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Half-Life

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Shacknews - Steve Watts
The source code for the popular Half-Life mod Natural Selection has been released for public use. Unknown Worlds' Hugh Jeremy says this will let fans and coders make their own variations, patch any remaining problems, or just dive into the code to learn a new trick or two.
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.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Valve's ongoing effort to retrofit its games with Linux support has come to two of its classic and most revered games. Both Half-Life and Counter-Strike now have Linux versions available on Steam.

PC Gamer noted that both of the Steam pages (Half-Life, Counter-Strike) now sport the familiar Linux logo. The push for Linux support goes hand-in-hand with some of Valve's other recent ideas, including Big Picture mode and the Steam Box. All three initiatives seem set to work in conjunction to spearhead Valve's entrance into the living room.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The Black Mesa mod is a remarkable accomplishment, remaking Half-Life in the Source engine, and now a mapper building upon their work has remade another slice of Valve history. Black Mesa: Uplink remakes HL's classic Uplink demo, which curiously for a demo was a new slice based upon levels cut from the game during development. And now that's available in shiny Source-o-vision.

Black Mesa: Uplink is out now on its ModDB page and here on Shacknews. To play, you'll need to own a modern Source game on Steam and have the Black Mesa mod installed. Mapper Michael 'Hezus' Jansen made Uplink over three months, building upon the assets and eight years of work from Black Mesa.

Set roughly around Half-Life's Lambda Core chapter, Uplink sees Gordon Freeman on a mission to activate a radio antenna so people can escape, only an awful lot of soldiers, mutants, aliens, radiation leaks and jumping puzzles are in his way.

"I've recreated something people played 13 years ago, that means it's intertwined with nostalgic feelings," Jansen said in the release announcement. "Have I recreated it according to their past experience? Have I changed too much? Have I changed too little? All I know is that I threw away all illusions that I could please everyone with this remake, right when I started the project. I made it as I saw fit and I hope the commentary tracks will shed some light on my choices."

Shacknews - Andrew Yoon

Fans have been eagerly awaiting Gordon Freeman's next adventure. While the Half-Life series has been long-dormant, an incredibly talented team of dedicated fans recently released Black Mesa--a remake of the first game created entirely in an updated version of the Source engine. While not officially sanctioned by Valve, the company has made no effort blocking the remake--odd, considering the typical C&D approach taken by other monolithic publishers.

So why is Valve so supportive of fan remakes? "This feels like pretty common sense," Valve's Chet Faliszek said. "Why wouldn't we? I guess you'd have to convince me of the benefits to the other side."

VG247 pointed out that companies are trying to protect their interests, "blocking anything that could tarnish the reputation of their products."

"Well, let's say that Black Mesa Source turned out horrible. It's not going to hurt the original Half-Life," Faliszek responded, as the interviewer noted that the original game still exists even after the release of a fan-remake.

Thankfully, Black Mesa turned out to be not-horrible, with Faliszek praising the remake's "excellent graphics." It also provided the Valve writer an opportunity to revisit the original game, something he hasn't played since working on Half-Life 2: Episode Two--which released back in 2007.

Shacknews - Steve Watts

Grab your crowbars and spectacles, everyone. The Source engine fan remake of the original Half-Life is now available. It went live at 8:47 AM Mountain Time, which should sound awfully familiar to fans. The labor of love has taken eight years and has added a few notable tweaks to the classic, with at least one more revision on the way post-launch.

The Source mod has added some new bits of dialogue, and plans to make revisions to the Xen portion of the game sometime in the future. It opted to remove that part completely from the initial release. Other than those changes, it will be a much prettier version of Half-Life. The excitement was enough to garner a spot in the first batch of Steam's Greenlight program, and chances are we have more than a few Half-Life enthusiasts in the Shacknews audience.

You can grab the download from us (direct download), or you can also get it from the official site, of course.

Also available is the full soundtrack for your listening pleasure. Download it from us.

Shacknews - John Keefer

Welcome back from the long weekend, Shack. Hope you had a relaxing Labor Day. While I was supposed to have the holiday off, I still got a few hours in yesterday on a project I have been working on for more than two months, and you finally got to see the start of it yesterday.

Stay awhile for some stories ...

David Craddock, author and Shacker since 2005, posted in Chatty back in mid-June about a book he was working on about Blizzard Entertainment, called Stay Awhile and Listen. Now, anything we post on Blizzard usually does great traffic on Shack, so it immediately got the rusty gears in my head cranking. When I was at GameSpy, I had worked with author David Kushner to publish a chapter of Masters of Doom that site as the book was about to come out, so I proposed the same idea to David C., this time for the Shack audience. He was agreeable, having a bond with Chatty and the Shack crowd. We went back and forth for several weeks, discussing excerpts and ideas, and we finally came upon a format. Starting with yesterday's feature, we will publish several stories like that from the book on a regular basis. The grand finale will be Shacknews posting a full chapter from Stay Awhile and Listen, along with an in-depth interview with David C., over the course of a week beginning Monday, October 29.

We've pretty much agreed on the chapter (no spoilers here, sorry), but we'll tease you with stories from the development of the Diablo series, the Warcraft series (including that big MMO) and StarCraft, as well as tidbits from the days of Condor (later Blizzard North), and Silicon & Synpase (later Blizzard Entertainment). If the feedback to the first article is any indication, you guys should enjoy what we have planned. Thanks to David C. for being such a willing participant.

* * * * *

Unfortunately for Paragon Studios, one of its superheroes will not be swooping in to save it from villain NCSoft. The developer of City of Heroes will be closed, and operation of the superhero/supervillain MMO will be terminated by the end of the year. With Guild Wars 2 doing so well, maybe NCSoft can see clear to shuffle some of the displaced Paragon staff off to ArenaNet, which has its hands full with its well-received MMO. Well, it's a thought.

* * * * *

Black Mesa is finally coming (we hope). A countdown clock has appeared on the dev site a few days ago, with zero hour on September 14, and we can only hope the team behind the highly anticipated mod can deliver. It's been eight years in the making, and being teased with a leaked video didn't help. This is such big news that even the BBC reported it. The team has promised everything that Half-Life had to offer, but in a prettier updated-Source-engine package that offers some minor changes. Well, all except the Xen section, which will be added later. I'm not going to miss that part in the slightest, but I really can't wait to try it. As hanged_man called it, this has been the Duke Nukem Forever of anticipated mods. Let's hope it fares a lot better.

* * * * *

Random bits & Quick hits: If you aren't excited enough by Dishonored, Bethesda has offered you some more prodding. The free Rat Assassin app has you slicing and dicing plague rats and using your powers to get high scores. Dishonored is already high on my wish list, but I still like the app ... Okay, it's a sequel, but it's not called Final Fantasy XIII-3. It's Lightning Returns and Square Enix will bring an end to the trilogy. Are you excited by this or disappointed that there is nothing to report on FF Versus XIII? ... By all accounts, PAX Prime was a success, and Steve told me he has a ton of content to get to this week. Watch for previews and interviews from his trip.

Flashback: While the closing of Paragon is a shame for all involved, it got me thinking about the studio that I was saddest to see fold up shop. I'd have to go with Looking Glass Studios (loved System Shock and Thief so much), followed closely by Ensemble. What studio do you miss the most?

Have a great short week, Shack.


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Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

You thought the day would never come, and it still hasn't quite yet, but Black Mesa now has a release date. After eight years of development, the fan remake of Half-Life in the Source engine will be released on September 14. Except it won't be quite complete; the team is still working on expanding HL's reviled Xen section and plans to release it later.

Come September 14, we should--in theory, if they really mean it this time--be able to return to the Black Mesa complex, project lead 'cman2k' announced on the mod's forum. The mod recreates Valve's classic FPS with all the polygons, shaders, particles, and gratuitous physics objects we expect from the Source Engine.

It's not an exact remake, mind. The team is adding extra touches like new lines of dialogue, while Xen will be far from the unpleasant little ending section we all know and hate when it arrives.

"Xen is going to basically be a complete game in its own right, it's not going to be just an epilogue to the game; more of a whole new chapter," lead developer 'Raminator' explained. "It'll be pretty well expanded." Work on Xen is already underway and the team hopes to finish it "in a reasonable timeframe," so hopefully we won't need to wait until the year 2020.

cman2k added, "We believe this is a great way to provide a complete-feeling 8-10 hour experience with a solid ending, make our fans happy and help us make the best overall game possible."

The soundtrack is now available for your listening and purchasing pleasure.

Check out this leaked video for a recent-ish look at Black Mesa's 'On a Rail' chapter, including its curious intentionally cheesy voice-acting.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

The Half-Life remake mod Black Mesa really is coming, and now a leaked video confirmed as real has surfaced with a peek at its jazzed-up 'On a Rail' chapter. You know, that frightful section with the tedious trains then glorious rocket launch.

The footage leaked to ValveTime is a rough cut of a planned gameplay video the Black Mesa team put together, Black Mesa team member 'Raminator' has responded, which somehow got into the wild early.

"The build featured in the video is between four and five weeks old," he explained. "You won't be seeing very many changes between what's in the video and what's in the final product."

As for the iron sights aiming seen on the revolver, a feature not in the original Half-Life, that's only available for the .357 and crossbow, boosting accuracy a little but lowering firing speed. After fans grumbled about seeing this in the leaked video, an option's been added to disable it.

Raminator says that following the leak, the team is going to be "moving some things forward" when it comes to showing us more of the long, long, long-in-development mod.

Some frankly unwatchable footage of an early version of the 'Surface Tension' chapter has also been leaked, though darned if I can see anything in it.

Shacknews - Alice O'Connor

We may have seen the final release of Half-Life co-op mod Sven Co-op last week, but oh, it's far from over. It's getting a free standalone release on Steam, and Valve has given the team engine access to tinker under the hood and add new features.

The free release through Steam will include the base Half-Life campaign so everyone can play without even owning it, the announcement explains.

"Full engine access will allow many previously impossible features to be added to the game, as well as new functionality for Half-Life's level editor," team leader Daniel Fearon said elsewhere. The announcement specifically mentions "larger and more detailed" levels.

The mod's been going for a staggering fifteen years, but apparently is still warming up.

...

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