Valve’s newly revealed Half-Life: Alyx will support “community-built” environments via a newly updated Hammer Editor, according to Valve.
This means Half-Life: Alyx will support modding, with mods likely shared and distributed through Steam Workshop.
The game’s store page describes this functionality as:
A set of Source 2 tools for building new environments will ship with the game, enabling any player to build and contribute new environments for the community to enjoy. Hammer, Valve’s level authoring tool, has been updated with all of the game’s virtual reality gameplay tools and components.
Source And Modding
Source was the Valve-developed engine used to create Half-Life 2 and its episodes, as well as games like the Left 4 Dead series and Portal series. Source 2 is its successor, first used for the Dota 2 Reborn overhaul update.
Source has always had a focus on support for modding, with a huge modding ecosystem in the years after Half-Life 2 released. Several popular Steam games actually began as Half-Life 2 mods, including Chivalry: Medieval Warfare, Dear Esther, Insurgency, and The Stanley Parable.
Garry’s Mod (GMod), a sandbox physics sim game which began as a Half-Life 2 mod, even heavily supports community content in itself. It has over 1.5 million items on Steam Workshop, and is the tool used for many hobbyist YouTube CGI shorts.
Depending on exactly how much access the new Hammer and associated tools give to users, Half-Life: Alyx could be a platform for custom VR experiences that can be created much more easily than using a game engine like Unity and Unreal.
The wording “all of the game’s virtual reality gameplay tools and components” could mean that creators will be able to adopt Half-Life’s interaction mechanics and physics without coding them themselves.
This could be revolutionary for the kind of VR content a person or small team can deliver. When developers don’t have to re-invent the wheel, they can focus on story, artwork, and gameplay.
If the tooling allows for it, this could even lead to new spin off games of the sort we saw from Half-Life 2. Half-Life: Alyx could have implications for the VR games landscape far beyond the game itself.