Community heroes: Garry Newman, for Garry's Mod

Tom Francis at

Garry's Mod

This week on the site, we want to celebrate some of the heroes of the PC gaming community. People who've devoted huge amounts of their free time to making something awesome for the rest of us to enjoy. Some of them, like today's hero, were so successful that they've been able to go professional. But all of them started by doing something for nothing, and this us doffing our journalist caps to that. Today we're talking to Garry Newman, the creator of the amazing physics and face-posing playground Garry's Mod.

It started as a way to mess around with the physics of Half-Life 2 shortly after that game was released, but Garry just hasn't stopped adding features. Now it's an extraordinary creation tool that lets people construct spectacular machines, design ridiculous new games, and pose every face muscle of Valve's characters to create their own comics and scenes. Valve offered to let Garry sell future versions of the mod through Steam, budget-priced, and it took off. To this day, it's among the ten most-played Steam games in the world.

Image courtesy of the murky mind of Chris Livingston.

PC Gamer: I remember the old days when we were all gawping at what you could do with Half-Life 2's physics in a thing called JBMod, and we weren't really sure what Garry's Mod was. What happened with that old rivalry, and how did Garry's Mod - frankly - crush it?

Garry Newman: Ah yeah, simpler times. The short version of this story is that 'JB' started playing WOW and never worked on it again. The slightly longer version is that after stagnating for a while, JBMod started losing to GMod in terms of popularity, then some other guys picked it up and started developing for it. They never actually released anything, but their constant teases that it was going to be big made me so paranoid that I worked extra hard to make sure that wouldn't happen. They did actually release it about a year back, but it was a load of shit.

There were a lot of rumours back then, that I stole JBMod's source code, or that GMod was built off their code. I suppose as a casual observer it's easy to think that, they did look very similar at the start. But really, in terms of coding, I don't think JBMod had done anything more than change a couple of variables. All the other stuff was built into the Source engine and shipped with the SDK as standard.

PC Gamer: Today, the range of tools and tricks Garry's Mod gives you is so huge it's hard to classify. Was there any one feature you added that really seemed to change what the mod was about and what people used it for?

Garry Newman: There were a few development epochs that stick out in my mind.

The early spawn menu was one (which was just a load of buttons with names written on them). Before that we'd have to press buttons built into the map to spawn stuff. So if you wanted to spawn a barrel you'd have to run over to the other side of the map, press a button on the wall, then carry it back to wherever you were building. It got tedious.

Ragdoll posing was another. Why didn't anyone do this before GMod? It's so simple, so fun. I'm sure Valve must have done something similar when they were making the engine, they must have.

And finally, Lua. Without Lua Garry's Mod would look completely different today. It went from everyone relying on me to do stuff, to everyone being able to satisfy each others needs. Everyone became the Garry.

PC Gamer: What's the most surprising thing you've seen people use Garry's Mod for? And what's your favourite?

Garry Newman: About a year back I was watching TV, it was the local news. It was on in the background. They were talking about how some local kids were designing some public space using a computer game. I assumed it was The Sims or something. Then it showed them playing GMod at about 10fps on this old laptop. It was only for a few seconds, and I started to doubt that I'd seen it - I thought they were probably making it in Hammer and I'd just seen HL2. But later on someone emailed me with a YouTube link. It was totally random because they were only a few miles away from where I live.

There's so much good stuff created in GMod, but my absolute favourite stuff is by FancyPantz. Grigori's Funhouse, love it. Appox's melon movies make me laugh too - I think we have the same warped sense of humor.