So I just wanna clarify a few things here. I think a lot of the issues with the way our game’s development has progress has always stemmed from the mod team’s intent vs result.
Xen is a prime example of this. In 2012, post-mod release, the team 100% intended Xen to follow the mod within a reasonable timeframe. Some team members started working on “Black Mesa’ing” HL1’s Xen, by recreating the original maps with our improved twists. However, the team largely burned out and fell apart beyond this point. About half the existing team disappeared at this point, I think. This is nobody’s fault, and nobody is really accountable for it, as at the time we were still a mod team working in our spare time. The energetic shot of adrenaline was in late 2013, when Valve asked us if we wanted to go retail. This was basically our “phoenix rising from the ashes” moment.
However, by this point, we’d also realised that just doing a slightly improved version of HL1’s Xen was absolutely not going to cut it, if we wanted to do BMS justice. All the existing tests and map versions just kind of, well…sucked. However, we also needed to get the ball rolling, but in order to do that, we had to get the game on Steam first. We were VERY BADLY lacking in talent, particularly programmers, and basically we spent years operating in a totally crippled capacity, trying to get the game into a somewhat functional state - back to where it was before. It was a tremendously demotivating and difficult period for us. During this time, our Xen lead and a mapper or two were still working away on Xen, and creating our new vision for it, while the whole rest of the team were focused on simply getting the existing game to work properly, and be something we would be able/proud to sell on Steam. This was so much more work than it ever should have been. Once we launched EA, we started attracting lots of really talented individuals. Our programming department went from basically a one man show (poor Deniz) to a fully fledged team who are absolutely KICKASS. Our art department blossomed too, and many of the existing, veteran team members were able to work much more or work full-time (such as myself).
Why am I telling you this story in so much detail? Well, this chain of events is highly complex and was never foreseen by the team when they said Xen would come following the mod release in 2012. We never mislead people, so much as our past statements of intent wound up working out entirely differently to how we thought it might. We never foresaw a simple adaptation of HL1’s Xen working out so badly. We never foresaw it taking us YEARS to get the game into a functional, sellable state. We never foresaw losing most of the team to burnout following the mod release. You could argue that perhaps we should have foreseen these things, and I think that’s potentially debatable. But that’s not the point I’m trying to make here.
Another example of this would be selling the game in the first place. The team wrote on our community wiki somewhere in 2009 that Black Mesa was always going to be free. At the time, the team was riding a pretty significant high in terms of progress, and the landscape of gaming was rather different. When the opportunity came to sell the game in 2013, the team was around half different people, and the lack of momentum and talent made selling the game the most logical choice for us. Particularly given that by this point we’d decided on a much more ambitious version of Xen, something to blow the rest of BMS away, and needed an engine license to be able to make the necessary changes. Again I don’t think any of these are things the team would have really been able to easily foresee in 2009.
We’ve never mislead people and said things like “yeah we’re working on Xen, it’s going great,” when we haven’t. People have sort of just always assumed that to be true because we said we would follow up with Xen, post 2012. Many have assumed that Xen was in the works BEFORE that point. You could still perhaps argue that it’s a failure of communication on our part, and I might be inclined to agree. But the reality is a bit different, and we’ve never actually directly stated otherwise when we were in those situations.
I hope this overly rambly wall of text helps to clear things up a bit. I’d hate to think that community members felt like we’d misled them or been deceitful, because we really haven’t. We’ve made some dumb mistakes and been overzealous and perhaps handled our PR poorly at times. But it’s always come from a good place. We love this game and we love this community.