The Half-Life modding community continues to impress.
Less than a year after its launch on PC VR headsets, Valve’s first-person VR shooter Half-Life: Alyx managed to draw an incredible 2 million downloads. Since then the game has amassed an even larger following due in large part to the VR modding community, who’ve since established an impressive catalog of custom mods. One creator even managed to develop a mod that introduces cooperative multiplayer. Well, sort of…
As if that weren’t cool enough, it now appears as though modders have started recreating existing games inside Half-Life: Alyx, starting with the legendary puzzle game, Portal. Earlier this month, a VR modder going by the name ofTheBoxTrot published a HL:A mod called “[p1] Test_Chamber_01 & Test_chamber_02 DuelPack” to the official HL:A Workshop on Steam.
During an interview with VRScout, TheBoxTrot talked about the process of porting Portal to Half-Life: Alyx: “One of my first PC games was Portal 2 and I fell in love with its story and characters and its unique game mechanics, and it was the gateway to my love for all Valve games,” adding, “I started of making crappy Portal 2 maps with the authoring tools and always wanted to capture what made Portal so special to me. When Half-Life: Alyx was announced I legitimately only bought it for the Source 2 Hammer and modding tools.”
For modders like TheBoxTrot, having the tools to recreate their favorite worlds using a new engine was exciting! “It’s amazing seeing something old redone and brought to a modern standard, especially when you see it in VR,” said TheBoxTrot.
Getting the tools was the easy part; using them to effectively recreate Portal in Half-Life: Alyx was a different story. TheBoxTrot tells me that the process of modding HL:A was difficult thanks to the incomplete nature of Source 2 in HL:A. Seeing as some engine features were either missing, broken, or vastly different from their Source 1 counterparts, TheBoxTrot had to find new ways to replicate them using the new engine. “For example, the time in Portal uses material texture switching, so I remade the time in Final Cut Pro and turned it into a panorama video that Source 2 could playback in the game.”
“It’s very annoying, but at times it’s really satisfying when you finally figure out how to solve a problem.” The most time-consuming part for TheBoxTrot was remaking choreographed scenes from scratch, as well as recreating the original map with new meshes and then texturing them using the original map almost as a base to sketch over them,” added the VR modder.
At the end of the day, TheBoxTrot’s hard work paid off. This is easily one of the most technically-impressive mods currently available for Half-Life: Alyx.
“A day (after the release of the Alyx Workshop), we had dozens of playable maps which speaks volumes to what is possible within Hammer 2,”said Skummah, a YouTuber who specializes in reviews of gamers’ content and modding tools. “Sure it’s kneecapped as it wasn’t a full SDK release, but the results speak for themselves and I see so many passionate creators continuing in this space, even though Valve hasn’t released an update to the game or tools in over a year. S&Box may be splitting the ecosystem and is likely the future of Source 2 modding, but it’s steeper learning curve still makes Hammer for HL:A the best place for new creators to craft unique VR experiences that thousands can enjoy.”
For TheBoxTrot, modding is something that reflects his passion and love for his favorite game series; peeling back the layers to see how it all works. For him, it’s about figuring out how “these amazing works of art are put together.”
One of the many things TheBoxTrot loves about the modding community is that it is full of amazingly supportive people who are always willing to jump in and lend a helping hand when you need it. In the case of bringing Portal to life in Half-Life: Alyx, TheBoxTrot received assistance from another modder called Adesi who helped develop a working portal gun.
“I feel like that spirit is alive and well in the HL:A community, and while I and others certainly love getting free content, we also want these creators to succeed and possibly make this a stepping stone to a career. At the very least, we’re all having a great time along the way, and with the VR space expanding more every day, people will be enjoying all of these new and old experiences that the community has to offer,” said Skummah.
Currently, TheBoxTrot is working on a Portal 2 mod for Half-Life: Alyx. Perhaps we’ll see some sort of multiplayer cooperative play similar to the original game.
If you’re interested in keeping up with TheBoxTrot’s latest progress and learning more about modding Half-Life: Alyx, head on over to the Half-Life: Alyx modding Discord.
Feature Image Credit: TheBoxTrot