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Newell on Half-Life 2

"I think it's going to be very popular."

Dark blue icons of video game controllers on a light blue background
Image credit: Eurogamer

Valve grand fromage Gabe Newell is a busy man. Tuesday was September 30th, a day that, until last week, every gamer in the world with an internet connection was frothing over. A day that was supposed to usher in the next generation of first person shooters. And then didn't.

"I hate release dates because no matter how hard we try, we screw them up," Newell told GameSpot this week. "Right now it's for the holidays. I wish we had a clearer date to give people at this time."

The thorny release date issue aside, Newell reckons Half-Life 2 will be worth the wait, and with his inhibitions presumably lowered by the careful application of launch party cocktails, he answered a few questions about the game that we haven't heard before. Like, will it cater to people who never played Half-Life?

"Even if you walk into the situation never having played Half-Life, you're going to be OK because you're going to be surprised by things whether you played Half-Life or not," the man confirms. It's going to be confusing apparently. "The last thing I remember is this other event," says Newell, slipping into Gordon's boots, "and now there's a fair amount of distance from that - spatially and temporally."

Obviously with more talky and composed characters, it's not going to be as solitary a game, either. "You're never alone in the game - or almost never alone," according to Mr. Half-Life. "You have to think about how they [the other people] are going to react and what are they going to do. A lot of times, they have goals and you don't," he adds. "More and more of the world responds to what you're doing, which to us is the underlying key to a great gameplay experience."

How about the multiplayer side of the game? That grew into something not altogether unpopular the first time around... "Half-Life 2's multiplayer is something we're not talking about because we want to keep it as a surprise for our customers as we roll into our launch cycle," Newell explains. "I play it every day. I think it's going to be very popular with the community."

And what the hell is Valve doing now? "Right now, the most important thing we're doing is watching people play." Um, can we offer our services? "Then we interview them afterwards. Why do they think they were doing what they were doing? Did they have a sense of what was going on in the broader story? Were they paying attention to the story? What did they like or dislike?"

"That tuning of the game and getting those reactions is the best tool we know of getting this final level of refinement on the design."

For more from GameSpot's Q&A with Newell, including a sly dig at Ferrari-driving FPS developers (whoever could he mean?), head here. And book some holidays. It's out in the holidays, so just pick some dates and sit around hopefully. It's a bit like battleships...

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