Orion is a total conversion utilizing Valve Software’s Orange Box engine. Orion immerses the player in an intense online experience with dynamic combat and a vast array of new features.. Featuring fast-paced tactical gameplay on futuristic battlefields, Orion brings the fun into gameplay.
In celebration of making it into the Top100 for MOTY, we have put together a hefty-sized document for both your viewing and reading pleasures. Read about the last 10 years, the conception, the on-going task of creating and developing, the 1 and a half year re-design stage, engine switches and more!
Posted by Praz on Jan 7th, 2010
So first off... Happy New Year to all and a belated Happy Birthday to myself! (Birthday = January 1st). We know, we know. You want the patch. We are working on it and getting it ready for a release next week hopefully. It will contain a TON of new content, ranging from 4-5 new levels to over 30 fixes and tweaks.
We are also extremely excited to be part of ModDB's Top100 for the Mod of the Year award! If you have played Orion and want it to take home the pot of gold, please, do the following:
01. Visit this page:
02. Under the first category (Best Released), look to the right side and select 'Half-Life 2'.
03. Scroll down about halfway and VOTE for Orion!
So I've been wanting to do this sort of documentfor a while. I've actually probably tried a few times. However, this is going to be a very intense thread with lots and lots of content.
Make sure your broadband is placed on a cooling device, for this will get crazy.
In this thread, I will be starting off with where the idea of the game came from, the first prototype of it. After that we will move on to the evolution of the game, how it got to the Source engine, the re-design period, and more!
So lets start it off with....
Incoming was originally started on the Half-Life 1 (GoldSRC) engine. The initial idea was heavily inspired when I first saw the Halo trailer at MacWorld in July of 1998. Nobody knew of Halo at this time, this was before it was on Xbox, before Microsoft, before everything.
The trailer changed my life. It was the trailer that made me start getting my hands dirty in game development. So yes, Incoming was heavily inspired and shared relations with Halo. I had personally emailed Bungie at the time and we had permissions to use the likenesses of the Warthog and Spartan armor among other small things.
I asked myself a few questions after seeing this trailer. Things like "What did I really like about this?" "What is it missing" and most importantly, "What would I change?". This last question would forever create an inverted blackhole within me. Instead of sucking all ideas and creativity in. It would fluctuate straight out my mind and through my fingers and onto a digital canvas. Over many years, many designs, and countless hours of work, 3 complete rebuilds of the game, and a forever patience.
This is the story of Orion.
This was the very first idea of the game. It was created and developed by me at the ages of 12 and 13. We started some work on the Half-Life 1 engine. It had features like jetpacks, lots of items, no player classes, vehicles ( both drivable and flyable ), dinosaurs and more!
Here are some images of an earlier prototype of Incoming ( which later becomes Orion over time and years of work ) on the Half-Life 1 engine:
We had a lot of the same 'types' of levels that are still featured in Orion to this day. Ranging from Outposts located in the desert, jungles, forests, snow trenched canyons and more!
We also were working with a pretty talented level designer back then, he went by the name 3D_Mike. You may recognize his name as he has done some Source level editing as well.
We actually did a pretty good job of re-creating outdoor levels on GoldSRC ( for both the engine and it's time )
Incoming featured a much larger array of vehicles. For it's time ( and on the engine ) - it was quite impressive. We featured both drivable and flyable vehicles. We had the intentions of also adding aquatic vehicles as well.
We were one of the very first games on this engine to make use of vehicles in Multiplayer. However, Counter-Strike got it out first ( props to them though, we'll touch on that in a bit though ).
We had Drivable Vehicles with multiple passengers as well as Flyable Vehicles with multiple passengers.
Originally, Incoming ( and later Incoming: Source ) were much more 'modern' games in terms of weapons. This was originally to sort of relish on the popularity of our friends over at Counter-Strike. Why do I say friends? Well, for those that don't know, the two main developers for the original Counter-Strike were Gooseman and Cliffe ( aka Mihn Le and Jesse Cliffe if my hazy memory recalls correctly ) - Cliffe was the guy that originally put in the good word and got Incoming hosted at PlanetHalfLife.com at the time.
Anyways, all of the weapons were modern day, so: M4a1's, Mp5's, etc. Here is a collection image of some weapons from the original Incoming:
We were making great headway on the GoldSRC engine. We've created and implemented some pretty fancy features on such an old engine. However, when we were roughly 40%-50% complete on development, Valve Software, the creator of both the GoldSRC engine as well as the Half-Life series had announced and shortly released there new and improved Source engine.
This was a rough time back then, unsure of what to do. However, in the end, we had decided to take the time to port to the Source engine. This had all occurred in 2004-2005. We re-branded the game name Incoming Source.
We had kept a lot of the references previously used for Incoming on the GoldSRC engine. This also meant the use of Halo-related content and inspirations. Keep in mind though, now that it was 2004 / 2005, both Halo 1 and Halo 2 had been released. Halo had achieved quite a large amount of fame and an even more intense fan-base. By this time, we had received a lot of flack and hate for looking like a 'Halo' game. Even though we had Bungies permission, this meant nothing if the actual communities and potential players didn't like the idea.
Here are some images to show you what changed in the port from GoldSRC to the Source Engine ( Episode 1 Engine / Orange Box Engine ):
Incoming Source had become more of an experimental project. By that I mean we did A LOT of level design work, created a lot of ideas, worked with a lot of game modes, weren't really sure what weapons we wanted. It was sort of a "Develop as you go approach" - which, to new developers, is a HORRIBLE approach - avoid it at all costs. However, it did allow us to really experiment, mess with, and understand the Source engine. Here are some renders from some random testing phases:
However, it had helped us in the long run, as it became a crazy game with tons of features and while yes, it was infact all over the place, it had opened up a whole new vortex of ideas and creativity.
For a long time, this didn't stop us. We had continued to develop as is. We kept the inclusion of Halo content.... perhaps out of me being stubborn or 'wanting to be true to my roots of why I got started in the first place'. We had again gotten to about 40-50% in development. Things had gone great. We had already made some roots and had accomplished quite a bit on the newer Source engine. Ranging from drivable vehicles and multiple passengers.
As previously stated - we had whipped up A LOT of levels while working on the Incoming Source prototype. A lot of the ideas would eventually carry over to Orion ( you will probably notice a very early version of ctf_incursion if you look hard enough, as well as prototypes of ctf_quagmire ). We thought it would be sort of neat to go back in time and revisit some of these locations:
As with it's predecessor, Incoming Source featured an array of modern day firearms. We of course made use of the Source engines new technologies and upgraded poly count limits and completely re-did the weapons. However, it was just not really creative and we were sticking to an old design perhaps a little too hard. However, we had pumped out quite a bit of new content which you can feast on below:
So over time and many community news releases, media releases and what have you... a lot of back lash was still coming our way due to the Halo related content and Incoming Source not really being a game of it's own. There was this one publishing in a UK PC gaming magazine that really sort of did it for me:
There was occasionally some denial towards Halo content, but it was always obvious. I think the denial came from, yes, even though there were a hefty amount of references, we still were putting in TONS of work.. and I guess it was just sort of a defense to how much work we were attributing or to at least get awareness that we were doing other things as well.
This was easily the hardest part of development for me personally. Among the halo back lash, personal "real life" problems among other things I had vanished. For the next year and a half, quietly, I re-designed the entire game of Orion. This year and a half re-design would be the best thing that had ever happened to this game.
I really don't know how to begin typing this portion. I don't know what aspect to start on and which one to end on. I have a very powerful feeling that this might end up a very long segment...
When I say everything was re-designed.. I literally mean everything. We had gone back to the drawing boards and touched everything from plant life, to architecture types, to structure design, aesthetics, nature formation, character designs, weapons designs, vehicle designs, item designs, removed stuff from the game design, added stuff, everything!
So I think a good place to begin with will be Orion itself. In previous prototypes of the game, Orion wasn't really defined. Nobody could tell if they were looking at an Earth map or a new planet map. It looked like a mess. We fixed this in the redesign.
We really went back and touched and focused on the art style. Sure, it's Sci-Fi, so you can only go so far. But we really expanded and at the same time brought everything together in a way it made sense (design wise).
Lets start of with the Orion architecture and structure designs. We had revised these areas and drew out an ungodly amount of drawings and designs. Starting with a deeper study of the interior designs for structures. We then focused on flushing out just as much attention on the recreation of the exterior of buildings. This would later be a factor in helping distinguish Earth levels from Orion levels.
We are currently working on the world prop aspect of the game. Not only are we lacking in this department, but we have plenty of designs for equipment and world objects for the Orion universe. We've developed designs ranging from toilets to armories.
Here is a glimpse at just a few pieces of concepts that we created during this time:
Not only that but we had established a new design to both Orion and Earth ( mostly the City of Cera ). We had developed plant life, re-imagined an infant earth and basically are trying to make it as beautiful as possible. Here is just some of the plant life that is being used in Orion:
During the previous year and a half we had re-designed every weapon in Orion. We had scrapped the game entirely of 'modern weapons' which was what we were riding on for all the years before. We re-designed the human weaponry to still maintain a ballistic behavior, however, the designs actually fit into the time period now. We re-designed every weapon, ranging from pistols, shotguns, smgs, sniper rifles, flame throwers, everything. We also took advantage of this by redesigning a lot of alien weapons and weapon functionality.
Here are a random collection of concepts created for Orion. You can find alot of weapons already being used in game here as well as get a preview of what's to come!
Below is the insane amount of content we have pushed out so far, with plans to only expand in the future!
Rest assured the re-design phase did not cease after weapons. No no. We went back to the drawing board and slapped the characters up there. We went through... I don't even want to think about how many.. character designs. We had finalized it down to 10 (5 for human, 5 for alien).
Below is sort of a visual process of how everything came to be:
The game-mode originally featured in Incoming Source was called Vital. This game mode was a large, open-ended, dynamic and interactive game-mode. We on the developer side sort of had a design of the mode we had in mind down on paper:
01. Each team has one COMMAND CENTER. Inside are various rooms such as: command centers, armories, vehicle garages, storage, spawn rooms, server rooms, generator rooms, etc. The base is encompassed in a large energy shield. The owning team can go in and out, however, enemies and their gun fire cannot penetrate.
02. Each team had at-least one OUTPOST. This was a significantly smaller structure, about the size of team bases on the current CTF maps. Inside were ammo dispesners, health and shield chargers, as well as an additional spawn room. There was also a shield control system located here. This shield control system links back to the main base.
03. Each team had the same objectives:
a.) Gain entry to enemy Outpost via Hacking with the O.S.O.R kit
b.) Disable the Shield Control System with the O.S.O.R Kit
c.) Gain access to the enemy Command Center.
d.) Locate the generator room and blow the shit out of them.
e.) The alarm will sound and last for 15 seconds.
e.) Make sure they blow up! The enemy team can prevent the explosion in these last 15 seconds if they disable the power to the generator with the O.S.O.R Kit.
We originally brought it back in development when we started making Orion. We started desigining a whole slew of levels to make use of Vital:
However, this game-mode was extremely complex. Not only that, but the game-mode was so open ended (with what you could do with the entities), you could change the objectives and make your own game modes with it with the SDK!
We wanted something more focused with Orion. What did we want with the first release? We wanted the players to experience how the weapons handle, what they feel like when shot, how the player is allowed to move, how the jetpack feels, how far can you get with it, how much damage do the weapons do, etc. This was all made simpler by making Capture the Flag the first included game-mode. Why? Most gamers are extremely familiar with CTF, it's not a hard game to pick up, and it can become very competitive. Not only this, it was old school, and we are proud of our retro vibe with Orion, as we worked very hard to bring that feeling back.
We then started cranking away. Things were dropped, things were added, things were finalized. After about a year of hard work we had finally released Orion Beta 1.0 to the public on December 4th, 2009. We started work on this build in early January of 2009.
We were finally very satisfied with how the game was. This was the prototype we decided to go full-speed ahead with. Sure, some main features like Dinosaurs and Vehicles are not to be seen YET, but they are going to be added. The weapon combat alone is so much better that we can now give the same attention to both dinosaurs and vehicles.
Here is some screen grabs from Orion's prototype:
As you already know, we have the new patch on its way. Besides that, we have quite a few megaton announcements coming your way in the next month or so.