Tag Archives: Half-Life

Freedom Snake

For several reasons much too personal for the internet, I decided to leave my job at Longwood a couple weeks ago.  But I will say that the pay was way too low, and good luck to them finding someone with my skill level willing to work for so little.  The only reason I settled on that job was that it was 2009, when the economy was quite lousy.

But now with my rediscovered freedom, I have copious amounts of free time and thus time for video games.  As happens on occasion, I’ve been going nostalgic with my gaming choices lately.

Darwinia is a cute and clever real-time strategy game where you help a fictitious researcher regain control of a simulated cyber-world from a malware infestation.  It has just the right balance of puzzles and blowing shit up to make it incredibly fun.  The only problem is that it ends too quickly.

Black Mesa is a community remake of the original Half-Life using the newer Source Engine.  I’ve mentioned this mod years ago, but it only just got released recently.  Obviously, it’s a little too ambitious to remake a whole game when no one is getting paid; hell, Valve didn’t even want to do a proper job with Half-Life: Source.  And it shows as there are places where the quality is noticeably amateur.  Regardless, I applaud their efforts as it’s definitely fun and action-packed.

Given the recent SimCity debacle that’s been in the news, I (and it seems many other players) have given the previous SimCity game a whirl.  It’s been a while since I loaded up SimCity 4, but I was quite surprised to find its graphics were still mainly sprite-based, which is a bit jarring after playing so many 3D games with freely-moving cameras.  It’s definitely interesting to see your city take shape and how your choices affect that.  But I find the low-action gameplay to be sleep-inducing, and it makes me wonder how long the game will stay interesting.  Although I haven’t been playing it lately, the inadequacies of SimCity are making me consider going back to Tropico—it just seems like the right balance of macro- and micro-management in a city-builder game.

Going back even farther, I’ve also been enjoying some of the late 90s classics Age of Empires and Age of Kings.  I was pleasantly surprised to find that both of these games still install and run on Windows XP, granted XP is pretty old itself.  I was also surprised at how difficult these games got and really quickly.  It’s no wonder that I cheated so much back in the day.

I also found out that I actually made a campaign for AOE called Time of the Phoenicians.  You can amazingly enough still download it from AOE Heaven.  The story and writing is pretty awful and the gameplay buggy (I was 15), but the maps were still pretty detailed as you can see below.

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Putting the Half-Life 2 G-Man into Half-Life: Source

I’ve been looking for an excuse to get into some Source Engine modding ever since Half-Life 2 came out; and sure, I’ve wanted to do my own total-conversion mod (who hasn’t?) but knew I lacked the attention span to do so. So, along comes Half-Life: Source, a straight port of Half-Life content into Half-Life 2’s Source Engine. However, as I detailed in a post almost two years ago, Valve couldn’t even be bothered to do some decent textures or models for the port, despite them having most of the necessary materials already created for HL2.

This omission of graphical upgrade really irked me. At the time of the aforementioned post, I had even tried to copy the G-Man from Half-Life 2 into HL: Source, but alas the animations didn’t match up. Recently, I decided to go back through HL: Source again on a whim. Greeted with the same low-poly models and low-res textures as last time, I became more stalwart in my longing for high-quality graphics. I took another look at the G-Man to see how I might overcome his lack of vanilla Half-Life animations.

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I’d been interested in trying out Half-Life: Source ever since I first heard about it. But I kept hearing that the changes were so minimal that it wasn’t worth it. Well, I recently got it anyways and decided I would clear up all the changes that it does and doesn’t make. Most of them are inherent to the engine as you will see.



You can’t deny that the new water looks fabulous compared to the original’s.


Reflections and Lights

Reflections and Lights
Pools of water look nicer thanks to some cubemap reflections. The lighting is also crisper and more realistic, casting shadows from objects.


Fire and Smoke

Fire and Smoke
These effects are volumetric and thus more realistic looking than the sprite ones from Half-Life. Also notice that small fires are appearing on the tentacles; although not common, objects can burn now.


Physics (Buoyancy)

Physics (Buoyancy)
Valve just couldn’t stand it. They couldn’t let this scripted buoyancy puzzle from the original game alone and replaced it with the familiar HL2 cage with blue barrels one.


Physics (Non-Rigid Chains)

Physics (Non-Rigid Chains)
All the game’s ropes are replaced with non-rigid ones that twist and sway realistically.


Ragdolls and Blood Decals

Ragdolls and Blood Decals
All models will ragdoll when dead. When shot, they place high-resolution blood spatter decals on the walls. Notice here that the scientist on the left was placed dead into the game, but the other was killed during play, ragdolling and creating hi-res blood spatter. Hi-res bullet hole decals can also be seen.


Model Blood Decals

Model Blood Decals
When shot, models get blood decals placed on them–something not even possible in the original game’s engine.

news233Even with all these engine changes, the fact remains that all the textures and models are the same lo-res, lo-poly versions from the original game. It would have been really nice to see some crisp, high-resolution textures made. It’d only take a small group of artists less than a year. They wouldn’t even have to change the map’s geometry and it would have looked so much better. However, there have been some attempts are upping the quality of HL:S textures and models. One in particular called High Definition Source stands out. All of the weapons, most of the character models, and many textures have been redone, making it slightly more visually appealing than before. I tried putting Half-Life 2 models into HL:S, but they don’t work right, of course. The animations are missing, so they just kind of stand around and look pretty (see the screenshot at right).

There are also changes that you can’t see–changes to the audio system. Half-Life used a fairly early implementation of surround sound APIs in the form of Aureal3D or EAX. And while they sounded pretty awesome back in the day, now they’re noticeably flawed mainly because of their use of preset audio zones. You’d walk into a new zone, and instantly, the sound is transformed differently. In HL:S, the reverberations are smooth and not overdone. The surround sound is also smoother; sounds don’t jump from one speaker to the next. Like the game’s textures, the majority of sounds were not improved. Although, some were actually replaced, such as physics and door sounds. The music was converted to 128kbps MP3, which sounds very good, but will stop playing upon the frequent level loads.

I’d recommend Half-Life:Source if you were a big fan of Half-Life or have never played it. Otherwise, it is rather underwhelming. I still enjoyed it, though, and am now looking forward to how it should have been done with the community mod Black Mesa.

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