Black Mesa Mod Won’t See Xen, Because Technology

Now that the commercial version of Half-Life fan remake Black Mesa [official site] is out in Early Access form (and pretty great so far), what’ll happen to the original free mod?

Not that much, really – which is hardly a surprise. Developers Crowbar Collective haven’t given up on it, as they said they wouldn’t, but expect future updates to be more along the lines of bug fixes than big additions. The mod won’t see Xen, for starters. The older version of the Source engine the mod uses isn’t up to handling the pretty Xen they want to make, see, and they can’t change it.

A few Collectiveers took to Reddit on Sunday in a ‘Please Ask Us Questions, Thank You’ session.

Asked whether Xen would ever be added to the free mod, level designer Joe R replied, “It’s impossible. In order to make Xen look the best it possibly can look, we need to upgrade the engine with new features. These new features will make it incompatible with the mod version.”

Fellow level designer Jordan F added, “Organic environments are not something the Source engine does particularly well. Making Xen look as good as we want it to requires lots of improvements to the way the engine handles rendering and lighting. We can’t port these changes back to the mod because we don’t have source code access to that engine version.”

As for whether features already added to the new version will come back to the mod, Joe R explained: “Since the paid version is on a newer engine, we aren’t able to back-update the mod version with some of the features of the paid version. That being said, we are looking into porting bug fixes onto the mod version that are found in the paid version.”

And to round up a few other questions, yes they are working to a schedule but no they won’t tell you it, and Mac and Linux versions are in the works.

Anyway, do go read Marsh Davies’s take on Black Mesa if you haven’t already.


  1. green frog says:

    Oh god, if the Skyrim fiasco was any indication, the outrage brigade is going to throw a major tantrum over this one. How dare they not give us Xen for free! Crowbar Collective, gird your inboxes for the inevitable death threats and other assorted manbaby bullshit! Here it comes!

    • Dux Ducis Hodiernus says:


      I was not supportive of the paid mods on the steam workshop. I have no issue with them not including xen in the paid version of black mesa. That was an entirely different senario. Anyways you won’t see that much outrage because there isnt any. You’re just being dumb.

      People might be more reasonable than you think.

      • green frog says:

        Okay, so that post was a little more acerbic than usual. My bad. I didn’t mean to imply that everyone who opposed paid Skyrim mods was a manbaby. I’m sorry if I gave that impression.

        That said, some people did express their disapproval… poorly, because this is The Internet. It was those people who I expected to not take kindly to this news and was mocking with my post.

        Once again, civil and reasonable disapproval of the paid mod experiment is perfectly cool in my book. Just want to be clear on that one.

        • BooleanBob says:

          Do you think you’re promoting civil and reasonable discourse with language like “outrage brigade”, “major tantrum” and “assorted manbaby bullshit”? If not, why use it?

          • Jenks says:

            Because they’re spot on observations.

          • Doghaus says:

            I agree with Jenks. Those phrases encapsulate the whole episode pretty well.

          • wengart says:

            If those phrases are what you use to describe people you were not for paid mods then you don’t understand the problems with them.

            Believe it or not, run away capitalism isn’t the best system for regulating products.

          • welverin says:

            You’re making a mistake in thinking everyone opposed to paid mods was reasonable and that those terms don’t accurately describe some people who did.

          • wengart says:

            So what?

            Why come out swinging if everyone is being reasonable?

            Once you do that you’re now the”manbaby” crying about how you can’t sell mods.

          • Vin_Howard says:

            The OP was referring to those loathsome angry mobbers who undermined the intelligent discourse of an important issues.

        • wyrm4701 says:

          It’s just a bit weird that you read this article and thought: “There are a lot of unreasonable, argumentative jerks out there. They’re definitely the people I want to engage with. I should call them names!”

        • wengart says:

          I’m glad you are bringing such high standards to the discussion…

      • ButteringSundays says:

        “People might be more reasonable than you think.”

        That’s a good one!

    • wengart says:

      Yes, because a mod team releasing a full game for purchase has never happened before and the results are unknowable.

      Oh wait, its been done before. Natural Selection 2, Killing Floor, CS, Day of Defeat, Portal, the more recent Portal mod, Red Orchestra, Team Fortress, Stanley Parable, Arsenal of Democracy, etc…

      This is entirely different than the Skyrim modding fiasco that Valve and Beth tried to push through.

      • gummybearsliveonthemoon says:

        Let’s go further back, and Source-engine-specific.

        Gunman Chronicles.

    • Distec says:

      I usually find the biggest turds in any comment section are the very first ones that prime for an argument with shit like “lol here comes the manbaby brigade brb lemme get my popcorn”.

      So congrats!

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Since you don’t seem to understand this, let me explain it to you: sometimes, some people get upset for good reasons. People don’t always get upset just because they are bad people. If you are predicting that certain people will get upset over something and you are consistently wrong about what will cause them to become upset, you may be wrong about the character of the people you are criticizing. You may actually be acting like a jerk.

      Next time you feel the desire to proactively pre-judge the opposite side of a controversy before anyone even thinks it’s a controversy, consider that doing so may well be acting like more of a jerk than the actions you are presuming will happen. If you decide to proceed, you will at least be doing so knowing that you sound like a jerk, and not in ignorance of such. I hope this is helpful to you.

      • Vin_Howard says:

        Except he wasn’t referring to everyone who opposed paid mods. He was referring to those who spat out vial and hate for no other reason then because they were losing their free stuffz and because it’s fun to riot. I remember Totalbiscut, in his 2hr podcast on the paid mod with Robin “Dark0ne” Scott (owner of Nexus Mods) and Nick McCaskey (creator of the SMIM Skyrim mod), expressed his hope that these were just teenagers.

    • green frog says:

      *opens mouth, inserts foot*

  2. dethtoll says:

    Saw it coming when they originally released the mod without Xen. “Everyone hates Xen,” they said, “so we’ll just release an unfinished product and then a few years down the line we’ll say we’re not going to finish it, nobody’ll care.”

    • MadTinkerer says:

      Not adding free content to a free product is a non-issue. If they weren’t finishing the paid version, it would be different, but no one’s saying they’re not..

  3. Xantonze says:

    OK, I had to re-read this to understand: so Xen will be coming, but only on the paid for version.
    Don’t see how this is a problem (and also glad since when I first read the post, I thought Xen wasn’t coming at all, so hurray I suppose)!

    • mashkeyboardgetusername says:

      Yeah, it was confusing to me at first too, I suppose that’s a difference between official announcements and bits of info in reddit posts. If xen wasn’t coming in the version you paid for then there might be a bait ‘n’ switch outrage (we all love those) but thankfully that should be avoided.

      • MrBehemoth says:

        I think reason it was confusing is because it says right there in the title: “Black Mesa Mod Won’t See Xen”. Should have said “Original Free Version of Black Mesa Mod Won’t See Xen.” The paid for version is still a mod.

    • ShadowNate says:

      Huh, phew. I read the article fast, and had the same impression, (although I did note that it was odd that they mentioned the old version of Source engine as the excuse)….

      Anyways, I am glad I was able to support (any of) them by paying for the mod and I am happy for (any of) them that they managed to get their mod to be released as a commercial game (albeit one still in early access).

    • thedosbox says:

      I’d have thought not including Zen was cause for celebration!

      • SomeDuder says:

        Well, they’ll be “improving” it, adding new stuff and whatnot.

        Anything is an improvement over the original, I suppose. I’ve always preferred the earlier chapters in HL, like Office Complex, which just felt right, crawling around an normal area which only a few hours before underwent a cataclysm.

        Xen is the complete opposite of that, it’s just all too alien to feel anything. I guess that might have been Valve’s goal at the time, creating an alien world that feels alien, but then they throw that dumb alien factory map at you, which is just… ugh.

  4. Megarlin says:

    Since i dont follow the game/mod community i had no idea that they would even update the mod version.

  5. Rao Dao Zao says:

    People need to be less Xenophobic, it was at least visually arresting even if the gameplay was wonky and you had to fight a large dangling baw-sack.

    • PancakeWizard says:

      Happily the reason Xen is taking so long is because they want to make it fun to play as well as visually arresting.

    • DelrueOfDetroit says:

      Imagine the dingle-dangle physics we’re going to see!

  6. Xiyng says:

    I’m disappointed, considering when they released the free mod they either promised or strongly implied the free version too would get Xen. If it weren’t for that implication, I would be fine with this but as it is, Black Mesa is almost dead for me. Well, at least until it’s dirt cheap on a Steam sale.

    • green frog says:

      Yes, they did say in the past that Black Mesa would be free. But I doubt that when they said those things they didn’t mean them. Clearly they must have changed their minds at some point. So it is a reversal.

      Frankly though, considering the scope and quality of this project I think we should be happy with what we did get for free. Black Mesa is more than good enough to be sold as a $20 commercial product on Steam. No one is truly being wronged here. It’s their creation. They don’t owe us anything.

      I don’t see how this is any different than DayZ or Team Fortress or Counter-Strike or any other product that morphed over time from free mod to commercial game.

      • Bull0 says:

        I don’t see how those are the same, given that there’s no obvious parallel – Xen was in the announced roadmap for free BM, and now they’ve announced it will only be in paid BM, so people might be disappointed. I don’t recall any features that were announced for mod DayZ, TFC, or CS that were then scrapped to be put in the paid successors instead (possibly DayZ with vehicles? Not sure, I don’t really follow DayZ)

      • Xiyng says:

        What Bull0 said. The team here sucked at communicating. You don’t announce the free version won’t be getting what it was promised to get at the same moment as you release the paid version. You simply don’t do that.

        I’m OK with the team getting money from their effort. I’m just saying their communication sucks and makes them seem like liars (because in a way they are), which is not OK.

    • Premium User Badge

      phuzz says:

      Given how long it took just to get the free mod released, I long ago stopped getting excited by anything these guys promised.
      It came out after Duke Nukem Forever ffs, a game that was literally a joke for years.

      I tremendously enjoyed Black Mesa when it was released a few years ago, but the schedule that they work to means I try never to look forward to what might get released.

  7. Ham Solo says:

    Very popular mods occasionally get the chance to become a paid for game, which is fine, as it only happens with very good mods (if valve doesn’t interfere and lets people offer up bugged to hell mods for money – link to ). I don’t mind them not undertaking a port of the free mod to a newer engine, I already bought the paid version, which is amazing.

  8. Pop says:

    Gonna take a whole lot more than fancy tech to save the Xen I remember

  9. grable says:

    I already played Black Mesa and Xen was a bit shit anyway. Plus i dont care about multiplayer, so this solved itself for me really.

  10. PancakeWizard says:

    A few things I think are worth noting:

    1. The paid version of this game will get Xen
    2. This wasn’t a ‘mod’. It was a fan-made re-imagining of the original HL1. Why does it matter? Well, RPS are a PC site for one, they should a) know the difference, b) be fully aware of the needless auto-rage it can induce my using the term ‘mod’ anywhere near the word ‘paid’ and c) it does a disservice to the team who’ve put the work in.
    3. The team changing their mind on a paid for version is perfectly valid, given that being unclear on where they stood legally meant a paid version was off the cards unless Valve gave them a full blessing (that didn’t happen until it was greenlit, before then Valve were just happy with it ‘existing’).
    4. The team are under no obligation, moral or legal to do anything for those that are using the free-version only. No money has changed hand, and ‘promises’ made are worth precisely dick.
    5. This is a bunch of talented fans, that started as hobbyists and have gone on to form an official studio, we should be applauding that and wishing them every success. The system works. That’s the dream.
    6. Black Mesa is ridiculously polished and professional for a fan-made game.
    7. They dabbled with a franchise that’s like the fucking Holy Grail of PC gaming and pulled it off to mostly praise. That’s practically miraculous.

    • Alice O'Connor says:

      2)a) I do.
      b) That’s a problem with whoever’s getting furious from not paying attention.
      c) It doesn’t.

      Addendum: d) I also call it a “remake”, and the use of “mod” is helpful to distinguish between the commercial release and the free version.

  11. Assirra says:

    I honestly never saw the hate for Xen chapter.
    I remember flying at high speed over those belts with a magnum 1 shotting everything that came in sight. Was a great thrill.

    • cpt_freakout says:

      I hated the platforming in it – I handled it fine throughout the rest of the game, but then came Xen and I used to have to try some jumps like 10 times before getting them right (I know, lern2play and all that). The shooting was still pretty cool, though!

  12. vorador says:

    A bit annoyed that they try to spin the whole mod/commercial release like that. They should have been honest and said they made a deal with Valve to sell the fully finished remake as a commercial product, instead of using excuses like Source version problems to stop working on the original.

    At least they’re not pulling the original mod, and if the changes to the new version warrant it, i might purchase the remake. We will see.

    • Det. Bullock says:

      It might very well not be an excuse, as I understand the free version was made without source code support and that gave them problems every time a new version of the Source engine came out, they switched version only once and that set them back for a couple of years during which ANOTHER version of Source came out and they decided not to change the engine again to avoid having to lose another year simply by converting the old stuff to the newest version of the engine.
      That said, when Valve took them under their wing and allowed them to make a steam version they gave them access to the latest Source Engine source code and they have been converting the old mod, rebuilding assets etc until now (and even then there are still issues that need being ironed out) so I find it plausible that downgrading the Xen stuff may be too much of a hassle when they are more concerned about finishing Xen in the first place.