The Source Engine is a 3D game engine developed by Valve Corporation. Its unique features include a large degree of modularity and flexibility, an artist-driven, shader-based renderer, accurate lip sync and facial expression technology, and a powerful, efficient and completely network-enabled physics system. 

The Source engine was first shown to the world by being the power-horse behind the hugely anticipated Half-Life 2 which was released in late 2004. Since then the Source Engine has been upgraded with the release of such titles as Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Team Fortress 2 and the Left 4 Dead series to name a few.

Whilst it has been years since the release of the Source Engine they haven't yet unveiled a 'next-generation engine' as the Source engine is always updating and is just as relevant in the gaming world today if not more than when it debuted in 2004. It has been aided by the release of the free Source Development Kit (SDK) which include such features as HDR for developers to use in their projects. Hence the reasons stated we have yet to see 'Source Engine 2'.

On July 10th 2012, Valve released the 'Source Filmmaker' - a freeware client to allowed anyone to make movies inside the Source Engine. More information on the Source Filmmaker can be found here.

Below you can find a list of amazing features that the Source Engine boasts:


  • Version 2.0 (and below) shaders, bump mapping, LOD on models and world
  • Author shaders with HLSL
  • Cube and environment mapping
  • Dynamic lights, vertex lighting and light maps, many light types including flickering, pulsing etc.
  • High-Dynamic Range lighting
  • Water with refraction and fresnel effects
  • Advanced particle system that can emit sprites or models
  • Projected shadows allow for a large number of characters per scene
  • Occluder entities for visibility blocking
  • Indoor/Outdoor environments
  • Deformable terrain
  • 3D skyboxes extend the horizon and add parallax on distant objects
  • Dynamically rendered organics (grass, trees etc)
  • Subdivision surfaces, diffuse & specular bump maps
  • Real-time radiosity lighting
  • Effects include but are not limited to: particles, beams, volumetric smoke, sparks, blood, environmental effects like fog and rain
  • Scalability
  • Dx6-Dx9 hardware supported

Materials System

  • Instead of traditional textures, Source defines sets of materials that specify what the object is made from and the texture used for that object. A material specifies how an object will fracture when broken, what it will sound like when broken or dragged across another surface, and what that object’s mass and buoyancy are. This system is much more flexible than other texture only based systems.
  • Materials can interact with objects or NPCs such as mud or ice for vehicles to slide/lose traction on.

Multiplayer Network Code

  • Time and gamer tested by millions of gamers around the world
  • Support for both LAN based multiplayer and Internet based multiplayer games
  • Prediction analysis for interpolating collision/hit detection
  • Optimizations for high-latency, high-packet loss 56k connections

Advanced Characters

  • Detailed and believable characters
  • Realistic eyes
  • Focus on player/object, not simply parallel views
  • Proper eye “bulge” for realistic eye reflections
  • Simulated musculature provides outstanding emotions, speech and body language
  • Language independent speech, characters can naturally speak in many languages
  • Skeletal/bone system for animation
  • Layered animation system can synthesize complex animations out of several pieces
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Blog RSS Feed Report abuse Latest News: Official Source Filmmaker Content Pack DLC for Black Mesa is Now Live!

About Black Mesa with 7 comments by Hubicorn on Aug 19th, 2014

Dear Colleagues,

We here at Black Mesa, are pleased to announce our involvement in providing a large collection of assets and content to be used in Valve's Source Filmmaker as an official DLC!

Now that you can download the Black Mesa Content Pack DLC directly through Source Filmmaker, we hope to see many more Headcrabs in top hats, Snarks holding tea parties and Gargantuas... well... smashing things. Needless to say, the opportunities for scientific exploration in this discipline are multitudinous. Just be sure, before creating your scientific masterpiece, you read our Video Policy Page.

During early tests, we noticed some excellent results such as this, this and this or indeed this. Results we hope to see replicated during the 4th Annual Saxxy Awards. Don't forget submissions for it are from 4pm on the 17th September until 4pm on the 24th September (PST), guidelines for those submissions can be read here.  There would be nothing better than to see part of the Black Mesa Facility in one of the winning entries (or even a part of a scientist). So, best of luck to all those who participate in the competition, and we hope that you enjoy using our content to further the causes of Science!

Dr D. Conagher,
Multispacial 3D and Audiovisual Branch
Sector B Quantum Optronics Division. (ULCR - 13)

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Post comment Comments  (70 - 80 of 313)
McKane Aug 14 2011, 12:21pm says:

The Source engine is the most powerful and most beautifully detailed engines I have ever come across, Valve should start making RTS games with a engine like this, since there aren't many about at the minute.

-2 votes     reply to comment
david3 Oct 19 2011, 6:57am replied:

agreed. rts games will look a lot more awesome with this engine.
just look at hl2:wars modification.

+3 votes     reply to comment
shadowdude1 Aug 15 2011, 5:01pm replied:

You are a typical gamer
More advanced people will never claim Source as one of most powerful engine

+10 votes     reply to comment
McKane Oct 25 2011, 12:39pm replied:

Shadowdude, don't forget this engine is 7 years old. I know it has been slightly modified over the years, and yes, the most powerful engine I have ever seen is CryEngine 3.

But the CryEngine 3 is 2 years old though. Also the size of Valve compared to EA is massive.

+2 votes     reply to comment
MartyrT Sep 13 2011, 12:44pm replied:

Most powerful? Oh, absolutely not! But very versatile, very modifiable, and one of the longest running engines out there! They used it for HL2 7 years ago and are still using it on the new Counter-Strike!

+5 votes     reply to comment Oct 9 2011, 3:28am replied:

and it still looks great

+3 votes     reply to comment
KEVLAR60442 Jul 24 2011, 6:58am says:

The orange box engine gives me 250 FPS on my rig. Now Valve, I know you're trying to make your games accessible to low end PCs, but really, you can afford to take bigger steps with your graphical progression.

-4 votes     reply to comment
Delta301 Sep 18 2011, 11:37am replied:

@KEVLAR60442 - There is no need for Crysis-style graphics. As long as the storyline, sound and music and character development are perfect, I wouldn't mind playing Valve's games with graphics similar to Minecraft.

Take all these into consideration first, and THEN concentrate on graphics. And that is why Crysis and Crysis 2 are two of my favourite games.

I won't disagree, good graphics are very pretty and sometimes orgasmic to look at, but straighten out those priorities!

Now, I shall get back to my history essay.

+3 votes     reply to comment
JrComissarValvatorez Aug 9 2011, 4:54am replied:

Yeah , now do that with the FPS hogs such as TF2 and Left 4 Dead 2, as an more up to date version of Source will make that number dip by at least half.

+3 votes     reply to comment
TheGameFoxBrother Jul 23 2011, 8:11pm says:

I just realized that there are 666 watcher.
Bad luck :P

+3 votes     reply to comment
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Released Oct 31, 2004
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Highest Rated (16 agree) 10/10

Even tho it is aging and it is beginning to show its weakness comparred to other more modern engines, it is still my most preferred engine and the only one I was able to get into succesfully. And with all of the updates Valve is giving it, I think the source engine will be with us for a long time. I wouldn't really recommend this for a commerical product, just because there are so many more modern engines out there that will be a lot easier in the long run (like UDK), but all of the commercial games…

Nov 16 2010, 3:48pm by Half_Kill

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