TLDR: (I’M AWARE THAT HALF LIFE WAS NEVER A MULTIPLAYER ORIENTED GAME)
You’re gonna have to bring your life-jacket and forgive me because I type so fast that I accidentally wrote a fucking STORY BOOK. My bad. Anyways, Black Mesa could really change history on something that Valve couldn’t fit into their “busy” schedule back in the day. Much like Xen, multiplayer could be breathed on with pizza-breath and be improved from what it currently is…
First off, just mentioning that I had made a slight note regarding this in my previous post about what assets we would be seeing brought to Black Mesa alongside Xen.
This time, I don’t just wanna bring up that Black Mesa’s multiplayer is in a sorry state, but that the original HL also suffered from this in what I consider to be the game’s largest blunder: its gosh-tootin multiplayer. It doesn’t seem like anyone cares to connect it narratively to the game, which I think is a mistake. I like the little headspace of being able to visit something I enjoy in a fresh way, without having to retread on the same experience. The more independent a multiplayer mode feels to its accompanying campaign, the less relevant and enjoyable it is all-together. People don’t play Black Mesa Multiplayer but they play Black Mesa singleplayer, yet they’ll play other games for the multiplayer and never even consider Black Mesa. This can be avoided for sure and people who enjoy the campaign (all of us, I’d hope) can be included in the fun of multiplayer without the need of such a major, major shift in gameplay and necessary play-style. I mean, multiplayer is THERE, why not bring it up to par with the rest of the mod.
Going back a bit now:
Half Life was released a little before games began to set foot in that more team-based, tactical multiplayer setting. You know, games like Unreal Tournament, Halo, Rainbow Six (beyond ahead of its time), Team Fortress Classic, Counter Strike, and Battletoads. Obviously before all this, Quake changed a lot when it landed as far as the history of multiplayer (I was a bit young when Quake came out so bear with my memory). I never really played much Quake or Doom as they were always around but I always found them to be intimidating because I hated aiming in FPS at that point in my youth. I would often play Jedi Knight: Dark Forces II and was happy that they added the feature for 3rd person since they added the vertical aiming axis - something the first one, and many games, hadn’t had at that point. I remember Hexen and Dark Forces didn’t have a vertical axis, and I know Doom didn’t have one either. But honestly, I barely played those games because my imagination could never capture what the flip flop was going on in, or what genre they were even trying to be.
Moving on, Half Life was eventually introduced to me (I think I was 6 or 7?). I had thought it was some bullshit learny-game cause my dad was the one who put it in front me and at that time he would occasionally throw a learning game at me between every 20 real games. I guess it was just to see if I’d ever be a good kid and try to learn something, lol. It never worked but sometimes it would lead me to some fun ass games (I’m looking at you Pajama Sam)… Aaannyways, Half Life fucking changed me when all of a sudden everyone was screaming with half-decent voice acting (at-the-time) and suddenly the scientists are all fucking deformed and swatting at me with their creepy-as-shit laughter – needless to say, I was hooked. My sister was 3 years older than me at the time (she still is by the way, what a weird coincidence) and she was much better at FPS with the vertical axis so she would take over for the majority and I was content to watch.
So in no time, we got into multiplayer and you can bet that the game was satisfying to our young minds. Eventually when it came out on PS2, we went back and got re-into it all over again, but this time x1000 because of new-modes like: Decay, and the Decay Secret Mission where you played as a Vortiguant and fuck shit up together (honestly I always thought Opposing Force should have been co-op like Decay). Generally speaking, split-screen was so much easier to just sit down and flip on that we spent a lot of hours fucking around in that game.
However (here’s the part where I start to actually delve into this), we moved onto games like 007 and eventually Time Splitters after that; games that both had done a much better job with deathmatch-style multiplayer at the time, or so it seemed (in my opinion). When HL2 came out, it was as if multiplayer was completely forgotten. I never actually got involved in what seemed like just another pointless beating up of each other with random characters, all armed with the gravity gun somehow.
When games like Planetside, Halo and Battlefield started to come out (what with all the very intelligent RTS multiplayer games I loved at the time), I started to never really consider HL, or its recent sequel, a real multiplayer game since it was just a singleplayer game with that one particular set of standard deathmatch/capture-the-flag modes slapped on as an afterthought. The community was really the sole-contributor to that franchise’s online community. Besides that, the PS2 port was the most ambitious thing Half Life has ever done. (Those game modes were mint and pre-Half Life 2 lore. I can’t imagine the sad world some people live in where Half Life is just Half Life 1 and nothing else. Decay, Blue Shift, and Alien Mode are fucking legendary. It almost makes Half Life 2 look like the reason multiplayer never went anywhere. It never got its expansions, only two more parts of HL2. If you think about it, it’s HL2 that they never finished, not episode 3. We might have had more expansions and multiplayer had the company not lost focus.)
Furthermore, as many games started to have full-blown, story-driven campaigns and well-designed multiplayer features packaged together, it eventually started to become the norm. I always hoped that Half Life 2 would capitalize on this with its episodes, making at least some modernization when it came to playing multiplayer - maybe even a co-op mode with Alyx and Gordon. So then Episode I came out, and it was so damn short I almost forgave them when I saw there was only like 5 chapters anyways. But god damn, the action was for real this time. It did seem like there was about to be another Blue Shift-type spin-off where you got to play as Alyx. Gabe mentioned at some point that it was a conversation they were having, and not to mention Alyx’s AI started to really become something helpful rather than a bot you had to keep alive.
It seemed like Episode 2 was going to be some serious shit. I always figured, and I know a lot of my friends at the time did, that by episode 3, the games would be bundled into one big HALF-LIFE 2 with a decent and more modern multiplayer, or at least something comparable to a multiplayer-mode that isn’t just a rebel and the gman throwing toilets at one another. Why can Halo have story-driven multiplayer layouts with Elites and dumbass space dudes fighting against one another but a game with the kind of lore-continuity that’s about 100x more set-up for that diversion just gets sidelined in the department? Black Mesa especially is such a great location and there’s already 3 factions fighting against one-another. A game-mode there pretty much writes itself. It’s funny: ALL Valve ever fucking talked about was becoming more multiplayer and connected, but they just kept looking right over everyone’s favorite game. Probably would have ruined it with hats, anyways.
*I guess as a kid, once I saw the PS2 version of the game having a playable vortiguant, I was immediately like: “There’s an Opposing Force and now an alien-mode… why isn’t there a multiplayer mode more along the avenue of Day of Defeat or something with clear factions?” *
And IF I was gonna hypothesize on how simple that would be, I might say they could have had a Marine Team with shotguns, mp5s, nades and other marine shit. An Alien Team, where you could play as the grunt and use snarks, melee and the hivehand, and then vortigaunts. The Science Team could be what it already is, minus the Xen weapons… lazer guns and everthing else. It would have been so easy for them to just whip that up and it would have seriously added some joy to the multiplayer. And damn, maybe an actual lifespan for that universe.
"Hey! I want to skip to the point." :
As of right now, Half Life is over. But Black Mesa is like Half Life all over again. There’s already a marine/scientist team-thing going on with the game’s multiplayer and it’s so much better for it. If only there was a more specific mode where there wasn’t jump packs and lazer/alien guns for soldiers.
Take it a step further even, maybe add the Grunt and Vort as a playable faction. Sounds hard but it’s just two playermodels and one-swep for the vortiguant. That shit would be a fucking blast, too. That little effort would really blow the game wide open. I’m gonna feel so empty after Xen is over, sometimes I just wanna go back and fight HECU and squash some aliens… but I don’t want to replay the damn game again and again for 9000th time in 20 years.
In conclusion, I know this is bullshit that doesn’t matter and likely won’t happen, but at this point with the engine’s capabilities and the work that’s already been done, I bet this would take like a nuance of effort at the most. Like fucking a couple weeks at most, if that. I’m willing to bet the Steamworkshop would pick up the pace on any needed updates and maps to make those additions last forever. Most modders could do that in a few weeks and would release it, but they know that if you, the Black Mesa team, doesn’t do it, that like 4 people will play it. A public release or even an official inclusion of a mod like that into the game’s multiplayer would probably seriously blow people away and get monster press from the community. And it’s attainable for sure.
Thoughts? A bookmark, perhaps?