Dec 16, 2013
I've not much sympathy for "things were better in the old days" reminiscing. For instance, those who prefer the twitch action of 'old-school' shooters still have valid options for their acrobatic rocket-spam. Far better then, are those retro-pastiche projects that filter the philosophy of nostalgia through something entirely more ridiculous. Take Half-Life 2: Deathmatch mod Jaykin' Bacon 3. As you'll see in this trailer, its Instagib mode will let you play a flying Solid Snake shooting his deadly electrified finger gun.
There's no hint of a release date yet for the Jaykin' Bacon Source sequel, so while we wait for the mod team to provide further instructions, you can check out their official site. Alternatively, head over to ModDB to see how the creators have incorporated Perfect Dark Zero into their mythology.
Black Mesa: Source, the free high-def remake of Valve's first-person shooter classic Half-Life, is a clear example of how awesome the PC gaming/modding community is. For no reason other than they wanted to, the team behind Black Mesa painstakingly rebuilt Half-Life inside the Source engine, prettied up all the art, and released the result for free. On Tuesday - Half-Life’s fifteenth birthday - Black Mesa received permission from Valve to be sold on Steam.
“Last year, Black Mesa was one of the first Steam games to be Greenlit by you, our amazing fans,” project lead Carlos Montero wrote in a post on the community forums. “We've had quite a year since then, with a lot happening internally that we haven't been able to talk about... until now. Black Mesa has been given the opportunity to be sold as a retail product on Steam!"
The big surprise is Valve allowing Black Mesa to profit from what is, basically, a work of fan tribute. Although a groundswell of popular support put Black Mesa on the Steam store, there was never an expectation that the game would ever be anything other than free-to-play. "The use of Valve's for monetary gain was not predicated by our being greenlit," Montero tells PC Gamer. "This was really the only thing we thought to be possible at the time." It says a lot about the quality of Black Mesa that Valve is allowing them to profit from the Half-Life universe.
"This is an incredible honor—one we never expected—but also one we found hard to accept," Montero continued in his forum post. "We never developed Black Mesa with money in mind. Our team is made up of average, hardworking people, and no one joined the team to make money. For us, Black Mesa is purely a labor of love.”
While no price has been set, you'll soon be able to support the Black Mesa team for a “relatively low” price. The free version will still be available, however, and the team continues to plan frequent updates. High on that list is the release of Xen, the much-anticipated final chapter of the Half-Life remake, but unfortunately that update is "still a ways off."
As mentioned in yesterday's highly speculative Half-Life 3 news, people have been scurrying through Valve's project management database JIRA again. Now, NeoGAF user 'angular graphics' has posted the full list of Valve staff assigned to the still unconfirmed Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3 development teams. If nothing else, it's a rare glimpse into the company's internal working, and what happens to its employees after they're sworn to the Valve code of silence.
The Half-Life 3 team contains lead writer Marc Laidlaw, series composer Kelly Bailey (seemingly having returned to Valve after leaving in 2011), and series designer Steve Bond. It also lists Adam Foster, the creator of Minerva (as well as the Portal 2 announcement ARG). The other instantly recognisable name is Portal writer Erik Wolpaw, who appears on both Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3's lists.
If anything, the Left 4 Dead 3 team is the more surprising. It contains not only familiar Valve names like Chet Faliszek and composer Mike Morasky, but some of their more notable newer hires. Both Clint Hocking, of Far Cry 2 fame, and Doug Church, of System Shock 2 and Thief fame, are attached to the project. Now more than ever, I'm pretty damn excited about the possibility of shooting up some zombies.
Standard caveats still apply, the most notable of which is that we don't know how accurate this data is. At best, it could represent a single moment in time for each project, as Valve plays its endless game of musical chairs. And, of course, people working on a project is now indication of when that game might be announced.
Sep 24, 2013
By announcing SteamOS yesterday, Valve declared that PC gaming is more than desktop gaming, that Windows is not our master, and that—finally—cats can own Steam accounts. The free, Linux-based, cat-friendly operating system is designed for gaming on living room PCs, because PC gaming according to Valve isn't about WASD and DirectX—it's about openness and collaboration.
We're free to choose our hardware, our software, our mods, and soon more than ever, how we play, where we play, and whether or not Microsoft gets a cut. If SteamOS takes off, PC gaming will undergo one of its most dramatic changes ever—possibly one more significant than the introduction of the free-to-play model and crowdfunding. That's thrilling, but also scary as hell, so we've worked through our fears with a list of SteamOS pros and cons, followed by deep breaths in anticipation of tomorrow's announcement.
It's free. If you have a living room PC, or plan to build one, you can ditch Windows for free. That feels really good to say, but the adoption rate hinges on SteamOS launching with native support for everything we want in a media and gaming center. Streaming games from a secondary PC is neat, but we'd rather run them natively on the machine we paid to put in our living room. It also needs native Netflix and Hulu apps, and all the other media services offered by the consoles.
Valve says it's got this covered, announcing that it's "working with many of the media services you know and love," and that "hundreds of great games are already running natively on SteamOS," with native "AAA titles" to be announced in the coming weeks.
It encourages competition in the console market. May the best Steam Box win! Windows isn't designed for TVs, so neither are many PCs. Now Valve is giving away a platform for games, movies, and music, challenging hardware manufacturers to make systems that are powerful, quiet, and inexpensive. It used to be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo fighting for the top of the living room ecosystem's food chain—soon it may be Microsoft vs. Sony vs. Nintendo vs. Everyone.
It should run some games better. One of the few advantages consoles have over PCs (whether or not they always make the best of it) is an OS specifically designed for gaming. Meanwhile, we have Windows, which is clearly not designed to be an ideal gaming platform. With SteamOS, however, Valve claims it has "achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing," and is now working on "audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level."
Last year, Valve posted a performance test of Left 4 Dead 2 running on Windows 7 and on Ubuntu, and the Linux build came out ahead, saying that the test "speak to the underlying efficiency of the kernel and OpenGL." This isn't close to being an objective experiment—and we'll look forward to making our own evaluations—but it is encouraging.
It means more Linux games, and more couch-friendly PC games. SteamOS is as much about ditching Windows as it is putting PC gaming in the living room, so it affects even those firmly planted in their desk chairs. If SteamOS achieves the install base it needs for developers big and small embrace Linux, the Microsoft shackles may be broken forever.
Steam Boxes may struggle to compete in price. A PC designed to run SteamOS skips over the Windows fee, but unlike a console, the manufacturer can't rely on game licensing fees to recoup costs—that money goes to Valve. Sony and Microsoft, however, can price their consoles competitively with that revenue in mind, which gives them the advantage. Valve itself could price hardware this way, but that would undercut third-party hardware manufacturers and could turn out to be anti-competitive. Unless, of course, Valve makes the unlikely move to subsidize the cost of these systems.
It could increase development costs. Major game developers aren't going to ditch Windows, the platform with the world's largest install base. If SteamOS becomes a competitive gaming platform, competitive developers will have yet another version to make, soaking up more resources.
The pessimistic angle is that this can only result in either lower quality games or more expensive games. The optimistic angle is that SteamOS will be embraced and prioritized by developers with the same enthusiasm as the consoles.
It could further fragment games and smother certain genres. If SteamOS eclipses the popularity of desktop gaming, developers will have less incentive to develop desktop games. Just as developers rushed into mobile and Facebook development, we could see a flood of controller-based Steam games that push niche and classic-style PC games into the slums.
It's a scary thought, but when we un-jerk our knees and really consider this scenario, it's a very minor concern. Crowdfunding has proven without a doubt that there's still a huge appetite for old fashioned mouse and keyboard PC games. The positive—and more likely—angle is that we'll see just greater diversity in the Steam library.
It gives Valve even more power over PC gaming. Valve isn't PC gaming. We know that, and millions of League of Legends players, World of Tanks enthusiasts, GOG.com users, modders, and more know that. But Steam is the most popular digital distribution service, and soon, it will be a platform. SteamOS may be free, but it's only as open as Valve allows. We don't know yet if we can use SteamOS to play non-Steam games, or if Valve will make exclusivity deals. We've asked, and Valve's answer will be a huge indicator of its intentions.
If you've got a passionate thought about SteamOS, we'd love to include it in our next issue of PC Gamer. We're always listening at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sep 23, 2013
Following up on its enigmatic announcement-of-an-announcement last week, Valve has unveiled SteamOS, a free stand-alone operating system “for living room machines.”
The OS “combines the rock-solid architecture of Linux with a gaming experience built for the big screen,” according to the announcement. In-house streaming to a TV, similar to what’s used in Nvidia’s Shield, is a feature of the OS.
Valve also emphasizes SteamOS’s openness. Users can “can alter or replace any part of the software or hardware they want,” and hardware manufacturers are free to “iterate in the living room at a much faster pace,” setting it apart from console-style closed systems.
A vague component of the announcement is Valve’s claim to have “achieved significant performance increases in graphics processing” in SteamOS. Valve adds that it’s “now targeting audio performance and reductions in input latency at the operating system level.” It’s also unclear how many of the 3,000 games on Steam will run natively on SteamOS--Valve says you'll be able to "access the full Steam catalog" through in-home streaming. We're also curious how well the operating system will be suited to desktop PCs or laptops that aren’t used in the living room.
Check back on Wednesday for the second of three announcements expected from Valve this week.
Story by Tyler Wilde and Evan Lahti
Jul 28, 2013
Can we talk about Dr. Kleiner from Half-Life 2 and what a huge failure he is as a science person? Sure, the guy cobbled together a teleporter in his garage, but when Gordon Freeman shows up after being gone for ten years, what does Kleiner have waiting for him? The same old clunky outdated HEV suit Gordon wore back in Black Mesa. You’d think that as the leading bald science man on earth, he may have added some upgrades in a decade’s time, something along the lines of the nanosuit from the Crysis series. Alas, no: he left that to the modders of Crylife.
Should I use strength, speed, armor, cloaking... or Alyx?
Crylife, created by the two-person Dev.Muffin modding team, is actually a mod for SMOD, which is a mod for Half-Life 2. If you’re not familiar with SMOD, it’s been around for almost a decade and still gets updated and patched every so often. Essentially, it adds new weapons, new enemies, bullet time, and extra gore, making Half-Life 2 crazier, more violent, and more X-TREME. It helps to picture Valve developers sitting around a table in 2004, putting the finishing touches on Half-Life 2, and suddenly Jerry Bruckheimer kicks open the door and shouts “I’m here to help, and my contribution is this GIANT BAG OF COCAINE!” That's SMOD.
There's something very un-Freeman about dual pistols. And yet something so satisfying.
So, you’ve got SMOD for Half-Life 2, and now Crylife for SMOD, meaning you’ve got all the extra frentic action of SMOD plus the nanosuit from Crysis. Let’s go over the suit’s powers, by saying them in a super deep, somewhat creepy voice (here's a refresher if you need it) with an English accent:
Where Half-Life 2’s sprint was really more of a trot, Crylife’s speed will have you zipping all over the map, which is useful if you want to run up and punch an enemy soldier, which is something you want to do. Did I mention there is punching in Crylife? There is punching in Crylife, by holding down the V key, letting you smash wooden obstacles and crates and faces without having to cycle your weapon over to the crowbar, which you no longer have. Punching is fun, though it’s much more effective when using:
It’s not just for Tylenol anymore! Now you can punch things (see above), and the things break or go flying. Also, you can jump, while sprinting, which will give you a nice big leap. You know how sometimes you have to jump onto crates to get over walls and fences, or use ladders, or muck around solving see-saw puzzles by stacking cinder blocks on a board? Now, the environment is conquered by your nanobot-infused super-thighs.
Punch-a-Vort: the City 17 answer to Whack-a-Mole.
Which takes us to:
Armor, well, it lets you get shot a lot more without dying, which is useful because with SMOD's extra enemies and their extra bullets, you will be getting shot extra times. Also, some of the enemies have their own nanosuits, just like they did in Crysis. You’ll definitely need armor you protect yourself against them. Even with AHH-MUH (set to MAXIMUM), I die a lot in this mod.
You're not the only one jumping around City 17 like an idiot.
Thanks to CLOAK, this ambush never got sprung. And I got that big promotion! Thanks, CLOAK!
Cloak is fun, because you can walk right up to enemies without them seeing you. As in Crysis, you can’t really do anything violent while remaining cloaked, so it turns into a fun game of, “Can I quickly switch to MAXIMUM AHH-MUH and then carefully insert bullets into everyone before they react?” The answer is yes, usually.
I'm not sure if night vision makes Ravenholm less scary or more scary.
There are weapons, new ones, in Crylife, and with SMOD’s iron sights they’re all MAXIMUM FUN to use. Plus, each gun has two slots for attachments that you’ll find while you’re sprinting, jumping, cloaking, punching, and AHH-MUH-ing around City 17. The pistol can be fitted with a silencer, or turned into dual-wielded pistols for the whole John Woo experience. The machine guns can be fitted with different kind of scopes and silencers as well.
Do you like guns and attaching things to guns and shootin' dudes? Here you go.
The mod is still in beta, but Dev.Muffin has been patching things quickly. I played it earlier this week and noticed some textures missing and a few other minor problems, but when I went back to the download page the next day, they'd already released a new version fixing the issues I'd spotted. There's also a few extra maps and gamemodes you can access from the "New Game" menu: just scroll past the Half-Life 2 chapters and you'll see them.
Installation: Not much entanglement here. You'll need to have installed (and have run at least once) Half-Life 2, HL2 Deathmatch, and Counter-Strike: Source. Download the mod file (it's a hefty one which includes all the SMOD stuff). Open your "sourcemods" folder, which is in your "steamapps" folder which is in your "Steam" folder. Extract the "Crylife" folder into the "sourcemods" folder. Restart Steam, and you'll see SMOD: Crylife appear in your games library! MAXIMUM DOUBLE-CLICK IT, and you're ready to play.
Robert Yang's experimental Half-Life 2 mod series Radiator is due to be repurposed as a pack of short-form single-player games, starting with a "slightly longer" standalone remake of the original episode, Polaris. The "go-on-a-lousy-stargazing-date-and-then-get-dumped-at-the-end" simulator is expanding out with new graphics, voice acting, Oculus Rift support, and full-frontal male nudity. A trailer has been released, teasing its planned August release.
Come for the pleasant harmonica, stay for the naked dancing:
The Radiator website has been updated with details of the new projects that will make up Vol.1, including Condom Corps and Zobeide. You can still access the original mod over at ModDB, where you'll find the original Polaris alongside Handle With Care - a game about crates and marriage counselling.
If you’re in the world-record setting speedrun business, your job got a little bit harder this weekend. On Saturday, the evil geniuses at SourceRuns posted a new world record speedrun video of Half-Life 2 completed in 1:27:51.09.
Speedruns are curious cocktails of obsessive practice, devoted love of a specific game and engine-warping bugs. The SourceRuns team made use of a number of known Source bugs, the most obvious being Half-Life 2’s reverse bunnyhopping glitch. When a player in the Source engine jumps, they receive a speed boost in the air and then a reverse force of friction when they land. If they’re jumping backward, though, they speed up in the air and then get a forward force of friction when they land. For some truly impressive acceleration, check out speedrunner Gocnak’s breathtaking, and backward, navigation of the coastal highway (41:47). Dr. Freeman’s iconic car gets left behind, but Gocnak soars directly into our hearts.
Other highlights include speedrunner UnrealCanine fighting back against the Combine oppressors with some choice graffiti (52:59). Unfortunate lowlights include, well, every time a speedrunner zoomed in to stare at the rear ends or chests of Alyx and Dr. Mossman (too many instances to link).
According to the video notes, the final speedrun took 600 days of work from over a dozen players, recorded in 200 segments on Hard difficulty. If, as you watch, you see a player glitch or launch past something in a way you've never seen before, check out Sourceruns wiki for a full description of the glitches used in the video.
Jul 4, 2013
A Steam news note announces the arrival of an updated version of Valve's software development kit, which grants "support for Mac OS X and Linux to mod developers" and adds "the ability for virtual reality support in your mod." Yes, expect to see a wealth of Oculus Rift mods heading to a Source game near you. Ricochet with Oculus Rift support! The dream lives.
There have been other alterations, too. The source code is now up on github and a tweak to the license agreement allows users to share modified versions of the kit for free. If you're interested in making mods, the Valve Developer Community wiki is a good place to learn.
VR is the talk of the town at the moment, with the Rift's impressive showings at Eve Fanfest and E3. You can keep up with the latest VR news here.