Valve Announces New Game: Alien Swarm


So, well, Valve just rather nonchalantly announced a game. Yeah, exactly.

Remember Alien Swarm? A total conversion mod for UT 2004, with four-player co-op top-down action. The team behind it, we’ve just learned, were hired by Valve two years ago, and have since been working on L4D and now Portal 2. Except at the same time they’ve been making Alien Swarm all over again in Source. And it’s coming out on Monday. And it will be free. And it looks great.

The new version of top-down shooter Alien Swarm can be seen in action here. It looks pretty damned fantastic.

But it’s not the only thing that’s coming. Along with it the complete SDK and code base is being released, all available for free this Monday (19th).

If you don’t remember the first version, here’s Quintin’s feature on the game from 2008.

The game will also include updates to the Source engine (in the SDK), and has had some changes made to it in its Source incarnation. A third-person camera, depth of field effects, and “a wide variety of gameplay additions.” Although what those are isn’t clear yet. However, take a look at the screenshots below to see the difference in the game.

Valve lists the contents as follows:

Alien Swarm is a game and Source SDK release from a group of talented designers at Valve who were hired from the Mod community. Available free of charge, the game thrusts players into an epic bug hunt featuring a unique blend of co-op play and squad-level tactics. With your friends, form a squad of four distinct IAF Marine classes. Plan your attack using an unlockable arsenal of weapons with countless loadout configurations against a wide variety of aliens. Blaze your way through an overrun, off-world colony, eradicating the alien infestation in environments ranging from the icy planet’s surface, to a subterranean lava-flooded mining facility.

– Tactical, 4 player co-op action game with a top-down perspective
– Complete game code and mod tools
– Unlock persistent items by gaining levels
– Over 40 weapons and equipment with countless loadout configurations
– 4 unique classes and 8 unique characters
– Matchmaking, Steam Cloud, Steam Stats
– 64 achievements
– Tile-based map generation tool
– Powered by Source and Steam

Here’s how Alien Swarm looked two years ago:

And this is what the new version looks like (click on them for giant versions):


  1. kwyjibo says:

    It’s a pleasant surprise, I thought Black Cat Games had just gone dead just like all those countless mod teams out there who never deliver.

    I’m not really sure if releasing this game with an open code base will really accelerate Source adoption though. Surely, everyone’s already on board the Unreal train.

    • Dodo says:

      Yeah, this is certainly a pleasant surprise. Never knew they got hired by valve.
      Anyway, I loved the original Alien Swarm, so this will be a sweet!

    • Forch says:

      The Unreal Train is a laggy, buggy train to Migrainesville.

  2. bergotronic says:

    Free Game! Alright! this almost makes up for L4D2… ;)

    • Warskull says:

      Very good free game, Alien Swarm was probably the best game in the make something unreal contest. I’m glad to see Black Cat lives on, they were some talented guys.

    • bergotronic says:

      Indeed – I look forward to it. Perhaps this will make use of some L4Ds AI director techiques?

    • westyfield says:

      I read that at first as ‘AI dictator’, which I guess doesn’t change the sentence that much.
      It’d be awesome if Alien Swarm: Subtitle Harder used the director though.

    • dethtoll says:

      Hey, L4D2 was way more worth the money than the first game was. Then again I only paid $30 for it as opposed to $50 for L4D1…

    • Simon says:

      Shh you, L4D2 is a great game!

    • dadioflex says:

      @westyfield Should have gone to specsavers.

    • clovist says:

      developer quote – “There are some console commands to make the game harder if Insane mode isn’t enough for you. Most notably there’s asw_horde 1 which activates a L4D style Director who spawns random hordes of Swarm drones periodically.” so yes, director if you want

  3. Mic2070 says:

    Looks gorgeous. I predict that valve’s servers will be on heavy load on monday.

  4. Kid A says:

    Wha… whu…
    I’m cool with this.

  5. TCM says:

    Whatta whatta whaaaaaaaah?

  6. RakeShark says:

    Great, here I was hoping Moonbase Alpha would be the free space game to include setting disgusting alien weirdos on fire.

    Ah well. There’s still time to add Asimov/Bova plot twists though.

  7. Arathain says:


    I feel… strange. Is this… is this… happiness?

  8. TimA says:


    But yes, this looks rather awesome. I just wish it was out on weekend rather than a monday.

  9. rebb says:

    Holy Space Sh**

    This was already a lot of fun as a mod.

  10. Vinraith says:

    Well, that’s a pleasant surprise. I loved the original, I look forward to seeing what Valve’s done with it.

  11. Tei says:

    Amazing news. The problem I see here is that this genre is very advanced. There are very very very good games based on this gameplay out here, so anything released will be compared to then. The World Don’t Need Another Space Siege Game.

    Also, WTF vale? Is your mocking all other game developers going awesome just to make all other people looks bad? *me kising the “hairless head of a dude with a valve” logo*

  12. Jimbo says:

    They were working on this even before they got picked up by Valve iirc. I remember looking for a copy of UT just to play it, then giving up and deciding to wait for them to finish the Source version. It did go off the radar for a long time though.

    I’m glad it survived. Looks cool and free is the best price there is.

  13. Bret says:


    Valve continues the one game a year thing, then. Safe to say no-one was expecting this, though.

  14. Sunjumper says:

    Brilliant news!
    I do feel premtively a bit sorry for Team 17 though, in case this game is better at being a modern Alien Breed than their own effort.

    • Alastayr says:

      Judging by Team 17’s recent output, it probably is.

    • ran93r says:

      It is a shame for Team 17, I really wanted Alien Breed to be epic but it did fall a little short of the mark. I still enjoy playing it but if Swarm nails the four player co-op that just blows Breed out of the water. That’s me over there, pouring one out for my Amiga childhood.

  15. Pete says:

    Must’ve missed that they got bought, nice little mod team, good for them and Valve! Should be great fun co-op.

  16. jonfitt says:

    I heard some really good things about this as a UT2k4 mod but never played it. I was waiting to get the Source version, but never imagined it would be free after they were hired by Valve!

    I think the stuff I heard was on an old GFW/CGW podcast and they made it sound very tactical and ‘Aliens’ like.

    • LionsPhil says:

      The UT2004 version was absolutely awesome, if dependent on good players. For LAN, private, or a rare sensible public server, it was an amazing experience.

      The singleplayer was HORRID due to one-at-a-time squad control combined with AI squaddies always standing stock still, which made a level with a charging boss pretty much impossible, but wasn’t really the point of the thing.

  17. john says:

    Yep, I periodically looked at their forums over the last few years, as the few hardcore posters were mocked by interlopers (including me) for their loyalty given the fact that the devs had basically ignored them over a period of years with no explanation why. A couple of the mods would occasionally pop up with a “they have future plans” comment that was immediately dismissed as bull.

    Funnily I remember thinking to myself how unlucky their fortunes were in contrast to Turtle Rock ; the one snapped up by the premier PC developer in the world to polish their co-op shooter game to AAA standard, the other slowly fading into obscurity. I’m glad I was wrong and Valve saw the value in their idea.

  18. Schmung says:

    Oh fuck not another SDK update.

    Game looks sweet though.

    • gerafin says:


      Make sure to make a copy of your SDK bin folder .exe’s now, they can replace the updated ones once the inevitable breaking begins. However: you have to replace the .exe’s AFTER you start up the SDK menu every time.

      But, you probably already know the drill by now.

    • Theory says:

      It’s a new SDK, separate from the ‘mainline’ one.

  19. Cian says:

    Woo and indeed yay! Alien Swarm is probably still my favourite coop experience, as a mod it was downright aces and with the time it has spent in development (even if that has been intermittent) I’m really quite excited to see it.
    Having said that, the later missions Black Cat released were relentlessly demanding, which rather cut down on the jump-in chaos becomes order mileu of the earlier releases, so interested to see what the servers will be like come monday.
    However, with this and Red Orchestra 2 soon, it really seems the Make Something Unreal contest has done wonders for the more original creations of the UT modding scene.

  20. Starky says:

    I have to agree with Tei here, Valve are just now openly mocking all other developers with how awesome they are, and how other developers just fail.

    TF2 updates, Free games, free DLC for all their games, long term support for all their games… a brilliant store, great support, insane sales and indie dev support – Steam is10 giant leaps ahead of every other competitor.

    The only miss-step they made really was L4D2, and honestly for anyone with more than a thimble full of self control waited until the first (or second) sale price on it, and got a game that was better than L4D one in almost every way, for less them most expansions cost.

    A slight wobble in their usual A+ in every way performance.

    Valve are becoming the google of PC gaming, in the way google is the google of PC everything else.

    • Simon says:

      I agree, although I personally have no problem with L4D2 being released soonish after the original. I got my money’s worth out of both :)

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      No, the real misstep they made was the damn Golden Wrenches.

      L4D2 was fine.

    • Shih Tzu says:

      I was actually thinking this was a very Google sort of move. Like when Google set up a wi-fi network for the entire city of Mountain View, for free, and everyone asked, “Why?” And Google shrugged and was like, “It sounded cool and we had the money.”

    • battles_atlas says:

      An excellent fuck you to the valve haters. If capitalism worked like this generally I’d totally suck Milton Friedman off right now, regardless of state of decomposition.

    • TeeJay says:

      @ Starky:

      It is a bit unfair to say other developers are “failing”…

      Valve (and Google) can treat free stuff as loss-leaders and make their money back on retailing games, licensing source (or selling advertising) to the people passing through their sites. Maintaining a healthy player-base means the game continues to sell, keeps people passing via the store regularly and prevents drifting off to a different game/location/community.

      A developer who doesn’t also have a large digital-download / retailing operation or other ways of making money can’t afford to give stuff away as a loss-leader. Also while typical markets have room for a whole range of products and price-points there is a limit to how many ‘social networks’ can exist or whether certain products/services are still viable when a free (ie. subsidised) and high-quality option exists.

      Rather than expect anyone else to attempt to become a Valve-stye integrated developer-publisher-retailer and say they “fail” if they don’t, maybe they are better off sticking to just developing or just retailing etc, and aiming to offer something a bit more niche and differentiated/specialised?

    • Inno says:

      @TeeJay :: All true. Of course, companies like Valve & Blizzard didn’t just magically get to the prime position they’re in now. From the very beginning they took calculated risks, spent money to make money, always looking for the next big, innovative thing. Can we really say most of the other players are doing something similar? I don’t think so. I can’t speak for Starky but I think this is what he meant with other developers failing.

      They’re too busy throwing out one generic thing after the other, decent post-launch support doesn’t even seem to be in alot of their vocabularies. Sure, it probably doesn’t help alot of them have to deal with the board/shareholders always lurking over their shoulders. I can’t bring up much sympathy for that though. All in all I think it’s fair to say many of them are failing. There’s always choices available, they may not be easy or straightforward but they’re still there.

  21. The Dark One says:

    Even if it doesn’t spur any new mods being made, helping modders with Steamworks integration is a great idea. Even when it’s something as simple as Shatter showing me the high-scores of the people already in my friends list, it sells the feeling that the community is all connected.

  22. Flint says:

    Once again Valve shows its uncanny skill to release something co-opy on the week I go on a holiday somewhere where I’ll be without my gaming PC.

  23. Daniel Klein says:

    It’s almost like they want us to like them.

  24. Schaulustiger says:

    This is rather frightening. Does Valve ever do anything that is not absolutely super-duper-awesome?

  25. Navagon says:

    Freeness! Yaaaays!

    Don’t forget, guys: this is probably as much about increasing the number of Steam users as it is about Source. If not more so. But whatever the intentions, it’s free and odds are it’s going to be awesome.

  26. Meat Circus says:


    • Psychopomp says:

      Those dirty, tricky Valve assholes. They’re refusing to allow a talented team the monetary compensation they deserve, just for a little PR. Despicable.

    • Down Rodeo says:

      Ah, well done Psychopomp. There had to be something! :)

    • Lukasz says:

      oh. it is simple to find something to be angry about…

      a free game, even if awesome means less resources go to Episode 3…

      rage begin now

  27. Flaringo says:

    What’s the catch, Valve? DLC? What, god damnit!

  28. DMJ says:

    Left 4 Alien?

  29. Moses2k says:

    Original was up-to-8-player.

    Yeah, this is the raddest thing around. if you’re interested.

  30. Derf says:

    A FREE coop tactical shooter? Wow, i’m sooo getting this. Hopefully the tactical element will hold up.

  31. Mad Doc MacRae says:

    Well, free is always good. Not sure I’m super interested in the game but I can’t complain.

  32. Sam says:

    They should have made this their E3 announcement, would have been a lot less disappointing lol.

    • DJ Phantoon says:

      Yeah, I don’t think so. Valve doesn’t need E3 to build hype. They put out anything for TF2 and they get plenty of attention. Plus, Steam means they can slap something on the news if they feel like it.

      If they completely ignore E3 I can’t say it would hurt them since they don’t have to spend ridiculous amounts of money on shit.

  33. AS says:

    As awesome as all of this sounds, all I can think of is how all of the tools can be modified for use in Valve DotA. This means the game is not far away, in Valve Time…

    • Tomski says:

      I was thinking the same, perhaps this is a precurser to the DotA game so they can test out the engine in roughly the same format.

      Also, does this bring them into line with UDK and Unity now being Free for All development kits?

    • AS says:

      It feels like they’ve been gobbling up all of these little mod teams that do what they do best to extend Source by porting over their games – and eventually joining the teams together to produce the bigger mods. I have no idea how someone such as Icefrog would be able to help on a game such as Portal 2 or L4D2 besides general coding, maybe they’re building up more teams leading to more projects being released.

      Also, with the tile based map tool, source code and whatnot, it sounds like they have a general engine to port any SC*/WC* map they like, and there are a lot of underlooked maps still out there.

  34. yourgrandma says:

    It’s great seeing these old mods turn up again with a fresh coat of paint. Was wondering what happened to these guys when they said they were making a source version and they seemed to pretty much drop off the map… who would of guessed this happening.

  35. jackflash says:

    This is great, news!!! I heart Valve!!

  36. Brian Manahan says:

    Now if they would just work on Half Life 2 Episode 3.

  37. Pmeie says:

    This might well be the first game I play in which I like the depth of field. Looks great.

    • Pmeie says:

      *while not interfering with gameplay (that’s why i didnt like it in other games, ie borderlands)

  38. MrCookie says:

    So, how long until someone mods this to be a top down left 4 dead? Seems perfect for it.

  39. MadTinkerer says:

    What and Ep3 still isn’t done?

    Just kidding. I too am excited about this. The part about “Tile-based map generation tool” is particularly intriguing. Are the tiles dynamically generated (like Diablo 2/Torchlight/etc.), or part of Hammer now (or both)? Because either way it means there’s a completely new way to do map geometry in Source besides direct brush editing in Hammer. And the implications of that… well maybe not as interesting if you’re not learning about Source modding right now, but I am.

  40. LionsPhil says:


    FREE?! ALIEN SWARM?! It’s back, and it’s FREEEEE?!

  41. Psychopomp says:


  42. bleeters says:

    Just stop it now. Seriously. I’m in danger of reaching my maximum capacity for love, here. First the wrangler, now this? At this rate I’ll have nothing left for when portal 2 comes out.

    Oh, sod it. SqueeeeeeeeeeeeealienswarmanditsfreeeeeeeeeeandohgodmylungsIveburstmylungs

  43. Choca says:

    This looks a billion times better than that crappy Alien Breed remake from Team 17 and it’s free ? I might be playing that till the end of times ! (or till something better shows us, which might actually coincide with the end of times)

  44. fabamatic says:

    It’s great to get a free game!. Will it be turn based? The tactical squad thing and the setting makes it much more X-Com than Xcom.

    • Redford says:

      Alien swarm is not turn based. Imagine Left4Dead, except brutally unforgiving to the point of impossibility at high difficulty levels with xenomorphs. Also, instead of being an FPS all the combat takes place in a top down mode ALA Smash TV.

      Remember guys, if you’re a noob, don’t take the shotgun.

    • Meat Circus says:

      I wish somebody had told me that before my first day at school.

  45. Heliocentric says:

    *Monicle pops out*

  46. vader says:

    Free is my favorite price in the whole world. If more games cost free I’d buy games all the time.

  47. Sparvy says:

    Hmm, I wonder if this tech update for the source engine has something to do with whatever Icefrog is working on as well?

  48. TheApologist says:

    That is so great. Yay!

    And to think I nearly bought Alien Breed