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Technology History - Source Engine


valve logo 

Developer: valve corporation
Engine series: source Engine
Announcement date: 2004 year
Written in: C++
License: Proprietary software (Source Engine is the proprietary property of Valve)
Latest version: Source Engine 2

The source engine, which emerged from the shadow of such a giant as Valve, significantly exceeded the expectations placed on it and paved its own path to glory. Source developed by Valve Software, an engine based on the Qake Engine, put an end to old technologies and spurred the community to create a new era of engines. Gabe Newell's first statement after purchasing the engine: "When we sat down and looked at the engine, we realized that to create a great first-person shooter, you don't need to do innovative work in an area that has already been done by Carmack."

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Fortunately, the engine did not fully satisfy all of Valve's needs; the developers were guided by the principle - we want something, we will make it appear in the game. Based on this, Valve greatly changed the engine so that the game would look not like Quake, but how the developers themselves want it.


The first versions of the engine even included support for dynamic lighting, but later, due to the insufficient power of computers at that time, it was decided to remove this technology. The graphics engine has been heavily redesigned so that Half-Life doesn't look like its direct competitor Quake. Half-Life had to not only look better than Quake, but also be technically better than Quake. Due to this problem, the release of Half-Life was delayed by almost a year. Half-Life was the first game in which NPC characters were divided into allies and enemies. Skeletal animation and facial expressions were also added to the engine - this is a truly brilliant innovation, this technology is now used in all physical models.


By giving models a skeleton, programmers can create character animation much easier and better, which also allows them to create various scenes in games faster and more beautifully. The innovation also affected facial expressions - if earlier the characters, as a rule, ventriloquized with their voices, now their faces have taken on a life of their own. This engine was later regularly reworked and improved, both by Valve and third-party companies. Valve themselves updated it using the Steam system. Gearbox has released several games on it, of which Half-Life: Blue Shift and Half-Life: Opposing Force are worth noting. The Gearbox modification added higher resolution textures, anti-aliasing, and improved the facial expression system.


For the release of Counter Strike: Condition Zero, a new version of the engine was developed jointly by Valve, Gearbox and TurtleRock, which added the ability to use highly detailed textures. Textures were superimposed on top of others and created a feeling of roughness of the plane, such as gaps, cracks, etc. Alpha textures were also added; such textures could be set to a degree of transparency, which is used in a number of scenes.

History of the development of the Source engine 

A little history of development: it all began in 1998, when the developers, finishing work on their first game in the Half-Life series, realized that during the development process a lot of developments and details had appeared that they would like to implement into the engine, but because... the game was already almost ready, they did not dare to introduce new solutions. In subsequent odes, the developers used terms to name the engine directly as “GoldSource” and “Source”. GoldSource was developed from the source code of the release version of the engine, and Src remained an experimental version and belonged to a future version of the engine.


Thus, the name Source began to be used to describe the new engine, and GoldSource became the name of the previous generation of technology. It is worth noting that the name literally means “source”, but the word source is also used in the phrase source code - source code.

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The first game on the Source engine was the multiplayer shooter Counter-Strike: Source, released in October 2004. It became a kind of demonstration of the engine, which is why the name of the technology is inscribed in its name, being a version of the classic shooter Counter-Strike recreated with the latest graphics for that time .

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A little later, the sequel to Half-Life was released - Half-Life 2, a story-driven sci-fi shooter that subsequently received many awards and was noted as having graphics that were one of the most progressive for its time. Half-Life 2 makes heavy use of the physics engine, which is based on Havok, licensed by Valve. Numerous puzzles based on playing with physical laws are built using the Havok Engine. Subsequently, the theme of puzzles with the laws of physics was interestingly developed in another Valve project - Portal, released in 2007, the main idea of ​​​​the game is movement using teleports. In addition to its advanced physics model, Half-Life 2 featured the most advanced facial animation technology of its time. The graphics engine, using DirectX version nine, was also highly optimized and could run on older video card models, lowering its graphics quality and switching to earlier versions of DirectX, up to version six.

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Subsequently, Source, whose structure is described by the developers as extremely flexible and modular, was used in most of the company's games, constantly undergoing modifications and improvements. Many modern effects were added, and various engine capabilities were expanded, including, for example, working with large locations, and new platforms were added to the list of supported ones. Initially, Source was available on Windows, later Xbox, Xbox 360, PlayStation 3 were added, and since 2010 - Mac. Since 2012, Linux support was added, the first game Valve ported was Team Fortress 2.

Source Specifications  

Source is a game engine, so it consists of various components, including: Physics engine, graphics engine, audio engine, etc.

tf2 hgi 03

One of the features of the engine is its character animation system, in particular, facial animation, which contains many tools for creating expressive facial expressions and accurately synchronizing the speech of actors with animation; The engine also features advanced gaming artificial intelligence, which can effectively control the player’s opponents or allies; it was one of the first to use complex shader effects; In games on the engine, shader water was actively used, reflecting the surrounding world.

Portal 2 Concept Art by nofingerthumb

The physics engine is based on Havok. It allows you to calculate many physical objects, such as rigid bodies, elastic bodies, ropes, surfaces, etc. It is possible to create realistic vehicles, from cars to hovercrafts and helicopters. To calculate the behavior of a vehicle on the road or in the air, many parameters are used, for example, the adhesion of the wheels to the road, the weight of the car. To give realistic body movement, “rag doll” physics is used; pre-created animation can be mixed with real-time physics.

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With the development of Source, it was added: HDR rendering, dynamic lighting and shading with the ability to self-shadow objects, soft shadows from (there is the ability to use traditional light maps), multi-core rendering for multi-core processors, and a developed particle system.

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SDK tools 

Source SDK is a set of utilities for creating modifications on the Source engine, available free of charge to players via Steam. The set includes: a map editor - Valve Hammer Editor, a utility for creating facial animation of models - Faceposer, a program for viewing models in .MDL format - Model Viewer.

hammer editor 001

In addition to the three main utilities, the set includes a utility for unpacking base files when creating a new mod, as well as source code files for libraries of some Valve games, which allows you to manually create games with changed characteristics without decompiling the engine. However, knowledge of the C++ language and compiler is required to compile new files.

 hammer editor 002

Engine versions and updates

Below are the various internal versions of the Source engine, with a list of games that used that particular version of the engine:

Early versions (2003) - An early version of the engine was used in the leaked beta version of Half-Life 2003 in 2, the game was visually similar to Half-Life on GoldSource and did not contain many technologies. On another version of the engine, already close to the one that debuted with Half-Life 2, the game Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines was created.


Source Engine 2004 (Source Engine 6) is the first release version of the engine, first used in Half-Life 2. It initially supports scaling, upgradeability, shader rendering, facial animation, and dynamic lighting. Until 2005, used in: Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike: Source, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Half-Life: Source. Updated to Source Engine 7.


Source Engine 2005 (Source Engine 7) - updated version. Compared to its predecessor, it supports High Dynamic Range Rendering; to demonstrate new lighting technologies, the developers released Half-Life 2: Lost Coast; in essence, this game is a level that did not make it into the final version of Half-Life 2. The engine is considered obsolete and is used in : Half-Life 2: Lost Coast; until 2006, used in: Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Counter-Strike: Source, Half-Life Deathmatch: Source, Day of Defeat: Source; until 2010 in Half-Life 2; until 2014 - in Half-Life: Source.

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Source Engine 2006 (Source Engine 7: Base Source Engine 2) with development kit: Source SDK Base 2006 is the third version of the engine, on which several games were released. It was also the basis for a number of Valve's multiplayer games until 2010. It has been updated to support updated facial animation, multi-core rendering, and updated HDR. A large number of modifications were released for this version of the engine, in addition, mods released for earlier versions are compatible with this version, which do not work on later versions, so it is still used by mod authors. Used in Half-Life Deathmatch: Source, SiN Episodes: Emergence, Dark Messiah of Might and Magic; until 2009 it was used in Day of Defeat: Source; until 2010 in Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Counter-Strike: Source, Garry's Mod.

dark messian

Source Engine 2007 (Source Engine 14); with development kit: Source SDK Base 2007 - the fourth version of the engine, greatly improved and updated, used for the first time in Valve games from The Orange Box collection. Shader rendering was updated, dynamic lighting and shading were significantly improved, a soft particle system was also introduced, and cinematic physics was added, a feature that significantly expanded the use of the physics engine. The engine contains significant changes since Source Engine 7, so game modifications released for earlier versions are not compatible with this and later versions. Used in Black Mesa; until 2010 in Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, Team Fortress 2, Day of Defeat: Source.

black mess

Source Engine 2008 (Source Engine 14: Base Source 3) - another version of the engine with improved cinematic physics and some visual effects (for example, depth of field); used in Left 4 Dead.

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Source Engine 2009 (Source Engine 15) is the sixth, highly modified version of the engine. All functions have been updated, the particle system, facial animation, scaling and the ability to update have been significantly improved. Released with Left 4 Dead 2, earlier Valve games were later updated to this version. Used by: Left 4 Dead 2, Zeno Clash, Postal III, since September 2010 the following games have switched to this version: Counter-Strike: Source, Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half -Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, Team Fortress 2.

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Source Engine 2010 (Source Engine 17) is the seventh version of the engine. Used in: Day of Defeat: Source, Bloody Good Time.

day of defeat source screenshot 25d74092

Source Engine 2011 - used in Portal 2, Dota 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, The Stanley Parable.

 global offensive

Source Engine Multiplayer (Source Engine 19) - a version of the engine adapted for the needs of multiplayer games; before 2010 used: Counter-Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2, Day of Defeat: Source, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Garry's Mod.

harry's mod

Source Engine Multiplayer (Source Engine 21) - used until 2012: Counter-Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2, Day of Defeat: Source, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Garry's Mod.

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Source Engine Multiplayer (Source Engine 23) - improved work with the Big Picture Mode feature on Steam; until 2013 it was used in: Counter-Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2, Day of Defeat: Source, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Garry's Mod.

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Source Engine 2013 (Source Engine 24); with the Source SDK Base 2013 toolkit - one of the latest versions of the engine to which Valve has transferred most of its games. Among the changes: to optimize the use of disk space, it was decided to abandon the use of bulky .GCF files (archives with game resources), in favor of a file system codenamed SteamPipe. Games on the new engine are now installed in the Steam\SteamApps\Common directory, and game files are stored in .VPK files. For the games Counter-Strike: Source, Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, a convenient system for adding custom content (mods) has been created: there is a custom folder, in which a folder with an arbitrary name is created, and classic folders of modification materials are added to it ( materials, models, etc.). Added compatibility with Linux. Since 2013 used in: Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Deathmatch, Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Counter-Strike: Source, Day of Defeat: Source, Portal, Team Fortress 2, Dota 2, Garry's Mod, Tactical Intervention, Alien Swarm. 

Source 2 Engine

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Valve officially announced Source 2 at the GDC 2015 Game Developers Conference in San Francisco on March 3rd. According to Valve, Source 2 will be "available for free to all content developers." A similar announcement was recently made by Epic Games, whose Unreal Engine 4 no longer requires a monthly subscription to use.

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“With Source 2, we want to increase the productivity of creative people,” Valve lead programmer Jay Stelly said in a press release. “With user-generated content becoming increasingly important, Source 2 is not just for professional developers. It allows players themselves to participate in the creation and development of their favorite projects."

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Valve's distribution model looks much more interesting compared to its competitors, the engine is free for everyone, but if you want to make a game on Source 2, be kind enough to sell it through our Steam platform. Source 2 is a powerful tool that can satisfy the needs of any developer, detailed engine specifications have not yet been announced, as well as an announcement date, but versions with API support are mentioned Vulkan is a new development from the Khronos Group, which will allow game creators to get the most out of the most modern computer hardware. Not a single project on Source 2 has been announced yet, but there is a video circulating online in which, at a closed presentation to the developers, the game Dota 2 was shown running using Source 2. Now every user with a Steam account has the opportunity to run Dota 2 on Source engine 2.

Previously, a video was also published demonstrating the performance of the engine and its compatibility with virtual reality technology, in which the Aperture Science laboratory from the Portal duology of games is visible.

Valve made great efforts to not be like allx, and in the end they received a unique technology that was ahead of its time. Despite the rather long existence of the Source engine, the games do not look bad and did not hinder the developers in implementing their ideas. All thanks to constant updates not only of the games, but also of the engine itself, as evidenced by the many Build versions of Source. Games created on Source are not only the legendary series that every gamer has heard of Half Life, Portal, Left 4 dead, but also games that have turned into e-sports disciplines Counter Strike: Global offensive, Dota 2. At the moment, Valve are the organizers of the championship with the largest prize fund ($13) and it is still growing. Now with the announcement of Source 000, the question remains in the air whether this will be a breakthrough and a new era for games or just another technology, of which there are quite a lot at the moment. At a minimum, the monetization of the engine is very impressive, and the Steam Machines console, controller, Steam Link, Steam Lighthouse (a device for a virtual reality helmet) speaks of Valve's intention to penetrate all areas related to computer games. Well, we can only wait until we can enjoy the results of Valve’s labors and fully experience the next gene of the computer entertainment industry. 

Rate this review  1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 1 Rating 93% [62 vote(s)]

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Comments (6)

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

NCSoftWell, in some reviews it wins, in others it is equal, in others it loses. This is all on the conscience of the testers. But in general, yes, those. The characteristics did not live up to the low specifications of the screen. There is a suspicion that this is a crutch of architecture.

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

Guys, why does the Fury X lose so much to the 980, even the 980 loses in other tests, it seems there are 4000 stream processors, it’s 30% more powerful than the 290X, but in the tests it only squeezed out 22%, and there’s also a 4 gigabit bus, where is it? [url]http://e5c351ecddc2f880ef72-57d6ff1fc59ab172ec418789d348b0c1.r69.cf1.rackcdn.com/images/VNW11FEy09Rx.878x0.Z-Z96KYq.jpg[/url] Maybe HBM, on the contrary, is interfering

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

Oh, how I would like to see the Assetto Corsa test :sad:

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

It's great that you write everything in your own words.. Not plagiarism :-) But still, we need to improve on writing such large articles)) And, of course, spelling and punctuation.. There are a lot, a lot of such errors :-| “Updated to Source Engine 7”, “When”, etc. The logic of this proposal is still unclear:

Not a single project on Source 2 has been announced yet, but there is a video circulating online in which, at a closed presentation to the developers, the game Dota 2 was shown running using Source 2.
It feels as if the article was written in March and was posted only today)) And the most interesting thing is that this sentence is followed by this:
Now every user with a Steam account has the opportunity to run Dota 2 on Source engine 2.
So, not a single project was announced for Source 2 or did it happen? :lol: PS GAMEGPU, do you want to introduce a system of communication with a moderator and mentioning errors on your site using the CTRL+Enter combination? That is, we highlight the error and inform you, while indicating in the comments what and where is wrong :-) Otherwise, it’s somehow inconvenient to always complain in the main comments or write by email :-?

This comment was made by the moderator on the site

STOP! So it seems like there was an article about this engine? :-? Or have you decided to change something or write articles in a new way?

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