Remastered ‘Half-Life 2’ Coming to Vive & Rift with VR Controller Support via Revamped Mod

Rise and shine Mr. Freeman... Rise. And. Shine.

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Behind the Tech

Speaking to the team behind the Half-Life 2: VR mod, we learned more about the technical issues which halted development of the original mod several years back. Two of the new members—who go by pseudonyms Marulu and Street Rat—are responsible for developing a key hack that would make it possible to bring Half-Life 2 to modern VR headsets.

“The Source engine is DirectX 9 only which does not allow texture sharing and is not supported by any of the new VR APIs [which the modern VR headsets rely on],” Marulu told me. “Oculus and SteamVR both need DirectX 10+. Valve thus abandoned [VR support in Source] and left it in the [Rift] DK2 ‘extended’ state based on a old SteamVR version.”

That meant that official VR support in Source-based games like Half-Life 2 never made the jump to the consumer Vive and Rift headsets. That is until Marulu developed a technique to send frames directly to the new VR APIs; a hack which he teases was actually developed for another “secret project” that hasn’t yet been announced.

“We hacked that support to gain control over it and using my special rendering code I send the DirectX frames in low latency directly to the VR SDKs. It should be as low latency as native DirectX 11 rendering. This code was developed by me for my secret project, which will launch soon, and was reused for the Half-Life 2: VR mod.”

Remastered

Speaking with WormSlayer, a long-time member of the VR community, and one of the authors of the original mod, I learned how Half-Life 2: VR has been remastered—in many cases hand-tuned across some 90 maps for increased fidelity—over the course of two years.

“After Half-Life 2 was released [in 2004], [Valve] added a bunch of new features to the engine, like HDR lighting, which were used in the Episodes,” he explained. “So I updated all of the levels to use that, and some other features like accurate shadows from static meshes, and also went through and hand-optimised the resolution of the shadow maps everywhere. I fixed countless misaligned textures, little gaps in the level geometry, etc.”

Episode 1 & 2 on the Way

Although Episode 1 and 2 are required for the installation (because of some shared assets), the initial release of the mod will launch only with compatibility for the full Half-Life 2 campaign. The team has confirmed that Episode 1 and Episode 2 are due to get the same VR treatment. They’re also considering multiplayer/co-op support but haven’t committed to delivering that just yet.

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  • Wildtz0r

    GimmeGimmeGimmeGimmeGimmeGimmeGimmeGimme

  • David Herrington

    So, anyone thinking of making Prop Hunt VR or Trouble in Terrorist Town VR with these new assets? :)

    • NooYawker

      Are those mods?

      • David Herrington

        Prop Hunt and Trouble in Terrorist Town are game modes from Garry’s Mod, which is a platform made with assets from Half Life and Counterstrike.

        Garry’s Mod can be purchased on Steam.

        • Toby Nazer-Williams

          The mod outright states that many Source games and mods sharing mechanics with HL2 will work with HL2VR

          • David Herrington

            This sounds like a good indication that it wouldn’t be too difficult to implement these mods into a Garry’s Mod 2.0 with VR!

  • Mane Vr

    god I hope we can turn off manually reload guns in this.. not sure why people think doing that is fun

    • OhYeah!

      ha ha yeah, some little annoyances don’t need to be recreated. I feel the same way about car games where the windshield gets dirty. Give me a magic windshield that never gets dirty and let’s move on.

    • Agree, I’ve just tested a game with completely realistic reload and for some weapons it is super boring

      • Brent

        No way, it’s gotta be super stressful!!!

    • Rosten

      People don’t think it’s fun, they *find* it fun. In my case, I find it *very* fun and immersive. Apparently some people don’t, so let’s have options.

    • NooYawker

      It is fun, but only there’s lots of bullets in between. A six shooter with manual reload is a nightmare.

    • Caven

      I’m not sure why people think having no control over the speed of canned reloading animations is fun, yet it’s quite common for some reason. Personally, I like the idea of being able to rack a shotgun faster in a pinch, or already having a spare magazine in hand when the one in the gun is about to run out. In VR, manual reloads help avoid issues where the character’s hand movements don’t match the players, or having to have reload timers to artificially explain why a gun won’t fire yet. The manual reloading doesn’t have to be super realistic. We’re not talking simulation levels of functionality, with fully functional controls and weapon malfunctions–just an arcade-style reload to add a bit of a skill element to what is otherwise a forced, static timer that triggers every time ‘R’ (or reasonable facsimile) is pressed.

      • Mane Vr

        For me gaming is my down time i don’t wish to do the extra work with manual reload and i have reload guns before nothing in vr feels even close so for some those who have might feel a disconnect with what they are feeling vs what they remember feeling at least the button reload or the flick pr the lowering of hands reload won’t give that wtf feeling at reload

        • Caven

          That’s a perfectly reasonable opinion to have. I was just pointing out some examples why some people might actually prefer manual reloading in a game. It may not feel much like the real thing, but then again, neither does full locomation and object interaction in VR, and yet many people clamor for those features.

          It’s all a matter of degrees, anyway. For many people, having to manually aim in a game–especially while rapidly moving around–is extra work they don’t wish to do, so they choose different genres. Surely you wouldn’t want those people to invalidate your desire to play FPS games, just because they can’t see the fun in them. It’s bad enough that there are already people who try hard to invalidate videogames as a medium, just because they can’t see the fun in them.

          • CazCore

            those comparisons lol

    • Tadd Seiff

      I agree it should be able to be turned off. I want it, but it arguably adds significant difficulty, and there is no reason that a VR version needs to be more ‘difficult’, the player should still be able to elect an easy/smooth story-based experience. OTOH, those that crave full immersion, should be able to turn it on.

      Just like “auto-reload” became a ‘universally’ switchable setting, because it makes things harder. If you just want to play through the game, see the story, and not get killed too much, it’s nice to have auto-reload enabled…and turn off reload simulation in VR.

      So ideally, in settings, reload could have these options:

      Reload Method: button/gesture (gesture will grey-out the auto-reload switch)
      Auto-reload: ON/OFF

      • Mane Vr

        Yes they said they are going to have a arcade mode for those who don’t want the realistic reload..

    • yag

      Manually reloading the python/magnum in the original HLVR mod was one of the most satisfying VR experience for me at the time.

      • Mane Vr

        nice I want that in the game for those players who love it but for me I don’t wish to do so and I want that option which lucky I will have that option

    • We’ll be offering a simple arcadey reloading mechanic as an option, as well as a more realistic mode.

      • Dario Cannizzaro

        good man! And I guess track pad locomotion (if I have read the various Reddit posts correctly).

        Do you guys have a patreon/paypal where thankful people can give you money? :)

        • Not yet, but we may very well set something like that up at some point!

  • NooYawker

    I tried playing HL2 on the Vive and it’s pretty cool for the most part but without controller support it wasn’t easy. Some texture updates and controller support and I’d be a happy camper.

  • Justos

    Oh dang, free if i own the game? I might actually play through it now :D

  • MosBen

    Welcome, to City 17.

  • Cool cool cool!!!

  • Morality_Mortality

    Half Life VR should have been a launch title for the HTC Vive . . . if it was I probably would have bought that instead of my Oculus Rift. A VR exclusive that amazing is definitely a system seller.

    • johngrimoldy

      Agreed! Having this as a launch title would have made the Vive even more compelling. I’m hoping this opens the door to more VR ports of similar titles – Bioshock, Wolfenstein, Portal (imagine Portal in VR!).

      • Champion Hero

        There is a portal in VR! Portal Stories. It’s pretty good!

        http://store.steampowered.com/app/446750/Portal_Stories_VR/

        • Raphael

          It’s not really a portal as it lacks the standard portal mechanics. Just using portal assets and name. I haven’t even bothered with it.

          • Champion Hero

            If you haven’t bothered with it, you should. You’d have a less biased view. It’s actually pretty good and does feel like portal, albeit a simpler version. I enjoyed playing it, it’s free, and gives a good taste of how portal can work in vr

          • Raphael

            It was made at the height of the nausea hysteria i believe so is it restricted to teleport?

          • Champion Hero

            Correct, it is, but the zones are designed rather well to cater for teleport. Sure it’s not got the speed or fluidity of the real game, but it works really well and gives you a great scale of the world. It left me wanting more and just made me wonder what it could be if valve pulled their fingers out! Seriously give it a go, got nothing to lose other than an hour or so of your life :)

          • Raphael

            So it’s a point and click adventure. Teleport has that effect on games. Valve will never pull finger out. They have gone from strength to strength and their game development has been in constant decline.

          • Raphael

            I might as well give it a try in a week and half when i get home.

        • Strawb77

          t`would be great- a full release of portal stories, but wolfenstein?
          yes of course- that sounds so good!

    • NooYawker

      I truly believed they would release HL3 with the Vive. But what a fool I was.

    • Mermado 1936

      Steam VR doesnt work that way… the one that work with exclusives and blocking the the others its Oculus.

      • Adrian Meredith

        oculus didn’t have touch at launch so it would have been naturally exclusive

  • ResonanceCascade

    Oh yeah.

  • Buddydudeguy

    I’m all for it IF there is none of that floaty, skating on ice movement the Source engine games have. Can’t stand that and it would be nausea inducing in VR, to be sure.

    • DM

      Hl2 was a vomit train. After 45 mins playing I took 2 hours to recover, and no other game made me feel that bad ever again. Hl2 vr mod on the hydra was 1000x more comfortable.

  • JustNiz

    ErMiGerd I MUST have this.

  • J.C.

    Well, it’s free, and will run like a champ on anything that actually meets min spec, so that’s great news. It’s also a fantastic game. I do wonder how the you-aren’t-in-control sequences will work (like the early beatdown), as the camera will move independent of your head. That’s likely to be the worst nausea-causing bits in it, aside from general movement.

    • crim3

      Maybe this will open the eyes to the community about the kind of graphical detail developers should be aiming in order to have smooth 90fps all the time and how the experience benefits from this in VR

    • During that bit where you get knocked down and Alyx saves you, I just made the screen fade out last a while longer, but resolving that sequence less awkwardly is on the to-do list XD

  • AndyP

    HL2 with full locomotion – in the net!!!!!

  • Richard Powell

    If this is free to download, I’ll be making a payment to the developers

    • NooYawker

      Good man!

    • crim3

      I was thinking the same. Hard work must be rewarded.

  • AndyP

    This is great news, excuse the sidetrack, but I’m still sore that Dying Light (much higher spec needed of course) has never made it to the Rift CV1, despite being on previous versions. Still hoping it’s just a waiting game. Even tough I own the games, I’d even be happy to pay again to play in full VR for such great titles (with some discount).

    • yag

      I didn’t play too much Dying Light and Alien Isolation at the time, waiting for a better VR support and a better headset. And now I am sorry…

  • Thomas Sven Whittaker

    I loved that they acknowledged Valve’s abandonment. Valve really has been shafting their fans with this content drought. Hopefully this had angered the Gabens.

  • DaKangaroo

    Valve could create a gaming platform that consists of .. a literal platform, a wooden board, with rusty nails sticking up out of it, that you put under your desk and press your feet down on to play a game, and I think people would still preorder it at $1299 a pop as long as they made Half Life 3 a launch title for it.

    And I mean that as a compliment.

  • Andrew McEvoy

    Well I played this game through twice the first time it got vr enabled. Still one of the best vr experiences to date for me. Looks like there’s going to be a third time round..

  • DM

    Loved the original mod on my dk2 and hydra controller. Even my mum had a go and loved it

  • yag

    3 years after and HLVR is still the best FPS experience (IMO). Not for long now…
    Btw the remastered maps look great (for a 13 years old game !).

  • Tone

    Will this mod work for non-VR types?

  • Marcin Szustak

    Great Work!

    After this, Black Mesa VR please! <3

  • Castro Krinel

    Next will be PORTAL VR!!

  • Jesse Haston

    Well….we’re still waiting for HL2VR release! What happened modders?

  • brian thomsen

    i have played half life 2 with oculus dk1 using vorpx … this game is awesome in vr ravenholm level was one of the best experiences i ever had on dk1 … this greenlight got cancelled , what a pity would have been awesome on vive 8-(

  • Jacob Singer

    I’m guessing this is dead in the water, huh?