This is a huge surprise to the community at large, and even the Black Mesa dev team themselves, that Valve has given the team the opportunity to release Black Mesa, the fan-made recreation of Half-Life, Valve’s pride and joy, as a full retail product on Steam. That means that the game will not only be available for sale, but that the team has full access to the Source Engine. Including all of the content that is unavailable in the SDK!
There has been rumors and speculation surrounding the development of Black Mesa since its launch last year, as many members of the dev team have explained that they could not reveal much information about development as they were under a strict NDA with Valve. It was believed that it was merely part and parcel of the Greenlight process, but it’s now clear that the story is much bigger than that. Well, technically, it did have something to do with Greenlight, but it was more than what most people imagined.
See Also: Black Mesa: Source’s First Release Out On 14th September, Will Not Include Xen
Being allowed to release a fan made recreation of someone else’s IP for sale is virtually unheard of in the gaming industry, or any industry for that matter. And the fact that it was Valve who made the offer is even more astounding! According to project leader Carlos Montero, the team did not create the mod with making money in mind. People joined the project for the sake of helping make the project come to life, viewing it “purely [as] a labor of love.” As such, the decision to accept Valve’s offer was difficult to say the least.
Didn’t see that one coming…
But after over eight long years of development, the choice to sell Black Mesa came down to two very logical reasons. One being that having full access to Source will allow them to modify tools and fix problems and limitations rather than work around them. And the other being that after so many people have put so much time and effort into making this project a reality, they deserved at least some level of compensation. Ultimately, this decision benefits the community no matter which way you slice it.
The final release will be a vastly improved version of Black Mesa, on a graphical and functional scale. The community will still receive a completely free version running on the Source 2013 SDK Base. The game will include “open source … maps and some game assets [for] the modding community”. There is also some hope that the free version of the mod will be open source and that the retail game will include open source Client.dll and Server.dll files (in other words, just enough code to create stellar mods with, but not enough to truly modify the engine just as the current SDK is set up). This, however, is the hopes and plans expressed by the lead programmer, Deniz Sezen. These are things that must be discussed with Valve and are not currently finalized, so don’t expect this to become a reality.
But you can hope as much as you want.
I want to believe…
You may be wondering what the state of the Xen chapters are. Well, unfortunately, they’re “still a ways off.” Porting the game over to a new engine has taken a tremendous amount of time over the past year. That means that not the entirety of their efforts have been on completing Xen. This may come as a disappointment to fans, but the engine jump was a requirement of the agreement between the team and Valve after being Greenlit on Steam. So this was something that had to be done and likely would have delayed the release of Xen regardless of whether it was near completion or not. And this in no way means that Xen is canned! As Carlos Montero states, “…please be patient with us as we work to make Xen a stunning and worthy conclusion to Black Mesa. Until Xen is completed, we have multiple interesting additions planned for the Steam version of Black Mesa, which we will announce later on down the road.” So relax, the team still wants us to take Gordon Freeman on his alien-world adventure.
This one’s gonna be a doozy…
Before I come to the end of this article, I want to address a pretty massive question that has been looming around this announcement. According to this post by Deniz Sezen on the announcement thread, the free version of the mod is in fact running on Source SDK 2013, but the Steam release was ported to a “new engine”. The more interesting part about this is he says that he “can’t tell [us] what that engine is due to our licensing agreement” with Valve. This statement has led some people to speculate what this engi – you know, I’m gonna stop beating around the bush here: some people are wondering if this means it’s running on Source 2. The team hasn’t commented on the matter, because they can’t, but I’ll be honest here, it most likely is not.
The announcement post suggested that it was simply a newer version of the Source engine and nothing more than that. Likely similar to the version of Source that the recently released Stanley Parable is using. But the fact that the team are so tight lipped about what version of Source they are using (other than it is an engine made by Valve) instead of just saying ‘it’s a more recent version Source’ does make one wonder what details they have yet to unveil. Or they are simply being as quite as possible on the details as they are afraid of breaking any part of the seemingly strict NDA they have with Valve. Probably a bit of both if you think about it.
It’s still going to be a long road ahead…
So, the long and short of it is:
- Valve has offered the team the chance to release Black Mesa on Steam
- The team have done a lot of thinking and accepted the offer
- There will be a free version of Black Mesa; fully updated and on the Source 2013 SDK Base – it will be released shortly after the Steam release, but will not be distributed on Steam like its retail counter-part.
- Both versions of the mod will be “as moddable as possible”, but there are no clear answers as to just how modifiable they will be.
- Xen is still a way off, but is very much being worked on
- The retail version is on an undisclosed engine/version of Source
Future updates from the team will be exciting to say the least as we hope for some new media in the near future and some clarification as to the modding abilities of both versions of Black Mesa. And hopefully a crystal clear answer as to what version of Source this thing is running on! Because I really don’t want to be wading through tons of pointless Source 2 speculation articles on the Steam forums between now and the official unveiling of the new and improved Black Mesa.
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