The former writer of the Half-Life series, Marc Laidlaw, shared his ideas for Half-Life 2: Episode Three on his personal Twitter account. Laidlaw also revealed the plot for the game on his personal blog this week.
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:29 PM
Epistolary (Episode) Afterthoughts: The map is not the territory. A sketch is only a starting point. Everything changes as you try to make it real...
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:29 PM
Everyone who works on it will have ideas, and new opportunities will appear and change everything...
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:30 PM
But even on a story level, you will find as you get closer that some things just won't work. Would Alex (Alyx) really shoot and kill Jerry Maas (Judith Mossman)?...
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:30 PM
Is that too harsh? What if Alex (Alyx) pushed Jerry (Judith) into a timeloop or portal bubble instead, leaving his (her) fate open?...
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:31 PM
Is there a role in all this for the former security guard Bernadette (Barney)? What about cAT (Dog)?...
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:31 PM
What if the final explosion powers a huge timeloop singularity that puts Gertrude (Gordon) back on the Green Valley Science Factory (Black Mesa Research Facility) Inbound Train...
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:32 PM
...and it all never happened? ...or is about to happen again?
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:34 PM
Also, how do you tell it? Do you start on the Hyperborea (Borealis) and have physical timeloops that function as flashbacks? How would that work?
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:36 PM
Do you start with glimpses of a Dispar (Combine) interrogation cell? Do you hint the entire experience is provoked fantasy as a means of getting info?
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:37 PM
Or is a straightforward linear experience the most satisfying? It takes a team to work this stuff out. Vignettes are easy.
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 08:39 PM
And then what do you do if the brilliant actress (actor) who plays Wanda Bree (Wallace Breen)...dies?
Alexander Yakovlev - August 26, 2017 - 09:15 PM
Actually, the last problem is not a problem. The character does not communicate in human language and voice anymore.
Marc Laidlaw - August 26, 2017 - 09:40 PM
Oh but how much more fun to have that genius actor working up speech!
The former writer of the Half-Life series, Marc Laidlaw, released Half-Life 2: Episode Three's plot on his personal website.
Marc Laidlaw - August 25, 2017
I hope this letter finds you well. I can hear your complaint already, “Gertie Fremont, we have not heard from you in ages!” Well, if you care to hear excuses, I have plenty, the greatest of them being I’ve been in other dimensions and whatnot, unable to reach you by the usual means. This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experienced a critical change in my circumstances, and was redeposited on these shores. In the time since, I have been able to think occasionally about how best to describe the intervening years, my years of silence. I do first apologize for the wait, and that done, hasten to finally explain (albeit briefly, quickly, and in very little detail) events following those described in my previous letter (referred to herewith as Epistle 2).
To begin with, as you may recall from the closing paragraphs of my previous missive, the death of Elly Vaunt shook us all. The Research & Rebellion team was traumatized, unable to be sure how much of our plan might be compromised, and whether it made any sense to go on at all as we had intended. And yet, once Elly had been buried, we found the strength and courage to regroup. It was the strong belief of her brave son, the feisty Alex Vaunt, that we should continue on as his mother had wished. We had the Antarctic coordinates, transmitted by Elly’s long-time assistant, Dr. Jerry Maas, which we believed to mark the location of the lost luxury liner Hyperborea. Elly had felt strongly that the Hyperborea should be destroyed rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Disparate. Others on our team disagreed, believing that the Hyperborea might hold the secret to the revolution’s success. Either way, the arguments were moot until we found the vessel. Therefore, immediately after the service for Dr. Vaunt, Alex and I boarded a seaplane and set off for the Antarctic; a much larger support team, mainly militia, was to follow by separate transport.
It is still unclear to me exactly what brought down our little aircraft. The following hours spent traversing the frigid waste in a blizzard are also a jumbled blur, ill-remembered and poorly defined. The next thing I clearly recall is our final approach to the coordinates Dr. Maas has provided, and where we expected to find the Hyperborea. What we found instead was a complex fortified installation, showing all the hallmarks of sinister Disparate technology. It surrounded a large open field of ice. Of the Hypnos itself there was no sign…or not at first. But as we stealthily infiltrated the Disparate installation, we noticed a recurent, strangely coherent auroral effect–as of a vast hologram fading in and out of view. This bizarre phenomenon initially seemed an effect caused by an immense Disparate lensing system, Alex and I soon realized that what we were actually seeing was the luxury liner Hyperborea itself, phasing in and out of existence at the focus of the Disparate devices. The aliens had erected their compound to study and seize the ship whenever it materialized. What Dr. Maas had provided were not coordinates for where the sub was located, but instead for where it was predicted to arrive. The liner was oscillating in and out of our reality, its pulses were gradually steadying, but there was no guarantee it would settle into place for long–or at all. We determined that we must put ourselves into position to board it at the instant it became completely physical.
At this point we were briefly detained–not captured by the Disparate, as we feared at first, but by minions of our former nemesis, the conniving and duplicitous Wanda Bree. Dr. Bree was not as we had last seen her–which is to say, she was not dead. At some point, the Disparate had saved out an earlier version of her consciousness, and upon her physical demise, they had imprinted the back-up personality into a biological blank resembling an enormous slug. The Bree-Slug, despite occupying a position of relative power in the Disparate hierarchy, seemed nervous and frightened of me in particular. Wanda did not know how her previous incarnation, the original Dr. Bree, had died. She knew only that I was responsible. Therefore the slug treated us with great caution. Still, she soon confessed (never able to keep quiet for long) that she was herself a prisoner of the Disparate. She took no pleasure from her current grotesque existence, and pleaded with us to end her life. Alex believed that a quick death was more than Wanda Bree deserved, but for my part, I felt a modicum of pity and compassion. Out of Alex’s sight, I might have done something to hasten the slug’s demise before we proceeded.
Not far from where we had been detained by Dr. Bree, we found Jerry Maas being held in a Disparate interrogation cell. Things were tense between Jerry and Alex, as might be imagined. Alex blamed Jerry for his mother’s death…news of which, Jerry was devastated to hear for the first time. Jerry tried to convince Alex that he had been a double agent serving the resistance all along, doing only what Elly had asked of him, even though he knew it meant he risked being seen by his peers–by all of us–as a traitor. I was convinced; Alex less so. But from a pragmatic point of view, we depended on Dr. Maas; for along with the Hyperborea coordinates, he possessed resonance keys which would be necessary to bring the liner fully into our plane of existence.
We skirmished with Disparate soldiers protecting a Dispar research post, then Dr. Maas attuned the Hyperborea to precisely the frequencies needed to bring it into (brief) coherence. In the short time available to us, we scrambled aboard the ship, with an unknown number of Disparate agents close behind. The ship cohered for only a short time, and then its oscillations resume. It was too late for our own military support, which arrived and joined the Disparate forces in battle just as we rebounded between universes, once again unmoored.
What happened next is even harder to explain. Alex Vaunt, Dr. Maas and myself sought control of the ship–its power source, its control room, its navigation center. The liner’s history proved nonlinear. Years before, during the Disparate invasion, various members of an earlier science team, working in the hull of a dry-docked liner situated at the Tocsin Island Research Base in Lake Huron, had assembled what they called the Bootstrap Device. If it worked as intended, it would emit a field large enough to surround the ship. This field would then itself travel instantaneously to any chosen destination without having to cover the intervening space. There was no need for entry or exit portals, or any other devices; it was entirely self-contained. Unfortunately, the device had never been tested. As the Disparate pushed Earth into the Nine Hour Armageddon, the aliens seized control of our most important research facilities. The staff of the Hyperborea, with no other wish than to keep the ship out of Disparate hands, acted in desperation. The switched on the field and flung the Hyperborea toward the most distant destination they could target: Antarctica. What they did not realize was that the Bootstrap Device travelled in time as well as space. Nor was it limited to one time or one location. The Hyperborea, and the moment of its activation, were stretched across space and time, between the nearly forgotten Lake Huron of the Nine Hour Armageddon and the present day Antarctic; it was pulled taut as an elastic band, vibrating, except where at certain points along its length one could find still points, like the harmonic spots along a vibrating guitar string. One of these harmonics was where we boarded, but the string ran forward and back, in both time and space, and we were soon pulled in every direction ourselves.
Time grew confused. Looking from the bridge, we could see the drydocks of Tocsin Island at the moment of teleportation, just as the Disparate forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Antarctic wastelands, where our friends were fighting to make their way to the protean Hyperborea; and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past. Alex grew convinced we were seeing one of the Disparate’s central staging areas for invading other worlds–such as our own. We meanwhile fought a running battle throughout the ship, pursued by Disparate forces. We struggled to understand our stiuation, and to agree on our course of action. Could we alter the course of the Hyperborea? Should we run it aground in the Antarctic, giving our peers the chance to study it? Should we destroy it with all hands aboard, our own included? It was impossible to hold a coherent thought, given the baffling and paradoxical timeloops, which passed through the ship like bubbles. I felt I was going mad, that we all were, confronting myriad versions of ourselves, in that ship that was half ghost-ship, half nightmare funhouse.
What it came down to, at last, was a choice. Jerry Maas argued, reasonably, that we should save the Hyperborea and deliver it to the resistance, that our intelligent peers might study and harness its power. But Alex reminded me had sworn he would honor his mother’s demand that we destroy the ship. He hatched a plan to set the Hyperborea to self-destruct, while riding it into the heart of the Disparate’s invasion nexus. Jerry and Alex argued. Jerry overpowered Alex and brought the Hyperborea area, preparing to shut off the Bootstrap Device and settle the ship on the ice. Then I heard a shot, and Jerry fell. Alex had decided for all of us, or his weapon had. With Dr. Maas dead, we were committed to the suicide plunge. Grimly, Alex and I armed the Hyperborea, creating a time-travelling missile, and steered it for the heart of the Disparate’s command center.
At this point, as you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, a Certain Sinister Figure appeared, in the form of that sneering trickster, Mrs. X. For once she appeared not to me, but to Alex Vaunt. Alex had not seen the cryptical schoolmarm since childhood, but he recognized her instantly. “Come along with me now, we’ve places to do and things to be,” said Mrs. X, and Alex acquiesced. He followed the strange grey lady out of the Hyperborea, out of our reality. For me, there was no convenient door held open; only a snicker and a sideways glance. I was left alone, riding the weaponized luxury liner into the heart of a Disparate world. An immense light blazed. I caught a cosmic view of a brilliantly glittering Dyson sphere. The vastness of the Disparate’s power, the futility of our struggle, blossomed briefly in my awareness. I saw everything. Mainly I saw how the Hyperborea, our most powerful weapon, would register as less than a fizzling matchhead as it blew itself apart. And what remained of me would be even less than that.
Just then, as you have surely already foreseen, the Ghastlyhaunts parted their own checkered curtains of reality, reached in as they have on prior occasions, plucked me out, and set me aside. I barely got to see the fireworks begin.
And here we are. I spoke of my return to this shore. It has been a circuitous path to lands I once knew, and surprising to see how much the terrain has changed. Enough time has passed that few remember me, or what I was saying when last I spoke, or what precisely we hoped to accomplish. At this point, the resistance will have failed or succeeded, no thanks to me. Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Except no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final epistle.
Yours in infinite finality,
Gertrude Fremont, Ph.D.
Valve's Tom Giardino was at DevGAMM Seattle Summit 2017 to deliver a talk about Steam, as well as provide helpful insights and advice for developers who are distributing their games through the platform, or planning to do so in the future. The talk covered the replacement of Steam Greenlight, Steam Direct, a new system to publish games on Steam, trading card and gifting changes, Steam Curators update, and new upcoming features.
Here is a compilation of tweets from the conference.
DevGAMM - July 31, 2017 - 10:19 AM
Tom Giardino from Valve is opening a DevGAMM Summit with a keynote on Steam's Business Update.
italicpig - July 31, 2017 - 11:04 AM
Insight into localisation impact trends from Tom Giardino, Valve...
Exey - July 31, 2017 - 10:56 AM
Very cozy place and great speakers!
tiedtiger - July 31, 2017 - 10:15 AM
Steam has 67m MAU, 28m new customers since 2015, customers of both types buying more games.
Directly linked to diversity of content.
aNichiporchik - July 31, 2017 - 00:16 AM
Russia went down from 9% to 5% on Steam, but the overall numbers have grown.
aNichiporchik - July 31, 2017 - 10:16 AM
Regional localization is super important on Steam.
In Half-Life, everything is seen through the player's eyes, in first person view. But this wasn't always the case. The game was originally designed with third person cutscenes in mind.
During the development of the game, Valve was torn between using or removing cutscenes. In some cases, they couldn't figure out how to advance the story without them. They didn't have time and resources to do a good job with third person cinematics. These constraints forced them to make everything in first person. This gave the game its own unique identity.
For today's article, we remade one of the cutscenes using the leftover animations from the game. According to Marc Laidlaw, this sequence was to show Gordon Freeman being captured by the military from the view of a security camera. In the next scene, Gordon was to be seen being dragged to a trash compactor by soldiers.
Gordon Freeman gets captured by soldiers. Unfortunately, the last 33 frames of his animations are missing. Every other character's animations are 254 frames long.
Gordon Freeman is seen being dragged to a trash compactor by soldiers. The same animation was included in Half-Life: Blue Shift but was left unused.
Half-Life has a fully functional complex camera system that was created for the cutscenes. It was only used twice in the entire game. First, when Gordon is being dragged to a trash compactor by soldiers. Second, in the finale of the game, when the player accepts the G-Man's offer and steps into a teleporter.
For cutscenes, they used a variant of monster_generic named monster_player, a generic character entity that uses Gordon Freeman model.
The company wanted to use cutscenes for the tram ride, the disaster sequence and the finale.
Marc Laidlaw for answering our questions
Josh "Slartibarty" Dowell for recording the video
In today's article, we're going to talk about Half-Life's lost feature, glowing textures. In Half-Life version 0.52, a pre-release build dated September 8, 1997, there are special types of textures that glow in the dark. These textures do not require another form of light to be lit up.
This is actually a more complex version of a technology that was present in id Software's Quake, the engine that Half-Life is based on. Unfortunately, this feature is only available in the software mode, which works if you set your computer's color depth to 16 bit from its display settings.
Half-Life uses 256 color images as textures. The last 32 colors, minus the last one, can be used as the glowing parts of the textures. In addition to this, the filenames must have the prefix used for either animated (+0~filename) or switchable textures (+a~filename). While this feature is not available in the final release of the game, the textures still carry the color data used for the glowing parts.
Special thanks to Tom Schumann for the help.
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