Valve Just Announced A Bunch Of Details About Half-Life: Alyx

This article is a work in progress. As we stumble upon more details in the – quite heavily flooded – Reddit post, we will update this article. Let us know in the comments or on our Facebook page what you think the most exciting announcement is.

Valve surprisingly announced Half-Life: Alyx late last year. While it was clear fans of the iconic atmospheric shooter series needed to get their hands on a VR set, not much else was known about the game. During an Ask Me Anything (AMA) on Reddit, said fans were treated with a dedicated page where they could ask the developers anything. And a bunch of new information was announced in the process.

During the AMA, nine members of the Valve development team (80 people are currently working on the game) set up in a conference room and answered a whole bunch of questions from fans of the franchise. Starting with the atmosphere, developer Wolpaw assured fans that the tone of Alyx is consistent with the franchise.

I don’t think it’s changed dramatically. Honestly, though, I think the half life games are closer in tone to the portal games than they are to, say, The Last of Us. I spent a part of every day for 13 years talking to Laidlaw about writing. And the authors that inspired him like Frederic Brown and Robert Sheckley and crime writer Charles Willeford are all known for darkly comedic takes on genre fiction. Hell, he even named a character in ep2 after Sheckley.

What’s not consistent with the rest of the franchise, is the main character. For the first time, a Half-Life game features a speaking character. The same developer explains how that creative choice impacted the game.

Having the viewpoint character speak is mostly liberating. It certainly makes writing scenes easier when you don’t have to write around the fact that the main character is mute. It’s also easier to have the player feel they’re actually an active participant in the scene. In portal we got around it a little by actually acknowledging the main character is mute. I think it’s a lot more tricky when you have to maintain a fragile fiction that the player character can talk but simply isn’t for some reason. Anyway, I was and still am happy that the main character speaks.

Our locomotion and comfort features are all done, including things like Seated, Left-Handed mode, etc. We have almost all our accessibility work done as well, but there’s a little bit more we’d like to do there (support for one armed play, for instance).

And speaking of Half-Life-specific features, horror has always been a (mild) part of the games. Of course, in VR, something that may be mildly frightening in a regular game can suddenly feel like something terrifying. After all, you’re truly immersed in the game and that can be scary. Alyx-dev Tristan suggests that it won’t be a horror-experience, but it will be slightly disturbing at times:

Horror is part of the franchise, and through playtesting, we feel like we’ve gained some confidence about where to draw this line. Some of our gorier visuals tend to evoke a grim fascination rather than revulsion or panic, and apart from myself, we’ve hardly ever seen anyone nope out of a playtest, even during the creepier sections. So among testers I still seem to be the outlier on horror tolerance.

Barnacles, as Half-Life fans will know, are one of the more scary opponents in the franchise and they’re back in Alyx. Similarly, Combine soldiers are also returning for the third installment in the franchise. They will be featured both in a familiar form and with new variations.

Yes, Barnacles are a threat in VR. They don’t kill you instantly. You’ll deal with them in familiar ways, but the opportunities afforded by VR also give you new methods to use against them. We experimented with moving the player, but moving the player without their input in VR didn’t work very well. As with many aspects of working on this game, we’ve had to find new ways to take well-worn mechanics and other Half-Life staples into the specific framework of VR. Similarly, Combine soldiers definitely return (…)  to keep players busy and take advantage of VR.

One fan asked about specific weapons in the upcoming VR game. They noticed a shotgun being wielded in the gameplay trailer, but were also hoping for a 2-handed variant. No luck in that regard, we’re afraid, but that’s good news for players that do not have the ability to use two controllers.

Our weapons all require only one hand, but they can be optionally grabbed and steadied by your offhand. We really wanted to focus on simultaneous two handed play throughout the game, so we needed the player to always be able to easily have a free hand. We keep that hand pretty busy with gravity gloves, movement, world interactions, flashlight, and so on.

And speaking of players with a disability, Valve has got you covered.

Our locomotion and comfort features are all done, including things like Seated, Left-Handed mode, etc. We have almost all our accessibility work done as well, but there’s a little bit more we’d like to do there (support for one armed play, for instance).

Lastly today, some bits and bobs taken from the transparent AMA on Reddit. There will be support for the Valve Index, meaning there will be finger tracking support. There will also be familiar characters returning to the franchise, and yes, most haven’t been revealed through press material. Oh, and you can but a bucket on a Headcrab and they’ll clumsily crawl around. Valve jokingly adds: “Playtesters all keep reporting this as a bug.”

So, will Half-Life Alyx join the likes of Cyberpunk 2077 and Dying Light 2, as in, be delayed a few months before release? No! Valve is very confident that they will make the release window of March 2020.

With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done. Lots of us at Valve, as well as playtesters, have played through the entire game multiple times. Right now we’re primarily polishing and fixing bugs, which is where we’d hope to be at this point in the development cycle. We’re confident we’ll hit our intended release. (We let the Valve Time happen before we announced the game.)

Let us know what YOU think: