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Half-Life 2's Technical Details, Cost Estimates 60

Posted by simoniker
from the that's-a-lot-of-kitkats dept.
Thanks to Computer Graphics Magazine for its feature on the graphical technology being used in Valve's eternally-awaited FPS Half-Life 2. Among the specifics discussed are innovative paths to graphical variety ("Using the same morph targets sculpted for facial animation, the system automatically alters the facial geometry to create, for example, a flatter or broader nose, or a squarer jaw. As a result, all the scientists, soldiers, and other homogeneous characters appear as unique, differentiated models"), and potential game mod options ("To firmly entrench itself in the future of game development, Softimage will package XSI EXP, a lite version of XSI, with every PC copy of Half-Life 2 [and make it available on the Softimage site this week].") Elsewhere, a Maxitmag interview with Valve's Gabe Newell has him musing: "Last time I checked, we were about $40 million into the project. Yikes, that's a scary number."
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Half-Life 2's Technical Details, Cost Estimates

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  • Its the 23rd now. Still no sign of a release date?
  • by Anonymous Coward
    $40 million
  • Using the same morph targets sculpted for facial animation, the system automatically alters the facial geometry to create, for example, a flatter or broader nose, or a squarer jaw.

    Why put so much effort into faces when what really matters to male gamers are breasts and butts? Imagine how enticing it would be...

    Using the same morph targets sculpted for body animation, the system automatically alters the rear and bosom geometry to create, for example, a bigger breast or rounder butt.

    I'd buy that ga

  • Sex and gaming (Score:3, Interesting)

    by 0x0d0a (568518) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:07AM (#8643376) Journal
    You know, we had a discussion in the Games section on how sex and videogaming journalism had a lot of ties.

    The MaxitMag [maxitmag.co.uk] site, the one doing the HL2 article, really drives that discussion home.
    • I went to block images from their site (not because they were particularly offensive, just juvenile - and animated, which is unforgivable), but they had put in a 'disable right click' Javascriptlet.

      I had to go all the way up to the "Tools" menu to select "Block Images from this Site". But I suppose they were more worried about some 13-year-old clicking the "Save Image As" button...

      • Try bookmarking the following (for Moz based browsers)
        javascript:void(document.oncontextmenu=null)
        Give it a name like, "Give my right mouse button back you bastard!" ... ummm.... or something. Everytime you hit a page that captures the right click, run the bookmarklet and everything will be fine.

  • by Singletoned (619322) <singletoned@gmail.com> on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:08AM (#8643382) Homepage
    What a genius idea!

    I can't wait until all FPS's have randomised appearances for the enemies so that they all look slightly different. They are going to be so much better when rather than a flood of identical enemies, they all have an individual look (maybe even slightly different AI and therefore 'personality').

    A side effect might be that it felt a little more like they were real and you could start feeling a little guilty for killing them.
  • by mrshowtime (562809) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:24AM (#8643430)
    Get real, $40 million dollars is chump change today. $40 million dollars spent on RandD and development for HL2 is a sound investment. HL2 IS the reason why I upgraded to a new pc earlier than I would have. Unfortunately, I was not expecting it to be delayed almost a half a year, or more. But really, in retrospect, nothing has happenned dramatically in terms of computing power over the past year. We went from having 3.0 ghz processors to 3.4 "hyper" processors. 9700 radeons to 9800 radeon pro turbos. It's almost like the industry is in a holding pattern waiting for HL2 to be released! :) For what HL2 will bring to the table, it's worth $500 million in my book. :)
    • I'm sorry, chump change? I don't think so. Lame in my opinion - if it is no more interesting/innovative/fun than any other game with a sub $million budget, why bother?.

      Now they are going to say all sorts of BS FUD to get people to buy it and recover money now.
      it has to be like 40x better than a $1 million game just to be on even footing.
      • Failed economics? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by SmallFurryCreature (593017) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @07:55AM (#8643530) Journal
        Half Life 2 doesn't have to BE 40x better then a 1 million dollar game. It got to SELL 40x better.

        Big difference. After all "better game" is a highly subjective term. Better sales isn't. If everyone thinks HL2 is the best game in history but they don't buy it, look at all Looking Glass games, then valve is in the shitter. If on the other hand everyone considers it a mediocre game, think movie tie-ins, but everyone buys it then they are pleased as punch.

        • by mrshowtime (562809) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @08:11AM (#8643560)
          Well, I don't think that valve is going to screw up it's golden goose. The videos I have seen of HL2's gameplay are amazing; groundbreaking in every area. Coupled with the fact that it's built around a solid narrative piece, I can't see how, or where it will fail. Don't forget the mod community. Counterstrike gave the original HL an extra few years of profitibility where none might have not existed, and Valve has stated that they will fully (and smartly) support the mod community for HL2. In comparsion, one of the newer final fantasy games cost well over $30 million to make. Valve's portfolio accounts for over 8 million retail units sold worldwide, and over 88 percent of the online action market. That's pretty f'ing good numbers! Just a FYI, the movie "Mona Lisa Smile" cost $65 million to make and $25 million to market. Essentially costing what "Return of the King" cost to make! In the end MLS made enough to break even. ROTK made well over a billion. All the R and D in the world won't help you, if you are researching how to make crap.
          • Valve's portfolio accounts for over 8 million retail units sold worldwide, and over 88 percent of the online action market.

            I'm actually amazed it's only 8 million, since HL alone (not including Counterstrike, add-ons, expansions, and other retail items) accounts for over 7 million of that.

            Still, it looks like they're assuming that they'll make nearly the same sales they did on the first game, which may or may not be a safe assumption. After all, if they sell 1 million, which would be considered a very su
          • by JFMulder (59706) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:40AM (#8643976)
            The videos I have seen of HL2's gameplay are amazing; groundbreaking in every area. Coupled with the fact that it's built around a solid narrative piece, I can't see how, or where it will fail.
            You don't remember the SW : Episode One trailers now do you?
            • by Rallion (711805)
              I remember thinking about how sad it was that it was going to be a failure, even with all that cool looking stuff. Anybody who was really following the production Episode 1 should have beem walking into that movie theater with a sad, resigned look on their face...
          • by *weasel (174362) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:06AM (#8644172)
            The 'How' and 'Where' Valve could fail:

            The gameplay won't live up to the overwhelming hype. It could be too short, too repetitive, not enough interactivity, too slow, maps too small -- who knows. 'Daredevil' looked like a sure thing on paper too, and was a terrible $40m investment.

            The story could be trash. Most people I know hated when the first half-life devolved into 'Doom' at the end -- when the player hops the portal to dimension-XYZ or whatever it was. The game went from good scifi/action to rubber-monster-movie crap. All the interactivity of the environment was gone, all the atmosphere was gone, all the verisimilitude was gone - jump puzzles were in, ammo management was in, mystic healing goo was in. More of the same is not enticing.

            The level design could be crap (which may be necessary to cater to horsepower restrictions that 'interactivity' likely creates). A limited diversity of gameplay could easily sink it, less 'scripted' sequences that made the first half-life classic could work against it. Convoluted maps and missions could easily sink it.

            The 'interactivity' could be the exception (eg. happens rarely) and not the rule (eg. regularly appearing feature). If all the stuff they talk up at tradeshows happens 4 times in the game, it means nothing to the player. Particularly after all the hype, it'll create animosity amongst the would-be community (eg. short commercial run)

            The game could run like absolute shit on all but the highest end rigs. Do 10 million people even have a PC with enough horsepower to run hl2?

            The network play could be lame. Solid network play is necessary to build a community, to drive mod makers, to keep the game hot for years after release. If not for counter-strike, Valve would've sold a few million copies of Half-life and been happy. Counterstrike made it a best-seller for 4 years.

            The API could be so complex that mod makers don't have the appropraite tools to actually make anything good before the community evaporates. Without a mod community the game will have a short run, and considerably less beneficial word-of-mouth. Without a long commercial run, it won't stay on the shelves until the mass of gamers finally get rigs that can run it.

            The engine restrictions could limit the number of enemies on-screen, or the complexity of AI scripts. People generally don't want 1 enemy at a time in action games (doom3 might be an exception due it's 'horror' premise, or it could fail as well). Likewise players have lower toleranace for 'dumb' enemies, particularly after Valve's success with HL1's grunts and assassins.

            They can screw it up. The hype could be smoke and mirrors. I doubt it - but it's far from a guarantee.

            $40m dollars is assinine though. But if they can get a share of the licensed engine market - who knows. They probably also subsidized Steam and its infrastructure entirely under the HL2 budget.
            • I'm the guy who LOVED the Xen parts of the original Half-Life. I thought the crazy portal-hopping giant-baby-glowing-head-attack hallucination at the end made it just that much cooler. I was pretty tired of the "interactive" hallways and same old soldiers and alien grunts.

              I thought it added variety, and it was perfectly built in to the story-- after all, those aliens materializing in front of you had to be popping in from *somewhere*... it seemed a little odd that you hadn't been teleported somewhere bef
              • I don't mind the concept of popping out into dimensions XYZ, and wouldn't have minded if the game had even recurring 'jaunts' out and back in. I just didn't like the way you were tossed out there and /everything/ changed.

                naturally there /should/ be resource management problems in an alien dimension - but the primary problem was the gameplay itself.

                We went from solving plausible problems with logical puzzles - to jumping really high and riding a repeating pattern of flying manta rays without plummeting in
            • You forgot one thing, it's the engine licensing. They might as well have missed a few deals with all the delays.
              From what I've heard from a developper whose company tried to license the source engine, they pretty much had the same treatment than regular players: hype, promises and delay, delay, delay.
              Granted, they were a really small company, so maybe they didnt look interresting, but it would have been the same cash in the end, right?
              Right now, they have licensed an other engine and cant say a word about i
              • by Cebu (161017) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @02:00PM (#8646953)
                The Source engine currently has one known licencee, which has a game scheduled for release at the end of this year: Troika Games with Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines.

                Given the media released to date, Troika seems quite far into the development cycle -- which is rather siginficant given that Troika started work on the game with the Source engine in December of 2001. So, if there was delays and stalling, it wouldn't be because they didn't have something to give this other company you heard about (unless that company asked for the Source engine far more than 2 years before it was launched) -- it would because they didn't want to give that company.

                "Granted, they were a really small company, so maybe they didnt look interresting, but it would have been the same cash in the end, right?"

                I think that is rather significant. If I were Valve, I would want all the initial licencees to have reasonably high quality products -- or better still, high quality products that are high profile. A smaller development house might be able to muster enough for the engine, but can it deliver a product that Valve can trust to showcase the engine?

                On another note, are you sure that this really small company could actually meet the price tag Valve wished? The Unreal Warefare engine runs at $750,000 US with an additional $100,000 US for each additional platform, or $350,000 US with an additional $50,000 US for each additional platform plus 3% royalties. Quake II's engine reportedly costed between $400,000 US plus 10% royalties, to a hefty $1,000,000 US. Even the aging Quake engine, which is now operating under the GPL, has a $10,000 US price tag if you wish to not operate under the GPL. All these fees are non-recoupable.

                Given the development cost of the Source engine, I wouldn't at all be surprised if it cost more than the Unreal Warfare engine.
                • I cannot say more than what this developper said:
                  -it was recently that they droped the idea of the source engine because they were fed up by the delay. So there was no mention that the price was the matter but more that they delayed their development because of promises that were not fullfilled. I don't think he would be bitter if it was a question of money, not toward valve anyway. Also i remember that he was very eager to work with this engine.
                  And since they are going to licence a big engine, there is no
            • All that, AND you could have a headache!

              No matter what it is, everything's worse with a headache.
          • by darc (532156)
            Many people also thought they couldn't possibly screw up Deus Ex 2. Unfortunately, when the game came out, flamethrowers shared ammunition with rocket launchers, it took five shots to the head to kill anybody, the stealth aspect was terrible, and the system requirements utterly ridiculous.

            That teaches you one thing, never, ever believe that anything is so perfect that you can't screw it all up after all.
            • After everything I heard, I'm GLAD it wouldn't even start on my computer.
            • flamethrowers shared ammunition with rocket launchers

              Why is this a complaint in a game based around nanotechnology? If your weapons have little nano-manufacturing plants inside them, a flamethrower and a rocket launcher could use the same basic matter packs.
              • Because it's not internally consistent with the other use of nanotech in the game, and it's an obvious "gameplay" measure, with the nanotech stuff being a tacked on afterthought.

                That said, I enjoyed the game more than I thought I would. I disliked how they munged up stealth play, especially toward the end. However the story was good if not as great as the original (say 8/10 if deus ex 1 was 10/10), quests and plots were sufficiently non-linear to entertain me, even if they were inconsistent from time to ti

        • It needs to be better, but exactly: It has to sell 40x better, not be 40x better.

          Gaming has always been full of clones following the pack (I've seen a lot of people say, "games these days..." but they've always been that way - we just forget about the clones after a couple years).

          It only takes a slightly greater effort (and some risk that it'll be rejected) to make a game *very slightly* better than the rest, and it'll sell far better.
        • hmmm

          Steam cuts out the middle man

          $40 on steam X 1 Million sales ....
    • but would you pay 500 million to get to play it?
      obviously no, even if you had the cash. now to make the game pay to the them they need to sell considerably more than they would need to sell if they had spent 5 million(which would have been enough if they hadn't been stalling the product and obviously wasting money).

      at this point it has been 'redone' so many times the final product isn't really getting all of the 40 million anyways. you might argue that it does matter that they have been able to focus on it
    • RandD and development

      ResearchandDevlopment and devlopment, eh? For Your FYI, you don't need to add devlopment after R&D.

  • The movie Gigli cost $54 million! [usatoday.com]. If price == quality then Half Life is going to blow! Kidding of course.
  • AFAIK, average royalties per box sale is about $10. No matter how impressive the technology, I can't see Half Life selling 4m copies, nor can I see a rush to license their engine when Crytek and Doom 3 will offer so much competition
    • Re:$40m? (Score:4, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @09:22AM (#8643871)
      Valve doesn't need to sell 4 million boxed copies to be sucessful. They will try to maximize profits by selling the game (and its mods - CS2 anyone?) through Steam.
    • by Cebu (161017)
      Since when was Valve or the Half-Life property average? Scott Miller from 3D Realms said, "The highest royalty 3D Realms has executed is 70%, for a project in which we owned the license, and self-funded." Let's stop and think about for a second -- 70%.

      You don't need to sell nearly 4,000,000 copies to recoup $40,000,000 US if you have decent royalties, along with engine licencees.
  • by WormholeFiend (674934) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @10:38AM (#8644445)
    how much money has been sunk in Duke Nukem Forever so far?
    • Oh, about $35k on artists who created "screen shots," plus about $300k in PR and taking game magazine columnists out for lunch, booze, & hookers.

      They haven't actually spent anything on development yet. They're just waiting for the time to be right.

  • First I'm trying to learn 3DS Max. Then they go and bundle Maya with UT2K4. Now SoftImage XSI with HL2. All they have to do is ship Doom 3 with GMax and I'm gonna start pulling my hair out.

    Most of the modeling concepts will be the same I imagine, but 3 different UIs to remember...ick.
    • I'm just waiting for a game to use Blender [blender.org] as their native modelling app... I'd be able to use the UI threads on the forums to heat my house.

      (Note: Personally, I love the Blender UI, (as do most people who are willing to spend the time to learn it properly). That doesn't make it any less intimidating to the first time user...)
  • by rossmartinm (625756) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @12:43PM (#8645872)
    While undoubtedly HL2 will sell alot of copies a good deal of the money that has gone into its development has been spent on ensuring the engine itself will be the a strong commercial proposition.Developers have already licensed the HL2 engine, including Arkane (creators of Arx Fatalis).

    On top of that further investment has been sunk into Steam which Valve are pushing as a seperate product.

    In general the investment in HL2 has not simply been investment in a single game and return on the $40 million invesment will not be measured against retail and steam based sales of the game. Valve are looking for long term predictable income streams generated through licensing the engine, licensing Steam and subscriptions through Steam.

    This is why, IMO, they have been pushing back the release dates. With so many different future revenue streams relying on a succesful release they want to make certain the technology is properly showcased and the supporting technologies work free from glitches.

  • by inkless1 (1269) on Tuesday March 23, 2004 @01:44PM (#8646744) Homepage
    ...is that most mod teams will just use a pirated version of 3DStudio Max anyway.
  • $40 million, I don't care WHAT kind of video card I need! That's WAY too much to pay for a game! This is an outrage! I mean, Doom III is only going to cost $500,000 to play at MOST...

    ...oh.

  • I can't believe they are bundling something this good.

    If we wait long enough HL2 might come with the next version of windows along with drivers that are guaranteed to work.

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