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Bonkers mod Half-Life: Year of the Dragon drops Gordon Freeman for Spyro

Half-Life: Year of the Dragon
(Image credit: Magic Nipples / Valve / Activision)

Crossover mod Half-Life: Year of the Dragon replaces Gordon Freeman with Spyro the friggin' Dragon for a remarkably fluid, head-turningly odd platforming romp. 

We have modder *checks notes* Magic Nipples to thank for this unlikely creation, as well as their previous Half-Life mod, Half-Life Preliminary. In an interview with GamesRadar, Magic Nipples explained that Half-Life: Year of the Dragon started as a personal challenge to get third-person platforming working in Half-Life, and that Spyro wasn't actually their first choice of hero. 

"I wanted to do this with Mario, but knowing how Nintendo would instantly shoot it down I chose the next best thing," they said. 

Thanks to their previous modding work, Magic Nipples went into this project more experienced with Half-Life's GoldSource engine, and working with the Xash3D engine as a base rather than the Steam version of Half-Life made things easier, but this crossover mod has still been quite the "learning experience" with its own share of challenges. 

"The default third-person camera in Half-Life is basic to say the least," Magic Nipples says. "It barely does anything other than place the view behind the player. I had to make the camera react to collisions, ease in and out, change to gliding or charging, etc. There were other hiccups along the way from things like level transitions and saving and reloading, but they all tied back to the camera in some way." 

Half-Life: Year of the Dragon was designed to select and collect specific sections from Half-Life and its DLCs and turn them into fully playable Spyro levels, complete with collectible gems. It won't include the entire campaign, but rather a curated set of levels attached to a classic platformer hub world.

"It’s not that I hate the Half-Life campaign, but I think some chapters just aren’t interesting to play as Spyro, even with changes to fit his mechanics," Magic Nipples says. "Also that would be too taxing for me to do with the visual bump I’ve been giving things so far. That’s why I’d rather hand pick some chapters all tied with a hub world of sorts instead.

"The difficulty of reworking chapters to fit Spyro can be difficult depending on what I want the players to do to get through it. I sunk more time than I thought into the freezer section of Office Complex to see what would not only be the most interesting, but also making it can easily be broken or skipped by players."

You can see the Office Complex section of the mod in action in the latest trailer for the mod. It's incredible how well Spyro moves through the level, and despite the dramatic change in setting, the purple dragon somehow doesn't look all that out of place, especially in his cute little suit.

Magic Nipples plans to finalize Half-Life: Year of the Dragon by the end of 2024, and they're also planning to offer a software development kit (SDK) with tutorials to enable other modders to build their own Spyro Freeman levels. You can find more information on the mod in this Q&A

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Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.