If there’s one thing Source modders love to do, it’s develop Source Engine remakes of… well, just about everything, including the original Half-Life 1 series. We all know about Black Mesa Source, the HL1 remake/poster boy for vaporware development - but there are two mod remakes in development for Gearbox’s classic HL1 expansions as well: Operation Black Mesa (in development since mid-2007) and Guard Duty (in development since early 2009).
Courtesy of PlanetPhillip, we now have an official reveal from the teams behind OBM and Guard Duty – they have joined their forces, pooled their efforts, and merged into one development team: Tripmine Studios. Let’s check it out!
The news comes via a very lengthy interview Phillip did with MR.Sugar, EvilGoodGuy, and OddEyes of the OBM and Guard Duty development teams - or, to call them by their new name, “Tripmine Studios”, which they have bestowed upon their new development studio, which will be developing both projects as one team effort.
Phillip: Before we begin, we have this World Exclusive Announcement: Operation Black Mesa and Guard Duty are joining forces! Let’s clarify this. They are not merging into one mod, they are merging their teams in an effort to ensure consistancy of design across both mods. They will be sharing assets and maybe even team members. Have I got that right? Actually, how would you put it?
MR.sugar: “Pretty much what you say. What’s going on right now is that we are one team, Tripmine Studios, working on two projects. We share content, assignments, ideas, suggestions and feedback across both projects. Still, both mod projects are independent on each other in terms of release date.
We expect that this will put off some weight from our arms and will help us to get done both mods faster. On the top of that, there will be that consistency, so both mods will feel like they are really from the same universe. And I think this is good news for all the people who are eagerly expecting remakes from Half-Life universe.”
The teams merged approximately 3 months ago, and work has been going very smoothly. However, there will be certain issues with consistency, as the two mods each have their own distinct renditions of the classic HL1 enemies. While things like textures or models pass more easily through the consistency process, things like conflicts between OBM’s bullsquid and Guard Duty’s bullsquid will be tougher to take care of. The team is playing around with the idea of having one mod’s rendition represent the female version, and vice-versa, but I’m not so sure this might work.
There have been a few complications – especially in one department:
Phillip: I presume that both team leaders remain in control of their own team. Is that right?
MR.sugar: “Not at this point. The leader of Operation Black Mesa is currently out of our reach due to personal problems. The fun fact is he even has no idea we merged, at least as far as I know, he is not aware of this. It will be big surprise for him when he comes back. I hope he will come back….”
That’s strange. Let’s hope he’ll be cool with it when he returns among us!
Phillip: Will the merger delay the release of either mod?
MR.sugar: I expect the exact opposite. I expect both mods will be released earlier due to the merge. Both mods gained new assets and new team members just in couple of days. That boosted the progress nicely. [...]
Phillip: OBM’s last media update was April 2011. Why such a long silence?
OddEyes: “We have prepares several images for the end of the last year. Since it was decided, that we merge the teams, we hold back our media for this exact event. This way it’s a much bigger impact, than releasing images once in a while.”
Sounds pretty neat! Let’s hope we get to reap the visual benefits (i.e. fancy media releases) of this merge soon enough! The team has even been taking a few cues from Gabe Newell’s trademark non-answers:
Phillip: Okay, time for some hard facts. Tell me where each mod stands in relation to: Level design, Sound design, Models and Textures.
MR.sugar: “Haha, you know, Guard Duty and Operation Black Mesa are very big projects and it’s hard to say how much is done. You can’t miss that we are still changing some things, even if they are done. So parts of levels are being redesigned and so on. I think the merge will help us to get things done faster though.“
Still, don’t lose faith – these guys have done some really good progress. It might take a while before they’re done, but when they are, it’ll be just as solid, if not even more so than it already is!
Phillip: Where have you moved away from the original games and why?
MR.sugar: “Good question. We are trying to not go very far from the original, but sometime it’s needed. We do this specifically when we feel the portion of level doesn’t make much sense or just doesn’t justify the gameplay and it’s boring. The elevator crash will be very different for example and i’m not speaking of Xen levels.
We are also considering some new features that will influence the gameplay as well, but we are still not ready to talk about this. We are also discussing about bringing back some things that didn’t make it to the final Blue Shift.”
I can only assume they’re referring to the original handheld flashlight “weapon” that Barney was to use in Blue Shift, instead of the standard vest-mounted flashlight. Quite interesting – let’s just hope we get to use it alongside a weapon. We don’t want any Doom 3 re-runs.
Phillip: How do you see the future of Tripmine Studios?
MR.sugar: “That’s a hard one. What I dream of is that we may become indie team after OBM and GD are done and we start working on something completely new, based on our own universe. I always wanted to try something outside the FPS genre. As a huge fan of horrors (the good ones of course, not the brainless slashers) I would love to start working on the first person horror adventure, a combinations of Scratches (just in full 3D environment) and Black Mirror (My favorite horror adventure that comes from my homeland). Definitely without shooting and killing enemies.
This will be decided after we are done with the current projects. It depends on how many people will want to stay with us, as I expect a lot of people will be offered a position at some bigger company and some people will just wish to stay away from the game development for their entire life.”
Let’s hope so! In any case, the future’s looking quite bright for Tripmine Studios and their mods! Looking forward to seeing more of their work within OBM and Guard Duty’s media releases. Don’t forget to check out the full interview for more on the mods’ development, as well as some fancy exclusive media.