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Half-Life 2 developer speaks out

On moss, big textures, net code, the question of a demo and how a five-year dev cycle affects you.

Trepid.net has conducted a pretty extensive Q&A with Valve's Gabe Newell, inevitably focusing on Half-Life 2.

"Right now I can think of less than a handful of games that I can look at and say 'I see where they learned something from what we did and are building on that'," Newell declares early on, but despite going to some length to downplay the significance of the first Half-Life, Newell believes that HL2 will surpass its immense popularity, simply saying "it's a much better game".

One of the more interesting passages in the interview is when Newell is asked whether the game caters to one particular video card group, namely ATI or NVIDIA. "It would be great if we could pick one hardware platform with perfectly consistent performance, but we can't," he told Trepid.net. "One interesting problem for game engines right now is scalability," meaning that "there's a far greater difference between old and new ATI cards than there is between the latest and greatest ATI and NVIDIA cards." What about Xbox? "The Xbox fits into the middle of our scalability goals for the PC product. It's more of a question of how much we want to optimize for the console than anything."

As for things we didn't know about Half-Life 2 - the game - which has gamers all over the world foaming just at the prospect of playing with its environment, Newell is "still looking to get the team to put moss in," so add that to the list of interesting effects along with a texture resolution limit of "2K by 2K". Although he would not be pressed on the issue of multiplayer, something we've seen and heard little about, he also told Trepid.net that "Yahn Bernier and Mike Dussault have completely re-architected the net code. There are two benefits - it performs much better, and it is much easier for MOD teams to use."

At the end of the day though, even Valve had to sacrifice a few things to hit their milestones. "There was some really cool image-based rendering technology that Gary McTaggart prototyped," Newell said. " It would have given us some super-cool capabilities for apparently complex environments. We weren't able to get it sufficiently integrated by our September 2002 milestone for it to make it into this game."

Maybe next time? Perhaps. Asked, given the distance between 1 and 2, if Valve even knows what Half-Life 3 will be like, Newell said "Sure. We don't really have much trouble figuring out what we want to push next, it's usually more of a problem for us to postpone things." However, when asked if HL3 would dart into the limelight any time soon, Newell offered an unambiguous "No". In fact, Valve is apparently quite burnt out by the lengthy development cycle. "We've had some of our long-time playtesters going from being seniors in high school to being college graduates during Half-Life 2 development," he mused. "We're going to recharge a bit on short fun projects once HL2 goes out the door."

As for the near future, Newell reconfirmed that Half-Life 2 "will be available via Steam", adding that no demo would be released beforehand. It looks like we're still on for September 30th.

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About the Author
Tom Bramwell avatar

Tom Bramwell


Tom worked at Eurogamer from early 2000 to late 2014, including seven years as Editor-in-Chief.

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