Dec 31, 2012
Face Off pits two gladiators against each other as they tackle gaming's most perplexing conundrums. This New Year's Eve edition is a chronological throw-down: which decade gave PC gaming the most? Podcast Producer Erik Belsaas says it was the '90s—the origin of modern PC gaming. Executive Editor Evan Lahti insists it was the '00s, with its speedy internet, better PCs, and shinier graphics engines.
Evan: The 1990s had the CD-ROM and the McRib sandwich. The ‘00s had Windows XP and two terrible Star Wars movies. I think the latter birthed better games: the Battlefield series, Crysis, Company of Heroes, BioShock, Dragon Age: Origins, Guild Wars, The Sims, Rome: Total War, Star Wars: KOTOR, and the best Civilization games happened then. What've you got, Erik?
Erik: Lucasarts, id, Ion Storm, Interplay, Blizzard: the iconic names that created franchises that we still discuss today. “RTS,” “FPS,” and “MMO” had no meaning before the pioneers of the '90s came along with some-thing other than sequels and rehashes: Baldur's Gate, Wolfenstein 3D, Duke Nukem 3D, MechWarrior, Unreal Tournament and every LucasArts adventure game from Sam & Max to Grim Fandango.
Evan: This is going to devolve into who can name-drop more game titles, isn't it?
Erik: Pretty much.
Evan: Cool. In that case, let’s put the best we've got on the page. What are the top three games from your decade? Mine: WoW, Counter-Strike, and Half-Life 2.
Erik: Just three? How about X-COM, Fallout, and The Secret of Monkey Island. Timeless classics that we still play today.
Evan: Is that the best that the decade that gave us the Spice Girls has got, grandpa? The innovations of the '00s will last far longer. Half-Life 2 wasn't just the basis for the way modern action games tell stories, it’s the technological foundation for the most ambitious mods we have today and the preferred canvas for machinima creators. World of Warcraft’s meteoric rise brought PC gaming into popular culture, ruined innumerable marriages, and earned its own South Park episode. Top that.
Erik:Your great games are all parts of established franchises that began in the '90s. For that matter, the original Counter-Strike mod came out in 1999, before Valve turned it into a retail product! Take away the names that began in the '90s, the '00s would've created very little of their own.
Evan: Megabyte for megabyte, I’d rather replay Half-Life 2 than its predecessor. Likewise for Diablo II, Warcraft III, Fallout 3 and other major franchises that began in the '90s but matured in the '00s. I really think that the tech of the '00s (better operating systems, fast internet, faster PCs) produced better gaming experiences. EVE Online couldn't exist in the '90s. Team Fortress 2's dozens of free content updates couldn't have streamed down our wimpy modems—the same goes for 25-man WoW raids or a heavily modded playthrough of Oblivion or Morrowind.
Erik: You've got a short memory. EverQuest allowed 72-man raids. And before Oblivion and Morrowind came Daggerfall, which was amazing and heavily modded. Doom, the father of modding, came out in '93.
Evan: I’ll play your game, Belsaas. Here's my ace: Deus Ex, our most favorite game ever, happened in 2000.
Erik: Deus Ex is a good game...but how about StarCraft? Has any other game absolutely defined its genre or rallied an entire nation behind it like a sport?
Evan: I was worried you’d play the Korea card. What can I counter that with? The 100-million-selling main-stream success of The Sims? The booming popularity of independent gaming? ...Peggle?
Erik: Peggle? Well I’ve got...you know...uh...Carmen Sandiego. Fine. Peggle wins.
"You can call it the Zero-Point Energy Field Manipulator if you really want to," Half-Life 2's Alyx Vance said as we were introduced to the Gravity Gun, one of the most memorable physics-twisting tools of PC gaming. Soon you'll be able to lug around your very own triumph of science: collectible manufacturing company NECA announced a 1:1 Gravity Gun replica available for purchase in spring 2013.
Though it misses this holiday shopping season by a few gluons, the model—still in an early prototype stage—looks like it'll tout just as much fine detail as NECA's Portal Gun. A pre-order form should be available soon, NECA said. We presume it won't take headcrab legs as currency.
Dec 18, 2012
Photography student David A. Reeves likes video games and movies with guns in them. So he's found an awesome way to combine all three, crafting intricate little silhouettes of game and movie scenes out of paper then taking photos of them.
If you think the results look a lot like Limbo, that's cool, he's got several images based on the atmospheric platformer. But his settings for Half-Life, Thief, Dark Souls and Aliens are pretty great too.
You can see more images, as well as some neat "making of" shots, below.
Dec 17, 2012
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."
Remember Uplink? (No, not that Uplink.) Valve called its original demo for Half-Life "Uplink" in 1999. It took place during Gordon Freeman's journey through the spooky Lambda Core, but Valve eventually cut the content, later repackaging it as a separate demo. Black Mesa: Uplink reproduces Uplink's levels through Black Mesa's art assets and textures.
Tasked with reactivating an antenna to send a distress signal, players must guide Gordon and his magical, mighty crowbar (minds out of the gutter, kids) through the Lambda complex's radioactive bowels. You'll meet Black Mesa denizens we all know and love: scientists, Barney, Vortigaunts, dead scientists, and headcrabs. Because it was a demo, however, Uplink doesn't last long, but it presents a new branch in Black Mesa's storied saga.
Grab Uplink from Mod DB. Note: You'll need the also-free Black Mesa for it to work.
It's 1:1 scale, and as you can see from the prototype below, lights up as well. Since this is the same company behind the replica Portal guns, you could probably expect some sound effects as well.
Clear your schedule and make room on your hard drive: there are over 9000 mods up for consideration as ModDB's 2012 Mod of the Year award nominees, and only a little over five days to nominate them. A big green button on each mod's page makes it hard to miss the opportunity to give your favorites a bump.
There isn't much time, so we'll get straight to it after this obligatory acknowledgement that we said "over 9000" on the internet: tee hee, references. Moving on, DayZ and Black Mesa are tough to ignore, and The Sith Lords Restored Content Mod was a valiant community effort. Those might be the most talked about and praised mods this year, and we expect they'll secure nominations, but there are so many more that deserve recognition. Which are you voting for?
If you need a refresher, you might want to browse our recent mod coverage to see if you've missed any driving elephants or My Little Pony conversions.
Nov 26, 2012
Hollywood studios have approached Valve in the past to explore the possibility of adapting Half-Life for the silver screen, but before you could spit out "Uwe Boll," Valve declared that any sort of movie involving Freeman and Friends® would be created by its very hands. What-ifs persist, of course, and in an interview with New Rising Media (via VG247), Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw named Hellboy and Pan's Labyrinth director Guillermo del Toro as a good fit for a hypothetical adaptation.
"Guillermo del Toro has the horror vibe that I think a lot of people miss out on when thinking about a Half-Life movie," Laidlaw said. "Half-Life is essentially horror after all. The science in it barely passes as hand-waving, but when a headcrab jumps at your head, it’s a precisely engineered jolt."
Laidlaw also thinks Total Recall and Starship Troopers director Paul Verhoeven could concoct something "insane" for a Half-Life film, and pointed to The Lord of the Rings' Peter Jackson as a "purveyor of faithful adaptations." "There are probably a lot of good potential directors, but I think most of them are busy pursuing their own visions," he added.
Regardless of who would come aboard for the supposed project, they'd need the thumbs-up from Valve boss Gabe Newell, who holds a rather soured opinion of what Hollywood offered him so far. "Directors down there wanted to make a Half-Life movie and stuff, so they’d bring in a writer or some talent agency would bring in writers, and they would pitch us on their story," he told us. "And their stories were just so bad. I mean, brutally, the worst. Not understanding what made the game a good game, or what made the property an interesting thing for people to be a fan of."
We chatted with film director Guillermo del Toro at the New York Comic-Con earlier this year, and he told us one of his dream jobs would be to make a movie with Valve.
Turns out the feeling's mutual.
In an interview with New Rising Media, Valve writer Marc Laidlaw outlined three directors who, for varying reasons, he thinks could all do a great job bringing Gordon Freeman's sci-fi adventures to the big screen.
"If Paul Verhoeven returned to science fiction films, he would do something insane with Half-Life… maybe something objectionably insane, but at least not boring", he says. "Peter Jackson has proved himself an amazing purveyor of faithful adaptations. Guillermo del Toro has the horror vibe that I think a lot of people miss out on when thinking about a Half-Life movie. Half-Life is essentially horror after all. The science in it barely passes as hand-waving, but when a headcrab jumps at your head, it's a precisely engineered jolt. There are probably a lot of good potential directors, but I think most of them are busy pursuing their own visions."
Man, a Paul Verhoeven—he of RoboCop and Total Recall fame—Half-Life movie... what a thing that would be.
Interview With Marc Laidlaw: The Writer Of Half-Life [New Rising Media, via PC Gamer]
Supremely talented custom toy builder Jin Saotome is back with another masterpiece, this time featuring the Half-Life series' most sharply-dressed bad guy, the headcrab zombie.
Standing 7" tall, the headcrab comes off to reveal a zombified skull inside. He's also got a busted-open chest and some great blood detail.
The good news? He's for sale! The bad news? He's up on eBay, so the bids might get a little out of control.