Pick up the crowbar of research scientist Gordon Freeman, and find yourself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. You must rescue the world from the wrong you unleashed back at Black Mesa.

The original Half-Life sent a shock through the game industry with its combination of pounding action and continuous, immersive storytelling. Valve's debut title won more than 50 Game of the Year awards, was named "Best Game Ever" by PC Gamer, and launched a franchise which has since sold over 11 million units worldwide. By taking the suspense, challenge and visceral charge of the original Half-Life and adding startling new realism and responsiveness, Half-Life 2 opens the door to a world where the player’s presence affects everything around him or her, from the physical environment to the behaviors and even the emotions of both friends and enemies.

Technical note: most mods “for Half-Life 2” are actually cross-compatible with all of Valve's Source engine games. Check a mod’s profile for details on whether a specific game is needed.

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Hello everybody!

As you might have seen in our recent teaser, the upcoming, overhauled version of G String will feature some proper spaceship action! The player will go into battle with allies to take on enemy vessels of various sizes and perform other tasks. If you didn't see the recent teaser yet, check it out:

We have been working on this for a while already and are now confident enough to present it as a definitive part of the game. Now, let's have a closer look at what's in store:


When designing the gameplay for the space battles, we prioritized making it quick and easy to grasp, because there is neither time nor place for any kind of tutorial or lengthy in-game instructions.

ricepod float 300

The first challenge we faced was designing the spaceship controls. We decided it would be most optimal to only use the key bindings that the player already knows. That includes moving the ship via W A S D in a similar manner as in firstperson mode and using the sprint button to boost the ship's speed. Concluding this, the longitudinal (roll) axis will be locked, which also makes sense storywise: you will be seeing the Earth right beneath you the whole time and the ship's stabilizers will align you to it. Aside from this, the primary weapons can be fired with the left mouse button and an autoaim system will additionally assist you while shooting enemies.

Since the Source engine isn't capable of any kind of open worlds by default, the whole world is scaled down by a factor of one-sixteenth to allow building a larger environment. But ultimately, the player still needs to stay within a predefined playable area. We solved this issue by simply tying its requirement into the story. Should the player still leave the area, they will either die or turn back automatically - something that we still need to finalize.


Overall a sturdy and outworn look is prevalent during the space scenes to match the rest of the mod. This includes the interior model of the spaceship and the ship's UI, which flickers a little and has a noise effect.

To make the battle scenes more appropriate for gameplay, we color coded a few crucial elements. The target UI highlights targets in red, yellow and green which represent enemies, neutrals and friendlies respectively. The laser colors from turrets and spaceships match the general color schemes of their models: enemies fire blue lasers while friendlies fire orange ones.

space combat


The ship's UI is made of holograms, which are based on a custom system we have programmed on top of VGUI. Source already offers a facility to render UI in world space (DrawPanelIn3DSpace in IMatSystemSurface for those of you who know their way around the SDK), but frankly it's not too appealing to look at or to use. Our solution renders everything based on dynamic meshes or models. VGUI is still used internally to draw text to a texture atlas which can then be drawn with a dynamic mesh as well.

space hud

Cascaded Shadow Mapping

We implemented a custom solution for cascaded shadow mapping just for the space environment. While most of the mod fares better with blurred, soft shadows due to the polluted air that scatters the light, the space scenes work well with sharper shadows. CSM makes it possible to have a higher quality shadow within the interior model of the spaceship while also allowing for shadows farther away.

shadow interior

Our CSM renders all cascades to a depth texture atlas, using the built-in flashlight depth texture rendering code to profit from all internal engine optimizations. The common world shaders, like LightmappedGeneric and VertexLitGeneric, will then sample one of those cascades to apply the shadow. Selecting a cascade is based on modifying the UVs prior to performing the sampling like in the following example:

// Check whether the projected UVs are outside of bounds of the first cascade.
// 0.0 will sample the far shadow map, 1.0 the close shadow map.
float blendCascades = step(shadowMapUVs.x, 0.49) * step(0.01, shadowMapUVs.x) *
  step(shadowMapUVs.y, 0.99) * step(0.01, shadowMapUVs.y);

// Select the cascade UVs.
shadowMapUVs.xy = lerp(shadowMapUVs.xy * cascadedStepData.x + cascadedStepData.yz, shadowMapUVs.xy,

This makes things a lot simpler and more optimized. You only need to worry about a single texture for all shadow maps and you don't need to use branching in the shader, which could potentially lead to way more lookup instructions in the compiled shader code.

While lightmaps won't be used in space, we still implemented support for them. While applying a lightmap, you cannot tell anymore which lights have been aggregated to a specific texture color, like you can easily do when rendering vertex or pixel lights. However, this is very much necessary to render a shadow that belongs to a specific light, like the directional sun light, because you only want to mask that specific light source. A more optimal solution would be producing a mask in VRAD, which could optimally be stored in the alpha channel of the lightmap, but this is simply not possible to implement in the 2013 SDK without access to the engine code.

shadow exterior

Instead, we are approximating the mask by calculating the light deviation from the expected ambient and light colors that were set in Hammer. If there is no deviation, the light will be fully masked, but the more the texture colors deviate, the less shadow will be applied. In the example above, you can see how the orange spotlight is still clearly visible in the shadowed area with this trick.


Since we are planning to support VR in G String, we also made the space environment compatible using an Oculus Rift. While the 2013 SDK already offers a certain support for VR by default, there were still a few special things to consider in our case.

The crosshair hologram, for example, moves with your head in VR and is aligned to the object you are currently aiming at to prevent a cross-eyed appearance. We also project the crosshair back onto the hologram aim panel sphere and align it accordingly, which feels a lot more natural than aligning it to a quad.

There are also a few neat extras to discover in VR when looking around the ship. You can see the jet engines brighten up when you accelerate the ship or the thruster effects at the sides of the ship when you turn or strafe.

If you are interested in checking out our code, you can take a look at our GitHub repository: www.github.com/Biohazard90/g-string_2013.

We are excited about finishing this mod and hope you will enjoy it when it comes out!

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Pick up the crowbar of research scientist Gordon Freeman, who finds himself on an alien-infested Earth being picked to the bone, its resources depleted, its populace dwindling. Freeman is thrust into the unenviable role of rescuing the world from the...
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Post comment Comments  (50 - 60 of 1,570)
FoxyThePirateFox™ Aug 6 2014 says:

Good trailer

+2 votes     reply to comment
Meraqel Jul 21 2014 says:

What if about G-man: What if G-man is like Q from Star Trek New Generation. I mean not god-like but still powerful enough. xD

+1 vote     reply to comment
λpone Aug 2 2014 replied:

That's what I thinking. 0.o

+1 vote     reply to comment
TheUnbeholden May 30 2014 says:

valve is really making it hard to mod, scene.images don't work anymore after the steampipe update, and for awhile the friggen mod tools didn't work at all for weeks until the community figured out a way around it. I appreciate valve's tenancity at updating an aging engine, but is it really necessary to screw with whats worked before breaking mods in the process? Theres alot of old mods that won't be updated..

+8 votes     reply to comment
Crypt Jun 8 2014 replied:

I got very scared (and angry) during the Steampipe updates. Is there no limit to the amount of things Valve can break?

+1 vote     reply to comment
nickyforiasha Jul 27 2014 replied:

isnt steam pipe a beta feature?

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crypt Jul 27 2014 replied:

I don't think so. I do know that Valve left various Source modders stuck, unable to work on anything for a bit.

+1 vote     reply to comment
DukeOfJudea Apr 5 2014 buried:


The 22nd AB is now recruiting. 22nd plays a variety of games including Battlegrounds 2, Resistance and Liberation, etc. If anybody would like to join either add an officer on steam or sign up on our website www.22ndab.co.uk/‎.

-17 votes     reply to comment
Mr.Marooned Mar 11 2014 says:

A Half life MMO..........enough said.......

+1 vote     reply to comment
PunishedLamia May 1 2014 replied:

Oh man I was gonna say that! :D

+1 vote     reply to comment
Crypt Mar 12 2014 replied:

Is this the part where a novice level designer who doesn't understand Source's limits starts a mod page and tries to assemble a team to make that a reality?

+8 votes     reply to comment
Mr.Marooned Mar 12 2014 replied:

Tell me about it! That happens too many times here!

+5 votes     reply to comment
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Half-Life 2
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Released 2004
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5213 votes submitted.

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Highest Rated (24 agree) 10/10

Sadly it never ends for Gordon Freeman, he is gaming worlds Jack Bauer, consistently going from one bad day to the next. No sooner have you blown up the head of the Xenian Nihilanth and discussed career prospects with the mysterious G-Man than he tosses you in the mix again. Another train ride another mysterious situation leaving Gordon (and you the gamer) none the wiser, but thats what we like about the Half-life series and all it's canonical universe, Valve will always give you a Palm d'or plot…

Dec 21 2010 by newnowmusic

Lowest Rated (8 agree) 1/10


Dec 22 2010 by MasterBandit

First Person Shooter
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Half-Life First Person Shooter
Half-Life: Source
Half-Life: Source First Person Shooter
Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 First Person Shooter
Half-Life 2: Lost Coast
Half-Life 2: Lost Coast First Person Shooter
Half-Life 2: Episode One
Half-Life 2: Episode One First Person Shooter
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