The Uncertain Fate of That Incredible-Looking Half-Life Remake, Black Mesa: Source

It was almost four years ago that we first saw that incredible trailer for Black Mesa: Source, which looked like a full update of Valve's classic PC game Half-Life. It truly was incredible—hell, I rewatched that trailer just now and I still feel incredulous about it. It basically looks like the first game redone with the graphics, animations and visual effects of Half-Life 2.

I like Valve's official Half-Life: Source, but it sure doesn't look anything like what the folks behind Black Mesa: Source were showing.

That trailer, however, aired back in 2008. Since then, it's never quite been entirely clear the state of the project—and it certainly hasn't come out.

Over at Rock, Paper Shotgun, reporter/superhero alter-ego Nathan Grayson's got a great two-part interview with Carlos Montero, the project lead of Black Mesa: Source.

Talking with Montero at length, a picture begins to emerge: a picture of a talented team that perhaps bit off more than they could chew, overpromised early, and then realized that what they were attempting was much, much more difficult than they'd even guessed.

As Montero points out, Black Mesa: Source can't actually be a straight-up port, since that is illegal—instead, it's become a full-fledged remake, featuring over 2,000 custom models, 2,000 choreographed scenes and over 6,500 lines of dialogue, by Montero's reckoning.

"We have always wanted Black Mesa to be Valve-quality," Montero tells RPS. "Turns out that is very tough to do from every angle of development. Imagine that!"

I shudder to think of the challenges presented by doing this—it's like trying to recreate a symphony not just by transcribing and re-writing the parts, but by re-making every instrumental performance one by one. No, you know what? It's much, much harder than that. It's like doing a shot-for-shot remake of The Godfather, but first you have to build the cameras Coppola used from spare parts. Then, you have to build the actors in a lab.

Montero says that they made a mistake by overpromising early, by hyping people up with that incredible trailer. "If I could go back in time and prevent us from releasing the media and hyping up the public the way that we did," he says, "I would. In the end, all of that hurt us more than helped us."

He's quick to assure people, however, that they are still working on the project, and they haven't turned their back on anyone. They've just learned not to promise release dates or overhype their product. Here's Montero:

This hasn't been about polish for polish's sake; it's been about learning all there is to know about how to make great games, and using it to make a great game. There aren't any shortcuts there. We just had to learn by doing, by making mistakes, by screwing things up and starting them over again. Sometimes along the way we have learned things that fundamentally changed our way of thinking, and sometimes we have gone back and fundamentally changed parts of the game to reflect that.

So no, I don't think it is tempting to over-polish at all. We are all eager to get the game out. We are dying to get this game out and show everyone what we've been working on, but we aren't so eager that we would sacrifice our values and what we believe will make this game great. We aren't going to put out something that isn't good enough for us.

Hmm, that actually sounds a bit like another game developer I can think of… maybe Montero's team has more in common with Valve than even they know.

And when, pray, will this incredibly ambitious project finally come to some sort of playable fruition? Montero will only go so far as to say "soon-ish."

Hey, it's more than we've got to go on with Half-Life 3.

What ever happened to Black Mesa: Source, Part 1 and Part 2 [Rock, Paper Shotgun]

Black Mesa: Source [Official Page]