Half-Life cover art

Half-Life (part 2)

First part

The focal point of Half-Life is the story. It was originally meant to be based on the book Mist by Stephen King. Half-Life was supposed to be called Quiver in connection with this story. In the end, the game is inspired by King's story only at the beginning. They hired a writer to write the story for them. The writer assigned a background and characteristics to each character, even to characters that just flicker in the game. The game has a slight horror touch. It tries to cause terror in a person mainly by showing them the violent death of innocent people and the player can do nothing about it. The player plays as a scientist with a Phd degree at MIT. This scientist is named Gordon Freeman. Valve sought an extraordinary experience with an extraordinary hero. Nevertheless, the story begins quite normally. Gordon Freeman goes to work like every day, of course it's a little late, but it's nothing unusual. The reversal does not occur until the science experiment of which Gordon is a part breaks down. Gordon and with him the player is to blame for any problems that arise in the future.

Drawing of Gordon Freeman from the cover of the game

Important is also the technology that Valve used in the game. I have already mentioned skeletal animation, it is an animation where the polygons of a character are attached to an internal skeletal system that moves. This creates a much more realistic movement of individual NPCs. I also mentioned that they used the Quake engine. However, I did not mention that they changed 70% of its code because they added the skeletal system, Direct3D support and more. This heavily modified Quake engine Valve called the GoldSrc engine. You may be confused because you remember playing Half-Life on the source engine. Yes, Half-Life also exists on the source engine today, because the developers ported it to it in 2004. The game is also attributed to advanced artificial intelligence, where NPCs communicate with each other. In reality, however, it is not an artificial intelligence, it is just a very well-written sequence. To make the game more compelling for players, NPCs communicate with them, in addition, they can destroy the environment around them (especially boxes) and bullets leave a mark on the materials.

The difference between Half-Life in the Source engine and in GoldSrc

The first version of Half-Life was presented at E3 in 1997. Originally, it was supposed to come out that year. But the developers decided to completely dig it over. That's why the developers talk about Half-Life as the second part, because they already had one game completely finished. However, they did not expect this extension, so they ran out of funds, Gabe and Michael had to finance Valve from their own savings. If you've ever played Half-Life, you've probably noticed that it has no levels. This is one of the things that was added during the extended development. The original game contained revolutionary ideas, but they did not fit together. That's why they came up with a special Cabal team in Valve. Cabal was a team of developers who brainstormed new ideas. One of their first tasks was to make a level where all the revolutionary concepts would be. This level was then played by other employees and they told them what they liked about it. They found that the most entertaining sequence and continuity is in the game. Equally important was the sufficient content of the game so that the player was not bored. However, the content of the game was not set according to time, but according to the player's position on the map. This indicated the individual turn of the game. The scripts were simply run according to the player's position. One of the rules of the Cabal is that a player must not die without prior sufficient warning so that he cannot blame the game.

At the end of 1997, the developers had 20% of the game ready, so they started sending these samples to the editors of game magazines. However, these demonstrations leaked to the public and spread on the Internet. This made Half-Life famous before its release, and everyone was looking forward to it. The game was really incredibly successful. By 2009, more than 9 million copies had been sold. It also meant the rise of Valve and new game titles. Counter-Strike was created as a modification of Half-Life.

Screenshot of Counter-Strike
I bet you know this map.