Former ValveTime staff members Ross Gardner and Michael Pelletier finally released the second chapter of their Half-Life fan comic, A Place in the West, as a paid downloadable content for the first chapter on Steam. The second chapter, titled "A Very Modern Major-General", features 50 new pages, and picks up where the first chapter left off. The team is currently working with volunteers to translate the comic to other languages.
Here is a summary of Gabe Newell's AMA, which took place on Reddit's r/The_Gaben on January 17, 2017.
On their new offices
Yes. We move into the new offices on July 22nd.
On Source 2
We are continuing to use Source 2 as our primary game development environment. Aside from moving Dota 2 to the engine recently, we are are using it as the foundation of some unannounced products. We would like to have everyone working on games here at Valve to eventually be using the same engine. We also intend to continue to make the Source 2 engine work available to the broad developer community as we go, and to make it available free of charge.
On Steam Support
Yes! We are continuing to work on improving support.
Since the last AMA, we've introduced refunds on Steam, we've grown our Support staff by roughly 5x, and we've shipped a new help site and ticketing system that makes it easier to get help. We've also greatly reduced response times on most types of support tickets and we think we've improved the quality of responses.
We definitely don't think we're done though. We still need to further improve response times and we are continually working to improve the quality of our responses. We're also working on adding more support staff in regions around the world to offer better native language support and improve response times in various regions.
The issue with Half-Life for me is that I was involved in a much higher percentage of the decisions about the games, so it's hard for me to look at them as anything other than a series of things I regret. There's no information in my response about what we'll do in the future. It's simply easier for me to be a fan of things that in which I was less directive.
On Left 4 Dead
Products are usually the result of an intersection of technology that we think has traction, a group of people who want to work on that, and one of the game properties that feels like a natural playground for that set of technology and design challenges.
When we decided we needed to work on markets, free to play, and user generated content, Team Fortress seemed like the right place to do that. That work ended up informing everything we did in the multiplayer space. Left 4 Dead is a good place for creating shared narratives.
On Half-Life and Portal movies
Yep. They're coming.
On Half-Life 3/Half-Life 2: Episode Three
The number 3 must not be said.
On what he regrets about Half-Life
If you are involved in a game, everything ends up being a set of trade-offs. Anything in a game is a sacrifice of things not in the game. I just feel those more personally about Half-Life for a bunch of reasons. And Xen.
On possibility of a new IP in the Half-Life/Portal universe
In today's article, we're going to talk about the cut missions from Half-Life: Decay. We have brand new information to reveal thanks to the assistance of several former Gearbox developers. For those of you who may not be familiar with the game, let's begin with a brief overview.
Decay is an add-on included in the PlayStation 2 port of Half-Life which was developed by Gearbox Software and published in November of 2001. Unlike other Half-Life titles, this add-on was designed as a two-player co-operative game. The players take control of Doctors Gina Cross and Colette Green as they assist the science team in halting the alien invasion. They are required to work together to solve puzzles and progress. The game is not a continuous experience, but rather is broken up into a series of separate missions with their own objectives.
In early previews, Decay was announced to feature twelve missions. However, the final game shipped with only nine, not including the bonus mission. There are 19 missions referenced in the code. These are the planned levels that were never built.
According to former Gearbox designer Matthew Armstrong, Valve was working on Half-Life 2 while they were working on the PlayStation 2 port of the original Half-Life. When Gearbox began Decay, the story worked, but as Valve developed Half-Life 2, their initial story elements had to be changed. Armstrong couldn't give us all the details on how the story was altered. In the end, they had to shift their plot, and some levels had to be significantly reworked, as certain aspects of the game from their original plans were no longer suitable. He explains that this was expected and completely reasonable as things shift in development.
Perhaps one of the biggest changes pertained to the identity of the wheelchair-bound scientist encountered in the campaign, Dr. Richard Keller. In the beginning, he was originally slated to be Dr. Kleiner, the professor and mentor of Gordon Freeman. The textures for the Keller's character model even still bear the prefix "Kleiner". In a similar manner to how they utilized Gina the holographic assistant from the Hazard Course as one of their main characters for their own purposes in Decay, Gearbox wanted to try and leverage Kleiner, who until this point had only been mentioned in the original instruction manual. Valve was always supportive of the company using their characters, but this concept had to be scrapped early on as Valve had other plans for Kleiner for their own in-development Half-Life 2.
Another former designer at Gearbox, David Mertz, stated that he remembers being part of some story brainstorming sessions for Decay early in its development. He says his major contribution to the product was his suggestion of putting Keller in a wheelchair to give him a bit of character. This suggestion also included the idea that Keller would get up out of his wheelchair and walk at the end, revealing that he was not what he appeared, a manipulator, a bad guy. This walking animation can be found in the files of the final game.
There is also an unused audio clip for Keller only present in the international releases of the game. In this line of dialogue, Keller wishes the players good luck and leaves the control room of the Displacement Beacon during the final crystal insertion in the last mission. Armstrong states this line is from when Keller was still Kleiner in the storyline, but his actions no longer made sense when they changed him into a new character, leaving this part to be cut. It is implied that this incarnation of Kleiner may have had a hand in the onset of the Black Mesa incident.
It should be noted that Kleiner was the one who recommended Gordon and got him hired at Black Mesa. Assuming our speculation about Kleiner is correct, Gordon may have been purposely hired to act as a scapegoat in the wake of the experiment's failure. Armstrong didn't wish to comment on the subject any further as it ties into the lore of the series. He says there is a good chance that it is completely irrelevant now, but he has no knowledge of the current state of the lore at Valve.
The former Valve writer for the series, Marc Laidlaw, commented on the subject. He said they, at Valve, wouldn't have wanted the scientist who betrays the players to be Kleiner. As Gearbox had Hal Robins performing scientist voices, Laidlaw says Valve didn't want one of the scientists Robins voiced to be a betrayer at the time, since they had a sense that he was going to use the same particular character voice in Half-Life 2. Hence, Gearbox created a new character to avoid treading on the toes of characters Valve were planning to work with.
Central Transit Hub
The Central Transit Hub (map name ht06hub) was to be the sixth mission. It was to follow up the events of the previous mission, Domestic Violence. According to Armstrong, the idea mostly came from a desire to visit the hub which had been previously mentioned but which had otherwise gone unseen in the series. It was the least complete mission when it was cut and also the least important from a story perspective.
The rescued security guard from the Level 3 Dormitories would lead the players and Dr. Keller to the Central Security Station where they can monitor transmissions, check on the transit lines, open and close all the security gates at the hub, and track the HEV Suit movement. The guard was able to open any door using his access code in the hub.
The path to the Central Security Station, as seen in a trailer.
A scientist from the Lambda Labs was to contact the players here and call for help. The science team wants to close the alien dimensional breach, but something is holding the rift open from the other side, preventing them from doing so. They tried to launch the Omega Satellite to get clean readings on the rift, but the military shut down the launch sequence. This is the same delivery rocket that Gordon eventually launches in the original Half-Life.
While Gordon has currently been sent on his way to launch the rocket, he is unable due to the emergency shutdown in effect. In order to override it, the players need to find the All-Clear codes and enter them into a computer at the Black Mesa Air Control building. The code is kept in the high security file room near the station, while the air traffic systems are located directly over the hub.
The high security file room, as seen in a trailer.
The guard was to open all the security gates between the station and the file room on the other side of the hub. He would have to close the gates after the players go through them, so the players have to stick close together. At some point, the guard was to mention that they need to perform some repairs in order to listen in on the military's transmissions, but something is blocking the maintenance access door, so they have to take a detour through the loading dock and storage bay. They soon discover that it's a Gargantua blocking the door.
The players had to work together to bring the creature to the train transfer area in the center of the hub, the major set piece ending for the level. One player would lure it onto a bridge while one operates the bridge controls to destroy it. The Gargantua has an unused animation named "squish" in which it braces for impact as the bridge mechanism starts to close in and crush it.
Left: The Gargantua the players must destroy in order to progress.
Right: The creature while being crushed.
In the final game, the Central Transit Hub was written out of the story by recording different lines for Dr. Keller in the previous mission. Instead of looking for a guard who knows the clearance codes to the Central Security Station, Dr. Keller's dialog suggests that the rescued guard actually knows the All-Clear signal necessary to allow the satellite's launch, thus bypassing the need to acquire the code in the Central Transit Hub's file room.
Left: The security guard activating a keypad.
Right: The guard pointing out the suit signals of the players and Gordon's on a screen.
The Hangar (map name ht08hangar) was to be the eighth mission. Armstrong described it as having a straightforward focus on combat with soldiers. He remarked that he doesn't recall why it was cut.
In the previous mission, Code Green, the players would overhear a Marine remarking that tracking systems were in place and that they were following Gordon's movement, foreshadowing his upcoming role in the story. After successfully uploading the All-Clear codes, the next mission would begin with the players going through the hangar seen at the airfield.
There, the two would find a scientist being interrogated by Marines looking for Gina and Colette's HEV suit ID numbers so they can track those two as well, though he only knows the ID number of Gordon's suit. After being rescued, the scientist would inform them that they had to destroy the military's tracking devices in the area before they can capture Gordon. Later on, the players come across a wounded scientist hiding in a ceiling hatch. He was to tell them to take the rocket weaponry in the room to destroy the Osprey outside in order to cut off the military's reinforcements. When Hangar was cut, this encounter with the Osprey was ultimately moved to the previous mission.
While the title of this mission isn't known for certain, Armstrong remembers it being called "Residue Holding" or "Residue Collection", a reference to the chapter "Residue Processing" from the original game. It was to be a follow-up to "Hangar". The main goal of this section was to save Gordon from being killed after he is captured by the military.
Armstrong believed this was the best of all the missions, but it was also the one impacted the most by the changes to the story. At the beginning of the mission, the players were to sneak past a Tentacle and then kill the creature by luring it into a trap. An unused animation shows the Tentacle trying to reach one of the players but ending up being crushed by something and losing its head in the process.
After this point, Gordon's rescue would occur. According to the unused dialog, two Marines were to celebrate the capture of Gordon and describe how they intend to shoot him before dropping his body into the trash compactor, a location seen from Gordon's perspective in the original game. The unused animations show a Marine preparing to execute an unconscious Gordon and its aftermath if the players fail to intervene in time. The original trash compactor level in the main Half-Life campaign in the port was updated seemingly to reflect the changes intended for this mission.
A reconstruction of the deleted scene using the leftover dialog and animations.
As seen in the video, Gearbox added several small windows and a door to the original level. It is possible that the players were to shoot through these windows to kill the Marines and save Gordon, but could not get in the room and reach him. After this sequence, the players have go through a number of co-operative puzzles where one player is trapped in the conveyor belt of trash destruction devices while the other player has to keep "her" alive by running through the accompanying control rooms.
This would lead to a helicopter fight in a scrapyard, a big crane, and then a shootout with Marines in a parking lot area. The second half of this mission was meant to be similar in tone to the chapter "Forget About Freeman!" from the original game. This section would have provided a great deal of outdoor combat, rather than the to the mostly underground fighting experienced so far, a contrast that was lost when this mission was cut.
David Mertz of Gearbox
Matthew Armstrong of Gearbox
Brian Hess of Gearbox for the videos
Hayri "Barnz" Yurdakul
Rikki "Marphy Black" D'Angelo
Dietrich "Pikminiman" Ginocchio
Slava "Hoaxer" Dejurá for the tools
While no one from ValveTime.net was able to attend the event this year, that doesn't mean we still can't provide some summaries from Steam Dev Days.
There are no official live streams from the event's speeches and panels, so getting detailed information is difficult. Indeed, a lot of small information has leaked, and we leave you to read about most of those at SteamDB, but we wanted to just briefly cover the meatier bits for now.
The social media platforms have been abuzz with content on #SteamDevDays, and below is a summary of just a sliver of what we've learned from the event.
If we didn't cover something else you are excited about, let us know at @ValveTime or firstname.lastname@example.org.
VALVE WILL REVEAL NEW VR CONTENT IN 2017
"Although we're not going to treat Dev Days this year as the place or time to make big product announcements related to the content that has been in development at Valve in virtual reality," Greg Coomer, Valve's Product Designer, told an audience today, "I do think that when it comes time to do that next year, that nobody in this room is going to be disappointed about what we have in the works..."
VALVE IS INVESTING IN WIRELESS VR TECHNOLOGY
Sven Mesecke, Nitero's Co-Founder and President, told UploadVR that Valve invested a “significant amount” in the company. Nitero has been developing a 60Ghz transmitter and an encoder, both aimed at providing high-fidelity images at low latency costs in VR.
This is a tall order, and has been expressed as such by Valve and other industry experts in the past. In order to mitigate the nauseating effects from VR latency, Nitero's solution has to seamlessly transmit a 2160x1200 image at 90 frames-per-second.
OTHER CONTROLLER SUPPORT THROUGH STEAM CONTROLLER API
No, not the "Steam Controller" API, but think of it as the Steam "Controller API." Well, actually, this is a new feature built upon the existing Steam Controller API. This feature provides support for multiple types of controllers, first providing support for the PS4 controller. Slides detailing this new feature are at Gamastura.
STEAM 360 VIDEO
Sean Jenkin, Engineer at Valve, announced Steam 360 Video. In partnership with Pixami, Akamai, and other leading content providers on the Field of View Adaptive Streaming Open Projection Format (FOVAS), Steam 360 Video enables 8K to 10K resolutions with only 1080p bandwidth. This is built upon the Adaptive Streaming Format used in Steam Videos today.
A big thank you to the attendees of Steam Dev Days for providing all the information leads from the event!
Following the announcement of the Boston Major tournament for Dota 2 earlier this week, Valve have released the Fall 2016 Battle Pass, which acts as both an event Compendium and additional gameplay incentives. For £5.99 / $7.99, the Fall 2016 Battle Pass features many of the same features and item types as the one used to fund The International, only with a smaller level cap and fewer rewards.
Returning features to the Battle Pass include leveling, quests, match wagering, achievements, the community Battle Cup, and event-specific items such as terrain types, taunts, wards, couriers, and cosmetic sets. With only 60 levels available in total, the Fall 2016 Battle Pass features four different treasure types and four courier styles, meaning there'll definitely be a lot less long-term progression this time around. This fact is further cemented by the lack of gems available on the store, something which previously allowed users to artificially boost their pass level for more items if they wanted to splash a little bit more cash.
Unlike the Battle Pass released annually for The International, seasonal Battle Passes such as this one do not actually contribute towards the prize pool of a major tournament in any direct fashion, meaning you're only really buying access to the rare items and gameplay incentives rather than to support the professional competitive scene.
That said, we've already picked up our Battle Pass and are ready to begin adventuring with it tomorrow, what about you?
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