We Are The Lambda Generation. LambdaGeneration is a website dedicated to the video game Half-Life. ( We're basically really passionate about crowbars, headcrabs and anyone who has goatee with a PhD in theoretical physics… )

Introductions, Steam Pipes and Surface Tension: A Modding News Roundup

Modding & Development Half-Life

Hello! Welcome to the Modding and Development section, where we hope to bring you more news, reviews and discussion about the latest maps and mods than you can shake a Hammer at.

I’m MisterAddy, one of the new editors at LambdaGeneration. You may recognise me as a regular at PlanetPhillip.com and this very site, as well as being a long-time lurker on the Steam Forums. I am mostly a single-player gamer so I love everything Half-Life and Portal, and will help keep you up to date with community content to help ease the SP drought.

And I, hscsguy – co-editor of Modding and Development here at Lambda Generation – am assisting in the development of this monster of an article. Like MisterAddy, I too am a fan of single player games and mods alike with a fascination of Half Life 2 multiplayer mods on the side. I am pretty active over at the forums on Steam and avidly watch over the Source modding community to an embarrassing degree. And without further ado, I leave you with that exceedingly cliché phrase as we move on to the news you came here to read.

Introductions, Steam Pipes and Surface Tension: A Modding News Roundup

Whilst LambdaGeneration has been away, there’s been quite a surprising amount happening in the modding community. So much in fact, that we have accumulated this sizeable collection of news and miscellanea from the past few months. Please be warned, there is a potentially hazardous wall of text fast approaching as you read this. I hope you’re sitting comfortably…

End of the Line: PlanetPhillip Mapping Competition Draws to a Close

The 3×24 series was a three part level design competition on PlanetPhillip.com, the illustrious Half-Life map and mod website. Each competition represented either a Beginning, Middle, or End, the aim being to encourage entrants to create a complete mod.

modding-roundup-endville

EndVille, the third and final part, was released in late July. It includes three entries, varying quite significantly in approach, and all are well worth playing. Only one person, Tony DeBlasio entered all three ‘Villes with his Missed Flight series, an enjoyable experience whisking the player through forests, cities and canals. If you haven’t played EndVille or any of the preceding mods, now is definitely the time to get downloading and experience all three in order.

More recently, Phillip has been looking for skilled coders who would be willing to assist in improving the site. If you meet that description, why not head over to the project page and get involved?

SteamPipe Becomes Compulsory; Damages Mods’ Plumbing

Way back in February, Valve began rolling out a new system for delivering files over Steam, known as SteamPipe. It is intended to provide faster download times, and improve the load time of games themselves. Following a lengthy beta, the system has been made compulsory for Half-Life 2 and the Episodes, following Valve’s other multiplayer games.

modding-roundup-steampipe

Unfortunately for us, there have been more than a few unexpected repercussions. Firstly, the release has had an almost cataclysmic effect on the hundreds of existing Source mods, rendering almost all unplayable without jumping through a few hoops or hoping that the creators themselves are still around to release patches. Click here for our guide on how to get things working.

On the bright side, newly released mods are already compatible with the new format, and increasing numbers of updates for older ones are incoming. Here’s hoping that these events haven’t deterred too many people from using the Source SDK in future.

Surface Tension Uncut V2 – Released!

One year ago, something was released that blew Half-Life fans out of the water. Something they had been waiting on for years, wondering if it would ever see the light of day.  Yes, it’s been over one year since we discovered that Black Mesa was, in fact, going to be released before Valve ever managed to roll another Half-Life game out the door. But despite being welcomed with open arms by the community, and positively received by most, the mod did not come without its faults.

modding-roundup-surface-tension

One of the biggest criticisms of Black Mesa was that some of the chapters seemed to have been cut down a little too much, particularly Surface Tension. However, one talented member of the community made it their goal to change that. And so we now have a brilliant expansion appropriately dubbed “Surface Tension Uncut”, by Chon Kemp (or TextFAMGUY1, as he is known on ModDB and the Black Mesa: Source forums).

The ultimate goal of the project, as the author has put it, was to “emphasize the losing battle the HECU [were] fighting and bring back many of the memorable moments and sequences which were missing from Black Mesa’s incarnation, as well as adding its own unique flavour.“ Surface Tension Uncut was actually released last December, but Kemp has since released an updated version to bring the game up to a higher level of quality. You can find out more about the changes made in the update here.

Version 2.0 also comes with its share of bug fixes. Although, in my experience with playing the mod, it may not be immediately apparent after the now infamous SteamPipe update (see above). But the mod blends into Black Mesa’s campaign seamlessly, making the experience just that much more engrossing. Kemp has emulated the original developers’ style, while adding a touch of his “own unique flavour”, so well you’d hardly know you were playing an addon! You can download it here and view a full walkthrough video with commentary by the author below.

Also, feel free to check out Kemp’s other project, On a Rail Uncut, which seeks to add a sizable chunk of content onto Black Mesa’s “On a Rail” chapter in the same fashion as Surface Tension Uncut. The project is now in public beta and it may even be better than Surface Tension Uncut, which is quite a feat in and of itself.

Opposing Force Remake “Operation: Black Mesa”
Gets Greenlight

Surface Tension’s all well and good, but what if you always preferred Shephard to Freeman, Gonomes to Zombies, or PCVs to HEVs? Well you may be in luck thanks to Operation: Black Mesa receiving the Green Light on Steam.

O:BM is a complete re-imagining of Gearbox’s Half-Life: Opposing Force, currently under development by a group known as Tripmine Studios. According to their ModDB page, the genesis of the project was in Valve’s original announcement in 2004 that OpFor would be ported to the Source Engine, along with Half-Life: Source. The latter received a mixed reception from fans, as it failed to update the games ageing appearance, causing this team to take matters into their own hands.

As well as remaking all twelve chapters of the original expansion pack in a way that will “push the limits of the Source Engine”, the team are ambitiously planning to recreate the extended deathmatch element, with Opposing Force’s signature Capture the Flag to be added at a later date. Keep in mind that Operation: Black Mesa is a completely separate project from Black Mesa and not associated with that dev team. It seems a little unfair to constantly compare this mod to the almost miraculous success of its cousin BM:S, but all indications from the media released so far are positive that these modders can match that quality level.

Being Greenlit gives Tripmine the opportunity to discuss their project directly with Valve, and move towards a release on Steam. However it does not necessarily mean such a release is nearby, especially given that Black Mesa was among the first games to achieve Greenlit status last year and has still not been released on Steam. The devs themselves are planning to begin release of Operation: Black Mesa with a public multiplayer beta sometime in early 2014.

Until then, Shephard’s status: Detained, further evaluation pending.

Faceless Gets Its Own Steam Store Page

The Half Life 2 mod well known for making your pants heavier has jumped back into the spotlight…sorta. Faceless, previously known as Slender: Source, has emerged with its own store page on Steam after a period of uncertainty in the mod’s future. After an “indefinite postponement” was announced back in April, the project received a “partial reboot” in mid-July when members of the original team behind the mod began recruiting new members to help finish the project.

modding-roundup-faceless

Sklarlight Presents is well underway with finishing the standalone version of Faceless for the Steam release, however they are still in need of an AI programmer. So if you know anyone or you yourself might be interested, feel free to check out their job ad. As you can imagine, the mod is not ready to be downloaded from Steam yet. But once the beta is ready, you can bet there will be a slew of fans will be at the ready to download it in a hurry and test out the latest build.

You can find the announcement post here where links to their Steam group, Community Hub, and Steam page can be found. And please head over to their Moddb page to show them your suppo…it’s suddenly gotten very cold in here…what’s that suited figure standing at the end of the str…….[CONNECTION LOST]

“Silent Hill: Alchemilla” Demo Quietly Arrives

If that previous article hasn’t left you quaking in your boots, perhaps playing something for yourself will do the trick.

modding-roundup-alchemilla

Fans of Konami’s survival horror franchise Silent Hill have endeavoured to recreate the experience in the Source Engine. Their mod, Silent Hill: Alchemilla (named after the creepy hospital appearing in the original), focuses on recreating the atmosphere of the games and their psychological approach to horror. Whilst inspired by the series, Alchemilla will form a “completely original story” which appears to make heavy use of complex and surreal puzzles in its gameplay. The team is using a huge amount of custom content to make a fresh experience that will hopefully appeal to both fans of the original and new players.

Interested? The mod is still in active development, but fortunately you can give it a try now as a demo has just been released. Download it here from their ModDB page, where you can also check out media from the rest of the game. The demo itself is quite a large experience, as players explore an expansive building and try to make sense of their situation. However, it’s worth noting that it lacks the weapons and monsters that will be found in the final mod to focus solely on puzzles. Released alongside the demo is a portion of the game’s original soundtrack, providing an appropriately mysterious backdrop to what could be a fantastically terrifying mod.

“Want some Crysis in your Half-Life?”; SMOD: Crylife Public Beta Released

And now for something completely different… two years in development and four years forming in the mind of the author, SMOD: Crylife is now available for the public to test out for themselves.

modding-roundup-smod

The mod brings many of the mechanics that are so well known to the Crysis series by Crytek. Such as the Nanosuit abilities like cloaking, “maximum strength”, and “maximum speed” and the well known in-game weapon customization.

Through technical difficulties and the growing pains of SteamPipe, Crylife has prevailed and brought new life into the HEV Suit’s functionality. Though, the mod is still very much in beta, so not everything is at 100% polish, but the concept alone is just enough reason for you to check it out for yourself. You can learn more about the project here. Also, feel free to check out the semi-related project by the developer, Dev. Muffin, Project: 404 on Moddb.

No More Room In Hell…Well, Enough Room For Beta Testers

To wrap things up, 2011’s Multiplayer Mod of the Year and one of Half Life 2’s first mods to be Greenlit on Steam (and one of the first titles to be Greenlit on Steam, period), No More Room In Hell has entered closed beta testing for its Steam release. Just before Halloween 2011, NMRIH was released to the public to critical acclaim and a massive number of downloads.

As a cooperative-survival-horror FPS built on the Source engine, it’s impressive that the mod stood up against many of its peers. It’s even more impressive that it blew them out of the water…..or more aptly, blew their brain matter all over the wall. Too much?

This isn’t your average ‘zombie-shoot-’em-up’, because it isn’t one. NMRIH pits you against the undead with very limited supplies in a variety of eerie, atmospheric locales with the simple goal to survive and get to safety. Not to mention, the zombies are not very intimidated by bullets, so unless you put one between the eyes, they’ll just laugh as the shamble towards your quaking boots.

The mod plays on your sense of fight or flight, where some times the best solution to a problem is avoiding it at all costs. Certainly something you don’t see much in these days and it’s good to see that there are those who are still interested in what actually makes a survival-horror game horrifying and about…well…surviving!

Subsequently, the team have released a new trailer for the game, as well as something different – “Let’s Survive”, a playthrough of the latest build by the developers, giving us a chance to see some more of what’s to come.

I’m sure many are eager to see the Steam build of the mod and if you can get in on the closed beta, you may be able to get a sneak peak in advance. You can find more information about it here. In the mean time, who’s up for some hardcore, zombie-killing action?

Extroduction

Well, that about brings us to the end of this roundup. Whilst some of this news may not be the most… recent, we feel that it was still worth promoting some of the great projects that are often overlooked. But don’t despair, for this is only the beginning! Keep an eye on the Modding & Development section for regular updates – Valve time permitting. Feel free to leave a comment and let us know what you’d like to see here in the future.

2 Comments

  1. The link about fixing SteamPipe mods isn’t working. Here, I have usefull one: http://steamcommunity.com/app/420/discussions/0/864971765497379056/

    • Apologies, that’s because it’s a link to an article that isn’t up yet. It will be available in a couple of days, at which point it will be on the main page.

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