There are many old games that are loved so much, that they are still devotedly played by fans while the newer titles have already hit the local bargain bin. The unfortunate truth is that video games from the past do not age particularly well. With graphics evolving at breakneck speeds, and every new “triple A” title expected to out shine the last, the visual quality of a game released years ago quickly dwindles away. Now though, many of your favorite games are being revamped by fans to meet or surpass the visual capabilities of modern graphical technology. Here are some great modifications that will give your favorite games a graphical boost.
Half Life 2 – Cinematic Mod by Fakefactory is a breathtaking graphical and audio overhaul for Half-Life 2. Going beyond simply higher resolution textures and detailed models, but offers a more immerse experience with redesigned levels, queued cinematic music, and gameplay additions like the use of iron sights. Filled with content spanning the campaigns of Half-Life 2 and both episodes, expect hours of enjoyment replaying the mute theoretical ass-kicking physicist Gordon Freeman.
STALKER: Shadow of Chernobyl – S.T.A.L.K.E.R. Complete 2009 (2012) by Dolgov Studio takes advantage of today’s improved graphical technology that can be expected to see in high production games and revamps the post apocalyptic Russian wasteland of the STALKER series. While visually stimulating, Complete overhauls S.A.L.K.E.R.’s Ai, sound design, stability, and functionality. Install this visual upgrade and enjoy a high definition experience of surviving in your favorite radioactive war zone.
Freespace 2 – Freespace 2 Open (with MediaVP) by the FS2 Open Source Code Project Team brings the beloved 1999 space combat sim, Freespace 2, into today’s standard of graphical technology. Unlike other graphical upgrades, Freespace 2 Open uses an entirely new engine that is open sourced and perfect for both modders and indie developers to work with. Blast your way through hours of reliving one of the most remembered sci-fi games ever made.
Extra: Exclusive Q&A with Source Code Project developer
Fabian Woltermann about Freespace 2 Open
Freespace 2 Open, as described previously in this article, is more than just a typical modification. The FS2 Open Source Code Project team has created a powerful engine with the interest of modders and indie developers in mind. To find out about the development and capabilities of Freespace 2 Open, I got in contact with developer Fabian Woltermann to learn more about the design, technology, and future additions of the project.
What is your name (and/or gamertag) and your affiliation with Freespace 2 Open?
My name is Fabian Woltermann, also known as “The E” on HLP, or hlp_the_e on Steam, or The_E on Desura/Moddb. I am a developer for SCP, as well as being one of the people behind the Blue Planet mod.
What was the over all goal of Freespace 2 Open when it was started?
The main goal behind the Source Code Project was to unify all the various development efforts that started after the source code release back in 2002 under one umbrella. That way, we could point to one release, or set of releases, and designate them “official”. In the long term, the SCP works to add features to the FreeSpace Open Engine as they are requested by modders, or simply stuff we developers think would be cool to have.
What tech did you use for the graphical improvements?
The things that enabled most of our graphical enhancements in recent years were:
–Hardware Transform and Lighting support (which is really an old hat by now, but which allowed us to increase our polygon throughput massively).
–GLSL shader support (giving us another performance increase, as well as allowing things like normal mapping and per-pixel lighting)
–Post-processing support (again via GLSL shaders, giving mission designers a lot more options to play with regarding the look and feel of FSO)
One brand-new feature (I literally completed support for it only a few hours ago) is FXAA-antialiasing, based on Timothy Lottes’ work at NVidia, which allows antialiasing even with post-processing enabled, something we didn’t have for quite some time.
For people who download this mod, what should they take advantage of, what are some key features?
The biggest feature as far as I am concerned is the increased speed and stability FSO offers over retail FS2. We have improved error handling and error reporting to the point that crashes are a rare occurrence for most users.
Now, for the end user, the biggest improvement, I think, is the really good and simple mod support. Installing the MediaVPs (a set of optional, community-produced models, textures, shaders and effects) will update the game so that it barely looks its age. While I’m not promising Crysis-grade graphics here, I will say that it definitely doesn’t look like a game released 11 years ago.
Can future updates be expected and what would be included, or what are you hoping to one day add?
Yes, future updates can and will happen. FSO, and the community behind it, is incredibly vibrant and productive, with new releases coming almost every month. The big features for our next official release will be a set of new models for the MediaVPs, updating quite a lot of models to bring them to our current standards. Codewise, the next Engine release will bring an enormous speed increase, as well as an easily configurable HUD and (maybe, if we get all the kinks worked out in time) a new save file format that will increase stability and versatility again. Features I personally would like to have in future releases would be an even more flexible, more configurable rendering pipeline, better audio support, better FMV-support, and real-time shadows.
Any additional comments you would like to make?
As I said above, the FS2 community is an astonishingly vibrant and productive one. There’s a real amount of talent to be found here, with people frequently pulling amazing feats of storytelling out of their hats. Mods like Wings of Dawn, Blue Planet, Vassago’s Dirge, or Silent Threat: Reborn are just as entertaining and enthralling (if not more so!) than the original FS2, and can stand proudly among today’s’ gaming landscape. At least that’s my, admittedly biased, opinion on the matter. So, if I may indulge in a bit of advertising, go and buy FS2 at Goodoldgames, go to Hard Light Productions (www.hard-light.net), install the goodies we’ve produced over the years, and be entertained.