It'll be a while yet before we see a wealth of high-quality mods for Half-Life: Alyx, but since Valve officially released a beta version of Alyx's modding tools late last week, a peculiar trend has taken off: people are cranking out maps featuring a playable piano.
The piano in question was initially featured early on in Half-Life: Alyx's second act. The game doesn't do much to draw players' attention toward it, but the piano can actually be played, if a bit imprecisely, with VR hands. It's prompted many streamers and video creators to get creative with full renditions of songs (like "Flight of the Bumblebee" below) and, of course, memes.
Since Valve included all of Half-Life: Alyx's maps with the release of the mod tools, along with all their pre-built interactive components, players no longer need to load up the hotel lobby map that the piano's in. A simple, no frills Piano Player's Room by creator IK72 was one of the first mods released on the Steam Workshop. People have also made a green screen piano room and an eerie room where you can play piano for a group of silent, uninterested NPCs.
Two makers have made a gag out of outdoing each other's piano creations, releasing maps set in space filled with nothing but pianos, increasing in number from a lone baby grand up to 1,000. As I wrote this piece, one of them uploaded "Infinity Piano in Space," a mod which I don't think I'll be installing for fear of having my computer combust under the strain of trying to render all that ivory and wood.
Of course, in these early days of mod support there are some other emerging trends and gimmicks. A few releases advertise the inclusion of a working crowbar; someone has already made some lightsabers to play around with; there's a version of the hallway from P.T. that will surely get more terrifying as its creator continues tinkering with it.
For those craving mods with a bit more substance, there are a few early stand-outs. Gvarados' Garage Master, SadlyItsBradley's Crash Course, and Manello's horde defense map XenThug currently sit at the top of the Workshop's most popular list. All three were initially created using unofficial mod tools for Alyx, giving them about a two-month head start on making full single-player experiences over the folks who've been waiting for Valve's tool release.
Every modding scene from The Witcher 3 to the Resident Evil remakes has its fair share of memes and silly nothing releases, so it's no surprise to see Half-Life: Alyx's early workshop submissions dominated by space pianos and crowbar test maps. Hopefully, it won't be long until Half-Life players and VR evangelists alike have a healthy selection of polished mods to try out—in the meantime, everyone can get really good at the virtual piano.