Introduction to OaR Uncut
Guys, I've finally finished it! It's been a very, very long road both personally and development wise to get this mod to where it is today, but I'm finally ready to release On a Rail Uncut to the general public. Having been in development for over 8 months, with 3 private Alphas and a private Beta, and with loads of feedback from the community here at ModDB, on YouTube, and over 2,100 posts on the Black Mesa forums, the mod is finally ready for public consumption!
This introduction is for those of you who are unfamiliar with the project and its goals. If you're already familiar with this work, please, skip ahead to the next section.
On a Rail Uncut was my little project designed to add back some of the missing content to Black Mesa's heavily cut On a Rail chapter, which was 10 maps in HL1 but only 3 in Black Mesa. It is an expansion project for Black Mesa. Like with this project's sister mod, Surface Tension Uncut, when you install this mod to your Black Mesa folder, it integrates the new maps seamlessly within the game's already existing campaign. If it all goes well, you shouldn't even know you were playing an addon at all. Enjoy the 1 - 2 hours or so extra content, at no cost! If you install OaRU and Surface Tension Uncut, then you can enjoy Half-Life 1 remade with next to no missing content; I've filled in all the gaps that the BM Dev Team left out of their first version. I will leave Xen in their ever talented hands; exciting stuff.
"But wait a minute," you might ask. "Why would anyone want to bring back those maps from On a Rail? That chapter sucked in Half-Life 1!" This has been said many times, far too many for my liking.
I too believe that On a Rail was somewhat bad in Half-Life 1, though I certainly never hated it. For all its mediocrity, which it had in spades, it had lots of memorable moments, and the sense of long journey and progression present throughout the chapter whilst traveling to the rocket was excellent and added a lot to the overall feeling of the game. It was long, yes, and boring in many places, yes. But - it wasn't boring because it was long; a common conflation amongst fans. It was boring because of the long stretches of blank, samey tunnels, and the very confusing designs of some of the loops, particularly the very first map, the unimaginative and underdeveloped ideas, and the lack of any form of easily identifiable thematic and story progression throughout the chapter.
My mod is not a 1:1 remake of HL1's OaR, very far from it. The missing maps have been very dramatically redesigned and expanded where necessary, to try and bring back all the good elements of those maps without any of the weaknesses. What all this means is that, even if you hated On a Rail in Half-Life 1, and really liked Black Mesa's version, you should still definitely check out this mod. I've "Black Mesa-ified" the missing maps, aesthetically, design wise, and gameplay wise, so if you liked Black Mesa's treatment of the maps which did make the cut, you should also like these ones! The maps have seen tonnes of refinement over time thanks to the copious amounts of feedback from the ever fantastic Half-Life community. While I may have done all the mapping and technical stuff, this is still very much a community effort, to build a better version of On a Rail!
As per usual with every new post so far, I'll just reiterate for those of you who don't know, PRECISELY what my mod adds to Black Mesa's On a Rail:
TextFAMGUY1 wrote: BM_ = Black Mesa
HL_ = Half-Life
BM_A = PART OF BLACK MESA BY DEFAULT. Introductory map. Introduction the whole rail system. = HL_A.
BM_A1 = MY FIRST A MAP. Introduction to loops and track switching. = HL_A.
BM_A2 = MY SECOND A MAP. Journey through a huge Office Complex. = HL_B, HL_C
BM_B = PART OF BLACK MESA BY DEFAULT. Smaller office complex. Introduction to the rocket. Rocket Priming. = HL_D
BM_B1 = MY FIRST B MAP. Introduction to Material Transit system. Turntable room ambush. = HL_D, HL_E
BM_B2 = MY SECOND B MAP. Continuation of Material Transit system. Arrival at the surface. Vast outdoor area, arriving at the rocket. = HL_F, HL_G
BM_C = PART OF BLACK MESA BY DEFAULT. Rocket Launch + Passage to "Apprehension". = HL_G, HL_F
You may have noticed that OaRU has been in development for a lot longer than STU was. This is because I've worked really hard to design out all the flaws from HL1's chapter, and have had a detailed and long interface with the community about how best to go about doing all of this. Here are some of the ways in which I've attempted to do that:
- I've attempted to make the rail system feel expansive and vast, and that the player is only exploring a small portion of it; unlike in HL1 where the whole system felt very linear and small. There are lots of expanded vertical segments and parallel inaccessible tunnels which highlight just how huge BM's rail system is.
- I've increased the amount of thematic progression throughout the chapter. While HL1 featured a design progression from Offices --> Material Transit, my mod takes this further. The Mat Trans section of the rail system is a much newer and more used part of the rail system, featuring totally different lighting and newer tunnel designs to that used in the Office segments. The maps then progress to outdoor sections, with the almost totally original B2 map featuring a huge outdoor trainyard, and the rocket launch section of C. This alleviates some of the boredom present by having samey tunnels everywhere.
- There's more music and cool sequences present here than in HL1. Music helps to make cool and unique scenes even more memorable, and as such I've used it fairly liberally, hopefully without overusing it. A2's Office Complex features the brilliantly dark "The Year of Death," by Dejan. B1's Turntable Ambush features the atmospheric "Lights Out," by The Empire (Andrew Bastian). B2's Train Yard features the chill and cool "Dark Skies," also by Dejan.
- Lots of environmental storytelling moments which leave events up to the player's imagination. For example, the executed scientists in A2's office complex. Over the course of OaRU the player will find lots of little details which tell stories that aren't obvious, and allow the player's imagination to fill in the gaps and create their own world. Even something as simple as a door being barricaded can have a pretty interesting story behind it, if you look deep enough! Keep an eye out for the poor dead scientist on A2's Office Complex, who I've lovingly nicknamed "Ms. Freeman," for reasons you can figure out for yourself!
You can download the beta here on this ModDB page. Simply extract it to your BMS folder, and you're good to go! Start a new game from On a Rail, and check out all the changes for yourself! Make sure you look over the readme first for important information, and be sure to back up all your files first!
The Beta is substantially different from the Alpha version. I've made absolutely tonnes of gameplay and aesthetic improvements, there really is no comparison between the two. Lots of the maps have been expanded even further, and nearly everything has been tweaked, changed, and improved. The Beta is how I'd envisioned OaRU when I set out to work on it. It's fairly representative of how the finished product (which should be reaching you within 1 - 2 weeks or so) will look, but with a few bugs and optimization problems, which will be fixed for future versions. I'm really happy with how the Beta has turned out, I really am, and I hope you guys enjoy it too!
I look forward to hearing all the feedback from the community on my little mod, and I hope you have fun playing it. Just try not to be too mean; I've poured my heart and soul into this work, even treating it as a full time job for the past month or two. Please, try and refrain from going into it with too much of a predisposed prejudice, based on your dislike of HL1's version. I promise that mine is very different, just like how Black Mesa is very different to Half-Life 1 anyway. Though I am expecting lots of trolling 1 ratings from people who didn't like HL1's On a Rail, and thus simply immediately discount my work, I'd really love to keep that to a minimum! The best thing I can say here, is that if you're sure that you're going to hate it, don't install it! That's one of the great things about this being an optional expansion - if you can't stand On a Rail being long, then Black Mesa's default offering is perfect!