Half Life 2 Special EP20:
The Kinaesthetic Pastiche Buffet

By Shamus
on Jul 25, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

Enjoy this latest installment of Spoiler Warning, now with 50% more snobby art-game theory! (I kid. Sort of. I love me some snobby art-game theory.)

I make reference to Gordon Frohman near the end of the episode. If that reference went right by you, then check out Concerned, a Half-Life 2 fan comic. I consider it akin to my own comic. It was a finite series by design, based on screenshots, where a lot of the humor was derived from subverting a story already understood by the audience. Both series start out a little wobbly, but get to be really funny once they have the concept nailed down. Both are a good way to blow a couple of hours. They also ran at about the same time.

Tomorrow we hit the thrilling conclusion to this series. Are you excited? I’m excited.

Enjoyed this post? Please share!



A Hundred!20204144 comments. Or one gross, if you'll pardon the expression.

From the Archives:

  1. Ryan says:

    I feel it could be argued that Half-life 3 is waiting until Valve invents new tropes that are then dispersed into the FPS grab bag. The ties to Aperture Science, for instance, seem like an obvious excuse to reappropriate the Portal mechanics.

  2. noahpocalypse says:

    “Tomorrow we hit the thrilling conclusion to this series. Are you excited? I’m excited.

    Tagged: half-life, spoiler warning

    Oh. A comment. How droll.”

    Teehee

  3. AJ_Wings says:

    About the question regarding what mechanics can Half-Life 3 “borrow”, I’ve always wanted a Thief/Splinter Cell light and shadows stealth mechanic. Despite the variety that Half-Life 2 offers, I’ve never seen tackle stealth in an engaging way. Also, ripping off the gas mask mechanic from Metro 2033 can lead to some interesting gameplay. In that game, you had to protect yourself from melee attacks from mutants so that they don’t reak the gas mask and suffocate to death and you also had to worry about air filter scarcity and management. Could work in a Half-Life game.

  4. Sozac says:

    I love how Josh almost died on that little God-mode journey-49 health! I feel like the next Half-life will be when they cross it with Portal which should be inevitable.

    • Indy says:

      And some character in it will point out how both Gordan and Chell never say anything in a very natural in-joke. That’s the part I’m looking forward to the most.

      • Sozac says:

        I have sort of realized that them not talking is really important because of the antagonists they face are mostly all talk most of the time. If they could say anything back, I think it would either diminish what the antagonists say, or worse, make Freemen or Chell seem dumb. I like how they don’t need to talk, but speak with their actions while Breen and Glados fight mostly with words. I was looking at Breen’s messages for the ending and it was much more interesting to have Breen talk at you instead of you replying to either diminish his opinion or your own. I like him talking and thinking he is right and you just not caring what he has to say.

        • Eärlindor says:

          That is a really good point. I guess I never thought of it as Freeman not caring about what Breen’s saying; it’s an interesting interpretation. As much as I wanted to like Breen’s speech it bothered me because it felt like there was a good retort Freeman could give, which could potentially evolve into an interesting debate between the two characters. Anyway, it was one of the few times the whole silent protagonist thing bothered me, but there’s really only one instance in the game where it truly, truly bothers me… and we’re coming up on that next episode.

          • Sozac says:

            Well, that’s the thing about Chell and Freeman, is no matter what, they are getting to the end. If they have any defining characteristic, it’s that they are extremely determined. They may have to hear Glados and Breen, but Chell doesn’t have a breakdown and Freeman doesn’t even try to convince Breen. They both just keep fighting.

            I can see your point though. In other games, it’s pretty cool that you can convince of things. I like it in most of the Fallouts and I liked it with Saren, but if done wrong it can suck.

      • ? says:

        Personally I would like for those two to interact in situations that don’t really allow a conversation, like security camera footage, panel of thick glass between them, seeing each other from very far away, or inside the Aperture Science Sound Dampening Field TM (Stop unproductive water cooler gossip TODAY!).

  5. Varre says:

    Mumbles says HL2 isn’t all gray, while they run through a building made entirely of grayish metal, with some dull yellow wires thrown in. The elites, synth, physics gun, and energy balls add some color, but meh. I was tired of HL2 combat about the point where you start recruiting rebels in City 17, so being forced to kill more identical soldiers with a gun I disliked wasn’t too great.

    • swenson says:

      No, no, the Citadel’s all blue, not all gray, so it’s clearly much better.

      *sarcasm self-test complete*

      Seriously, though, HL2 has a lot more color than a lot of games. This section just doesn’t show much of it.

      • X2Eliah says:

        Hmm. Then again, Half-Life two is pretty desaturated all-round and has a lot less colour than any natural spectrum.

        • swenson says:

          Really? I always thought it was the most colorful of the games! It’s got those lovely greens and browns of nature and all that.

          Then again, I’m going by memory (and nostalgia filter) alone. I’ve never actually compared the games side by side.

          • X2Eliah says:

            Well, see, I’ve played oblivion, spaz and splice over the last 2 days. In terms of sheer colour intensity, they are far, far more.. er.. colourful; Set against those (And I’m sure there are tons more, if one has the will to look for them), HL2 actually strikes me as being comfortably on the bleaker half of the scales.

            Thematically, at least, HL2’s world was made intentionaly pseudo-bleak to have that used, gritty, solemn, cold eastern-european-cityscape feel.

            • newdarkcloud says:

              This is what makes me prefer Oblivion only slightly above Skyrim. (Well, that and what Skyrim did to the Thieves’ Guild, but I’d rather not get into that.) Oblivion’s environments are so much more colorful and varied than compared to its successor. It’s like “realism” automatically means “muted color palate” to game developers.

              Newsflash, the world is colorful. Look at Assassin’s Creed 2. They use color and use it well.

              • Fleaman says:

                Actually, interesting that you bring up Assassin’s Creed, since that series had a tonal shift that was sort of the opposite of Half-Life’s.

                Half-Life: Quake-derived speedy shooty fun time with lots of bright colors and goofy aliens.
                Half-Life 2: The aliens are faceless, colorless Soviets who oppress Eastern Europe, outlaw sex, and steal all the saturation. Your walk button is now a run button.

                Assassin’s Creed: Methodically assassinate your targets in the arid, washed-out Levant. Debate political philosophy and the morality of using dark means to a good end.
                Assassin’s Creed 2: Caper around cheerful Italy while solving the mystery of Dirk Dastardly’s plot to become Pope. Literally everyone in history was an Assassin or a Templar starting with Adam and Eve STUPID STUPID DUMB

                Sort of a see-saw. Assassin’s Creed is on one side and Half-Life is on the other, and they bounce up and down, alternating between splashing down into a puddle of mud and rising up among a bundle of jaunty balloons.

                And Cain was the first Templar. Shit, that’s stupid.

                • newdarkcloud says:

                  The thing is that the story is the only thing I didn’t like about the tonal shift. I loved that they finally used more color in the later games and I’m glad AC3 looks to be using color. I can only hope that the writing improves as well. I also like how they interjected moments of humor into the game.

                  AC2’s story isn’t bad, it just needed a more critical eye going over it.

                  I can’t comment on Half-Life because I never played the original Half-Life, though I bought the HL Collection during the Steam Sale. It’s on my list.

                  • Khizan says:

                    AC2 had a story? I thought it was just parkouring over buildings and killing guards?

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      I’ll even go so far as to say it had a pretty good one until the part where you do Carnival games in order to kill a dude and then find it to be a pointless waste of time.

                      But don’t take my word for it, a certain video game commentator had an interesting video about how shitty that segment was and how it ruined and otherwise decent story.

                    • Klay F. says:

                      I still say AssCreed 1 story & mechanics is superior to AssCreed 2.

                      In AssCreed 1 you actually had to act like an assassin (i.e. you couldn’t murder 50 guards at once, and had to actually use stealthy tactics). Sure it wasn’t perfect, but its better than Ezio Auditore da T-1000.

                    • newdarkcloud says:

                      Oh I totally agree. I just think Assassin’s Creed 2 got many other things right, like the use of color/scenery and developing the protagonist as a character.

                • Artur CalDazar says:

                  I much prefer Cain being the first Vampire.

                  • False Prophecy says:

                    It sure feels like the writers of Assassin’s Creed played a lot of World of Darkness, doesn’t it? Especially how every important person in history was either a Templar or Assassin.

                • Atarlost says:

                  Actually, this is a trend HL3 could use. Parkour and Arm Blades are in several major games from more than one franchise now. Sure, DE:HR is the only non-AC one, but still, it’s multiple franchises.

    • Thomas says:

      You say this, but actually this one of the few places in the game where from my non-playing spectator standpoint, I’ve thought, ‘this looks interesting’. Most of the off-white/grey bombed out buildings looked utterly boring to me, and the wasteland stuff was a bit… meh, but this I actually felt really good and wanted to explore it my self

      • Varre says:

        I liked the Citadel’s look, but the inside was monotonous; I disliked the gravity gun, so while I enjoyed the exterior style, and certain areas, I hated playing through the inside. Maybe having the ‘super-awesome-physics-engine-gun’ shoved in my face colors my impression. So, I love seeing the Citadel from across a city, but the inside was mostly bland.

        • Thomas says:

          Maybe it’s a one time thing, the first glance is good, having to spend a whole section of game in it is another.

          In fact maybe that’s why everyone talks about how good this game looks and I didn’t get it. It’s not particularly interesting just to look at, but they design it so it’s fun and good looking to actually explore and play around in

          • Varre says:

            The forests in episode 2 were nice, though the caves (and the reason you were in the caves) made me want to cut the knot and shoot Alyx in the head, but the Citadel is made up of three textures, with two hundred bad guys (who come in grey, or white), 5 robot cameras, and one strider. You’re also forced to use the gravity gun, which was always a gimmick to me, like the gravity gun inspired kinesis from Dead Space. Insta-killing dozens of guys at a time while running through the same boring corridors over and over again just to let myself get kidnapped by the Encl- Dr. Breen killed that last segment for me.

  6. newdarkcloud says:

    True story: I totally died in one of those Combine death beams. I don’t know why, but I thought “That beam must totally beam me up to the top.”

    In my defense, my first HL2 playthrough was after Mass Effect 3.

  7. swenson says:

    I unfortunately can’t watch this episode until later (why did I have to grow up and get a big girl job? :( ), but I already want to tell everyone who hasn’t read Concerned to read it. It is brilliant and hilarious, and you don’t even need to have played Half-Life 2 to get it–I actually hadn’t played the game when I read it for the first time. It actually spoils less than you might think, because without the context of the game, you don’t really get what’s going on where.

    Can’t wait to see that magical hovercraft!

    • Aldowyn says:

      Can you imagine watching Darths & Droids without watching the movies first? About the only thing that would get really spoiled is that Anakin goes bad. Everything else is horribly subverted, averted, and otherwise screwed up. At least DM of the Rings followed the basic plot line.

      • swenson says:

        Haha, I’ve also read all of Darths and Droids without ever seeing the prequels! I know roughly what happens, however, and I’ve seen the originals.

        In an interesting subversion, I actually have seen the LotR movies (and read the books), so during DM of the Rings, I actually got all of the side jokes…

    • SyrusRayne says:

      Seconding this; Long time Concerned fan (forum members thereof may recognize my name.) I picked up HL2 because of Concerned, and I can say that very little was spoiled. It’s also quite a good comic in it’s own right; Chris Livingston’s good at what he does. Which is writing things.

  8. SougoXIII says:

    Speaking of asspull/cheap ways of introducing new gameplay mechanics: Does it ever explain why did the machine thing disintegrate all of your weapons only to power up your gravity gun? Or is it a case of: ‘We’re taking all your toys and giving you this new one. Now run off to this playground specifically crafted for this toy and have fun!’

    The problem I have with switching mechanics on the fly is that the game can feel very artificial when a level is being design around a mechanic. It’s like: ‘Hey by some chance, I end up with this weapon/device/thing and the only way for me to get to my goal is through using it. Lucky me.’

    I’m not saying that this is a problem that the Half-life series suffer from (mainly because I haven’t play it) but this is a general problem I found with the games that I play.

    • Lalaland says:

      Not really no, it just says ‘play with this’. I never enjoyed the gravity gun in the game so this last section dragged even further, the iffyness with grabbing the ‘energy balls’ just drove me nuts.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      It was gordon frohman.He never got the hang of the controls.

    • newdarkcloud says:

      Episode One explains, before another similar section, that the radiation from the Combine confiscation field gives a temporary charge of awesomeness powers. Unfortunately, it wears off after awhile.

      So no, they don’t explain it adequately enough. I didn’t really care because I was laughing like a psychopath throughout this whole section. I’m not sure what that says about me.

      • swenson says:

        It says you appreciate the ability to vaporize people. What’s so bad about that? :D

        I approached this section the same way as you. “Who cares if it makes sense or not,” thought I, “when I can vaporize Combine and rip consoles out of walls and throw them at people?”

    • GM says:

      I thought it got charged from the other weapons which were disintegrated into basic building blocks.

  9. Wes1180 says:

    The first time you get into the chair, I had no clue what to do as it didn’t seem right for to get in, so I was there for a good 10 minutes just wondering what I was supposed to do, then I eventually tried it.

    • Paul Spooner says:

      Same here. I would have been much happier if I could have climbed all the way to the top of the citadel using maintenance ladders… or taken the chair. At least it would have felt like a choice.

      • RTBones says:

        Funny you mention maintenance ladders – on my first play-through in this section of the game, I spent a lot of time looking for ladders. Something in the back of my brain told me the ladders *had* to be there somewhere, and I kept thinking I had missed something.

      • Peter H. Coffin says:

        I’m going to co-opt this a little bit because once people get to the point of seeing 130 comments, they’re probably not going to read a new thread at the bottom…

        Choice is it. Choice is the thing that makes fun, and makes deep.

        This goes straight to the heart of the buffet of game-play styles problem that was being discussed in the video. Where mixing things up not only can keep things fresh, but also can be a real drag when you get to a section that features “not your cup of tea”.

        Be able to go around. That doesn’t require going full sandbox mode, but it does require being willing to make at least some sets of branching rails. For example:

        Maybe you don’t like driving. Maybe if you drive a little way up the road, there’s a train station. You can skip it, and do the whole driving section. Or, you can get out, wait for a while, and board a train. But to keep the train ride from being just watching scenery on as a free ride, maybe that wait involves either spending 10 minutes avoiding patrolling guards (stealth play) OR holing yourself up in the station with a pile of ammo and some gizmos and spending the time doing tower defense until the train shows up. Then you get two minutes of breather watching scenery roll by to set up the next piece. The driving section ends at the other train station. And all three game-play styles end up with exactly the same result.

        Similarly, the citadel could be as it is (restricted weapon firefight mixed with scenery), or (with an exposition telegraph that there’s another option — “If you get far enough into the belly of that beast, I’d bet they’d never even know you were there” from one of the squadmates earlier) that choice of chair rides in the first run could have an cracked open door beyond that leads into maintenance areas. And you find a crowbar, and spend the same amount of time climbing through vents and hallways, peering through grates (much like you did in Black Mesa back in the day) and dodging armed guards and fighting the rare headcrab or camerabot, until you end up at the second chair ride that disarms you no matter what. In which case, you entirely skip the whole upgraded grav gun, and the few inevitable camerabots are what tips Breen off that you’re even in the building at all.

        • Thomas says:

          I don’t feel you need choice in all linear games, or that it would even make the experience better. But with the Freeman = You, they do need to make it feel like you’re doing what you want to do, it would have to be very unobvious and I think probably a lot subtler than a train station, but there would be something added if Valve could multi-path areas in such a way that it feels which ever way youve gone is the natural one to take.

          But apparently in their level design, they’re pretty good at making it seem like the way forward happens to be the one you’ve chosen anyway, so I wouldn’t think it’s a fundamental flaw. Maybe one of the tradeoffs of pastiche gameplay is it doesn’t quite allow the flexibility/illusion of choice hoped for

    • Keredis says:

      I’d have thought it was obvious. I mean, the one chair takes you into a giant, insta-death electric beam. Clearly, the solution is to get into an exactly identical chair.

      I’ve never understood that.

  10. Littlefinger says:

    Really the most popular gameplay mechanic FPS land has seen since 2004 is the advent of the cover-based shooter. Which is so antithetical to HL2’s core gameplay that the internet would burn down if they implemented it.

    And it’s not the sort of gameplay I want to play, ever again.

    • bit says:

      Like someone above me said, there’s a whole tonne they could do with the recent plays in stealth gameplay, and Half-Life with a cloaking device would be tonnes of fun. If you look at stuff like ME, there’s been a lot of general improvement in having teammates that are fun to control, which would be a huge boon for the Alyx sections, and stuff like Mirror’s Edge, Crysis 2, and others have a lot of neat ways to move around the environment. Hell, they could even implement different types of ammo/gun augmentations, which you can see them already experimenting with in L4D2.

      • newdarkcloud says:

        But I don’t know if I want those particular flavors in Half-Life or not. Stealth and Exploration are not its strong suites, Combat and all it’s variations are (with a few simple puzzles thrown in).

        I’d be interested in a game where Valve experimented with these designs, but I’m undecided as to whether or not I’d want it to be Half-Life, if you know what I mean.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          But why not?You know that if valve would put it in,it wouldnt be mandatory,and it would probably be done well.

          • newdarkcloud says:

            I’m not concerned about that. I’m concerned that it might dilute the essential flavor of Half-Life, which (to me) is “interesting and well-done takes on common shooter tropes”. It’s something that’s hard to quantify.

            I don’t doubt that Valve wouldn’t release it until it was perfect, but it’s a question as to whether “Stealth and Shadows” and “Parkour Action” work with the Half-Life brand, which I don’t have an answer to.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      Half life 2 also has cover.Only you do it by standing behind objects,not hugging a wall.And while you are doing that,the enemies are actively running around,trying to get a better shot,not hugging the other side of the wall.So half life 2 had good cover mechanics before the cover systems became popular.

    • Annie Moose says:

      I mentioned this on the last video, but it bears mentioning again: I went back to a partial HL2 playthrough after a long stint of playing ME2 and died so very many times before I remembered how to play HL2 again. The ME2 play-peekaboo-with-enemies, arbitrarily-pause-to-strategize method does NOT work in HL2.

      That’s why HL2’s combat never gets boring to me. I might get tired of combat in general, but it’s never the “done this same thing a million times before” variety. There’s enough changes in environments, enemies, and just the aggressiveness of enemies in general that it doesn’t get stale.

      That’s something I like quite a bit about Mass Effect 3 multiplayer, actually–it has all the things I like about ME combat (the powers, more or less), but without the stuff I don’t like (the glacial pace).

    • Pattom says:

      I’m genuinely surprised that Chris didn’t mention regenerating health systems. Think about it: Halo 2 and Call of Duty 2 popularized an unorthodox method of managing your health, ensuring that combat didn’t lose its intensity by requiring you to avoid confrontation until the next medkit appeared. Gears of War and the cover-based shooter were born out of this decision, since regenerating health only offers an advantage when you can avoid enemy fire long enough to recharge.

      • Varre says:

        I liked Halo:CE’s system; you still had health, but the shields let you still take risks, and lessened the chances of you getting checkpointed into unwinnable situations. It made you a little more cautious, without forcing you to worry about being killed by one shot from an SMG, and made it so that combat had lasting effects beyond less ammo.

        • Daemian Lucifer says:

          Isnt that something similar to what me3 does?

          Anyway,Im puzzled by the shift from health management to ammo management.Before,we had weapons with zounds of bullets,but only pitiful amounts of health,and now we have practically infinite health,but can carry only pitiful amounts of bullets.

          • Thomas says:

            I’m not a fan, Resistance 1 did it yonks back when everyone was still deciding if they preferred games with regen health or not, but to give you the chance of actually dying the health segments have to be way too small to manage correctly. For me I just let my health get low and rely completely on shields.

            It worked a bit better in ME3 because it’s slower and coverbased so there’s more ability to limit the damage being taken

            EDIT: Maybe instead of health you could have a scratch bar, that takes on long time throughout the level to be worn down and instead of the point being it will kill you if you’re not careful, as it gets lower movement becomes more sluggish and lights darken etc as your life force gets worn down.

        • Pattom says:

          Right, I think a regenerating health system works as long as you have a buffer that means you have to worry about your health over the long term, not so much in moment-to-moment combat. Halo’s shield system is a great one, and I also like the variant that appears in Far Cry 2 and Mass Effect 3 (and also gives you a shield on top of your health). You have a health bar with five segments: if you take slight damage, each segment will regenerate, but once a segment is empty, it stays that way until you find a health kit. That allows you to take risks during combat without permanently crippling you if you fail; you’re weaker but it comes off as the game giving you a chance to rethink tactics rather than punishing you.

  11. Starkos says:

    I love how Dr. Breen says: “Gordon! Look at what you’re throwing away!” When all you’ve been doing is throwing everything around.

  12. Johan says:

    “Tomorrow we hit the thrilling conclusion to this series. Are you excited? I’m excited.”
    Are we going to find out who the G-man is? Is Dr.Breen Gordan’s father? Is Alyx a clone? Was it all just a dream?

  13. Corpital says:

    I never noticed this but how does this thingy you’re in move after they take the gravity gun away?
    You get grabbed by this hook and start moving and in Breens room there are more of these rails. But in between you are hovering on thin air?

  14. zob says:

    Now to think of it Concerned is how I found your site(well dm of the rings) in the first place.

  15. MisterS says:

    That’s an interesting point Shamus made at the 19 minute mark, about the change to the chair scene at the top of the citadel. I never played through the original version of that scene, so I never would have known it was changed. Having that detail patched away, a small part of the game’s history has been hidden, almost erased.

    Not having played Half Life 2 until several years after its original release, Valve must have patched in a number of changes between then and my first playthrough. Now I wonder what other tweaks might have made my experience subtly different from other players’s, and whether one could play an older version of the game.

    There’s the original version that’s on disks sold in stores (which Steam maliciously refuses to let anyone play) and the fully-patched, up-to-date version that you can download, but what’s the status of all the interstitial versions? Did Valve keep a record of them? Are they still in the source revision history, but not in binaries? How many copies of them exist “in the wild”, on the hard drives of players who played some time ago but haven’t started it up since?

    Steam is sorely lacking some mechanism for playing older versions of games, especially offline single-player games.

    Sorry if this comment was off topic.

    As for the episode, I imagined that Breen’s “can you name even one thing?” speech was him taunting Gordon about being a mute. “What’s that? Oh, you can’t name even one thing? Come on, just say one thing. Anything at all.”

    • Annie Moose says:

      There’s been a couple of updates to incorporate some things from the episodes into the first game. Or at least I know that certain Overwatch Soldier skins (shotgun soldiers, I believe) originally only appeared in Episode Two, but were retroactively added to HL2 and Episode One, for more variety.

  16. Jake Albano says:

    Josh, the mysterious creature towards the end is a Crab synth.
    http://www.combineoverwiki.net/wiki/Crab_Synth

  17. Littlefinger says:

    this seems relevant:

    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2012/07/25/unlimited-hyperborea-half-life-2s-missing-information/

    Joe Martin is a Half-Life 2 obsessive who often wells up with actual tears when he thinks of the content Valve cut during development. Imagine his joy at finding the Missing Information mod, which collects workable snippets from the stolen HL2 beta and assembles them into a Steam-compatible mod. Joe takes a look at the parts of HL2 Valve didn’t intend for us to see, and wonders if the game we got was the best it could have been.

  18. Alex says:

    I don’t think the Super Grav Gun was a contrivance because of the concept that was mentioned earlier in the vid: FPS set piece has its own little things, weird lore that we don’t understand, with internal logic that everyone understands and we just go along with.

    It creates a nice little intrigue to a story, without sounding like technobabble, because they use real physics terms that are properly applied. I especially love the Overwatch Dispatcher’s voice when it talks about you, providing context, “Incursion warning. Overwatch reports prodigal Anticitizen Freeman re-acquired at Zone: Nova Prospekt.”

    In the confiscation field, she provides a bit of jargon to justify it: “Counter-resonant singularity device detected.” This sounded super cool and the result was super cool. Technology from another universe, that may work on a completely different set of physics, or a different take on the same set, malfunctioned when it come up against a similarly advanced piece of Earth tech. Kinda cool, to me.

    • Klay F. says:

      Warning! Science Content: The actual name of the gravity gun is the Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator. Basically, zero point energy is the lowest possible amount of energy a system (be it physical or quantum) may have. Classically, at absolute zero, the potential energy of an atom is zero, quantum mechanically however, this is not true, because the uncertainty principle requires systems to have non-zero energy, which in turn is because even at absolute zero, all systems undergo quantum fluctuations.

      Don’t ask me how that works out to flinging things across the room because I have no idea. It has something to do with vacuum energy, which I won’t even try to pretend to understand. There’s a wikipedia article on it, you can look it up.

      • ps238principal says:

        I could send you a Zero Point Module to study. Ever since they canceled Stargate: Atlantis, I’ve had a few lying around that the Air Force doesn’t need anymore.

        Mostly I use it as a nightlight.

  19. silver Harloe says:

    Assume the genesis Portal was an attempt to create a new mechanic for HL2 to discover in the Borealis — they then thoroughly hashed all the things you can do with portals in two games… but in Portal all you have is the the portal gun. They could probably pastiche a bunch of cool sections in HL3 involving combining portals with other weapons… or maybe they tried that and discovered it was god mode and gave up on HL3.

    • ps238principal says:

      I think they can still have something like Portals for HL3 and explain the Borealis. In Portal 2, it’s established that you can’t make portals work unless the gun is shooting at surfaces covered in moon-gel. Still, they must have figured out another way of transporting things, as the Borealis disappeared. Ergo, some other, less successful version of portal tech was at play and could be conveniently limited in HL3 without letting Freeman walk around with a portal gun.

      • Volfram says:

        Moon dust isn’t necessary for portals, it just happens to be very good for creating them, and happens to be what the white gel is made with. Portals can mostly be placed on pretty much any flat surface of sufficient size which is not metallic.

    • SlothfulCobra says:

      I really don’t think that Valve is going to take Portal’s mechanics into Half-Life, mainly because Portal revolves around methodical puzzle-solving that wouldn’t properly integrate into combat situations, and everything about Portal as a game really breaks the magic of hiding the linearity that Half-Life focuses on.

      • Thomas says:

        But portals would be a very fun combat mechanic. Toss enemies about, get them to shoot each other, stand behind a wall and shoot through a portal. I definitely think we’re going to see some portal half-life combination going on at a point. It just wouldn’t fit the tone of the Portal games themselves to have a combat Portal 3.

  20. HBOrrgg says:

    I think there is an argument behind what Chris is trying to say which is that if they are breaking everything down into all these little set piece, “gimmick” areas then how many of those are really being fully explored? Definitely there is something to be said about the fact that nothing overstays its welcome, but at the same time you are going to get a lot of situations such as: “Wow! I really liked setting up those auto-turrets, figuring out their field of fire and setting up kill zones. Could I maybe get more of. . . no? Oh, ok. . .”

    • Thomas says:

      This is what I was going to say. In one of those critical path videos, Sid Meier says that one of the most satisfying parts of game is the learning experience
      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZSui19BC12Q&feature=plcp

      And that’s something that Half Life’s style lacks, which is a genuine con to the whole style. The way most games work is they start you on a mechanic at the beginning and complexify (that’s a word :D) it slowly as you become more and more adept until at the end they throw you a big challenge and it becomes ‘wow look how much better at this mechanic I’ve become’. That’s definitely the Portal experience for example, but by constantly changing playstyles you don’t get to learn and you don’t get to look back and say ‘wow I’ve grown in this game’

  21. ps238principal says:

    While “Concerned” is great, I think Shamus hasn’t give enough pimpage to a series I’ve enjoyed called Freeman’s Mind.

    At first, I thought Freeman’s portrayal was going to be “Homer Simpson with guns,” but it becomes apparent that he’s actually portrayed as a physicist, just one with a questionable sense of morals with some sociopathic and narcissistic tendencies.

    • Volfram says:

      Freeman’s mind is a fantastic mix of Let’s Play, Machinima, and deconstruction all in one.

      “This looks like a job for Ambassador Pineapple. You’ll be representing me on the floor. Now get out there and work your magic!”
      *BOOM!*
      “Looks like we came to a resolution!”

      “Trinitrotoluene doesn’t care what mood you’re in.”

  22. Hitch says:

    If the Half Life series is just a pastiche of FPS tropes (albeit done well) then logically Episode 3 would reflect the current state of the genre. That is to say; a game of chest-high walls, sticky cover, and two weapons at a time. Valve keeps prototyping that, looking at what they have, and cuing up the TF2 Engineer “Nope” gif.

  23. Michael says:

    Maybe Episode 3 is parodying Duke Nukem Forever?

    • ps238principal says:

      By keeping Freeman mute, isn’t that happening already?

    • Michael says:

      Serious thoughts:

      I would love to see Breen’s comment about Gordon not having achieved anything constructive addressed in a future game – to see the Resistance rebuilding and making plans for the future. However I suspect that if that does happen it’ll take place off-screen, while Gordon is in stasis or napping under a pile of rubble or something, and he won’t be involved.

      To respond to Chris’ question, I don’t think a game ought to pick a core mechanic or ought to showcase a bunch of different ones. There’s plenty of room out there for games that do a good job of either.

      (I found this with quite a few of the criticisms in the HL2 episode of Errant Signal. Features of the game which Chris cited as flaws are actually ones I really enjoy, even if I agree that they wouldn’t be suited to most games.)

  24. ps238principal says:

    Re: The Gravity Gun disintegrating organic matter.

    I’d explain it in the same way that the gun has been lethal to headcrabs and ant lions throughout the regular game: Whatever magic powers it in the first place is lethal to whatever things from the Combine-iverse are made out of. Presumably, the elite troopers in the citadel are sufficiently altered to have significant amount of alien genetic goop running through their veins. This, combined with the magic +1 of the weapon zapping field lets you treat Combine troops like headcrabs.

    Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be in engineering, recalibrating the plasma intake manifolds to accept quantum flux waves and produce anti-tachyonic radiation. Because these crow’s feet around the eyes ain’t gonna go away with aloe cream, I can tell you that…

    • Volfram says:

      The Gravity Gun is clearly a very dangerous weapon as indicated by the stuff that the safety interlocks don’t detect. Normally it will detect and refuse to activate on living creatures that could be considered humanoid(Overwatch, Rebels, Alyx), but the Combine desintigrator field overloaded and disabled the interlocks when it supercharged the Gravity Gun, and it probably did something similar to the Hazard Suit.

      That’s how I always interpreted it, anyway.

  25. SlothfulCobra says:

    Valve seemed like they were building towards new mechanics with the Combine Advisors along with the increasing importance of the Vortigaunts’ spiritual mumbo jumbo. They might have written themselves into a corner there, since it’s hard to figure out how to counter invisible telekinetic powers, and if they Gordon goes back to Xen, they’d have to completely revamp the area, while still maintaining the basic feel. And to top it all off, episode 2 ended implying that episode 3 might begin in a helicopter, which would also be an enormous challenge to integrate into gameplay.

    Story-wise, Valve has written themselves into a corner, since the entire supporting cast save Alyx has been left behind with no easily plausible way of bringing them back (maybe they could meet up with Barney again?). They have to invent some technological junk to explain what’s so massively important about the Borealis. They have to convey the implications of Eli getting his brain eaten without getting too depressing. And without Dr. Breen to kick around anymore, they no longer have a liaison to convey anything about the Combine to the player, which was fine in the earlier episodes where the Combine was disorganized and scattered, but it’s been implied that they’ve caught their second wind, so Valve needs to invent a new way to convey that the Combine has purpose and personality beyond “kill Gordon Freeman.”

    • ps238principal says:

      The Helicopter: You don’t have to pilot it, someone else can do that and drop you off. Loads of games do this. If they wanted to have you fly it, cool. I’d love to see a canyon-like area (they’d want walls to keep you on course) where you can shoot at Combine gun emplacements or other units defending the Borealis.

      Xen: Unnecessary, unless they just want a setpiece. They could perhaps have a way to move back and forth between Xen and our world as a puzzle solving mechanic: Is there a bottomless pit in one world? Maybe there’s a bridge in the other. And seeing Xen again might be kind of cool.

      The Supporting Cast: Mossman would be a viable person to run into, Alex would be along for the ride, and we’ve communicated with supporting cast members by monitor and radio before. Not to mention the whole game wouldn’t have to take place away from the rebel base. If you found some Science(TM), bringing it back for Kleiner and Magnusson to look at would be logical. Heck, they and everyone else could move to another facility while you’re away, giving you a new area to explore.

      The Implications: Easy. The Overlords now know everything you-know-who did, making their ability to show up as a plot-convenient time simple to explain.

      No Breen, No Problem: Losing Robert Culp was a blow, but technically, “Breen” could still be around. As I recall, he was talking about his mind/essence/whatever being downloaded or transferred or something, so having him show up as some kind of genetic Combine horror would be a final cap on his arguments about which side was better. This would alter his voice, of course, allowing another actor to pick up where Culp left off. An imperfect solution, but it’s there. If a semi-mad scientist type is more desirable, the Combine could snag an Aperture employee to use as its liason, making the securing of more Aperture tech a priority, since it could give the Combine an edge.

      There are always solutions. They just have to sound like they were planned out and/or make sense. Valve? If you’re impressed, call me. I like to write for money. :)

      • ps238principal says:

        Oooh: Dark idea for involving Aperture.

        In HL3, Freeman and the rebels should “save” a bunch of people from destruction by the Combine using an Aperture facility they discover in some city ruins. They can’t move, house, or feed such a large number of people, so they put them into these handy Aperture Science stasis chambers they’ve run across to be retrieved later after the Combine is defeated.

        The next time anything moves in the chamber is when Atlas and P-Body arrive to “save science,” but beggars can’t be choosers.

  26. Annie Moose says:

    I never noticed it until you guys mentioned it, but you’re right–parts of Portal really are very reminiscent of the Citadel. Huh.

    And the Breen speeches are pretty well the best part of HL2, aside from the gravity gun. They’re just so great! And they turn Breen from this sort of generic, yeah, he’s the guy who collaborated with the aliens, he’s evil, kill him, sort of villain into a complicated and interesting character. He truly believes he’s doing the right thing. He believes he’s better than you. All these facets of his character are brought out in those speeches. I love ’em!

  27. HBOrrgg says:

    Hey, I have an idea that would improve those restraint things. Instead of leaving an open one just sitting there for the player like they did, make it appear at the last platform as if the only way to progress is to make your way across a narrow I-beam. Then, as soon as the player is in the middle and can’t avoid it, one of those things zooms in from behind and locks them inside.

    Okey dokey then Valve, problem solved, job please!

  28. PurePareidolia says:

    I can’t really imagine saying Valve is out of mechanics – Just look at TF2.
    OK, so you’re in the arctic – maybe a flamethrower might be appropriate for melting ice early-Bioshock style, maybe a flare gun might be useful for setting zombies on fire in the dark, maybe some of the guns from the first game could make a return – the hivehand or something. That could be a great way to segue into having enemies with armoured and weak points such as the grunts from HL1 – maybe the advantage of the hivehand is it seeks out weak points but it doesn’t do much damage as opposed to the shotgun or something. Perhaps there’s going to be an elemental damage system where some guns work better against some enemies, and then each element has applications for certain puzzles – an acid gun that melts the aforementioned armour, as well as antlion secretions or something.

    I don’t think you can say they’re out of ideas to use at this point – there’s a lot left unexplored.

  29. Dante says:

    I found out the release date of Episode 3

    December 21st, 2012.

  30. Blovski says:

    In answer to Chris’s point that the game doesn’t mechanically have a heart/the story isn’t the point (and also that Gordon Freeman is a Mary Sue)… I think if there’s a heart (mechanical and storywise) in the Half-Life series it’s really that it encourages the player to project themselves into a hollow protagonist.

    So, from a gameplay perspective, I saw some of Soldierhawk’s HL-2 playthrough on Youtube. When I was going through City 17 at the start, I was so panicked by the first bit that I just kept running long past where I was meant to start playing it like a normal FPS, whereas she was way more cautious and took a lot more time looking around and crouching worriedly. Josh by contrast cheerfully blasted through it. Essentially, I think the content is deep enough and smoothly-executed enough that it allows the player to interpret and experience the same gameplay differently.

    From a story perspective, I saw a comment earlier about the Breen speech with Gordon’s implied response as not caring, actions in contrast to Breen’s wordiness or as confidence in his own rightness. I’d played the game with a sense of inevitability/necessity (which is odd because I played it with no prior knowledge of the story/G-Man plot), so I saw my response more as unwillingly following the dictates of the situation than heroism or badassness.

    (Likewise I felt *harrowing* guilt at all the mugs in City 17 following me overexcitedly… while I was unable to protect them and imagine others must’ve responded completely differently to that.)

    Anyway, slight wordiness aside, I think Half-Life 2 especially creates such an emotional connection with people by being a game where the first-person perspective and hollow protagonist naturally make you project your own subjective interpretations of the experience of content which is well-made enough that it doesn’t yank you out of character. I think in a sense the way it capitalises on the first-person-protagonist/player relationship is one of the reasons it works.

    Tl/dr – heart of HL-2 is the first-person perspective and not really the gameplay or the story, though both are pretty strong.

  31. Jokerman says:

    Shamus, Did you ever think about doing other DM of the….. type comics? Based on other series? Loved the LOTR one.

  32. JPH says:

    I really want to play Desert Bus: Source now.

    PHYSICS!

  33. Gravebound says:

    Re: Mumbles’ “magic attacks”:

    Hexen (1995)
    Clive Barker’s Undying (2001)
    Vampire: The Masquerade – Bloodlines (2004)
    then Bioshock (2007)

    If Half-Life was going to copy “magic attack” mechanics it has several games prior to Bioshock that it could have copied. (and probably more I’m not remembering)

    And I liked all of them more than I did Bioshock, as well. (But that’s just me.)

  34. X2Eliah says:

    Oh yeah just remembered… Another reason why there won’t be a HL3 or episode 3 (very probably oh-come-on-you-know-there-wont-be) is that the lead art designer left Valve to make Dishonored with Bethesda. In this case, art design meaning the ideas on how locations, enemies, objects, cars etc would look and function like.

    Also, what with Valve having no corporate oversight (as they so eagerly are trying to convince everyone else), most likely nobody really gives a damn about Half-Life [somethingmaybe] 3 there.

    • Even says:

      I wouldn’t count it out until we’ll hear them say otherwise. More than likely there won’t be an “Episode 3” (Gabe pretty much said in a past interview that they’re abandoning the episodic content model), but I find it hard to believe they’d just let the series go without at least giving the word that they’re moving on to other things. I don’t know what you mean with ‘lack of corporate oversight’ but if there’s one thing they do have going for them, it’s passion and dedication. There’s just no way they’d have forgotten or stopped caring about a series going for a decade that used to be their flagship title.

      I still can’t say I appreciate their traditional lack of communication about projects still far from release, but so far I don’t see a reason to assume they’d just outright abandon a popular series in quiet.

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