Focalpoint is a GoldSrc mod for Half-Life 1 (using content from Half-Life: Opposing Force) that was released in 2012 by Dimitri Vujicic, also known online as ‘Hundred’.
The story opens with a cinematic sequence following a US HECU marine on a mission to investigate a crashed Osprey near the Black Mesa Research Facility. In the process, he travels through the inner workings of Black Mesa, eventually leading him to the infamous Sector C test labs.
In addition to the back-story, Focalpoint’s gameplay is full of exciting combat sequences and inventive puzzles that are of a level design quality rarely found in free mods. The surrounding architecture, despite using many typical Half-Life textures, provides an immersive sense of depth and detail that makes the maps feel like real physical structures which could actually exist somewhere in the New Mexico desert.
In one area, the player explores a waste processing facility. Not only does it look fantastic, but the entire level serves as one vast environmental puzzle that must be solved to continue. It’s the kind of level design that made Valve’s own chapters such as Blast Pit so successful and iconic.
Much of Focalpoint’s success is down to Dimitri’s choice to move the focus away from heavy combat to instead give us more room to explore and more environmental challenges to overcome. This decision has given us the opportunity for a more rich interaction with the world of Half-Life, from traversing beautiful desert canyons, to riding a barrel of toxic waste, to watching a scientist chased by a runaway freight cart, to even witnessing an entire landscape be devastated by a huge alien ship.
And when GoldSrc can be the home to such stunning locales and fun gameplay, it’s easy to understand why modders still insist on using it – and why Half-Life mods remain so popular.
We were fortunate to have the opportunity to ask Dimitri a few questions about the mod.
Firstly, can you give us an idea of how you came up with the idea for Focalpoint, and how long development took?
When I started working on the mod, I hadn’t any concept or storyline. I had some setpieces and scenes in mind, that I loved to create in Goldsource. My very first object was the chinook helicopter. What to do with it? I had no clue. The idea of a soldier getting involved in the Resonance Cascade issue came later during mapping. I tried to find a plausible reason to reactivate the devastated Anti-Mass Spectrometer. Also I liked the idea of exploring other parts of the machine, finding out that the machine is actually huge – even reaching to surface. During the time of mapping there were periods where I was not mapping at all. Also I redesigned many maps completely, because I didn’t like them afterwards.
Overall [the mod took me] about six years to complete.
Focalpoint contains over 30 maps, which is a huge amount of content for one person to manage! What kind of challenges did you face in putting together something of this scale?
There were MANY challenges and issues. I mostly exceeded the limits of any parameters. (Map was too big, too many details…) Some scripted scenes took me plenty of time to accomplish. The destruction of the Osprey by the flying saucer is one of them. And there are still some scripted things that do not work completely properly. Other mechanisms worked fine on testmaps, but once I copied the stuff into my real map, it didn’t work anymore. I faced so many issues during that time that didn’t make any sense to me and that I still do not understand. Those and other weird issues drove me crazy. But I’ve learned so much by dealing with these challenges.
For me one thing that makes this mod stand out is the huge set-pieces that appear throughout – things like the attacking alien spacecraft. Could you briefly explain how you managed to achieve something that looks so complex in the Half-Life engine?
Sure, the engine has its limits. But within those limits there is a lot more possible than one expects. I basically tried the most things out. Many maps are on the edge of limits. The size of objects such as the alien ships are given by the editor. Being able to fly at least a small distance, the ship may not be bigger than a quarter of the entire map. Most things that look complex are achieved by using entities (doors, trains…), that are not supposed to work for this purpose. But this is the way many things in Half Life are created.
Do you have a favorite moment or location in the mod?
No. I tried to make each section in the mod to be a small gem. Nevertheless there’re many parts that deserve more details and more “life”. I wouldn’t pick a single moment to be my favourite.
But the “Alien-Dreadnought” wiping out the surface-facilities is one of the higher ones.
If someone reading this wanted to make their own mod for Half-Life 1, what advice would you give them?
If you’re an unexperienced mapper, I recommend to start with a single room. Read basic tutorials and: Try things out! Focus on a small but polished mod to get experience. If one has the time, check other mods out. You can learn so much from mappers that have unique ideas and concepts.
If you’re planning to create a “full” mod, my advice would be to have a raw concept or storyline. That saves you time. I personally appreciate unique aspects of a mod. It’s difficult to write a whole “new” story. But instead of running through plain hallways shooting one enemy after another, there’s so much potential to create something attractive. I recommend to have a look at some of those fantastic, yet completely different mods out there to get an overview of what is possible.
Are you making another mod at the moment or do you plan to in the future?
A big part of me would love to. I do have some ideas and concepts. But it takes so much time to create a polished mod which separates itself a bit from others. I do not have the calmness to sit in front of my computer for hours again. Maybe someday
Download Focalpoint: ModDB | PlanetPhillip
Let us know about your experience with Focalpoint in the comments below and remember to recommend it on PlanetPhillip or ModDB if you enjoyed it!
Previous Community Spotlight: Half-Life 3: Awaiting Assignment by Tom Bennet
Around the International Community
Valve News Network - Half Life Focalpoint Mod Review
PlanetPhillip - Audio Interview with Dimitri Vujicic