Mod News: Playing Catch Up

By Lewis Denby on November 10th, 2010 at 3:16 pm.

I AM WATCHING YOU, ALT-TEXT READER
Because I was tragically born without a brain, I neglected to include two exciting pieces of Half-Life 2 mod news last week. Whatever could they be? Have a read below the jump to get caught up, as well as survey the most interesting mod-related happenings of the past seven days.

NEWS
Firstly, even though Radiator 1-3 isn’t out yet and doesn’t look like emerging any time soon, Radiator 2-1 is already being teased. Issue 1 will be called Flatlander Woman, and is a “film noir love story among Byzantine mosaics in Brooklyn; a sophisticated inquiry into the nature of identity.” Also, this one’s a first-person shooter, by the looks of it. Curious.

Next! It’s Dear Esther. What else? There are some astonishing new screenshots available, showcasing the final section of the mod – which is the bit that wasn’t available when I played this staggering rebuild. What I found most impressive was how much the improved visuals added to the world Dear Esther conjures up. It’s not just prettier. The game world has a great deal more soul than ever before.

(And do you know what else I just noticed? “TBA” has become “December 2010″ on its ModDB page ETA.)

Right, on with this week’s news, then. Doom 3 mod Hexen: Edge of Chaos is gearing up to a demo release. This is a first-person swords-and-sorcery affair based primarily on the first Hexen game, and it’s looking rather authentic. Here’s some in-game footage. The demo releases tomorrow.

Blue Portals – unsurprisingly a Portal Mod – is out soon. I’ve been tracking this one for a while, particularly enjoying its subtly different colour pallete and grimier visual motifs. Release date is November 30th, and to get us all giddy, there’s a collection of new screenshots and a release trailer.

Finally, there’s been a Traction Wars update. This is a Crysis Wars mod set in the Second World War, aiming to create a historically accurate and realistic play environment. There’s a bit of summary here, along with a couple of new screenshots. I especially like this one:

I remember when all this was fields.

RELEASES
I was going to say that I haven’t found anything remotely interesting this week in terms of new releases. Then, pretty much right now, The Worry of Newport: Part 1 was released. It’s a Crysis mod, dubbed a “horror mystery”, and while I haven’t played it yet it sounds quite a bit like Dear Esther. No shooting, no puzzling: just a story which you explore fluidly in this place. It seems very interesting indeed. Must dig out Crysis and give this a whirl.

UPDATES
Empires 2.29 has been released. This patch especially addresses problems with the strategy side of this RTS/FPS hybrid for Half-Life 2, improving balance via a rethink of the commander’s research tree. A few new maps are available as well. Here’s a big list of everything that’s changed.

Meanwhile, Edain Mod – for Battle for Middle Earth II: Rise of the Witch King – has hit version 3.6. It’s “one of the most massive” updates they’ve “ever created,” so say its developers. There’s even a whole campaign included, named The War of Dwarves and Orcs. Sounds good, no? Well, it seems it is – but only if you speak German. There’s no localised version yet available. That’s a point, actually: I wonder how many RPS readers this doesn’t exclude. Who’s a bit multilingual?

AND THE REST
This is pretty much essential reading for anyone interested in serious mod development, perhaps with the view to jump over into the full-blown game dev world. Team Chivalry have written up a huge post-mortem of HL2 mod Age of Chivalry, which they’re laying to rest three years after its release to start work on a new, commercial project. These are always fascinating things to read, but I particularly like the honesty running through the heart of this one. Go read it now – and why not grab the ‘B-sides’-esque map pack that’s just been released as well?

‘Til next week.

.

49 Comments »

  1. DrazharLn says:

    Thanks indeed for the Age of Chivalry link. That looks like intriguing reading.

    Oh, and for reminding me of the Dear Esther remake, I’m off to track it on modDB now.

  2. Premium User Badge

    stahlwerk says:

    Re: Dear esther remake. Robert Briscoe and team are ridiculously talented. This is staggering, artisan level crafting.

    • Premium User Badge

      jaheira says:

      Agreed. This mod is probably my most anticipated game at the moment. I don’t think I’ve ever seen such beautiful screenshots.

    • phuzz says:

      +1
      The original mod was an amazing experience, and the new screenshots are looking just breathtaking (still think the source engine is lacking?). This could steal mod of the year in the last month.

      (CAPATCHA is MUMS, as in: WORD TO YOUR _)

    • Fergus says:

      Am I the only one who started Dear Esther, and then couldn’t get anything to happen except the voice repeatedly shouting “COME BACK!”?

    • KillahMate says:

      @Fergus If you think you’ve run across a bug, tell the developers. They usually appreciate being told about that sort of thing.

      Re: Dear Esther in general, when this thing is complete, I plan to use it on everyone I know who doesn’t play games. Maybe for a few people understanding will dawn. That would be nice.

  3. Dominic White says:

    Okay, that’s just sad – a mod news column, and not even a mention of Stronghold: On The Edge of Chaos? In development for literally years, and just released yesterday.

    http://stronghold.drdteam.org/

    One of the biggest Doom mods ever made – it’s a whole game in its own right, combining classic Doom with Tower Defense and Horde style gameplay. Weighs in at 150mb, compared to the 14mb of Doom 2. Designed for both solo and online/LAN play, it automatically scales the encounters to the number of players.

    Bloody good stuff. Old meets new to create a brilliant hybrid fusion.

    • DrazharLn says:

      That looks pretty awesome. Downloading.

    • Dominic White says:

      Also, it just occured to me that there were two Edge of Chaos mods released this week. Go fig.

    • YogSo says:

      Don’t mean to hijack your comment, Dominic, but I’d like to take advantage of this tiny little corner of non-Half Life 2 related mod news you have created here to point fellow RPS readers in the direction of Fables of the Penitent Thief. It’s a Thief 2 Fan Mission… Wait, don’t go! Keep reading. Even if you aren’t interested at all in Thief FMs, click on that link and watch the embedded trailer. It’s worthwhile, I promise.

    • Urthman says:

      Seriously everyone — take a look at YogSo’s link to the Fables of the Penitent Thief trailer.

      That looks fantastic.

    • Dominic White says:

      The problem with Thief stuff is that its’ almost impossible to get the games even running on a modern machine. Doom stuff is thriving because the ZDoom engine is literaly being updated every few days, and has been for years now.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      Really? When I was playing Thief 1 about a year ago, all I had to do was switch the core affinity so it was only running on one core. It ran pretty much perfectly.

    • Premium User Badge

      VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Indeed, Dominic is mostly wrong. While they will usually not work out of the box, there are only a couple of simple tweaks needed to get Thief, Thief Gold, Thief II, and Thief:DS all running happily on a modern box, even under 64-bit Windows 7. Some nice people have even made launchers that reduce the player’s effort to clicking a different icon to start the game instead of manually applying tweaks.

      Here’s a full guide to getting the Thief games running.

    • rei says:

      The problem with Thief stuff is that its’ almost impossible to get the games even running on a modern machine.

      Actually it’s quite easy. Download Tafferpatcher, double click. Done.
      http://www.ttlg.com/forums/showthread.php?t=131106

    • YogSo says:

      @Dominic: Well, yes, having the Doom source code publicly available since more than ten years ago has allowed the mod community to keep the engine updated… But the current situation is not so “uphill battle” for Thief 2 as used to be; there are several community-made tools that should “ease the pain” and allow people to enjoy Thief 2 again, like Tafferpatcher, an unofficial installer and patcher package which already includes DDFix and the Enhanced Resolution Patch. With that sorted, it’s just a matter of getting the last version of DarkLoader and one or two or a hundred Thief 2 FMs ready to be played, like the aforementioned Fables of the Penitent Thief.

    • Urthman says:

      What’s the best way to get a copy of Thief 2? I don’t see it on GOG or Steam…

    • YogSo says:

      @Urthman: The easiest way is to order the Thief Collection from GoGamer.com or Play.com. This compilation includes all 3 released games (Thief: The Dark Project -it’s the Gold version, actually-, Thief II: The Metal Age and Thief: Deadly Shadows). The best way is to cross your fingers and say your prayers so as someday they will be available from GOG as well…

    • Dominic White says:

      Great to hear that it’s easier to run Thief 1/2 on modern machines. I remember trying quite hard some years back, and ending up with nothing but frustration. Looks like things have improved significantly. Apologies for any misinformation – it wasn’t my intent.

    • Urael says:

      “Don’t mean to hijack your comment, Dominic, but I’d like to take advantage of this tiny little corner of non-Half Life 2 related mod news you have created here…”

      It gets a bit much, doesn’t it? Any week now there’ll be a Mod News with out a mention of that game…

      The Stonghold mod looks amazing – downloading that as I type (and they blokes can’t multi-task). I loves me some Doom, I do. Although I have to say their website is …eccentric. And I’ve downloaded the Taffer patch – guaranteed to be the only patch I ever download that is instantly recognisable after several years of lingering on my hard drive. Beat that, “SF2int_v151.exe”, “setup.exe” and other deeply ambiguous file-names!

    • YogSo says:

      @Dominic: No, no, if anything, I must apologize for eventually doing what I said didn’t want to do – hijacking your announcement of that wonderful Doom mod (really, people, read Dominic’s own words about an earlier version in his Doom forum thread -last post in the page).

      I just thought that your comment, which speaks about a thriving community that has been updating and making thousands of mods for such an “ancient” game (so “ancient” that many people consider it more a part of gaming history -no small one, sure- than an actual game that you can still play and enjoy today) was the most suitable place to point to a mod to another “ancient” game, which is never going to get the spot in the limelight it deserves amidst the usual barrage of Half-Life 2 mods…

    • Tycho says:

      Fables of the Penitent Thief *really* needs a Wot I Think – truly great stuff, and pleasantly different.

    • Dominic White says:

      The Doom modding/coding scene probabl won’t die out for at least another few years. There’s new builds of the ZDoom engine released every couple of days, and a new version of Skulltag (ZDoom + modern-spec netcode and server browser) came out just four days ago.

      Stronghold may be the largest mod to come out in a while, but there’s smaller projects released every few weeks, and a constant, neverending stream of regular level packs. The community have assembled some fantastic resources, including a shared library of new texture-packs, new monsters that you can just drop straight into a level, and a wide range of new weapons and powerups that are similarly easy to just plonk down.

      Doom is absurdly easy to mod and map for, so pretty much anyone can just have a go and produce something playable. Hell, it’s so easy that even robots can do it – there’s a random level generator app floating around that produces themed, semi-balanced whole levels (or even campaigns) from scratch.

  4. jon_hill987 says:

    Hexen looks brilliant. Not sold on the way enemies dissolve into a cloud of blood though…

    • Urael says:

      …read the last part of the sentence back and ask yourself where you went wrong in life. I wish MORE enemies dissolved into a cloud of blood! And I really enjoyed Hexen, so this may be a good way to spend my upcoming weekend.

  5. Heavy Breather says:

    I played Age of Chivalry for a few hours and, boy was that a disappointment. I love melee combat (like Dark Messiah) in singleplayer but in multiplayer games it’s just a pain in the rear. It doesn’t matter which game, when it comes to close combat people are ALWAYS running in circles, jumping around and hitting the melee button as fast as they can.

    Another case, Red Orchestra. Two guys with mounted bayonets chasing each other. Imagine that plus the Benny Hill theme.

    • Hroppa says:

      Mount and Blade: Warband is the most successful implementation I’ve seen. There’s a fair bit of running around in circles jumping sometimes, if you’re unlucky, but most of the time it’s simply great fun.

    • Kid A says:

      Seconding this, especially if you play on any server with a semblance of co-ordination (especially the cRPG module servers). A shield wall protecting archers, while cavalry lure stragglers down from the opposing hill before cutting them down, until the enemy is weak enough to be torn apart by a concerted infantry rush… Warband probably has more tactical thought on a mano-a-mano and a large-scale level than most other first-person stab-em-ups.

    • Dominic White says:

      Unfortunately, the only way to make melee combat really work is to have animations that override movement, and implement a dodging system that uses set animations, ideally with invulnerability frames at the start of a dodge.

      Unfortunately, nobody wants these because most players WANT to run around like a moron while swinging their weapon wildly at the air.

  6. MarkSide says:

    Flatlander Woman… Do you play a female anti-terrorist cyborg assassin?

  7. RagingLion says:

    Hand up for German capability. Not going to try it though.

    I’m going to love walking round the remade hebridean isle – a mouth-watering prospect.

  8. bbot says:

    Empires is still being updated?

    Jeez, I haven’t played that in years.

  9. Wooly says:

    Needs more news on Dragon Age mods!

  10. Soundofvictory says:

    Out of curiousity… does anyone know the correct installation procedure for the Worry of Newport?

  11. noobnob says:

    I’ve been following the Hexen mod for a while. It seems that the modders nailed the perfect atmosphere for the game in terms of graphics and lighting, but the same can’t be said about the sound effects. I know it’s still work in progress and that they’ve had a rough time recruiting people for their team, but still…

  12. squareking says:

    OT: Can you guys make a new mod news header image? I’ve actually avoided this series of features due to that image. It’s dark, not very inviting and not reflective of the content at all. It’s just…a touch dumb, is all. I appreciate sepia brick typography as much as anyone, but please.

    OT: I’m glad I started reading this series of features because there are some awesome mods out there I’ve been missing.

    :)

    • Vinraith says:

      Can you guys make a new mod news header image? I’ve actually avoided this series of features due to that image.

      Your loss. I like the image, personally, but I can’t imagine letting something as frivolous as the header image of an article put me off reading something I might find interesting.

    • John Q. Arbuckle says:

      I have to agree. Opinion!

    • John Q. Arbuckle says:

      With squareking, That is.

  13. Schmung says:

    Age of Chivalry article was really interesting. The stuff about testing and usability rings particularly true. The problem is that even with a large group of testers you’re still never going to accurately mimic what play will be like on public servers and then you have to release a patch (no mean feat and you’re lucky if you can do it quick) and deal with the inevitable three way backlash. Modding is harsh business nowadays – I dunno whether gamers now have more of an entitlement complex than in the early days of FPS modding or if it’s because the competition is stiffer or what.

  14. Araxiel says:

    Hier ist noch einer der Deutsch spricht. *Raises his hand*

    I really wanted to like Age of Chivalry or the meele combat in Battle Grounds 2 and same for the Dark Messiah multiplayer, but everytime the meele combat is just so…meh. I mean you basicly just run around in circles and press the attack button as often as possible and then you a blood and think you hit, but actualy you did not and the first player who recieves some backup is the one which is not being gangraped by a wild horde of knives. The only mod with good (actualy really good) meele combat is Pirates, Vikings & Knights 2.

  15. mod the world says:

    Suggestion to Lewis: Change the current ModNews logo, that looks like a 1942 Nazi detention center in occupied Warsaw, to something with more… colours and stuff.

  16. KillahMate says:

    Yeah, I think it’s time to put up a new logo for the column. I don’t mind personally, but I can see where it might be not very inviting. (Feel free to ask for help in the design if you need it, Lewis.)

  17. Nico101 says:

    The picture, isn’t that the place where Tim Robbins hide the box with the money to Morgan Freeman find in Shawshank Redemption ?

    • John Q. Arbuckle says:

      That’s Exactly what i thought when i saw the image!
      Trees on the wrong side of the fence tho.

  18. Lewis Denby says:

    I ain’t no artist, fools. The header art was provided by a delightful reader.

    • Corrupt_Tiki says:

      just calm down bro ok?

      But srsly, that Thief mod mentioned by that reader who hijacked that other guys post, is srsly good looking :O, so many good mods, so little time/words allowed -_-

  19. BeamSplashX says:

    Lewis missed some news due to focusing on us alt-text readers.