Two days ago, new gameplay footage from Black Mesa: Source’s “On A Rail” was leaked to the Internet. The footage came from a mod build about 4-5 weeks old, but in a testament to the BM:S team’s perseverence and dedication, it appears they will be changing a great deal in the mod, based off community feedback to the leaked video. Read on to find out more!
Reactions were mixed overall, but there was also a surprising amount of constructive criticism to be found. In a forum post on the official BM:S forums, lead level designer Daniel “Raminator” Junek announced exactly what the team is changing and modifying within the mod itself, in order to address the feedback they’ve received as a result of the footage leak.
- We’ve made the ironsights functionality an option that you can choose in the main menu, it’s on by default.
- We previously had two sets of voices for human grunts; a deeper, more gruff one for commanders, and a younger, cleaner one for regular grunts and medics. We’ve now given regular grunts the badass gruff voice as well, and all voices have had a radio-static filter applied. As a result, all human grunts now wear gasmasks.
- We are re-recording the human grunts scripted dialogue (i.e. scripted sequences, not their idle/combat chatter).
- We have replaced the song in this battle with an alternate track, one that’s darker and more aggressive.
Later on, Raminator made a second statement, shedding some more light on the what, why and how of these new changes:
Will these changes delay the release of the mod?
No. Like I said yesterday, these changes have already been made. All of the things I listed were either already underway or very trivial to implement. Adding the option for iron sights involved a few lines of code, changing the grunt voices required a quick batch effect, giving the grunts gasmasks only needed a few lines of scripting to be removed, only a few lines of dialogue were re-recorded. The net effect on the release date is basically nonexistent.
Why are you suddenly caving in to the community?
It’s not a case of caving in to popular demand or compromising our own artistic vision. Some of the points that were brought up were either things we had considered ourselves, or things that we had not noticed. We wouldn’t have made these changes if we didn’t agree with them, or if they were contrary to what we had previously tried to do.
So what’s going to happen to the grunt’s voices?
I think people have mistaken what I said earlier about the grunt’s voices. There isn’t going to be any less variety in the voice acting; there were two voices before (commanders, grunts/medics), there are still two voices now (commanders/grunts, medics). Commanders and grunts now use the same gruff voice, while medics use the cleaner voice. Both sets of voices have the radio filter applied, irrespective of whether they are wearing a gasmask or not. If you need to rationalise it, the commanders and medics are wearing throatmikes.
What’s going to happen to the grunt’s faces?
- All human grunts still use the face-creation system to randomly select their facial features, skin colour, equipment loadout, etc.
- The vast majority of grunts wore gasmasks before, so it’s not a significant change for them all to have it. There isn’t really a sudden lack of diversity brought on about this change.
- Commanders and medics will always have their faces visible.
- You never get to observe the grunts up close like you do with scientists and security guards, what with them trying to kill you and all. If you feel the need to inspect dead bodies to make sure they’re unique, you’ve got bigger problems than a video game.
Will we be able to listen to or use the old song?
Yes. The song will be available for download alongside the rest of the soundtrack, and you can easily slot it back in to the game (it was designed to fit in here anyway).
Elsewhere on the forums, Joel Nielsen, sound designer for BM:S, explains that the changes are not being made simply due to overwhelming community pressure. They are being made because many of the community criticisms carried enough weight to provide the BM:S team with solid developmental reasons to apply the changes.
There’s nothing wrong with critique. The grunt ‘com static’ change is good for the game. Dehumanizing and separating the grunts from the other humans (sound wise) was something we should have already done.
And again, in another forum post, responding to a fan question about including all government soldier voice sets in the game:
I don’t think it’s wise. All the grunts should sound like a grunt. (which is what the static filter is doing) If you come to a corner, and you hear static chatter, you should expect to be doing some killing.
Well, sounds very good, indeed. Adding gasmasks to all government troops will not only give them a more distinctive and inhuman appearance, but will also ensure they are visually distinct from both squad leaders and medics. And while the leaders and soldiers will now sound the same, this will provide an interesting callback to Half-Life 1 itself. And besides, the grunts desperately needed manlier, more imposing voices anyway.
But as long as they get the classic radio filter sound back in there, making the military just as memorable and just as interesting as Valve made them back in 1998? I do think it’s all for the best!
Let’s understand that BM:S remains unreleased for the time being, and that the team certainly seems to still be commited to providing a worthy re-imagining of the original Half-Life, through continually applying meaningful changes to the mod itself. Therefore, anything can, and quite possibly will change in the interim. Remember that these guys have no budget at all – time is their only resource, and they need as much of it as they can get in order to offer us something worthy of the Half-Life mantle.
And at this point, I’d dare say that the video leak might have actually been a good thing for the mod itself, believe it or not. Otherwise, I’m not so sure the team might have realized just how important applying these changes is. Especially when the feedback comes from the fan community that they’re developing the mod for in the first place.