Black Mesa

Valve might have shelved Gordon Freeman and his sci-fi misadventures, but Black Mesa developer Crowbar Collective still has one more job for the mute physicist. The studio's Half-Life remake was released in 2015, but since then it's been working on an additional and original campaign that greatly expands Gordon's trip off-world, and you'll be able to play it soon. 

In the original Half-Life, we don't get to see much of the alien world of Xen, but Crowbar Collective has been changing that. The Xen campaign doesn't just make the Xen level full-length—it's closer to a full game, or at least a meaty expansion. Check out the trailer from last year:

You'll have five chapters to work through, and the first two will be entering public beta on August 1. Soon after the beta release of Xen and Gonarch's Lair, Crowbar Collective will launch the rest of the chapters, Interloper, Nihilanth and Endgame. There are no dates for them, but expect them weeks, not months, after the first two. 

That's the last step before launch. Once all the bugs have been squashed, Black Mesa: Xen will leave beta. You'll get access if you have Black Mesa, which is currently on sale, and the betas will be available through the Steam Beta tab in the Properties menu. 

I'm increasingly less frustrated at the prospect of never being able to finish Half-Life officially. With developers working on fan projects to expand the original game and even bring Marc Laidlaw's vision for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 to life, there's still plenty of Half-Life left to play. 

Black Mesa - [BMS] Adam-Bomb

Hope everyone in the states had a good holiday, and everyone is having a good summer overall. We wanted to give an update on what to expect for Xen.

Thank you so much to everyone that played the technical beta and reported bugs! It was extremely positive and motivating for us. We have already fixed a large number of the issues reported, including some we never would have found on our own. The amount of quality feedback from our community has prompted us to update our release plans.

On August 1st we will roll out the complete Xen AND Gonarch's Lair chapters to public beta. Soon after (think weeks, not months), we will release the concluding chapters, Interloper, Nihilanth, and Endgame to public beta:

The same rules apply as before: If you want to be a part of cutting edge testing and don't mind helping us squash some bugs, this beta is for you! Otherwise, we suggest you hold out a little longer.

We think this staggered release will allow us to more thoroughly test all components of this massive game, and catch bugs faster. Once we can ensure a smooth launch, we'll push the whole Xen campaign out of beta for everyone to enjoy.

Thanks again for the feedback and comments. We will be back shortly with an update showing off some new stuff!

We are still on sale for 60% off until July 9th. As far as we know, this will be the last major sale before the release of Xen, so now is a great time to grab it for yourself or a friend!

Discord -

Twitter - @BlackMesaDevs

Facebook -
Half-Life - (Dominic Tarason)

The long-delayed Xen chapters of Black Mesa – Crowbar Collective’s remake of the original Half-Life – feel tantalisingly close now. In a Steam blog post yesterday, the devs warn that “If you want the polished, complete Xen experience, you should wait. It won t be long!”, but if you’re ready for your first taste of their re-imagined alien world, you can try it now. The first three (of nineteen) maps are available to play as an opt-in beta, with the intent of testing how badly PCs buckle under the extensive changes they’ve made under the hood. Below, some thoughts on the new Xen.


Black Mesa

Rise and shine! It's been a long, long wait for Black Mesa's final chapters. When Black Mesa (the modder-made recreation of the original Half-Life in the Source Engine) was released in 2015, it ended with Gordon Freeman's leap into the portal that takes him to Xen. The actual Xen levels themselves weren't yet complete. But today, at long last (we've been hearing the Xen levels were almost ready since 2017) , you can get a healthy taste of Xen as the team behind Black Mesa have made three chapters of the alien dimension available in a technical beta.

"The purpose of this beta is to collect bugs and feedback on a range of different computers," a post on the Black Mesa Steam page reads. "We have made significant improvements and changes to the Source engine, and we want the game to run as smoothly as possible. If you want to be on the bleeding edge of testing, opt into this beta. If you want the polished, complete Xen experience, you should wait. It won’t be long!"

There are some known issues with the Xen beta, such as drastically lower framerates while playing in 4K, issues with ragdolls in water, missing collisions with certain plants and roots in the swamp, and a few other little issues, so don't expect it to be a blemish-free experience. Players are encouraged to report bugs on the Steam forum or the game's Discord.

To take part in the beta, find Black Mesa in your Steam library (you'll need to own it, and if you don't it's currently on sale) and right-click on it. Select Properties from the drop-down menu, then choose the beta tab. Opt-in to the public beta and close the menu. You'll see Black Mesa updating to provide you with the Xen chapters. When you launch the game, you can select New Game and choose chapter 15 to start playing the Xen beta.

Black Mesa - [BMS] Adam-Bomb

HAPPY STEAM SUMMER SALE! We have some big updates for everyone, and Black Mesa is 60% off.

Technical Beta
We are excited to release our tech beta! It’s the first 3 maps of the Xen chapter (which has 6 maps total), continuing Gordon’s adventure from the cliffhanger ending of Lambda Core. With the full Xen campaign clocking in at 19 maps, the beta is only a taste of what’s to come.

The purpose of this beta is to collect bugs and feedback on a range of different computers. We have made significant improvements and changes to the Source engine, and we want the game to run as smoothly as possible. If you want to be on the bleeding edge of testing, opt into this beta. If you want the polished, complete Xen experience, you should wait. It won’t be long!

How to Opt In
First right click “Black Mesa” in your game library. Go to Properties…

Then click the “BETAS” tab and select “public-beta” from the drop down...

It will download a bunch of stuff, then you will have access to the Xen levels for the beta!

If you have not unlocked all the chapters, you will need to enable the developer console and unlock them. Go to Options, Keyboard, Advanced, Enable Developer Console. Bring up the console and type “sv_unlockedchapters 19”.

From there, simply click “New Game”, then scroll over to the “Xen” chapter (the chapter images were intentionally left black).

Long Jump
The beta drops you in just after Lambda Core. A big part of the last fight in LC is teaching the player how to use the long jump. If you jump straight into Xen, remember the long jump is triggered by pressing the jump button (space) twice rapidly in ANY direction. You can then use the W, A, S, D to control Gordon in the air.

Bug Reporting
We are looking for specific graphical/technical/performance bugs, especially on lower end systems. If you have any issues, please report them on our Steam forums or on the “Xen-Bugs” Discord channel. Please include your graphics settings and system specs or we won’t be able to properly diagnose the problem.

Though our focus is performance, we are also interested in what was clear, and what wasn’t for the layout and design. If you got stuck somewhere or were confused by something, let us know.

Please unsubscribe from all workshop mods if you are testing!

Our Discord is live! Please join us, hang out, and chat. Make sure to check out the server rules. The TL:DR;, it’s a SAFE FOR WORK server about Black Mesa, Half-Life, and Games. Please keep discussions outside those categories to other servers and have fun!

PLEASE NOTE, we have heavy server restrictions at this time. We will dial it back as soon as possible.

Known Issues With the Beta
-Linux has not yet been built. Windows only.

-We have not tested all of Earthbound or Multiplayer for this beta. If you find issues, feel free to report them in the proper channels.

-Running the game at 4k resolution at max settings may drastically lower your frame rate

-Ragdolls freak out in water. If you shoot an Ichthyosaur or Hoteye in water, their body and gibs may freak out. This is fixed on the developer build.

-Plant lights don’t retract when you are near them. This is fixed on the developer build.

-Laptop screens show shadows that are behind the screen. Fixed on the developer build.

-Missing collision on some of the plants and roots in the swamp

-Cookie lights (lights that cast on the ground) are broken on the HEV battery. Fixed on the developer build.

-Players occasionally gets stuck on small healing pools

-Probably a few things we are forgetting. Feel free to report any bugs and we’ll add them to our tracker!
Black Mesa - [BMS] Adam-Bomb

We have a couple things planned for later this month, but we wanted to give everyone a mini update, so no one thought we had disappeared for the summer. Here are just a few of the improvements/fixes we have been working on alongside Xen.

Fixed Rocket Launcher Guidance
One of the biggest issues we had in all of Black Mesa was the rocket launcher. It would track strangely, and made fights with helicopters harder than they needed to be. This was super apparent when we started locking down the Gonarch fights. We rebuilt the RPG tracking and re-added the cross-hair elements to give players better feedback for when it was in guidance mode.

Added Stumble Animations to Zombies
This is a great feature in the Half-Life episodes. It adds a layer of immersion and strategy, so we implemented it into Black Mesa.

Buffed Tracers
Like the stumble animations above, this is a small change that really helps the overall feel of the game. We increased the size of tracers fired by the player, and fixed a bug that blocked them from being fired by HECU and other NPCs.

That’s all for right now. We’ll be back later in June. Thanks!
Black Mesa - [BMS] Adam-Bomb

Hello from the Black Mesa team! We have been GRINDING on this Xen thing, so let’s get right into where we are at:

Xen - Final Art/Polish
We are driving though each of the six maps, capping off the final tasks, and doing little bits of housekeeping to make the levels shine. We are also taking a hard look at the performance of each level to make sure the game runs as smooth as possible on the myriad of machines out there. Thus far, we have made significant progress with deep engine optimisations, as well as several sweeping game-wide asset optimisation passes. We are also looking into other engine fixes, such as batch rendering for props and displacements to further increase performance.

Gonarch - Final Art/Polish
We now have Gonarch arted and lit, with all the technical effects and animations implemented. All that’s left is to polish the animations and effects, and to make sure the player clipping is smooth throughout (as well as some water features). We are really proud of the many encounters, interactions, and fights with Gonarch throughout the chapter, and can’t wait to see how they play out there in the wild.

Show ‘em, Giphy...

Interloper - Design Lock/Art
We’re design locking the chapter while also building out the art and lighting. In order to get the art completed in record time, both the artists and level designers are creating placeholder assets so that we can detail the play space, then simply drop in the final art by overwriting the placeholders. We want to keep Interloper mostly under wraps, and the parts we do want to show off aren't quite ready for the spotlight. So instead, here is some art to give everyone a hint of what is in store for Interloper:

Old Concept for Interloper Exteriors By Eddie Hinestroza

Interloper Materials By Mark Foreman

Console Models Built with Modularity in Mind By Robert Chinner


This is how we plan to release in the coming months:

Technical Beta - This will be a couple of maps to test the latest engine, and test the performance of our maps. This will be public, but more or less of a stealth release for people who are interested in helping us test. This way we can test on a lot of machines quickly, and have time to implement any crucial feedback.

Open Beta - After we have implemented the feedback from the technical test, we will push the entire game to open beta. This will give us testing for the rest of the levels to again make sure the game releases as smooth as possible.

Release - Though we are expecting all the betas to run well, if you have been waiting for the full Black Mesa experience, this is what you want to wait for. Once we know the beta does not set people’s machines on fire, we will switch the full game over to the main Steam branch and announce its full release! After this, we will continue to monitor feedback and ideas from the community for Xen, and release periodic bug fixes and updates.

In addition to these staggered releases, we plan on launching a public discord to work in conjunction with our Steam forums. This will be a great place to chat, report bugs, and get mini updates from the team. We are not sure when we will be launching this, but it will probably be with one of the betas. This is one of the ways we hope to engage a bit more with the community, and provide more regular updates and interactions.

Soon! ™

Thanks Again
Apologies for the silence over the last few months. We have been really diving into our work. Every once in a while we poke our heads up to see how far we have come, and how close we are to finishing this massive undertaking. We have more planned updates and fun stuff to show off on the way to the borderworld! Thanks!

Black Mesa - [BMS] Adam-Bomb

Hope the new year started off great for everyone.

We are really happy with the progress we made this month. We wanted to show some of it off and keep the information flowing while we wrap up the last 5 chapters.

Our biggest effort went into getting the entirety of the Gonarch chapter arted. Now it is in the hands of our animators, who will take the artists hard work and destroy it!

Displacement/Sculpted/Arted - By Matt Young

Cinematic Physics - By Russ Briggeman

No pretty pictures for this one, but we would be remiss if we didn’t mention we have made huge strides with the end boss of Xen. Our lead programmer Chetan Jaggi and lead animator Nate Ayres have worked together to build out an entire feature set of attacks, defenses, AI, as well as effects for the Nihilanth. Now we’re balancing all these features and building the planned finale. I’d normally say “more to come” but we probably won’t have any more updates on this last fight as we want to keep it a surprise for everyone.

Before and After
In October we revisited some of our released media and posted some #Blocktober dev diaries. Here is the comparison of how far these shots have come since when we first posted them (You can open the image in a new tab for better viewing). Full disclosure: I did some light Photoshop work to make them read better at size and because our sun effect is just a bit too hot in its current form.

We really enjoyed putting together the #Blocktober posts, and want to do more write ups like it in the future.

Again, hope the new year started off great for everyone! We’ll be back with more updates before launch.

-Crowbar Collective
21 déc. 2018
Black Mesa - [BMS] Adam-Bomb

Hope everyone enjoyed last months trailer. Here are some additional updates and features we have added for the upcoming Xen release.

New Features

Screenspace Fog ("Xog")
Using the GBuffer that we've developed for our new Dynamic Lights, we've added a dynamic, very flexible new fog system that replaces Source's legacy fog. The new "Xog" can be configured on the fly with instant results ingame, it can change over time with I/O, and it can vary in density and color based on height. Best of all, it's very inexpensive to render, costing about as much performance as a single dynamic light.

Our level designers were slack-jawed when they saw how much it improves the look of the whole game, bringing a true sense of scale to the levels.

New Alien Grunt NPC (Agrunts)
Our original Alien Grunts were tank enemies that shot ridiculously powerful homing bees. They fit relatively well into the tough, cover-laden final levels of Earth. In the vast, wide open spaces of Xen however, they became extremely frustrating to fight.

The new Agrunt is the most mobile, unpredictable enemy in the whole game besides our assassins. They'll leap onto different platforms, find a way to outflank you, get in your face, and unleash a devastating secondary "hornet hurricane" attack. As a much-needed balance, the bees from them no longer home in on you, and individual bee damage has been lowered.

New Controller NPC (Xontrollers)
The player only encounters Controllers once in the released game. They were a good, if a bit simple, final enemy type for the Earth bound levels. For Xen, we drastically expanded their abilities, turning them into a kind of overlord or mini-boss. We don't want to spoil everything about their new abilities -- but mind-control, telekinesis, and crystal-powered shields are just a taste of what players can expect.

Improved Vortigaunt NPC (Xorts)
These were another straightforward enemy from Earth-levels. We mostly teleported them straight onto the player and expected them to be gunned down in a few seconds. For Xen, we have worked them into a much more intelligent, emotional creature. In keeping with the original Xen, they won't be hostile to the player by default.

Flashlight Shadows
Flashlight shadows are back! Last patch we switched to one of our new dynamic lights, but couldn’t quite solve all the issues with shadows. For Xen, the flashlight will be positioned on the player to look like it is casting from lower on your chest. This creates interesting shadows and adds to the atmosphere in dark environments while still having a usable flashlight.

Soft Particles
Better late than never. This is a feature that's been in other Valve games, but for some reason has been broken in Black Mesa, even from our very first mod release. No more hard-edged particle clipping!

(Notice the hard edges in the first image below)

Running With Objects
Anyone that's tried to get the secret purple hat through Surface Tension has already begged us to enable running while holding objects. Turns out we need this for certain Xen sequences, so wish granted!

Chapter Updates
In addition to the improvements above, we have been grinding away at locking the final bits of design and arting for all our Xen levels.

While building momentum toward release, our goal is to lock down the chapters in order so that we don’t have to dedicate resources to them, and so all the subsequent chapters go faster and smoother. Here is where we are at:

Xen (~2-3 Hour Estimate)
This chapter is completely design locked, most of the art is done, and we are polishing the levels to be release ready. Left on the to-do list is merging art, polishing art, unifying skyboxes and effects across all 6 maps, optimizing maps, and finally a clipping pass.

Gonarch (~1-2 Hour Estimate)
These maps are design locked and are going through the art process. The goal is to be mostly art completed, and start in on its many animated scripted sequences in January. We learned a lot arting Xen and refined our pipeline to be more efficient going forward. There are also half the maps (3) in Gonarch as in Xen, so we got that going for us.

Interloper (~2-3 Hour Estimate)
This chapter is design complete, but needs refinement to lock the chapter. The goal is to have this chapter design locked in the next few days so that level designers and artists can start in on detailing it. Interloper is currently 6 maps.

Nihilanth (Super Secret Time Estimate)
We have started in on the core gameplay coding of the final boss. We wanted to avoid having the big boss be just a bullet sponge, so we have kept the design fluid and kept the environment interactive and dynamic. Most of the static art for this level is completed, but it still needs scripted animation set pieces.

Endgame (About 5 mins)
Endgame is locked, but needs some final animation and graphics updates. Endgame will be the last chapter we do a pass on, as it is dependant on a lot of final art from the other levels. Even in its current state we are very happy with how it plays out.

We assume most of the people reading this have already pulled the trigger on buying the game (thank you), but we do have to mention that we are 60% off for the Steam Winter Sale! Black Mesa makes a great gift for friends and family. This will be one of the last sales before we ship Xen!

Thanks for reading— we plan on having a small news update and dev blog in January. Have a great holiday!

-The Mesa Team

Half-Life - (Alice O'Connor)

To celebrate Half-Life‘s twentieth birthday today [more on that later today -continuity ed.], the Black Mesa gang have made a new trailer showing progress on their commercial Half-Life fan remake’s final chapters, the alien world of Xen. They also say that they’re now planning to add the Xen chapter in 2019, some time from March to the end of June, so that’s three-ish years after the early access debut of its terrestrial chapters. I am pleased with how alive parts look.



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