While they didn’t reveal some of the biggest mysteries about the game, such as whether it’ll take us to new places in the timeline, there were a lot of interesting nuggets of information buried among the many answers.
A selection of ten developers from all disciplines, including artists, designers, animators, and programmers, gave us an interesting look at how Half-Life: Alyx is coming together. We’ve collected the most interesting answers and hints here.
Half-Life: Alyx should ship on time
Half-Life: Alyx is currently supposed to launch in March 2020, but with a string of other developers delaying their spring releases, fans were concerned. Valve has always been a company that takes it time with each release.
The developers don’t seem worried, and noted that they need to make some tweaks and polish the game, but no major changes are planned.
“Lots of us at Valve, as well as play testers, have played through the entire game multiple times,” the team wrote. “Right now we’re primarily polishing and fixing bugs, which is where we’d hope to be at this point in the development cycle. We’re confident we’ll hit our intended release.”
Half-Life: Alyx is being made by the biggest team Valve has ever put together
According to the developers, Half-Life: Alyx is being developed by a team of “around 80 people, which puts it as the largest single team we’ve ever had at Valve.”
Half-Life: Alyx is about the same size as Half-Life 2
A large team seems necessary for a VR game of this scope and scale; the devs estimated that it’ll have the same amount of content as Half-Life 2.
“Playtesters have taken a similar amount of time to complete Half-Life: Alyx as they did to complete Half-Life 2,” the team wrote. “The games are comparable in terms of total amount of content.”
Plenty of Half-Life and Portal talent is along for the ride
This includes some veterans, including developers who worked on the original Half-Life back in 1998. Mike Morasky, a composer who worked on Portal 2 and Team Fortress 2, as well as other titles, has worked on the music with consultation from Kelly Bailey, a former Valve composer who scored on the previous Half-Life games.
Erik Wolpaw, a writer on Portal and Portal 2, consulted with original Half-Life 2 scribe Mike Laidlaw extensively on the script.
Valve may be moving away from silent protagonists
Gordon Freeman is one of the most famous (or perhaps infamous, depending on your point of view) mute protagonists in gaming. Chell, the protagonist of Portal, was similarly silent as she traveled through Aperture Labs. (Fun fact! The developers of the Portal games assumed that Chell could talk, but chose to remain deliberately mute out of principle.)
Alyx breaks the mold by speaking throughout her journey, which writer Erik Wolpaw hoped becomes the norm at Valve. “We made the silence of the protagonist into a joke in the Portals, but you only get to pull that gag once,” he wrote. “I had a lot fun writing for the Left 4 Deads where the characters were all little chatterboxes, so if I had my way we wouldn’t do any more silent protagonists.”
You don’t have to play standing up
The team had an update on locomotion and comfort features, as well as information on how accessibility will work. One thing in the works is one-armed play, which will allow players without the use of both hands to play Half-Life: Alyx. There’s also a Left-Handed mode, and you’ll be able to play seated.
There’ll be more information on locomotion features in the coming months before launch. Accessibility has been a big topic in gaming for the past few years, and VR games have their own challenges when you’re trying to reach as wide an audience as possible.
VR headcrabs may be a challenge for some players
If you’re curious about the terrifying, flying headcrabs from previous Half-Life games, they definitely return.
One dev, Tristan Reidford, shared that he could not deal with them in VR. “If I’m testing the game, and I’m in an area where I know one of those things is around, I’ll remove the head set and hold it off my face as I attempt navigate on the 2d monitor screen, to lessen the impact of headcrab discovery,” he wrote.
Reidford admitted that he’s the only one who has trouble handling headcrabs, but it sounds like there are lots of spooky and scary moments in the game... without going too far.
“Horror is part of the franchise, and through play testing, we feel like we’ve gained some confidence about where to draw this line,” Reidford wrote. “Some of our gorier visuals tend to evoke a grim fascination rather than revulsion or panic, and apart from myself, we’ve hardly ever seen anyone nope out of a play test, even during the creepier sections.”
On a cheerier note, you can put a bucket on a headcrab, and then the headcrab will scuttle around and drag the bucket on it. That’s not a bug, despite testers reporting it as such.
There will also apparently be at least one monster type that is sensitive to certain kinds of audio, and one enemy that can be dealt with via limb removal.