Half-Life: Alyx has barely been out for a week and lacks official development tools, but people are already tweaking files and spinning up work on mods. Hopefully, enterprising VR modders won't need to wait long to access one tool Valve used to make Half-Life: Alyx. According to a Valve developer, releasing an updated version of the Hammer level editor is now the Alyx team's priority, and there should be "more info soon" on when it'll be released.
Replying to a thread on Half-Life: Alyx at ResetEra, Valve developer Jake Rodkin (co-founder of Campo Santo) says that while he can't personally give a date for the release of Half-Life: Alyx's Hammer level editor build, it's what the team behind Half-Life: Alyx is targeting next. "There will be more info soon but we're working on it," writes Rodkin. "Sorry I don't have a date beyond that but I'm sure there will be more communication soon."
When Half-Life: Alyx's reveal trailer was released, Valve also announced that it would release a version of Hammer that supports all the new VR-specific gameplay. Thanks to Dota 2's migration to Source 2, Valve's updated engine that Half-Life: Alyx runs on, there's already a version of Hammer that's somewhat compatible. That said, there are several elements in Half-Life: Alyx—3D holograms, health stations, wire schematic puzzles—that likely require special scripting that the current Source 2 version of Hammer lacks.
In a pre-release Reddit AMA, Valve said that it does not plan to release a full development kit for Source 2 to modders in the near future. That means that while modders using Hammer will be able to make brand new levels—or do a better job porting over levels from Half-Life 2, which is already underway—they won't be able to use Valve-approved tools to make other changes, like adding new weapons or enemies.
Still, in an interview with IGN, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell said he anticipates that Valve will license Source 2 to other teams, as it did with the older version of Source. Black Mesa, an independent remake of the original Half-Life that started as a mod, runs on a heavily modified build of Source, as do Respawn Entertainment's Titanfall games and Apex Legends. If developers show interest in licensing Source 2, especially for VR projects, then more tools available to modders might not be as far off. "It's really going to be driven by what people tell us in terms of the value of the current version of the engine and related technology," said Newell.
Full development kit or no, the release of Hammer for Half-Life: Alyx could be a pivotal moment for both the Half-Life modding scene and the broader VR community. If the tools are a vast improvement over the version released back with Half-Life 2 and Counter-Strike: Source, which shares much in common with the Quake editors of old, then it could lead to an explosion of new first-person shooter mods, both in and outside of VR. At the very least, if we don't get the next big breakout mod from it, we should get some entertaining Half-Life: Alyx levels from the community.
While the Half-Life: Alyx team is busy working on game-breaking bugs and getting Hammer out the door, Valve is also getting ready for a major revamp of Artifact. For more on what Valve's been up to of late, read USG's two-part interview with designer/programmer Chris Remo and writer Erik Wolpaw.