Ethereality News & Weblog

February 10, 2007

Welcome to Black Mesa

Filed under: Art & CG,Film/TV/Animation,My Life/Musings,News,Video Games — Rob Chang @ 9:17 pm

I have just officially joined the Black Mesa team. I’m very excited to be involved, as Half-Life is one of my all-time favorite games, and it’s also the game that changed my life (turned me into a serious gamer, and established my love for FPS games). What the Black Mesa project is, is essentially fulfilling the promise that Half-Life: Source didn’t. All the Half-Life fans thought HL: Source was going to be a complete update of the original game, with all brand-new graphics, enhanced level designs..etc, just like Counter-Strike: Source, but it wasn’t–only the physics engine was updated to the Source engine, the rest remained exactly the same. So what the Black Mesa team is doing is trying to fulfill that promise, by doing a total remake of Half-Life as a Half-Life 2 MOD, with the Source engine, all brand-new graphics, updated level design and characters, new music, new voice acting..etc. So far, it’s won the best anticipated MOD of the year twice, and gotten some great media exposure. Even Valve has mentioned the game on Steam and said they’re looking forward to playing it just like everyone else. For those of you who are Half-Life fans, you can see why I’m all excited like a little school girl. I have always wanted to join a MOD team to work on something I’d really enjoy being a part of (I have never worked on a game I’d actually buy as a gamer in my entire game industry career so far), and I couldn’t have asked for more than working on the game that made me a gamer all those years ago.

Some screenshots from the Black Mesa MOD (look at the embedded comparison images from the original game–the improvement is startling–as it should be with today’s technology and overall raised bar for excellence across the industry/fandom):






Elena and I have been hunting for a new apartment, and after looking at a few places, we realized that we absolutely need a place that’s at least 850 square feet in order to not feel like we’re suffocating. The main problem is really me though, as I need space for my home recording studio. In the Bay Area, you’re looking at around $1,500 a month for a two-bedroom apartment of that size. This might sound ridiculous to those of you living in areas with cheaper housing, but that’s just how things are here.

While waiting for our food at a pizza joint the other day, we saw some infomercial about natural cures for health problems that sounded too good to be true (don’t they all?), and out of curiosity, I did a bit of googling. I didn’t have to look far, since the charismatic con-man by the name of Kevin Trudeau is all over the internet, and most of it is about his criminal history as an unscrupulous fraud. This article from The Salon is a good read to find out more about this piece of shit who should be locked up.

I personally have an intense hatred for people like Kevin Trudeau–people who are certainly very intelligent and charismatic, but use those qualities for fraud, selfish greed, and exhibit an obvious contempt for all that is true and just in this world. These opportunists without scruples are exactly the kind of people that I’ve seen too many of while living in China–they have turned China into a festering cesspool filled with corruption, greed, lies, and disrespect for human life.

The older I get, the less faith I have in those with power. If I really want to see the ugly stains on humanity, I only have to look to our own government, corporations, and in some cases, organized religions. It’s truly a wonder how we, as a species, can even last as long as we did, when so many at the top of the food chain are exactly the same type of people like Kevin Trudeau. How did we ever allow someone like Bush Jr. to con his way into the White House? When will we have another leader that can instill a sense of hope, idealism, and faith in the goodness of mankind? We desperately need a leader that can inspire the goodness in us–someone much like Bobby and John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, Mahatma Gandhi, or Nelson Mandela.

A couple of quickie film reviews:

Marie Antoinette
– I respect Sophia Coppola’s creative decisions, but I feel her choice of material was a letdown. If she had applied the same creative decisions to a different historical figure, the result would’ve been far more meaningful. With Marie Antoinette, I don’t feel that as a person, there is anything about her that’s worth a whole film to show in a different light–even in the way she was flawed is very mundane. Maybe the contrast between her mundane existence and her extravagant environment was part of the message, but it does make for a very boring message.

The Prestige – I liked this better than The Illusionist, although I really disliked Christian Bale’s character. The plot twists in this film weren’t nearly as predictable as in The Illusionist, and the performances were in general stronger (although I can’t say I’ve ever warmed up to Scarlett Johansson’s acting. She was appropriate in Lost In Translation, that was it). Seeing David Bowie was a real treat, as I think the last film I ever saw him in was Labyrinth.

Finally finished playing Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, and I’m glad I didn’t give up on it as I almost did about a third into the game. Although the writing never got much better (you could totally see the plot twist right in the first chapter of the game!), it does have a lot of fun moments of gameplay. I’ve always wanted to play a good fantasy based FPS, and now I have. The melee combat was fairly satisfying, although I wanted more of a fighting game type of combos and upper/lower attacks. I mean, what kind of melee combat doesn’t allow you to sweep the feet of your opponent or kick him in the knee? What about grappling? Maybe one day a developer will finally make the ultimate FPS fantasy game, with sophisticated fighting like that of the fighting genre, the immersive perspective of a FPS, and the inventory/storytelling of RPG’s and adventure games. A boy could always dream, right?

I’m getting really excited about Mass Effect. Bioware is a company I trust (although I could never get into Neverwinter Nights), and what they’ve shown to the public so far is nothing short of stunning. If there’s a compelling portrait of next-generation gaming, that is it. Other titles I’m looking forward to off the top of my head are Alan Wake, Stalker, Dark Sector, Unreal Tournament 3, and Bioshock.

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