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Half-Life cover art

Half-Life (part 1)

I continue my journey through the history of well-known game series with Half-Life. If anyone doesn't know it, this is Valve's first game. And it's the title that gave rise to the Steam game store, thanks to how much Valve raised from sales.

The development of Half-Life begins in 1996, when two employees left Microsoft and wanted to start making computer games. The two employees were Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington. Although they had no experience with game development, they wanted their own doom game and did not let themselves be discouraged by anything. Gabe received development money in the form of a very high severance pay, which was received by one of the first Microsoft employees. Nevertheless, they had a fairly limited budget and knew that their first game had to be groundbreaking. However, money is not all you need to develop a game. Gabe and Mike needed a game engine, because back then it was easier to customize another engine to their liking than to write their own. They went to Id Software and wanted the Quake engine license. John Carmack didn't want to talk to them much because he didn't see them as good business partners. He didn't sell them his engine, because Gabe and Mike previously worked in Microsoft on the Windows operating system and had no experience with games. It looked like they wouldn't get the game engine from Carmack, but Michael Abrash stood up for them and convinced John to sell them the license so that they could do it. Valve was then founded on Gab Newell's wedding day. Originally, Valve was not supposed to be called Valve, but it was supposed to be Hollow Box. Hollow Box is supposed to represent a box where ideas are put, and then great games are created from them.

The first two Valve logos. Both of these logos have been used since the beginning of Valve.

So, they had money, an engine and a company, but they still lacked some things. They still had to get people to join the team and a publisher company. Valve's initial team was unusual, as they couldn't afford people who already had some experience with games, because they already worked in large companies. Therefore, they recruited people according to their skills rather than experience. For example, they had a tattoo artist who had experience with a project, when he programmed a program that calculated the corresponding orthopedic insole for the shoe according to the parameters of the foot. This man was in charge of skeletal animation.

The team of Half-Life on a boat in 1998

It was also very difficult to get a distributor. One of their meetings with a potential distributor ended right after they mentioned that they would like to do skeletal animations. At the time, it was a very advanced technology, and no one wanted to believe that they could do it. The publisher was, in the end, Sierra, a company famous for 2D adventures and in the new era looking for something to keep it afloat. In Sierra, they mainly didn't want a 3D FPS game where the player is just a walking weapon, so Half-Life was ideal for them thanks to its deeply thought-out story.

Continued in the next part.