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After 14 years of development (and 5 years in Early Access), Black Mesa -- a complete remake of the original Half-Life -- will release on March 5


Commissar SFLUFAN

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Fear Not The Long Road (blog post)

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In March 2006, two of my college classmates got onto the Black Mesa mod team. I applied as an artist, and they more or less vouched for me. The team “hired” me without even completing an art test. From there I became the art lead, a partner in the new “Crowbar Collective LLC”, project lead, and eventually owner of the company.

 

As I write this, I am realizing that we plan to FINISH Black Mesa exactly 14 years to the month from when I first joined the team. 14 years working on a single project, with a dedicated team, that had a vision, and saw it through.

 

 

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If this was a Valve project, I might bash it a bit for still being a bit dated, but considering where it came from, this is a spectacular achievement. 

 

The DF video is a really good look at what they upgraded and how it makes a difference.

 

I don't think I've played Half Life in 20 years, but with Alyx coming out, I might give this a go.

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I played through the first 4 chapters (just encountered the first batch of Marines) and it's a bit of a trip. It's odd because there's a nostalgia there that is so vague. Black Mesa really is a great way to revisit the original game. Sure is odd to be playing this on a 43" 4K monitor. I can't remember what monitor I had when I first played Half Life, but it was probably something like a 15" CRT at 1024x768.

 

 

Playing Half Life is a little bit like watching a classic movie. It's a bit rough at times, but the thing it's doing has been so often repeated that it's almost timeless. It doesn't feel unique anymore, but even if you don't remember much, it still feels familiar.

 

One particular observation is that the first few Marines are a lot harder than all the baddies I've been shooting in The Division 2. It's almost as if they don't want to get shot. It makes me think that there's probably a good reason that enemy AI hasn't been a real focus for the last 20 years. It wouldn't exactly take all 16 CPU cores I've now got to run something smart enough that it's no longer fun.

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5 hours ago, TwinIon said:

I played through the first 4 chapters (just encountered the first batch of Marines) and it's a bit of a trip. It's odd because there's a nostalgia there that is so vague. Black Mesa really is a great way to revisit the original game. Sure is odd to be playing this on a 43" 4K monitor. I can't remember what monitor I had when I first played Half Life, but it was probably something like a 15" CRT at 1024x768.

 

 

Playing Half Life is a little bit like watching a classic movie. It's a bit rough at times, but the thing it's doing has been so often repeated that it's almost timeless. It doesn't feel unique anymore, but even if you don't remember much, it still feels familiar.

 

One particular observation is that the first few Marines are a lot harder than all the baddies I've been shooting in The Division 2. It's almost as if they don't want to get shot. It makes me think that there's probably a good reason that enemy AI hasn't been a real focus for the last 20 years. It wouldn't exactly take all 16 CPU cores I've now got to run something smart enough that it's no longer fun.

I'm up to Surface Tension and have really been enjoying it so far. Its weird because there are things that I remember so vividly that I feel like how they do it here is the same as the original, but I know its not. Like, Barney and most of the scientists sound just like I remember them, but then I've heard lines that absolutely did not exist in the original game that its throwing me off. But at the same time, the Marines sound really off, like someone who is not a tough guy trying to do a tough guy voice.

 

But I'd also argue that a lot of the things Half-Life does aren't really repeated all that much. Something like the Tentacle boss thing. You start off just by sneaking by it to go to a different level to activate somethings in order to come back and kill it. Or just like the general contiguous nature of the maps. FPS maps these days are primarily constructed as a sequence of combat arenas, so much of Half-Life feels like they wanted to design a place to explore first, and then they let the enemies take it over.

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I finished Black Mesa and I really enjoyed it. Despite having finished it, I still don't know how much they redesigned the game. There are so many things in there that I recognize from Half Life, but they might be from Half Life 2 and brought back to Black Mesa. I know the physics stuff is for sure back ported, but there are other bits and pieces that get confused in my memory. Xen is pretty fun now, and by far the best looking part of the game. For anyone interested in revisiting Half Life or trying it for the first time, I highly recommend it.

 

I've also started replaying Half Life 2 and that's an odd jump to make. In many ways it's visually a step backwards. Lighting, texture effects, particle effects, geometry, in Black Mesa are all ahead of HL2 in noticeable ways, but in things like facial animations HL2 easily wins out. Again, I'm encountering things in HL2 that were in Black Mesa, but actually introduced here, so it's a very confusing nostalgia.

 

I just finished Ravenholm and it still got me a couple times. I'd forgotten about the new enemy types and I actually lost hold of my mouse at one scare where they're first introduced. I also definitely played it the exact same way I did the first time around, doggedly keeping a saw blade with me at all times.

 

 

 

One thing playing these games that I miss the most in modern games is quick save / quick load. How did we ever let that stop being a required feature? It's brilliant that I can save while running down a hallway without it interrupting me, and it works at any point in the entire game. Reloading a quick save takes all of a couple seconds. It completely removes pretty much any frustration I might have had with some points in the game. There are platforming sections and jumping puzzles where one wrong move is death. If these sections existed in a game with a normal checkpoint save system and long load times, I guarantee I don't finish the game as quickly, if at all. Put this kind of quicksave / quickload in Jedi Fallen Order, and I guarantee I've finished it by now.

 

I know of all things that made these games revelatory or revolutionary at the time, the save system is not among them, but going back to play an old game it might be the single biggest difference maker in allowing me to approach the game on my own terms and prevent it from ever wasting my time.

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6 hours ago, TwinIon said:

One thing playing these games that I miss the most in modern games is quick save / quick load. How did we ever let that stop being a required feature? It's brilliant that I can save while running down a hallway without it interrupting me, and it works at any point in the entire game. Reloading a quick save takes all of a couple seconds. It completely removes pretty much any frustration I might have had with some points in the game. There are platforming sections and jumping puzzles where one wrong move is death. If these sections existed in a game with a normal checkpoint save system and long load times, I guarantee I don't finish the game as quickly, if at all. Put this kind of quicksave / quickload in Jedi Fallen Order, and I guarantee I've finished it by now.

The reason for that is relatively simple to explain: consoles.

 

Once games started being developed primarily for consoles -- especially FPS titles -- they had to accommodate the more limited memory capacity of a console relative to a PC and the way to do that is through a checkpoint/auto save system which reduces the memory footprint required for a save state relative to that for a quicksave/quickload system.

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2 hours ago, SFLUFAN said:

The reason for that is relatively simple to explain: consoles.

 

Once games started being developed primarily for consoles -- especially FPS titles -- they had to accommodate the more limited memory capacity of a console relative to a PC and the way to do that is through a checkpoint/auto save system which reduces the memory footprint required for a save state relative to that for a quicksave/quickload system.

 

Also using this in a Jedi Fallen Order example doesn't work since it's trying to be like a souls game, and you can't save at all in those types of games.

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14 hours ago, SFLUFAN said:

The reason for that is relatively simple to explain: consoles.

 

Once games started being developed primarily for consoles -- especially FPS titles -- they had to accommodate the more limited memory capacity of a console relative to a PC and the way to do that is through a checkpoint/auto save system which reduces the memory footprint required for a save state relative to that for a quicksave/quickload system.

 

I think that's largely the case. There's also the prevalence of online games, even when playing solo. I don't think the Division would really benefit as much, but the architecture of the game would certainly make it basically impossible.

 

12 hours ago, Keyser_Soze said:

 

Also using this in a Jedi Fallen Order example doesn't work since it's trying to be like a souls game, and you can't save at all in those types of games.

While I think you're right that Fallen Order has a gameplay reason, it would still change my personal experience with the game for the better in a significant way.

 

 

I think it's just going to be one of those things unlikely to make a come back that makes me look back fondly at this era of gaming. You can put 16GB of memory in a new Xbox, but I don't expect to see quicksaving and loading reappear.

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I've now finished playing through Half Life 2 and both episodes, and I might have actually enjoyed Black Mesa more than HL2. With the upgraded visuals, added puzzles, and streamlined levels, I think it has a better flow than the sequel. The gravity gun is still the best part of either game, and some of the combat arenas in 2 are easily better than anything in HL1, but just the tempo of Black Mesa felt better to me. @ThreePi is probably right that the new Zen is a bit too long, but overall it's a game well worth returning to.

 

I didn't really expect to replay the Half Life games prior to Alyx, but I'm glad I did. I know this isn't exactly a new take, but they're great games! I really hope Alyx turns out well and I hope that it gets them back into developing Half Life games.

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  • 3 weeks later...

So I'm pretty close to finishing this and I have come to the controversial opinion that Xen is the best part and also by far the best and most alien world I've experienced in a video game. Despite most of the game looking 6-8 years old, Xen is one of the most astounding environments I've seen in a game.

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13 minutes ago, Moa said:

So I'm pretty close to finishing this and I have come to the controversial opinion that Xen is the best part and also by far the best and most alien world I've experienced in a video game. Despite most of the game looking 6-8 years old, Xen is one of the most astounding environments I've seen in a game.

 

Xen looks amazing in Black Mesa but looks like poo in the original / source.

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  • 7 months later...

A definitive edition just released

 

ce5afc4a85f1877aba0551f9df1d3cfb21bb38cd
STORE.STEAMPOWERED.COM

The Final Major Update for Black Mesa

 

Highlights of the Definitive Edition
 

-Massive polish and art updates throughout the game
-Complete lighting and gameplay pass to the chapter “Power Up”
-Complete redesign of second “On A Rail” map (map B)
-Significant optimizations across the whole game that will improve performance on low to mid range PCs
-Outdoor art passes for “We’ve Got Hostiles”, “On A Rail”, “Questionable Ethics”, “Surface Tension”, and “Forget About Freeman”
-New shield and architectural art for Interloper
-Full workshop support

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  • 7 months later...

Well I finally wrapped this up. A pretty impressive effort for a team of around 50 people.

 

As someone who played the original I do not remember a great majority of the stuff in this game. Also I had memories of Xen being boring and ugly but they completely turned it around in this game. Now it's impressive looking and probably the best part of the game. ( @Moa was right! )

I played on the middle difficulty and I think the human AI cheats, they know where you are without seeing you, but the aliens were a little bit more forgiving.

Also, the soundtrack is pretty cool too. I'm surprised this didn't win a Geoff Keighley game award for most beautiful soundtrack. Oh well!

 

And Thanks again to @Commissar SFLUFAN who gave this to me oh so long ago. :p

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