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Unforeseen Consequences: A Half-Life Documentary

Unforeseen Consequences: A Half-Life Documentary


(loud keyboard typing) (machine beeping) (chimes) – [Computer] Welcome to the HEV Mark IV protective system for use in hazardous environments and conditions. – Everyone’s got that game. You know the one. The one that shattered
your preconceptions about what video games could be. Maybe for you it was the Italian plumber, or a soldier on a sneaking mission, but for me, and many others, it was a theoretical
physicist with a crowbar. I was obsessed with Half-Life. When I was in school I’d day dream about the fastest way to complete levels. One year I went to our
Halloween party dressed as a zombie scientist. The head grab made of
chicken wire and paper mache. I think maybe two people
recognized who I was. God knows what the rest of them thought. I met Gabe Newell at a
gaming convention in Germany when I was 19, told him
Half-Life was the first PC game I’d ever completed. He said that’s cool. I didn’t have any follow up questions so I just kind of nervously shuffled away. So, what’s this all about exactly? Well, Half-Life just turned 20 years old and I’m not a kid in Ireland anymore. Somehow I came to live here in America making documentaries about video games. So, I figured if anyone
was in a good position to make a video to celebrate
the legacy of this franchise, well, just seemed like the
stars had aligned or something. I reached out to Valve a few
times, but never heard back. Nobody responded but I got the message. Half-Life is a difficult topic for them. Unfinished business, a story left untold, an asterisk that qualifies everything the company has achieved since. It sort of hangs over their legacy like a rotten smell
that just won’t go away. But the influence of this
series won’t go away either. It radiates outwards from
that blast 20 years ago, and its effects can still be felt today in the design of countless
games, the work of modders, the legacy of E-Sports, and the passions of a fandom
that still persist today, in spite of the deafening radio
silence from its creators. So then I thought, to hell with it. Let’s just do the documentary anyway. If we can’t talk to Valve then let’s talk to all of those people whose lives were changed by Half-Life. The contemporary developers whose work was inspired by Half-Life,
and the crazy ones who are attempting to
finish the story themselves. To do this we’d have to hit
the road for a couple of weeks, traveling from LA to New York
with a few stops in between. A journey through the design
and influence of Half-Life. A road trip into the
unforeseen consequences of a series stuck in limbo. I wanna figure out what
it is about this game that has us still talking about it 20 years after its launch. So grab your crowbar, friends,
we’re Black Mesa inbound. (loud bang) (dramatic music) – [Cory] The entire industry
fundamentally shifted with the release of that demo. (dramatic music) – [Scott] So about a year later the mods start rolling out. Counter-Strike lands in 1999 in June. Started playing and I was
like, this is totally different than anything else. (gun reloads) – [Vince] When I started at 2015, 2015 was actually already working on a Half-Life expansion pack that never saw the light of day. – [Randy] And so we made a list of all the kind of cool things
that were out there. The top of our list
was actually Half-Life. (dramatic music) – [Man] We kind of modeled ourselves after a triple A studio, which may
or may not be the right thing from volunteer only like modding project. – [Woman] So many people
were introduced to video games as a rich
story telling experience through Half-Life that I think
it had a really big impact on a lot of people who make games, but it also had a big impact
on people who just enjoy games. (calm music) – So these are all the old Half-Life Beta and Alpha builds that I still
have collected at my place of all these sort of old
versions of Half-Life that I had through out the years. And there was something, you know, I would get a lot of game
discs over the years. This was back when people
were pretty open to give. So, here’s like Beta 17, here’s the Half-Life Alpha
build from October of 1997. – Did you play all these?
– Yeah. Half-Life Alpha version
from December of 1997. This is, you know, the first year, right? But I sort of got all these builds and I was keeping them and, you know, I don’t know why but I was just, there was something about the game that got me really excited
with sort of the animations, and I remember the first
demo where they were sort of showing the tentacle technology kind of busting through the glass, right? That was like an amazing demo
that Gabe and the guys did. I was just kind of interested in the game and I think pitched Valve on the idea of coming up and sort of tell the story of the making of the game. Sent an email, which I still have, to Gabe saying, “Hey, what
do you think of this idea?” They’re like yeah, sure, come on up. So, I headed up. Took a couple days off
school to go up to Seattle, to fly up from LA to Seattle and hang out at Valve as they
were finishing Half-Life. Company that never shipped a game before, it was two guys from Microsoft, Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell, we’re sort of trying to build
this kind of new game company. And, yeah, it’s insane
what it has turned into, but back then it was just a cool game that I was really excited about. And, you know, everyone in the journals and world was excited about too, right? Was winning awards at E3,
people thought it was, felt fresh and felt different. See, I just wanna come and
go and tell that story. I wanna say it was in September of 1998, when they were pretty
much like finishing up, like when I was there. You saw the photos that
are still in the story. But they had the sort of head crab pinata that was at the studio that they were gonna eventually crack open when they finished the game. Again, it was a much more
dramatic story back then, and we called it the final
hours because literally they had to like finish the game, bug test it, and then what they put on that CD ROM was like that was the game because there were no day one
patches or anything like that. See, I was there and probably spent, I wanna say maybe two or three days at the studio and one of the
things when I do final hours, is I really like to talk
to everyone at the studio. So, I wasn’t just talking to Gabe, I was literally talking to John Guthrie, and Ken Birdwell, and Marc Laidlaw, and all these guys that
were kinda actually working on the game to hear their story. I was just fascinated, right? As a kid in college
this was a crash course in what it takes to make a game. I remember Gabe took me out
for, I think sushi, one day. I’d never really eaten Sushi
in my life at that point, or something like that,
and I was embarrassed because I was trying to figure
out how to use the chopsticks and he was sitting there eating his sushi and I’m like I feel like
I’m gonna be an idiot here and I need to like figure out how to eat my sushi properly, use
my chopsticks properly, so that I impress this guy. ’cause again he had come from Microsoft, like he was a well off sort of well-known executive in the tech world, and Mike had come as well. And Mike’s wife at the time, Monica, was sort of there doing
the marketing stuff. So it was kind of very
much a family affair. I remember Gabe and his wife Lisa they were packing manuals
for some of the boxes on the floor and it was just like, it was a very simple time. (inspirational music) – I was working on a first-person shooter when Half-Life came out. It was the first game I ever worked on. The premise of the game was kind of cool. You played a fallen angel,
and you had these powers, so you could turn people
into pillars of salt, or make their blood
boil and they’d explode. It was like, oh, that’s fun, but it was very bog
standard level design stuff and that’s not to say their
levels sucked or anything, it was just what was expected. It was the red key and the blue key, the crates and the
scientists and everything. It was sort of the standard collective. You’d go through the levels and you’d sort of do it
without thinking about it simply because the way they
were designed was very smart, to sort of pellet lead you through. Like a mouse through a maze. It was the accepted norm. This was build engine to current 3D and it was what people were
sort of expecting to do, so we didn’t think too much of that. Our demo was coming out in like a week, and that it was announced
the Half-Life demo was going to come out, so everybody in the office downloads it to their machines and their
demo was not only longer, but it was better and
longer than our entire game. And we were about to
release a single boss battle of our game and that was our demo, and it was in a single room
and you just fought Lilith, and it was over. Everybody played and
it was like this quiet discomfort that sort of spread
throughout the entire studio. And when I went to Cyclone
one of the first things I said was I am only interested in
coming here if you guys are not fully owned by 3DO, ’cause
I don’t wanna go over and work for 3DO, I’m
not interested in that. And they were like no, no, no,
we’re all independent, right? That ended that day. The demo came out, the game
came out, and it just thudded. It was an echo of nothing. Nobody cared, because the entire industry fundamentally shifted with
the release of that demo. Everybody in the gamers
side and the creators side all had their brains collectively flipped. It was the they live moment where Rowdy Roddy Piper
is putting the glasses on and seeing the signs, right? That is truly how I felt going, oh, this is how games can be. (dramatic music) – Love FPS games, right? Like Doom and Quake, and
played tons and tons of ’em. Then Bleak happened and
that ended up being a demo that they put out with
graphics cards or something, but that came out, it leaked early. – [Danny] Right. – And I remember everyone
freaking out about that. The train ride stuff is kind of amazing, because at that time it was so engaging. You’re just like what is happening here? You can’t wait to see
kinda what happens next, and not that much really happens, right? But for some reason it was
just, hadn’t been done like that before so it was just something that I think intrigued us all. – One of the quietest, smartest openings that actually shows you
precisely who you are, and precisely who you
are is not super soldier created in a lab, it’s not
greatest spider of all time, it’s dude on his way to work. Casting a character who never speaks so you’re 100% placed in
Gordon Freeman’s shoes. They were one of the first
games that I ever played in which the character you embody takes part in the inciting
incident of the story, right? You actively are encouraged,
tricked by the scientist, to do something which
causes all the chaos of the entire game world so you’re far more invested in fixing it. At the time I didn’t fully realize it, it wasn’t until subsequent play throughs that I realized how well,
how expertly crafted, they had done that moment. Story was told at you. We were in our infancy of story telling where it was a bunch of
probably level designers dictating some of the story so they were loving to do this but maybe that wasn’t their forte, so it was not necessarily writer solely or anybody that was
directing these things. It was more like the
collective team saying you know what’d be great in
this level, let’s try this. – It was guys that all came
out of the mod community. That was a smart thing
that Gabe and Mike did, is the mod community around Doom and Quake was incredible and they were really smart about just going, as
you said, to these kids who learned how to use
some of these editing tools and went to them and said,
hey, come work on this game. So yeah that what was cool, yeah, the personal stories
of, I’m trying to think, like John Guthrie, even John Cook, all these guys that were modders and just sort of came in the studio. It provided a lot of interesting color. And again it had a very
interesting structure there too with these cabals, which I think
they still use to this day, where sort of groups of people
that would all come together and build things. As a kid that was studying in college, I was like this is just a
fascinating sort of exercise in understanding how companies
work, and how teams work. (loud crunching) – I love the sound design in that game. Like firing the pistol, the
first time you get the pistol, especially because it took so long. (high pitched squeal) (gun fires) You’d get that tuh tuh
tuh tuh tuh tuh tuh tuh, you know the crowbar, and just when you were tired
of just having the crowbar they introduce the pistol. And then they slide in shotgun, the revolver, the machine gun, at those perfect times, but the sound, when you hear the world, when you hear that (loud fast beeping) you just filled up your health, grr-um. You know, that do do do,
when your health goes a little bit too low on the thing. Critical. (loud beeping) – [Woman] Blood loss detected. – All these things that feel like you are placed in that world. The pacing of that game
brought you those moments, that tentacle is just unbelievably good, and it came at the right time. It came at a time when you
needed something spectacle, challenging, and then just
constantly hearing that duh duh duh duh duh. (loud banging) (groans) – I still remember I got an
early version of Half-Life and it was Halloween of 1998 and I remember I was at my place in LA and I got so sucked into the world that people kept ringing my
door trying to trick or treat and I just was like ignoring them because I was sitting
there playing Half-Life. And I remember it was that
moment where you sort of have the helicopter outside and you’ve got the rocket launcher and it was this moment where
you’re having this battle and it just grabbed you so much because what they did with that game, there’s such a flow to it, right? You’re in this flow state and
I remember the CD audio tracks on the CD that they had recorded and they would sort of
come into the gameplay and you’d sort of get into
the skirmish mode, right? And the music would start and you’d sorta start these battles, and there was a chorography to it. Which was just incredible. I still remember that, like Halloween and it was starting,
and it was three o’clock and like the sun set all these, and I was just so focused on
like getting through Half-Life. I still remember the helicopter fight, I remember the guards
start of dropping down on those black lines and coming
down and kinda fighting you. – Their AI wasn’t that
revolutionary but it was. It was the first time it didn’t feel like random people mobbing you, but soldiers around the corner
communicating with each other and then tossing grenades
around the corner. It was absolutely mind-blowing. The introduction of the
fighting the helicopter came at that right moment when you’re like, all right,
I’m ready for something and then it just kills
you almost instantly. Like oh, okay, I get it. (loud whirring) (loud explosion) They are the originators
of having no cinematics. And that effected me so strongly that even with God of War, what
I wanted was no camera cuts, but also no cinematics. I wanted you to be able to be, you know, in a room with 10 people
and I wanna pay attention to that person, right? And if I don’t pay attention
to the other nine people I might miss something. That’s really hard. It’s really cool to talk about, but I can see how they had
to engineer certain tricks at the time, locking you
in a room with somebody, giving them an active, but then inside of the narrative
having them encourage you to have an active, right? And they begin that right
away with “Gordon, I need you “to help me with this experiment,” right? And you become accustomed to that. First person shooters were
there to throw a bunch of enemies at you, empower you, and then, oh, we kinda
need to slow the pace down so let’s put some security
keys every once in awhile. This one really built up that, at the time very popular
mythology of X-Files, right? That sense of the truth is out there and there’s a conspiracy, and the lowest person on the totem pole is able to elevate to the heroic stature simply by answering the call. And that’s what you’re doing. It’s the classic hero’s
journey of the call to action, and that call to action literally happens right after you get off the train. (dramatic music) – [Danny] Half-Life wasn’t
designed in a creative vacuum. It was a direct response to the types of first person shooters
that were flooding the market at the time. Newell and Abrash are often
credited as the inspiration for pushing the genre into
a more story focused lane, but the team they built
around them were full of programmers who had been
working on the bleeding-edge of first person shooter design for years. Many of those folks had come from Texas. Specifically the greater Dallas area. This was the birthplace of the genre. Home to both id Software,
creators of Doom and Quake, and Apogee, later 3D Realms,
creators of Duke Nukem. Around the launch of Half-Life
a group who had broken away from 3D Realms were
looking for a new project, so on a brisk day in early
1999 they came together to brainstorm their future at the home of one of the designers, a
young man who had created a handful of maps for the
Duke Nukem expansion pack. To find out what happened next I was going to have to talk to that young designer, where he still works and lives, a city called Frisco on
the northern outskirts of Dallas, Texas. – I knew a bunch of people up there. I worked with Doug Wood, who
was lead animator at 3D Realms, I worked with Chuck Johns, who did all the character
design at 3D Realms. Brian Martell, one of our partners, worked with Harry Teasly at Micro-Pros, he was the art director for the project. Just kind of knowing each
other ’cause the communities, especially back then, was super tight for people working in first person and 3D. So we made a list of all
the kind of cool things that were out there that we
thought would be really great to be a part of. And the top of our list
was actually Half-Life. We saw its genius, you know? It’s doing what was a natural evolution of what needed to happen in first person, and even though the original game I think in that launch period
sold like 400,000 units, like to us it was like, wow, this thing is going to be
massive, it needs to percolate. So even though it wasn’t like
the biggest selling franchise back then we knew that
there was some magic to it, and we felt like we
could legitimately help. – [Danny] The team’s previous
attempt at going independent, a company called Rebel Boatrocker, had their first game canceled because they’d bit off
more than they could chew. Creating a brand-new
studio to create a new game with a new IP in a new engine. So, if they were going
to take on a new project, they wanted to only do one
or two of those challenges, not all four. Half-Life seemed like a good fit. It was a successful IP, which back in 1999 meant expansion packs were soon to follow. It ran on a modified Quake engine. The design of the game
was something they felt they could work within. So, the team decided they’d
try and reach out to Valve, but little did they know as
they were slowly filing it at Randy’s house, that
Gabe Newell in Seattle was already interested. He had read a blog that Randy had penned about the closing of Rebel Boatrocker, and before leaving work that
evening decided to reach out. – That night randomly I
got an email from Gabe. He said, hey, I heard you
guys are free right now. Maybe we should talk about something. So I got on a plane, went up to Seattle. I had this idea of kinda doing, simultaneously doing like a
Rosencrantz and Guildenstern kind of thing with Half-Life, but also what if the pitch
was you’re coming at it from the enemy team,
you’re the bad guy, right? But then, like, because
of the circumstances you actually aren’t a bad guy either. Like you have to be a good guy too. So I went up, elevator pitched Gabe, and then gave him more, they
were like this is amazing, we should do this. Then he’s like here’s the thing, we don’t own Half-Life, so
you gotta go down the street and talk to publisher Sierra and if you can talk them
into it, we’re down. So I drove down the street and Gabe called ahead to
let ’em know I was coming. I think we got the, that was February, and we got the deal done in April. That’s pretty gnarly for that
kind of business development, but they were motivated
and I was motivated, so we were able to get
that job done pretty fast. – [Danny] To get the contract signed, Randy and his colleagues
would have to incorporate as a new studio. Their first project was going to be Half-Life Opposing Force, an expansion pack to a game
made by a company called Valve. So perhaps it’s fitting that they landed on the name Gearbox. They started work right away, but soon realized that Valve’s unique way of project management was
not particularly well suited to collaborating with external studios. – About the game itself,
Laidlaw was the person I talked to the most and that was probably a sum total
of three to four hours of conversation, of interactions, right? – [Danny] You guys were
on your own, pretty much. – Totally, totally on our own. We had to figure
everything out on our own. We had no restrictions. I mean, I had opened with my pitch but they didn’t really
have any rules for us. Imagine if we went crazy. Like I know of an expansion
that was in development by another studio that got canceled ’cause it just went too weird. It wasn’t, it wasn’t, and it makes sense that it was canceled. It was trying to integrate like
the Team Fortress characters were in Black Mesa and like it was, there was some weird stuff going on. They kind of, like, wanted
to define the identity of the G-Man in a way that
really wasn’t compatible with the mystery that the team intended. – [Danny] The project
that Randy is referring to was known as Hostile Takeover, a game where you played as a junior G-Man who teamed up with the
characters from Team Fortress, which Valve had recently acquired. As it happens this was
actually the first project that Call of Duty and Titanfall
creator Vince Zampella had worked on back at 2015 Games, before he and the team
eventually started work on Medal of Honor: Allied Assault, but he has a different answer
for why it never came out. – When I started at 2015, 2015
was actually already working on a Half-Life expansion pack. – [Danny] Right. – So, that never saw the light of day. Yeah it was more involved
with the main story, it wasn’t a side thing, but they were already in production on it, but it got canceled. I remember taking a trip up to Valve not long after starting
at 2015 and realizing that they absolutely hated
the guy that ran 2015 and it was like, oh,
shit what happened here? So, then after that it
fell apart pretty quickly. – [Danny] While 2015’s
expansion pack was canceled, Gearbox’s would go on to great critical and commercial success. Opposing Force was celebrated
for breathing fresh, creative energy into
the Half-Life universe. So I asked Randy what were
some of his favorite elements from that game. – The boss in the, you know, I really, in hindsight,
shouldn’t have done it, ’cause it’s like kinda breaks
Half-Life a little bit, but I recreated the Star
Wars trash compactor after the pit worm, and
the design of the pit worm, and Patrick’s like had to code that up to get it to like, you know, and Steven Bahl did
these amazing animations so it was like really creepy when that big eyeballs
like looking at you, and like the big, and you’re like oh crap. The barnacle grappling
hook was a great idea. I think that was actually Patrick’s idea. ’cause, you know, there
was, Quake CTF had a, the Three Wave guys added a grappling hook and we were having so much
fun playing with that. I’m like hey what would
be a grappling hook in the Half-Life universe? There already is a grappling hook, it’s the barnacle
hanging from the ceiling. What if Gordon can get one
like stuck on his hand, or Adrian can get one stuck on his hand? (loud slurping) – Okay, I’ll cover you. – [Danny] The success of
Opposing Force paved a way for a second expansion pack, and just like Opposing Force, the team at Gearbox wanted to
tell the story of Half-Life from a fresh perspective. – The only reason why
the first one happened is ’cause we pitched it, right? There was no plan, everything
was kind of ad-hoc, and then once that happened I was like, I was pretty hungry and I
loved what we were doing, so I had a conversation with, gosh, I think it was Jeff
Pops who was up at Sierra, about the possibility of
doing another expansion and the starting concept was, hey, remember when Gordon’s in the
tram at the very beginning and he’s going down the tram ride and there’s a security guard
just banging on the door trying to get in? Okay, so this is the
game where that’s you. That was our starting point. We mapped it all out and
we figured out where, what the Barney was doing, and we created the Otis
character to give a counterpart to Barney and had some fun with it. Barney was in the elevator
when the cataclysm happened when Gordon caused the resonance cascade. And Rob Heironimus, one
of our level designers, I think that was the only
thing he did on Blue Ship, but he spent the entire project just making that elevator
ride just the most amazing. Like there’s animation, with
like things flying around the elevator crashing. It was like Tower of
Terror in video game form. The stuff I worked on, I really liked, the whole game trains you to just run up to the health things and use them. And then have one that’s broken
and sparks coming out of it, and when you walk to it
and use it, it explodes. Now that was nice, I did
like one point of damage, but did huge amount of force, screen shake, pushed you way back. I wanted it to feel impactful, but I didn’t really wanna kill anybody. I just wanted you to feel like, oh, shit. Anything could happen, like I didn’t see that
coming, that was a shock, that was a surprise. Kind of a magic trick on people. – [Danny] When it comes to Half-Life, Gearbox are most known for their work on those two expansion packs, but the truth is that they
worked on almost all post-release Half-Life content in some way or another. They helped a little on the
console Dreamcast Force, and helped on various
Counter-Strike projects, but it was their work on
the PlayStation version of the game that resulted in
one of the most interesting Half-Life side stories. An entirely co-op adventure
staring two female protagonists called Half-Life Decay. – Whenever we do something we always try and go above and beyond, right? So, like, hey, PlayStation 2 looks like it might be an interesting platform. We were talking to Sony
before it launched, we got access to some
development hardware. Sierra never published a console game, like literally never
published a console game, so we were like I think we’re
gonna be the first people to force Sierra to publish a console game, or develop a console game, we’re gonna do it on the PlayStation 2, and let’s make it Half-Life. So we were really just kind of on board, so it’s like just porting it isn’t enough. What else can we do? Let’s build another chapter. I played a lot of Golden Eye on N64, and my fondest experience on console FPS’s are when you can have split-screen co-op, or split-screen multi-player, so I’m like okay we gotta do that. We gotta do it. It’s gotta be done. And, okay if we’re gonna do co-op, like Half-Life there was semi co-op, but like what if we took that, what if we actually designed
the game to assume co-op, but we knew, okay, we’re
gonna have two characters now, and we’re gonna make new characters ’cause that’s what we do. Okay, what are the two characters? What occurred to me was when
Gordon gets the HEV suit there’s an HEV suit but
there’s two empty pods. Who are the scientists that are wearing those other two suits? That’s who our game is gonna be about. Those other two scientists. We already knew one of ’em, it’s the one that trained us in the HEV training in Half-Life. So when you do the training
in the tutorial mission, you have this hologram version, and we named her I think Gina Cross, and we named her Gina Cross
because the voice actor was named Gina. So all the audio files had
like a Gina tag on them. Then we invented the other character and named her Colette. We had to take the resonance cascade from a different point of view. We thought, well, if you’re
the scientist in the HEV suits one of you’s gotta be the
one that delivered the sample to Gordon, oh that’s cool. – [Danny] Half-Life had two
official expansion packs and a handful of ports
to various other systems, but among the wider community, something very interesting was happening. Half-Life had re-awoken
the first person shooter. After years of un-inspired Doom clones, people were excited about the genre again. This was the second age of the FPS where a focus on storytelling,
creative level design, and artificial intelligence
came into focus. On top of that, the game was designed to be Modder friendly,
allowing developers to use this modified Quake engine
to plug mods directly into the game’s launcher. What happened next was an
explosion of user created games, maps and modes, single player mods, death match maps, new
versions of Quake favorites. But in a world with servers
and CD’s packed full of Half-Life mods, nothing
was as big as Counter-Strike. To get to the bottom of
how this all happened, we traveled to Phoenix, Arizona, to talk to an E-Sports
veteran whose entire career began with the launch of CS. (inspirational music) How old does this make you feel, that we’re talking about
Counter-Strike being 20, almost 20 years old? – Old, ’cause I was old when
it came out so to speak, in the sense of the demographic
I play around, you know? The sense of kids playing video games. So even when it first
came out 20 years ago I was kind of one of the
older guys on the scene. And when you asked me to do this, and even last night I
was kind of trying to do some of my own research or remembering what beta was, what guns and stuff, in case you ask me very
technical questions. And just memories were flooding back when I was reading these change logs of the different versions, I
was like I remember that one. And so it was, it’s crazy. 20 years almost, you know? Almost 20 years. – [Danny] Scott was
the founder of GotFrag, one of the Counter-Strike
community’s first and largest news sites. He’s been a figure at
the forefront of E-Sports broadcasting ever since,
and was even a manager at E-Sports team Evil Geniuses for a time. Today he chills out in his native Phoenix and helps manage the Counter-Strike Professional Players Association. A sort of de-facto union
which helps pro-players with legal advise during
contract negotiations and acts as a player-focused voice within the Counter-Strike community. Let’s rewind that a little bit. – Sure. – [Danny] What was your
first experience playing Counter-Strike, do you remember? – Beta one day one. Downloaded the mod. Again, it’s also a bygone era. Like, what’s a mod, right? You ask a kid, hey, did
you download any mods? They don’t know what you’re
talking about these days, right? It was just one of many mods that got dropped out of Half-Life being the most amazing game engine. So, Half-Life comes out in what, ’98? So about a year later the
mods start rolling out, Counter-Strike lands in 1999 in June. Downloaded it, starting playing, I was like this is totally
different than anything else. Rainbow Six was a turn based
tactical shooter kind of, so it wasn’t what it is, was, now, so there was nothing like Counter-Strike, or it was some sort of World
War II related thing, right? Return of Castle Wolfenstein. Right after Counter-Strike comes Day of Defeat as a mod, right? So I download this thing
day one beta one, June 19th, and I’m enthralled by it. I’m like this is amazing. It’s not what it is
now, it was very broken, it was hostage only back then
for the first couple months. – [Danny] Yes, CS underscore. – CS underscore, yeah. It was truly Hostage
was the only game type. You went and had to rescue
hostages if you were CT and defend the hostages you had taken if you were terrorists. And, on top of that,
you’ve got a set of guns. It’s not a loadout system,
it’s not a class base system, it’s a money system. So based on how much money you have you determine how much that
round you can buy guns. That alone, with the round
system where everything restarts, we’re gonna re-wrack and start all over, put you back at your starting
bases and here we go. Keep track of how you do each round. So kind of a continually reset, no health packs, right? No armor laying around, right? You get the stuff from the
beginning of the round, you buy your armor, you
don’t buy your armor, your health is your health. Not an easy game, right? Fun and easy to learn how to play. It’s, oh, this is okay, buy guns, this is the maps, but not, again like any good E-Sport, easy to play, easy to get
into and kind of understand, but really hard to
master the nuances of it and actually get really good at. – After we finished and
delivered Opposing Force, we kind of weren’t sure
what we were doing yet, so we just immediately went
into some multi-player mod work and we built something we
ended up calling Half-Life CTF. And Patrick was just like on, like every day he would just
code up a bunch of features and then every afternoon we’d
just play it for a few hours. At the time we’d also noticed some modders that were working on
something pretty cool. Some clever ideas that
became Counter-Strike. And there were some
other things that we had and there was, like
Valve was messing around with their own mod, what everyone called Ricochet for example. Opposing Force CTF kind
of became the foundation of what ultimately became the
Counter-Strike yellow box. Where, in fact, it
started with we have this but it’s not enough to sell, let’s create a collection of things. And so then we got a kind of hodgepodge of all these mods together. Counter-Strike became the lead but retail wouldn’t take it
because what’s Counter-Strike, so it was called Half-Life Counter-Strike. So if you see the original yellow box, it was called Half-Life Counter-Strike and then if you turn it
over you’ll actually see a list of all the other little
things we were all throwing in there to try and do a sum
of the parts kinds of pitch, like, hey, this adds up to
$20 or $30 worth of value because of all these pieces in it. – The updates were hot and heavy. Once a week then once
every couple of months. There were always new maps. because again, back in the
world of modifications, these guys weren’t like, Cliff and Ming-Lee didn’t
make the maps, community did. And some of the most famous ones, a guy David made Dust and Dust 2, and Cobblestone is full
on still in the business. Making maps and levels and stuff, right? – [Danny] I’d love to know
who made Scouts Knives. – Oh Scouts and Knives, Rats where you were shrunk
and you were the little guy running around, you know? I actually like the ones
that are still in play, that are classics, so
Train, Inferno, Dust 2. People bitch and moan,
like why do you guys keep playing the same seven, eight maps? We have a few that come in and out, but basically these maps are
20 years old in some regards. Or the core of them is 20 years old. Sure they’ve been gussied up and trains have been moved
a little bit in Train, but still two bomb sites
in roughly the same areas, the same dynamics. – [Danny] I have a copy of your favorite, probably your favorite version
of Counter-Strike here. I just thought you might
like to have a look at it. (laughs) – By the way, Condition Zero. Yeah, Condition Zero. – Valve wanted, they were trying, I mean there was probably a lot of interesting business reasons
that I think it’s better off if they get into, but it led to a climate where there were some
opportunity available to develop Counter-Strike in a few ways. One way was on the first Xbox, and Microsoft threw
some money in for that. We put a little deal together, and in hind-sight that was a mess. Gabe was really insistent, like, hey, dude, instead of doing the deal with the publisher like you usually do, you should do the deal with us. We’re developers, we
totally get each other, we’ll take care of it. Like, oh my God it was a nightmare. They did not know how to
be publishers back then. They did not know how to deal
with people like us for sure. So that was a mess, but
we got started on it and they were schizophrenic
about what they wanted. We created maps which
were totally compatible with the multi-player Counter-Strike that were designed as
competitive Counter-Strike maps. We had all the guys working at Gearbox that were part of the
original Counter-Strike team, Chris Auty and Johnson who made Dust, like these guys were working at Gearbox. So we made, there was freaking
awesome maps that we made, and we made this kind of
single player campaign, which really was AI guys with you. You played the maps over and over again to accomplish certain
challenges and criteria, right? So it wasn’t story driven at all. And we were dependent upon some new work that Valve had imagined that they called, what did they call that? It was like GUI 2.0 or something? Or UI 2.0? They just went off the
rails with that feature and it didn’t get done. We were dependent upon it, so that kind of screwed
us up a little bit. Then they did this one big
come to Jesus meeting with me where they’re like no, you know what, you should make it like Opposing Force, where it’s all single
player and campaign driven. And I’m like in Counter-Strike? I don’t think that’s what customers want. At that point I had taken a lot of risk. They weren’t really financing development. I mean, they threw a
little bit of money at it, but not nearly what we spent, so it was like this is kinda bullshit. So I walked, I told him fuck off. – [Danny] Gearbox had invested thousands of hours in their version
of Condition Zero, a CS that focused on multi-player but added a Tony Hawk
inspired offline mode, where players would repeat
levels to complete challenges. But Gearbox was actually the second studio to take a swing at developing this game. They had taken over from
Rogue Entertainment in 2001. The game eventually found its third home at Ritual Entertainment
who Valve contracted to make the single player focused version that they had unsuccessfully
pitched to Randy. The game when Gold and
review copies were sent out, but when the scores didn’t look so good, Valve actually pulled
the launch of the game and dumped all of Ritual’s work. The game found its fourth
home at Turtle Rock Studios who finished the game by taking the seed of Gearbox’s vision, and
packaging it alongside 12 of Ritual’s single player levels under the banner Deleted Scenes. It seemed that Valve were
more comfortable buying out external teams than
working with them remotely. At that time Gearbox
was still under contract with Valve, but by this
stage Randy wanted out. – We kind of did a deal, they were kind of shitty about it frankly, but we did a deal that got us separated. In hindsight both at
the time it felt shitty, in hindsight it was
horrifyingly exploitive. I’m really not pleased about it, and it soured like a lot of ways I thought about Valve for a long time. They did to us things we’d
never would do to any developer. It’s really annoying. – [Danny] Has time healed that? – I had a talk with Eric
Johnson years later about it and he kind of shared some, there were some other things
going on behind the scenes that were really affecting Valve, and it made their behavior make sense, but it was like still shitty. Ultimately he told me that
what they were really doing is the game couldn’t come out because of some other things. They were doing the big play with Sierra where they were trying to
re-acquire the Half-Life IP. – [Danny] So they were buying time? – Yeah. – [Danny] At your expense. – Yeah, at our expense, yeah. And I said, dude, you should
have just leveled with me, I’d have played the game with you. Like we’re supposed to
be on the same team, man. – [Danny] As the community
created more and more free mods, Valve seemed determined to
bring these under the wing of the studio and make
commercial versions of them. Counter-Strike’s box copies
hadn’t been very successful, so they started work on a
sequel to Team Fortress Classic and hired the team
responsible for Day of Defeat. A retail version of that was
published by Activision in 2003 but outside of Valve’s control
post 1.0 Counter-Strike was expanding into new
and exciting avenues. Professional games had existed before, but usually just as
cheap marketing gimmicks, but as broadband expanded
throughout the world, it actually made watching
E-Sports events possible for the first time. Sites like GotFrag went to great lengths to broadcast these matches
to fans all around the world. And suddenly there was an audience, and with this audience came sponsors. Counter-Strike was an E-Sport and the community was
holding all of the cards. – I’ll use the word we a
lot, I don’t really mean, it’s more of the royal we. It’s not me as in Scott, but we as the community, built this game. They gave us one thing,
this hostage rescue thing, with a few maps, a few guns, and feedback just started
coming day one hot and heavy. More maps started being developed, more guns coming, they would tweak, they would adjust what we said. And then the hardcore took this and we took it one step further and go okay how do we compete on it? Should it be 12 rounds? Europe was going with charges only, which meant only the
offensive team scored rounds. You know, we kind of as
a community, globally, playing in different leagues
and on different ladders, kind of figured out what
is now, for the most part, the standardized rule-set of
competitive Counter-Strike, which Valve then took to heart when they added it in Global Offensive as match making the kids play on. It roughly uses those same
parameters now, right? We basically play the same
game we played for 18 years. After those first couple
of years of development with Counter-Strike and
figuring out the game, and how we compete in the game, we’ve just gone for it since then. (dramatic music) – Counter-Strike’s
story doesn’t end there. We’ll dedicate a shorter
video to chew that one out, but the cliff notes look
something like this. Valve released Counter-Strike Source alongside Half-Life 2 and
split up the casual base, but the professional players pretty much universally hated it. 1.6 was king, that was until
time made a mockery of that too and the money, of course. E-Sports had moved towards
the expanding market and strategy games. Counter-Strike pro players
were left in the lurch as their old version
didn’t get any updates. All the while the Half-Lifer’s
were gifted expansion pack after expansion pack. But just like CS, eventually
Star Craft became old news too. Toppled by a modified
version of that genre. Valve smelled the blood. They had made a massive mistake in not owning the E-Sports wing of the previous mass market online mod. It wouldn’t happen again. They hired a bunch of modders, and well, you probably know the rest. But Counter-Strike wasn’t done either. The newly released version,
Counter-Strike Global Offensive, wasn’t exactly the most
popular game at launch, but through work with the community, it has since exploded in recent years and is even more popular than
1.6 was back in its hey-day. Counter-Strike fans are
enjoying a renaissance now while all the Half-Lifers
are still waiting on that last expansion pack. If only they could sell gravity
gun skins I hear you say, we’d be playing episode three by now. And there it is, the fan-boy bitterness. The specter of episode
three is easier to ignore when we’re talking
about the good old days, but to be a contemporary Half-Life fan is to smile through the disappointment. Don’t worry, we’ll get to
Half-Life 2 in just a second. This story is far from over, but first I think we could
all use a bit of a break. (inspirational music) All right, so we’ve been to California, we’ve been to Texas, we’re now in Arizona, talking to people about their experiences with Half-Life, and it’s weird because I
thought I was going into this wondering about the
development of these games, and like how they impacted people in terms of design, but what’s
kind of actually come up is how it’s impacted their
lives in an interesting way. Like Cory Barlog, he doesn’t really make first person games, but he has all of these other
emotional touch points he has with the series that are connected to various periods of his life. Randy Pitchford, he’s probably the closest to it in terms of design because
he worked on those games, but he also has a lot of like emotional and business baggage with the
entire Half-Life franchise. In fact, one of the
weirdest things about this, is that all of these people, to a person, have all wanted to talk
to us about Half-Life. Like literally every
single person we emailed about this documentary said yes, and then took time out of their schedule and some of them had PR people fly in from a different city to
make sure we could do this, to talk about a game that
none of them worked on that came out 20 years ago. So, when I think about
that in relation to myself, it’s making me think why I’m doing this. Like, we could have done a documentary on anything this month. So why did I force Jeremy
to get in the car with me with his massive camera, this is a convertible by the way, to go all around America and talk to people
about this old ass game? Like, it obviously means
a lot to me as well. I’m not really sure, I’m
still trying to like process this whole thing and figure it out. But one of the things I
definitely wanted to do while we were in the sort
of general Arizona area, since we were in Phoenix talking to Scott, was go visit some mesas. I’ve never seen a mesa before. The Black Mesa in Half-Life is
actually based in New Mexico. I looked around some
places around New Mexico and a sort of general area around here and none of them really looked exactly the way I remember the game where you come out of that tunnel and you’re fighting the
marines outside of that massive view of the river and the
mesas in the distance. But the place that did look like it to me was actually northern Arizona. Now we probably can’t get up that high, but we’re gonna get high enough. And I mean high in the spiritual way. We’re going to Sedona, which not only is famous
for its beautiful mesas, but also for its various vortexes. And if you know the
narrative of Half-Life one, you know that vortexes, and vortegons, and portals are a very important part of what makes that game special. So, this is our spiritual journey into the heart of Half-Life. Let’s see if we find what
the vortexes have for us. (inspirational music) Hello and welcome to the beautiful
mesas of Sedona, Arizona. We woke up especially early this morning to try and see the sunrise but unfortunately nature
had a different idea, but as it turns out it kinda
works a little bit better for my, you know,
beautiful HEV jumper here. I feel perfectly dressed for the occasion. One of the reasons I wanted to come here was because the mesas in Half-Life, they’re, it’s almost like
a Disney lot or something. They’re just these, like, it
feels like you could reach out and touch the like
cardboard sides of them. (gun fires) (loud explosion) And seeing them in real life it actually kinda feels the same way. Like when we drove in here there’s something about
the scale of these things that doesn’t feel real. It’s especially weird
because they’re so big and they’re also like
so on top of the town. Sedona’s one of these places where people, there’s a lot of crystal shops. People come here for the energy. They check out the various vortexes. There’s probably, is there a vortex here? There’s probably a vortex. We probably drove past a couple of vortexes on the way up here. And it does have a special energy to it. It’s kind of different to Half-Life in that Half-Life’s mesas are like, there’s no foliage on them what so ever. But in a weird way I
feel like thematically it’s actually a little bit closer to the original Half-Life, you know? Precious gem stones being
pushed into scientific machines and portals spewing out energy. I’m basically trying to justify a trip to Sedona for this documentary. But the whole thing has
me kind of thinking about, that like, that weird
out of body experience and it actually kind of reminds me of, have I ever told you about the story about when I was in the mission
Stoned in San Francisco? So this is years ago. When I first moved to San Francisco I was in the back of a
comedy club on the Mission with a friend of mine, some
people I used to work with. So we had some edibles and what’s weird is one of the, like, only, like, audio hallucinations
I’ve ever had in my life was when I played the first Half-Life in the summer of ’99. And I played for like five
or six hours straight, and I remember walking
away from the computer and being able to hear the soldiers. You know, those radio calls
where it’s like “Where is he?” And “We’ve got Freeman”
and all that sort of stuff. I could like still hear them. So flash forward to like, this is maybe three or four years ago, and I’m in the Mission and
I’ve taken these edibles, and I can hear the
doctor from Half-Life one and Half-Life 2, Doctor Kleiner. You know that voice? Like “Oh, Mr. Freeman”. I could hear. – Get away from there, Freeman. I’m expecting an important message. – And I’m like oh my God, this is the, I’m having like another
audio hallucination and they always seem to be about Half-Life and I’m laughing about it, and I’m telling my colleagues and stuff, and we’re all rolling around
on the floor and whatever. But it’s like 30 minutes have passed and I can still hear him. And I’m like it’s a bit weird
that this hallucination’s really like, holding on. So it was in the back of this weird comedy club theater thing. And at a certain point I poke my head out from like behind, we’re
like behind the set, and I poke my head out
and I can see just like a bunch of people in the audience and there’s this guy on the stage and like now I’m looking at him and he’s moving his lips and
it sounds like Doctor Kleiner. So like at this stage I’m
like I need to like figure out if I’m like having this
really strong hallucination or whether or not this
is actually happening. So I check the posters around and there’s a name on it
that says Harry S. Robbins, and I look up Mobi-Games or something and check out the credits
for Half-Life and it’s him. Doctor Kleiner is literally
on the stage talking to us. He has a like science
podcast or something. So, after the show ends he comes backstage and I’m like completely
off my gourd at this stage, and I’m like, oh my God,
it’s so amazing to meet you, what was it like, you know, like 15 years ago or like I
guess five or six years ago, doing the voice of this character? And like he literally speaks that way, and he was like “Oh it was very fun. “Valve are a great company to work for “and I don’t know anything
about Half-Life 3.” – Great Scott, Gordon Freeman. I expected more warning. – See, I’m not sure
what the lesson is here, if you’re getting stoned in the Mission try and not make it in a place where hallucinations and reality are going to intersect with each other. That’s probably my
weirdest Half-Life story. Although maybe climbing
to the top of a mountain wearing a HEV sweater is (laughs) a close second, let’s say. (inspirational music) As it turns out the sequel
for Half-Life would be set far from any mesas but its launch would be no-less revolutionary. Half-Life 2 went through
countless missed released dates and a hacker, who
spread the game’s files all over the internet for
every game developer under the sun to poke through, but that didn’t stop it from
being what many consider to be the best first
person shooter ever made. When you’re a fan of video games it’s almost in-distinguishable
from sports. We follow developers
like our favorite team. Indie studios are like the underdog story. Big publishers are the evil empire. We cheer when an old legend rises again and scream at the television when our favorite under-performs. So when a studio knocks it out of the park on their very first hit
we don’t expect them to walk up to the plate a
second time and do it again. That doesn’t happen. id Software was as close that
we got as that type of MVP. They went from Wolfe to Doom to Quake, but even they couldn’t seem to compete in a post Half-Life world. Maybe Valve knew this. Maybe they knew to make a
revolutionary great game is one thing but to
follow it up with another, well that’s gonna take
something very special. Once again it was time to raise the bar. (inspirational music) – Yeah, Half-Life 2 is
even more interesting, ’cause you know we did that first story and it got a lot of attention. I think it was like,
oh, let’s do something for the second one. And then the original
pitch for the second one is that I was going to
write something called the first hours of Half-Life 2, which is basically gonna
be the reveal of the game. But I went up to Valve and
they gave me a demo of it and I started to work on the story. And I think they called
up a few weeks later and said “Oh by the way just kidding, “we’re not gonna announce the game now.” And they kind of pushed
back the announcement, even after they had
already done some initial kind of interviews or demos, so I used all that information from what was gonna be the
First Hours of Half-Life 2 to turn into the Final
Hours of Half-Life 2 and then obviously that
became a much grander story, with the hack and all
that stuff around it. They felt more pressure, right? So Half-Life one was just a
bunch of guys trying to figure out how to make an action game. Half-Life 2 was a team
that felt the obligation of delivering for a fan base and the crazy that expectations that come with kind of pushing the
limit of what you can do. And they were trying to push technology, trying to push game play,
so it was a bigger studio but there was a lot more
weight on their shoulders with Half-Life 2 ’cause they
didn’t want to screw up. – Jay Stelly showed me, um, when he first got physics
implemented in the engine, and they licensed, we
licensed this stuff Havoc, and we started to get the stuff in, and he had this little
view model for a tool that he could use in the game to throw physics objects around, and I was like that is awesome, and he was like yeah we’re talking about, like, we think this is so
much fun to like take a body and throw it into the
Pachinko Machine, you know? There’s like classic physics demos, like knock a pile of crates over, we think we need to
make this like a weapon or a tool somehow in the game, ’cause it’s just so much fun
just to play with the physics, and that became the gravity gun. That’s like, that’s some
of the genius I think of the Valve developers. Like literally that same week, in Tech 5, I was looking at id’s engine, and they had just implemented
their home brew physics. Like they created the
physics all by themselves. And they added a little
tool that you could use to manipulate physics in the engine and the mistake I made was, ’cause I knew what Jay’s comment was, I said that’s pretty awesome you should think about letting
the player have that fun, ’cause you’re having fun, like that’s fun, and Tim’s answer was no way,
that’s way too much power, we could never give that to the player. That says everything I
need to know right now. When Valve stumbled upon a fun thing their instinct was to try to find a way to give it to the player, where as the id mentality was like afraid if the player would break the
integrity of the technology. And yet, you know what,
you can break Half-Life. You can create problems
with the physics constantly, but who cares? Like some of the most successful games in the world right now are super jinky. – [Man] The world is also
built out of materials. (gun fires) So if something looks like
wood, then it sounds like wood, breaks like wood, floats like it, and if you shoot it
it’ll fragment like wood. (gun fires) (loud crash) Materials in the physics system
interact with each other, so instead of steel drums
floating they’ll behave exactly as you expect them to. (loud banging) Didn’t think this would be complete without a giant Pachinko machine. (laughs) – Yeah I think that whole
kinda taking physics as a real piece of gameplay, right? That kinda really stood out
as something new and unique and there was some frustrating
moments with it, right? But there was some just
amazingly fun moments where you could just sit
around and play with it and see what could happen and your experience
was different then mine because we did things
slightly differently. That’s always cool. – And I mean, the
beginning of Half-Life 2, that is an incredible
sequence of world building. When you repeat the train,
but by then when you get off, it’s a very different experience. It’s very Orwellian, right? The military state oppressing
all these other people and you can kind of
throw the can at the guy and you pick that up, and
hitting you with a baton, right? I remember throwing the thing back at him and he hits me with the baton, and it’s like you get
to experience, again, brilliantly experience first
hand the stakes of the world and the world building. The world building isn’t
something happening behind glass. The world building happens to you, right? And I think that’s the, literally the only thing,
what makes games unique, is that you don’t passively watch. You participate and the more
people that can figure out how to make you participate
in the world building and the active sort of goal of the world, I mean that’s just, it’s brilliant. – I mean the stuff with Alex I
thought was really incredible as a character that you
would really relate to, so it was sort of, you know, they had done some fun campy
kind of character moments in Half-Life one. People I think forget how
much Valve pushed forward on technology with sort of
everything they did, right? So, like, even the original Half-Life that worked with this
guy at NYU, Ken Perland, and did the facial expressions. Like how can you build off of that? Ken Birdwell, like he had
new kind of animation systems he was designing, right? To sort of make the tech work, and yeah as you said
like with Half-Life 2, it was like the physics gameplay. It was like they were really always interested in kind of pushing tech. Using tech to improve gameplay too, right? So it wasn’t just like, hey, here’s our crazy
new graphics technology. It was like no, like
these physics are going to actually impact how
enemies interact with you. Then you get to moments like, like the strider fights or
something, like in the town. Where it’s just, there’s music, there’s enemies, and that
sort of choreography or dance, the skirmish that would take place. Those were some of my favorite
moments in both games. It was like two weeks
before the game was supposed to come out and they still
wouldn’t even comment on what was going on with it, and there was I think a weird event at Alcatraz that I went
to that they had done, I think with ATI or something,
where it’s like the game was still supposedly coming
out in two or three weeks, and they did this event but
they wouldn’t really comment on if it was really coming out. Yeah, it was really weird, and it was like they were all there, they wouldn’t say anything,
so they had this whole party and then it didn’t come out. And then finally it was like a week before or something and they go,
oh by the way it’s not coming out anytime soon. Those guys really care
about their products or their customers and they
don’t wanna lie to people, and I think it’s like one of those things where you get in a bad situation where it’s like any kind of relationship and you’re just like well how
do you address these things, how do you talk about things? And it sorta becomes the
thing where it’s like you just, you know, what’s unsaid right? I think there was a little bit of that where it sorta was like they
didn’t really know what to say. They didn’t want to say something wrong so they say nothing, right? And that sorta, you know,
same thing would happen with episode three. I mean all that stuff. I just remember it’s like, you know, there’s not a lot to share, they don’t know what to share, so they’d rather just not say anything, and that certainly happened a
little bit with Half-Life 2. So yeah, there was definitely a shift from one to two and that there
was an obligation now to sort of deliver to this fan base that had a rabid appetite
for more Half-Life. – [Danny] Half-Life 2 changed the FPS but this story didn’t end
the way it was supposed to. Three expansion packs were promised, but instead of licensing them out Valve would work on them internally themselves. The first was late, and
fun but unremarkable. The second was much loftier and ended with bombastic set piece that landed on a narrative cliffhanger. The third, well, it’s been 11 years now so you may want to cancel that pre-order. I’ve worked in the games press
for about seven years now and have heard all of the rumors. That the game was spun up
again by cabals within Valve a few times but none of those
projects gathered traction. That there’s a virtual reality
project centered around the Half-Life universe, that may or may not
still be in development. Was episode three worked
on, or was it Half-Life 3, or perhaps was it neither? Maybe it was just a Vive game where you shake a crowbar around? Or has Valve just moved on? Has pressure, time, and
a changing of the guard, pushed them further from
the Half-Life universe? I figured if anyone would know, it would be Jeff. – I mean it’s been so long, right? Yeah, you said it’s one of the Internet’s great mysteries, right? Look, believe me every year it’s like, when I daydream about the game awards, it’s like I imagine that
moment with Gabe walking out with the Crowbar like here we go, right? It’s like, we all want that, right? But that’s just a fantasy at this point. Yeah, all the stuff around episode two and episode three, that
was just so long ago it has become sort of a parody of itself. I don’t know how much they really think about the Half-Life stuff
anymore, honestly even, right? I think it’s out there. I think a lot of the people
who’ve worked on it have left, sort of a different group of
people that are there now, it’s a classic franchise that
means so much to all of us. I don’t think there’s like a crack team that is, you know, spending
months thinking about like how do we grow the franchise, what do we do, et cetera, et cetera. I think we’re at just
kinda a point in time and, as you said, there became just so much
pressure over the years. I don’t know. It’s so hard to tell. And Valve’s gone off on
so many different things, and interesting things. I don’t even know what
Half-Life 3 is right now, right? Is it like a story based
single player game, is it a multiplayer thing? Is it a battle royale? – [Danny] Virtual reality, or? – That’s what I mean, like
yeah, is it VR or something? There are a bunch of different ways to sort of skin that cat in
terms of what they could go, but I think the thing is
Half-Life 2 pioneered a lot with physics based gameplay,
and sort of other contents, so I think Valve always looks at like how we’re gonna push the genre
forward if we did something. Yeah, it’s one of those brands that at some point
hopefully will come back in some form but I don’t really
know what form it will be. – [Danny] Do you have like sympathy for the position that Valve are in? I’m not sure sympathy’s the right word. Do you think they’re in a
difficult position, maybe? – I think sympathy
probably is the right word. Yeah, I mean, it’s like
working on something like Call of Duty. You have this expectation of
you can’t change everything but you have to change everything, and it’s this weird, you know, we go to work every day wanting to make the best thing possible. We don’t want to screw players,
we don’t want, you know, like we want to make the best thing too. But it’s not always exactly obvious what you need to do to make it better without changing the core
but keeping things fresh. – [Danny] Was it nice in a way to do something like Titanfall? To be able to–
– Absolutely. – [Danny] The way it
happened probably maybe not the most fun thing, but was it nice to be able to just go oh all those ideas that
didn’t fit in this box we can put over here? – Yeah, starting over sometimes is nice. It gives you the freedom
to do something new. – I even remember when
I was writing Portal 2 there were some ideas and technology in Portal 2 that they pulled out, which F-Stop, which
was an idea which I saw which they’d asked me not to write about. But at the time they
were talking about that as something that could potentially be like an interesting mechanic for a like a future like
Half-Life game or something. So I think there’ve been ideas, but again it’s all driven
by gameplay at Valve. So I don’t think it’s
like here’s the epic story we’re waiting to tell. It’s sorta like well what is the gameplay? So for sure people have
experimented with stuff, but that’s not just Half-Life. It’s like, well, what could
they do with Left for Dead? Or what could they do with Portal? So they have all these kind of IPs, so I don’t ever know that
like, hey, here’s production. This team is devoted to
making the next Half-Life. I think there were
obviously people working on gameplay simulations and ideas but I don’t know if it
ever got to the point of here’s the story of the next game. I remember one year at Spike VGA we did an honor for Half-Life which is, Half-Life 2 which is Game of the Decade. And Gabe flew down almost the
entire team and honored them. And I wanted to do a thing with the G-Man and sort of show up on screen to kind of greet people
or sort of remember it. And I was like, I kind of asked about it, I’m like, hey, could we get
the G-Man model and I wasseen hoping, and, like, oh yeah, we
got this new G-Man model we’re gonna send down to you. It’s like now we gotta go and find it. We don’t know where it is. It’s like somewhere. It’s just not there was an actively, like, “Oh, yeah, we’re working on this “super high rad G-Man
we’re gonna use for it.” It wasn’t even sort of
part of the conversation. – [Danny] Since the
release of episode two, the first person genre has
evolved in two main directions. The first to large scale
open world adventures, and the second persistent online shooters. While at one stage every FPS designer under the sun was
chasing Half-Life’s tail, now there simply aren’t
games like Half-Life anymore. The closest we’ve gotten to has been Respawn’s work on the Titanfall series, but even that comes at an asterisk. Vince co-created Call of Duty, so he knows the score when it comes to the popularity of single player games. When the first Titanfall was made, the studio focused on multiplayer because it took less
time and money to develop and was likely to be played a lot more. It wasn’t until they actually had funding to take a real swing at single player that they designed the
terrific Titanfall 2, a campaign that many have said is the best Half-Life game
released in the past decade. Maybe it’s the varied level design or the terrific sci-fi moments or the anthropomorphic robot buddy, but I think it might have
something to do with the process. The original Half-Life
was a collection of levels developed by dispirit teams
at Valve known as Cabals. It wasn’t until Marc Laidlaw was hired that they were pulled together
into a cohesive narrative. Similarly, Titanfall 2’s
campaign was the result of an internal pitch process,
not unlike a game jam. Designers work on different styles of play and these were all brought
together to make the campaign which is how they ended
up with such a varied and interesting game. In any case, I wanna
know what Vince thought about the comparison. – I mean, we are using the
Half-Life engine, right? So we have the source engine
at the core of what we do so I guess there’s some DNA there. I think it’s got kind of a style maybe that is reminiscent of
something Half-Life, right? It’s also a great compliment by the way. I take that as a huge, huge compliment. The way we kinda do it, and
if you look at it on paper it doesn’t make sense, right? Like, so we have this six-hour-ish multi, single player experience that you put like 75% of your money and resources into that people either don’t
play or burn through as fast as they can to get to the thing that we spend 25% of our resources on and kind of cram it in at the end when we get everything else working, all the systems working. I think we approach it a
little differently now, but I think back in the Call of Duty days it was definitely a
single player game first and multiplayer was a part
of that that came later. There’s more variety of what you can do ’cause you play through a single player, you play through it again. It’s probably pretty much
of the same thing, right? Multiplayer it’s a
different game every time ’cause your opponents are different, how they act, where they
go it’s always different, so, and it’s more social. It’s just, to me, it makes more sense. – [Danny] Perhaps the future of Half-Life is a virtual reality game
or an open world adventure, perhaps it’s a multiplayer game. Would us fans be satisfied
if they just dumped us back in crossfire with a virtual
reality gravity gun? I don’t know. Maybe? – Hours of deathmatch on
crossfire with my mates, right, and then Half-Life 2 comes out, obviously played the
hell out of that game, but then we instantly wanted
to play that deathmatch and throw in toilets and, gravity gun just the funnest gun on the planet. And you could hold, you
would use one piece of debris as a shield and then
throw other ones, right? Hold the file cabinet, throw the toilet. It’s just crazy. And I didn’t spend that much time on it, again by then, again as soon
as Counter-Strike came out it was my go-to
first-person shooter, right? Everything else was you dabble with it, you’d have fun with it
and then you go back. – [Danny] Do you play
much of Garry’s Mod at all or any of that? – A little bit, just a little
bit for the wackiness of it. – [Danny] That ended
up being its own thing for like 10 years. – Yeah, and it’s still
alive and well too, right? There’s still of Garry Mod’s craziness. – [Danny] He’s gone off and had a career and made, Rust and all that. – Yeah, yeah. – [Danny] That’s the
biggest problem we had when we started doing this, was that, then everyone was like, oh,
you need to cover this mod and this one and this one and– – ‘Cause it just, again it’d
be really interesting to do like six degrees of separation
of like Half-Life mod makers and like where they are now, right, because again it spawned a
whole class of professionals. – [Danny] Episode Two would
be the last Half-Life game Valve would work on. Portal was sort of
side-loaded into the universe and the sequel more directly referenced the work at Black Mesa. But, by and large, the
release of Episode Two marked the turning point
in the story of Half-Life, a new chapter where a
global community of fans would begin to make this game their own. It’s not that modding was something new, on the contrary, the first Half-Life was one of the most
modded game of all time spawning classics like
They Hunger, USS Darkstar, Science & Industry, Natural Selection, Team Fortress Classic and countless more. You could do an entire documentary
on any one of these mods. In fact, some of these
communities were so big that they spawned subcommunities. Counter-Strike had large groups of players playing exclusively on
jump maps and surf maps. – It’s kinda funny because, I was thinking about
this in the drive down, no offense to you as a game journalist, like I would buy the game magazines, not so much to read the game reviews, but for that disk ’cause that
disk get all those games on it all these new demos, man. And, yeah, you might be
able to download them online on your 14.4 modem or
whatever, but I got this disk, it was just perfect, right? And Counter-Strike was one of those– – [Danny] Yeah, 50 Half-Life mods. – Right? Every little mod, you were like, what is this, what is
this Natural Selection, what are all these weird
different wacky games? And again Half-Life has to have spawned the most mods of any game
that quick, I would imagine. Other mods, I played the
hell out of Day of Defeat, for sure, tons of Day of Defeat. It came out right after
Counter-Strike as a mod, also a mod team that
got sucked up by Valve and then turned into a real game, turned into a source version as well. There’s a pattern here with Valve, right? They see a really good
mod, they take the team. It was just one of many
mods that got dropped out of Half-Life being the
most amazing game engine. These creative, they’re game programmers, they weren’t kids making mods, these are kids that wanted
to be game developers, right? – [Danny] One of these
Counter-Strike modders was Robert Yang. Robert now works as a
professor at NYU Game Center where he helps educate the
next generation of designers. Like many modders, he started out making Counter-Strike maps. He enjoyed the world building part of it and telling stories through
the environments he designed. The first project he worked on was the single player mod Nightwatch. But for Half-Life fans,
it was the next project he collaborated on that
would live in infamy. – At first, I thought the
idea of Black Mesa source was terrible and silly. I was like, why would you
remake this whole thing? Then I played Half-Life
One source and I thought, wow, this is really disappointing and bad. I thought, I’m a big enough
fan, I can like do this and contribute to this. So I decided to sign up, went to the forum I signed up and then that was that. Maybe things were simpler back then. You could just email someone
and then get on a mod project. For Black Mesa source,
I think, at that time, we had about maybe like
60 people on the wiki but maybe 20 or 30 of us were
actually working on stuff. We tried to separate into departments, we kind of modeled ourselves
after a triple A studio which may or may not be the right thing from volunteer-only like modding project, but we had our department,
we had a coding department and we had like a level design department who each had their own
sections in the message board. I remember each level
design, yeah, gotta sign their own chapter that they
were kind of in charge in. So I was in charge of Anomalous Materials, someone else is in charge
of Black Mesa Inbound, Dana Munick was in charge of Blast Pit, Jean-Paul was in charge of Lambda Core. I was pro-change, change,
I was pro-renovations, pro-reboot approach
where, I mean, if you play the anomalous material
section that’s there, like that first big lobby
room is fairly different. The flow and the way the
player moves to the space is still mostly the same
and everything is still kinda in the same locations, but I thought it was really important
to make a big statement by doubling the scale of it and adding more polies everywhere and just really changing
kind of the approach of it to be like, yeah, this is
Half-Life in the source engine. I didn’t wanna just do
Half-Life One source, I felt like that was a shadow we had to escape and runaway from. – Hey, Mr. Freeman. I had a bunch of messages for you, but we had a system crash
about 20 minutes ago and I’m still trying to find my files. Just one of those days, I guess. They were also having some problems down in the test chamber too, but I think that’s all straightened out. They told me to make sure
you headed down there as soon as you’ve gotten
through your hazard suit. – Other stuff I wanted to do, I thought the original
didn’t feel quite populated or crowded enough. Yeah, we had to, that
was actually a problem. I remember we had, as level
designers, environment artists, we were thinking, what would a futuristic military chemistry lab look like? And we’re like, it’ll have the
periodic table up over here, and what else has chemistry? Okay, let’s put a beaker here
and like test tables there, yeah, that reminds me of
chemistry class in high school. Put the test table here. Yeah, it was strange to think about we had to extend this world building that they had started
and merely gesture that, in the original words,
computer mainframes everywhere and that doesn’t make
sense for a chemistry lab. The bathroom really pops
out at me for some reason ’cause I just don’t
remember seeing a bathroom in a video game. Oh, there’s like toilet paper there, like there’s toilet paper on the shelf, like there’s all this attention to details with something as mundane as a bathroom. And the bathroom just shows you I think the soul of the game a little bit. It’s like, did they really
care about this space, if the level designer really
cared about this space. They thought about when
people were gonna take a shit. – [Man] Be a dear and fetch
me a roll of toilet paper. Hello? Hello, oh, thank heavens. I’m in dire need of some toilet paper. – [Danny] Black Mesa started out as a mod, but during its near
decade long development, eventually evolved into a
single player game of its own. In fact, it’s not even done yet. Crowbar Collective
recently released footage of their epic redesign of the
infamous final chapter Xen. According to the trailer,
we should be able to play it in early 2019. As you can imagine, a lot of
designers have come and gone on the project over the years and creative leadership has
even swapped a few times too. Robert left the Black Mesa team years ago, but remembers his time
on the project fondly. Seening as Robert’s job was replicating Half-Life One and Half-Life 2, he is one of a select group
of people outside of Valve who can speak to the idiosyncratic nature of both version of the source engine. When we talked to Jeff, he noted that many of the developers at
Valve were hired by Gabe from the modding community. And according to Robert,
that modding spirit is everywhere in the design of Half-Life. – When they’re making Half-Life One they’re basically modding the Quake engine and just putting all these hacks into it. So when you’re coming in
from Black Mesa source on that train and then
you’re standing there and then you’re like, great,
is the door gonna open? And then the door doesn’t open for a while and you’re like, what’s going on? And then there’s a level
change and you’re like, why is there a level
change, I’m already here. And that level change is a hack so that they can swap
out that moving train for a fake static train and
then the door can move at last. I remember trying to read
through the squad AI in Half-Life and I remember AI in Half-Life cannot talk and move at the same time. Like, AI in Half-Life cannot do this. They cannot do like more
than two things at once. They have a schedule full of tasks. So they have to say something
and then they can move. That’s why the soldiers have
to stop and hide somewhere and then reload their gun. (explosions and gun fires) So when Half-Life 2 comes out and like grunts can like walk and
shoot at you at the same time that’s like mind-blowing. (gun fires) (loud explosion) They don’t actually perform as a squad, like they’re still
basically independent agents that just happen to take
turns like shooting at you. They’re still not really
essentially coordinated. So I think the grunt AI in Half-Life is this beautiful example of something seeming a lot more complicated
than it actually is. Back when you’re working on Half-Life One or Half-Life 2 era
stuff, you’re not really coding in a language. To script all the level logic
you have to use entities and these entities are like icons or like visual things inside the world. So when you are scripting,
okay, first Gordon Freeman will walk in here, and then
that’ll trigger the door and the door will close and
then you have to trigger this sound and trigger that sound. Each of those is like an independent thing that like the level designer had to make and then manually like
connect to this other thing. So what happens is that instead of getting like spaghetti code, you
have like paella code or like risotto code where it’s not like, it’s not a long line of all these words in this programming language, it’s literally just
visual noise of 100 icons and trying to remember
which of those icons you attach that logic to. Yeah, you have to like create the trigger and then convert that into a brush entity and then add all the
information attached to it. Or there’s some stuff where
you’re not necessarily attaching the scripting
to like a wall or a door or something you’re
attaching the scripting to just this random
point in space as a hack. It doesn’t matter where you put it, but you have to put it somewhere. So what often ends up happening is you’ll, you might make like another room that the player never goes into but that room is just where
you put scripts inside it. So it’s like you’re making
architecture for yourself that the player will
never actually experience. – [Danny] Right, yeah. – It’s like a backstage kind of, you literally have to build
a backstage for your levels. – [Danny] Modding is in
the blood of Half-Life, a child of Quake which,
I guess, makes Titanfall Quake’s grandchild. This is the nature of software. Ideas passed down through generations like bottles washing up on a beach. We like to think of
games as these polished curated experiences,
but the reality is that they’re usually a lot messier than that. Games aren’t made by magicians, well, okay, Randy notwithstanding, games are made by fallible humans with fears, desires and college debt. Many of the people who works
on Half-Life are long gone from their positions at Valve, but the community of developers around it has never lost momentum. While Twitch users drop number three jokes in the live stream chat
for The International, modders were still releasing
new versions of Sven Co-op. This community was making Half-Life mods for the pure love of it. They didn’t need encouragement
to keep doing it, but they got it anyway
in the form of a blog written by Half-Life’s writer. So, just as Gordon had pushed that sample into the anti-mass spectrometer and changed the world forever, Marc Laidlaw penned
Epistle Three and created a whole new wave of
unforeseen consequences. (ominous music) – When I first played Half-Life 2 I had never before played a game with so many elaborate scripted scenes and it sort of like my
brain exploded and say, oh my God, video games
can do this kind of thing. These days I mostly
appreciate it as sort of like a nostalgic trip back to my teenage years and it can make me feel
the way I felt back then when I was first
discovering that video games can do these complicated things. The boat scene I loved
when I first played it ’cause I sort of didn’t really expect it. And also it’s very totally interesting where you’re cruising down this river and sometimes these action sequences and then sometimes you’re like spookily exploring these shore locations. (gun fires) – [Danny] What was it like going back to play Half-Life One then, ’cause– – Oh, that was wild. Yeah, I was like, oh, I can see why people like this so much, but it’s kinda square and weird lookin’ ’cause I was playing it so
many years after it came out. I remember really enjoying some of the, how you could see like the
Half-Life sensibilities in their sort of seed
form in Half-Life One before they grew to like how they were in the later games. I enjoyed being able to sorta like plum the design history of this company and see what they used to do. – [Danny] Two was almost
like a totally different game but they have to like drag
some of the fiction into it, so it must have been strange seeing like Dr. Kleiners everywhere. – [Laura] Oh, yeah, yeah. – [Danny] Like, why is there 50 of him? – [Laura] Yeah, we’re
counting him to be one guy in Half-Life 2. – My goodness, Gordon Freeman. It really is you, isn’t it? – [Laura] So last year, Marc Laidlaw, the writer of Half-Life, made a blog post that was a gender swapped
telling of, we suppose, his pitch for the story of Half-Life 3. It’s a letter about
everything that happened in Half-Life 3, but also seemingly there’s a lot you can read into it that seems to be about Valve. It seems to simultaneously be a story about these characters who are worn out, worn out also by Valve. There’s all these double
entendres in it that are like, all of my friends have
left and they’re all gone, they went on to other
places, and you’re reading it and it’s just kind of heartbreaking. And halfway through, I realized
that I had to make this and then I realized, oh,
I shouldn’t just make it but I should make a game jam. I’ve been kind of addicted
to game jams for a long time. There were a couple of
years where I was doing like game jams a year ’cause– – [Danny] Wow! – [Laura] I wasn’t shipping
anything at my day job and I really wanted to complete creative projects, right? And game jam sort of allow you to do that, they give you a deadline and encourage you to complete something by it, and for a lot of people that’s
the impetus that they need. A lot of people could
create something weird and funny and creative at anytime but they sorta need the kick to do it. (lively music) One of my favorite games from the jam was a game called, I think, Epistle Three made by Heather Flowers which
is entirely made of cubes. And because Heather hasn’t
actually played Half-Life One or Half-Life 2, it was sort
of her abstract reimagining of like what these things probably mean. (chuckles) And you have to shoot
the cubes with your gun to figure out what they are. You just walk around in these cube worlds and you shoot things to
figure out like what they are and they talk back to you and be like, I’m Alex, don’t shoot me. (chuckles) I love that one. That one’s great. Brendon Chung made a
version using entirely assets and sound clips from
Half-Life 2 called Tiger Team. That one’s brilliant. Rachel Sala just made a worm
that you wiggled your mouth and it spits out Dr. Breen
voice lines and its eyes flash. I made an entirely text
game that technically has MMO elements where
every time you choose whether or not to kill Dr. Breen it keeps track of how
many people have done that and then it tells you how
many people in the world had killed Dr. Breen and decides
whether he’s dead or alive based on that statistic. There’s a guy who works
under the name Dave Makes who made this bizarre sort
of, it’s just a hallway, you just go down the hallway
and you wave your mouse wildly to kill headcrabs
and then all the characters from Half-Life show up but
they can’t get your name right and you can’t get their names right and you’re just wandering
down this hallway in a fever dream. There’s so many bizarre
takes on this story. And I think part of the
reason there are so many bizarre takes on the story
is because the story itself is very, very, very strange. – [Danny] Right. – Like, it’s much darker than Half-Life 2 or any of the Half-Life 2 episodes. It’s got some really disturbing stuff about what happens to Dr. Breen in it, who shows up as a grub
with Dr. Breen’s face stapled to the front of it. And Gordon has a very bad
time in that synopsis. At the end, he gets snapped
into the Combine’s universe while on the Borealis
and the Borealis is like traveling through space
and then the G-man is like, goodbye, and just leaves him there and then it’s the end of the game. – [Danny] And Alex ends up being like far more important to G-man, right? – Yeah, G-man says, Alex
is my best friend now. But friendship ended with Gordon, goodbye, and leaves him there. I loved that they sort of
unlocked everybody’s ability to take ownership of Half-Life in a way rather than, like I know
that some people did in fact try to make what I think
Half-Life 3 should have been but I think a lot more
people were just like, if I could just take over the Half-Life IP and do whatever I wanted with it, this is what I would do, this
is how I would express myself using Half-Life as a tool. And I thought that was brilliant
’cause that is sort of what Half-Life 3 has become to a lot of people, it’s just sort of a
fantasm that haunts us. – [Danny] It seems that the
posting of Laidlaw’s blog and the decade long silence from Valve has almost handed full creative ownership of the franchise over to its fans. Here’s another thing, Valve has a terrific in-house documentary team, a talented crew who frequently make videos about DOTA including the wonderful
documentary Free to Play. But when the 20th
anniversary came and went, we heard nothing from Valve
and it wasn’t a surprise. The only reason we set off on this journey was to do what needed to be done; to allow Half-Life fans
the chance to revel in their nostalgia for a while and to try and figure out why it was that we’re all still
obsessed with this game two decades later. I still don’t have my answer, but it does feel like
we’re getting closer. We had one more interview
left on the schedule, and unlike all the others,
this one wasn’t looking back; it was looking to the future. (calm music) The game jam was a
cathartic creative exercise, but there was always gonna be someone who attempted to finish
what Valve had started. One such group call
themselves Project Borealis, an international team of
programmers, designers and artists that are currently in
production on their vision for Half-Life Episode Three. When they reached out to the team it turned out the two of
them were pretty close by. Project Manager Mike Dunaway and Concept Artist Mike Yakovlev lived about an hour away from
my home here in Maryland. It also turned out that
3D artist Ben Lodge was visiting the guys all
the way from Minneapolis so I invited them over,
crammed all three of them unto a couch in my basement and had a chat about bringing back Gordon Freeman. – You know, we have a lot of people, we’ve got people who work for Google who work for us in the
programming side of things, we’ve got a lot of, people
like Mike here, who, our freelance artist, working on the team, a big guy that’s sort of
our lead sound designer, he’s a PhD student
basically, he’s a doctor, and we’ve got another
really talented programmer who also is a doctor, I don’t know with doctors in
having like second professions which are just as good as
their first professions, but people who are sort of senior roles and technical leaders in
the games industry as well. Off the top of my head,
I know there’s some that work at Ubisoft, Blizzard, I was at Obsidian Entertainment. Yeah, I mean, again my
skills transfer over. They actually started in the industry and now they’re outside of the industry, but, yeah, I just build
cannabis dispensaries. – [Danny] It’s a growing market as well. – Yeah, it’s very growing. It’s kind of funny–
– No pun intended. – Yeah, well– – [Danny] One important
decision the team made early on was to build the game
in the Unreal Engine. They did this for a number of reasons. First of all, as we heard from Robert, working in source can
be incredibly complex especially for a distributed team. And though they wanted it
to feel like Half-Life, they also wanted it to
look like a modern game. Using source would be an easy way to retain the feel of those older games, but it would put a 10-year-old cap on the quality of the visuals. Whereas, with Unreal,
they could make it look like a modern Half-Life game. So they got to work attempting to recreate the look and feel of those original games. – You know, we’re always kind of trying to pour ourselves back,
rein ourselves back into what is fun to think about
as a potential for Half-Life in any universe and what really make sense within that episodic sort of, this is just immediately
after Episode Two, there’s no like giant leaps and technology or changing of designs there. – Yeah, it’s literally
immediately after it. We pick up right there, right
at the end of Episode Two so you can’t just all of a sudden have everybody looks different. – Yeah, yeah. – It doesn’t make any sense. Like we have this template,
we have Half-Life 2 to sort of base everything on. And so that’s kind of the linchpin of every creative decision
we have to try and make ’cause we’re not creating Half-Life 3, we’re creating Half-Life 2 Episode Three so it still needs to feel
like Half-Life 2 at its core. – A large part of the initial, we’ll say six months of our development, beyond just structuring the team, was just researching and
sort of reverse engineering what made Half-Life 2
feel like Half-Life 2 down to like things
that we wouldn’t even do in modern day game play
design and development. Like how you stick to ladders and how you move up and down ladders, I mean, how you back hopping, right, and bunny hopping. We actually put in things
that are essentially quirks from Half-Life 2 in source engine. We put those into Unreal
because we wanted someone to be able to sit down and say, hey, can I do this one weird thing that I used to do in source? Oh, I can. Very, very minute things like that. Crouch jumping. We even had, at one point,
we had like prop surfing working in the game. But we actually had to take that one out ’cause it was a little bit
too game breaking for Unreal. – [Woman] Here it comes. (glass breaking) They’re not gonna (mumbles). (gun fires) – There’s a lot of things about the original Half-Life 2 weapons
that don’t make any sense. But the SMG doesn’t
have a grenade launcher but it shoots grenades. So one of the questions that Ben and Yakov were talking about early on was do we add a grenade launcher
to make it more sense than– – My response was no ’cause
that’s Half-Life 2, baby. – Yeah, that’s how it is (chuckles). – They made a lot of
weird decisions like that and whether we agree with them or not for like a modern next gen game we’re not making a modern
next gen game in some regards, we’re making a modern
interpretation of an old game. – Right.
– Yeah. – So we need to sort of
leave some of that silliness and that quirkiness in there sometimes. The guy who’s modeling all of our weapons, he goes through, he’ll
pull out the source models and go, okay, how can I interpret
this to make it look good, because the originals are very low poly and they’re only really made to be seen from the view that you see them from, whereas, we don’t have a difference between a world model and view model so everything’s gotta look good and they need to look
good from all angles. So going through, and it’s like, okay, this is just a
bunch of black rectangles meshed together, that’s all Valve did. And trying to interpret that
and then add detail to it. You see from this view, and it’s just, there’s some stuff that
are like projected on there that if you look at it from
the side it’s all stretched because you’re made to be
seeing it from this view. And then you look at the
world model that you see in like third person then you compare it with the first person model,
they’re totally different. How do you figure out
what’s going on there and ends up being like
we’ll troll through Google and then end up trying,
oh, this is the label that they used for this part, I found it, you sort of puzzle this thing together and then you end up with
something that looks, it feels like the original
but looks current gen and more detailed and enveloped. – We released, I forget
which update it was, but it shows like our
first weapon animations. We made one change in the animation where in Half-Life 2 Gordon
holds a handgun with one hand. – [Danny] Right. – Which, if you’ve ever shot a pistol that like does not work, like
you’ll recoil all the time. So our animator is like,
okay, I’m gonna have him grip it with two hands, that makes sense. And oh my God, everyone was like, that’s not how it is in the game, like you gotta go back to one hand so we kinda like went back
and forth on that for a while and eventually like, okay,
we’ll go back to how it was where he’s just holding it in one hand. But very minute stuff like that, if we don’t catch it, the
community will catch it when we release the update. And so it’s a nice kind of feedback loop for some of that stuff
to get it exactly right. – [Danny] And you guys
are receptive to that, like that type of criticism you don’t– – I think we’re receptive to that, because again it goes back
to it’s not Half-Life 3, it’s Episode Three, right? Gordon doesn’t suddenly decide
to hold a gun differently from one episode to the next. He doesn’t like die and
then suddenly he’s like, I gotta hold the gun like this. It doesn’t make any sense like that. – [Danny] Each of the
episodes out of their flavor: Episode One focused on you
playing alongside Alex, Episode Two introduced the new enemy and had larger areas that you
could cross in your buggy. The fresh Arctic environment
was sure to give the team some sort of creative license to add their own flavor to the series. So how about a remix of an old favorite? – I think it was in the script. I think that was what first inspired it; the idea of like an Arctic
version of a headcrab because there was like
some of these characters gonna be in the Arctic. You know, headcrab is pretty
bald, like it’s just skin. We started playing around with how would they look if they froze, like maybe they would
just be frozen in the snow and then you can like break them. But then something, I
think, came up was like, well, what if we kind of modify it to be like a polar bear in some sense? So like the skin is dark
like a polar bear skin, it’s got like matted, gross, like yellowish white fur on the top and it’s like adding just fur on it or adding just hair on it would be enough that it’s still an iconic thing, it still has the same XOY, the same shape but it just sets it in
that environment perfectly. So I just kinda quickly
sketched up this like little photobash of a headcrab with, it’s got like crab-like, the front claws a little bit more crab-like,
they have that texture, the skin’s a little bit darker and the fur is a little bit
more like gross and matted like blood on it and stuff like that. And then when it got put in the update, like it didn’t get like, I
mean, I wasn’t expecting it to get any like negative reaction but it didn’t get like any
negative, like almost none. – I mean, it’s pretty clear that like in comparison to all the others in life that is in the Half-Life universe, the headcrab is something
that like is changing, like a release in Half-Life 2 there’s multiple variations
of headcrabs, right? So we took this up further and we’re like, well, if anything is gonna
be changed in the Arctic it would be headcrab ’cause
it’s just like bald little thing and does it really survive in
these like harsh temperatures. So we’re like, well, yeah, if
we’re to use headcrabs as a, if they’re still weaponizing
headcrabs the combine and then they’re gonna wanna make it in an environment that
can resist the cold. So, yeah, that’s what we’ve done. We have an internal sort of lore that they’ve done experiments and that’s how they’ve sort
of evolved these headcrabs into the hairy, furry
version of themselves. And with that comes some different
variants in how they play ’cause each headcrab
variant has a different sort of zombie variant that goes with it and affects Gordon in a different way. And so we’ve kinda
played around with that, while still trying to keep it within the sense of what makes sense and nothing that’s
truly too far out there. – [Danny] During the first 12 months they built their source mimicked engine and focused on establishing
their distributed workflow. The team is taking the
project slow and steady and plans to work on Project
Borealis for a number of years. The next phase involves creating assets and building out a
public AB test tech demo set in a snowy version of Ravenholm. The road ahead is long, but their hope is that all their hard work will result in something very special for fans. – There’s a lot of
self-inflicted pressure. – Yeah. – We inflict our own pressure on ourselves because ultimately we don’t
wanna be another Valve in the sense that we
become this project that, okay, now this is the
Episode Three project and suddenly people
transfer their expectations of what they wanted out to do to us and we’re doing this as a volunteer. So I think there’s
certainly, for me at least, there’s some pressure there. – We all are here because we’re
passionate about Half-Life and we’re passionate about making a cool and exciting and fun Half-Life experience. I would want people to understand that we’re not just trying
to cash in on some trend or anything like that. We’re doing this because we care about it and we’re gonna put as much care and effort into it as we can. And some of us are
reordering our entire lives, taking different shifts at work so that we could have
more time to do game devs that even though work is
paying money and this is not we wanna be here doing this. – [Mike] Yeah. – [Danny] Why do you think
you have that passion? Like, why reorder your
lives and why do it? – I think for a lot of us it’s the impact that Half-Life 2 had on our younger years. I’m 30 and like Half-Life 2 came out when I was in high school. And just watching, not only
Half-Life series grow and change and stagnate overtime, but
watching Valve grow and change and kinda just feeling
like, this isn’t just, I haven’t really just been
involved in Half-Life for a year, I’ve been involved in
Half-Life for over a decade. (ominous music) – Is that what this is all about? Closure. The fact that 11 years
ago our favorite game ended on a cliffhanger? That seems to be the prevailing thought of Half-Life fans around the world, but after talking to all these people I’m not so sure anymore. This community is like nothing else in the world of video games. It not only supports some
of the biggest fan projects in the industry, but online
groups like Lambda Generation, news channels like Valve News
Network and dozens of mods that are still being
played actively right now 20 years after the launch of the game. So you know what I
think this is all about? Inspiration. On our travels we met a lot of people, a lot of different people
with different ages and professions but each
of them, in some way, at some point in their lives,
was inspired by Half-Life to go out there and create something. A mod, a game jam, a website to help fans watch their favorite game, a new method of reporting on games, or an entire company. And perhaps the most
peculiar part of all of this, at least for me, is that in
trying to find that answer I’d effectively stumbled into the exact same creative
process as those people. When Valve didn’t get back to us, there’s no reason why I didn’t just go and do a documentary
about a different game, there’s no shortage of
games for us to do work on. But there’s something about Half-Life that just inspires people
to create work around it. And I get it rusfor the programmers, the lineage of modding that
exist in this game’s DNA has inspired loads of people who wanted to work in game design. But I’m bad at programming,
I’m not good at that stuff. What I do is video, and even still, somehow it managed to inspire me to go out and make something. And the more I think about it and the more I sort of
analyze Valve’s peculiar decade long radio
silence, the more I think that the fact that they
aren’t really taking active ownership over Half-Life and the fact that they haven’t
talked about Episode Three, it’s kind of a gift. The creative vacuum left by Episode Three has kept this community alive. And with time, allowed the fans to take ownership of the game and to continue to create
beautiful new pieces of art born from the love of Half-Life with new, different, exciting and transformative. – I’m satisfied with the
games that we’ve gotten since Half-Life 2 Episode Two. Like most of the Assassin’s Creed games have come out since then,
Dead Space came out, Dark Souls came out, like
there’s plenty of games that have been around
for over a decade now that were rich experiences in my life. I don’t need Half-Life 3. It doesn’t hurt me if there
would be no Half-Life 3. – [Danny] Would you be disappointed
if it came out in a way? – Maybe, yeah, because now
I’ve put all this energy into making my own Half-Life 3 now the IP holders are gonna, what, if they make something, I’d feel like mine had been stomped on, I don’t know. The one thing I was very worried about when I started the jam was that people were going to make games, slamming Valve for not making Half-Life 3. – [Danny] Right. – And I really didn’t like that idea. Because like I said, I feel fine that I haven’t played Half-Life 3. I’ve gotten to play
plenty of wonderful games, I don’t need Half-Life 3. But those people wanted
to make Half-Life 3 and they were stopped for whatever reason, for company reasons or finance reasons or internal politics reasons. They wanted to make Half-Life
3 and they couldn’t. And I don’t think it’s right for us to harass them for not making it. They probably wanted
to make it really bad. And I was worried that
people were gonna make games that were bitter or angry or negative and I’m very glad that people didn’t. – It is true that digital
interactive entertainment is not merely the newest
medium our species has created, but the first time our species has been able to create a medium where the audiences we’re entertaining are affecting the experience,
they’re participating, it is interactive by definition. And we are at the very dawn of that. And I don’t think the
world will be the same and I don’t think the human
experience will be the same but we are just at the beginning of that and we’re just figuring it
out and we got to be here. – [Danny] Are we at a
point where it’s hard to come up with new grounds to
stomp on in the first-person? – Yeah, I think you’re always thinking that it’s hard to come up
with something new, right? But then someone will
think of it or find it and we’ll all go, oh my God,
how did we not think of that? Yeah, I guess, like my kids have probably never played Half-Life. I know they played Portal
and things like that, but– – [Danny] Right. – I don’t know that they’ve
ever played Half-Life. – [Danny] What’s it like– – I’m gonna have to go
home and fix that tonight. – [Danny] Right. – I think I’m on the
side of maybe it’s okay if there’s never a Half-Life 3. Maybe the absence of Half-Life 3 is more important than what
it could ever actually be. – [Danny] Right. – ‘Cause in the end it’ll just be this first-person shooter in an age where we don’t really play single player first-person shooters anymore. Like, if Half-Life 3 came out, would it be an open world game now because that’s kind of what the FPS was, that’s our modern equivalent
of the FPS culturally, right? Will it be on our phone
’cause that’s what’ll appeal to today’s audience, right? We’ll have micro transactions, or these little season passes. It’s just– – [Danny] 100 Gordon
Freemans drop onto an island. – Yeah, 100 Gordon
Freemans from like a giant Manta Ray or something, right? It’s really difficult to imagine how in this current industry conditions would change what Half-Life 3 is ’cause the industry is so
different from 2004 or 1998. – It’s a huge part of sort of my story in the legacy of covering
that company, that game. I think we all hope
that they’re gonna make new great things. And whether those are
Half-Life branded or not I think we just want
more games from Valve. But, look, now that Campo Santo is there, they’re doing the Valley of Gods, which I’m really excited about, whether it’s branded Half-Life or not I think we just want
those magic moments again. But a lot of people that made those games have gone off and done other
things and something new and Portal was a great example of Valve bringing in new talent to work with to come up with something new so that’s why I’m
excited about Campo Santo because the Valley of Gods,
that trailer looks incredible, and from what I’ve heard
that game is only getting sort of bigger in scope now
that it’s inside of Valve. So that’s the one I think to me, could that be the next Half-Life level sort of experience coming from Valve? We’ll see. – Maybe the G-man will
wake up Gordon once again. There’ll always be a part of me that hopes that one day that will come true. But no matter what
Valve does or doesn’t do the legacy of this game
will continue to radiate from that blast chamber on Black Mesa. The world of first-person
games was changed forever and so, too, were the lives of fans and creators all around the world. The more time moves on,
the fewer of us there’ll be that remember how important Half-Life was and its influence will
exponentially decay. But no matter how small
it gets I’d like to think, at least, that it’ll always be there. – The fact that Half-Life
3 is not going to happen means that we can pretend
that it belongs to us now. Like, we put in, as a group of people, more effort into imagining what
it might’ve been, I suppose, than the limited number of humans at Valve were able to do even in 10 years, even if they did it all day
long there’s millions of us out here imagining what it
could’ve or should’ve been like. And the fact that we’re pretty sure it’s not gonna happen now, I think, has given people freedom to make their wishes real, I guess. (calm music) (footsteps echoing) – You’re living in the past. That experiment is
single-handedly responsible for inspiring my career in science. – How much recognition do
you think you’re going to get for reproduction, though? – You should focus on inventing something new and unique. – He does have a point. – Oh, but this is more than
replication, I assure you. For one, it shows how
far our field has come since the original study was published, and to say nothing of
the modern perspective necessary to monitor its influence. I mean, combined with today’s technology, I’ve recreated–
– Bah! I can’t stand to hear another
word of this malarkey. – Don’t mind him. But here’s something to think
about for the next time: creativity is the art of
hiding your influence. Now let’s get back to work. We should at least try to look busy. (typing)

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