Half-Life: Alyx’s Workshop Tools for modding have been out for a while now. This is a set of software utilities that allow anyone to create and install custom add-ons for the game and there’s already plenty to choose from. We tried out a bunch of mods to find out which are worth playing.
Cas and Chary VR is a YouTube channel hosted by Netherland-based duo Casandra Vuong and Chary Keijzer who have been documenting their VR journeys since 2016. They share a curated selection of their content with extra insights for the Road to VR audience.
These past couple of months I’ve tried about 20 different mods. Some mods are more like add-ons to the base game and can give the original campaign a whole new experience, while some feel like entire standalone campaign levels. Playing the game again and checking out these mods is an awesome way to extend your playtime in Half-Life: Alyx.
There are so many mods now, though, so if you’re wondering which to try first, here’s a list of my 10 favorites. I tried to make this list as varied as possible because I wanted to show a variety of mods.
If you don’t know how to install a mod, check out the video at around the 9:12 minute mark. Don’t worry, it’s straightforward!
So, you’ve defeated the Combine. Now it’s time to relax, and the perfect place for that is in the Northern Star Bar, where you can dive into leisurely activities like pool. This bar also has a 4-lane bowling alley with working scoreboards and realistic feeling bowling balls. This is probably a mod you’d really only install and play once, but since it’s so different from other mods I wanted to include it as it shows what kinds of things are possible with the tools.
The name says it already, play Mini-golf in an atmospherically designed environment built from the ground up using assets from the base game. It’s a short seven hole course that you walk through yourself. Don’t forget to take in the views every so often!
Victory Mine is a mine level inspired by Half-Life 2: Episode 2 where you have to fight your way to the surface. You’ll go up against various types of Antlions and some Combine soldiers here and there. It’s a short campaign with intense battles that will surely test your skills, but if you have some time to look around this map is also atmospheric with beautiful lighting.
Glorious Gloves is an add-on that works with any part of the game. By turning it on, Alyx’s Gravity Gloves gain the original Gravity Gun from Half-Life 2. Now you can levitate, pull, or push objects away. You can also cause melee damage by punching with a closed fist. According to the mod’s developers, you can even complete 90% of the original game using only the Glorious Gloves without any guns.
#6 – ‘Sandbox’ by КотЭ
This mod adds a spawn menu, which allows you to spawn different characters and items. This can be NPCs, props, ragdolls, weapons, and entities. This mod is a great way to get a closer look at all the interesting models that Valve built for the game. Maybe you’d like a closer look at Jeff?
Overrun is an adventure map with less exploring and more high-paced Combine action. I enjoyed my time with this one as it has gameplay elements of a dungeon game. You complete one ‘room’ by defeating all enemies, get some time to heal up before you move on to the next. These ‘rooms’ are small, but well-thought out with props and items that you can use to your advantage.
Mine Break is a mod series that feels like a standalone campaign. The mission story is about exploring an abandoned warehouse that’s full of valuable resources that could aid in fighting the Combine oppression. The first chapter has you exploring a dark, underground mineshaft, where you’ll find puzzles, scripted scenes, and encounter various enemies. It’s a well-paced campaign with a mix of exploration and combat. This one may not be for the faint-hearted, though.
Crash Course is from the same creator as Mine Break. It’s another excellent map that feels like a full campaign. It’s one that feels big as you’ll explore large open areas. Like the previous mod, this one also has scripted scenes and puzzles. I especially like how creator SadlyItsBradley also made creative use of the base game assets, some of which can surprise you. Overall, a fun one to go through. It’s less dark than Mine Break too, so probably more suitable for everyone.
Alyx Plays Minecraft is different as it’s a map that has all the Minecraft assets imported which makes it look like a completely different game.
You’ll be spawned in a Minecraft world where the Combine have stolen your diamonds and you must fight them to get them back. You’ll start outside in the forest, but soon you’ll enter the dark dungeons, which can get a bit scary, just like in Minecraft. If you’ve played Minecraft, you’ll especially love to explore this one, but even if you haven’t, the contrast between Alyx and Minecraft graphics is entertaining on its own.
Say Bye to Alyx Vance, you are now Alyx Bond. This is a four-part mod series with maps that are all based on the classic Nintendo 64 GoldenEye 007 maps. What’s interesting is that the devs of these mods decided to use the assets from the base game instead of importing their own.
The gameplay is fun, too; it feels like a complete, standalone campaign with combat that will force you to act strategically. Overall it’s impressive work and I would recommend this one to everyone.
– – — – –
That’s it! We hope you enjoy these mods. We’ll for sure dive back into Half-Life: Alyx every so often to check out new mods. Let us know what your favorites are in the comments!
Microsoft to Acquire Bethesda’s Parent Company ZeniMax for $7.5B
Microsoft today announced that it’s entered into an agreement to acquire ZeniMax Media, the parent company of game studio Bethesda Softworks. According to TechCrunch, the price was set at $7.5 billion.
The acquisition is slated to include all of ZeniMax’s properties including Bethesda Game Studios, id Software, ZeniMax Online Studios, Arkane, MachineGames, Tango Gameworks, Alpha Dog, and Roundhouse Studios.
Once approved, this will make Microsoft the owners of some of the most influential titles in modern gaming, including franchises such as The Elder Scrolls, Fallout, Wolfenstein, DOOM, Dishonored, Prey, Quake, and Starfield.
ZeniMax’s fleet of studios have also been responsible for a number of VR titles such as DOOM VFR, Fallout 4 VR, Wolfenstein: Cyberpilot, and Skyrim VR.
Microsoft says in a blog post that the inclusion of ZeniMax’s studios will help continue the company’s commitment “to deliver a breadth of amazing games to discover and play on Xbox.”
Although Microsoft hasn’t said as much, it’s likely Bethesda will be narrowing its focus to develop their long-standing franchises for Xbox—an expensive weapon in the coming battle with Sony’s PlayStation 5.
“One of the things that has me most excited is seeing the roadmap with Bethesda’s future games, some announced and many unannounced, to Xbox console and PC including Starfield, the highly anticipated, new space epic currently in development by Bethesda Game Studios,” says Phil Spencer, head of Xbox.
Although it’s still unclear how the acquisition will affect Bethesda’s future VR aspirations—Microsoft still has no clear plan for VR headset support on its Xbox platform—Oculus’ Consulting CTO John Carmack says the acquisition may be a good thing for him at least.
Great! I think Microsoft has been a good parent company for gaming IPs, and they don’t have a grudge against me, so maybe I will be able to re engage with some of my old titles. https://t.co/GijQGEL4tZ
— John Carmack (@ID_AA_Carmack) September 21, 2020
Carmack co-founded id Software and was lead programmer of titles such as Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, and Quake. Ever since ZeniMax and Facebook’s Oculus were engaged in a lengthy legal battle over the alleged theft of intellectual property developed by Carmack back when he was employed by id Software, he was understandably unable to publicly engage with the games he developed.
Osso VR Secures $14M Investment to Further Develop VR Surgical Training Platform
Osso VR today announced it has raised $14 million in Series A funding to further develop its VR surgical training platform.
The financing round was led by Kaiser Permanente Ventures, with participation from SignalFire, GSR, Scrum Ventures, Leslie Ventures and OCA Ventures.
According to Crunchbase, the Series A brings Osso VR’s overall funding to $16 million, with its most recent funding round arriving in June 2017.
Founded in late 2016 by UCLA and Harvard-trained orthopedic surgeon Justin Barad, MD, Osso VR has developed a VR training platform that allows surgeons and other healthcare professionals to learn and review medical procedures.
Apparently in the years since its founding, the company has celebrated a measure of success with surgical training programs worldwide. The company now says its platform is currently used by over 20 teaching hospitals and 11 medical device companies, distributed across 20 countries.
Not only does the platform allow for hands-on learning with surgical procedures, but it also includes assessment modules, which can gauge a trainee’s knowledge of “steps, level of precision and overall efficiency throughout the procedure providing a benchmark for proficiency.”
“Being on the frontlines as a provider gives me a daily reminder that we are facing an accelerating challenge with how we train for and practice procedures in medicine,” said CEO and co-founder Justin Barad, MD. “We set out from day one with a focused mission: to improve patient outcomes, increase the adoption of higher value medical technology, and democratize access to surgical education around the world. Osso VR has done so much in such a short amount of time, yet we have much more to do. With strategic partners like Kaiser Permanente Ventures, we are ready to work together to ensure that patients all around the world have safe access to the best care.”
Emergency Preparedness for Virtual Community
When we look back on childhood, we don’t tend to remember the basic stuff we did every day. We tend to remember the exceptions that broke the normal rhythm. That’s why I remember Fire Drills all the way back to First Grade. I can picture them.
The most memorable emergency preparedness for anyone growing up in the Fifties and early Sixties was crouching under the desk at school to avoid the atomic bomb the bad guys wanted to drop on us. Preparedness often comes with a dose of brainwashing.
Risks are subjective because by definition the bad thing hasn’t happened yet. What’s a bad thing anyway? Making fire such a bad thing has only made it worse.
What we see as a threat and how likely it is to enter our actual timespace zone is one the primary definitions of who we are. It also becomes one of the primary definitions of what a community is.
I believe very strongly in Preparedness. I simulate the difficult things that I feel could happen. I notice how I feel in my body when I’m doing that and I also notice the ideas that come up. I write them down.
I have been doing this with special frequency and effort since the world wide wait began early this year. What we have been waiting for, supposedly, is a vaccine. But actually, and we all know this, we have been waiting for the inevitable clash of forces that will emerge even more powerfully in early November than they already have so far.
To me, this obvious flash point is why we are not in general Preparedness mode now. We need to see ourselves in Emergency Preparedness mode. The big difference is that steps that usually do not need to be taken because the risk is negligible need to be carefully reconsidered now. Absolutely anything could happen in the United States and other parts of the world fairly soon.
The EvolVR Virtual Community
I am not considering Emergency Preparedness in the abstract. I am considering for the specific case of a three-year old community is based in Virtual Reality, which also exists in an active Discord server and other platforms that connect people.
I am an active member, but I am not promoting the community here. I am promoting Emergency Preparedness. I hope that this on-going planning process will stimulate other thoughts and plans for other communities.
How many members does the EvolVR community have? The boundaries are fuzzy. There is not a registration form or a secret handshake. Thousands of people have been to EvolVR events. Thousands of people have logged into the Discord server. Lots of them come back and keep coming back.
When do you become a member of the community?
When you decide you are one, in this case, so far. A self-defining membership does not fully resolve uncertainty the way a formal initiation does. People can have different ideas about what membership even means.
The founder of EvolVR, Rev. Jeremy Nickel, has kept definitions a little fuzzy because he wants as many people as possible to feel at home. Slowly, different people found it. Then, suddenly we were all in Covid-World and people needed connection and community even more and found it in EvolVR. Growth picked up, a lot.
EvolVR’s growth, at the moment, can only be a reflection of the position of virtual reality in the culture. People who join EvolVR aren’t just looking for connection, they are willing to believe that virtual environments can provide it.
Newcomers are amazed, especially because VR is promoted as entertainment for consumers, not as a form of distance communication that creates social presence of such strength that flow states emerge in conversations easily.
Outside of the restraints of quarantine and relationship baggage in the real world, openness, vulnerability and support happen naturally.
In addition, the single most frequent event in EvolVR is group meditation, in VR. This format is a new hybrid type of meditation that is both individual, since bodies are not co-located, and social, since everyone’s attention is focused on a single source together.
The sense of shared experience is extremely powerful and the check-ins afterward are the future of mental health.
Structure of Virtual Emergency Preparedness for EvolVR
The plan begins from the community’s values. Threats that are significant because they could affect what the community values most need to be itemized and named.
If connection and the feeling of being part of something are what most define EvolVR, threats of disruption to the infrastructure that supports it is one source of risk.
If caring about each other is what happens naturally in the community, threats of harm or death is another source of risk.
People in the community will read and reflect on a document that will look something like:
Most Crucial Things to Prepare for:
- Infrastructure breakdown, curtailing connection
- Someone in the community badly hurt or dead
- Someone in the community in dire economic straits
- [not too many more]
There can be gatherings in VR, discussions on Discord. Strategies will be developed; e.g., Call Trees and SMS Messaging are two ways to prepare for an Internet breakdown.
With a little direction, small task forces will be identified during September and early October, such as a Call Tree task force. Members will be contributing to the community through their efforts but more directly, they will deepen their relationships by working on a project with a few others.
No one knows what emergencies we will face together in the next stretch of time, if any. The most important benefits of Emergency Preparedness have nothing to do with emergencies actually happening. The most important benefits are experienced right away in the form of reduced anxiety, a sense of agency, and more friends.
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