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Black Mesa
Developer(s) Black Mesa Modification Team
Series Half-Life
Engine Source
Platform(s) Microsoft Windows
Release date(s) TBA[1]
Genre(s) First-person shooter,
Action-adventure game,
Science fiction
Mode(s) Single-player, Multiplayer
Input methods Keyboard and mouse

Black Mesa (previously known as Black Mesa: Source) is a third-party total conversion modification for Valve Corporation's Source Engine. The stated goal of the project is to recreate Valve's critically acclaimed video game Half-Life—released in 1998—using the more advanced capabilities of the Source 3D game engine. The 38-person volunteer development team says they hope to create a more engrossing in-game world with more varied, complex environments, and more challenging, realistic gameplay. During its five years in development, Black Mesa has been the subject of articles in several video game publications, and received attention from Valve themselves. It is planned to be distributed as a free download when completed.



With the release of Half-Life 2 In 2004, Valve Corporation re-released several of their previously released games ported to their new Source game engine; this included a port of their critically acclaimed 1998 game Half-Life named Half-Life: Source. The Source engine is graphically more advanced than the GoldSrc engine, which the original versions of those games used. Half-Life: Source featured implementation of the Havok physics engine, and improved water effects and lighting. The level architecture and models of the game, however, remained unchanged.[2]

Half-Life: Source was met with mixed reviews. IGN liked the new user interface and other technical features, but noted that it did not receive as many improvements as Valve's other Source engine ports.[3] GameSpy said that while it was a "fun little bonus", it was "certainly not the major graphical upgrade some people thought it might be."[4] Valve CEO Gabe Newell is quoted as saying that a complete remake of Half-Life by fans of the game using Source was "not only possible…but inevitable."[5]

Black Mesa began as the combination of two independent volunteer projects, each aiming to do just that: completely recreate Half-Life using Source. The Leakfree modification was announced in September 2004. Half-Life: Source Overhaul Project was announced one months later. After realizing their similar goals, project leaders for both teams decided to combine efforts; they formed a new 13-person team titled Black Mesa: Source.[5] The "Source" in the project's title was later dropped when Valve asked the team to remove it in order to "stem confusion over whether or not [it was] an endorsed or official product," which it is not.[6]

The team now consists of 38 volunteer level designers, programmers, modelers, texture artists, animators, sound engineers, voice actors, and support staff.[7] They have stated they want Black Mesa to be similar to Half-Life in gameplay and story, but changes will be made to take advantage of Source's more advanced features. Changes to the story will not divert from, or alter, the overall storyline of the Half-life series.[5] Level designers have shortened or modified some areas of the game there "didn't make any sense," or were "tedious" in the original. Maps will also be of a larger scale, for instance the hydro-electric dam, which is now "twenty or thirty times" larger.[8]

Originally based on the version of Source released with Half-Life 2 in 2004, the project now uses a more recent version released with Valve's The Orange Box in 2007. This new version includes more advanced particle effects, hardware-accelerated facial animation, support for multi-core processor rendering, among other improvements.[9][10][11] The team has stated they do not plan on upgrading again to newer versions such as those used in Valve's Left 4 Dead (2008) or Portal 2 (2010) games.[6] The only software requirement to install the modification will be to already have at least one game installed which uses the Source engine.[12]

In addition to the modification itself, the game's thematic score—produced by sound designer Joel Nielsen—will be independently released as a soundtrack. The developers also plan to later add a cooperative gameplay mode to Black Mesa, something only the PlayStation 2 version of Half-Life offered.[13]

Black Mesa is planned to be distributed as a free download when completed.[14] The developers released a teaser trailer in 2005, and a full-length preview trailer in 2007. They have also released images, videos, and concept art during the project's development. Black Mesa was given an official release date of "late 2009" in the spring of 2009, but this date has since been changed to "when it's done."[8]


During its five year in development, Black Mesa has received attention from several video game publications. It has been featured in articles from Computer Gaming World, PC PowerPlay, and PC Gamer UK magazines. Valve published a news update about the modification on their Steam digital distribution platform in 2007 saying that "We're as eager to play [Black Mesa] here as everyone else."[15]

The project was awarded Top Unreleased Mod by video game modification website Mod DB in 2005 and 2006.[16] [17] Mod DB gave the project an honorable mention in their choice of Top Unreleased Mod in 2007.[18]

After receiving a development version of Black Mesa in December 2009, PC PowerPlay magazine said that the game's setting "looks, sounds, [and] plays better than ever before." The "subtle" changes from the original Half-Life were said to have a "substantial" overall impact. They also noted the project's "frustrating" five-year development time, and current lack of release date, but added that the developers are making progress.[8]


  1. ^ "Black Mesa 2009 Update". Black Mesa: Community Forums. 2009-12-07. Retrieved 2009-12-07. 
  2. ^ "Source: Belly of the Beast". 2004-06-21. Retrieved 2008-12-06. "Since they licensed and integrated it into Source, Valve have been tweaking and adding to Havok to the point it's virtually a new animal. Almost every aspect of the Source engine follows on from the physics — including the sound, graphics, AI and animation. When asked whether or not they would be upgrading to Havok 2, Valve seemed to suggest they probably wouldn't, in part because H2 wouldn't be much of a step forward from what they currently have." 
  3. ^ McNamara, Tom (2004-11-18). "Half-Life: Source: What's the big hoo-ha?". IGN. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  4. ^ Accardo, Sal (2004-11-17). "Half-Life: Source". GameSpy. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  5. ^ a b c Elliot, Shawn. "Black Mesa: Source". Computer Gaming World (ZDNet). ISSN 0744-6667. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  6. ^ a b Hill, Jason (2009-02-16). "Your Turn: Returning to the Source". The Age. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  7. ^ "Team Members". Black Mesa Modification Team. 2010-01-04. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  8. ^ a b c Kim, Paul (2009-12-7). "Black Mesa: Why The Future of Half-Life 2... Is In The Past". PC PowerPlay (Macclesfield: Media House). ISSN 1362-2722. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  9. ^ "Source - Rendering System". Valve. Retrieved August 8, 2009. 
  10. ^ Face-to-Face with TF2's Heavy
  11. ^ "Interview: Gabe Newell". PC Zone. 2006-09-11. Retrieved 2006-09-20. 
  12. ^ Black Mesa - Moddb News
  13. ^ "Black Mesa - Co-operative FAQ". Retrieved 2010-02-27. 
  14. ^ "Black Mesa Official FAQ". Black Mesa Modification Team. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  15. ^ "Friday, January 26 2007". Valve date=2007-01-26. Retrieved 2010-03-13. 
  16. ^ Mod DB Top Unreleased Mod for 2005
  17. ^ Mod DB Top Unreleased Mod for 2006
  18. ^ Honorable mention at the Mod DB Top Unreleased Mod for 2007

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