Some Black Mesa news if you missed it:
Screenspace Fog ("Xog")
Using the GBuffer that we've developed for our new Dynamic Lights, we've added a dynamic, very flexible new fog system that replaces Source's legacy fog. The new "Xog" can be configured on the fly with instant results ingame, it can change over time with I/O, and it can vary in density and color based on height. Best of all, it's very inexpensive to render, costing about as much performance as a single dynamic light.
Our level designers were slack-jawed when they saw how much it improves the look of the whole game, bringing a true sense of scale to the levels.
New Alien Grunt NPC (Agrunts)
Our original Alien Grunts were tank enemies that shot ridiculously powerful homing bees. They fit relatively well into the tough, cover-laden final levels of Earth. In the vast, wide open spaces of Xen however, they became extremely frustrating to fight.
The new Agrunt is the most mobile, unpredictable enemy in the whole game besides our assassins. They'll leap onto different platforms, find a way to outflank you, get in your face, and unleash a devastating secondary "hornet hurricane" attack. As a much-needed balance, the bees from them no longer home in on you, and individual bee damage has been lowered.
New Controller NPC (Xontrollers)
The player only encounters Controllers once in the released game. They were a good, if a bit simple, final enemy type for the Earth bound levels. For Xen, we drastically expanded their abilities, turning them into a kind of overlord or mini-boss. We don't want to spoil everything about their new abilities -- but mind-control, telekinesis, and crystal-powered shields are just a taste of what players can expect.
Improved Vortigaunt NPC (Xorts)
These were another straightforward enemy from Earth-levels. We mostly teleported them straight onto the player and expected them to be gunned down in a few seconds. For Xen, we have worked them into a much more intelligent, emotional creature. In keeping with the original Xen, they won't be hostile to the player by default.
Flashlight shadows are back! Last patch we switched to one of our new dynamic lights, but couldn’t quite solve all the issues with shadows. For Xen, the flashlight will be positioned on the player to look like it is casting from lower on your chest. This creates interesting shadows and adds to the atmosphere in dark environments while still having a usable flashlight.
Better late than never. This is a feature that's been in other Valve games, but for some reason has been broken in Black Mesa, even from our very first mod release. No more hard-edged particle clipping!
In addition to the improvements above, we have been grinding away at locking the final bits of design and arting for all our Xen levels.
While building momentum toward release, our goal is to lock down the chapters in order so that we don’t have to dedicate resources to them, and so all the subsequent chapters go faster and smoother. Here is where we are at:
Xen (~2-3 Hour Estimate)
This chapter is completely design locked, most of the art is done, and we are polishing the levels to be release ready. Left on the to-do list is merging art, polishing art, unifying skyboxes and effects across all 6 maps, optimizing maps, and finally a clipping pass.
Gonarch (~1-2 Hour Estimate)
These maps are design locked and are going through the art process. The goal is to be mostly art completed, and start in on its many animated scripted sequences in January. We learned a lot arting Xen and refined our pipeline to be more efficient going forward. There are also half the maps (3) in Gonarch as in Xen, so we got that going for us.
Interloper (~2-3 Hour Estimate)
This chapter is design complete, but needs refinement to lock the chapter. The goal is to have this chapter design locked in the next few days so that level designers and artists can start in on detailing it. Interloper is currently 6 maps.
Nihilanth (Super Secret Time Estimate)
We have started in on the core gameplay coding of the final boss. We wanted to avoid having the big boss be just a bullet sponge, so we have kept the design fluid and kept the environment interactive and dynamic. Most of the static art for this level is completed, but it still needs scripted animation set pieces.
Endgame (About 5 mins)
Endgame is locked, but needs some final animation and graphics updates. Endgame will be the last chapter we do a pass on, as it is dependant on a lot of final art from the other levels. Even in its current state we are very happy with how it plays out.