jón Gnarr, and the company behind it was CCP.

Hættuspil's success funded the initial development of EVE Online, which was the plan all along, so Jón—the mayor of Iceland's capital—deserves some small credit for EVE Online and CCP's success.

An obsession with "building armies"
 


Jón says the people of Iceland are proud of CCP and what it's done for the country and Reykjavík, but he doesn't play EVE himself. "I suspect that EVE Online could be an obsession," he told us.

"I've been, yeah, I was obsessed with Warcraft and...uh, yeah," he continued, the crowd laughing in acknowledgement. "And Half-Life, and I just had to erase it and get rid of it."

After the Q&A, Tom Senior and I caught up with Jón for a few more questions about his gaming career and obsessions. His favorite game is Heroes of Might and Magic, followed by Elite.

"I played Elite on an Acorn Electron, and I was fascinated by it," he said. "It was quite time-consuming, it took a lot of time...and then of course, Warcraft came about. I dropped out after StarCraft, because it has become way too complicated for me. And the same happened with Might & Magic, it just became too complicated."

What did he enjoy so much about the original Might and Magic? "Building armies," Jón said laughing. "Building an army was my goal and pleasure. But I easily get addicted to games. I couldn't quit."

Danger Game returns
 


"One more turn" syndrome is the reason Jón now forgoes gaming in favor of taking walks and listening to podcasts, but his relationship with CCP isn't over. To celebrate EVE Online's 10 year anniversary, Jón is reprising his role in an English version of Hættuspil to be bundled with a new Collector's Edition.

Pre-orders are now open to get the box of EVE memorabilia, along with the first chance for us to play CCP's debut game, which set off a decade-long cascade of incredible stories from in and out of the EVE universe. If you don't play EVE, 149.99€ is real steep for just the board game, but perhaps CCP will decide to sell it on its own. Of around ten Icelanders I asked during Fanfest last week, only one hadn't played Hættuspil, and the rest gave glowing reviews.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Adam Smith)

Maybe there’s more to Half Life 1 mod Cry of Fear than screaming, gibbering faces and jump scares – the trailers have shooting, conversations and chainsaws – but my nerves, frayed rather than reinforced by years of vacationing in Silent Hill, failed to survive the opening scenes when I played last night. There’s something about the look and feel of the dated engine that unnerves me far more than something draped in bells and whistles ever would, although I’ve just conjured the image of a jester at a rave and that’s as petrifying as it is ridiculous. The Half Life engine has taken on the quality of a museum or funhouse packed with animatronics, and it’s perhaps that aspect that is most troubling. Well, that and the jump scares. Here’s how I got on.>

(more…)

Community Announcements - alfred
We have released a Beta update for Half-Life and associated games.
Changes in this update are:
  • Fixed music tracks to correctly play across level change and to not stop (or restart) at unexpected times
  • Clamped health values to fix display issues when it dropped below 1 or above 255
  • Draw the "Paused" message when you pause the game
  • Fixed custom game menus (like ones displayed by AMXModX) not rendering correctly
Community Announcements - alfred
We have released a Beta update for Half-Life.
Changes in this update are:
  • Updated sound track to 44kHz, 128kbit MP3 for better listening experience
  • Fixed test microphone button not working
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Cry of Fear, a full conversion horror mod for Half-Life, releases on Steam Wednesday">Cry of Fear



Alongside the likes of Slenderman and that ghost girl from Curse of the Blood Moon, another indie horror contender has been brewing in the original Half-Life engine. Cry of Fear is a free total conversion mod constructed on the back of Gordon Freeman's maiden voyage, and it's releasing standalone this Wednesday. Using 100% custom assets, the mod was developed by Team Psykskallar, which even went so far as to implement animated cutscenes and a few other non-native elements in the 15-year-old engine.

This release will be available on Steam as a stand-alone download that won't require the original Half-Life to play. Although, if you don't already own the original Half-Life, you could snag one of our highest-rated shooters of all time for $10 at this point. The original Cry of Fear mod is available on the official site.

Cry of Fear looks to take place in a dark, urban area, and your character is shown equipped with a pistol, a phone-mounted light, and a drab hoodie. Somehow, I don't think that's going to be enough to feel safe. Just a hunch.
...

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