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Black Mesa: Source’s First Release Out On 14th September In Two Weeks, Will Not Include Xen

Modding & Development Half-Life

Update: This article has been updated with further information on the upcoming first release of Black Mesa: Source. Check it all out, within!


You may or may not know that the work I do, especially here, tends to demand some pretty crazy late night hours of me. Consequently, I might sleep in worse than Gordon Freeman himself (after all, we can all imagine why he was late for that faithful experiment).

And sometimes, it so happens that the universe itself will directly conspire against my sleepy ways.

Like now.

Black Mesa: Source’s First Release Out On 14th September In Two Weeks, Will Not Include Xen

In an official announcement on the BM:S forums, project leader Carlos “Cman2k” Montero announced that after almost eight years in development, the first release of Black Mesa: Source is actually nearly upon us. No, seriously.

We’re freaking out over here! It is so exciting to share this news with you!

  • You can now Download the Black Mesa Soundtrack, courtesy of our very own Joel Nielsen, at the very generous price of whatever you want! Enjoy and share!
  • In the near future you’ll see our Website, Wiki and Forums all taken down temporarily for renovations.
  • On September 14th you will see the first release of Black Mesa! This will include our re-envisioning of Half-Life all the way up to Lambda Core. We believe this is a great way to provide a complete-feeling 8-10 hour experience with a solid ending, make our fans happy and help us make the best overall game possible.

We are still working hard on Xen and BMDM, but instead of making you wait we are giving you Black Mesa as soon as it’s ready! We’re doing our best to help bring the immense vision of this project into reality, and we are very excited for what the future brings!

High-Fives Yo,
Carlos Montero – Project Leader

I am now getting reports of new pig species capable of short-range flight, and blizzard temperatures somewhere within the lower regions of Inferno.

The official Black Mesa homepage now shows a large countdown, ticking down to Friday, the 14th of September, at 2:47 PM UTC/GMT (which is 3:47 PM in BST). It also features a re-written rendition of Gordon Freeman’s original Black Mesa employment letter, now featuring a number of very clever references to the mod itself, as well as its release status.

The rest of the site is undergoing renovation, and trying to access other sections will bring you to some outlandish 404 pages. The BM:S forums themselves have been renovated, with a very fancy new theme that cycles through different never-before-seen images of the mod itself.

So, yeah! A pseudo-episodic release, splitting the game up into a large Earth section, and a Xen section. That is what we’ll be getting on the 14th of September: the whole thing, starting from Black Mesa Inbound, and ending at precisely the moment the player enters the portal to Xen at the top of the Lambda Complex. The second release, containing everything past that point (so all of Xen, including the mod’s actual ending), will come at a later, yet-undisclosed date.

Well, I’d definitely say it’s a great idea. Separating these two almost entirely different chunks of the game as much as possible, is something which should certainly have been attempted even if work on Xen had already been completed. Because Xen is not only an entirely different part of the game’s progression, it represents a completely different dimension!

See Also: Black Mesa’s Gift on Half Life’s Anniversary Is That It’s Going Retail!

The gameplay, the stylistics – almost everything in Xen stands on its own. It is completely different from everything that comes before it, and with that in mind, turning it into a distinct section of the mod will work a lot better, especially in terms of game pacing. They’re not forcefully amputating the mod’s ending, simply doing what’s necessary: separating two completely and fundamentally different sections of the game in a more distinct and cohesive fashion than just a chapter title and a mapload.

It makes a lot of sense, both from a logistic standpoint (work on Xen is not yet done; and feedback from the Earth section of the game will help improve the Xen component), and from a game design standpoint (as I have explained above).

Besides, we’ll probably still get that first glimpse of Xen during the Anomalous Materials teleport sequence! And it’ll probably make for a lovely sneak peek at what’s to come in the future.

Meanwhile, on the HL2 Steam Forums, level designer Chris “Stormseeker” Horn also gave some extra detail regarding this upcoming release:

It is precisely to avoid cutting corners on this that the decision was made to split the game here. The assets for Xen are so fundamentally different from the ones in the earthbound sections of the game, we would have had issues with consistency and focus whilst finishing up the non alien stuff.

He also says that the 8-10 hour timeframe offered within Carlos’ statement is a more conservative estimate of how the average gamer might go through BM:S.

He adds that his most recent playthrough took him about 14 hours. And let’s consider the fact that he’s previously played over 500-600 hours of the mod, as well as having done work on pretty much every single map within the mod itself.

So don’t fret! I’m almost certain that Black Mesa will be just as long, if not even longer than the original Half-Life.

Elsewhere, in another post on the Steam Forums, Stormseeker talks more about why Xen has been separated from the main game, and how it will function in a standalone manner:

We decided to hold off on releasing Xen with it, as it differs so much asset wise from the main game. We’re already working on Xen, and it will be more of a complete game in its own way, greatly expanded in detail and purpose, whilst retaining the original storyline accurately. Think of it as an episode along with the Black Mesa Deathmatch release.

Sounds great! I always thought Xen deserved to be fleshed out more!

And lead level designer Daniel “Raminator” Junek, posting on the official Black Mesa forums, also offered us some insight into the how and why of the Xen divide.

Development on xen is already underway and we hope to have it finished up in a reasonable timeframe. Xen is going to basically be a complete game in its own right, it’s not going to be just an epilogue to the game; more of a whole new chapter. It’ll be pretty well expanded.

Which sounds very promising, indeed! I’d actually say that the only problem is… well, what are they going to call this thing?

Let’s see… Episode Xen? The Xen Encounter? Black Mesa: Xen? Just “Xen“? Maybe… Black Mesa 2? I wouldn’t be surprised if naming that thing turns out to be harder than actually developing it!

In any case, alongside this glorious announcement, Black Mesa: Source’s soundtrack has gone live. It has been released for free, but you can include an optional donation – and I encourage you all to do so. You can also find the whole soundtrack on Joel’s official YouTube channel.

Downloading is currently understandably sluggish, however, so hopefully Joel and co. offer us some more mirrors relatively soon. Here’s his statement concerning the soundtrack’s release:

“After seven years, hundreds of hours and too many song revisions to count, the Black Mesa Soundtrack is finally released. Faced with the impossible task of creating a soundtrack that will pay homage to Half Life 1 and the millions of fans worldwide, I have made production choices that some will most likely question. From a slightly different perspective, I have tried to bring what I feel is the essence of Half Life, to Black Mesa.

I had no prior experience composing soundtracks. Creating the sound effects was a challenge all on its own, but the music was a far greater task than I initially anticipated. Luckily for me, the lengthy development cycle gave me time to learn and experiment with a lot of different ideas.

I wanted to try new musical genres and styles in Black Mesa, while still maintaining a Half Life “feel”. A few song re-makes were attempted, but there is no point in re-making something that is already a classic. I know I risk much composing a soundtrack so different, but I am hoping the community will come to like it almost as much as the original.”

– Joel Nielsen

I’ve listened to quite a few songs so far. It’s definitely not what you’d expect from a Half-Life soundtrack; there’s a greater variety of musical instruments being used, and they are used in a much more pervasive manner. This gives it a completely different tone and style from both Kelly Bailey and Chris Jensen’s works. If you load it up expecting electro-industrial, then you might be more than a bit disappointed.

But then again, is electro-industrial really that important to Half-Life? As long as it meshes with the game’s fiction, its visuals, its stylistics, and the on-screen action… does everything really need to sound like it came out of a computer? Is it that imperative to the overall Half-Life experience? I very seriously doubt that.

I mean, as much as I absolutely adore electronica and industrial in general, I also realize that a more human-sounding style is not only more appealing, but also more varied, more diverse, and more interesting overall.

In any case, the BM:S soundtrack actually employs the use of many different styles, and borrows elements and motifs from many different musical genres. You may recognize a few of the songs from some of the older samples that were posted online by the team long ago, though they’ve been changed up and modified extensively – for the better, I’d say.

Needless to say, I do quite like the soundtrack. It’s very well done, and you can tell a lot of effort and a lot of thought has been put into its creation. Above all else, it’s absolutely awesome to listen to.

But the jury is still out on how it’ll actually function within the mod itself, and whether or not it’ll mesh as well with the game fiction and gameplay as well as Kelly Bailey and Chris Jensen’s works did. Let’s hope it does!

Still, if you think you can wait it out, I would actually suggest not listening to the soundtrack, and simply waiting until the mod is out. It’ll definitely help keep your experience as fresh as possible, and after over a half-decade of waiting, I’d say we all deserve the best experience we can possibly get out of Black Mesa!

What else is there to add? Well, not much. However, just a few days ago, the team released 6 awesome new screenshots, alongside the release of a brief interview with Polygon – that’s something you may or may not have missed. Funny how no one had any idea that days after that interview went live, this would happen!

But I’m sure we can expect more media over the next two weeks, including some official gameplay video. Stay tuned, as we’ll keep you updated on any and all new developments regarding the mod’s release.

51 Comments

  1. we need a other version of Black Mesa Source without steam (for those that can’t Activate Steam). A Version Steam and a Version Stand-alone(no-steam)…

    • No, I’m afraid that’s not going to happen. Half-Life and the Source SDK are Steam-exclusive releases. Therefore, Black Mesa will also require Steam.

  2. Great, this had to be released right as my summer break ended…

  3. Black Mesa is now officially on Steam’s Greenlight:

    http://steamcommunity.com/sharedfiles/filedetails/?id=94128543

    • Yep, this is an official posting, made by the development team itself. They’re certainly promising some surprisingly tantalizing features, as part of Steamworks functionality support!

      • Hey, Vic, What about updading this article again with this news :).
        Upddating this article with this news, could help people know about the Greenlight quest. What you think? 🙂
        Thanks.

  4. Isn’t it just Black Mesa now? Not Black Mesa: Source anymore…

  5. One little question: Where’s the replaced track that was in the leaked gameplay video. It doesn’t seem to be in the official album release. They said you’d be able to replace the new track with the old one, but itsa not in dat der album… maybe it’ll be in the game files, IDK. :/

    Anyways, can’t wait!

  6. Wow, this is great news, specially for me, because I haven’t played HL1, so I was really hoping that I could play it with some enhanced graphics!! But what about Episode 3?? I was sure we would get some official announcement and BOOM, nothing happened… I guess valve is too worried making left4dead 3 or something

  7. Great news and greatly informative article!!!
    Joking thought: episodic format? Oh boy. This is not going to end well!

  8. This is great news! As someone who bought HL1 retail, (remember when we bought games retail, and actually got physical media?), all those years ago when it was new, I am super excited about this.

    And frankly, to heck with Xen. I hated the whole Xen experience, and thought it was the worst part of the game. Not to mention, it was virtually impossible to complete without cheating, even with the walkthrough that explained everything.

    • Wut?!

      • I actually have to agree, at least somewhat – those unbelievably tedious jumping puzzles, and the almost constant lack of ammunition made Xen a really painful experience in Half-Life 1.

        • I agree it was not easy and I myself kept dying a lot, but calling it virtually impossible is a bit of a stretch don’t you think?

          I’m not trying to be mean to the guy or anything, just thought the statement was too silly.

  9. In fact, Vic.
    This version should be in the starting and ending of Half Life 2 Episode Three.

  10. All this talk about classic soundtracks brings me the memory of the great – DJ Dain – That long train ride from Half life 2.

    This is the greatest classic of the Half Life games:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DRqLquSKVhU

    • Oh, yeah. There have been so many fan remixes and variations of the original “Triage at Dawn”, but “That Long Train Ride” is just absolutely unforgettable.

  11. Xen gets it’s own spin-off show.

    Everybody Loves Xen.

    Xenfeld.

    Xen in the Middle.

  12. About Xen
    I think this, the Xen section, is one of the very few aspects of Half Life that everyone agrees with that it should have a refreshment and improvement on the excellent, but short, original chapters. Xen is awesome for its wary, strangeness and scary scenery. So the Xen section deserves all the best in terms of improvement. It will certainly be awesome to see.

  13. OOOOW GUYS Let’s begin the party!!!

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHg5SJYRHA0

  14. Or, maybe, i would have uses the office complex theme in both the Office complex and lambda core sections, since it´s such a beatiful music as it´s the On a rail part.

  15. It´s an excellent news and Soundtrack, indeed.

    On the soundtrack, only one little thing.

    I would have chosen the Office Complex music in the Lambda Core section and the Lambda Core section in the Office Complex section.

    Lambda Core is a pivotal part of the game and i think that the music chosen is not up to the task, while the Office Complex music is, and other musics of the soundtrack, for that matter.
    But i guess i would only know, for sure, when i see the gameplay of tha part of the game.

    Yet, i would have chosen other excellent parts of the Soundtrack to use on the Lambda core section. Anyways, congratulations for the Soundtrack and for the release.

    • I took the liberty of correcting those errors for you.
      In any case, I can see (rather, hear) what you mean! While I dig the music they’ve selected for Lambda Core (it’s very engaging, very thrilling, and sounds really great), I think it lacks some of the more memorable motifs that Joel uses throughout the rest of the soundtrack – and those motifs would have served as some really significant, and perhaps, quite meaningful callbacks to what we’d accomplished and fought for throughout the rest of the mod; which I guess would have made Lambda Core sound a bit more epic.
      I suppose LC was rather neglected within HL1’s overall narrative and progression. It represents one of the most pivotal, and important points in the entire series, but yet it largely boils down to pressing a few buttons, hopping through some teleporters, and then shooting even more aliens.
      Of course, this is largely due to HL1’s primitive game design, so I can only hope it has been rectified for BM:S.

      • Thanks Vic.
        And yes, it´s exactly what you said.
        And yet, it´s the exact moment where the player is just going to leave earth and to start searching for the origin of the anomaly in Xen.
        Anyways, i would have used the Office complex or other part of the soundtrack, but we would have to wait and see what the gameplay works like.
        The soundtrack is impressive, indeed.

        • The Questionable ethics song is awesome, aswell.

          • Yeah, there’s a lot of goldies in here! To be perfectly honest, I’ve had the playlist on repeat for a pretty long while now – almost longer than I can remember.
            That’s another great thing about it – it’s a lot more listenable, replayable, and digestible than most video game soundtracks, and that includes some of Valve’s work.

  16. Time to return to the test
    chamberrrrrr

  17. Amazing news!! I’m so exited!! Have been waiting for these for years!! (like everyone). I don’t mind not seeing Xen, I don’t mind waiting for something like these, the perfection demands time. Thanks for the news!

  18. Yay. I get to play this game when I get home from school that day :3 That will be the best Friday ever!

  19. Wow… this is incredible news!

    I do strongly hope that they wont neglect Xen though While those levels may not have been as popular as the Earth ones, they’re still part of the Half-Life experience and story.

  20. Glad to finally see the day this is released, although I’m going to be on holiday for a week at the time or release.

    Been listening to the soundtrack and I’m very impressed!

  21. Please give Joel as much of a donation as you can. What he does isn’t easy, and writing a solid soundtrack is probably the toughest part of making the game. You have to account for so much to make it fit perfectly. Not to mention musicians are neglected so much. Give this man at least $10, or even $20 to help him out.

  22. Finally, now is hour to focus on The Third Episode, or the Half-Life 3!

  23. IMPOSSIBRU

  24. YAY

  25. Oh, god. Oh god. Oh god oh god oh god ohgodohgodohogod *BOOM*

    Mind=blown. Seriously can’t wait for this.

  26. BTW, 2:47 GMT equals 8:47 AM in New Mexico timezone.

    • How clever of them! Thanks for letting us know.

    • that’s the time when Gordon got to the work ?

      • It’s the exact time at which Half-Life begins, mere moments after Gordon embarks a Black Mesa tram.
        He only arrived at the Anomalous Materials labs 5 minutes later, at roughly 8:52 AM. That’s when he really got to work, and by that point, the crystal sample analysis/experiment was over 30 minutes overdue.

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