Interview: What Happened To Black Mesa: Source? Part 1

By Nathan Grayson on May 9th, 2012 at 11:45 am.

Back in Black Mesa.

The universe has a weird fondness for improbable coincidences. Name your franchise Half-Life, and it takes half a lifetime to come out. Create a robust mod based around a game in that franchise, and its development mirrors that of its crowbar-wielding, hazard-suit chic father series nearly one-to-one. The lofty promises, the incredibly lengthy periods of radio silence, the incessant cries of “vaporware” and “it’ll probably be a huge letdown” – all of it.

Maybe, though, that part’s not such a coincidence. To hear project lead Carlos Montero tell it, Black Mesa‘s an obsessively redesigned, rebuilt-from-the-ground-up love letter to Valve’s opus. The goal, then, is to improve on something already considered by many to be perfect. And that, as it’s turned out, has been a lot harder than Montero and his constantly fluctuating team first assumed. So, first up, we’re delving into what exactly has taken so long – especially in light of 2008′s rather stunning trailer that promised a release date of, er, three years ago.

RPS: How did the project get started? At the time, what were you doing career-wise? And, as a result of work on Black Mesa, how many members of your team have gotten “real” jobs in the industry?

Carlos Montero: It’s easy for people to presume we are all professionals and always have been, but it’s simply not the case. When we started out, every single person on our team was either a student, or a hobbyist. Personally I was a student working to support my family and working late nights on Black Mesa as well.

If anything, I would say that working on Black Mesa was one of many things my teammates have done to push themselves as hard as they needed to so that they could break into the industry. That said, it’s really a relatively small number of us. I’d say around 7 or 8 team members who have transitioned into a professional career. Not all of those people have stayed with the team after doing so, either. The team has been and still currently is composed of a majority of dedicated hobbyists who have jobs or careers that have nothing to do with games.

RPS: How large is the team right now? How many people actively work on Black Mesa every day?

Carlos Montero: While we have cumulatively had over 80 people work on the team at some point, it’s more like 14 or so of us who are actually the core, continually active developers. At any given time I think we’ve always been a lot smaller and leaner than people realize.

RPS: Have you had much/any involvement with Valve over the course of the project? Have they contacted you at all? Valve’s been known to hire especially talented teams out of the blue. Were there ever any job offers?

Carlos Montero: There hasn’t been much contact with Valve at all. And if we had gotten job offers, I think we’d be doing that instead of this, haha.

RPS: OK, this one’s less of a question and more of a prompt. So the game’s been in development since 2005. Can you give me a year-by-year rundown of the major development landmarks that occurred during each of those years? What major strides did you make? And, perhaps more importantly, what difficulties did you encounter?

Carlos Montero: I don’t want to bore your readers too much with history. If they really want to know more about our past they can visit the timeline on our wiki.

The number of difficulties we’ve encountered along the way are really numerous. The entirety of development has been a struggle in one area or another. Engine documentation, global development, internal communication, retaining standards and coherence across the game – all big challenges we’ve had to face.

One of the bigger difficulties that we face all the time that people don’t really think about are the gray areas of decision-making. It can be very difficult to balance between staying true to the original and making it somewhat palatable to modern gamers. We are constantly trying to find ways to maintain challenge while simultaneously lowering frustration and confusion. We don’t want to be hand-holding, but at the same time we are very cognizant of the much lower threshold of patience people have with games now a days. Things aren’t how they used to be. There are lots of games they could be playing, and if ours is annoying them enough they’ll just shut it off and never come back.

Our team has a great mix of purists and modernists, and we constantly argue about these types of issues. Ultimately, we all agree on the balance we want to hit, and it’s great to have people on the team representing various points of view and helping us maintain that balance.

RPS: Following that line of thought, what have been the biggest specific issues you’ve encountered with completing the game? Have any key personnel simply not had time to contribute?

Carlos Montero: The biggest issues have always been related to meeting the very lofty goal we initially set for ourselves. We have always wanted Black Mesa to be Valve-quality. Turns out that is very tough to do from every angle of development. Imagine that!

You can take almost any field of game development and think about what it means to do that work to a Valve-standard of quality. Level design, art direction, characters, animation, choreography, lighting, sound and music, combat and AI – all of it. The guys at Valve are experts at so many things, and to think that we as students and hobbyists could have come anywhere near to their quality level was as laughable as it was audacious.

It has taken us many years not only to make this game, but to learn more and more what Valve-quality actually means. To embody those standards is to fully realize what it means to be an expert in any given field of work. It’s an insanely difficult thing to achieve.

Socrates said, “The more you learn, the less you know.” This was us. Everyone on this team thought we would be done in a year or two tops, just like all of the fans out there did. The more we have learned about the depth, complexity and attention to detail it takes to do all of our jobs to the standard we have set, the longer it has taken us to achieve that level of quality.

RPS: You got a lot of attention with a stunning trailer in 2008, and I think that made a lot of people assume Black Mesa would be finished shortly after. Obviously, there have been tons of cries of “Why aren’t you finished yet”? What’s it like dealing with that kind of pressure and expectation? Is it warranted?

Carlos Montero: I don’t know if I can answer that without answering why we didn’t make our 2009 deadline in the first place. We’ve talked about it a lot since then, but many people still don’t know the story.

We were very excited with our progress in 2008. We talked a lot about what we had accomplished through the year, really analyzing the volume of work we had “completed.” We seriously thought that if we accomplished half of what we did that [over the course of the] year next year, we could complete the project. So we were audacious enough to tack a “2009″ onto the trailer and get everyone very, very excited.

We were determined to make this release date come hell or high water, and we killed ourselves to do it. We were cutting corners everywhere, cutting chunks of maps out, rushing through everything, making rash decisions. Basically, we ended up going against all of our core values just to hit this deadline we had set for ourselves. It was harrowing, frustrating, and as we came to find out, ultimately futile.

While we had something at the end of all of this, it still had huge missing chunks of the game and none of us were proud of it anymore. If anything, we were more disgusted with all of the shortcuts we had taken to get there, and all of the great ideas we had put aside to make it happen. We had a huge internal discussion in which we ultimately decided to break the news to the public and to re-focus and make something we could actually be proud of.

If anything, this push was a big part of what made us realize what this game could be. We had parts of the game that were “done” at that time – in that they had recreated Half-Life fairly identically – and we began to realize how that wasn’t enough and how we had a lot longer to go.

So to get back to the question, of course there has been a ton of pressure from the community. We’ve spoken openly with them before about how and why our 2009 date wasn’t met, but it hasn’t done much to alleviate their cries. We made a promise once, we broke a promise once, and we are acutely aware of how much damage that did to our fans – which is precisely why we won’t make the same mistake again.

RPS: So is that why you’ve opted to stay largely silent about development details and progress – because expectations are both easily created and utterly destroyed? 

Carlos Montero: If I could go back in time and prevent us from releasing the media and hyping up the public the way that we did, I would. In the end, all of that hurt us more than helped us. It was our naive mistake to get the public that excited from the beginning, and it would have been unfair of us to keep them excited by continuing a long string of media and constant updates.

There was a point where we realized we had a long road ahead, and we weren’t quite sure where the end was. It became clear to us that it would be better to stop whipping the public into a frenzy, stop getting them excited, and more or less allow them to forget about us for a bit while we figured out how to finish the game.

Many people have seen this as a betrayal – as us turning our backs on them – but it couldn’t be farther from the truth. It has helped us focus more on development and get things done faster. It has relieved us from the tremendous social pressures we had on us, and it has allowed us to make clearer decisions. It has also allowed the public to take a breather, and to realize that Black Mesa wasn’t coming any day now, but was going to take a bit longer than that.

If you think about it in terms of a triple-A dev, it isn’t just about “saving things up” for marketing. It’s about not disappointing fans with news you can’t stick to. Just don’t say anything until you are absolutely sure that you can deliver on that. Being completely transparent throughout your entire development process is the opposite of that; it’s an easy way to disappoint your fans, because you won’t do everything right the first time, you won’t make perfect predictions, you will fail and make mistakes, state things you want to do and then not deliver. And every time you do, you will disappoint your fans. If you are a fantastic developer or have a very flexible game design, maybe you can make that work better. But for us, as developers who were learning as we went, stumbling all the way and had this very concrete scope that couldn’t be changed much, I don’t think it would have worked.

Check back tomorrow for part two, wherein we discuss how far along Black Mesa is now and when – admittedly on relative terms – we might finally get to play it.

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109 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Surlywombat says:

    I hope this comes out sometime. Obviously they have had problems, but you can’t really complain about something that will be free, if it happens. Even if it has taken ages, no one else has decided to get off their backsides and do it in all that time!

  2. Asskicker says:

    WHY DO YOU TEASE US LIKE THIS!

    Thanks for the interview, I’m happy to know what exactly has been going and what happened back in 2009. I was really disappointed when it didn’t come out then, so I had kinda lost hope.

  3. MrKay says:

    Thanks for the interview. Black Mesa is one of the few source mods that I regularly check up on – and have done so ever since before they released that first trailer. It’s great that they’re that dedicated, but working towards Valve standards is setting the bar rather high. I hope they know how to balance the development, so that we’ll see the mod released eventually.

    • Donjo says:

      My sentiments exactly.. great to see some news about this! I sometimes check on Jurassic Life aswell but that really does seem to have disappeared into the vapour….
      http://jurassic-life.game-lab.com/

    • Vorphalack says:

      Better to set the bar high and fall slightly short, than set the bar low just to step over it without effort.

  4. LionsPhil says:

    We had parts of the game that were “done” at that time – in that they had recreated Half-Life fairly identically – and we began to realize how that wasn’t enough and how we had a lot longer to go.

    Scooooope creeeeep.

    Should have stuck to “Half-Life 1, but tarted up in HL2′s engine”. Not “HL1 with fanboy cruft on top that will never be finished due to a lack of a well-defined deliverable”.

    • Bhazor says:

      Ironically the HL2 engine is looking incredibly ropey these days. I guess someone will need to gussy up Black Mesa: Source into Unreal Black Mesa: Crytek Source.

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        phuzz says:

        Personally I’ve not really noticed much in the way of improvements in game engines since around the time of HL2.
        I’m sure the new Crysis 3 (or whatever the new hotness is deemed to be) engine will have all manner of shiny buzzwords, but for me, it’s pretty much just worthless visual fluff.

        Going back to HL1 is a bit jarring mind.

        • caddyB says:

          I set the line at Unreal3 engine, despite all it’s faults as a graphics engine, Tribes:Ascent looks stunning in very high detail. I have people who don’t play computer games come and watch me play because of the number of graphics it has. It has many, many graphics.

          I didn’t even know I liked graphics. I play dwarf fortress, for god’s sake.

          • Premium User Badge

            Mungrul says:

            *HAMMERSTRIKE*
            It’s ARMOK, not GOD.
            One more mistake like that Urist and it’s the VIP room for you.

        • varangian says:

          One major difference is that the worlds in modern engines appear seamless. The Source engine games pretty much have to feature a loading screen every klick or so that you progress through the game, although Ep. 2 did feature some larger arenas like the heli chase and the final battle with Striders. But compared to Just Cause 2 or Rage or numerous other games, where you can travel considerable distances and never hit a loading screen unless you enter a ‘dungeon’ area HL2 games look pretty creaky.

          • Amun says:

            While I love the source engine, I would be most eager to see a brand new engine from valve.

      • ResonanceCascade says:

        I believe one of their major development changes was porting the game over to the L4D2 engine (might get fact-checked on that, but I think it’s correct).

        That, coupled with all the redone and improved art they’ve done make the game look pretty close to — but not quite — current.

        It’s good enough for me.

  5. thesisko says:

    “It can be very difficult to balance between staying true to the original and making it somewhat palatable to modern gamers. We are constantly trying to find ways to maintain challenge while simultaneously lowering frustration and confusion. We don’t want to be hand-holding, but at the same time we are very cognizant of the much lower threshold of patience people have with games now a days. Things aren’t how they used to be. There are lots of games they could be playing, and if ours is annoying them enough they’ll just shut it off and never come back.”

    What the hell? Who are they making this game for? A straighforward linear shooter is considered difficult and confusing? I guess we can expect health regen and objective markers, wouldn’t want to turn off those hardcore CoD fans…

    • Eukatheude says:

      Half life was really frustrating at times. It’s kinda obvious they won’t use that kind of stuff.

    • Bhazor says:

      Yeah if I could finish the game when I was 12 I’m sure the Call of Dudebro crowd can.
      I mean give the cretins some credit.

      • ReV_VAdAUL says:

        I finished Super Return of the Jedi on the SNES when I was 12. That I had the time and patience to do it and the fact the standard of game design at the time let them get away with it does not mean it wasn’t far too difficult and absurdly frustrating.

        Things have changed in more than ten years since Half Life was released, in terms of player expectations and game design standards. It is a good thing the Black Mesa: Source are considering these things as they make the mod.

        • Òscar says:

          I finished Maniac Mansion when I was 7. I’ll never know how I did it.

          • gmcleod says:

            I finished Doom when I was 5. I suspect a lot of time and patience was involved. I went back to it when I was 16 and couldn’t beat the 3rd level.

    • Vorphalack says:

      About the only bit I would qualify as frustrating was the platforming on Xen. I really wouldn’t mind if they just pulled the long jump idea from the game. Apart from that……..can’t think of a single thing i’d want changed.

    • stormseeker says:

      This has nothing to do with making the game easier, in places we’ve made it harder than the original. It’s more about direction of design, especially in some of the more complex chapters where loop design is used and/or multiple objectives are needed to complete a task. We don’t have markers or waypoints or an objectives screen to keep track of these things. Instead we use various methods within the levels to remind the player of the objective and of the direction they should be going in (choreography, functional lighting, specific prop placements, colour hints, signs and ideolocators etc). You may not even notice these things as after a while they become intuitive. So instead of concentrating on which of the 30 locked doors you can actually use or take you to the objective, you can concentrate on the storyline, the choreography and the action.

      • thesisko says:

        But that’s not what you said in the interview is it?

        “palatable to modern gamers.”
        “the much lower threshold of patience people have with games now a days.”
        “Things aren’t how they used to be.”

        Sounds like something straight out of a Splinter Cell: Conviction interview or any other “AAA” “re-imagining” of a classic.

    • kalirion says:

      The following “modernizations” would be deal breakers for me:

      1. Regenerating health
      2. Weapon carry limit
      3. Inability to shoot while running
      4. More linear levels
      5. Cover mechanics (besides the old “press Duck key”)
      6. Quick time events

      Unwelcome, but I could live with:
      1. Aim down sights for more accuracy

      • Nintyuk says:

        No chance mate. This is Half Life here, It’s all health-packs, suit-chargers and more guns than you can fit in your possibly invisible helmet.

  6. Lacessit says:

    Not to complain or anything, but has Nathan Grayson stormed castle Shotgun and taken control of the Hivemind? I’m seeing a lot of articles by his (luckily very good) hand these days.

    • Toberoth says:

      I was just thinking that too. I suspected for a while that all the other RPSers might just be posting under his name for a lark. Perhaps there was never a real Nathan Grayson in the first place…

    • Nathan Grayson says:

      I’m now RPS’ faithful pet American. I do all the requisite newshound-y things and more.

      As for today’s word landslide, er, long weekends sometimes make me restless. But this also gives everyone else extra time to write Amazing Things, so everybody wins. Well, except racists.

  7. Antlia says:

    I actually bought CSS back in the day for the sole reason I was younger and a lot stupidier and read from somewhere that that was needed to play Black Mesa Source. I checked on the project daily. Got two other friends to buy CSS too. Was hugely dissappointed when it didn’t come out. Now I’ve fortunately understood that it’s better the slower it comes out.

  8. toonczyk says:

    Well, to me it seems like they just have a huge project management problem. It’s a huge undertaking and obviously missing your goals by a month or two is not unusual, but if your schedule has a margin of error of 3 years, then there is some serious problem in the way you plan your work. I’m not complaining and not questioning their dev/artistic/whatever skills, but obviously the person who is responsible for all this mess has no clue about project management. But whatever, even if this mod comes out in 10 years, I’m still going to play the shit out of it.

  9. Flint says:

    Noooot entirely sure if I’m happy to hear they’re planning to change things around.

    And a bit weird to have them talk about having a viable slot in the market when what they’re doing is a free HL2 mod with a purely fan-centric premise.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      I’m entirely sure that I do like the idea of changing the levels.

      There are vast, vast stretches of blah in between the memorable set pieces of the original. There are numerous spots with insufficient signposting. There are several spots where I almost gave up, and one level where I ragequitted so hard I actually forgot my experiences of the game for a few years. Half Life is a seriously, seriously flawed game, and most of the flaws persist despite all the patches because they’re fundamental issues with certain levels.

      If you want Half Life with only an engine update, Half Life Source has been out for years! ;)

      • coldvvvave says:

        > There are vast, vast stretches of blah in between the memorable set pieces of the original.

        For real? I replayed HL in January and before Xen the only place I felt bored at was Waste Disposal level. Before that everything was top notch, especially Blast Pit and On a Rail. HL2 on the other hand had the longass borefest of Water Canal level, idiotic physics puzzles, annoying magnet mines, annoying manhacks, annoying antlions and millions of annoying NPC characters who followed me everywhere. It’s like they wanted me to dislike the game. That was blah.

      • LionsPhil says:

        Half-Life Source is just HL1 assets in the HL2 engine, though; it’s barely prettier at all, no?

        I seem to remember looking at screenshots of its water, then at HL2′s, and thinking what a half-arsed job it was to not even update that.

      • Mman says:

        “There are vast, vast stretches of blah in between the memorable set pieces of the original.”

        No there isn’t. Half-life 1 isn’t perfect and there are definitely some changes that could improve things (especially in Xen and the last couple of chapters before it), but the last thing a mod like this needs to do is butcher things to outright cater to people who don’t like HL1 in the first place.

      • Dervish says:

        There’s plenty of criticism to be offered about Half-Life’s level design, but “I got frustrated, so the game must be flawed” is a damn sad way to go about it. I mean, insufficient signposting, really? In a game this constrained? The way to go is the way you haven’t been. At some point you need to look at all the other people not having this problem and consider whether the issue is with your brain instead of the game. Or just look up a walkthrough and get on with it if you’re having that much trouble.

  10. Cooper says:

    We had parts of the game that were “done” at that time – in that they had recreated Half-Life fairly identically – and we began to realize how that wasn’t enough and how we had a lot longer to go.

    Why done in quote marks like that? Faithful recreation is all that was ever expected of Black Mesa.

    Faithful recreation IS enough. You talk about a modernist / purist split in decisions; but isn’t the audience for this people, who, you know played and still love the original? Is there any reason to do anything other than a straight reproduction?

    • Toberoth says:

      Agreed. Not quite sure what they’re going for here. I’d be happy with the original HL spruced up a bit, some new textures, models, etc (which is what I once naively thought Half Life: Source was going to be). I see no need to fiddle around with balance and pacing, or whatever they’re doing, as that was all pretty spot on in the first place. They’re setting themselves up for a fall, it seems to me.

      • MadTinkerer says:

        Guys, if you want a faithful recreation, that is Half Life: Source. If the Black Mesa team was just going to remake HLS with better textures, I wouldn’t have cared.

        Half Life is not perfect, see one of my above replies. It desperately needs improvement, and I’m looking forward to the ideas the team has about making it better than the original.

        EDIT: “but isn’t the audience for this people, who, you know played and still love the original?”

        Well, I’d say I’m in the audience, and I hated Half Life for years.

        • Bizan says:

          I believe Black Mesa was intended as a HL1 using the resources of Source Engine, period. I understand this as a recreation of the maps looking for improvement in texture, lighting, shades and 3D objects, unlike HL Source that was just ported to Source – no better texture, no better 3D objects etc. So what I expected was, for instance, to turn on a high polygonal and high-res texture spectrometer or to kill very high detailed Gonarch in a delightful and wonderfull picture of Xen where I can find the same spots just with a lot of polygons, a lot of shades and a very high texture, it’s just what I was hope for. I don’t want another kind of gameplay with modern game features, just remember what happens to Duke Nuken forever, I hated the Halo bar style and the two weapons limit (that’s was ridiculous).
          ps.: One feature of the old HL1 they really don’t need even touch is the sound effect, it is really perfect in the original game and I think it copes with the nowadays games or even surpasses them.

          • TechnicalBen says:

            I’m gonna be crazy and defend Halo here. In Halo it worked. It was a good and different bit of gameplay. But that’s as far as I draw the line. I don’t want that system in any other game. :D

            I’m now going back to my game that lets me set my own backpack, order the contents by shape and carry 100 of the same item. :D

          • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

            Everyone keeps throwing their hands in the air and crying “They’re changing things, it’s going to be JUST LIKE CODBLOPS!!!!” But that seems a bit far-fetched. These people are working on this mod because they love Half-Life. It seems a lot more reasonable to assume that it will be similar, but with the sort of improvements that come with a decade’s worth of improvements on the standard we hold games to. Take one of the screenshots in the article- http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/images/12/may/blackmesa4.jpg is a good one- and assume that they had faithfully recreated a hallway consisting of six polygons, or even done the unthinkable and changed it so that the vent textures were 3d. That would look pretty shoddy. Instead, they’ve kept the environment feel the same, while making it look much more appealing, and plausible.

            And for all the people who say Half-Life was never confusing, you should get someone who has never played HL, sit them down, and watch them try to play it. I did just that with my brother last year, and even though he is a veteran FPS gamer, there are quite a few places where figuring out what’s going on is incredibly unintuitive for a first-time player. Yes, it all seems so easy once you’ve done it, but it’s not really desirable to get your players into situations where they are wandering around looking for that tiny unlabeled button they missed for a half hour.

          • Bizan says:

            When we stated devs should not chance the original gameplay and improve just the 3d geometry, texture, shade and lighting we are thinking of cost-benefit, all we do in ours lives must be guided by cost-benefit. So what’s better – a 2009 release with incredible graphics OR a 20?? release with a lot of new stuff in gameplay but a not so incredible graphics, because every year new engines and new games are launched and the gap between source engine and them becomes bigger. Not to mention the risk of a infinite loop when devs work forever unsuccessfully keep trying follow the new games quality. In that case we will never see a BM release because they can´t be as fast as the evolution of game industry.

        • Toberoth says:

          Saying it “desperately needs improvement” seems rather strong to me. Have you played it recently? It still holds up very well, gameplay-wise.

  11. Bhazor says:

    What *is* the great pie in the sky ambition behind this mod? Isn’t it just a hd rerelease?

    Also by Valve quality I assume they’re choosing to ignore the last 3 or 4 hours of the game.

  12. faelnor says:

    If I could go back in time and prevent us from releasing the media and hyping up the public the way that we did, I would. In the end, all of that hurt us more than helped us.

    The Black Mesa fans really are a terrible bunch.

    Anyway, this sounds exactly like how Valve are working and disappointing their fans. I take that as a good sign.

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      Jackablade says:

      By which you mean “gamers really are a terrible bunch.”

      • Grygus says:

        By which you mean “humans really are a terrible bunch.”

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          Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

          By which you mean “GrraaAAAAAARGH! HNNNNRGH!”

  13. sneetch says:

    Sounds like an endless project to me, the only way they’ll ever finish is by saying, “we’ve gone this far and that has to be enough”.

  14. Forceflow says:

    I guess nobody wants to make those godawful Xen levels.

  15. MadTinkerer says:

    So basically Black Mesa is being delayed for exactly the same reasons Episode 3 is being delayed. I kind-of figured that out already. Good luck to everyone working on both projects, and I’ll sit here patiently until you are done!

    After all, there’s still plenty to distract me in the meantime. Perpetual Testing Initiative being just one example. :)

  16. Premium User Badge

    Saul says:

    “Everyone on this team thought we would be done in a year or two tops, just like all of the fans out there did.”

    I have to set the record straight here. While I can’t help but love their ambition, and will definitely play the hell out of this thing if it ever sees the light of day, I never, ever thought it was going to be as straight-forward they apparently did. Half-life is not only an amazing game, it’s freaking huge!

  17. DickSocrates says:

    Sounds like they got completely lost in the middle of what they were doing. Losing focus is very easy, which is why you have to keep checking back to what your original intention was, I’d say every week never mind every few months. Making a Valve quality remake of Half-Life 1 using source was probably not the right goal at any point.

    Most of the community annoyance with them has been their silence. They claim they have been communicating with them, where? Sporadic forums posts? I checked their website a few times over the YEARS since 2008, and there was not a single update. That’s precisely the wrong way to handle things. I, like everyone else had assumed the project was completely dead, but it’s been going on since then, apparently.

    And after everything, all we’ll be left with in the best case scenario, if it ever comes out, is a new version of Half LIfe 1. And don’t excuse them by saying it’s a free mod. You either act professionally or you don’t.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “And don’t excuse them by saying it’s a free mod. You either act professionally or you don’t.”

      Yep. Your chosen name(s) is 100% appropriate.

    • Tuskin38 says:

      The Official forums, they have a “Got a Question?” and “Ask the Developers!” threads that Raminator and JamesKane post in constantly, other devs sometimes chime in sometimes.

    • Grygus says:

      They are rather explicitly not professionals and they are not making a product to sell, so whether they act like professionals is less relevant than you seem to think.

    • Ancient Algae says:

      It’s a passion project. The least some unjustifiably entitled fans could do is not act like dicks towards the developers who do it for free.

  18. Terragot says:

    This mod is an example of how hard it actually is to get a position in this industry in this day and age.

    It’s a shame so many get duped into these expensive ‘game design’ courses. To think they stand a chance against people who work this hard, at this level of quality, for this length of time is a crime. Top developers really do need to take responsibility and officially declare these courses useless to the application process.

    Anyway, their work ethos is nothing less than professionalism level, and I really hope valve support this for them (although there could be some drama with previous team member’s and payment. And not to mention the legal debacles coming from the companies these modders now work at claiming rights).

    Shame about the design choices though. Half-life, even by today’s standards, is one of the most simple games to play and understand. The puzzle design already had years spent on it making it accessible for all, why they think the puzzles are too hard for modern gamers is beyond madness.

    • Lemming says:

      “This mod is an example of how hard it actually is to get a position in this industry in this day and age.”

      Not sure about that. It’s competitive certainly, which is why you can’t say “I’m part of something that hasn’t been finished for 5 years” on your cv. If they ever got this mod out of the gate, and it was popular, they’d probably get a lot of offers. Employers like to see product, not promises.

  19. cunningmunki says:

    The use of past-tense in the title of this article scared me a little. Thank god it’s still in development. I can’t even imagine how difficult it must be to try and make a mod that’s not only on par with the original, but also tries to match the same standard of all subsequent Valve games; and all in your spare time.

    I’ve worked at two companies, owned three PCs, had three relationships, lived at six addresses, been both married and divorced, and started a family, all in the time I’ve been waiting for this mod! They can’t give up now.

  20. rocketman71 says:

    It’s looking like another long (LONG) awaited HL2 mod could be released “soon”:

    http://www.hamandjam.org/

  21. Nallen says:

    I just wanted snazzy graphics and maybe some co-op for fun :(

    • Tuskin38 says:

      They removed Co-Op Black Mesa, I’m sure a third part mod like Obsidian Conflict or Synergy could mount the mod or something.

      • CMaster says:

        Not really. It’s straightforward enough to mount custom maps, graphics, sounds into Synergy (and I guess OC too). Mounting in custom code however (and hence any entities that aren’t part of the standard HL2/Syn/OC set is difficult to impossible though.

  22. Was Neurotic says:

    You know, given how long Valve take to make anything Half-Life related, I got no problem waiting. :D

  23. Unaco says:

    Part 2 isn’t going to appear tomorrow, is it? Q1 2014 at the earliest. Speaking of things not appearing… Whatever happened to Ian Manager? Did he ever “go the distance”, as was promised?

  24. Godwhacker says:

    Weird how what he’s saying about talking about things too soon echoes what Gabe was saying- talk about it too soon, when it’s all in flux, and people just get all weird and angry on you.

  25. kwyjibo says:

    Should have been episodic.

  26. Premium User Badge

    Jackablade says:

    I’m a little surprised that Valve hasn’t come a-calling to thes guys. I’d kind of assumed that the reason that we hadn’t heard anything for so long was that they’d been sponged up into the Valve massive to work under the watchful eyes of the original developers, with a release packaged in with whatever Half Life related game it is that Valve are currently working on themselves.

    • Premium User Badge

      mrwonko says:

      Maybe Valve’s just waiting for them to finish the mod so they actually get to finish the mod, instead of probably working on something else at Valve.

  27. Chairon6x3 says:

    They claim that they want to fix things that were wrong with Half-Life? That’s impossible. Why, one might say? The answer is easy. There was nothing wrong to begin with. And to be honest, if you have skeptics working on your team about weather or not there were flaws with the first Half-Life, then they obviously need to be let go. As far as your opinion of gamers go, that’s what it is, an opinion. There are literally thousands of people waiting to play this mod, and you’re worried about people not liking it if it sticks to the original format? You’re worried about the patience of gamers when you’re not going to be making a profit anyway? This kind of thinking is what is killing the gaming industry. Once people started making everything easier for the whiners, is when the games got worse. How can we cater to the mongoloids that barely can hold a controller. Oh I know, lets make it less frustrating. How about this. Grow a pair, challenge people, and for the love of god give them a reason to rage quit. If they are worth their own salt at all about conviction and dedication, that will be their drive to pick up the game again and not quit till they’ve bested it. Don’t get me wrong when and if this ever actually gets released I will play it, and to be fair, I can’t say that I won’t flame any changes that are made to it via the quotes from the interview. On a final note of this rant. If you wanna worry about catering to people that are less patient, then you might wanna consider getting this out faster than 3D Realms did with Duke Nukem: Forever.

    • Mario Figueiredo says:

      >> This kind of thinking is what is killing the gaming industry.

      Really? Wanting to make a great experience even better is what is killing the game industry? Attention to detail, trying to outdo past games, striving to be better is what is killing the game industry…

      Tell you what. It’s not. You can argue they are walking the wrong path with an apparent excessive care to their game. I won’t agree, but I’ll certainly respect your thought. But actually trying to pretend their attitude is wrong and damaging is just the type of whining you are accusing others of doing.

      I find it deliciously ironic that you mention the hoards of… how do you call them?… whiners and mongoloids who can barely hold a controller. It seems that is exactly what you want. You want just something out for you to play, and you’ll worry about its quality after you have played it. Dunno mate, I prefer a game that is of good quality when it reaches my hands. There’s plenty of, hmm whiners and mongoloids that would be happy for this to be released just now.

      As for, as you put it, growing a pair, I’m will grace you with the benefit of the doubt and let you know I trust you’ve been a gamer for many years and have been looking at the industry all this time. You are just experiencing a momentary lapse of reason. Because it takes more than a pair to deal with people like you already. Or do you consider that your little rant just somehow is different that the little rants of so many people before you who criticized games for being bad, or being late, or being whatever the hell they thought was wrong about them? The fact that this is an industry that is becoming increasingly worried about a market that is a whole lot more demanding, apparently doesn’t strike you as relevant. Don’t you worry, they got the balls. They got the balls to do something with one of the most emblematic games in modern computing history and they even got the balls to say Half-Life, it too, had is deficiencies, something that you obviously don’t want to see.

      • Chairon6x3 says:

        Ok, at first I was going to write a long rant to counter your ever abrasive unwanted breakdown of something you should have no opinion or bias on anyway. Instead I’m just going to point out the obvious. You’re a troll Mario Figueiredo. plain and simple. I posted an opinion. if you don’t like it fine. Just shut up and don’t like it by yourself.

        • Mario Figueiredo says:

          >> something you should have no opinion or bias on anyway.

          Oh wow!

          >> I posted an opinion.

          Wait. What? But you just said…

        • Grygus says:

          When you post your opinion in a public forum, you may receive feedback on that opinion. That feedback is at least as valid as your opinion was; to think otherwise is hypocrisy.

        • Ancient Algae says:

          “[Someone] posted an opinion. if you don’t like it fine. Just shut up and don’t like it by yourself.”

          Damn, you showed yourself who’s boss.

    • lijenstina says:

      What’s killing the gaming industry is the fact that it has become an industry. Overproduction, needless iteration, cutting costs at the expense of quality or raising up costs artificially, cartels, outsourcing without need, financialization, marketing, corruption (more or less paid reviews), screwing up customers and denying reliability just to name a few.

  28. popedoo says:

    Thanks guys. Really glad to hear this project is still alive! :)

  29. Edcrab says:

    I remember reading about Black Mesa: Source when it was first announced and being fascinated by the prospect, if somewhat wary. Great interview; very interesting to hear about goings-on behind the scenes, and as Nathan inferred there’s likely more than a few similarities between the mod team’s experiences and what’s going through Valve’s collective head right now. Best of luck with the project!

  30. Mman says:

    On the note of Vapourware source projects, someone needs to find out what the hell happened to “They Hunger: Lost Souls”.

    I know about (allegedly) Neil Manke getting a nasty illness and it being put on hold because of that, but I’m not sure that ever came from an official source.

    • Edcrab says:

      I had completely forgotten about the Lost Souls project. I’d love to know what’s going on there, as Manke’s mods (including the original They Hunger trilogy and the seminal USS Darkstar) were brilliant.

    • deadly.by.design says:

      Definitely. RPS, get to it!

      Lots of your readers remember those mods from HL, and probably wonder what happened to They Hunger: Lost Souls.

      I heard the rumor of Niel Manke getting seriously ill, too, but that was only after doing some digging on the interwebs. The original mod trilogy was pretty amazing for its day, and it’s a shame to see this potential product go the way of vaporware. Sure, it’s more passé to be doing zombie things nowadays, but still!

  31. Ernesto says:

    I thought there already was a Half-Life port to the Source engine (Half-Life Source). Never played it. But why do they want to rebuild that again?

    • GallonOfAlan says:

      @ernesto

      Half-Life Source is like the original game (i.e. exactly the original game) in the HL2 engine. Apart from a few things like better water IIRC, it’s identical.

      Black Mesa is Half-Life rebuilt from the ground up – new models, graphics, maps … sort of like that Doom mod for Doom 3.

    • coldvvvave says:

      It also has ragdolls. Not that it improves the core game in any way.

    • Dervish says:

      The ragdolls also mean no gibbing, which I missed.

  32. Visualante says:

    “Focus on development” how cute. Reads like a politician’s response.

    addendum: what we really need is a German hacker to rip their FTP server and release it on thepiratebay.co.uk

    • Ancient Algae says:

      Oh the condescension!

      Also, does it have to be German?

  33. deadly.by.design says:

    This has been my favorite read on FPS. I mean, uh… RPS.

  34. LawlzerGunz says:

    Well, I’m personally still hyped up by BM:S, and have been for a very long time now, just got more excited with the trailer.

    They said that they had finished the game, but in a way that they’re not proud of.
    I think they should release a portion of that game as a demo, so that it gives the fans a taste, and shuts them up.

    Then everyone knows what to expect, wants more, and will most likely be more patient.
    Hell, they could probably replay the demo a thousand times, at that. But the point being is that atleast people will know and understand there’s hope, even it if took them another 2, 3, or [hopefully not] more years.

  35. paladintom says:

    I had always hoped these guys got gobbled up by Valve and we were going to get a Source remake of HL1 whenever the next version of the Orange Box shipped.

    Ah well.

  36. arccos says:

    Agreed. Project management isn’t easy, especially when you’re dealing with volunteers. There are so many things you can’t count on, and you have to convince people into doing what they don’t want to do.

    It’s hard on everyone.

  37. CMaster says:

    It’s now been longer since HL2 than the gap between HL1 and HL2. Black Mesa will truly struggle to seem like a modern game now. More likely, it will feel like a late 00s project. Which I guess will still be an improvement over the 1998 Half Life, but still.

  38. nimzy says:

    I feel comfortable with ignoring any and all news mentioning Black Mesa Source until I see “Released” next to the name. The project has gone through so many ups and downs by now it reminds me of Duke Nukem Forever.

    At least with Natural Selection the delay was explained by their rather amusing choice to develop their own engine (which doesn’t do anything new).

  39. talia says:

    I’m glad to see you’re still working on it, Carlos.

  40. amorpheous says:

    I’d like to know why they didn’t open source it. They obviously need a lot of help getting things done with people leaving the team all the time and most/all of them being hobby developers.

    Open sourcing it would have been the perfect way to learn from people more experienced than themselves and teaching developers who know nothing about game development and want to learn, as well as providing the man power to finish the game in a timely manner. Yes, you lose some control in the creative process, but is that really a bad thing? The scope of the project is pretty narrow already: to bring modern technology to the Half Life experience (while making the experience better, of course). So it should be relatively easy not to go off the rails.

    It’s not like they could make money from it so what *real* reason is there for keeping it closed?

  41. David_VI says:

    How will they improve the Xen worlds?
    I think i’d not be too fussed if they didn’t bother or let you miss it out.

    I came to HL quite late, in fact last year. I had a great time playing it until Xen which tainted my whole experience. Then that bloody boss fight aaarrrgh, ruined the game for me.

  42. sizzlord says:

    Man the development ideas behind this game irritate me so much. I’ve read in the past repeatedly that Valve encourages modders to release early and often and build off that. Like the original CS. Because modders are not a professional dev studio. Much better to build a small chunk of something, release, learn, build on that, release, learn etc.

    So instead these chumps are like ‘let’s take 8 enthusiasts and attempt a HD remake of one of the best games of all time and we won’t release it until it’s 100% done. Oh and we’ll do it at Valve quality levels as well’. Good luck with that you morons, no wonder it’s been in development for 7 years.

    Why not release it a level at a time? Why not start with the intro video and go from there? Build a level, release it, learn, get feedback, start on the next level. Build a community and interest. If you reach the end of the game go back and fix up the first few levels with everything you’ve learnt by the end. Maybe then you can slap a v1.0 tag on it and call it done.

    I almost hope that it never gets released, just so they don’t get rewarded for running this project into the ground. I know that’s spiteful but I don’t care.

    • Katana says:

      sizzlord:
      Comments like this are why we’re sorry for the initial media hype. We now see why development studios tend not to talk about a game until it’s very close to release. This is probably the reason Valve has barely mentioned Episode 3.
      Release early and often makes sense for a multiplayer game like CS where balance is a big thing, but it would have been incredibly boring for “Black Mesa the Shitty Remake Alpha 0.1″ to slowwwwwwly progress into being something worth paying attention to. (Release a0.37: The end-level trigger actually works this time!) Many games will put out a beta multiplayer game, but a majority of people only go through a single-player experience once. It is crucially important that the whole thing be…well, pretty substantial and well-made when people first have the chance to play it.
      Releasing a level at a time would have had disjointed quality levels. I can safely say we learned a lot of stuff during development that vastly improved earlier levels because of general changes in design. As Valve learned the hard way, releasing small episodes works for some things. It does NOT work for others, and an FPS like this is one of them.

      As for open-source: This just comes from my personal experience making videos, as well as my game development experience at college…but “more people” does not translate to “better product”. Sometimes it doesn’t even translate to “faster development” because of all the confusion and conflict when you have so many people involved. There are leadership roles that must be filled in, certain people are handed responsibility for so many things, and if you allow anyone to work on it, the quality level will fluctuate, ending up with professionals having to throw out someone else’s hard work because it wasn’t what anyone else wanted. Plus, it grants a much slimmer level of attribution, with the end credits listing hundreds of people who just made a few small changes and no one really making their mark in the industry.

      As a dev, I can honestly say I’m not offended if people decide to forget about the mod’s existence and go about their lives with other games. It’s more fun that way rather than living in anticipation all the time.

  43. best_jeppe says:

    I have been looking forward to this since the project was announced more or less. I am certain (or at least hopes) that it will be awesome when it finally is released. With that said I am in no hurry to play it. Work on it until you feel it is ready. I’ll be waiting :)

  44. Secundus says:

    valve comparisons? please, I was thinking more 3d realms

  45. Rusty_S85 says:

    I see a lot of talk being thrown around that the game is being made so people will play it. Some areas were being altered and on the forums one dev stated that On a Rail was greatly reduced because the back tracking was confusing to players.

    I have to say this, while it is your right as devs on this mod to alter the game as you see fit, dont under estimate your player base. On A Rail was one of the areas I liked best seeing as you had the choice to speed through it or explore every area.

    The altering of this area and other memoriable areas might actually result in the game getting a lot more flak than keeping it faithful to the orignals. God knows how many people have already been lied to multiple times pertaining to this mod. First the mod was supposed to be a faithful reproduction of Half Life 1 by being built from the ground up using the Source Engine. Now the mod is being modified and the orignal faithful reproduction of Half Life 1 was tossed out the windows and now things are changed and added in. One big thing that has me wanting to face palm is the health chargers. Really, why was the HEV logo which is an Acyronym for Hazardous Enviromental Vest was slapped on the health charger that was useable by anyone? The guard just after the experiment you can see reaching for the Health Charger and he isnt wearing a HEV suit. Some of the other lies that I have seen put out there was last year it was stated that the game was in play testing. We all thought the game was going to be released soon but now I read on the forum that in another interview it was stated that the game is not really in play testing but is still being worked on.

    All in all this had great potential to be a great game to revisit Half Life 1 but I just cant see myself playing it. To me the devs on this mod took a great game with a great idea at the beginning and took a big shit on it cause they “didnt like” this or that and thought it could be better.

    And yes it could be better, better graphics, more clutter, more equipment and not so much dead space in a facility but to out right cut sections of the map and add new sections that was never in the game all because supposedly it didnt flow right or rooms made no sense is killing a great game.

    If this ever gets released (I cant say cause I knew back in 2009 it wouldnt come out by December and that we probably wouldnt see the game till 2015 the 10 year anniversary of the offical start of the mod) I might play it, but I wont end up downloading the mod if it cant be obtained through steam. I do not trust downloading programs from third party sites.

    The big thing I have to stress to the devs, the facility is supposed to be hard to navigate, you are a new employee at the Black Mesa facility and you are entering higher security areas that you have never been too. So why do you think areas that you as a player never been too should be easy to navigate and use that bad excuse to alter the orignal game map layout.