1. Overview

The CSS SCI FI Configuration Utility is an integral part of CSS SCI FI. This utility sets the cvars required by the mod, and allows the user to quickly choose between several hundred combinations of additional cvar values. Like the main game installer, the Configuration Utility does not write to the registry or cause any changes to the user system outside the mod directory. The Configuration Utility will remember previous user settings, so that users can change only one selection at a time while leaving the rest constant.

The Configuration Utility can be run at any time, as long as the game itself is not running. Users can save in the middle of a mission, quit the game, run the Configuration Utility and then load the last save and the game will resume with newly selected settings. The only exception is the inclusion or exclusion of allies (see section 12), which takes effect only at the start of each mission.

2. Starting the utility

There are three different ways to run the CSS SCI FI Configuration Utility. Users can choose whichever method they find most convenient.

  1. In Steam, go to the "Library" tab.
  2. Click "Add a game" in the lower left of the library window. Choose "Add a Non-Steam Game..." in the popup list.
  3. In the window that appears, click "Browse..."
  4. Navigate to the SteamApps -> SourceMods -> CSS SCI FI folder.
  5. In this folder scroll down and locate the "CSS SCI FI Configuration Utility.exe". Double click this. You will return to the program window.
  6. Click "Add selected programs".
  7. The title "CSS SCI FI Configuration Utility" will now appear in your Steam games list. For easy access, you can add this to your favorites so that it appears at the top of the games list.
Steam window

CSS SCI FI 3: Hardwired and the CSS SCI FI Configuration Utility shown as "favorites" in the Steam games window.

Warning: the cvar values set by the Configuration Utility are not optional. These are required values, which tie directly to entities and events within the game. Using configuration files from other mods, regardless of their provenance (including SMOD and previous versions of CSS SCI FI), will adversely affect gameplay in the mod and will cause many functions to stop working entirely.

The only file which may be edited by hand is the user_custom.cfg file. Located in the cfg directory, this file will not be overwritten by the Configuration Utility, and may be used to add performance commands and custom keybinds. It should not be used to override commands from existing configuration files. Ensure you have the 3.02 version installed before making edits to the user_custom.cfg file.

3. Configuration sections

The Configuration Utility runs in addition to, not instead of, the in-game options menu. Options in the Configuration Utility are not dependent in any way on options selected in-game. These can be combined as desired, for example, "Realistic" difficulty can be combined with the "Easy" skill setting, and "Maximum" performance can be added to the lowest graphics settings. The choice of such combinations is entirely at the user's discretion.

There are no "default" values for the settings in the Configuration Utility. Similarly, increasing the intensity of settings does not make them "better" in the way that more antialising or greater resolution is "better". Each setting is as valid as any other and is a matter of taste alone.

Within each set of choices, one option has been marked "HL2 default". If the game is performing poorly, or if an option appears in game which is undesirable but the source is unknown, then run the Configuration Utility and choose only those options marked "HL2 default". This will reduce the number of additional effects to a minimum and will make the game behave as much like HL2 as possible. In some sections there is also a "recommended" setting. These settings provide the best balance between the default settings and the full settings.

Configuration 1 of 12: Difficulty

Tip: these settings are independent of the in-game difficulty options menu.

 Standard - Ally skill is good, enemy skill average. Enemies do not use shields and enemy accuracy is not adjusted (HL2 default).

 Improved - Ally skill average, enemy skill average. Enemies rarely use shields and enemy accuracy is slightly improved.

 Realistic - Ally skill average, enemy skill good. Enemies use shields frequently and enemy accuracy is greatly improved.

 Extreme - As Realistic, but Combine enemies are very aggressive and deadly accurate.

"Difficulty" sets npc accuracy and aggression. As difficulty increases, enemy npc weapon proficiency increases, meaning that enemy npcs will score a higher proportion of hits against the player and his allies. The skill of allied citizens and player companions such as Alyx and Barney is average at all settings except for the "Standard" setting. In this setting, allies are more effective against enemies and will provide more help for the player.

As difficulty increases, so too does enemy aggression. At more difficult settings, enemies will spend more time attacking and pushing forward and less time finding cover.

These settings also control whether enemies use shields. Shields are barriers made of breakable Combine glass which may be attached to helmets or strapped to arms. Harder settings mean that a higher proportion of enemies use shields and that those shields are more durable.

If the “Extreme” setting is selected, Combine enemies are more aggressive and more accurate and use shields more often.

Difficulty settings are used in combination with the in-game skill settings (Easy/Medium/Hard). These skill settings control the ratio between the damage received and dealt by the player. The multiplier for damage taken and damage dealt for each skill level is 0.5/1.5 for Easy, 1/1 for Medium and 1.5/0.75 for Hard. This means that at the "hard" setting, a weapon which does 10 points of damage per hit will do 15 points of damage to the player and 7.5 points of damage to enemies. By combining skill with difficulty, users can create a game in which enemies are very strong ("Hard" skill), but no more accurate than normal ("Standard" difficulty), or in which player weapons are very effective ("Easy" skill), but enemies are deadly accurate and very aggressive ("Extreme" difficulty).

skill vs difficulty

1.1 The figure shows the relationship between difficulty (y axis, set by the Configuration Utility) and skill (x axis, set in-game in the options menu). The magnitude of each effect increases in the direction of the arrow.


1.2 Some of the shield combinations which may occur.

Configuration 2 of 12: Weapon inventory

Tip: set a key in options > keyboard to drop your current weapon and pick up a new one.

 Unlimited - Weapons are not limited (HL2 default).

 By type - Weapons are limited to 1 per type (1 pistol, 1 smg, 1 rifle, etc.). Grenades and rockets are not included in these limits.

 By key - Weapons are limited to 1 per key, so that for each key (1 to 4) you have 1 weapon. Grenades and rockets (keys 5 and 6) are not included in these limits.

The Weapon inventory settings control the amount and type of weapons the player can carry. The type of each weapon is prefixed to its name as displayed in the HUD, for example "Rifle/AR2" and "SMG/MP7". Players should use the shooting range in the Hub to familiarise themselves with weapon characteristics and their types.

Regardless of the setting, the quantity of ammunition carried for each weapon is the standard amount, with 5 grenades counting as only 1 weapon, for example. The number of different types of grenade (frag, incendiary, motion sensor, hopwire, etc.) do not count against the player total in the "By type" or "By key" settings.

Please note that there is a bug in the way that grenade pickups are handled. This bug is unrelated to any inventory setting. The bug can be seen if the player has a full load of weapon_frag (5 grenades) and encounters a sixth grenade in the world. Under these conditions, the player will not be able to pick up the sixth grenade until the ammo count for grenades is 0, rather than 4 as in HL2. Because the mod is based on closed source dlls this issue cannot be resolved at this time. Green "unlimited ammo" crates are not affected.


2.1 "Guns. Lots of guns..." Players should use the Hub to familiarise themselves with inventory settings and weapon characteristics.

Configuration 3 of 12: Crosshair

Tip: iron sights are always available in addition to any of these settings.

 Simple crosshair - Ammo and health levels are shown on the reticle (HL2 default).

 Simple crosshair, no reticle.

 Reticle only - Ammo and health levels are shown on the reticle and the crosshair is disabled.

 No crosshair or reticle.

These settings control the player crosshair and reticle (the orange bracket around the crosshair). Iron sights (looking down the top of the weapon) are available in addition to any of these settings, and are controlled by a key set in the in-game options menu. In addition to adjusting the player's view, iron sights improve accuracy in some weapons.

simple crosshair

3.1 Simple crosshair.

vector based crosshair

3.2 Simple crosshair, no reticle.

reticle only

3.3 Reticle only.


Configuration 4 of 12: HUD

Tip: regeneration disables health kits and healthchargers.

 Standard HUD - Standard display of health, HEV and ammo, no health regeneration (HL2 default) (recommended).

 Partial HUD with regeneration - Standard display of ammo and HEV, health is not shown, health regenerates when low. Screen blurs when health is low.

 No HUD with regeneration - Ammo, HEV and health are not shown, health regenerates when low. Screen blurs when health is low.

 No HUD, no regeneration - Ammo, HEV and health are not shown, health behaves as normal (no regeneration). Use crosshair reticle (previous page) to keep track of health and ammo.

The settings control the display of health, HEV battery and ammo counters on the player HUD. These settings also control whether health regenerates automatically ("Partial HUD" and "No HUD"). When health regeneration is used, the screen blurs and is tinted red when health drops below 50, and shakes violently below 25. This is a warning to the player to find cover until health regeneration is complete.

When health regeneration is used, all other means of acquiring health (health vials, health kits, medics and health chargers) have no effect, though they can still be "used". The only exception to this is in situations in which the player's health would have been restored to 100 by a particular item or event. For example, a player with regeneration turned on reaches health 50 and then touches a medkit (+25). The medkit disappears, but it has no effect. After a brief period of regeneration, the player reaches health 75 and touches another medkit. The medkit disappears, but this time the player's health is instantly restored to 100.

The options on this page can be combined with any option on other pages. Using the health and ammo counters on the crosshair reticle (the first or third options on the previous page) can be a handy way to keep track of condition and inventory when the HUD is disabled.

standard hud

4.1 Standard HUD.

partial hud

4.2 Partial HUD - health is not shown.

no hud

4.3 No HUD.

health is low

4.4 Health is low - find cover!

Configuration 5 of 12: Bullet time

Tip: bullet time temporarily slows game events to give you an advantage.

 Classic bullet time - Bullets, movement, player actions, enemies and physics are slowed.

 Improved bullet time - Bullets and player actions are close to normal speed. Movement, enemies and physics are slowed.

 High speed bullet time - Bullets, player movement and actions are close to normal speed. Enemies and physics are severely slowed. Physics effects are increased.

 Disable bullet time - Increase difficulty by fighting in real time (HL2 default).

Bullet time allows the player to slow down the rate at which events in the game take place. The rate of slowdown is 20% of the standard rate, meaning that from the point of view of NPCs, the player can move and act 5 times as fast. This provides a significant (and somewhat unfair) advantage to the player, but can be essential for getting out of sticky situations, such as steering rockets to their targets when fighting multiple Combine gunships.

In "Classic" bullet time, all events are slowed at the same rate. In "Improved" bullet time, all events, including player movement, are slowed, but the player can reload weapons at close to the normal rate. "High speed" bullet time, by far the easiest, allows the player to move, shoot and reload weapons at the normal rate, while all enemies act at 20% of their normal rate.

Once players are used to the mechanics of the game, they are encouraged to try playing without bullet time at all by choosing the last option.

Configuration 6 of 12: Performance

 Standard - No additional effects (HL2 default).

 Improved - Adds realistic particle and explosion effects (recommended).

 Maximum - Adds exaggerated particle and explosion effects. Disables autofading of distant objects.

These settings control the use of dynamic light and particles in the world.

The "Improved" setting provides a substantial increase to the standard HL2 particles, particularly with explosions on sand and other soft surfaces. This setting also adds dynamic light to muzzle flashes.

The "Maximum" setting adds exaggerated, large effects, including bits of rubble from walls, huge sparks from metal and flaming debris from grenade explosions. The smoke effects are also very dense, meaning that under conditions of intense combat player visibility can become greatly reduced. The "Maximum" setting is very costly to render, and should only be selected by users with very high spec machines.


6.1 Standard. Example shows sparks from metal, but all particle effects (wood splinters, concrete rubble, dirt, dust and smoke) increase in magnitude across each of the three settings.


6.2 Improved.


6.3 Maximum.


Configuration 7 of 12: Screen effects

Tip: 'increased' and 'full' options can increase game difficulty.

 No screen effects (HL2 default).

 Screen effects standard - Zoom lens, bullet time, underwater and iron sight effects only (recommended).

 Screen effects increased - As standard, but with additional motion and explosion blur.

 Screen effects full - As increased, but with additional bullet impact blur.

These settings control the use of shaders in the game. Shaders are used to blur or otherwise adjust the player view under certain conditions, such as being underwater or looking through iron sights. Please note that all screen effects depend upon the user machine being at least DX9 capable. Users with DX8 or older machines (around 10% of users according to the most recent hardware survey) should select the "No screen effects" option.

"Screen effects standard" provides a realistic set of effects without impairing gameplay.

"Screen effects increased" adds motion and explosion blur to the game. Motion blur occurs when the player is travelling quickly, whether in a vehicle or turning quickly on foot. Explosion blur adds a shock effect to nearby explosions, to mimic the effects of concussion. These effects can increase the difficulty of the game by reducing visibility at critical moments.

Bullet impact blur, implemented by "Screen effects full" adds a quick blur to the screen after every nearby bullet hit, including bullets which strike the player. This increases the difficulty level of the game by a considerable margin.

bullet time blur

7.1 Bullet time blur.

iron sight blur

7.2 Iron sight blur.

underwater blur

7.3 Underwater blur.

motion blur

7.4 Motion blur (increased and full only).

explosion blur

7.5 Explosion blur (increased and full only).

bullet impact blur

7.6 Bullet impact blur (full only).

Configuration 8 of 12: Gore

 No gore - No blood or bleeding, ragdolls will not break into gibs.

 Realistic gore - Less blood, ragdolls will not break into gibs and do not twitch (HL2 default).

 Enhanced gore - Moderate blood, ragdolls may break into gibs. Ragdolls twitch and convulse.

 Extra gore - More blood, ragdolls may break into gibs. Ragdolls twitch and convulse.

These options set the level of gore by controlling the amount of blood emitted by dead or dying enemies, and whether corpses (ragdolls) can be blown apart by excessive damage. Controlling the gibs produced by ragdolls impacts system performance, meaning that options without gibs (No gore and Realistic gore) should be used if performance is an issue. Note that for performance reasons ragdolls can only be gibbed within a short time of their creation. Because of its excessive size, blood spray effects are disabled in all settings, except for "Extra gore". At the opposite extreme, "No Gore" eliminates the use of all blood effects, making a refreshing change as well as boosting game performance.

no gore

8.1 No gore.

realistic gore

8.2 Realistic gore.

enhanced gore

8.3 Enhanced gore.

extra gore

8.4 Extra gore.

Configuration 9 of 12: Ragdoll

 Standard (HL2 default).

 Improved - Ragdolls react violently to attacks. NPCs may continue to fire weapons as they collapse.

 Realistic - Ragdolls realistically slump to the ground. NPCs may continue to fire weapons as they collapse.

 Extreme - Ragdolls react cartoonishly to attacks.

While the gore settings control what happens to ragdolls, these settings control how ragdolls behave within the Source physics system. In the "Improved" and "Realistic" settings, dying enemies may continue to fire their weapons as they collapse or fly through the air. This has the additional effect of pinning the enemy weapon to the ragdoll for a short time, so that the weapon cannot be picked up until the ragdoll releases it. This system is also somewhat costly in performance terms and can produce non-fatal errors. It should not be used if performance is an issue (choose Standard instead).

Configuration 10 of 12: Bloom

Tip: bloom effects are most pronounced in bright desert maps.

 No bloom (HL2 default).

 Bloom - Adds a small bloom to all bright objects and surfaces.

 Intense bloom - Adds a strong bloom to all bright objects and surfaces.

 Bloom with exposure - Adds intense bloom and an exposure level to all light sources in order to create an artificial HDR effect.

Bloom is a common effect in modern games which adds a small halo of fuzziness to the edge of lights and illuminated surfaces, to create a softer, more radiant-looking world. Since Episode One, this has been a part of Source games, but CSS SCI FI is based on dlls built using an older codebase and has no natural implementation of this system. Bloom is still available, however through these options.

Note that "Intense bloom" and "Bloom with exposure" add a very strong bloom effect, which users may find excessive in outdoor maps such as CS_Harvest or DE_Dust. The "Bloom with exposure" setting adds a fake HDR system to the game which adjusts the level of bloom based on the light conditions around the player. Like standard HDR, this is most pronounced when moving from a dark area to a light area, such as exiting the barn in Harvest.

no bloom

10.1 No bloom.


10.2 Bloom.

intense bloom

10.3 Intense bloom.

bloom with exposure

10.4 Bloom with exposure.

Configuration 11 of 12: Game Enhancements

 Bullet tracers - Draws a white tracer and bullet whizz sound after every shot fired by the player and NPCs.

 View bob - Enables view bob and fixes the player view to that of the model upon death. This can cause the view to clip through nearby objects on death.

 Full ragdoll collisions - Player will collide with ragdolls and ragdolls will not clip into one another. Expensive in terms of system performance and can get in the way.

 Disable shooting while sprinting - The player's weapon is lowered while sprinting.

 Visor smearing - Water, slime and blood smear across the screen at appropriate times.

 Recoil - Adds a strong recoil effect to some weapons, especially the SMG1.

These enhancements are optional. The HL2 default setting is for all of these options to be unchecked.

"Bullet tracers" adds a tracer to all weapons, including those mounted on large enemies such as helicopters and APCs, which already have their own energy tracer effect. The combination of the two can look unnatural.

"View bob" causes the player view to shift up and down to mimic the effects of footsteps, as seen in many modern games. This setting also locks the player view upon death, so that dead players cannot look around. Sometimes this view can become clipped into brushes or nearby objects.

"Full ragdoll collisions" is expensive and should not be used if system performance is an issue.

"Disabling shooting while sprinting" simply lowers the player weapon when the sprint key is pressed, then raises it again when released, for realism.

"Visor smearing" is a DX9 effect and should not be used on DX9 incapable systems. This setting should also not be used if the "No Gore" option was selected above.

"Recoil" adds a tendency for weapons to creep upwards during sustained fire, especially the SMG1. Firing in short bursts minimises this effect.

bullet tracers

11.1 Bullet tracers.

disable shooting while sprinting

11.2 Disable shooting while sprinting.

visor smearing - water

11.3 Visor smearing - water.

visor smearing - blood

11.4 Visor smearing - blood.

Configuration 12 of 12: Allies

Tip: citizen allies are useful but are not required.

 Citizen Allies - A small squad of ammo suppliers and medics assist the player.

 Team Alyx - Clones of Alyx, Barney and a randomly chosen ally assist the player.

 Zombies - Add extra zombies to some missions (most missions will be unaffected by this setting).

The final set of options controls the number and type of player allies, and optionally removes zombies from some maps. "Citizen Allies" consists of a small squad of citizens, usually no more than 1 or 2. All citizen allies are either ammo suppliers or medics. In some maps medics may not wear the red cross uniform, but will supply the player and other citizens with health kits for as long as they are able. Ammo suppliers will give the player one full clip at a time. As is standard in HL2, ammo suppliers will only give the player ammunition for weapons in the player inventory, and then only if the full amount of ammo supplied can be used. For example, a citizen giving 6 shotgun shells at a time will only do so if the player has a shotgun and his shotgun ammo supply is 24 or below. Citizen allies will follow the player and can be stationed according to the normal squad command rules (by default "c" to send, "cc" to recall), with the exception that stationed citizens never automatically return to the player. All missions are possible without citizen allies (in maps where they are required, they will be supplied regardless of this setting), but most missions are significantly easier with their assistance. However, loading times and performance can be improved by disabling this setting.

"Team Alyx" consists of a squad of clones of Alyx, Barney and a randomly chosen extra ally (an extra citizen, an allied Combine soldier, or in some maps a vortigaunt). This squad will follow the player indefinitely, but Alyx and Barney cannot be stationed like other squad members. Because Alyx and Barney regenerate health over time, this squad is very strong and provides a considerable advantage to the player. This setting can be used in addition to, or instead of the "Citizen Allies" option above.

The "Zombies" option will have no effect on most maps. The only missions currently affected by this setting are Compound, Thunder, Aztec, Desert Atrocity, Dust and Port. This option has little effect on performance and should be enabled.

citizen allies

12.1 Citizen allies.

team Alyx

12.2 Team Alyx (with allied Combine).

citizen allies and team Alyx

12.2 Citizen allies and Team Alyx (with citizen).


4. Running the game

After all options have been selected, the Configuration Utility will install the relevant configuration and script files. The game is then ready to play. You do not need to run the Configuration Utility again until you want to change a setting.

There are three ways to run CSS SCI FI.

To change a setting, simply save and quit the game, then run the Configuration Utility using one of the methods described above (from the mod folder, from Steam, or using the CSS SCI FI launcher). When the Configuration Utility is run, the options previously chosen will be pre-selected, allowing users to keep their settings while adjusting one parameter at a time. The Hub is a useful location in which to test the effects of various settings, and when your settings are adjusted to your liking, you can venture out onto the teleport pad and see where CSS SCI FI takes you.

Last revision: November 2009
CSS SCI FI 3: Hardwired is a single-player modification for Source
by Fitzroy_doll
Site profiles:
Valve Developer Community
CSS SCI FI 3: Hardwired is licensed as follows under the Creative Commons:
Attribution-Non-Commercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 UK: England & Wales

css sci fi amphibian mods PlanetPhillip moddb Valve SMOD This work is licensed under the Creative Commons.