Text Interview with Operation Black Mesa and Guard Duty team

25th February 2012

Well, here’s an interesting interview I just had with the guys working on Operation Black Mesa and Guard Duty.

There’s an announcement at the beginning, along with a couple of exclusive screenshots, one piece of concept art and a wallpaper.

I am sure the guys will be dropping by, so if you have any questions for them, just ask, although I can’t guarantee they will answer them.

So, first of all, thanks for agreeing to this interview.

MR.sugar: “I’m honored and happy to be part of this exclusive interview. It’s nice experience for all of us!”

EvilGoodGuy: “It’s my pleasure! I have never participated in an interview before, so I’m happy to have this opportunity.”

OddEyes: “I’m really happy to be part of this interview.”

Before we begin, we have that World Exclusive Announcment: Operation Black Mesa and Guard Duty are joining forces!

Let’s clarify this. They are not merging into one mod, they are merging their teams in an effort to ensure consistancy of design across both mods.

They will be sharing assets and maybe even team members.
Have I got that right? Actually, how would you put it?

MR.sugar: “Pretty much what you say. What’s going on right now is that we are one team, Tripmine Studios, working on two projects. We share content, assignments, ideas, suggestions and feedback across both projects. Still, both mod projects are independent on each other in terms of release date.

We expect that this will put off some weight from our arms and will help us to get done both mods faster. On the top of that, there will be that consistency, so both mods will feel like they are really from the same universe. And I think this is good news for all the people who are eagerly expecting remakes from Half-Life universe.”

Why don’t you start by introducing yourself and telling my readers a little about you and what you do on the team.

MR.sugar: “I’m Antonín “MR.sugar“ Žoha and I’m 20 years old. I living in Prague, the capital of Czech Republic. Sadly, I’m still a student and it takes a lot of time I wish I could spend on the modding instead.

I’m the guy who started the Guard Duty project back in January 2009 and my role there is a team leader and level designer. As for Operation Black Mesa, I’m a level designer here since 2007.

You will have opportunity to play through 3 chapters made by me, Friendly Fire in Operation Black Mesa and Living Quarters outbound and Insecurity in Guard Duty.”

EvilGoodGuy: “My name is Brandon Smith, a.k.a. EvilGoodGuy. I am 21 years of age and I currently reside in the rainy state of Oregon in the USA; though in a couple of months I will soon be living in Washington – the home of Valve Headquarters!

I first joined Guard Duty in June of 2010, then a little over a year later I joined Operation Black Mesa in July of 2011.

My main role on the team is as a Level Designer. The Chapters that I’m tasked with remaking are: Boot Camp (both MP and SP versions), Duty Calls, and the first half of Captive Freight. I have also recently taken on the Lead Level Designer position for Leap Of Faith and Power Struggle, which I share with another level designer of the GD team, Ratboy.

Other than Level Design I also create props and world textures for my maps. I know how to go through the entire modeling process which involves: creating the mesh, unwrapping, texturing, building a collision mesh, rigging, animating, and compiling all the files that produce the final model which will be used in-game.

Having a working knowledge of all these steps and how they are done for Source allows me to help out other members who do not know how to perform the entire process.”

OddEyes: “My name is Stefan Berner, some people might know me by my nickname, OddEyes, and I’m from Germany. I’m responsible for 3D art and assets creation, but mainly I do environment- and prop art.”

Why did you start each mod?

MR.sugar: “I didn’t want to start Guard Duty at all.

Still, after the previous attempt to remake Blue shift failed (Barney’s Tales), I thought that Blue shift is my favorite part of Half-Life and it deserves being remaked along with Opposing Force and original Half-Life. The final impulse was a message from a guy, Enraged, who helped me start this project. He said he likes my work and he thought I’m the right person to start working on this. He managed to convince me and thanks to him this team exists.

OddEyes: “I can’t answer that way, because I joined the Operation Black Mesa Team only about six months ago. But I’m really happy, that both mods exist, because working with the Half Life universe is really cool. Tripmine Studios started with these two projects. It would be genuinely cool, if Operation Black Mesa and Guard Duty aren’t the last mods, that are released by a this studio. Who knows, maybe the studio converts into a real Indie studio. ;)I joined Operation Black Mesa because I wanted to see how it’s different to remake something instead starting everything from scratch. That happened before Guard Duty…”

EvilGoodGuy: “I joined GD because I had never been on a mod team before, so I didn’t want to jump into a project that would be released then forgotten about 2 weeks later. I saw a remake of a popular classic game as being something that would live on past its initial release period.

Being a remake, it’s sort of like having a rough draft for a lot of your work already, so I figured it might be an easier project for me to start out on.

I then joined OBM because I felt I wouldn’t have enough time to dedicate to a more original and “from the ground up” project, though I’m pretty ambitious and wanted another mod under my belt. Plus Opposing Force is my favorite of the HL expansions ;)”

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

I have to admit that I am not really a big fan of “remakes”. Why not put all that energy into creating something new?

MR.sugar: “The reason I think we all have in common is that we love everything about Half-Life universe and once we have spotted all the possibilities Source engine offers, we imagined how cool it could be if someone moved Half-Life and it’s expansions and enhanced it with all the new features.

I myself hate remakes as well, but I can’t tell all of them are bad. I think I like the remake of the first Tomb raider more for example and I definitely prefer US version of The Ring (1) to the original one. These are just exceptions though, I consider most remakes a garbage, whatever we speak of movies or games.

The point is in how you handle it. It may not look like that, but even remaking something can be creative process and the final result can overcome the original.

We are going nuts with the design in some parts and they are beyond recognition now. It’s also interesting to try add new features in terms of gameplay and make them fit to the old mechanics from the original. I wouldn’t say it’s a waste of energy or creativity, remaking something has it’s charm. People will feel they play the same game, but they will experience many new things and it will be as enjoyable for them as when they played the original for the first time.”

EvilGoodGuy: “This is a fairly tough question to answer, because I don’t think even I know the full reasons behind why I chose GD and OBM over something more original haha.

I suppose the major driving force in my decision to join the team was my fanboy love for the Half-Life games and the appealing idea of breathing new artistic life into an old game so that we can deliver a more immersive and detailed experience than before.”

OddEyes: “The Half Life universe is so big and intriguing, it was clear for me, I want to be part of that mod. It makes me smile, when I read that fans will play the original game once more, because they love that franchise so much and can’t wait till we release our mod. All that wouldn’t be, if we were trying to establish a new IP. Our fan-base would be much smaller.”

Let’s talk about the “merger” for a moment. Whose idea was it?

MR.sugar: “We can’t tell who came up with this idea. I think everyone had this in their head for the while already. We heard this from the community as well and I think this was one of the most important things. The part of community wished we merged or shared assets across the mods and I consider this was one of the important things we considered, the fact even some fans would love to see this happen.”

Were the other team open at first, or did you need to convince them.

MR.sugar: “On both sides were people, who just didn’t want to merge and vice versa. The have been several reason for this skepticism.

It’s not easy to perform as an action and it’s a bit risky for both teams. Both projects have been in development for quite long time already, so important questions like, what will happen with the duplicated content came up. There was a question about the fact each team may have different vision for certain things as well and we didn’t want to come to have an argument and cause both teams to fall apart. “

How different are the team’s dynamics? Does this make a difference?

MR.sugar: “One of the very first things we considered when speaking of the merge was the team dynamics. We are sure that it’s important for both teams to have same, or at least very similar team dynamics to ensure smooth development.

Operation Black Mesa had to change it’s approach to make it fit to the Guard Duty team workflow, as they older workflow wasn’t very good as it even caused some complications in the past.

At this point, we share SVN and TRAC within both projects and it seems to work very well. “

How long have you been working together now?

MR.sugar: “It will be about 3 months and I think we are all enjoying it.”

What went better than expected?

MR.sugar: “Almost everything. There is still a lot of stuff that can turn out bad, but I’m pleasantly surprised how smooth was the entire process to date.

I was afraid how will members handle sharing the criticism and overall communication across the teams, but it looks like it went better than expected and everything works perfectly.”

What didn’t go as planned?

MR.sugar: “Well, matters about content sharing and SVN didn’t well as I personally expected. I’m still about to do something about this, but it’s nothing crucial that would affect the development process in a bad way.”

Did you have to backdate much work? I mean, to get that consistency we mentioned at the beginning.

EvilGoodGuy: “Surprisingly there really wasn’t much content which we had duplicates for. The major conflictions are important NPCs such as the houndeye and bullsquid, which had already been made for each mod before the merge.

Seeing as a lot of work was put into both versions and although one might be better than the other, it’s a complete shame if one is scrapped just because our teams merged. We are currently experimenting with ways to see if it’s possible to keep keep both versions in the mods without causing confusion. The current idea being thrown around is for one to represent a male, while the other be the female counterpart. Whether that idea will work or not is still up in the air.

Other smaller, less important models/textures, are simply compared to see which one is of higher quality. The better one is kept and the lesser is scrapped unless applicable somewhere else for more variety.”

How do you communicate across teams? Did you have to change software or processes?

MR.sugar: “Nope, the basic communication works the same way it used to work before the merge.

The most important stuff is kept on the development forum. That seems to be the best way how to ensure the important discussions are always available to everyone regardless on time and easier to find there, even the old content…

On the other hand, live meetings on some kind of instant messenger seems to not be the best solution. The bigger team is, the harder it is to organize this live “chit-chat“, due to timezone differences and the fact everyone would have to change their daily programme and this could be quite annoying.”

I presume that both team leaders remain in control of their own team. Is that right?

MR.sugar: “Not at this point. The leader of Operation Black Mesa is currently out of our reach due to personal problems. The fun fact is he even have no idea we merged, at least as far as I know, he is not aware of this. It will be big surprise for him when he comes back. I hope he will come back….”


  1. Pingback: [Sammelthread] Black Mesa (Source) News Thread - Seite 5

  2. Nihillo

    Well, as a long time follower of both projects, I’m very excited about these news! Keep up with the awesome work guys, and thanks for the interview.

    Here’s hoping 2012 will be a good year for Tripmine Studios.

  3. Primo

    i really liked this interview

  4. YOU MUST DIE!!!

    I wonder if the Fortress Forever team will be invited into Tripmine studios cause their Team Fortress Classic Source port/remake is not very popular.I have seen the team have some very good modelers,script writers and other stuff.If the team is still alive today.

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