After 18 years, the precursor to Garry's Mod appears on Steam

TF2 Heavy characters looking angrily at TF2 spy character
Image from Garry's Mod (Image credit: Facepunch Studios)

We all know Garry's Mod, the landmark physics sandbox mod for Valve's Source Engine that can be used for everything from creating custom game modes to messing around with Half-Life 2 characters. Since it first appeared in 2004, and was published by Valve as a standalone game in 2006, Garry's Mod has sold over 18 million copies, all under a steady $10 price tag.

But before Garry's Mod there was JBMod (Steam page), the first ever mod for the Source Engine. The mod was created to enable the physics gun (or physgun), a tool cut from Half-Life 2 that operated similarly to the gravity gun, allowing players to pick up and manipulate items using a blue beam of light.

As sometimes happens with mod projects, work on JBMod by its creator, JB55 (JackBox55), didn't last long before being passed off to another modder, but Garry Newman used JBMod as a source of inspiration, experimenting with his own mod to spawn manhacks and create rocket launchers that fired melons. Soon Garry's Mod (then known as GMod) had more features like the physgun and the ability to rope or weld objects together, and eventually its famous sandbox map, gm_construct, to serve as a physics playground. 

Despite initial criticism that Garry's Mod was too similar to JBMod, players began flocking to Newman's sandbox. The modders working on JBMod couldn't keep up with Garry's Mod's growing list of features, and eventually development stopped altogether.

Better late than never, I guess: As spotted by PCGamesN, JBMod has finally appeared on Steam, 18 years later. "The initial Steam release brings the original mod from 2004 to a more modern engine. Stay tuned for further updates! As always, JBMod 0.6 is coming soon," reads the mod's Steam page, which doesn't appear to have any official involvement from JBMod's original creator.

I tried out JBMod briefly today, and there's a sandbox map with item-spawning stations and the physgun, with console commands enabled to spawn items or load maps from Source Engine games you currently have installed. Beyond a quick glimpse at how the mod works, or a nostalgia hit for people who played with it back in 2004, there's not a whole lot there, especially compared with Garry's Mod. Still, it's never not fun to fling physics objects around, though the options for "Find a Server" and "Create a Server" are followed by the words "Not Recommended."

In response to the mod finally making its way to Steam after all these years, Newman says JBMod wasn't just a source of inspiration for Garry's Mod, but provided a lot of motivation to continue working on it:

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"I was actually terrified of jbmod when I was making gmod," Newman said on Twitter. "They always claimed to be just about to make a huge release that would render us redundant. This is one of the reasons I worked so hard for so long to push it forward so it couldn't get caught."

He needn't have worried: Garry's Mod has been one of the most-played games on Steam for nearly the entirety of its existence, and I don't imagine JBMod is any more of a threat now that it's on Steam too.

Christopher Livingston
Staff Writer

Chris started playing PC games in the 1980s, started writing about them in the early 2000s, and (finally) started getting paid to write about them in the late 2000s. Following a few years as a regular freelancer, PC Gamer hired him in 2014, probably so he'd stop emailing them asking for more work. Chris has a love-hate relationship with survival games and an unhealthy fascination with the inner lives of NPCs. He's also a fan of offbeat simulation games, mods, and ignoring storylines in RPGs so he can make up his own.