Half Life 2 Episode 1 EP6: The Room of Sadness

By Shamus Posted Wednesday Feb 18, 2015

Filed under: Spoiler Warning 58 comments

Link (YouTube)

At the two minute mark Josh says, “What’s up with the lighting on this thing?” He’s looking at a closed door that mysteriously has bright light flowing through it. The image doesn’t make sense until the zombie breaks the door. I know Chris already explained it a bit, but let me go over it in more detail:

This is a side-effect of the old 1990’s style baked-in lightmaps. Computers weren’t fast enough to recalculate lights on the fly, so the shadows are calculated by the artist before the game ships. This means the shadows can’t move. The shadows that do move – the shadows cast by the NPCs and objects in the scene – use a completely different technology. As Alyx walks around, the game picks the nearest light source and creates a silhouette of her from the viewpoint of that light. It then projects that silhouette onto the groundIt might do this for the nearest two or three light sources, depending on the game and your graphics settings.. The drawback is that these shadows don’t really match the baked-in shadows. They’re crisper, and so the shadows cast by the level geometry (walls and floors and such) look blurry by comparison.

Also, the two different lighting systems don’t react to each other properly. If I’m standing under the midday sun, then I’ll have a shadow at my feet. If I step under an umbrella, then my shadow will vanish behind the shadow on the umbrella. But Alyx’s shadow doesn’t work that way. It’s always there, regardless of where she’s standing in relation to the light.

This was why Carmack was so excited about the idea of “unified lighting” in Doom 3. There was no longer one system of lighting for the level and another for all the characters and props. There was one lighting system shared by everything, and it all worked together.

Half-Life 2 has aged really well, but I guess there’s limits on everything. It was 2006 when this game came out, and its lighting model was already pretty far out of date. Valve wouldn’t really solve this issue for good until Portal 2, five years later.

Also, while Valve does seem to love their seesaw puzzles a little too much, I just can’t bring myself to get mad about them in a world where Ubisoft makes me climb a hundred and fifty identical towers in every stupid game.

The next episode is the end of Episode One.



[1] It might do this for the nearest two or three light sources, depending on the game and your graphics settings.

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58 thoughts on “Half Life 2 Episode 1 EP6: The Room of Sadness

  1. For someone who was always desperate to keep the armor @ 100 throughout the entire game, yeah. This is a bullet sponge game where you are the sponge. Josh is playing recklessly, but my careful-as-balls runs don’t really yield much different results. This is a game where you’re cup runneth over with health supplies, but it’s frustratingly stingy on the armor health. Never figured out why. Weeeell, I guess I know why. Playing at narrative all it wants, it’s still an old school shoot ’em up at heart, but still it was frustrating as hell for me cause I always wanted that armor at 100 and could care less about my health.

    1. Bropocalypse says:

      Less demand for HEV shield generator charging stations, I guess.

  2. Tizzy says:

    Re: taking damage. HL is really bad at giving useful feedback about damage, so it’s not unusual not to know how in trouble you are until you’re actually dying.

    1. AJax says:

      I don’t know. I always thought HL2 provided pretty good feedback in terms of how the player receives damage. I sure as heck prefer how HL2 does it instead of spraying jam all over the screen approach.

      Re: Oh god, I just adore the atmosphere of the hospital level. In fact, I think Episode 1 overall is one of the better HL content in the series comparable to HL2. The tight pacing and semi-short length contribute to the strength of the episode which is funny since nothing actually happens story-wise aside from some build up.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        I sure as heck prefer how HL2 does it instead of spraying jam all over the screen approach.

        But bloody screen is so real!

  3. Tuskin says:

    I’m not sure if it happens in Vanilla Hl1/Episodes, but NPCs take the same “Poison headcrab” damage as the Player (falling to 1), so if Alyx got hit by one, she may have had low health.

    Then again, that was a lot Zombines

    Side note, that room she died in I don’t remember at all, then again I have not played Ep1 in a while.

    1. ehlijen says:

      Alyx can die, she just has a huge, quickly regenerating HP pool. Massive simultaneous damage (multiple grenades, energy balls + other stuff…) can and will kill her.

      1. postinternetsyndrome says:

        Yes. They mention this in the commentary for that same room where she died this time (I seem to remember). Josh did shoot one of those pulse rifle deathballs right at her, they instakill most enemies but I don’t know how they affect Alyx. Ordinary bullets seem to be FF-free, but explosives do hurt her I think.

        1. ehlijen says:

          The only time I’ve personally seen her die was earlier in the citadel when she caught an energy ball meant for Gordon in the back. So yes, I think they deal enough damage to at least leaver her vulnerable to death from a pinprick for a brief window.

        2. The Specktre says:

          I actually rewatched that a couple of times. The zombies got her about half a second or so before Josh pulled the trigger.

  4. Thomas says:

    2.5 hours? On the one hand Valve really did predict the episodic content model.

    On the other hand, think of how many 2.5 hour episodes Telltale have pushed out since HL2 Episode 1.

  5. DGM says:

    >> “It was 2006 when this game came out”

    I thought HL2 was from 2004?

    1. Tuskin says:

      Episode 1 came out in 2006

      1. DGM says:

        Ah, right. My brain glitched and I thought it was the original HL2 for a some reason. Thanks.

        1. Alexander The 1st says:

          At least you didn’t get it mixed up with Half Life 1: Episode 2.

          1. Makes sense really. Almost all of HL2:1 reuses content from HL2, whereas HL2:2 adds a whole bunch of new items, environments, enemies, etc. In fact, as I was watching the show, I was wondering how Josh managed to skip the prolonged Combine battle using the turrets before I remembered that was from HL2.

  6. Jokerman says:

    So Chris, what do you think of this area?

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      So Chris,what do you think about this comment thread?

      1. Dragomok says:

        So Chris, what do you think about “So Chris, what do you think”?

        1. Wolf says:

          Given that the question was intended as kind of a curveball, I figure he handled it very well. Shamus you should ask Chris to make interesting coments about dull sections more often. It seems he is at times sitting on some nuggets of gold that he is reluctant to share.

          1. Daemian Lucifer says:

            So Chris,what do you think about this comment that is ruining our nice “So Chris” pattern?

  7. Exasperation says:

    Re: games where you are launched backwards by gun recoil; “No Time To Explain” has that as a major gameplay element (possibly the major gameplay element).

    1. DougO says:

      Different genre, but the Druuge ship in Star Control 2 had pitiful engines, but over half the ship was the big gun, which had enough recoil to send you flying backward at the top speed the game could handle.

      The manual helpfully pointed out that most Druuge captains preferred to use the gun for propulsion.

      1. Cybron says:

        The FPS Shattered Horizon has this as one of its principle gameplay ‘gimmicks’. You’re fighting in a Zero G environment, so every shot has a tenancy to send you flying.

    2. MintSkittle says:

      In Broforce, both the Brominator and the Bro in Black are affected by weapon recoil.

      1. Daemian Lucifer says:

        Off topic:Everyone should play broforce.Well,maybe not Rutskarn.He is too young for such violence.

        1. Dragomok says:

          I agree. I only played the demo/Brototype in August 2013, but I could already tell that outlandish style hides a surprisingly tactical and tense game.

    3. Bropocalypse says:

      Some of the Scout’s guns in TF2, as well.

    4. ET says:

      Cave Story has the machine gun – which you can actually use to fly with! :D

    5. Tradger says:

      The Tua Cannon in HL1 did this as well. you could even use it to fly if you had enough ammo.

  8. SlothfulCobra says:

    But Shamus, they’re not identical, there are all sorts of slight differences in climbing them, so you still have to look around to find the next place to climb.

  9. RejjeN says:

    I suppose I can’t fault you for not remembering/paying attention to the story the few times it rears it’s head, but Alyx told Barney that she and Gordon would take a different route to the Train Station to draw the combine away from the refugees :P

    1. postinternetsyndrome says:

      Came here to say the same thing. :)

  10. Re: the gnome and the car.

    It’s far easier to deal with the gnome in the car if you wedge it in the window above the back seat. You have to keep an occasional eye on it, but you can then drive normally with gnomey as your tail gunner.

    1. Aaron says:

      gnomes are terrible backseat drivers, that’s the real reason shamus doesn’t want to deal with it

      1. Gnome cannot into space?

  11. Daemian Lucifer says:

    It was a hellhole before the combine showed up.

    Great,now I live in a place full of hellholes.Thanks Shamoose,that brightens my day.

    Nah,Im just messing with you.I do live in a place full of hellholes,I dont mind your joke.

  12. Daemian Lucifer says:

    The next episode is the end of Episode One.

    And that one will never see the light of day.

  13. CJ Kerr says:

    Semi-unrelated: Shamus, since you implemented your pop-up footnotes, they’ve rendered in the RSS, but in a completely useless way, like this:

    “projects that silhouette onto the ground[2]. The drawback is that”

    Just the tease that there would be a footnote there if you went to the website proper.

    It would be nice if you could tweak your RSS renderer to either put the annotations inline or insert them as a footer. No idea how much work that would be with WordPress….

  14. Daemian Lucifer says:

    You guys should definitely do the gnome.But,in order to show the car,this is what you should do:Play through that section with the car like you do,and have that recorded.Then have Josh reload a save before the car,and painstakingly carry the gnome all the way to the end of the section,and then start recording again from there,with the gnome in possession.

    Im sure everyone agrees that this is the best way to do it.

    1. Chris Davies says:

      Unfortunately that section is like 90% of the game.

      Alyx: “OK Dog, race you to White Forest. Step on it, Gordon!”
      Gordon: “Shit. Hang on Alyx, let me punt the gnome 20 feet up the track with the gravity gun first.”

  15. Trainzack says:

    Portal 2 does not have a unified lighting model, and it still uses baked lighting. What they did is they used the same technology that powers your flashlight in HL2[1], and made it workable by only having one dynamic light source on at once.

    [1]Which goes to better use by not being stapled to your forehead.

    1. Lilith Novale says:

      Yeah, it’s only solved for one light per level.
      It’s a first step into the future of 2004 for valve, and, in valve time, 7 years delayed is actually pretty good.

  16. Joseph P. Tallylicker says:

    I literally remember nothing about this episode, it seems like. I know I played it, it’s in my steam library, and I remember the early bit with the stalkers and the black room with the ever so slowly descending elevator as well as the strider fight. Other than that, I remember not a damn thing. This hospital scene is completely strange to me…

  17. The Rocketeer says:

    Ugh, that effing gnome in Episode 2. That’s something I’m never doing again.

    And I get why they do this, but I wish the achievement for that unlocked after the rocket was launched, not when you place it in the nose cone.

  18. Alex says:

    I’ve said it before, but the worst thing about the gnome achievement is that it’s something that should be easy, and the only reason it isn’t because of the weaknesses of the simulation. If you were trying to do it in real life, all you’d need to do is put the gnome in the trunk, or tell Alyx, “Here, hold this,” or wedge it in between the seats, and then drive without a care in the world. But you can’t do any of those things, so you have to either tediously punt it everywhere or tediously keep wedging it back into its position as it keeps falling out of the car.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      And if this were real life,youd die from the very first bullet that hits you.Not to mention the countless explosions,poisons and acids.

      1. Alex says:

        So? I said nothing about it being bad if things are easier than real life, only that it’s bad that this is harder and more frustrating than real life. In much the same way, I am more forgiving of characters being unrealistically competent and witty than the reverse and the plot being driven by their plot-mandated stupidity.

    2. As I said above, you can kind of “put it in the trunk.” You wedge it in the back seat, through the rear window.

  19. Jacob Albano says:

    Alyx will only die if you stand around and let her. They mentioned this in the commentary I believe — as long as you’re participating in the combat she’ll be fine. I’ve seen her die in under five seconds by letting her run ahead and tank while I did nothing.

  20. Zastrick says:

    Am I weird for not giving a crap about shadows? Normally if I’m playing a game that I can’t max out settings, I turn them down or off because most games I subconsciously ignore them; it doesn’t matter if they’re dark circles under the character or pixel perfect dark replications to me.

    The one time shadows made me go “Oooo” was in Skyrim. In the dwemer ruins you occasionally encounter these lamps where the cover has an unusual pattern. They make complicated shadows on the wall and I thought it was legitimately neat looking.

    1. ET says:

      I’ll shut off shadows (and other graphical effects) in multiplayer, if I need the framerate, but in single player I almost always keep stuff like that turned on. Maybe not up to the max, but I still like having pretty shadows and stuff; Makes my game feel more alive. :)

  21. Alex says:

    Nice to see that Hjord’s doing well after the accident in the elevator.

  22. Al__S says:

    You think you’re getting upset over “trainstation” as a single word? You can bet your your bottom dollar that you’re not as upset as the British pedants yelling “IT IS “RAILWAY STATION” YOU UNCOUTH YANKEE NINCOMPOOPS!”

    (I don’t get upset by “train station”. After all, I wouldn’t catch a bus at a “road station”)

    1. Soylent Dave says:

      After all, I wouldn't catch a bus at a “road station”

      Of course not.

      You’d embark upon the scheduled omnibus at an inn of good repute; only highwaymen would attempt to board the vehicle on the road.

    2. I thought you’d catch the replacement bus service at the leaves-on-the-rails-station? :)

    3. MichaelGC says:

      British pedant here! “Train station” is at least as common as “railway station,” and both are rather less common than simply “station.” None of these are likely to raise any hackles!

      I can imagine “trainstation” coming in for some flak, as I’ve never seen that used anywhere but here – but personally, I like it. It’s nice when words get comfortable with each other and decide to snuggle up. :D

  23. Benjamin Hilton says:

    You were all concerned with the fact that re-bar is weak and heavy, but what always got me was the fact that there is no fletching on it. I don’t care ow many electromagnets are strapped on that gun, or how fast the bolt goes, without fletching that thing is going to spin wildly out of control.

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