Fan-made Half-Life remake, Black Mesa, has been given the go-ahead by Valve to become a commercial product on Steam.
That's right. Valve admires the remake so much, apparently, that it's okay with not only hosting the community project on its distribution portal, but actually allowing the dedicated fans to profit from it.
"Black Mesa has been given the opportunity to be sold as a retail product on Steam!" the developer beamed on its Steam Community page. "This is an incredible honour - one we never expected - but also one we found hard to accept."
"We never developed Black Mesa with money in mind. Our team is made up of average, hardworking people, and no one joined the team to make money. For us, Black Mesa is purely a labour of love. We believe this philosophy has significantly contributed to the overall quality and feel of the game."
The developer explained that its decision to sell Black Mesa is based on the fact that it wants to make the game as good as possible and that requires "having full access to the Source engine" and the project lead admitted "our team could really use the financial help." This is not a huge surprise for a developer that put together a high-quality remake of one of the finest shooters ever made in its spare time with no outside capital.
This doesn't mean the free version will be dropped, however. Players will still be able to enjoy the release that came out last autumn in addition to an upcoming, even better free version once Black Mesa appears on Steam. It was one of the first games accepted on Steam Greenlight, after all.
The paid version will have a few extra features, though these have yet to be revealed. "Purchasing the Steam version of Black Mesa is more about supporting the team and our efforts than anything else," the developer stated. "However, the Steam version will include features that the free version simply can not have. We will be paying careful attention to feedback, and you'll have a very real say in how the final game turns out."
One addition that we know is coming is the final few levels of Half-Life: the alien planet Xen. These were omitted from Black Mesa originally, mostly due to time constraints and the fact that it's almost universally considered Half-Life's weakest section. The Black Mesa developer is still planning to add and improve the Xen stages, but given the project's port to a new version of Steam, this isn't going to be for awhile.
"To be totally honest however, Xen is still a ways off," the developer said. "Over the past year, we have spent a huge amount of time porting the game to a new engine and fixing hundreds of bugs. The work to port to the new engine was not because of the decision to go retail, this was work that had to be done to get Black Mesa onto Steam and support our future plans."
EG-contributor Will Porter was a big fan of Black Mesa when he played it upon its initial release last year. "It genuinely feels like something of an insult to its creators that we can all sample the fruits of their extensive labour for free," he said in his glowing Black Mesa appraisal. "One can only hope that Uncle Valve might find a way to reward them for their startling act of devotion." How prophetic!