Wednesday 11 April 2018

Half-Life: 2018

Working with a 19-year-old game engine

For a recent project, I’ve decided to make a change from using the game development tool Unity and begun producing some work using the original Half-Life Goldsrc engine. I did this because I felt that there could be a much easier setup of a server (using a deathmatch/bot driven system), familiarity with the tools and knowledge of its limitations. There is also a definite history of artists using this engine for game art such as Tobias Bernstrup, Aram Bartholl and projects like Velvet Strike. I’ve also made some stuff with it in the past.

Valve Hammer Editor

During development for Schooldays End, I wanted to move away from interactive work to creating self-playing work. This would be easier to display in a gallery setting, require less setup, and avoid the immediate problems inherent in typical interactive art (of any kind). I piggybacked a version of Jumbot, and, with some modifications, I was able to get relatively close to an autonomous first-person deathmatch game with on-screen narrative elements. The prototype worked well enough for me to invest more time in creating the map for the scenario.

Simplified prototype game

This proved to be quite the problem. Although I had some experience in the past working with Valve Hammer Editor, I found it somewhat clunky to set up from scratch (via Steam on a boot camped Mac), and once I got into the swing of things, there was seemingly no end of errors and issues. Finding fixes to problems was also tricky, often encountering dead links on old forum posts. Very different from my experiences with the most positive and supportive community with Unity.

In-game screenshot

Currently, I’m trying to find a way to record a video of my game in action for exhibiting, but I’m now having trouble with the game quitting after 5 or so minutes.

Part of me is strongly considering switching back to using Unity after completion of this project as I’m not entirely happy with the text-based narrative and the other aesthetic compromises.