Natural Selection 2: Naturally Selectionier

By Alec Meer on December 5th, 2008 at 9:21 pm.

The acclaimed man vs aliens FPS-RTS Half-Life mod done good is something I don’t believe we’ve mentioned on this silly old site of ours before, and the same’s true of its impending sequel. Curse our grasshopper minds. Let’s correct that, with a link to a fairly dry but handy fundamentals-establishing interview with the dev team, Unknown Worlds, over on Nofrag. Perhaps more importantly, I’ve conveniently Youtube-snaffled the first footage of the new engine, which is looking impressively shiny.

The big thing to know about the much-delayed NS2, if you didn’t already, is that they’ve switched from their original plan to build the game on the Source engine to custom-designing their own engine and intending to flog the thing as its own game rather than a free mod, as with NS1. From that interview:

The nice thing about being a small, independent is that we’ll be doing well if we sell even small numbers of units. If we sell 50,000 units we’ll be in good shape, although we hope to sell more. It’s not like we can just sit back though, we’ll have to keep working to make sure we have a healthy company.

So let’s hope they make this sequel a worthy one, and are in return rewarded for their valiant efforts. We’ll try and sort out an interview with the team here too, as it’s a particularly fascinating, risk-laden career path. Their funding model’s interesting enough in itself – a while back they knocked out a slick, timely, self-published Sudoku game that was also one of the earlier third-parties offerings on Steam. Canny buggers, them.

Oh, and here’s that footage:

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74 Comments »

  1. Therlun says:

    Another FPS engine, just what the gaming world needs.

    “Awesome shadows”, heh.
    I just noticed that they stole the Deus Ex 2 NPCs. ;)

  2. Velt88 says:

    I’ve played Natural Selection for HL before, and I gotta say. Good times. Can’t wait for NC2

  3. DigitalSignalX says:

    What a Shame.

    I mean, looks good (=

  4. garren says:

    Lighting and shadow effects done right are cool, but seriously that excessive light hurts my eyes.

  5. TychoCelchuuu says:

    Most anticipated game of like, ever for me. I am going to buy NS2 even if they replace the aliens with terrorists and the marines with Counterterrorists and go back to the Source engine. And call it Counterstrike: Source. And it’s actually just Counterstrike: Source again.

  6. Erlam says:

    I don’t think I’ve ever said this but: “old.”

    I’m a huge fan of the first Natural Selection, which I actually still play. Probably some of, if not the, best FPS multiplayer I’ve ever been involved with. Hell, I was in the beta for it, heh.

    I’m really looking forward to it, but the delays make it difficult to stay up to date on things.

  7. Noc says:

    Therlun: Because, you know, it’s not interesting at all to watch how a small, not-particularly-well-funded studio builds a game engine that aims to perform well alongside mainstream engines produced by rather large, money-laden companies with extensive development teams.

    Things like “ooh, we’ve got dynamic shadows!” start to be much more interesting and much more relevant when you’re doing them from scratch.

  8. teo says:

    I’m glad they ditched source
    Games on that engine don’t feel good

  9. RichP says:

    I <3 NS1, which I’ve played on and off since the beginning. Call me a traitor to the original concept, but I love combat mode more than standard NS.

    Also, the industry needs more good games produced on sane budgets with reasonable sales expectations. If they sell the game over Steam (and by if I mean when), they’ll probably get 500,000 sales easy.

  10. Heliocentric says:

    NS I played more than any game in my life despite my xFire profile saying its battlefield 2 (NS was older than that). Its a lovely game, a game that I put in the gift link of every person I sent a 98c copy of NS.

    They have my money, I owe them, NS2 could be a steaming turd and I’d pay. I hope its not a steaming turd and I have faith that after making a brilliant free mod for a game a really worked effort can be marvellous.

  11. qrter says:

    I used to play NS quite a lot, but at the time it suffered from people generally not wanting to play as the commander on the marines side, as it’s quite tricky and you need some sense of tactics and strategy.

    Which is where Combat came in and I didn’t like that much, made the game a bit too similar to other multiplayer experiences for me.

    That said, I am looking forward to NS2.

  12. Therlun says:

    Noc:
    Interesting? Perhaps.
    Is it really worth all the risk, work and trouble though?

  13. caesarbear says:

    I’m wishing these guys the best. Had lots of fun with ns1.

  14. muteh says:

    People talk about l4d being cinematic; playing a marine in NS as your base got overrun had a far higher fuckfuckfuck factor…

    I’d be looking forward to this so much if I still had a real internet connection.

  15. Jonas says:

    Dear Unknown Worlds:
    Please succeed, please succeed, please succeed, please succeed, please succeed.

    That is all.

  16. lumpi says:

    I’m glad they ditched source Games on that engine don’t feel good

    Strange, I would say the opposite. Technically, Source is quite a dirty hack. But it feels wonderfully gritty. I like it.

  17. Magic says:

    They’re doing all the light and shadows “live”? Nothing precompiled? Did I get that right?
    Thats insane! INSANE!
    But I like it… alot.

  18. pulitarch says:

    If they only sell 50000 would there even be a big enough playerbase to support decent multiplayer? By decent I mean that there’s always a populated server close enough to you to have a low ping and without crazy mods on it. Without that playerbase a multiplayer game isn’t usually worth owning (unless you’re in a clan or something perhaps).
    I have no idea how copies sold translates into online time played. Anyone got stats?

  19. eyemessiah says:

    I hope they don’t get lost in playing catchup with the engine. Really looking forward to this. I spent a lot of time in NS1 getting digested by Onos’s and acid melted by Fades. Good times.

  20. Pags says:

    Not that the Natural Selection engine doesn’t look impressive for such a small team, but given the work coming from equally small groups like the Project Offset team, it can pale in comparison. It is prettier than Mount&Blade though, I shall grant it that.

  21. Zyrusticae says:

    @Pags
    Uh, I’m not sure you could call the team behind Project Offset “small” anymore…

    Granted, it started off small, but there’s now over forty people on the team, so, uh… yeah.

  22. Jochen Scheisse says:

    Pags, you forgot to mention that the equally small group working on Project Offset seems to be Intel.

  23. Pags says:

    They were acquired by Intel in February of this year, almost 3 years after they released their last trailer, which I assume was made by the team when they were smaller.

    Not that you aren’t both right though, just that it has no bearing on my point.

  24. Wedge says:

    I’m not really too interested in the graphic prowess of the engine. What is of curiosity to me, is how the netcode for the game will work now. Source tends to favour the “lag compensation” (read: client side hit detection), which I have a lot of mixed feelings about. L4D aside though, not as iffy about their integrated server browser setup and voice chat setup. Which would be amusing if they actually made use of Steamworks for that portion of the game.

  25. Ed says:

    I’ll be buying it. NS is the game I’ve played by far the most – up until a year or so ago I’d play it for hours almost daily. Sadly a lot of the servers died and the players left…

  26. TheDeadlyShoe says:

    I loved NS1 back in the day but their NS2 plan leaves me cold. It’s not gonna come out for another 4 years at this rate.

  27. Tei says:

    I am more a Tremulous guy, or a Gloom guy (the original Quake 2 mod that started it all). Maybe more a Tremulous guy (better community than gloom, imho).

  28. Vitalis says:

    The days of NS….*has a nostalgic daydream*…
    First proper clan I joined was for NS (-NrS- clan)
    Also my third most played game of all time after WoW (now quit) and TF2…

  29. KP says:

    They should have stayed with the Source engine. At this rate it won’t be out for even more years!

  30. Ansob. says:

    Old or not, that’s pretty impressive – lighting is a huge part of what determines ambience, and if that’s anything to judge the rest of NS2 by, the immersion factor should be pretty amazing.

  31. Stromko says:

    They’re going to have to do something quite revolutionary, moreso than the procedurally-generated biomass spreading over levels that I’ve seen before. I don’t care about shadows. Over the last ten years, when a game has failed to live up to performance expectations, what’s the thing I turn down / shut off? Shadows. I don’t care about shadows.

    Between Source: Empires’ meaty RTS mechanics, and Left 4 Dead’s imperfect but still incredible Versus mode (coupled with thick atmosphere and environments), I don’t think a shinier, spiffier-looking Natural Selection would even be worth my time. Source: Empires is also free, given I already have Source. Tremulous is even more free, a stand-alone game that is very similar to Natural Selection.

    Having paid money to register my copy of Iron Grip: Warlord, I’m quite leery about paying money for another “mod gone legit”. What benefit is there for me to pay a little extra for an FPS that runs on a different engine when I’m perfectly satisfied with the source engine? I wish I’d bought The Ship and Garry’s Mod instead of that abomination, so to compensate, I won’t be buying Natural Selection 2.

    Maybe I’m just cynical, but when I hear they’re going to their engine what I hear is, “add another 20$ to what we would charge if we stayed with source and decided to go commercial”. FFS, Garry’s Mod now has over 300,000 sales and it requires you to work for your fun, anyone who didn’t think an assymetrical online FPS with RTS team elements and a rabid fanbase in the 10 – 20$ range wouldn’t hit 500,000 within a year has something wrong with their brains — or perhaps not, maybe they know their formula is old and dated and this is just an excuse to drastically retool NS2 to compete?

  32. ZeroByte says:

    The source engine wasn’t flexible enough for what they wanted to do, with their own engine it can do exactly what they need it to do instead of futzing around with the code to force it to do something it was never meant to do. The devs did a cost/benefit analysis of moving to their own engine and decided it’s better for them. A month or two after they had moved to using their own engine they had more of the game done than when they were still sticking with source. Their lead programmer, Max, seems like a pretty clever guy so I have faith in them :)

    The only problem with this is that the amazing NS community mappers will have to adjust to a new toolset for making their maps instead of being able to use their previous knowledge of Hammer. Hopefully they’ll be able to sort it out whenever the NS2 Tech Release comes out with what I presume would be the mapping tool and the NS2 texture pack.

  33. El Stevo says:

    So they want to go commercial, and that’s fine, but I don’t understand why they’d abandon the Source engine.

    Why add all that time and effort onto your development cycle when someone’s already done the hard work for you? Source already looks pretty spiffy, and it has a large team and years worth of bug fixes behind it.

    Why not focus on the actual game?

  34. El Stevo says:

    (Started writing [slowly] before ZeroByte posted.)

  35. Stromko says:

    ZeroByte: Well, that’s all fairly plausible, it wouldn’t be the first time I’ve heard about a mod struggling against the limitations of the Source engine. It just seems like they’ve been working on this thing ever since Half-Life 2 was launched, and still nothing to play to show for it.

    Had they known back then that they’d now be working under a new engine, I think they’d have been wise to just finish up Source: Natural Selection, put it out there, maybe charge 10$ for this ‘sadly not everything we wanted it to be’ version, probably please a lot of their old fans and generate buzz (and indie-style funding) for a new and improved version on an in-house engine.

    But, hindsight is a lot better than what folks have to work with in the present isn’t it? Any idiot could make a better decision than an experienced devteam could make, assuming the former party could read the future.

  36. Ben Abraham says:

    Does anybody else recognise the music they put behind the in-game scenes in the video? I’ve definitely heard it before but I can’t recall where…

  37. cyrenic says:

    Natural Selection is my favorite mod ever. Versus mode on L4D reminds me of it some.

  38. Redford says:

    That music was actually the ambient music from NS1 which you heard while playing. This may be while it sounds familiar to you.

  39. Hartman says:

    Ben: It’s the ambient music from the first NS.

    Loved NS. Will hopefully love NS2. However…

    I agree they should have just “scaled up” to the Source Engine as a free mod as they originally planned. I understand WHY they are going to their own engine (cool effects plus no compile times is awesome), but they could have gone with a “Vanilla*” version of NS ported to Source they would have kept their community healthy by providing a “Bridge Platform” to their new engine. It would have progressed: NS, NS:S and then NS2.

    The main thing I worry about: Dynamic real-time lighting is great…when nothing else is going on, but what happens when you throw this over the internet with clients trying to keep up with bullets paths, hit detection, entity tracking, game mechanics, ect., ect. Suddenly you’ve just cut a lot of players out of the game because thier systems can’t keep up. That dynamic lighting is a beast stacked on top of a beast of a game and I predict that minimum specs to get 30FPS is going to be out of reach for most of the market. I could be wrong, and I hope that I am.

    * Vanilla means the exact same gameplay, but with better models and maps.

  40. mrmelons says:

    My opinion for NS2 has been the same as what it was for Star Craft 2, i will believe it when i see it. I would love to play NS2 when it is released however, considering how much fun NS was.

  41. Jon R. says:

    Hey, cool. This time we could pay a retail price for the privilege of having dipshit clanners tell us that our observations don’t matter because we aren’t clanners and haven’t taken part in the clanner-only betas. It is, afterall, a good decision to base everything on myopic clan play when the majority of your playerbase will be playing on pub servers with strangers.

    The heart of NS2 won’t be the engine, although i’m just dying to have that lovely dynamic lighting completely hose visibility of a quick-moving target at wonderfully inopportune times. What’ll make or break it is if they follow the same moronic balancing methodology that ultimately killed HLNS; most people gave up purely because we were fucking sick of dealing with such insular bullshit.

  42. Tei says:

    @ZeroByte: I agree with everything you say. But my opinion is different: Is a good thing that somewhere some people is tryiing something different. If this experiment work, others mods makers can learn from the experience.. hell… even if this experiment fail, other modders will learn!.
    Of course, now is apparent that NS2:Source is a 500.000 units game, so maybe was a bad idea back then. But this is also asymetrical: we have the information now, not back then. Here in spain we say “A toro pasado todos somos buenos toreros”

    @NS Team: Good luck guys!

  43. Bema says:

    Regarding the engine: They’ve probably decided to go their own route with it to save money on liscencing one from someone else. Plus im fairly sure there were a few issues with Source that held up a few of their ideas? It was ‘easier’ to create something that was built specifically for their needs. The new engine probably won’t play any part in the pricing of the game.

    And the hot price point rumour has always been $20-25. You have to remember, this is an online multiplayer game only. They wont market and price it as anything else.

  44. gulag says:

    Something tells me there is a million-selling game in this team. Probably not NS2, but something down the line. Unknown Worlds are one to watch.

  45. Rosti says:

    Bizarre hypothesis – this group either want to or will become part of Valve. That is not a bad thing.

    Also, like others above, am very interested to see how this game shapes up, having only heard tales of the first version.

  46. Jim Rossignol says:

    Surely they would have kept using the Source engine if they wanted to become closer affiliated with Valve.

  47. Thirith says:

    It’s reverse psychology, man! They’re being clever about this.

    Or perhaps they’re Bizarro devs.

  48. Axel says:

    Considering that EVE Online will have real time Radiosity, this isn’t very impressive.

  49. Janto says:

    Bizzaro, I love you! Bizzaro!

  50. qrter says:

    I remember them starting with NS2 after HL2 was released and very quickly they were talking about how NS2 would no longer be a free mod, even talking about boxed copies on shelves, etc.