We corner Valve's Gabe Newell in an Alcatraz prison cell for the latest news on the game.
For months, September 30, the day when Half-Life 2 was scheduled to ship, stood as a key date in gamers' minds. But last week, Valve confirmed that the highly anticipated action game had been delayed and will ship later this year. Yesterday, Gabe Newell, Valve's founder and managing director, attended ATI's graphics card launch event at the former prison on Alcatraz Island, in the middle of the San Francisco Bay, to endorse ATI's cards and talk about why DirectX 9 is such an important standard for PC game developers.
While there was no new footage of Half-Life 2 at the event--which was also originally timed with the game's release date--we got an exclusive chance to talk to Newell on camera about Half-Life 2. Read on for more on the game's setting, Valve's position as a self-funded developer, the status of the multiplayer, and the latest news on the game's release schedule, and check out the video interview linked below.
GameSpot: How do you set the stage for Half-Life 2's world for those who have played Half-Life and those who haven't?
Gabe Newell: For us it's really important for the character of Gordon to be transparent, that how the player feels about what's going on and what the character is supposed to be feeling are relatively in sync.
At the beginning of the game, you're confused. The character is confused, and the player is confused. What's going on? What's happened to the passage of time? The last thing I remember is this other event, and now there's a fair amount of distance from that--spatially and temporally. I'm not in Black Mesa anymore--what happened?
So 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. That was one of the choices we made early on, to keep the player in sync with the game character as well as to accommodate people who hadn't played the original game--it sort of works on both levels.
GS: How would you compare the development process for the original Half-Life and what you've been through with Half-Life 2?
GN: With Half-Life we were trying to build the company at the same time as we were building the game. It was not a whole lot of fun to try to do both of those things at the same time. With Half-Life 2, we have a much better team and a much stronger team. Everybody from Half-Life has been through it before. People had at lot more confidence in terms of taking risks that those risks would pay off.
In a lot of ways--except for the fact that it's taken an unbelievably long time to do--Half-Life 2 has been a lot more fun for us than Half-Life.
GS: What are the specific challenges you're facing in wrapping the game up?
GN: Right now, the most important thing we're doing is watching people play. We learn a huge amount by sitting and watching people play, seeing what works and seeing what doesn't work, varying it. There's this notion of local task completion. This means that they're getting stuff done, that they're getting too frustrated, and that they're seeing enough interesting stuff on a regular schedule.
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? We just do that over and over, going through the game again and again.
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.
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