Black Mesa Machinima: Stark's Mind


Hello there, all.
I’m here to share with you my first ever web series on YouTube. It’s taken me multiple years to finally get my work started, as I first had the idea back in 2013, and have been unable to properly begin on it until now. But, it’s here, and I’m finally comfortable enough to share it with everyone.
Before I begin, I just wanted to thank the Crowbar Collective and Black Mesa community for being amazing. I’m a big fan of the Half-Life series - both game and lore wise - and seeing my favourite game remastered and brought to a modern setting is just incredible.
[align=center]WHAT IS STARK’S MIND? [/size][/align]Stark’s Mind is, well, a Mind series, of course, that is set in Black Mesa. The overall summary of Stark’s Mind is that it takes place in a parallel universe, in which the Freeman’s Mind version of Gordon Freeman is unable to attend work on May 16th, 200X (I have the series set in 2009). A former co-worker who was forced to leave the company, Vincent Stark, is called by Freeman, and is asked if he could act as a sort of body double, as Freeman would regret losing this type of job, despite the fact that he has issues with the company. Stark, who coincidentally looks like Freeman, is given an ultimatum (that will be explored as the series progresses) by Freeman, and reluctantly acts as his body double. The events of Half-Life (Black Mesa) then occur, albeit with Stark acting as a Freeman stand-in.

[align=center]WHY ARE YOU DOING THIS?[/size]
[/size][/align]Initially, I really wanted to just create a Mind series for fun. Over time, however, I thought of all the possibilities I could explore. I’m fairly well versed in the Half-Life lore, so I plan to incorporate very important aspects into the series and discuss them. The Mind genre fits best for what I would like to do now - the seriousness of the Resonance Cascade. Half-Life is a story in which a regular man is thrust into a situation that pits the Earth against a threat like never before. A story of consequence, action, and adventure. I want my series to embody that mold, and the Mind genre is so easily controllable, that you can take it in to new ground. We had Freeman’s Mind explore a side of Gordon Freeman that was absolutely unexpected, but what about from a normal person? How would they react realistically? I’ve never seen a Mind series that heavily focused on these themes, and I hope to accomplish this once the series starts to pick up pace.

Additionally, I’m a huge fan of Ross Scott’s work. I personally believe that Freeman’s Mind and Civil Protection are the one of the best pieces of Machinima we’ve received yet. Ross put thousands of hours into his work, and with his movie now known to us, I felt as though the series could also serve as a sort of tribute or homage. Not just to Ross, but perhaps the entire Half-Life community, since we’ve all been waiting for content for so long. We can only do so much to stave off the wait for Half-Life 3.

So, in short, Stark’s Mind to me is a series that serves as juxtaposition to Freeman’s Mind that explores the themes and story seen in Half-Life (though I do still try to aim for comedic moments, as comedy is a staple in the Mind genre). A series that pays tribute to Valve, the Crowbar Collective, and Ross. And, a series that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time. A passion project, essentially.

[/size][/align]So, a summary of this post is: Stark’s Mind is a passion project that aims to recreate my experiences with the Half-Life storyline and embrace them fully - albeit with a stand-in protagonist as Freeman’s Mind has already been done. The series is quite amateur, and I’m still learning how to improve on my editing skills. The first few episodes are a bit shaky, but the later ones are okay, in my opinion. The quality of the voice over lines aren’t exactly the best as I record in my room (looking into removing background noise), and the writing is mediocre at best, since this is the first time I’ve done something like this. But, there’s only room for improvement from here on out, right? I’ll link the episodes down below.

One thing I heavily value is feedback and criticism. Please, if there’s something that you think could be done better - editing, voice acting, writing - leave a post! I appreciate all criticism - positive and negative, as it gives me an outline as to what I should try to improve upon most in the series.

Thank you for reading! I hope you enjoy the series, as well as where it leads to in the future.

FIRST EPISODE (very rough):[/size] Stark’s Mind: Episode 01
LATEST EPISODE (it’s okay imo): Stark’s Mind: Episode 07[/size][/size]



I’m going off of the first two episodes here, so I don’t have a completely comprehensive idea of your series as a whole, but based on these two I think I may continue watching. The first episode is super rough, but as far as writing and the just things overall I think you’ve got potential to improve over time. Some of the lines got a genuine giggle out of me, and I wasn’t totally bored throughout.

My biggest concern is the personality seems a bit like an impersonation of Ross Scott’s Freeman in terms of mannerisms, but I’m sure with time you’ll develop more of your own style. Next to that is the evidently random inconsistency on his experience with the facility. The character supposedly previously worked in the company. Yet all in the same episode you can see him familiar with some areas and completely clueless or surprised by others (for example, not knowing how to get to the test chamber but remembering it’s large). This wouldn’t be as jarring if it wasn’t as common, but it’s also really important to be consistent on the specifics early on because you’re establishing the character.

Other gripes are relatively small. Little beatbox-type noises and awkward laughter to fill space instead of something of merit are annoying, and sometimes when expressing frustration or excitement you slip into a whisper/softer voice to emulate power/volume instead of actually doing it. Thankfully this wasn’t the case during the test chamber segment, but when it happens it’s a blunt reminder that this is a guy in his room recording, and it tears focus from the character. Lastly, you spend a lot of time stationary, just talking about the environment. Stuff to fill space is fine, but I feel like a lot of time could be saved if you’d progress more than idle around as you discuss the color of the room.

On the technical side, not a whole lot jumps out. The video quality is pretty good. I’m guessing you’re using the Source Recorder based on some small visual anomalies? I can look passed that.

On the audio side of things, I would suggest replacing the “use” sound file with a silent file so we don’t have to hear every time you press something. Additionally, I know you’re aware of the background noise in the voiceovers. That’s definitely a priority, a pretty huge thing that you should experiment with solutions for. The quality itself is good, but that white noise, man! Lastly on the audio, there’s some mixing problems, where often your voice comes across as way louder than the game. Obviously you want to be clearer, so I would suggest lowering the game’s audio channel whenever your voice is played, instead of just blaring your voice on top of it.

Anywho, despite that wall of text, I like what I’ve seen so far, and I bet you’ll improve over time. Even Freeman’s Mind was a bit rough at first. Your acting’s pretty decent (barring the whisper thing I mentioned), you’ve got some funny lines, and your character concept is interesting. I like that you’ve gone ahead and placed in additional SFX in some spots. Those were a really cool part of (especially late) Freeman’s Mind, and I think if you go the extra mile and put extra effort into things like that you’ll end up with a better series. Sorry if some of the things I mentioned don’t apply to the later episodes. I’ll check them out at another time, and probably get back to you on them.



Thanks for the reply! Hope you enjoy the next few episodes when you get around to watching them.

I tried to portray Stark as a sort of straight man to Freeman’s neurotic personality, but as you said, it’s a bit hard to distinguish between the two. Regarding Stark being a former employee, the reason I made it so that he was unfamiliar with certain areas of the facilities was supposed to play on the fact that the maps in Black Mesa look familiar to the Half-Life maps, while also having a whole different air to them. I tried to incorporate that joke into the intro episodes by making it so that Black Mesa renovated the facilities some time before Stark’s return. I believe I included a line in Episode 01 where Stark says,“wow, you guys renovated the place?” However, that is not the case, as you said. I apologize for that.

Yeah, that was something I’m not really happy in regards to the first episode. The transit system intro scene is very long and serves the purpose of building up what is to come in the game. I unfortunately couldn’t really find anyway to incorporate that into the episode without making it look awkward, which is why the weird humming was included. I couldn’t really settle on anything other than that.

Agreed. I try to find a particular balance between time and progress, but I unfortunately focus more on the time aspect of the episode, which is why you have episodes that are close to 15 minutes long. This is my biggest gripe with Episode 02 because I wanted to have only two episodes that serve to re-introduce the Black Mesa Research Facility, but I ended up with an episode that was close to 20 minutes long. I’m going to try and rectify this issue with later episodes. I think I did a better job with Episode 07 in regards to progress, finding a nice sort of balance between banter and the continuation of Stark’s journey.

I’m going to get on this when I start working on the eighth episode, for two files. For the use file, as you mentioned, as well as the sound file that plays when you pick up a weapon. Whenever there is a map change, that damned sound will always play when I go over the video in the Source Demo, so I’ll try and see if I can mute those sounds or just replace them later on. I’ve done sound modding before, but Black Mesa is a bit stubborn when it comes to using custom files, so I’ll be sure to find a way around that.

Yeah, the audio did come across as a bit loud for some of the episodes. I’ll be sure to get on to that as well! My hearing isn’t the best, so that might just be why the audio mixing is a bit screwed over. Apologies!