Kicking off the DICE summit in Las Vegas today was a keynote presentation by Valve head Gabe Newell and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams. At the talk, the two teased that they were interested in working together on future collaborations. "There's an idea we have for a game that we'd like to work with Valve on," Abrams said, while Newell said: "We're super excited about that and we also want to talk about making movies, either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie."
But how serious are the pair in making their wants a reality? Apparently, pretty serious. "It's as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets," Abrams said. "Which is that we are really talking to Valve, we are going to be bringing on a writer, we have a lot of very interesting ideas."
"Both a Portal and Half-Life movie are things I want to see," Abrams told Polygon, noting that he's well aware of the pitfalls other game-to-movie adaptations have faced. "We're also aware of the cautionary tales of movies that became games and vice versa. Our goal here to is to treat the world Valve has created in both these properties like anyone would a book or some great story that comes from a pitch or original script--just to treat it with the respect they treat their games and their players with."
Of course, Abrams has his hands tied for quite some time, having already signed on to direct Star Wars: Episode VII, which is aiming for a 2015 release. Valve fans, however, are known for being a patient bunch, so the years-long process to make a movie a reality shouldn't faze them too much.
With the Oculus Rift getting people all hot and bothered about virtual reality once again, one canny modder has prepared for its launch by whipping up a VR mod for Half-Life 2 and its episodes. Able to track the player's head and any plastic weaponry they may be holding, the mod looks jolly impressive in a new video.
If you have some VR kit of your own, you can download it right now and get playing.
It's not as simple as adding tracking, oh no, as HL2 must be tweaked to better suit having the display fill your entire vision. The HUD is split into individual elements which fade in and out when relevant, and you can manually lower Gordon's gun so it's not always in your face. It also removes any head-jerking effects, like when shooting or hit by a shock baton, presumably because if your head snaps back in the game it also kicks back in real life and snaps your neck.
Creator Nathan Andrews himself controls the gun with a Top Shot Elite, a plastic gun controller which came with the Cabela's Dangerous Hunts games, with a tracker taped on top. Firing is entirely independent from where Gordon's looking, as you can clearly see later in the demo video. You can also use control it any old regular way, though he recommends an Xbox 360 controller over mouse and keyboard "because analog movement is an absolute must for a good experience with head tracking."
When the Oculus Rift APIs launch, Andrews will hook those into the mod. This isn't the only way to play Half-Life 2 with Oculus Rift, mind, as the open-source Vireio Perception also supports it and several other older games but lacks the fancy tailored touches.
I have no interest in wearing a VR headset myself, but the tracking and independent aiming do convey a fine sense of physicality, even just watching someone else play. Now, if more games would show you an actual body when you look down, that'd be gravy.
Team Fortress 2 has been a test bed for Valve's ideas, one of which was to let users create their own in-game items. This has turned into a lucrative marketplace, in which some item creators have made a killing making items for virtual killing.
"Ten times as much content comes from the userbase as comes from us," Valve president Gabe Newell told students at the University of Texas, reported by PC Gamer. "We think that we're super productive and badass at making TF2 content, but even at this early stage we cannot compete with our customers in the production of content for this environment."
So how much has do the top-earners pull in? "The most anybody has earned in a single year is $500,000, so they're making content, selling it to other customers, and we have a revenue share with those people and their takeaway is $500,000." Newell also joked that Paypal had concerns about the cash flow moving through the system, and asked if the drug trade was involved. "We actually had to work something out with them and said, 'no, they're making hats.'"
Obviously, not everyone is becoming a millionaire off of TF2 items, but the fact that one person could make that much shows how robust the market can be. The booming in-game economy led to real-life transactions and, eventually, the hiring of an economist. Late last year, Valve launched a real money marketplace.
"Return to Ravenholm," aka "Half-Life 2: Episode 4," was a Half-Life 2 episode set in the spooky abandoned town. It's been canceled for a few years now, but we've gotten a better look at the game that could have been thanks to some new concept art and animation tests. It was in development at Dishonored developer Arkane Studios around 2006, but was ultimately scrapped.
Valvetime revealed the new shots, with Rock Paper Shotgun's Craig Pearson confirming their authenticity. According to Valve's Marc Laidlaw, the project had been canceled because the defining qualities of Ravenholm (headcrabs and zombies) were feeling "played out," and the game's placement in the timeline of the other episodes was a "creative constraint." But if you're curious to see the small bits remaining of the project, check out the video below.
Double Fine's The Cave is right around the corner, even with the still-nebulous "January" release listed. But it's close enough to be available for pre-order on Steam, and Valve has partnered to promote it the best way it knows how: Team Fortress 2 goodies.
The game is available for $14.99, and a pre-purchase on Steam nets you some items to play dress up like the game's Hillbilly character. It shows off these items on the Engineer, because let's face it, it's not exactly a stretch for him.
Pre-orders are up on other digital distributors too, minus the TF2 items but some have other perks. Green Man Gaming, for example, has it for $12.00 using the code GMG20-PJFEW-Y16HK, and The Cave activates on Steam anyway.
The game is also coming to PlayStation 3, Xbox 360, and Wii U, but like the PC version, exact dates haven't been given. This will mark Ron Gilbert's first game since joining up with Double Fine, and our own Jeff Mattas was appropriately impressed when he saw the game last year. Check out our preview for more details.
Team Fortress 2 is ringing in the holidays in its own inimitable fashion: with robots and weaponry. The "Mecha Update" introduces a Mecha-Engineer to the Mann vs Machine mode, a new MvM map, and three new weapons.
The update includes a "Big Rock" map illustrates why the Mecha-Engie is such a deadly adversary. It's a big map that gives the robot horde a much larger area to cover, but enemy teleporters will get them to you much faster. New tools for the job include the Rescue Ranger (Engineer), Loose Cannon (Demoman), and Vaccinator (Medic). Finally, the holiday season brings back last year's "Naughty" and "Nice" crates, full of yule-tide weapons and winter-themed items, respectively. They'll be available until January 3.
Santa Tux has visited early this year, dragging an open beta version of Steam's Linux client behind his Gentoo-powered sleigh. Now, all who've embraced the free software revolution can try and test Valve's crack at making Linux a viable gaming platform. Now, stop me if you've heard this before, but next year will surely be The Year of the Linux Desktop.
Gabe Newell has said that it's looking at releasing its own Linux PC hardware for living rooms once Steam Linux and the sofa-oriented Big Picture mode are in fit shape.
Hit up Valve's announcement for details on where to report bugs and all that jazz.
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."
Valve has taken the next logical step for Team Fortress 2's bustling hat-based economy, by introducing actual money into the equation. The Steam "Community Market" entered beta today, a test bed that allows users to exchange Steam Wallet funds for items instead of simply trading.
The beta only works with TF2, and even then only with consumable items, but Valve promises it will be available with other titles next year. You can show off your items on the Community and sell or trade them to other Steam users. According to a FAQ, all sales are final. Steam keeps a 15% transaction fee during the beta period, which may increase in the future. During the beta, sales are restricted to 200 per calendar year, starting with January 1. Presumably you won't reach 200 before then.
"With over a half million trades made every week, the trading system has been very successful," said Valve's Tony Paloma. "Extending game economies beyond trades and giving players a way to turn gameplay into funds for new items and games is a key component for moving that success forward."
So to summarize: Team Fortress 2 started with clothing items, which led to barter and trade, and finally the advent of currency. Use this handy metaphor to teach your kids about the development of economics in western civilization, because it happened exactly the same way. That progression is almost definitely because of this guy.
Now that Steam's all couch-friendly thanks to Big Picture mode, it'd be nice if more games were reconfigured for slouching. Oh, what luck! Just after I write that sentence apropos of nothing, I notice that Valve has released a Portal 2 patch enabling split-screen co-op in its puzzle 'em up.
Portal 2's console edition came with split-screen co-op options but it was never officially supported on PC. Cunning fans had managed to tweak and cajole the game into supporting split-screen, but poking around in config files is not for everyone. Now, all you need to do is play with two controllers in Big Picture mode, which is easy enough.
The patch notes have a little more information, and details two fixes too.