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Introductory post for BMSC's ModDB page, clarifying its purpose and providing an update on current progress (as of 25/06/21).

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How to start this off... Well, hey there! Welcome to BMSC's ModDB page!

So, for starters - what is BMS Classic? Simply put, it's a mod that aims to revert a lot of the changes that were made to Black Mesa in 1.0 and 1.5. A lot of significant changes were made to the game's flow and progression for the sake of streamlining the experience. While this isn't inherently a bad thing, a lot of these changes were not particularly well-implemented - player guidance and signposting is often heavy-handed and excessive to the point of being insulting, there are many spots where backtracking is arbitrarily disabled, there's a constant surplus of health and ammo for certain weapons, and so on. On top of that, some of the changes also open up room for more bugs and problems, detracting from the overall experience significantly. There's also a litany of balance problems - some areas are notoriously difficult, while many others have been watered down considerably.

BMSC's primary goal is to revert and polish up these changes. Giving the player the freedom to explore again at their own pace, to encourage players to think and solve puzzles on their own, to balance out the difficulty curve and gameplay, and to bring the whole game up to a consistent level of quality. It also aims to reimplement some setpieces and areas from Half-Life that were lost in the transition to BM - things like the exploding walkways in Blast Pit, the Tentacle field in Surface Tension, or the core flooding sequence in Lambda Core, are restored and reimagined to fit into the game's flow and bring the best of both games to the forefront.

Until now, BMSC's strictly been available via the Steam Workshop (and at the moment of writing, that's still the only place to find it). This is less than ideal, mostly due to Black Mesa's spotty Workshop support - Workshop mod conflicts are difficult to diagnose and sort out, and the Workshop occasionally has problems with properly overriding the game's stock maps, resulting in missing textures and bugged lighting. The best approach to this I'm aware of is to disable BM loading its map .vpk file via the gameinfo.txt file and extract its maps manually, since it doesn't seem to have an issue with overriding loose files. At some point, I'd really like to find a way to automate this with an installer, that would preferably also allow users to pick and choose which chapters (or which versions of a given chapter) they want to install. There'd be no way to upload such a thing to the Workshop, making ModDB the ideal option.

I'm also establishing this page to serve as a hub for updates. Until recently, progress on BMSC has been astonishingly fast, if I do say so myself - from the very first release (which had a simple pass done to everything from Unforeseen Consequences through Interloper) back in January, every chapter up to and including Surface Tension has seen major overhauls, with two of them (On A Rail and We've Got Hostiles) even receiving multiple versions, to restore HL1-style lighting and expand the vent section, respectively (note that the WGH expansion is not the already-established Vent Mod, but its own implementation).

Unfortunately, Forget About Freeman - coupled with the time of year (for personal reasons) and the amount of work that went into Surface Tension - has managed to throw a wrench into that schedule. While we've already got some big longer-term ideas for FAF, the geometry in the first map (bm_c3a1a) was surprisingly messy. This isn't the first time we've faced this problem - Apprehension B and C were in desperate need of optimization - but FAF looked to be far more difficult to work with in any meaningful manner. As a result, I've taken to rebuilding almost the entire garage area from the ground up to make its geometry cleaner and better-aligned to the grid.

This has proven to be very time-consuming. At the time of writing, the first segment is mostly finished - barring some additions and detailing to prepare it for "sewing onto" the rest of the map, it's coming along pretty nicely. Here's a handful of screenshots of how it looks right now.

c3a1a rebuild0066 c3a1a rebuild0067


c3a1a rebuild0069 c3a1a rebuild0070


c3a1a rebuild0071 c3a1a rebuild0075

(clicky clicky for full-size)


At the moment, while I'd certainly like to tackle the Xen maps more in-depth as well, once LC is done, I'm probably going to return and touch up the rest of the Earthbound maps for consistency and bugfixes. Hammer is incredibly unstable when trying to load up Xen's maps (some of them won't load at all unless the viewport settings are set extremely low, making it next to impossible to get anything done), I don't have access to 3DS Max or Wall Worm, and my editor of choice - Hammer++ - doesn't yet have official support for Black Mesa or CSGO, which is critical due to Xen's reliance on 4-way blend displacements. I do have some tricks to get around this, but they're far from ideal - if waiting for a while longer allows for tackling Xen using H++ at full power, that's a concession I'm more than willing to make, especially since it'll allow for easier in-depth editing of Xen onwards.

So... That's the current state of BMSC. I don't have an ETA on FAF yet, though I'm certainly hopeful it'll be finished sometime in July. I'm hoping to get status reports like this done on a monthly basis at least, though knowing me, we'll see how that goes. I'll also be trying to update the page with standalone downloads for individual chapters over the next little while, too.

Cheers!

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