In today's article, we're going to talk about Barking Dog Studios' contract work for and contributions towards Valve's titles. After the release of the original Half-Life, the Canadian studio soon entered a collaboration with Valve in which they worked on a number of projects including one of the early beta versions of Counter-Strike. To learn more about the company's collaboration, we contacted Barking Dog's co-founder and designer Chris Mair to answer our questions.
Team Fortress Classic
Barking Dog Studios worked on four maps for Valve's port of the popular team-based Quake mod Team Fortress, Team Fortress Classic. Of these levels, three were completed and released.
Mair states that their goal with these maps was to create new game ideas that broke away from the standard 2Fort-style of gameplay. The levels had proved popular in their internal playtests and those with Valve. While they were intended to be officially included with the game, this plan was never carried out, and Mair remarked he wasn't sure why Valve came to that decision. Despite this, some of the content from these maps can still be found distributed with various versions of TFC.
As Valve decided not to include the maps, Mair received permission from Gabe Newell to release them independently. Barking Dog worked out a deal with PC Gamer magazine to include the levels on the cover disc of their May 2001 issue. However, to Mair's dismay, few players discovered the maps from this limited release, relegating them to near unknown status afterwards.
After Team Fortress Classic, the team moved on to work on Counter-Strike.
You can download the maps from this link.
Eleventh Hour (eleventh.bsp) by Chris Mair
Taking place in a large missile silo, Eleventh Hour is a Tug of War map in which both teams must deliver two keycards to each of the security doors located in their enemy's territory. This gains access to the map's Control Center where they can launch the missile, achieving victory. One Red and Blue keycard is placed in their respective base, while a neutral Green keycard sits within a contested zone in the middle of the level. A hologram table sits in each base showing the current status of each security door.
Monkeypox (pox.bsp) by Chris Mair
Set in a seaside warehouse, Monkeypox is a CTF Infiltration map which features three teams battling it out. The Red and Blue teams must attempt to poison each other with a Bioweapon initially stored inside the freezer of a nearby docked ship. A team member must deliver the Bioweapon, which is constantly leaking and will continually damage the carrier, to the ventilation room of the enemy base. The Yellow team begins on the ship and must protect the Bioweapon from being stolen by either Red or Blue members, earning points for keeping it safe within the freezer.
The Signal (signal.bsp) by Jamie Mactaggart
Among the buildings of a war torn city, The Signal is a Capture / Defend map where the attacking team begins on the roof with a single Flag. The attackers must bring this Flag to capture a communications Truck located in a garage at the base of the building. The defending team must hold out and successfully guard the Truck for 10 minutes. Teams swap roles each round.
While the other two Barking Dog Studios TFC maps were created by Mair, The Signal was made by Jamie Mactaggart who had previously worked at Team Fortress Software and Valve. At Valve, he had contributed before to Team Fortress Classic and Half-Life deathmatch.
The fourth map
The final TFC map that Barking Dog worked on ultimately went unfinished. Unused textures included in the assets of their released maps show that it was meant to be a snow-themed level. An unused skybox named "arctic" further reinforces this theme.
Barking Dog Studios was the first team to work on the mod Deathmatch Classic. Gabe Newell had asked them if they could port Quake's deathmatch mode to Half-Life and remaster it. According to Mair, there were a lot of players at the time which hadn't embraced Half-Life's deathmatch, and Newell was interested in trying to bring them over.
At first, Barking Dog took the original maps and redid all of the textures and lighting to make them look more modern. Valve gave them feedback that Quake players then were not interested in this type of enhanced visuals, so the team went back and redid the maps with classic lighting. However, Valve felt they still weren't correct. Barking Dog had also rebuilt Quake's player models to make them work in Half-Life.
The team worked on the project for a few months before they ended up abandoning it, choosing instead to focus on Counter-Strike. Deathmatch Classic was then given to the Holy Wars mod team who developed their own version which eventually released.
During this period, Valve had been looking for ways to give new content to the community in order to keep them engaged in and playing Half-Life. This desire lead to One Man, an unreleased single player mod started by Barking Dog intended for Half-Life. Described as "Die Hard in Space" by Mair, who did the design and written the story, it ultimately did not develop much further than being a game design and concept. A rough version was said to be playable, but it wasn't very advanced. Once again, the focus on Counter-Strike took over, and the team ended up shifting all of their efforts there.
Counter-Strike's co-creator Minh Le was working at Barking Dog Studios at the time. When Valve discovered this, they asked the company if they could help Le develop the upcoming Beta 5 version of his mod. Gabe Newell wanted to improve Counter-Strike, so the team worked on the project for months to help better and rebuild the mod and add new maps and content.
Backalley (cs_backalley) by Jamie Mactaggart
Set in an urban area with apartment blocks, Alleyway is a Hostage Rescue map that was first introduced in Beta 5.0. Due to its complex layout, it is considered one of the less popular Hostage Rescue maps, not reappearing again in the series until Global Offensive as a community remade map in Operation Vanguard.
Train (de_train) by Chris Mair
Train is a Bomb Defusal map that was also introduced in Beta 5.0. Taking place in a train station, the terrorist team must plant a bomb to destroy one of the two nuclear payloads being transported on flatcars.
Train has since developed a long legacy in the Counter-Strike series, being featured in almost all incarnations of the title. You can find more about the level's development by viewing 3kliksphilip's video.
In all of Barking Dog Studio's levels discussed here, their company logo with the title "Popdog" appears. The term Popdog is a reference to the name of the team at the studio who worked on first person shooter games.
• In the Team Fortress Classic maps, the Popdog logo appears several times throughout either on vending machines or on billboards.
• In Counter-Strike's Alleyway, the Popdog logo appears on vending machines and a billboard in a very similar fashion to those seen in the TFC maps. Additionally, Train features two boxcars with the Popdog logo on their sides. Players crouching under either car will hear the sound of a barking dog.
Hayri "Barnz" Yurdakul and Rikki "Marphy Black" D'Angelo
Chris Mair for answering our questions
Don (Unquenque) for providing the TFC maps
In a recent email conversation, the former writer of the Half-Life series Marc Laidlaw confirmed that the cancelled Junction Point Studios' Half-Life 2 episode and Arkane Studios' Return to Ravenholm were the same project. According to Laidlaw, Gabe Newell offered the idea to Warren Spector first. When they couldn't do it, it was passed along to Arkane Studios who started again from scratch. Neither of these attempts got far enough to develop a story.
In Half-Life 2, Ravenholm is depicted as a dark and dreary zombie-infested town with a series of claustrophobic streets, teetering buildings, and an oppressive sky. Before the events of the game, it was an old mining settlement inhabited by refugees from City 17 until the Combine discovered and bombarded it with Headcrab Shells. The only survivor of the attack is the pastor of the town's church, Father Grigori, who helps the player throughout the chapter.
In the May 2006 issue of PC Gamer (US) magazine, there is an interview with Gabe Newell in which he talks about the future of the Half-Life series and episodic gaming. In this interview, Newell revealed that there was going to be a fourth Half-Life 2 episode with its own standalone plot developed outside of the company. Much later, in an email conversation from September of 2008, Newell declared that this specific project was no longer going to happen.
Junction Point Studios
In November of 2004, game industry veterans Warren Spector and Art Min left Ion Storm to form Junction Point Studios, an independent video game development company. During this era, they spent much of their time on conceptualizing ideas and trying to find funding partners until the company was acquired by Disney in July of 2007.
In December of 2005, the company announced they were working with Valve on a new game using the Source Engine to be delivered via Valve's digital distribution platform, Steam. This was later revealed to be a cancelled Half-Life 2 episode. The company had a previous project that was cancelled, leaving them with no remaining funds. Valve stepped in and saved them by offering them the opportunity to work on a Half-Life spin off.
The game was to introduce a new weapon called the Magnet Gun which went through several iterations. In one version, the player was able to fire a sticky magnetic ball at a remote surface that would attract metal objects, a twist on the Gravity Gun's mechanics. It had both combat and puzzle solving applications.
On March 24, 2017, a Facepunch Forums member leaked map files created for the Half-Life 2 episodes. This pack also included "styleguide_ravenholm_01", a snow-themed Ravenholm level with references to Spector's Half-Life work. In this map, the Combine attacks a group of rebels residing in the town. The player would wake up in a room with two unique characters named Duncan and Scooter. It is implied that the player crashes into a warehouse in a gondola lift. You can check out the attached text file below for further information.
In the November 2017 issue of PC Gamer (UK) magazine, Spector confirmed that the game was to take place in Ravenholm to tell the story of how the town became as it was in Half-Life 2, an aspect that he believed was underdeveloped and that fans would really enjoy. In addition to fleshing out the setting, they wanted to see more of Father Grigori and the origins behind his character.
According to Spector, the company had just figured out how to use the Source engine and get the most out of it when Valve cancelled the project. Spector stated that he believed Valve was rethinking their episodic plan at the time and had decided to move in another direction. Valve passed along the development opportunity of a new Ravenholm-themed Half-Life 2 episode to Arkane.
In May of 2011, a group of hackers gained access to Eidos' websites and leaked numerous resumes of job applicants. This included a resume of a developer who worked at Arkane Studios, a French video game development company. According to this resume, Valve approached Arkane to help develop a sequel to the Half-Life 2 episodes. Starting in 2006, they worked on the project for a full year before Valve decided to put their episodic efforts on hold.
In January of 2012, Laidlaw revealed the story behind the project. He remarked that Valve were big fans of Arkane and wanted to come up with a project that they could work on together. Based on Valve's ideas, Arkane built some early game material, but they eventually decided that it didn't make sense to pursue it at the time as they felt many of the staples of Ravenholm, including Headcrabs and Zombies, had already been heavily played out by that point. In addition, the game would have to take place sometime before the end of Episode Two, which was a creative constraint for the project and the company.
Over the years, more information and media has surfaced. Described as a very interesting character, the game was to introduce a new protagonist, as well as many more experimental gameplay ideas. In one of the demo reels, there is a footage of a Citizen who acts like one of the infected zombies from Valve's Left 4 Dead series. Some of the screenshots show a HUD element for something called Absorption. It is unknown what this refers to.
According to Arkane's former president Raphael Colantonio, their first game Arx Fatalis had not sold well but was a favorite amongst game developers, including Valve employees Marc Laidlaw and Robin Walker. This led them to Valve.
In addition to Return to Ravenholm, the company released Dark Messiah, an action game with role-playing elements, powered by Valve's Source Engine. They also worked with Valve on The Crossing, another Source Engine project, which was covered in one of our videos by our former content creator Nick.
Hayri "Barnz" Yurdakul and Rikki "Marphy Black" D'Angelo
Jonathan Ewald for his email conversation with Marc Laidlaw
Maarten Frooninckx for the screenshots
 Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play by Morgan Ramsay (2012)
 PC Gamer (UK), November 2017 issue
Earlier today, Valve added eight new private videos to the taunts playlist on Team Fortress 2's official YouTube channel. Shortly after this discovery, one of our contacts, who wishes to remain anonymous, managed to extract the thumbnails of these videos and sent them to us.
October 9, 2017 -- Valve, creator of Steam and SteamVR, a leading platform for games and virtual reality (VR) applications, today announced the availability of new core components needed by VR hardware manufacturers to deliver best in class VR systems.
Complementing the existing free license for sub-millimeter room-scale tracking and input technology, today's news marks the addition of other critical pieces for developing state-of-the-art VR hardware: an advanced optical system, manufacturing and calibration tools, and the supporting software stack to unify the hardware into an optimal user experience.
"World class VR requires highly precise tracking, matched optics and display technologies, and a software stack that weaves together the interactions between these components," said Jeremy Selan of Valve. "For the first time, we're making all of these technologies available to anyone who wants to build a best in class VR system for the millions of Steam customers accessing over 2,000 SteamVR compatible titles."
About the Display and Optics Technology
Valve has spent years working closely with display manufacturers to adapt their technologies to the unique challenges of VR. Recent advancements in Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology combined with VR specific calibration now make it a viable technology choice for high end VR systems. LCD manufacturers have demonstrated fast-switching liquid crystals, low persistence backlights, and high PPI displays that, when calibrated and paired with the right software, are well matched to the highest quality VR experiences. Of course, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology was critical to the first generation of VR (being first to demonstrate fast transition times and low-persistence illumination), and it remains an excellent option for new head mounted displays (HMDs). While both display technologies have inherent artifacts unique to head-mounted usage, Valve provides custom hardware and software manufacturing solutions as part of the SteamVR technology suite to enable high quality visual VR experiences.
In addition, Valve has developed custom lenses that work with both LCD and OLED display technologies and is making these lenses available to purchase for use in SteamVR compatible HMDs. These lenses and Valve's unique calibration and correction software are designed specifically to be paired with several off-the-shelf VR displays to enable the highest quality VR visual experiences. These optical solutions currently support a field of view between 85 and 120 degrees (depending on the display). The lenses, which are designed to support the next generation of room-scale virtual reality, optimize the user's perceived tracking experience and image sharpness while reducing stray light. Valve is including the custom lens calibration and correction software within the SteamVR technology suite.
Finally, Valve continues to offer full room-scale, sub-millimeter tracking technology by providing a reference design for the "Watchman" tracking module and by offering Valve manufactured base stations with SteamVR Tracking 2.0 technology for sale to licensees.
For more information about VR technology licensing, please see http://partner.steamgames.com/vrlicensing
The Adventures of Dank and Scud was a fan comic series based around the game Quake created by Michael Houston. The sixth and the final issue, "It's a Wonderful Half-Life", featured Valve's Half-Life and was released on November 13, 1998. In the comic, the protagonist duo, Dank and Scud, find themselves back on Earth only to be caught in the middle of an experiment gone terribly wrong. Before the release of Half-Life, Houston was invited to Valve to create an issue based on the game. To commemorate the 20th anniversary, Houston created a new website and added audio commentary to his comics. In the commentary, Houston talks about how he was invited to Valve to work on the comic.
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