Half Life 2 Special EP21:Time, Dr. Freeman?

By Shamus
on Jul 26, 2012
Filed under:
Spoiler Warning


Link (YouTube)

And so we come to the end of Half-Life 2. I know I joke about this show being a podcast with a quasi-related video feed. That might be particularly true here. This series has been fun. We’ll probably just roll on into the episodes as time allows, although the plan now is to cover Mass Effect 3.

Annotated:

Breen’s office is where the final installment of After After Curfew was shot.

These are the Wayans Brothers I was talking about, and this is Damian Wayne. Chris mentioned Sphere, the movie. An interesting note about Sphere is that it starred Sharon Stone, Samuel L. Awesome, and Dustin Hoffman. At the time it was rare to get those kind of names into Sci-Fi movies, and yet I never heard of Sphere. Nothing. I didn’t know it existed until I saw it on Netflix almost a decade later.

I made reference to the Valve Employeee Handbook, a document so amazing I literally feel a rush of adrenaline when I read it. In the past I referred to my childhood, where I became excited to the point of agitation during my first encounter with a quasi-computer. Three decades later, I feel the same sort of trembling-hands excitement when I read the handbook. Not because, “Oh! Valve makes videogames and that’s fun!” but because their development philosophy and company culture crystallizes everything I’ve said about how a creative company needs to work: Hire good people, trust them to do their jobs. At Valve they take this idea to its logical extreme, and the result is a company and set of products unlike any other. While I like me some Valve games, I’m more excited for their ideas about motivation, creativity, organization, and hierarchy than I am about the next installment of Half-Life.

In short, there is a reason that Steam is the way it is, and Origin is the way it is. Valve is making money, making hit games, growing in power, and steering the industry. Their methods and ideas are public, and yet other companies are physically incapable of copying them because in order to copy Valve you have to change your culture. Valve culture is completely antithetical to the people running EA, to the point where, if you suggested running a company that way, they would probably imagine some sort of BioShock-esqe dystopian madhouse of feuding and destruction. In the EA mindset, the only way people can make something great is if you tell them exactly what to do and then squeeze them really hard. The same is true for most of the other big publishers as well.

I mean, how could a smart, motivated, educated, personable employee with good communication skills POSSIBLY do good work unless you stood over them for 14 hours a day?

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A Hundred!2015There are 135 comments here. I really hope you like reading.

From the Archives:

  1. MikeShikle says:

    Gabe Newell is planing to start Rapture, a Steam powered utopia. I called it.

  2. noahpocalypse says:

    I’d like to take this opportunity to praise Bungie. I don’t recall the details, but their behavior, culture, and to a certain extent, business model, is very similar to Valve’s. The culture is practically identical, except perhaps a little more sophomoric- sauteed Ling Ling, anyone?

  3. Ryan says:

    The G-Man is a high point in the evolution of linear video games questioning the validity of player agency, which is something Valve enjoys- actually, just about every game they’ve made since this has toyed with the ‘voice in your ear’.

    • Ambitious Sloth says:

      For some reason whenever I think about this idea I imagine the G-Man and the narrator from The Stanley Parable high-fiving.

      • Sozac says:

        On this point, a reminder if Shamus sees this. I don’t know if this is a playdate game, but DO THE STANLEY PARABLE! ALL ENDINGS! My favorite ending is the one where he explodes you. I just like it in general when he get’s mad at you for going off the rails, like an upset GM.

  4. X2Eliah says:

    Re: that Wayne thing: And that is precisely why you all ought to do Batman: Arkham Asylum / City sometime next.

    G-man being an allegory (or something) for game developers.. Idk, it does seem to work, in a way, but perhaps that’s more just a coincidence and a slight stretch of the supporting argument? On the whole, G-Man does not much feel like a ‘nudge-wink-seewhatwedidthar??’ thing, perhaps some folks at Valve, while making the game, just liked the whole g-man thing from the first game and planned to just expand on that because why not. Of all companies, it feels like Valve is the most likely to go in for the “because why not” ideas.

    • Gruhunchously says:

      Game development isn’t about “why”, it’s about “why not”! Why don’t you let “safe game develpment” hit you in the back on the way out, ’cause your FIRED!

    • Eärlindor says:

      Why have him in the first game at all if you were never going to do anything with him? Especially considering the way Half-Life ended.

      • 4th Dimension says:

        Because he is usefull for the plot. He can effectivly freeze Freeman and transport him straight to the next battlefield. So Freeman’s experience is COMPLETELY identical to the player one. There is no chance of somebody asking what did freeman do for years between games, because nothing there happened. NO time existed to Freeman between HL1 credits and HL2 begging. Thus we become DR Freeman.

        Also he is a bit of a answer to any plot question, like:
        Why did something happen? Why did I acquire a rocket launcher just before game introduced enemies that can only be killed with it? and such. The answer of course is The G-man/Wizard did it.

        • Eärlindor says:

          Oh no, lol, you misunderstand me. I was responding to this particular comment:

          perhaps some folks at Valve, while making the game, just liked the whole g-man thing from the first game and planned to just expand on that because why not.

          I didn’t quite understand what he was saying here. What I was trying to say was “Of course they’re doing something with him. Why would he only show up in the first game? Why not expand upon him/bring him back?” That sort of thing. Sorry if that wasn’t clear.

          • X2Eliah says:

            I meant that as “The Valve devs for HL2 took and used G-man because he was there and was cool, not because they wanted to sculpt a careful meta-analogy on game developer & gamer relations through the medium of the game itself.”

    • Aldowyn says:

      I feel like watching Josh play the Arkham games would be absolutely HILARIOUS…

    • GiantRaven says:

      I honestly don’t think I’d be able to take the thrashing the Batman/DC mythos would get if there was a Batman spoiler warning.

      • Annie Moose says:

        Oh, I could. Batman is my favorite superhero ever (well, technically Tim Drake is, but he’s like… superhero-lite. Or Catwoman, but she’s not a hero.); I’ve read more Batman comics than I can remember. And the truth is, it’s an inherently absurd concept. (it’s simultaneously an incredibly awesome one, of course)

        • Mumbles says:

          well well well if it isn’t a tim drake fan

          by the laws of damian wayne i am afraid we are now enemies.

          ill see you in robin hell.

          • Annie Moose says:

            Hey now, Damian is pretty interesting too… if you overlook the obnoxious little snot part of him. Except that would mean there was nothing left.

            Which would be excellent! Victory for everyone!

            (Nah, I like Damian all right. He’s hilarious. But Tim still is my favorite Robin.)

  5. False Prophecy says:

    Freeman having a fiancée he doesn’t remember having? Didn’t Quantum Leap do that?

  6. Gruhunchously says:

    Game development isn’t about “why”, it’s about “why not”!

  7. Grampy_Bone says:

    Valve isn’t really good at making games, they’re good at hiring young, inexperienced developers with good ideas (Portal, Left 4 Dead) and exploiting them.

    • Shamus says:

      By “exploiting them” you mean paying them an above-average salary to work civilized hours in a comfortable environments?

      The bastards!

      • Clint Olson says:

        …just out of curiosity, have you applied at Valve, Shamus? It sounds like your cup of tea, and *cough* I certainly wouldn’t mind showing you guys around the Seattle area ;)

        • PurePareidolia says:

          Do it. Show Gabe this LP as your resume. In fact, show him anyway because he’ll probably actually reply. Valve employees are cool like that.

      • ENC says:

        I don’t know what the USA is like by bragging about being paid ‘above-average’ wage isn’t particularly a good thing in any industry; you should all have it.

        I’m not a fanboy of Valve either because of the ‘exploit the consumers psyche’ all the big players are using now, and Valve try to achieve that through brand loyalty.

        I mean, Valve couldn’t be every company’s goal in the industry as their last game to come out (that wasn’t a polishing of an existing good game/mod) as Half-Life 2: Episode 2. I’m pretty sure every publisher except Valve would go bust with this style of thinking considering releasing games cheaply goes hand in hand with their Steam loyalty strategy, whereas no other publishers are privvy to this.

        • Klay F. says:

          Wait a minute. So Valve trying its level best to inspire customer loyalty is “exploiting consumers” now?

          Is this some new off-shoot of The Great Keynesian Fallacy?

        • Shamus says:

          Did you just say everyone should be paid above average?

          • Bryan says:

            Even better: everyone’s pay should be greater than the median!

            …what…no…arrrrrrrg, brain explode!

            • Thomas says:

              I think he meant that if you work in a specialised industry, then you should be paid over the national average wage. Whereas I think you guys were using average as ‘industry average’ ?

              • ENC says:

                Poor wording on my behalf: I was referring to Valve being one of the biggest game companies (probably only behind ActiBlizzard at $1bn in profits every year and EA maybe); thus they have an incentive to pay their employees above average to actually keep them.

                In the same way an indie company (or a *shudder* facebook game company that isn’t Farmville) would likely pay below average as the developers are trying to get the experience to go to a company or simply want to do it as a passion. Money talks more than ‘I want to work for Google/Microsoft/Valve/some other enormous company’ for anyone with the seniority to be able to pick and choose.

                I do admire their work ethos too; I really do. But it’s 1 in a 1000 company that can do it, and too many would fail trying to implement it; let alone trying to change what is already in place with the russian roulette that is the games industry these days.

                The only other company off the top of my head that hires modders (although games that allow mods either can’t afford to hire the entire team that worked on it or can’t get the person due to personal issues and moving to another country) are GPG (formerly Cavedog) whom hired an AI mod programmer from SupCOm for the sequel (and it was the best AI I had ever seen in an RTS; as I was destroying his base he had spent his last resources on an assassination squad bypassing all my defences to target my ACU).

                I’d be interested to know whether valve hire from overseas as well; Dean Hall/Rocket the creator of the Day Z mod is a New Zealander working for BIS (who make ArmA 2) and he said there is quite a language barrier.

                • Thomas says:

                  Didn’t the Civ team hire a modder? Fireaxis?

                  The Valve thing is great, but apart from anything else, they say they have to turn people down who are good at their jobs, because it requires a very particular type of person. So there isn’t enough space for lots of companies to do it. And Valve have Steam so they don’t have to care about release dates. Can you imagine if Obsidian were told that they had a secure enough income to release a game when they wanted rather than when they had to?:D

    • King Lysandus says:

      I’m a young, inexperienced game designer… Valve can “exploit” me anytime they feel like it!

      I will wipe away my tears with job satisfaction.

    • PAK says:

      Not only do they pay them above-average, as Shamus notes, but they give them the training and the tools they need to succeed, encourage them to experiment and ask questions, and then turn them loose as project managers and such and trust that they’ll do a good job. Where else in the industry (in much of ANY industry, for that matter) could a young woman like Kim Swift make a name for herself so quickly and credibly? Sure, Valve kept the property and went their own way with it when Kim left, but it’s not like they didn’t let her take her share of the glory for the first installment.

      And, I mean, is your argument really that a creative company SHOULDN’T be going after fresh young talent and encouraging them to prove themselves? If only more creative industry followed their example.

      (By the way, I don’t care for many of Valve’s games (though I have a soft spot for Portal). I recognize they’re very polished, and intellectually I know they’re good, but they mostly aren’t my thing. So I’m not like a fanboy or anything.)

    • Paul Spooner says:

      It turns out that the Seattle area is just lousy with companies like Valve. It’s not the right place for everyone, but if you’re motivated and interested in getting things done, it rocks. I happen to work for a company like this, and it’s amazing the things you can accomplish when someone trusts you to do your job and gives you the right tools to work with.

      I smell another troll. But, if you have a horror story from behind the facade of Valve, I’m sure we’d love to hear it.

    • Eärlindor says:

      Yeeeeaaaah… considering the lighting, art direction, level design, narrative execution (dialogue, visual), etc. I have a very hard time believing that. :P

    • newdarkcloud says:

      If that’s exploitation, then Valve can lock me in a room and exploit the hell out of me.

    • Daemian Lucifer says:

      @Everyone else responding to this comment
      I wonder when “exploitation” became a dirty word.It used to mean merely “using the resource at your disposal”.It had nothing to do with payment,benefits,work conditions,etc.

      I mean I understand what the word usually means today,but Im wonder when it morphed from “using resources” to “abusing resources”.

      • JPH says:

        Two main definitions for the word “exploit” as a verb:

        1. to utilize, especially for profit; turn to practical account: to exploit a business opportunity.
        2. to use selfishly for one’s own ends: employers who exploit their workers.

        The second definition is usually the one everyone uses in this context.

      • Deadyawn says:

        In the words of yes man: “Did I say exploiting? That’s not a very nice word…”

        Connotations like that just develop over time. It’s how langauge works. You can’t really point to a specific event and go “there, thats where the meaning of this word changed”. It’s gradual.

        • Thomas says:

          We’re stronger for it too. Having exploit mean use is useless because we can just have ‘use’ and be done with it. Having more negative or thorough connotations gives it a purpose

    • Loonyyy says:

      Keep telling yourself that. I mean, it’s not like a cursory look at wikipedia would set you straight on it or anything. And it’s totally not like those “young inexperienced developers” become a part of the Valve that then “exploits” a new group of “young inexperienced developers”, of course, instead they magically lose their imagination and talent before becoming exploiters themselves! Oh, so obvious!

      Because it’s not like Counter Strike was from 2000, Portal from 2007 and Left 4 Dead was from 2008. It’s not like the sequels to these games, bereft of being new ideas by “young inexperienced developers” were good games in their own right.

      Gee, I wonder if there’s a world where moronic contrarianism bereft of sense doesn’t exist. I’m sure it’d be inhabited by a less sarcastic me.

  8. Eärlindor says:

    3:28 – Uh, guys? Breen’s going for the Gravity Gun–okay he has the Gravity Gun–TURN AROUND TURN AROUND–

    –Blam!–

    –RAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAGE!!!

    That’s pretty much the one time I hate Gordon being a silent protagonist.

    13:59 – I really like the G-Man too. I know there’s really not much going for him, but I dunno, I guess I’m drawn to all-powerful entities with unknown motivations.

    And actually I was recently playing Half-Life 2 Episode 2 with the developer commentary, and they said something about debating how much about the G-Man they wanted to reveal to the player. That kinda makes me think they do have a plan for him.

  9. James says:

    I kind of only have one problem with Valve. shut up hear me out, as much as Steam is a excellent platform (aside some issues with getting games on there for SOME see i said SOME DONT EAT ME indies) is im not comfortable with them having a monopoly, not because its valve, they generally make excellent decisions and could release every game the make in the future for free and still would make a comfortable profit. but because of SOME of the fans.

    case and point, a game, chose NOT to release on steam, don’t care why they just chose not to. and a Backlash of comments with the general attitude of “if its not on steam i’m going to pirate it came out” this, this is why i’m uncomfortable with steams monopoly.

    also playing offline on steam is a pain in the dick, you have to log in to actually go into offline mode, what if my internet is down steam, what then i cant play my library of games that are on my HDD,

    all in all, steam is great, ‘im just not totally comfortable with monopolies

    • Alex the Too Old says:

      shut up hear me out

      Your tone is all over the map.

      and a Backlash of comments with the general attitude of “if its not on steam i’m going to pirate it came out” this, this is why i’m uncomfortable with steams monopoly.

      That’s not a monopoly.

      • Aldowyn says:

        That’s not Steam’s fault, that’s the pirate’s fault. Not EVERYTHING can be on Steam…

        Totalbiscuit did a mailbox on this… last week, I think. And Valve might as well have a monopoly on the PC digital distribution market :/

    • Lame Duck says:

      Having a monopoly is not the same thing as having a large market share. There are plenty of competing digital distribution services.

      • Shamus says:

        While I agree that they aren’t really a monopoly, I agree with the sentiment that it’s not ideal for consumers to have so much power in the hands of one company. It hasn’t hurt us yet, and Valve hasn’t done anything wrong, but we would be better off if there was another company trying to out-Steam Valve.

        I want to be careful here, because usually when accusations of monopoly are being tossed around, there this assumption that SOMEBODY should do SOMETHING to the leader. I’m not on board with that line of thinking at all.

        There’s an old joke where an old-timey top-hat wearing tycoon booms something to the effect of, “We’re not a monopoly on purpose, it’s just that our products are SO GOOD that nobody feels the need to compete with us!” In this case, you’d need a version that looks like Gabe Newell, and instead of a top hat he’s wearing 50 TF2 hats, and he’s saying, “We’re not a monopoly on purpose, it’s just that our competition is SO STUPID they can’t compete with us, even though they have more money and all our techniques are public and they’ve had 10 years to figure it out!”

        It’s not that I want Steam to have more or less market share, it’s that I want the other guys to make an honest effort to TAKE IT from them.

        • Annie Moose says:

          Your image of Gabe Newell would be wearing a Towering Pillar of Hats.

          Tarnish notte the majesty of my TOWER of HATS!

          More on topic, I agree with you. It would be nice if there was someone out there offering genuine competition to Valve, not simply because it would protect against Valve ever deciding to become cartoonishly villainous, but also because it would pressure Valve into continuously improving rather than stagnating.

          Of course I could mention Origin or Games for Windows, but those are so far behind Steam they don’t even count for the purposes of this discussion.

        • Lame Duck says:

          I would actually say that Valve has done something wrong by using the good features of it’s service to insinuate DRM into our lives. Compared to other companies’ forcible attempts to ram DRM into our lives, Valve comes off pretty well, but I’m still not happy about it.

          I think the only solution is for you to create your own digital distribution service, Shamus. Make it have all the good features of Steam except without it also being DRM. Plus, I should be able to transfer all of my games from Steam over to it so they don’t have to have DRM either. Also, unicorns.

          • JPH says:

            If you want a good digital distribution service that doesn’t have DRM, then look no further than GOG.

          • Loonyyy says:

            I’m not sure it’s “wrong” per se, I’d say that it makes itself a viable option. We can trade some control of our games usage for a social service and aggregate gate and browser service for our games. They’ve never been all that closed lips about their DRM, so I don’t really see it as insinuating.

        • PurePareidolia says:

          This exactly – it’s really hard to argue steam doesn’t deserve it’s monopoly because they’ve certainly done everything in their power to invite the rest of the industry to share.

          Also: “employeee handbook”

        • decius says:

          I don’t think it’s a problem that nobody’s figured out how to do Steam better than Valve. I think that anything that any other company did that gave them an edge over Steam would be adapted by Valve/Steam.

          I would be impressed by anyone who tried to compete on the same terms, rather than trying to bring the software-as-a-box business plan to digital distribution.

          Anyone have a link to the 900x times profit gained by radically dropping prices story?

    • some random dood says:

      Please check out Shamus’ rants about other game stores e.g. Origins or Games for Windows. Basically, you can use Steam and have a smooth purchasing experience, or you can use one of the others and have an experience not totally dissimilar to multiple blows to your genital area.
      Maybe when those other services can actually provide a customer service rather than treat you like a wallet to be raped then people will stop complaining about games not being provided on Steam. E.g. I’ve heard good things about the Batman games – but as they are on Games for Wash-your-mouth-out, I am not going to try them. I’ll just wait until they are on gog.com.

      • Thomas says:

        I’ve had a better experience with GoG than Steam at least, I think I haven’t got offline mode figured out properly yet but when my internet connections dodgy it’s really hard to play anything. It insists on reinstalling direct x whenever I play Bastion (even if i’ve touched nothing but Bastion). I have to wait for Steam to load and then wait for my game to load, it shows adds, it’s slower to turn itself off than it should be etc…

        It’s not awful, but it’s not GoG in terms of quality of experience (for me at least) but game selection is different. Still, I decided to download all my Humble Bundle games from Steam to save the guys bandwidth (does that even make sense?) and I would have had a much less hassled experience if I’d just downloaded from them

    • Nicholas says:

      To have a monopoly you have to have removed all other competitors so that you can manipulate the market. Origin, GFWL, Stardock all have issues, some more than others, but they are not dead. Neither are Good Old Games.

      Is Steam head and shoulders the better platform at the moment? Absolutely. If they suddenly started being dicks and Origin got it’s act together somehow in a fairly out-there hypothetical, you’d get backlash and people and companies switching platform. That’s what keeps Valve honest, aside from their own ethics.

      It’s not a monopoly. It’s some people who use Steam being dicks about games not on Steam. That’s entirely different

      • Tohron says:

        Just FYI, Stardock sold Impulse to Gamestop (to focus on making games, since apparently many devs had been kept busy with Impulse) so they’re not in the digital distribution market anymore.

    • James says:

      Let my first apolgise, for getting my thoughts all in in a jumble. at let me try and distill it down to something that sounds less weird.

      1; Valve don’t have a monopoly, they do have some competition, Origin is meh, but there is also Desura, GoG, Impulse, GfWL (i add it ‘cus it exits not cus i think its a good alternative), its just Steam is the vast majority of the market.

      2; the thing about dipshit pirates is not Valve’s fault and i didn’t mean it to be. i still standby my thought it is a symptom of there market share, but its not their fault and there really is nothing they or anyone can do and thats sad.

      3; i honestly think NO-ONE should have a monopoly ever, or in this case, this much of a a market majority, theirs nothing i or valve can really do about it, but we need more/better competition if GFWL didn’t suck so hard its a detraction from any game it has, or if GoG had a larger market share, which in turn would give CDProjekt more freedom(to make more super aswome games like The Witcher 2), competition drives innovation. steams great, but competition could drive it to be even better.

      4; before the greenlight program it could be hard to get on steam, and some utter awful game could.

      5; Steam has DRM its sometimes not noticed ‘cus of all the good things steam has but its there, and can be really annoying. and steam (and by extension blizzard, seam to get a free pass for this kind of allways online DRM). and i know there is a offline mode for steam, but you have to log in to turn it on. which isnt allways possible.

      And let me apoligise for the all over the map tone.

      • Dirigible says:

        Generally I want to keep my games all in one spot, but there was an indie bundle on Desura at some point (Indie Royale, I believe), so I decided to try it out. It actually won’t login. By default it doesn’t have rights to the LAN connection or something, and for whatever reason I can’t actually fix it on my PC. Trying to allow it (Deep within the system panel) brings up an error.

        At this point it’s either a choice between Steam, not being able to download things at all because I need to do so in parts (GamersGate and GoG), games I don’t want (Origin), or the service which doesn’t work in an absurdly specific way (Desura). So I use Steam.

      • Loonyyy says:

        Thanks for clearing that up.

        I’d have to disagree with 2) though. If I can’t get a game on steam, or in a store, or anywhere, I’ll pirate it. It’s nothing to do with the market share, it’s to do with game availability. The game is unavailable, it’s not at all a lost sale, it’s out of production. And I’m someone who goes out of my way to pay for things I’ve gotten (I’ve got an entire shelf full of CD’s I’ve bought cause I like pirated music given to me by friends). I sincerely doubt there are many who go between either: Steam or Piracy. Most pirates are doing it for the convenience and cost effectiveness, and piracy still beats steam pretty well.

        3) There are laws against certain forms of anti-competitive business practices just for the purpose of preventing monopolies. They vary from country to country. Monopolies are a lot harder to create than people realise.

        5) Totally agree. Many overlook Steam’s DRM. That said, they at least get the permanent net connection stuff better than most others do (Diablo III anyone?).

  10. newdarkcloud says:

    Now that this has finally been finished, we can move on to the start of the next season.

    Spoiler Warning: Season 9: Assassin’s Creed: Brotherhood: Too many colons: It’s complicated.

    I can’t wait.

  11. Littlefinger says:

    Isn’t the G-man’s appeal mostly based Lovecraftian suggestion? I mean that the story keeps hinting at great powers without ever confirming or denying that he does or doesn’t have them; leaving the player to wonder “what can it possibly mean”. This is reinforced by his almost normal yet subtly “off” speech and mannerisms.

    My point is that the appeal of the G-man is the mystery. If valve ever explains what the guy is actually about, the answer had better be as interesting as the mystery or the audience will become aware of the cheap trick the gman actually is.

    That said, I’m a sucker for figures like the g-man.

    • PurePareidolia says:

      Mysteries stop being interesting if we never ever get any clues. It’s not a deduction we’re making so literally any answer is as good as the next.

  12. Dovius says:

    “Mooseman, charge him.”

    Unloosh the Moose, as it were.

    Also love how the Brust disappears just when Josh looks away for a second, like it’s some monster that’s gonna show up later.

    That’d be kinda funny, actually. You destabilize the reactor, then the bust jumps you from behind and tries to wrestle you over the edge of the balcony.
    Kinda like a smaller Gollum with a cool beard.

  13. silver Harloe says:

    The problem with G-man as developer is the beginning of ep1: the vorts explicitly override his wishes and pull you out of G-man’s stasis and Alyx out of the explosion…

    • Jabrwock says:

      It’s almost like the Vorts figured out the console interface. ;)

      I assumed a Reboot-style moment. Where the game sprites figure out how to break the game-engine.

      The G-man was quite annoyed, like he’d just found a bug.

  14. Slothful says:

    Valve seems like one of those companies that most people would cut off their right foot to work at.

  15. Sumanai says:

    I knew about the general stupidity of Damian Wayne (Hey! Let’s give a hero a son!), but just a cursory glance on the wiki gave out new layers of stupid I did not quite expect.

    I’m not getting into specifics, since I’m not by my computer, but I suggest checking his mother’s aliases and the explanation for one of them. Either there’s a screw up on the wiki, or DC did some top notch work there.

    • GiantRaven says:

      Please, Damian Wayne is a fountain of brattish hilarity. One of the best characters to come from DC in recent times.

      [/fanboy moment]

    • Peter H. Coffin says:

      It’s some kind of horrible coincidence that I checked The Resurrection of Ra’s Al Ghul out of the library on Monday…

    • Sumanai says:

      Okay, so, the name: “Talia al Ghul”

      alias “Talia Head”, even now the wiki mentions that it’s “obviously derived from her father’s name” which, according to the wiki, is Ra’s (Head) Al (of the) Ghul (Demon). So it should be “Talia Demon” to make any sense. Which does exist on the list of aliases, although I don’t remember seeing that back when I made that comment above.

      Speaking of aliases, only one of them is not stupid sounding and that one is not from the comic books. I won’t post it here, because it might count as spoilers, so careful on the wiki.

      But let’s get to Damian. First of all, real inventive giving the “son of the demon” * the name “Damian”.

      * Shouldn’t Talia be “daughter of the demon”, with Damian being the “grandson of the demon”?

      Here’s a fun quote from the wiki: “Genetically perfected and grown in an artificial womb…” Yeah, how exactly is he “Batman’s son”, since Batman neither fathered him nor actually shares half of the genes since he was “perfected”? Not to mention that the reason people find Batman boring is because he’s “too perfect” already.

      Actually, there’s too much to cover in a single comment. But here’s the gist: every event from the comics that I randomly read on the wiki involves bits of 90s anti-hero, grimdark and a bratty, no-sense-at-all kid that is written by a group of hack writers.

      One last note: On Batman #666 Damian Wayne has become the Batman. Real subtle, DC, real subtle. What’s written about the story is hilariawful, by the way.

      So, GiantRaven, I take it you like him in the “so bad it’s hilarious” way?

  16. Spammy says:

    I don’t think there’s a whole lot of weight to the idea of the G-Man as the game developer. Although, when I think of games discussion the relationship between developers, publishers, and players, my perception is somewhat spoiled after playing No More Heroes 2, which did all of that but much more clearly than the G-Man did. I never even thought of that while playing Half-Life 2, even though I played it after playing NMH2.

  17. Alex says:

    Wait, if G-Man is an allegory for the developers, and in the opening of Episode 1, the Vorts free you from his control does that mean that the embodiment of Gordon, Us, has to make Half-Life 3?

    • Nick Pitino says:

      Wait, I’ve got it.

      Valve will wait long enough for the fans to get so fed up that several ‘Half-Life 3’ mod projects will start up. Then they’ll figure out which team is doing the best job, hire them on and let them make Half-Life 3.

      Trolling others into doing your work for you, and that’s why Gabe Newell can afford several platinum swimming pools.

      • Tse says:

        They will still pay them, most likely more than most other studios. Steam is the cash-cow, not any game. In fact, Valve’s games’ main purpose is to make every gamer install Steam.

  18. Alex the Too Old says:

    Wow, a corporate training document that sounds like it was written by an intelligent person with a sense of humor, rather than a lawyer who’s recovering from severe head trauma? It’s frightening because it’s different, mhay!

  19. Hitch says:

    I have a general Spoiler Warning question. When is Chris going to get a spot on the couch on the title card?

  20. 4th Dimension says:

    While we are on toppic of Spoiler Warning and Josh Glitchthuluing ways, can somebody ask him if this glitch wizard is any relative of his?
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=mC47O6mKHJY

  21. j0rdm31s73r says:

    Did anyone else try to track Josh’s cursor movements with their own?

    No..? Noone? Just me?

  22. An interesting thing that might be worth it’s own article later Shamus is that Half Life 2 is basically a showcase for the Source engine.

    Just like id Software uses Doom or Quake to showcase their idTech engine.
    Just like Monolith used NOLF1/2, Alien vs Predator 2, FEAR, to showcase their Lithtech or Lithtech based engines.
    Just like Crytek uses Crysis to showcase the Cryengine.
    Just like Epic uses Unreal to showcase the Unreal engine.
    (I’m missing loads more I’m sure).

    And hundreds of other games uses these engines.
    No developer/software house is going to bother using a “untested” engine;
    no instead they go “Wow! Look at that, it’s a huge hit. We want to use that engine!”

    Personally I always find it interesting to look at games made by the engine developers. As that usually hints at what is possible with the engine.

    So the fact that Half Life 2 seems to cover almost every FPS mechanic out there is basically the devs saying that “Look, you do any game mechanic with our engine!”

    It’a a brilliant interactive advertisement really.

    I’d love to see you do a article on this Shamus, which devs did it right (HL2 devs, Monolith etc.) and devs that failed to properly showcase their engine.

    • Loonyyy says:

      Great point. There’s definitely an article in this Shamus. Another for the list is Battlefield 3: The singleplayer campaign is a string of set-pieces trying to show off “Frostbite 2.0”.

  23. Jeff R. says:

    Next time you have a break, you should absolutely do the episodes. With the developer commentary on as well as your own. So that you can spend the first three episodes laughing after they talk about how the episodic model will reduce the time between games…

  24. swenson says:

    Alyx Vance spitting in Dr. Breen’s face is basically the best moment ever, I’d like to say. She’s just so awesome.

    6:18: NOOOOOO! NOT BREEN’S BUST!

    Oh, Mumbles. Are you in love with Gordon Freeman too? It’s OK, you can confess your true feelings to us.

    And G-Man is boss. He creeps me out to no end.

    EDIT: OH MY WORD, I just realized something, after all these years of playing Half-Life. What’s the motif that recurs over and over and over again? Trains. And the entire game is on the rails, both from Gordon Freeman’s perspective (G-Man keeps controlling his life) and the player’s (it’s incredibly linear).

    *headdesk*

    That better not have been an intentional thing on Valve’s part, or I’ll need a new desk.

  25. Otters34 says:

    Josh’s “YES!“‘s are almost the best parts of this series, they come out of nowhere and are utterly hilarious.

    Congrats on another compelling and very eye-opening series guys! Looking forward like mad to the Mass Effect 3 playthrough.

  26. Astor says:

    I love this level (Dark Energy), I replayed it a shitton back in the day.

    “Worlds stretched thin accross the membranes where dimensions… intersect.” is one of those Quotes of Gaming that just stuck with me, I love how he says it.

    On the other hand, I recently replayed all Half-Life 2 + Episodes and I couldn’t stop noticing a lot of little details in this scripted scene that stood out awfully. General animations, the eyes, how he just dismisses the grav gun at first, how he shoots you and/or Judith with the overpumped gravgun and you don’t instadeath like everybody else… I still love it, though.

  27. Kronopath says:

    That thing with the bust vanishing? The exact same thing happened to me. And I was planning on using that thing as a weapon! That elevator has some kinda bust-vaporizing powers…

  28. Daemian Lucifer says:

    When Josh started dicking around with the energy balls I was hoping he would shoot one back and kill himself,and sure enough,he delivers.Thank you Josh.

    As for that dark thing in hl1,yes it was basically a cutscene,but I dont see how its the “the player is stupid” taunting.Yes they get you in a cutscene,but they dont rub it in,and there is no smart way out of the situation.Unless there were some night vision goggles you ran across earlier in the game.

    • IFS says:

      somehow them shutting off the lights causes your flashlight to go out, also its two soldiers who you’ve been killing by the dozen, it is a very stupid moment that just frustrates the player. Sure the soldiers don’t taunt the player but it still feels stupid and arbitrary.
      Also hl1 kept crashing on me in that cutscene meaning I had to sit through it about four times before I could get back to the really fun stuff in the game. And then the garbage crusher glitched and I had to go through it another three times.

  29. Mumbles says:

    I just want to make it very clear to everyone that I talk about Batman before EVERY SPOILER WARNING SESSION AND HAVE TOLD SHAMUS THE DAMIAN WAYNE ORIGIN STORY AT LEAST THREE TIMES.

  30. RCN says:

    My biggest concern with Valve is monopoly as well. Impulse was actually doing an admirable job. No built-in DRM. No need to stay online at all. Being able to play its games on as many computers at once as you’d like WHILE logged on to it and using it as a platform to play. (I’ve played Sins of a Solar Empire hotseat in 4 different computers all logged on the same Impulse account, and that was glorious). Really easy to re-activate your games once you migrate your machine. Great Indie library when Steam didn’t care much about indies (many of its first precious indies came from Impulse originally). Didn’t hog nearly as much resources to stay on as Steam. (Or at least as much as steam hogs on some computers, I know mine slows to a crawl whenever I’m playing something and steam finishes updating…)

    Now, it didn’t have many of Steam’s strengths, especially its main strength that is the robust community tools. But it was a fair competition offering precisely everything that Steam lacked (and still lacks). Then Stardock sold it to Gamestop of all people. And while many of those qualities are still true… its just a betrayal of the PC gaming community, the only audience for the platform. Many abandoned it and now it went from distant second to speck of dust in the rear mirror.

    Meanwhile Windows Marketplace, Origin, and others are still offering all the same problems Steam already has with a whole new batch of other problems to go with it.

    Good Old Games is the only exception, doing a superb job in its specific niche. In fact my GOG library rivals my Steam one. But everyone can agree it is a far-cry from direct competition. While Gamersgate is a bit too much of a hassle to use and still just keeps its place as underground alternative more than anything.

    On another train of thought: Will you do the Episodes after ME3?

    • RCN says:

      Wish I could edit this in but:

      Of course the final Spoiler Warning of Half-Life 2 would end with Josh once again breaking the game. Getting Breen stuck on his elevator. Classic.

  31. Jarenth says:

    Congratulations, Josh! You saved the world!

    Well, a model of the world.

    Well, you threw it out the window.

    The window of the tallest building in history, come to think of it. So that globe probably shattered on impact.

    Congratulations, Josh! You ruined a perfectly good model of the world!

  32. Varre says:

    I didn’t care about Alyx, at all, because I had no way of interacting with her. You care about ‘love interests’ in games like Mass Effect, because you can actually interact with them, and get insights into their personality, rather than stand there like a statue, getting a vague idea of her personality through her dialogue with other people.

  33. newdarkcloud says:

    I wonder if the more critical tone of these episodes (compared to previous Half-Life 2 episodes) is due to the levels that were shown or due to the fact that Chris and Mumbles decided to join in.

    • Shamus says:

      I’m sure you’re right. This is why I’ve been itching to get Chris in on these especially. I know the game has flaws, but I don’t notice them as much as he does because the game really scratches my itch. Chris nudges us into conversations that we wouldn’t have. (The same is true of Mumbles, but Chris has been a vocal critic of HL2 in the past.)

      Also, we’re at the end of the game, where things start to drag and we’ve already spent our fanboy gushing. I’m sure that was a factor as well.

  34. Zak McKracken says:

    As much fun as you’re having … could you next time please turn the subtitles on?
    I’ve tried for ten minutes now to understand what’s going on in the first 3 or so minutes of the video. And while the dialogue you’re apparently making fun of is probably worth being made fun of, I won’t be able to value of the fun you’re making of it unless I know what you’re making it of.

    Of course you can’t just shut up whenever anything related to the story happens (which I heard was supposed to be a really good one…), but for all of us who haven’t played the game and want in on what’s happening there … subtitles, please?

  35. Dezhnyov says:

    This episode(21) isn’t listed on the spoiler warning page.

    Also I love the show as always.

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