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Bill Van Buren Talks Half-Life 2 295

Posted by timothy
from the still-waiting-for-global-thermonuclear-war dept.
node writes "Pixel Kill has up a summary of the talk Bill Van Buren recently gave in London on the development of Half-Life 2. It's an interesting insight into some of the design decisions that resulted in such a fantastic game, plus there are some bits about the direction they're taking the upcoming expansion."
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Bill Van Buren Talks Half-Life 2

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  • Can I play it (Score:2, Interesting)

    by WormholeFiend (674934)
    without connecting to a remote server through teh internets yet?
    • Re:Can I play it (Score:3, Informative)

      by xXBondsXx (895786)
      Half Life: Aftermath is going to be a Steam-online-distribution-exclusive product, so you're going to have to connect to "teh internets" ;-D
  • by JeiFuRi (888436) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:33PM (#13029063)
    Half Life 2 = 1 whole life
  • by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:39PM (#13029091)

    Listening to Bill Van Buren talk about Half Life 2 I realised a key reason for its excellence - it shows you the story rather than telling you, just like a good author showing you rather than telling you scene details. it doesn't parade the story in a cut-scene but rather puts you right in the middle of it.

    It's little surprise only Valve have really gone down this path properly as it clearly took a lot of work making the "cut-scenes" unbreakable by the player. The powerful scripting system did often allow the designers to create scenes without the assistance of animators or story boards - they just threw together a rough cut with existing animations and rough voice over files (apparently Marc Laidlaw created some great ones, so much so they were tempted to leave in his Father Grigory).

    As you may be aware they spent a lot of time getting eyes right - how they focus and even how your eyelids dip when looking down. They also used real people as character references (I wish I had a photo of the slide, it was really interesting to see the comparisons), though they ended up stylising them somewhat as having them too realistic was "just creepy" as Bill put it. They're continuing to move forward in the area of facial animation and have even hired Bay Raitt who worked on Gollum's facial animation.

    Their character animation system is particularly impressive too - at one point Eli Vance was running, looking to the side and typing (!), all blended in real time. To create a scripted scene you kind of layer things (an eyebrow movement here, a wave there and so on) and adjust line graphs to alter movement intensity. It's all extremely intuitive looking stuff so the designers can more easily get on with making the game.

    One thing I didn't realise was that Half life 2 rewarded the inquisitive - players who looked around not only saw newspaper clippings and photos but in doing so triggered revealing comments from other characters.

    Someone pointed out how much time was spent alone in Half Life 2. Bill replied that they were aware of this and were working on keeping NPCs with you for more of the time in Aftermath. This brings with it the problem of ever-present characters becoming irritating, but they're aware of that and working to address it so they're helpful rather than annoying.

    One final interesting detail - they narrowed the field of view from 90 to 75 in Half Life 2, narrowing it even further to around 50 during the final cut-scene with Breen.

    It's pretty evident just how much attention Valve pay to details and how eager they are to keep moving forward with new ideas. Aftermath can't come soon enough.
    • I tried to play this game. The install was painful, it took hours, and in the end Valve's suggested video upgrade prevented the game from ever running on my system. Which I then had to format and reinstall.

      All in all, what good is a game if you can't play it? At 50 bucks, and 4 to 5 hours just to install it, this game is a serious waste of money. And poorly designed to boot.
      • by Alpha Soixante-Neuf (813971) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:50PM (#13029155)
        All in all, what good is a game if you can't play it? At 50 bucks, and 4 to 5 hours just to install it, this game is a serious waste of money. And poorly designed to boot. The game was made for newer retail technology. If you don't want to pay for the newest gadgets then don't expect to play the newest games without complications. You can play it in two years and it'll still be a great game then. I don't have a super great computer but it didn't take 4 or 5 hours to load and played just fine (albeit at a fairly low res to keep the frame rate up, but that's exactly what I was expecting).
        • And in my case it didn't take nearly 4-5h to install. After the initial install, which was about 15 minutes, I think that the steam updates took maybe 30-45min. Not as quick as I'd like... and I'm not a big fan of the steam-authorization-required scheme (although I'd be a big fan of one that allowed you to authorize from one of either CD-ROM/steam)... but a far cry from 5h.
      • Seriously, nobody better tell you about Doom 3, a game that was designed for optimal performance on near future technology that was not yet available to the consumer/gaming enthusiast when it was released.

        The game [Half Life 2] is not poorly designed, quite the opposite IMHO. It's good, but not my ideal game. I still prefer Quake 3 for shit and giggles for example. But there's nothing to stop you reselling your copy to someone who can play it, so your money hasn't been completely wasted. Head to e-bay

        • HL2 rapes Q3 any day of the week. Q3Arena was a ripoff and its a shame such potential was utterly wasted on a crappy version of Unreal Trounament. What crack do you Q3 players smoke, anyway? ;)

          But thats just my opinion.

          Disclaimer: I was a HUGE iD software fan from the original Wolfenstein-3d and on, Q3 was the WORST EVAR, imho. Doom 3 was interesting but, just like Q3 when it first hit shelves, it was made for the very tip top upper echelon of performance computing. Alas, after UT, TF, HL:TF, CS, Battle
      • by Mac Degger (576336) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:24PM (#13029353) Journal
        Such a low /.id and so little luck with a simple gfx driver install/uninstall?

        Frankly, I'm stunned. First off, the only reason your install could possibly have taken so long was if you paid Valve on the day of release and tried to autheticate and download whilst half the world was doing the same. A single day of waiting (or buying retail, which meant a disk install which /can not/ take hours) and you'd've had no problems.
        And for all the idiots shouting 'yeah well, Valve should have expected that! I( had to wait hours on release day!': you should have expected that. Whining about it is like me whouting 'I wanna million dollars'; it just work that way in the real world.

        As for the reformat...I've gone through a couple of vidcards and numerous drivers...never have I had to re-format and I've never heard of anyone who had to do that for gfx drivers (well, maybe in winME, but that's winME :)).
      • I voted with my wallet. Unless they come out with a non-steam version, I won't buy it. Hell, at least Battlefield 2 will let you play on a lan or single player without authenticating back to the mothership.
        • Hell, at least Battlefield 2 will let you play on a lan or single player without authenticating back to the mothership.

          Yeah but try playing on a 32+ player server without the ridiculous "ranked" unique online ID crap (which won't even let you have spaces in your name--wtf?) For some reason I'm not too keen on 10-player LAN games in a game that's built for what, 64?

          In any case, I'm waiting for FH2 to come out; FH already blew BF1942 out of the water, and FH2 promises to do the same for BF2--and accordin
      • That's why I'm waiting for a console version, should be out for the 360 and the PS3.

        Life is just simpler when most gaming on a console.
  • Field of view (Score:5, Interesting)

    by The Amazing Fish Boy (863897) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:44PM (#13029116) Homepage Journal
    One final interesting detail - they narrowed the field of view from 90 to 75 in Half Life 2, narrowing it even further to around 50 during the final cut-scene with Breen.

    Anyone know why this would be? For artistic purposes? I don't play first person shooters, so I don't really understand why someone would want this...
    • Re:Field of view (Score:5, Informative)

      by the_weasel (323320) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:50PM (#13029154) Homepage
      My guess (without having played) is for dramatic impact. A shorter field of view means you are more focused on what is in front of you. You have to turn more often, and you get paranoid about your surroundings.

      Take it too far and its just annoying - done right, and its super scary.

      The scariest scenes in Alien (and other horror movies) take place in tight narrow hallways and crawlspaces for some of the same reasons.
      • by Sabalon (1684) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @10:45PM (#13029988)
        The exact opposite effect can be seen in Monty Python and the Holy Grail when Lancelot comes to rescue Prince Herbert. Due to the very wide field of view, you can see him coming for quite a few of the camera shots leading up to his surprise attack on the guards. It really ruined the effect for me and killed most of the suspense that had been building up.
      • Most people have a verticle field of view (FOV) of about 135 degrees, and normal binocular vision is about 180 degrees in the horizontal plane. One of my fellow med school classmates had a brain aneurysm, that after treatment, reduced his FOV to only 90 - so you could sneak up on him from his right side easily.

        A 90 degree view is quite limited - try limiting yourself to it - it adds to the paranoid feeling and suspense.

      • Another recent example of this kind of "claustraphobia effect" is done in Kill Bill 2 during the lead up to the burial scene - nice effect - especially in the cinema.
        The screen changes from the typical widescreen view to a cut down (kinda 4:3) view - black bars down the sides of the screen for a few moments.

        Just thought I'd mention it as it is effective and very easy to spot for anybody interested in these sorts of things.
    • Re:Field of view (Score:2, Informative)

      by SteevR (612047)
      The first thing that comes to mind as a graphics programmer is that since there are theoretically fewer polygons/shader effects/character models/etc. onscreen at any time, one can spend more time rendering those things, thus making them look nicer; or render it at the original detail at a higher framerate. As poor as the engine performs in outdoor areas, this might have been a technical decision. What if it wasn't? The wannabe game designer in me puzzles. For one, it allows you to more easily target spe
    • TBH I didn't even notice it. It wasn't a HUGE thing to me. I think it was "cut down" though to show the final events. Theres a lot of effects and then a huge explosion (followed by more effects).

      Maybe it's so they didn't render so much sky box needlessly?
    • It's because a fov of 90 made all the models look really thin, Gabe Newell got jealous and demanded it be set to 75.
  • Too Much Realism? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Lemurmania (846869) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:45PM (#13029127)
    In the article, they recound how they had to tone down some of the facial tech since too much realism was "just creepy." I would be fascinated to see it in action. How, exactly, does it creep the gamer out?

    Would I hesitate to kill a combine soldier if the face was too real? Would I develop a pathetic geek crush on Alex? I'm really curious about this. And I want to see this level of realism that they deemed to be too much.

    • Re:Too Much Realism? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by aliens (90441) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:58PM (#13029193) Homepage Journal
      I think people had the same reaction to such animated movies as Polar Express. The animation was very close to looking real, but there is always something lacking in the models.

      I've heard multiple people complain/mention this, best way I've heard it described is that they seemed like zombies.

      I guess there is something in the mind that no matter how realistic something looks the fact that you know there isn't a heart inside the thing invokes something of a disgust. Making it harder to form attachments to the character and ruiing the story.

      It should be an interesting study for some post-grad.

      Oh, and I am sure there are plenty of geeks with a
      crush on Alex regardless.

      • Re:Too Much Realism? (Score:5, Informative)

        by Hockney Twang (769594) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:07PM (#13029250)
        Have a look at this [arclight.net] rather in-depth analysis of the topic you mention. Not certain if the author is a post-grad or not. I'm also fairly certain that this is only one of a growing body of works on the subject.
        • As a matter of fact, there is no growing body of works on the subject. It's just references to the single study by that Japanese researcher, which is not even applicable to CGI characters, because it was done about robots. There is no empirical evidence that realistic CGI (game) models are creepy. Most people enjoyed Polar Express and beside a few smartasses that wanted to seem cool by ditching it, noone talked about zombies. I watched it in IMAX and even though animation is not perfect 100% of the time and
      • Re:Too Much Realism? (Score:5, Interesting)

        by Smiffa2001 (823436) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:17PM (#13029312)
        I've often pondered this one too, and noticed from friends and relatives watching characters like Gollum from LOTR, there's more of an 'impressed' reaction. It's something I think I've noticed in most CG-based non-human characters, the less human they look, the more 'accepted' they seem to be. With all the sub-surface scattering and all that Weta used, Gollum's relative different to 'human standard' meant that they probably got the balance right there. After all, objects like vehicles, landscapes and stuff seem easy to be able to pull the wool over peoples eyes. Other little effects I've seen are the CG characters affecting the 'camera' more, with the best example recently in War of the Worlds where at some point a tripod's gushing fluid everywhere and it splatters the 'camera'. Nice touch I thought.
        Oh, and I am sure there are plenty of geeks with a crush on Alex regardless.

        Sorry about that...
      • I don't think it's because the viewer knows they're watching an animation and thus rejects it, but because there are entirely too many details that we do notice, without noticing that we notice. Just look at something as simple as a finger. As you curl your finger, notice how the skin only stretches slightly at first? Notice how it stretched the most in the middle, and how it widens or fattens slightly? How the skin gets lighter and slightly more translucent at the joints? The little wrinkles, and the
      • They need to unfreeze Disney and talk to him about him animatronics. Sure, they look like terrible 70's robots, but their facial movements, mouth, eyes, cheeks, ears, the works looked completely human. Ive often wondered if they had real people with eletrodes hooked up to their face to get them looking that good... and if they did, why can't we do that 10000000x better now?
    • Re:Too Much Realism? (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bane1998 (894327)

      They tone it down for the suspension of disbelief factor. If the characters are extremely human-like, then small little artifacts look strange. Imagine walking down the street and seeing someone in real life have a small glitch like a framerate drop or something. You would be very creeped out. Not in a good way, in a bad way. You would question if you were in the Matrix or something. It would be disturbing.

      When you see glitches like this in a game, it doesn't interrupt your suspension of disbelief as muc

    • Re:Too Much Realism? (Score:5, Interesting)

      by markh1967 (315861) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:11PM (#13029272)
      This is a problem in robotics known as the uncanny valley [wikipedia.org].

      Basically, people have no problems with robots that are reasonably similar to real people but tend to react negatively to robots that are very realistic but subtly wrong.

      • Pretty much, yep. When people in robotics are trying to make robots more human, they either end up creeping themselves out, or realize that the general population wouldn't stand for it, so they scale back on everything before they hit the general populace...

        Remember how many sci-fic books dealt with how humanity would react to life-like androids? Well... that's pretty much what's starting now -- the general populace is now seeing life-like bots in video games and CGI movies that we're now struggling to f
    • by Have Blue (616) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:16PM (#13029309) Homepage
      It's called the "uncanny valley". As depictions of humans get more and more human, they look better and better- but only up to a point. Between "kinda like a human" and "exactly like a human" there's a space where people start to get creeped out. The depiction resembles a human corpse more than it does a real live human, since it's missing subtle things like eye movements or breathing. You wouldn't develop crushes or sympathies but you'd be uncomfortable while playing the game, which is not something Valve wanted.

      The Polar Express is a good example, as someone else said. So is the Final Fantasy movie. This is the reason Pixar, for example, does not try to create photorealistic humans even though their artists are quite capable of it.
    • This makes me wonder if there is a way to use that subtle, overly-real creepiness as a game device. For instance, there might be a Bladerunner-type scenario in which the Replicant is a little "too" perfect. The game engine might model the rest of the world in acceptably-flawed mode, but the Replicant would be turned up to 11 as a turn of the screws to the player's psyche.
    • by Ingolfke (515826) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @10:31PM (#13029928) Journal
      Would I develop a pathetic geek crush on Alex?

      I can't speak for you, but I know Netcraft has shown that 82% of regular /. readers will develop a geek crush on as little as two flesh-colored pixels.
  • Whatever (Score:4, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:48PM (#13029138)
    Is it just me our was that article about as informative as something not very informative?

    More interesting to most slashdoterd would be the recent completion of the Alyx nude skin. You can get that here http://www.hl2world.com/bbs/160-vt16821.html?postd ays=0&postorder=asc&start=2385 [hl2world.com].
    • Re:Whatever (Score:5, Informative)

      by toddestan (632714) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:19PM (#13029331)
      Since this thread is otherwise worthless without pics, here are some I found in the forum from the parent's link:
      (By the way, Captain Obvious says, "Not work safe!")

      One [img299.echo.cx]
      Two [img299.echo.cx]
      Three [img299.echo.cx]
      Four [img299.echo.cx]
      Five [img40.echo.cx]
      Six [img40.echo.cx]
      Seven [img69.echo.cx]
      Eight [img56.echo.cx]
      • Re:Whatever (Score:2, Funny)

        by apoc06 (853263)
        this got modded up to four? what is the slashdot world coming to?

        anyways, am i the only one highly disturbed by nude digital characters in white socks? nudity i can handle, but the socks just kills it for me.

        guess the socks were too hard for the modding community, at least they got the important parts right, huh?
      • Re:Whatever (Score:2, Funny)

        by Kpt Kill (649374)
        Am I the only one that saw an *anything*.cx and thought a minute or two about actually clicking on it?
  • Valve attempted to change things by setting up direct download rather than buying from the shelf. Interesting as it changes delivery, but there was no compelling reason to buy it on-line once it hit the shelves. (Compelling to me would have been a couple bucks savings) Starting to see some of the retail box versions sold off in the bargain bin, but with the expansion set probably getting positioned as a steam delivered game - I may never see it. I'm not holding my breath for a $4.99 version at Office Max in a couple years.
    • Valve attempted to change things by setting up direct download rather than buying from the shelf. Interesting as it changes delivery, but there was no compelling reason to buy it on-line once it hit the shelves. (Compelling to me would have been a couple bucks savings)

      Valve couldn't do that. After all, they were in the middle of a lawsuit with Sierra...Sierra claiming that Valve was dodging retail sales with online purchasing and Valve suing about Internet Cafe licenses. And, of course, a zillion othe
    • The great thing about Steam (for Valve) is that anytime Valve wants, those boxes become worthless. So if priced drop below a price Valve is happy with those boxes become worthless, since Steam can be set to not let you register them.

      Indeed you were really better off buying online as it was a truer representation of what you were actually buying.
  • How about the... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by BAILOPAN (694545) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @07:56PM (#13029186) Homepage
    ... state of current Half-Life development?

    While Valve has always liked people developing closed source mods for their messy, buggy, and poorly organized SDKs, they've been downright evil with mod-independent development for Half-Life 2. (Note: I'm talking about engine plugins, not entire mods).

    With Half-Life 1, the engine was very "open" in terms of API and functionality, and because of this, tons and tons of mini-mods sprung up for popular games like Counter-Strike. In fact, you could attribute the massive success and continuing livlihood of Half-Life 1 to this.

    However, Valve's new stance with HL2 is that mods shouldn't be, well, moddable. They've threatened developers and locked out hugely potential functionality. The level of PR Valve does to ease this over makes my blood boil. They've been uncooperative, rarely listen to the community, and let _known bugs_ go unfixed for months and months, even after numerous release cycles. Read the hlcoders mailing list sometime. You'll hear Valve employees like Alfred Reynolds say that mod developers are "hackers holding Valve hostages", with regards to trivial things like printing to the screen. I'm not kidding.

    It's not fun. Before Half-Life 2, I was a Valve fanboy. Now I can't stand them. I've had Doom 3 mod developers brag to me about the level of control they have with the Doom 3 SDK. Maybe I'm programming for the wrong game.

    Also, with regards to the expansion... they've released one screenshot, and an onlooker realized it was actually a screenshot from HL2 Single Player. Oops. I guess we can file the expansion with VAC2 and DoD:S, which will be released on the Tweltfh of Never.

    My name is Bail, and I'm a distressed Half-Life modder. *sits back down*
    • I've read all the excuses about why valve acts the way it does about the state of their games. Frankly its a load of crap.

      Other companies have had their development of games WIDE open practically like Never Winter Nights and the fans appreciated it MUCH more.

      Everytime Valve talks it smells like a snow job with lies. Take the current development of Day of Defeat. They SOLD that game to people as part of the Half-Life 2 package implying that it would be out "soon" almost a year ago and it still is'nt out. I
      • With the blatent lying about the release dates of HL2 and DoD, the stuttering bug which went unfixed for months, and Steam being an annoying bastard for a single-player game, it's absolutely amazing that they manage to still sell so many copies. They are probably the most badly-behaved company in the games industry, with the possible exception of EA.
    • It's amazing to me that people still do this stuff. Yeah, hacking on games is fun, but why do most modders keep their software proprietary? Why do they find it "cool" to hack on proprietary games but not on open source games? It's like they enjoy being enslaved to this corporations that see them as just another one of their "community assets".
      • Re:How about the... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by Mac Degger (576336)
        It's 'cause OS game engines just aren't there yet in terms of functionality and user friendlyness. Not that modding is in any way userfriendly, and not that engines like OGRE aren't impressive...but making an actual game with OS engine is much more time consuming than laying a mod on an existing game (engine).

        Plus there's the installed base. HL2, NWN and Doom have large install bases, so more people will play their mod.
        • Re:How about the... (Score:3, Interesting)

          by BAILOPAN (694545)
          You hit the nail on the head. Commercial games are usually far more functional and better looking, simply because they have to be to stay competetive. And if you develop on a commercial game, you automatically have a userbase of potentially tens of thousands of users.

          Not to say OSS is bad (my mods are open source), but I don't think there is an F/OSS engine or game that can compare with the top FPSes on the market.

          --bail
      • by neumayr (819083)

        I guess when people are impressed and maybe inspired by the actual game, they're more likely to invest time in learning how the engine works, to build upon something they feel they already know somewhat.

        As opposed to some random sf.net game with nothing to show but a vague description, an alpha that won't run and some screenshots off of the lead developer's machine.

    • Re:How about the... (Score:3, Informative)

      by ionpro (34327)
      Umm.

      VAC2 was released a few days ago, dude. If you are going to try to straw-man an argument, at least do it with facts, not fiction.
      • You're right, the previously beta VAC2 is now default in server startup. I missed that in the last Steam update - probably because they've been promising it "soon" since CS:S debuted.

        However, I don't think this invalidates my claim at all. Want more facts? Valve has had a noted history of taking forever to finish any product. When it does come out, after months of "real soon now", it's a shoddy, incomplete implementation that is patched heavily for months over Steam.

        Case in point: Condition Zero. It w
    • by thebagel (650109)
      Don't forget about Team Fortress 2.
    • by Ford Prefect (8777)
      Read the hlcoders mailing list sometime. You'll hear Valve employees like Alfred Reynolds say that mod developers are "hackers holding Valve hostages", with regards to trivial things like printing to the screen. I'm not kidding.

      Way to 'quote' out of context. Here's the original email [mail-archive.com]:

      That is part of the leaf code of the mod, not an exported API. Assuming that CS:S uses the same code that we ship in the SDK is wrong (because they won't match). Injecting network messages and assuming the same implementa

      • by BAILOPAN (694545) on Monday July 11, 2005 @09:16AM (#13032111) Homepage
        FYI, You'll see it's not out of context at all if a)You're an HL2 developer and b)You read the entire discussion.

        The API was:
        a)Exported, otherwise we couldn't have used it
        b)Used, every mod plugin was using it
        c)Documented, in cl_dll\menu.cpp

        And the actual issue at hand was that Valve was not providing adequate API to do the task, while claiming to the public that they were.

        That particular debate incited hundreds of messages on HL2 boards. It enraged so many developers, players, and server administrators, all at once, that Valve was forced to reverse the decision. They don't admit they're wrong tot often, so the reversal was a footnote in an e-mail: "we won't change this for now". So, in the end, they decided to do nothing rather than fix the root of the problem.

        The screenshot in question was this one:
        http://www.gamespot.com/pc/action/halflife2afterma th/screens.html?page=7 [gamespot.com]

        I said "one" because when I saw it, it was the only one on the Steam page ;]

        Thanks for playing Internet.
  • The article mentions that HL2 "shows you the story rather than telling you", and then says:

    It's little surprise only Valve have really gone down this path properly as it clearly took a lot of work making the "cut-scenes" unbreakable by the player.

    Out of interest, is this true? I'm not entirely experienced with such games in particular, but I felt that at least the System Shock series (off the top of my head; I haven't finished the Marathon series yet, so I'm not sure about those) also did it "properly"

  • by Zombie Ryushu (803103) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @08:32PM (#13029401)
    My big beef with Half Life is the restrictive level of its liscence. I realize its just game, but I hate the dangerous precident it states in showing how easily the entertainment industry can control us. They can actually convince us to pay money to take our digital rights away from us, and the population will not resist.

    At a time when we are facing an orwellian future of DRM, the cost of our digital civil rights is: Playing a game.

    This is tragic in nature. Its a betrayal of free thinking principals by the population itself. The popuation of people who were willing to - without a second thought, buy this game when the full knowlege of what buying and installing this game meant as far as DRM goes is an unpardonable crime.

    Half Life 2 proved that the public was willing to suffer major digital freedom loss to play a game. The evidence was right in front of the viewing public and the consumer ego mass still made the bad choice anyway.

    I didn't buy HL2. (Don't Run Windows) but the fact that I made the choice not to really doesn't matter. It was the fact that the majority of computer using consumers who will buy freedom destroying software did so.

    The choice that the consuming public makes affects everyone by what is availible in the future. I'm sure HL2 is an excellent quality game, but the terms of the game are simply cruel and malicious.

    Again, its not about whether or not *I* choose to buy the game or not, its about what the majority of the consuming public was willing to do, and it is with the consuming public the fault lies.

    There was a choice. They made the wrong choice and we will all pay for that choice years down the road.
    • by Anonymous Coward
      Just because the choice of the public doesn't match yours does not give you a right to judge it as a "wrong" choice like some kind of consumer overlord. For my needs, I had no problems, so I bought it. Like most people, if I buy a game for my PC I'm simply looking to play it on the PC I have it on, and do nothing else fancy with it.

      The marketplace will decide what's acceptable, not an individual person or fringe group.
    • How many ways can you say that you didn't buy the game and you don't like having to register software to run it?

      Make a point and support your point, done restate the same thing 8 times.

      Restating your conundrum using big words and faux-intelectual sentance structures does not ameliorate the problem or illuminate your point. It only serves to obfuscate what it is that you're trying to communicate.

      There was a choice. A choice not to post. The wrong choice was made, and we are all worse off because of tha
    • Half Life 2 proved that the public was willing to suffer major digital freedom loss to play a game.

      Well, Valve's shennanigans around that game certainly hurt them some. The bitching about Steam was colossal.

      And not realizing what bullshit they were up to, I tried borrowing a friend's copy some months after he was done with it to try out a new system. I spent for-fucking-ever installing it, another hour downloading updates, and then discovered that I COULDN'T PLAY THE GODDAMN GAME.

      Had Valve treated me ni
      • Sir,

        Your reply to the parent post was measured and straightforward offering the facts of your experience and your conclusion that Valve's business decisions would likely keep you from purchasing from them in the future. Please do not post like this again.

        In the future, USE MORE CAPS, when you want to make a point (acronymns like DRM do not count). Also call the public "stupid", anyone who disagrees with you "stuipd", anyone who responds to you should be an "asshat", and the moderation system should be a
    • I didn't buy HL2. (Don't Run Windows) but the fact that I made the choice not to really doesn't matter. It was the fact that the majority of computer using consumers who will buy freedom destroying software did so.

      Freedom Destroying Software? I've heard Half-life 3 will eat babies.

      But seriously... Why on earth do you think you have the god-given right to free software. I do agree that in some cases free software will be beneficial to both its users and its developers. But that choice is up to the devel

  • Hyped AI (Score:5, Insightful)

    by @madeus (24818) <slashdot_24818@mac.com> on Sunday July 10, 2005 @09:40PM (#13029736)
    From the article:

    "It's little surprise only Valve have really gone down this path properly as it clearly took a lot of work making the "cut-scenes" unbreakable by the player." Rather, they just ignore you and run through the script regardless (even if you shoot them, drop heavy objects that should kill them onto them or block their path with items they should not be able to move).

    For example, if you block a path the game doesn't want you to (including dynamically 'in game', not just 'in cutscenes') the game would completly disregard the usual rules of physics and simply walk through pushing aisde any and all obstacles like they were made of cardboard (making setting interesting traps impossible in some area's, it's clear your supposed to 'stick to the rails' - like so many games thinking outside the box is not encoraged).

    Of course playing with things like grary's mod [garry.tv]shows this isn't a limiation of the HAVOK physics engine [havok.com] - the best thing about Half Life 2 IMO, and which is entirely 3rd party - it's just the way Valve implimented it.

    Half Life 2 is nowhere near as impressive as the origional was for the time IMO. Admittedly the origional had lots of distinctly tedious jump puzzles towards the end, but in the first half it had far more atmosphere and felt much more immersive to me. This is not just a case of seeing it through rose-tinted glasses either, I've played it through again recently and it's still head and shoulders above HL2 IMO.

    To me, it just seems like Half Life 2 is riding entirely on it's use of the HAVOK physics engine, which of course lots of other titles have used (Halo 2, Ghost Recon, Max Pane 2, Full Spectrum Warrior, and many more) it's just that Half Life 2 use it _so_ extensively and happen to give the player a really fun toy to use to manipulate objects.

    Sure I think the artwork in HL2 was okay, but the underlying engine quality was poor IMO - with kludges like the use of 2 sprites and careful map design used to try to cover up problems with a lack of proper LOD handling (with large objects like whole ships just appearing and disappearing at random in front of you on the beach, and things like tree's being redered as 2D sprites - Yuck!). The lack of a decent lighting model was pretty prevolent in some areas (something well discussed), though I was equally urged by dodgy map design featuring such delights as points where enemies could infinately spawn from points apparently in mid air (the sort of crap Doom 3 pulled and that is a big no-no in my view).

    I found it particularly disappointing because we know they are capeable of better.
    • Some good points about the linearity of the engine. On a personal note: remember the part in Nova Prospekt with the "set up the guns and survive" motif? Though it wasn't too difficult by setting up blocxking boxes, what I really wanted to do was get up on the railing above the hole thing--which, using every single available barrel and box, was possible by building a tall (if rickety) pyramid. After doing all that work, that invisible wall up there remains the most frustrating one I have ever encountered. I
      • Far Cry proves that you can build non-linear levels and that script and AI can easily be written to handle that. This looks more like a strange blunder on behalf of some members of the HL2 team, who thought that a Gordon-on-Rails game would be fun and interesting. I am sure they have considered non-linearity and real interactivity (it's what they promised at E3, after all), but in the end they dropped all that. There is a nice video about AI in Half-Life 2 that gives an example of barricades (such as shown
      • Nova Prospekt... (Score:3, Interesting)

        by OmniGeek (72743)
        Oddly enough, I solved that "set up the little tripod turrets and try not to get overrun" in a different way, that shows some interesting details.

        In that scene, you trigger the Combine attack by jumping down off a balcony. I did 2 things very different from the designers' expectations: 1) I laboriously dragged the first two tame tripods I got with me through many rooms, all the way to that balcony (there are some FUN things you can do with the tripods, even before Alex hacks them, such as pointing one at t
  • "fantastic game"? (Score:3, Insightful)

    by CAIMLAS (41445) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @10:00PM (#13029817) Homepage
    Half-Life 2 is not a "fantastic game". It is a good game, but there is nothing revolutionary, spectacular, or all that above what should be the norm about it. This is not 1995, and we should not still be expecting the par to be only slightly above a twitch-and-shoot FPS.

    No, quite simply put, HL2 is a good game, but not a fantastic game. The only reason it shines is because there's such a slew of mediocre or plain bad games out there these days. Too little flash and not enough substance.
  • The best of Half-Life 2 for me was the boss area of the mud flats where I had to shoot the boss down (I forgot what it was). I destroyed the boss in mid-air directly above me in the game. While I savoring the victory, I came to a cold realization that a big chunk was coming down in my direction. Put the boat in reverse and flew backwards like a bat out of hell. The big chunk that came down landed exactly where I was a few moments before. What a great game.
  • Art book (Score:3, Informative)

    by xihr (556141) on Sunday July 10, 2005 @10:28PM (#13029916) Homepage
    For those that found this interesting, there's actually a good deal of this in the book Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar [amazon.com], including the side-by-side character references.
  • Not for me (Score:3, Interesting)

    by KlausBreuer (105581) on Monday July 11, 2005 @04:28AM (#13031212) Homepage
    Well, I *loved* HL1. Played it a lot, spend (much too much too much) time designing maps and generally having fun with it. Played it through several times since then, too.

    HL2 blew me away. I was amazed, loved it. Played all the way through it slowly, enjoying each place.

    Steam irritated me, though. And then, when I was through and wanted to play with maps and the like, it became a Major Hassle. Every time I loaded up a map, I got into trouble. I couldn't simply apply a crack and play and edit and design away. I couldn't design on my laptop, sitting outside somewhere (no WiFi). It was never a 'just fire it up quickly and do something for a few minutes'.

    And so... I just stopped. Lost my interest. Haven't played it again. Haven't designed any maps. Haven't even looked at it for a long time, and am probably not going to.

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