Half Life 2: Raising the Bar REDUX: Anniversary Update
Hi, everyone. In this update, we'll be discussing three things - the past of the project, and how far we've come; the present of the project, and where we are now; and the future of the project, and where we hope to be, and what we hope to do.
First off, we’d like to take a glance at how far we’ve come since our first few project updates. We’ve taken a few shots from each of our first few updates and placed them side-by-side with how things are now. Some of the things you’ll see here may have only undergone small improvements; most things, however, have been totally overhauled, and represent how far we’ve come as a team.
V1.0 - Arcade
When I first started Raising the Bar: Redux, the Arcade was one of the two maps I was focusing my energy on. Even though I’ve learned a lot about mapping since then and gotten much better, even now I wouldn’t have been able to do the same excellent work that Honza has over this last year. He’s taken a collection of blocky, ugly brushes and turned them into a fully-fledged combat map complete with complicated scripting elements, unique gameplay and puzzles, and great visual quality. Honza, overall, has been with the project almost since the start – and in that time has proven himself an invaluable member of the team.
V1.0 - Pistol
Since the start of the project, we’ve always considered high-fidelity models to be a top priority. Though we’ve learned from the vices of other mod teams that were enamoured by polycounts in the tens of thousands and have much more reasonable limits, we’re still committed to turning things up a notch in this department. At first, all I had to work with from the old team were vaguely incomplete meshes with smoothing errors and only a normal map to inform how the texture was put together. After several modifications since by our helper at the time, Joschka, and me, as well as new animations by Brendaymn, our animator, we’ve landed on our end goal with our pistol being mostly finished.
V1.0 - Machine Gun
Similarly, to the pistol, the GR9 Machine Gun started off with not much to work with. Joschka once again gave us help with this, but it was around this time that the whole “green guns” discussion was going on. Whilst at first we intended to simply stick to our ‘guns’, if you’ll excuse the pun – we later realised that potentially helpful feedback was being drowned out by the same people making the same complaints every update. Thus, in order to help the rest of the team in this area, we redid the design of most of our weapons – the HMG went through several iterations, first going entirely gunmetal grey, then taking on the more traditional desert camo, before we decided on the same pattern but with dark blue tones, to be reminiscent of combine technology.
V1.0 - AKM
Unlike the other guns on this list, the AKM was essentially complete in both model and texture. Whilst we changed the handgrip at the front to a dark green colour – at first to fit with the other weapons, but later kept as a stylistic choice – the AKM’s model and textures have been left essentially untouched. One thing that has changed drastically is its viewmodel arms and its animations – both of which were unsatisfactory before and needed a lot of work. We’re not sure yet if the AKM is entirely finished or not, but it’s definitely doing a lot better.
V1.1 – MP5K
As a hugely traditional part of the cut-content years, the MP5K was one of my first priorities to address. Before I had access to the skills or resources to scratch-make our own models, I had found a decent model from a “Free 3D model” site – these sites are somewhat like Kevin McLeod’s Incompetech site, being repositories of models that are free to use in a number of different scenarios, but always for non-commercial projects. A friend of mine who you’ll be hearing more about later in the update created a custom reloading animation for the weapon, but it went through several iterations material and texture wise (even I’ll admit the green variant of this weapon was not a good choice). In the end, with our new animator on the team, the weapon received an entirely custom animation set and, when we spent time revamping the material settings for all of our weapons, the MP5K was one of the beneficiaries.
V1.1 – Iceaxe
Originally our Iceaxe was simply a fixed-up port from the Half-Life 2 leak, but then we got permission from Yogensia to use his extremely well-done model. With new animations from Brendaymn and plans for unique functionality, we still hope for the Iceaxe to have a capable and memorable contribution to the player’s inventory as their replacement melee weapon during the Borealis sections.
V1.1 – Terminal Plaza
The Terminal Plaza has gone in a completely different direction since this update. We’ve taken inspiration both from the cut 2002 E3 demo map, as well as earlier – and later – incarnations in putting together this version of the Terminal plaza. We still have plans to improve upon its design further, and the “consul obelisk” seen in the old shot may well make a return with a custom model sometime in the future.
V2.0– Tau Cannon
The Tau Cannon is one of the most iconic weapons from Half-Life’s arsenal and whilst at first we had plans simply to improve upon the leak’s model and leave it at that, we were able to get a brand-new, faithful re-imagining of the leak’s Tau Cannon design from Cosme, which was then custom animated to create a fully-custom Tau Cannon. This weapon model in particular is a favourite on the team and off the team, and is one of our proudest showcases of the talent of our team.
V2.0 – Underground
For this map, we simply needed more than one shot. The underground was completely overhauled by Cft, taking it from a relatively standard “shoot zombies underground” map into a complex, challenging crawl through more than just blocky maintenance tunnels, rife with engaging combat, puzzles, and secrets to discover. We’re told there’s stuff in that map that nobody on the team has even found yet, and Cft and Honza both led the charge in ensuring every map had secrets nestled away for replayability and to ensure everyone’s playthrough was unique in its own way. As you can see, detail work has vastly improved, with the chasm in the final part of the map being much more impressive in Cft’s revamped map.
V2.2 – OICW
Much like the Tau Cannon and Iceaxe, the original plan with this weapon was simply to revamp its model from the HL2 leak and to leave it at that. However, with the help of Leo Ratner, we were able to make good use of a model from the old team, improving its model and giving it excellent textures. He also did a custom animation set for it that, for a long time, set the standard of quality we expected from animations for weapons. Later, Brendaymn met and exceeded this standard of quality and felt the need to re-do the OICW in his own style, but the legacy of Leo’s contributions live on with this very-well done model.
V2.3 – Construction
This initial sector of the map has seen, perhaps, the least change in this time. Whilst it has definitely seen increases in detail, Honza’s priority when designing this map was improving what already existed for the initial starting area and, going forward, ensuring the following sections were put together much more coherently.
Overall – Logo Evolution
Logos are one of the most important parts of a project’s identity – a memorable logo means a memorable project that is easily recognisable. Our logo has gone through several major evolutions – the first being one I cooked up playing off of the name of the project but also taking inspiration from fan-made designs for an HL2 logo. The second was the logo created by AmbientNoise for the original RTB team, and for a while we stuck with this one, as my one was rough and not especially unique. However, we changed to a new version – using the icon referenced in the leak files for inspiration – due to concerns about the old one being very noisy, and also to try and separate ourselves as a new beast from the old mod. We had planned to stay with this as our final design. However, a number of individuals continually lambasted the choice in logo, saying it was designed for the original TF2 and that us using it was incorrect. Despite us not really finding much strong evidence to suggest this to be the case, in order to avoid another “green guns” situation, we opted to change our logo to the one seen on the side of the City 17 train in a notable piece of concept art, as that is uniquely and unquestionably pre-release Half-Life 2. That being said, this allows us to make a good segway into our next section – the present state of the mod, and what we’re doing right now.
Right now, we’ve recovered.
A few months ago, for my own reasons, I took a short hiatus from Raising the Bar: Redux. Part of this was due to getting a part-time job, being in full-time university education, and personal relationships beginning to suffer due to the stress. I wanted to prioritise the things that mattered most to me without anything suffering as a result. However, part of it was also the consistent, constant battering we have received from the community in this past year. To this day, I still don’t fully understand it. However, the situation the mod is in was put very well by a new friend of mine – “The silent majority have upvoted your posts, retweeted your tweets, supported your discord channels, and got you into fifth place as one of the best upcoming mods of 2018 for the past year. The silent majority have always stood behind the mod and want it to succeed.” In the face of what looked like people actively advocating for us to fail, words of encouragement like this motivated me to once more step forward to assume the mantle of responsibility. Since then, development has continued at the same breakneck pace as always. Right now, we’re revamping all of chapter one, still in preparation for a demo release. We’ve taken on new mappers, new programmers, and, soon, new modellers to continue ensuring our vision of the mod is brought to life. Though some people have left the team along the way, those people still follow the mod and their work is still put to excellent use. Our team is still a very capable size at twenty two very talented individuals with skills in a variety of departments.
We don’t plan to capitulate on any of our core tenets of development anymore, and know that the only way forward is our way forward.
Speaking of the way forward…
As previously stated, we’re revamping our chapter one preparing for a demo release. We’re not certain when this demo will release – we know we’ve already missed this date, and so we are cutting all ties to any kind of previous or future estimation of a demo. It’ll be out when it’s out, and that’s our attitude for all aspects of development. We’ve decided to phase out formal updates like this except in special circumstances – like the mod’s anniversary. These updates were great showcases to the “silent majority”, but the overbearingly toxic vocal minority were usually the ones responsible for our disappointment following each public update we made, and we’ve decided to cater to the silent majority in a way that works better for us. So, first of all – we have a public discord that we’ll be using as one of many platforms to communicate with the people who matter. You’ll be able to see renders, project updates, videos, and reposts of content posted elsewhere here. On occasion, developers will also speak directly with you guys – I’m speaking to the silent ones here – who maybe will be encouraged not to be so silent. You can join the discord by following this link: Discord.gg
Renders and small snippets will still be on Twitter and ModDB, and perhaps in the future we’ll rethink doing traditional articles again, but right now we’re going to focus on what matters – us, and making sure we make the mod we want to make. If that means developing the mod mostly in a bubble, then so be it. This is why we’ve been silent on the ModDB for a while, so now that it’s been clarified, I hope those of you wondering where we went have had your questions answered.
And with that, we conclude our anniversary update. From this, you can see how far we’ve come in just one year’s time, and the shots in this update haven’t scratched the surface of work we’ve done across the entire mod – and work that is to come. We’re very optimistic about the current state of the project and the future of our mod.
Before ending, we’d like to announce a few roles we’re looking for on the team at this moment:
- A mapper with knowledge of the faceposer tool for putting together narrative portions
- A modeller with experience of competent implementation into source to help us nail down .vmt settings and understand how to improve our visual fidelity
- A composer who will be able to finish up our third and final compilation of music, following the departure of the previous composer to focus on his own projects for the time being. This composer will need to be able to match the style of the tracks previously put forward.
If these positions interest you, please add me on discord at Kralich#0901.
Thanks for your attention. Stay tuned in on the ModDB, Discord, and Twitter to see how we continue to move along.