The last hours of the half-life: Alyx is now live on Steam as a $10 download, and it’s a phenomenal look at the underbelly of Valve video game development, told with a wealth of inside access and a host of multimedia goodies.
The project, led by journalist Geoff Keighley, is a years-long look at Valve’s journey to release a new album. half-life game, complete with stories of other attempts that never got off the ground. Separated into 12 “chapters”, the app is powered primarily by Keighley’s text, full of interviews and quotes, and each page comes with embedded image galleries and photos to help bring each point home.
Get ready for a Borealis load of valve secrets
Perhaps the biggest dirt on the app is confirmation of what exactly started and stopped in Valve on the way to getting Half-life: Alyx March out the door. That includes information about Half-Life 3—and it’s a much more solid account of Valve’s history than what IGN reported earlier this year.
As described, however, this “HL3”, which started life in the early ’10s, would have been very different from what fans might have expected from a full-fledged half-life follow-up. Inspired by Left 4 Deadthis non-VR version of half-life would have revolved around battle sequences through procedurally generated towers and buildings, chained together by edited plot events.
A more plot-centric half-life project originated within Valve in 2015, led in part by former series writer Marc Laidlaw: a VR-exclusive game codenamed borealis† (This followed the prototyping of a half-life arcade shooter, simply titled shooterthat was made for possible inclusion in Valve’s VR toy kit the lab, cancel only; we’ve reported on that before.)
borealis would have taken place entirely on the boat of the same name, as players “bounce back and forth in time” between different points in the half-life universe, including the Seven Hour War series. If that sounds familiar, the concept is similar to the story Laidlaw eventually set out in front of fans, which many thought resembled his vision for a “Half-Life 3He left Valve shortly after the prototype failed to “get traction,” Keighley writes.
Shortly before ground was broken on what became Half-life: AlyxValve also had a “mini-team” start building prototypes a Left 4 Dead sequel in late 2015, which was also shelved after “months of work”. (The codename was “Hot Dog,” if you want to scour old Source Engine files for hints of it.) And other parts of the app talk about other canceled Valve games, including Left 4 Dead 3 (not to be confused with “Hot Dog”) and new games with code names such as “ARTI” and “RPG.” (Today’s report also acknowledges a Half-Life 2: Episode 3 project that stalled when the team members shifted to help ship the first Left 4 Dead game.)
“The Highest Paid Blog Post Writers”
Keighley’s account of Valve’s history is blunt about the studio’s lack of major game launches in the ’10s and the issues they had in common — most notably that they were all pushing the evolving Source 2 engine in different directions. drew. “We pretty much became the highest-paid blog post writers of all time,” admits longtime Valve writer Jay Pinkerton, as other staffers talk candidly about the studio’s reputation for starting multiple small projects and then tearing them apart internally. see it fall.
“We collectively had to admit that we were wrong in the assumption that you’ll be happiest when you’re working on something you personally want to work on the most,” Valve developer Robin Walker told Keighley, who shares the ethos that Valve in public has worn thoroughly rejects for some time as torch. The studio used a new one half-life project as a way of concentrating the entire studio – although, as we reported earlier, that project started with more modest expectations in terms of length and content.
From there, Half-life: Alyx‘s story picks up steam, woven into the studio’s vision for building VR hardware and experiences. The whole thing is a spoiler-filled exploration of how HL:A took shape, but most interestingly, the game’s biggest internal test ended with fellow Valve staffers giving a big thumbs down at the end. The production team asked for permission to rebuild the storyline with a stunning ending, and Valve boss Gabe Newell gave the green light to the shift, knowing it would slow down. HL:A‘s launch outside of Valve Index’s hardware launch (which everyone had hoped would happen side by side).
And yes, we finally have confirmation of what those two other VR games that Newell bullishly announced in 2017 were: the aforementioned “ARTI” project and something codenamed SimTrekwhich Keighley only says was built in part by members of the original Kerbal Space Program team. However, today’s news doesn’t clarify whether those projects can come back to life, and it doesn’t say exactly what could happen to In the valley of the godsa game absorbed as a Valve project when the studio acquired Campo Santo in 2018.
The rest of the app is a doozy in terms of Valve history – including tantalizing hints about Valve’s take on brain-connected hardware – so you’ll need to head over to the Keighley app, available now for $10 on Steam, to learn and learn the rest. get access to exclusive galleries, prototype videos and multimedia toys, including the above interactive tour of one floor of Valve’s headquarters in Bellevue, Washington. And while the app doesn’t end with the promise of more Half-Life games to come, it strongly suggests such a future: “We’re not afraid of half-life not anymore,” a Valve employee suggests. (And whether that project can make it into VR or not remains to be seen.)
List image by Geoff Keighley