Valve may be one of the most well known and successful video game developers out there; from creating some of the most beloved franchises, single or multiplayer, to the biggest store platform on PC. But their most recognized and highly praised work, Half-Life, has hardly been touched in 13 years. At least, until last year that is.
In a recent interview, Robin Walker, a Senior Developer at Valve and one of the creative forces behind some of their most beloved titles like Half-Life, Dota 2, Team Fortress etc. gave some very interesting insight into the development of Half-Life: Alyx.
“I think for the first couple of years, it was just a bunch of people in the company sceptical that we were going to actually build and release a Half-life product again,” Walker said. “All the scepticism about Valve working on Half-Life that’s out there was just as alive within the company itself, and you just resign yourself to thinking that we’re never going to do it.”
Apparently the entire team behind Alyx was very nervous about exploring the Half-Life universe again, and understandably so given the amount of pressure and hype that has surrounded the series since the second episode DLC launched in 2007. But Walker said that “fear is a good motivator” and when the fans responded positively to the announcement, it certainly helped to calm their nerves.
In reference to the fact that Half-Life Alyx was a VR exclusive title - which did not receive a huge amount of positive reactions - Walker had this to say: “The worst thing we could do is ship a bad Half-Life game, but if we ship a good one that is worthy of the name, then I'm sure people will be able to experience it in time.”
What’s interesting is how Walker described the “narrative limbo” that players have been stuck in after the fateful Half-Life 2: Episode Two ending - which has been one of the biggest cliffhangers in gaming history, mostly due to the fact that it has been left unresolved for so long. But Walker wanted that to change:
“We realise that it needed to be something that mattered. The story couldn’t be something you could just ignore and move onto whatever we build next. We also knew that Half-Life fans have been stuck in a sort of narrative limbo for a long time now, and we wanted that to change.”
Without spoiling anything, the ending of HL Alyx is open ended, and gives hope that there is more to come in the universe and more stories to be told with the titular characters in it.
“We wanted to be excited about possibility again,” Walker continued. “We gave [the player] a red herring where you think you know how it’s going to end with a fully plausible ending and we then subverted that, which were all really important elements that took a lot of iteration and came together towards the end.”
Half-Life: Alyx may not be the game everyone wanted after HL2 Episode 2 (everyone wanted Half-Life 3 or Half-Life 2: Episode 3) but it’s the Half-Life we needed in order to kickstart the story again and leave room for possibility. The possibility that there is more stories to tell, and Valve is back to tell them.
Whether that means we will get the fateful HL3 at any point is uncertain. It has become such a legend at this point I half expect Valve to just call the next game Half-Life 4 so they don’t succumb to the hype. Either way, it’s an exciting time to be a Half-Life fan again.
What do you think? Did you play Half-Life: Alyx? Are you excited for the future of Half-Life again? Let us know!