Tech

Half-Life Alyx’s ‘No VR’ mod continues to make progress, now features functional pens

In context: Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx took the gaming world by storm when it launched in early 2020. Not only did it resurrect a franchise many thought dead, but it also acted as one of the first true “killer apps” for VR platforms. Unfortunately, it’s precisely that latter effect that upset many — VR headsets, at the time, were still rather expensive if you wanted a half-decent experience.

For a decent refresh rate, resolution, and array of customization options (a must-have for glasses-wearers like myself), you could be paying upwards of $800 for something like the Valve Index.

That left many long-time Half-Life fans in the dust. Unable or unwilling to purchase a VR rig, they were forced to sit back and watch their friends experience the wonders of Half-Life in VR.

However, one small team of modders, led by one SoMNst, has been working to change that. The modders are doing their absolute best to adapt the game for non-VR gameplay on PC — a very, very difficult task.

Many features, UI elements, and puzzles in the game were designed from the ground up for VR, so even if you were technically able to run the game and perhaps even move around a bit without a compatible rig, you wouldn’t expect to get very far.

Fortunately, SoMNst’s friends have developed workarounds for many of these issues. Optimus97 created a full suite of working first-person weapon animations, while Nicklaus worked on new viewmodels and UI icons that make sense for a standard PC FPS. The progress so far has been astounding: you can watch the first 37 minutes of Half-Life: Alyx play out with the latest version of SoMNst’s “No VR Mod” above.

Half-Life Alyx's 'No VR' mod continues to make progress, now features functional pens

The latest version of the mod adds functional pens and markers, so you can draw on windows, TV screens, and other surfaces, as well as a functional in-game menu (a “very important feature,” according to SoMNst) and improvements to make the main story “more playable,” whatever that means.

The mod is still not ready for release, and seemingly cannot be downloaded anywhere yet. However, SoMNst continues to make progress at regular intervals, so perhaps we’ll all be able to experience the fruit of their labor sooner rather than later — maybe early to mid 2021? Only time will tell.

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