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Old 01-25-2012, 02:03 PM   #1
Lilgreenman
 
 
 
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Post The Marc Laidlaw Vault (Half-Life canon)

Half-Life

"The Marc Laidlaw Vault"


What is this?

This is a repository for background information on the Half-Life series. Everything you see here is canon for the Half-Life /Portal universe.

This was originally a thread on the halflife2.net forums, which can still be found here. However, that thread was last updated in 2009, and so this is a more complete resource for background information.

Who's Marc Laidlaw?

Marc Laidlaw is the head writer, and the mastermind, behind Half-Life. Almost every moment of story development and line of dialogue in Half-Life and Half-Life 2 was written by him, and he is the driving force behind the series' richly realized world. He is still the principal writer for the series, now assisted by Portal writers Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw.

Therefore, any information given by him on the series' background is 100% true until directly contradicted by either himself or the games, which seldom happens.

How do I contribute?

Marc's e-mail is mlaidlaw@gmail.com. He answers many questions about the series sent to him through that address (don't get your hopes up about any Episode 3/Half-Life 3 information, though). Remember that his first name is spelled with a 'c', not a 'k'.

If and when you receive a reply, take a screenshot of it, then post either a transcript of the response or a link to the screenshot in this thread. I'll add it to the bunch of posts at the top, and give you credit.

(Credit goes to well-known community member mimaz98 (known today as Vyrnnus), for originally bringing the Vault to the Steam Forums, and to everyone at Combine OverWiki for cataloging all the information found here.)

Half-Life 3

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Thanks for your letter. Whatever we do next, I think we all expect it to be better than we’ve done before. It would be very hard to go on if we didn’t feel we were continually improving. And while we don’t want to repeat ourselves, it could be argued that HL1 and HL2 are very different, and that whatever happens next in the HL series can be very different from the preceding games but still be very good. That’s my hope anyway.
Nihilanth

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Capture of vorts is fairly common. That particular Nihilanth was the last of its kind, and had never been captured, but some of its predecessors might have been.

Xen Controllers


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The Xen Controllers were part of the Mihilanth's support network, and they relied on the Nihilanth to throw them around where it wanted them to go, so if there are any left, they are probably stranded in what would not have been their natural native environment (nothing's native to Xen). However, without access to a steady food supply (whatever it is they eat), they may well have simply died out.
Race X

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Thanks for writing. Explanations outside the context of the game are not really something we want to get into. Most of the things that are hazy are that way simply because the right time and place has not come about for clarifying these things in the context of the games. So, I try not to say anything that would spoil revelations and backstory that we may want to use in the future or are currently developing. The relation between the Nihilanth race and the combine is one of those things. As for Race-X being from xen, I'm not sure any of the aliens we've seen were actually from xen originally. Xen is a borderworld--a place you have to go through to get to other places. It was colonized by certain creatures that could adapt to it. The Race-X creatures didn't seem particularly well adapted to Xen. I imagine their home lay somewhere beyond.
Portal Storms and Headcrabs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Those things came through during the portal storms, which continue erratically to this very day. Some of the critters came early (immediately after the Black Mesa incident) and adapted to earth. I think the poison headcrabs must have eaten something poisonous at one point, and liked it so much they added it to their repertoire.

The Bullsquids are around here somewhere.
Eli's Leg

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Like many things in the HL universe, we like to reserve these things until we can make some use of them. There's no point in carving a story idea in granite, only to get there and learn that it leads to bad, boring gameplay.

I hope mod makers don't spend too much time worrying about whether they're in conflict with Half-Life. If they get something "wrong", we won't change what we decide to do because of it. They can, if they want, show Eli losing his leg to a Bullsquid while helping Kleiner get to safety in Black Mesa; but if I have an opportunity to later show Eli losing his leg while helping kleiner get into City 17, I'll go ahead and do that. I'm not out to spoil the fans' fun!

Perhaps there are many many parallel universes, in each of which Eli loses his leg in an entirely different way.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
He lost it to a Bullsquid while helping Kleiner get to safety, but I'm not sure if that was in Black Mesa or later.
Metrocops

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
CP/Metrocops are humans at the first level--basically unaltered volunteers. From here, if you are hardcore, you must volunteer for modification in order to become a soldier, so advancing in rank requires surrendering even more humanity.

This stuff was certainly thought through in advance; sometimes we just make things up though.
Xen and Beyond

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We had a glimpse of the larger threat when we were working on Half Life 1. In other words we knew that once you cleared out the nihilanth, you were going to discover something worse beyond it. We knew that some immense threat had chased the Nihilanth and its creatures out of their own world and into Xen, from which location they were all to glad to seize the opportunity to continue on to earth with suppression through the citadels. But the exact nature of the threat was left to be solved in Half Life 2.
Xen/Combine Relation

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Yes, that's fairly accurate, and I'm pretty sure Doug was restating something I'd told him; I am not clarifying it, since it's the foundation on which the series continues. What we saw in HL 1 was the very end of a long struggle between the Combine and the last of the Nihilanth's race...although it's a bit different than the word "prompted" implies. The Nihilanth's "world" (if it could be said to have) was long since in the past as far as the Nihilanth was concerned; Xen was their final retreat, and they had their back to the wall, as it were, when the fissure appeared that let them spill into our dimension. Xen itself is sort of a dimensional transit bottleneck--an area of continual contention.
Episode Two Character (Magnusson)

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We try not to answer questions about the story directly outside of the game--believe what you play, not what you read, is my motto. The waters are murky, unfortunately, when it comes to the Gearbox titles because we did not make them and i don't feel compelled to abide by every story idea they came up with to make their game more fun. That said, it's now public knowledge that you'll be meeting at least one further survivor of Black Mesa in Episode 2. Hope you enjoy it.
Barney + Blue-Shift + Expansion Involvement

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Hi, Daniel, I won't be able to clear up much. It was a deliberate decision to have Gearbox never call him Barney in Blue Shift, only Calhoun. Raising the bar is not a game, so material is presented differently there; manifestations differ in every medium. Gearbox took our Barney and did their own best version, but I'm not sure that Barney is the same Barney I'm picturing when I picture Valve's Barney. In the time BS was created, there were many Barneys. Only gradually have the redundant creature and character types slowly settled into iconic individuals...it's an ongoing process. Gearbox did what was right for their games.

Even though they had feedback and guidance from us, they didn't always listen to it, and they steered by their own lights, etc., etc. I wasn't very close to the creation of the expansion packs, and much more concerned with how to move the story forward and open up the universe; so I only take the games created by Valve into consideration when I am working on the story...there are more than enough potential contradictions in our own designs without me worrying about contradictions in the inventions of other developers who were not part of our initial creative meetings. I know this is confusing to fans; it's partly a byproduct of the way expansion packs were created, the way they were packaged and published, and also I was very new to this whole concept at the time.

It never occurred to me that large chunks of the story would be taken out of our hands, changes made beyond our control, and then have the stuff handed back with some odd unexpected kinks in it. So I try not to worry about it, and simply do my best with material directly in my control. However, as to your last question, there was pressure on us to set Half-Life 2 at Black Mesa, which a lot of us felt would be creative death; it was important to break new ground. Nuking Black Mesa was a good way to ensure that we had a way to avoid setting Half-Life 2 there. You might say I gave the G-Man his orders. The whole issue of canon is something the fans came up with. I guess you will be able to identify as canon those story elements we continue to build on and develop and mention repeatedly as the story progresses. Others might fall by the wayside once they've served their purpose. Couldn't you say the same of us all?
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Hi, Ben, I am going to swear off contributing to this bizarre argument about canonical versus noncanonical works. If we can make good entertaining use of the elements of OpFor in future games, then we may well do that, and at that time I guess folks will have a better idea of where we stand on all this. We can't speak about story ideas outside of the games themselves--it's meaningless. The games must stand on their own, contradictions and all. My only hope is to keep unreeling the story in such a way that it will continue to please the fans and spark interesting conversations. Thanks for writing!

Race X

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Race X was purely a Gearbox creation that doesn't figure at all in my thinking about the world. Understand, they wanted to come up with a set of creatures that would create gameplay they knew how to make. They could have been making an original title or an add-on for some other franchise, and plugged racex into that--the reason being that they had gameplay they wanted to explore and needed the freedom of their own race of critters to conduct those experiments with. If Gearbox had kept making HL games, I suppose we might have seen these threads develop. Since blackops are not a Gearbox creation per se, but an opportunistic use of existing real-life elements, I don't see how the idea of canon applies to them.
Black Mesa + Gordon's Big Day

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Hm...I don't remember stating that the Black Mesa Incident occurred on Gordon's first day of work (NOTE: This applies to a letter in the HL PS2 manual by Rosenberg. Or was it Keller?) (Barney sure acts like he's known gordon a while) although I might have. Shrug.
Test Chamber Crystal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
That crystal sample in the opening, for instance, should have been clearly echoed in the Nihilanth’s chamber—and even down inside its gaping cranium. That was the plan. But we ran out of time to make the clear visual association.
The Combine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The "Combine" is a name for a large organization. So asking if the advisors are the combine is like asking if a roman senator is the roman empire. There's no one creature called the Combine.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The combine is a combination of different species (including humans) working (or forced to work) together. Other than that, you’ll have to stay tuned for more information as we work it into the games.
The Half-Life Saga Guide

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I am familiar with the timeline you mention although i haven't looked at it since I first made my ill-advised comment to Gary McTaggart. There was some stuff in there that seemed accurate and some that was way off. As we've continued to develop the storyline, it's probably become less relevant, since we have changed our thinking about events earlier in the series. Anyway, I'm glad people enjoy doing and thinking about all this stuff. I doubt we will ever issue precise dates on a timeline of our own, because then we'd just end up contradicting ourselves. Thanks for writing!
The Administrator Initials 'lm'

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Dear X, thanks for poring over those letters...I wondered if anyone would ever notice those lowly initials, appended by whichever administrative assistant happened to be in the office that day to do the official typing. As you may know, before coming to Valve, I held a number of emp word processing and admin jobs; manpower sent me for a stint to the Alaskan pipeline, but it was already finished and there was no one needing typing at that point, and then immediately after to Black Mesa, which ran out of funding for temp administrative assistants shortly after my arrival. In fact, I lasted one day in New Mexico, and quickly fled. So as not to confuse my word processing career with my developing reputation as a professional writer, I did not want to sign "ml" to any of my typing. So U reversed the letters. For this, and many greater transgressions of which you may become aware shortly, i apologize. Oh, one more thing: This hasn't happened yet. - lm in the mirrorworld.
Clothing
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The only readily available new clothes for humans are made in Combine facilities, so if you happened to have or find a set of comfortable clothes that weren’t bland citizen uniforms, you held onto them. It’s probably a good thing that we’re not running an odor simulator.
Currency under the Combine
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
It’s a fair question. I don’t recall coming down hard on an answer in the game itself, so I don’t want to make something up now. If you don’t hear specific reference to tokens in conversation, then it’s hard to justify their existence. There may well be token slots on vending machines, etc…but in fact if you push the button for a can of breen’s private reserve, it appears to be free of charge. Citizens are given or issued basic standard clothing and food, so it seems like the combine don’t encourage currency in their dealings with humans, and among citizens there may be something more like a barter economy. For your roleplay, you should come up with whatever generates interesting gameplay. I don’t see any egregious conflict with the game.
What Happened to Gordon's Helmet in HL1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
While it protected Gordon’s head from radiation, toxic waste, headcrabs, etc., it caused a really bad case of helmet-hair. So he conveniently lost it.
Playable Alyx

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I personally don't see how that would work. Alyx is a creation of animation and audio. If you were to play Alyx, you wouldn't see any of her animations, and her motivations are (I think) more interesting when they are her own, and somewhat mysterious. But perhaps there would be some way to do this.
Concerned and Breen's 'Show'

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Many of us, including myself, are big fans of the truly funny Concerned--but that's not a Concerned reference. Lots of the citizens in City 17 considered Dr. Breen's broadcasts and announcements to be his "show." I figure that from time to time he broke out of the lecture format and provided a bit more in the way of entertainment. I personally missed the jugglers episode, but the citizens have been talking about it ever since.
Laszlo

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I was thinking about that scene myself last night as I drifted off to sleep. It made me weep. That’s just how I react to the loss of the finest mind of a generation. So, um, yeah, I guess it is a little bit significant when such greatness leaves the world. It’s good to know you appreciated Laszlo.

Yours in the Fellowship of Laszlophilia,

Marc Laidlaw
Adrian Shephard


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Thanks for your letter. Adrian Shepard is a bit like Schrodinger's cat he's neither canon nor non-canon, depending on whether or not the G-Man may or may not have a use for him.
Magnusson and his Casserole

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Yes, that was supposed to be his casserole, but maybe he wasn't in the room at the time. A deeper explanation is that the scientists in HL1 originally picked their models randomly, so you'd never have the same scientist model in the same scene twice...but over time this changed, and in various ports of the game I believe it might have been nailed down to just that one scientist you observed. Maybe he was just looking out for Magnusson's casserole (and told him what you'd done, sometime before disaster struck). The nature of the casserole is lost to history.
The Story Arc

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Half-Life
Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2 Episode One
Half-Life 2 Episode Two
Half-Life 2 Episode Three
Gordon Wearing a Helmet?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Whoa! I never thought of that! We messed up!

Actually, we try not to think about these things too much. We're making a game...can't take it all too seriously. He put a helmet on in HL1, but then you know the G-Man let him keep his suit but then Dr. Kleiner gave him new one and now I think of it as a Heisenberg suit. I figure the HUD is projected on those phat spex. Maybe his hair shields him from fallout. Certainly his upper lip and chin are safe.
Half-Life Novelizations

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Hi Bradley. There are many reasons why there probably won’t ever be any HL books. I could write them myself, but honestly that energy is better spent on games. We wouldn’t farm the books out to an outside writer; if we found someone clever enough to solve all the problems of writing such a thing (including the ones you list), we would probably just want them here working on the games as well!

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Old 01-25-2012, 02:07 PM   #2
Lilgreenman
 
 
 
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Valve's Story-Telling Process + Episode Three

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Thank you for writing Brad...We prefer to address such questions through the games themselves. But you are in luck. These are some pretty hefty questions so bear with me as I try my best to address them for you.

Understand, firstly, that Half-Life 2 and the Episodes were not projects that we had originally planned to pursue. On both occasions our decisions were based off of consumer feedback, and our own personal evaluation following each game’s release. Upon release, we were not expecting the sheer scale of critical acclaim that Half-Life 1 was to receive. We had never conclusively determined beforehand whether or not we should pursue a sequel. As such, we decided to finish that game’s story with something relatively open-ended. It was an ending that did not necessarily scream the need for a sequel, but one which left the door open for it should we have decided we wanted to pursue it. Which we did. In answer to your first question, no, we have not had Half-Life’s story fleshed out since day one. We had ideas, inclinations, and concepts but certainly nothing distinct or concrete. For example, we knew that ultimately, sequel or no sequel, something far worse lay beyond Nihilanth, and we very subtly highlighted that on several occasions throughout the game. But make no mistake; we had no idea that it was going to be the Combine that would be that greater foe. So no, we had not worked out any particulars beforehand. You might recall that Half-Life 2 went through a number of design iterations before we managed to solidify its narrative.

You say that the consensus is that our silence regarding Episode Three is due to our inability or difficulty in writing up a suitable story for the game? I admit I find that rather perplexing. When we had completed the final story for Half-Life 2, and when we decided to under-take the prospect of delivering episodic content to our audience, we knew that moving the story along in denser packages called for a more refined process. Issues needed to be addressed. Questions needed to be addressed. Answers needed to be given. We began writing a rough draft for the Episodes in very early 2005. We had a direction we wanted to take, an overarching story we wanted to tell, and very specific questions we wanted to resolve.

Telling a story in context with the gameplay we want to explore does not always work. Our medium has a great deal many more restrictions than, say, a book or a film. Books, for example, have no such external variables. With a game, you need a perfect equilibrium between the story you are telling and the gameplay you are offering. That is a complicated and constantly evolving task for us. We have a Bible of sorts. We know now all about the most important things in our story. So, no, in that sense I suppose we do not make it up as we go along. As I said, however, the story does not always bode well with what we want to deliver in terms of gameplay. The uncertainty is in our ability to move the greater story along in relation to that. That is where the difficulties lie.

Your fears about our ability to write and deliver the final chapter of the story for the arc are unfounded. We have had this particular story fleshed out since before Episode One was released. Our ‘silence’ as you have opted to call it has nothing to do with the story we have written.

Now, your next question. I believe I answered this before through an email. I am not certain whether that was you or not. Perhaps I am wrong. You can sort of get lost in the countless emails that arrive daily badgering you for information you just cannot divulge. Half-Life 1 is very much a part of this singular over-arching story that we are currently telling. However, I can see why a number of people may feel differently. Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2 are two very different games fundamentally. There is a drastic difference in setting, characters, and technology. But they are very much directly and prominently related, and I hope that will become clearer for you as time goes on. In the end, does making such a distinction really matter? I suppose it depends on those people whose opinions on this matter are preferable to them. If people wish to see Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2 as being separate story-arcs than I see very little reason to discredit them because it is ultimately irrelevant in the context of the games.

As to your third question. I am sorry, Brad, but I cannot talk about Episode Three, I am afraid. Nor do I wish to cause any confusion among the fans. We tend to confine explaining these things within the actual games as opposed to emails. In the end, they have to speak for themselves. Rest assured, however, that Episode Three is bringing to a close a great many aspects of the story that has been lingering on for the past - oh, I don't know – decade or so. I sincerely hope that it will be worth it for you. Until then, hang on tight. I hope I have been able to calm some of your overly stimulated craniums. In the meantime, this is where I get off.

Best wishes. Marc Laidlaw.
Repercussions of Killing Eli


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We wanted to make sure that whatever the repercussions were, they would be meaningful for the other characters. Eli is a central figure for so many of the characters in our world...he's basically the father of the resistance. Yes, Gordon is an important figure in the resistance, too, but he dies all the time. We knew we could kill anyone in the series and it would have been meaningless unless there was someone in the game who could mourn for them--someone whose grief the player could experience vicariously. The people who say they cried when Eli died--I'd be surprised if they actually cried at the moment of the animation of his death. I think the visceral reaction occurs when you hear Alyx pleading. That part still gets to me because it is a very raw emotion and it gets past my guard. After working with Merle Dandridge for so many years, we were sure she would do something amazing with the scene. That confidence was another reason for the choice we made.
Breen's Final Words

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
He could be talking to Gordon or the Combine...or maybe both. Anyway, he's bargaining.
Characterisation Realism

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We try to draw strong relationships between the characters; making each one part of a believable network of family and friends (and rivals) makes it easier for players to relate to them. Characters in weaker science-fiction stories often seem flimsy because they're solitary heroic figures without parents, siblings or ordinary relationships.

Character-driven drama depends on social context, status transactions, how they relate to other people in their world. We also assume our characters have spent their whole life in this world - especially Alyx, who grew up surrounded by headcrabs and Vortigaunts. The crazy SF details are just ordinary obstacles to them - still full of potential threats and surprises, as in our own world, but with a grim internal logic."
Half-Life Movie

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
This project always crashes up against the hard reality that Gordon Freeman is a cipher - a Teflon conduit for the player's senses. As soon as you try to turn him into an actual character separate from the player's will, he loses whatever it is that makes him an interesting first-person-game protagonist.

Anybody from outside Valve who gets a hold of the project instantly turns Gordon Freeman into the perfect starring vehicle for that week's top celebrity, and the arbitrary changes just get worse from there. Even if Valve make the movie independently, we would have to solve the Freeman character dilemma - but at least I believe we would solve it in such a way that it would be true to the rest of our vision.

The first Half-Life movie treatment pitched to us climaxed with a tearful reunion between enslaved Vortigaunts and their Vortiwives and children. The last one I saw had Black Mesa invaded by a cavalry unit, just so as to feature a scene of bullsquids tearing into armoured horses... Which I admit is sort of cool, but has nothing to do with Half-Life."
Marc's Role in Valve

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
What I do here has changed over the years. Every game has different needs–including the amount of writing. Half-Life was the game I first worked on, and there was very little in the way of written dialog, but a great deal of working with the team to imbue the game with the feel of a narrative. With Half-Life 2 we had the ability to develop well-rounded characters, so the writing and storytelling got more complex as we tried to figure out how to merge strong characters into a first-person action game with a mute protagonist. Half-Life 2’s script that was 10 times longer than HL1’s. In the following episodes (HL2 Episode 1 and 2), the games were much shorter but also more dense–so the scripts for those rivaled the script for the full HL2. I wrote lots and lots of dialog, but only after we had figured out how to make the game itself support a strong story…so there were a lot of story design jobs that did not involve writing per se. I can’t really say much about what I’m working on now, but the writing challenges continue to be varied.
Development of Narrative with HL1 and HL2


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
In the first game, I arrived midway through the project, and my job was mainly to take an existing story with many loose ends and arrange the pieces in such a way that they created a convincing illusion of narrative. The second time around, we tried to have an end in sight from the beginning. But of course, everything changes along the way, and you’re always surprised at where you end up.
Inspirations for Creating Gordon Freeman

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Well, we knew generally that he was supposed to be a scientist, and this was immediately an interesting and appealing challenge as a writer. Really, the only other examples we had in the games at the time were like the Quake marine and Duke Nukem, so it was pretty easy to find something that wasn't one of those. It seemed like a pretty obvious thing to do since we were doing a science-fiction game. There's this scientist, he's not perfect, and there's a disaster, and it's all going to be the fault of the scientist. There was no shading about maybe you're doing these things because you're encouraged to or things have been set up to go against you. So, I think we didn't want to do a big backstory about the guy, we wanted to kind of leave it blank.

Then we decided to take a look at sort of heroic scientific figures. The name Freeman Dyson came up, and Gabe had already come up with the name Gordon. We played around with silly names like Dyson Pont Carre and silly stuff like that, but we ended up with Gordon Freeman. The main thing was not to put too much detail into really specific things about this character because we always wanted the player to help create who he was. We had a resume of sorts to help explain what he was doing there, which was why we came up with M.I.T. and Seattle and the University of Innsbruck and these things that we kind of dispersed as little bits of information about Gordon. But the main thing was that we just tried to stay out of the way.

It was even sort of a sad thing when we had to do a multiplayer model and show Gordon, or when we had to have his image on the box or the launcher. I remember that there was a review, and I totally sympathize with it, that talked about the level of disappointment that the reviewer felt when they actually saw Gordon Freeman on the game's launcher screen. You don't really want to take it this far, you just want to be this person and kind of imagine, like in a dream. What do you look like in a dream? Well, you want that to be what this character looks like.

He's become a visually iconic figure, but the original intention was more idealized, that it would be cool if we didn't show Gordon at any time, we'd just let the player create their own. I mean, we tell you that you're a scientist, but we don't do a lot of work to convince you that you're actually doing science in the game. That's sort of a tease, that we have Gordon involved in another experiment after the last one he did didn't turn out too well.
Half-Life Sequels

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The first game was really totally self-contained. The idea that we were going to do a sequel to it... I'm really sequel averse in my own work. I think we thought that we'd do this, then we'd create a whole new world, we'd go and do something else. That didn't take into account the fact that Half-Life was going to be a success. We were prepared to let go of it and try something new. Initially Half-Life was supposed to be this quickie FPS that would give the company a resume and get us on our feet to do whatever the real thing was that we were going to do. We could learn some stuff doing this, then we'd do some other thing.

So, one of the problems in embarking on Half-Life 2 was that Half-Life was this hermetic world, and it says nothing about the world outside of Black Mesa. Whatever we were going to come up with was going to be totally arbitrary. Fortunately, in that seed of Half-Life, there were some really recognizable things, like the science team. We were in this situation that we could make a world from scratch and basically do a totally new thing, but we had these transportable elements. As long as we had the core science team and this Kleiner guy and these characters from Black Mesa, you could put them anywhere and it's still going to feel like Half-Life. They're like a family for Gordon, they give him social context and they make you feel like you're continuing this adventure, even though it's in the middle of a bunch of aliens you've never heard of before. We worked hard to convince you that this is a struggle that we had hinted at in the first game.

It's always like that. I think even if you set out to do a sequel, you get the most mileage out of the things that were planted in the first one and weren't really intended to go anywhere. After a while, you'll go "Oh, we put this in here and it wasn't meant for this, but it's the perfect thing to extend the story." There are little seeds that grow. As we went on, we looked at things from the first game that were just perfect for ripening and making something out of them episodes later. There's also sort of a fun satisfaction of making these pieces feel like they were inevitable from the start, to go back to these earlier elements and weave them all back into the larger picture.

We've always tried to take that world into account. These things happened, and that's how they happened, and we're not going to try to say they didn't just so we can do something farther out with the story. So we kind of have to play by those rules that we established.

Obivously, if you were still looking at the same aliens from the original game at the end of the episodes where we are now, it would be sort of tedious, so we tried to suggest that there's a larger universe of stuff out there. You're still in that universe, but there's a lot of stuff that you just didn't get to see before.
Supporting Characters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Well, there's always a lot more we could do with the characters. We haven't announced any plans for that, but the lives of all of those characters, especially for those of us who have been living with them for a long time, are much more complicated than what we could fit in a game. There's always going to be stuff we wish we could do with them, and if the opportunity came up, I'm sure we'd like to do that provided we could do it in a game. The really clever thing about it is that, and this was Gabe's idea originally, was that when we were looking at doing a sequel to Half-Life, and how to do expanision packs, the typical thing would be to have just done a sequel. He hit on this sort of Alexandria quartet type of idea where we give these characters the "Rashomon" treatment and tell the same story from the perspectives of the different characters.

What was great about that is that Gearbox was able to reuse the exact same textures and models and everything from Half-Life, but just concentrate on the gameplay and narrative elements, so they wouldn't go into an area that we weren't ready to go into yet. The whole timeline beyond Half-Life was pretty scary for us, as we were trying to figure just where we wanted to go with it. It was a really clever reuse of resources, and it kept it consistent with the universe. We're kind of in a different zone right now, trying to make sure it all fits.

That's one reason we've taken on the episodes by ourselves, rather than turn them into an expansion pack for a third-party company. We wanted to make these episodes indispensible and really advance the story with major parts of the plot and put the characters through changes. Half-Life 2 set the groundwork for these changes, but one game itself in the time it takes is just not enough to show change in a character.

We're very careful about how we advance these pieces. It's harder to say that we're going to just peel off these characters and go do separate games with them. We like the element of careful control and attention to detail on how we develop them. From my point of view, a lot of it has to do with what we do with these characters. Obviously we could take game elements and other people could say "Okay, I want Alyx fighting robots on the moon." I don't really see Alyx in that kind of struggle, but maybe there's a game there!
Beyond Episode Three

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
It's an open universe. I don't think the universe necessarily comes to an end at any point. I mean, the jump from Half-Life to Half-Life 2 was still "Half-Life," but we got to perform this act of world creation, which was really exciting. We've been in that world for a long time now, and building worlds is something I really love to do. I think a lot of people here are like that. Hopefully there will be a transition similar to that, sort of like a rejuvenation or a reinvention, even if we're continuing with more "Half-Life" it's going to have some kind of new world creation involved in it. Whether the world we build is called Half-Life 3 or some completely new thing, where we take what we've learned about storytelling and do it in a new IP, I don't know. Right now, we're just trying to do the right thing by Half-Life and we hope people are happy with that.
Vortigaunt Slaves

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The vortigaunts were related to the Nilhilanth, as indicated by their vestigial chest-arms, which is why it had a particular ability to control them. The Nih., the alien grunts and the vorts were all from the same world. That doesn't mean there aren't enemy vortigaunts however. Pretty much everything you encounter in the Combine's domain potentially exists in a Combine-coopted and a natural, non-coopted form.
Episode One Intro

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
It was intended to be Gordon's POV. As I recall, the idea behind that segment was that Gordon is sharing a vort's eye view of the events, as they nip back in time to extract you guys (somewhat messily) and then it all folds back into place again to catch you up.

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Old 01-25-2012, 02:09 PM   #3
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Other Media

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
There's been talk about it and there's certainly been fan requests and inquiries from publishers. What we always come back to is the fact that we want control over where the universe goes and where the characters go. Part of that is sort of the professional and personal challenge of wanting to do things in these games that you can't do in a book or movie. That just boils down to the medium: What can we do in games that we can't in other mediums? We're doing some things that can't be done in other forms.

If these games are done right, books are irrelevant. You'd just be reading a transcript of the game you just played, minus the cool stuff, which is the stuff you did to influence it. If you were to watch somebody play through Half-Life 2, transcribe their experiences, then turn it into a descriptive narrative, as well-written as possible, that might be interesting to read. My initial feeling was that we would never do these as books, because this is something that's different and complete in itself. Then, at one point, we realized we had so much material from the universe that we could do books, we could do books, we could fill in the gaps for things that the games don't really give us the breathing room to do or develop.

But now I've returned to the feeling that the games are so much better at doing what they do than books would be. Books are fine without having to have a bunch of "Half-Life" tie-in novels to go along with them. I think with the Halo universe, they can pick a point in the larger universe that they've built and say, "You can set a book here, it won't affect the game that we're building." We're trying to say the experience you're having playing Half-Life is the crucial experience to have in the Half-Life universe. We're putting you in the middle of it. Gordon Freeman is this catalyzing guy who is at the center of history right now. The things that are happening to him are affecting the whole universe right now, so why would you want to be the guy who's working in the office building a few blocks over?

It's partly that, and seeing how far we can go with our storytelling technique. It makes sense for some worlds. I've done a tie-in novel, so I'm not against them. The one that I did was developing a universe, that there was already a visual element, and they wanted a video element and they wanted a novel element as well, they wanted to fuse though things. It's possible that it could happen, as they do pretty well, especially for those big franchises, so there's certainly interest in it, but I'm not sure it would make sense from a storytelling point of view. The other side of that is that if it wasn't me writing it, we'd want the person writing it to be here working on the games anyway, in which case we'd want to take the benefit of that and put it into the games, which I think is what our fans want.
Cut Characters from HL 1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Well, we didn't always have the resources; early on we wanted a wider range of characters - we wanted women scientists and stuff there - but we just didn't have the texture read memory. The train says they're an equal-opportunities employer on the way in, but the fact is that there are no women there that day. They all stayed at home; they knew there was something going on.

The whole relationship with Dr Mossman in HL2 was a scene that we tried to do in Half-Life. We'd done a whole bunch of stuff for this scene where there was a betrayal by a woman scientist; at that point in the story Freeman was being hunted and you think that the scientists are all your friends, so this scientist says she's going to get you help and tells you to stay in the room you're in - and then she calls the guards. We couldn't do that in Half-Life - we didn't really have characters on that level - so it was cool in HL2 when we had characters who were far enough along...
Old Ideas

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Well, every now and then something will come up and we'll be like, 'Oh, don't you remember how we tried to do this in Half- Life, but we just couldn't figure out how to make it work?' So yes, we do still pick stuff out of the mix and make it work. I mean, there's a scientist you hear a lot in the test chamber in the early part of Half-Life, and he's never reappeared. And we've finally worked out a place for him where he's been all this time! It's been pretty fun figuring out how to bring that guy back.
Gordon Freeman

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The character of Gordon Freeman? Well, ultimately he was just a name. There was this character that you played who was this eyepiece looking into this universe, a motive force that enables you to move through it. We just wanted to create somebody who didn't get in the way of the player exploring on their own yet feeling like they had a specific role - never quite sure that they were playing it right, but having it as part of the whole experience.


Are you doing the right thing or the wrong thing? We really like messing around with the implications of telling you that you're doing one thing, when actually, everything else is forcing you to do something different from that. There's irony in the game - everybody tells you that you're a scientist, but all you're actually doing is running around shooting stuff. All these things fall into the bucket of Gordon Freeman...
The Expansions


Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We had a lot of conversations with Gearbox concerning the creation of Opposing Force and Blue Shift, and I supplied them with various documents that fleshed out background elements that hadn't been woven directly into the foreground of Half-Life. The place where you see this most clearly is in Barney's odyssey to Xen, where a bit more light is shed on the Xen-relay teleport experiments. Some of the reason for the overlapping narratives was that it made sense for Gearbox to reuse existing content, such as textures and design motifs, since they had limited schedules for producing these games. Most of the moment-to-moment gameplay and story decisions were left in Gearbox's hands, and we merely tried to make sure they dovetailed with our own designs and didn't create any huge conflicts. Gearbox, as fans of the original, had a good eye for places where their stories could overlap with Half-Life, but even so, they took plenty of liberties with the story for the sake of making a fun game. Fun in a game is ultimately more important than consistency.
Narrative Structure, Gameplay and Emotional Impact in Games

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
As far as narrative structure, games are often rigidly structured; I don't think lack of structure is a problem at all. What's lacking is the emotional impact that usually accompanies structural highpoints or turning points in more traditional narratives. In most games, the feeling of finally achieving your goal is one of relief rather than elation or insight; the climax often merely marks a break from increasing frustration. I wish most games aimed higher than that. As an example of one game that got it brilliantly right, I'll point at Ico, where the narrative structure, the gameplay, and the emotional impact were all seamlessly fused into one. Near the end of the game there is a moment where the world comes apart and you nearly fall -- but you're caught. It was an incredibly poignant moment, conveyed through the game mechanics, the animations, a reversal in the storyline, everything all at once. This was a significant event not only for that game, but for the art of game design. And that was just one of several all-time-high moments in Ico.
The Story of the Episodes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Part of the strength of episodic production is being fluid and responding to how customers react to previous episodes. With the Episodes, we're working towards a specific event, and we have a plan for how we get there. Some of the details may change along the way, but the core is etched in stone.
The Choice in Half-Life 1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Thanks for writing, Brad. It’s an interesting question because it’s not something that I have elected to dwell on. Understand that the ending we wrote for Half-Life 1 was something that we thought at the time to be self-contained. Any details whatsoever that we had of doing a sequel were hazy at the very best because, you know, we were caught up in developing and shipping our very first game ever. So when we shipped Half-Life 1 with that ending, there were never any clear ideas of where we were going to take it because we didn’t feel as if we were going to take it anywhere in the first place. As such, the choice was arbitrary. It didn’t matter what you chose because we never intended to follow up on it.

Looking back on it now, however, having done Half-Life 2 and two of its subsequent episodes, that stance can no longer holds its own, can it? So, in answer to your question, I’m going to have to say that the choice the G-Man offered you at the end of Half-Life 1 was not a choice. It was an ultimatum that had only one inevitable outcome; you work for him. It was never about the G-Man giving Gordon one last test to prove his worth, and if he were to fail that test G-Man would, almost literally I suppose, throw him to the wolves. Gordon had already passed the 'test'. He had survived Black Mesa, he had become a hero, and he became the tool the G-Man wanted. You don’t just throw away that opportunity because he may pick the wrong choice. That’s not practical. That’s not what we know of the G-Man. Take Alyx, for example. There was no choice for her. Nor did she really exemplify any kind of usefulness to the G-Man. She was only a girl at the time she was taken. But he still took her and ultimately that’s what it comes down to.

I also seem to recall a certain line from Half-Life 2 where the G-Man talks about free choice being an illusion. Yes, that sounds about right. Half-Life 2, nevertheless, sees you working for him. The choice – whatever choice, that is – that you made in Half-Life 1 ultimately becomes obsolete. It’s meaningless. Half-Life 2 follows no other avenue. There is no alternative. So any choice he may have offered you was a ploy. A trick. You would have worked for him anyway.

Best Wishes, Marc Laidlaw
Eli in Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
No, Brad, the scientist arguing with the G-Man was certainly not Eli Vance. Eli was, as you pointed out correctly, the chap who first told you to reach the surface and seek aid. I’m pretty sure we made that explicitly clear in Half-Life 2, unless I’m very much mistaken. Any plot holes that people have supposedly identified are not holes – merely gaps that we have intentionally refused to clarify until such an appropriate time comes along that it can be done so in the games when it’s relevant. I understand that a certain level of confusion may arise in regards to the aspects you highlighted but, as I have mentioned to you before in previous emails, it isn’t worth scuttling over. Half-Life 1 may have started on a whim and ended on a whim, but it led to a whole series of sequels. And although elements from those sequels were certainly not conceived at the time the original game was shipped, they were ultimately constructed in a logical manner that did not disrupt ‘continuity’, and I use that term lightly because I’m not particularly comfortable with labeling things as such. I certainly understand your frustration. We get a lot of those questions daily.

Best Wishes. Marc Laidlaw
The Expansion Packs

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Dear Bradley,

I don't really need to see or comment on comments or opinions of this sort...there's just too much of it out there to get involved in. However, as I've said in the past, Gearbox got its initial concept for OpFor from us (Gabe suggested the parallel story as a way to prevent them from having to build new resources, and because there's something cool about the Rashomon approach). Gearbox disagreed with us on some major elements (for instance, it felt important that they make Adrian and his squad "good guys" by forcing a confrontation early on with the "bad guy" soldiers who've been killing everyone in HL). Randy felt this was unnecessary. So they really took over the story for themselves, while hitting on a few key moments that seemed like a good idea at the time. (Nuking Black Mesa for instance.) By the time they got to Blue Shift, we trusted them enough to have a freer hand with the materials and we waited to see what they came up with--I remember being thoroughly delighted with it. Decay was another one where they just played around, and the only conversation I had with Randy about it was whether it would be okay to show the trash compactor sequence. As I recall, they wanted to do this as an homage, and I was a bit worried they were wearing out people's interest by reworking on HL material, but as long as they didn't introduce any outright conflicts, then I didn't object. Basically, we trusted them to be good game designers, and gave them a lot of freedom without worrying about how we were going to make sense of this later. We did not have anything like the final version of HL2 worked out in our minds at the time, so we couldn't exactly say "You can't do that because that makes no sense to the Combine timeline we have planned." We didn't have a Combine timeline. Finally, there was to have been yet another parallel story told from the point of view of a "Junior G-Man," which was partly prototyped by a crew that later formed the core of Infinity Ward. This turned into a game where you went through Black Mesa with the Team Fortress characters as sidekicks. The fact that we treated this idea seriously should give you a pretty good sense of how little we worried about canon or consistency at the time. It does not make sense to try and retrofit any kind of consistency on those older games except insofar as they give us interesting fodder for making new games.

For what it's worth, the only thing I wrote in OpFor (insisted on writing) is the G-Man's dialog.

I wish this would end it here, but I'm sure I will get an almost identical email tomorrow from someone who did not read your post!

Well, it's all fun. I'm happy people can still get worked up about these completely fabricated characters and events.

Yours,
Marc
On the Hydra Being in Episode Two

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Dear Trase,

If you've played the episode yourself, you will know that there is no
such scene--it's not something you would miss. There are no hydras in
any of our games, and nowhere a zombie is grabbed by anything. I can't
imagine a magazine lying in a preview, so perhaps it is just a confused
description of something from the Episode?

Thanks for writing.

Yours,
Marc Laidlaw

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
There was never any such scene in any version of Episode 2...the beta
was very similar to what we shipped. It certainly sounds like a cool
scene, though--makes me wish we had hydras.

You are welcome.
The Combine's Transhuman Assimilation Process

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Dear Roma,

Metrocops are the first step--originally I wanted to be able to transmit
conversations between bored metrocops. They are still just human
volunteers. Combine Soldiers are a step beyond that, and submit to
certain processes that remove autonomy and weaponize certain other
aspects of humanity unrelated to freewill. So you won't hear them
cracking jokes or disobeying orders.

The Combine are made up of many many species and get their tech where
they find it. But they haven't been in touch with Earth for all that
long, so it seems unlikely they built so much of their tech around
something gleaned from Aperture. Perhaps these matters will get clearer
as we investigate them. That's usually how it works.

Yours,

Marc Laidlaw
Gordon Freeman's Height

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I think you can determine Gordon's height by looking at the model in Hammer--one unit = one inch. Eye height is the only height we worry about. You may also note that all the human characters in the game are the same height. This is very unrealistic and has to do with the size and height of the bounding boxes and collision models, I believe. Maybe someday we'll feature a normal range of human heights.

You are incorrect in thinking that "the game aims for realism." We very deliberately do not aim at realism, but rather at a level of stylization that allows us to suggest just enough reality that it's surprising fun when we bend it. We don't think of our characters as realistic, but as stylized. And a lot of our design choices reflect that. We experimented with Halo style loadouts prior to HL2 and they didn't sit well with the Half-Life experience.

Thanks for writing.

Marc
Barney and Involvement with Portal

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Hi, Dimitar, thanks for you letter. Hard to imagine 37th Mandala being anyone's introduction to English language fiction, but...well...wow...that must have been very strange.

The Barney in HL2 and the episodes is indeed Barney Calhoun. I few a bunch of us had just watched Ravenous. Colqhoun is the character Robert Carlyle played. I grabbed the name but went with a more familiar spelling. Names come from odd places. The question of Barney's identity is fuzzier in HL and Blue Shift because that represented a shift-over from the generic clone army of "Barneys"...somehow he became individuated in there. I try not to think about it too hard. He didn't have a last name in HL, and didn't need one until later.

I can't comment much on Portal, I'm afraid. Wikipedia only knows what it's told, and we don't talk about this much. I was an early point of contact for the Portal team but once Erik Wolpaw took up the reins, I stopped peeking into the process; he knew the HL universe as well as anyone and I trusted whatever he might do with it in reference to Portal. The worlds overlap in meaningful ways, as I think are indicated by the slideshow in Portal and Kleiner's words about Aperture and Borealis in Episode 2.
Changes Between Half-Life and Half-Life 2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
This came naturally out of the design of the world, there was no point at which we didn't see the universe as being essentially dark. As long as we were trapped in the confines of Black Mesa, we didn't have to deal with the world beyond those walls, but that didn't mean we pictured a positive, nurturing environment, When the world of HL2 started coming into focus, we tried to be consistent in tone - but this wasn't a matter of being selectively darker or more sophisticated. It simply meant we had to be vigilant about introducing elements that might inadvertently break the spell that were were trying to cast.

Characters versus Caricatures

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We wanted to try our hand at adding real characters to the story, rather than caricatures. Advances in animation, and the people we were luring in from the film industry, spurred us to try for a broader emotional range.
Development and Goals of Alyx

Quote:

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We never argued about Alyx. In a lot of ways, the personality of the character in the game is just a refined version of our initial vision. Every discussion was about giving her more depth, more believability; we were all moving in the same direction from the start. Just as we wanted Gordon to be easily distinguishable from the typical videogame heroes of the way, we wanted Alyx to stand apart from the video-babe clichés.

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Old 01-25-2012, 02:12 PM   #4
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Nature of the Episodes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We conceived the Episodes as a complete three-part cycle stemming from HL2, which is why these are the Half-Life 2 Episodes. The idea was to do something self-contained within the larger series, not to use them to wrap up the series. I don't see how the conflict we've been slowly revealing could possibly be resolved any time soon. Humanity is just starting to glimpse the larger context.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
They forced our hand...instead of jumping forward another 10 years and letting players fill in the gaps for themselves, we've gotten the chance to develop some of the elements deliberately. But we've also had the chance to spend more time working on our characters and letting more of the plot emerge from them and their dynamics, rather than simply out of the demands of saving the world as quickly as possible.
Benefits of the Episodes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I felt like Half-Life 2 had about a short story's worth of content. Taking six years to advance the story such an insignificant amount felt like a poor trade-off. The episodes let us increase the density of story-like elements a bit and ship somewhat more frequently, which feels about right.
Story-Telling in the Episodes

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
HL2 was intended to stand alone without further explanation, and it still works that way. But when we decided that we were going to experiment with episodic content, it seemed like a good opportunity to finally "go deep" with story elements we had already introduced. We also felt obliged to give our fans some more concrete ideas to help interpret what had happened in the past, and what that might mean for the future. He don't wade into the forums and tell people they are right or wrong about parts of the story; we try to address things through the games themselves.
Design of Gordon Freeman

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Gordon Freeman, whatever his strengths and weaknesses, is defined entirely by his design constraints. Silence is the keystone of his character. I know it doesn't work for everyone, but fortunately there are plenty of games with talking protagonists. We don't have to turn Half-Life into one of those. That said, the 'strong, silent type' jokes are way past their expiration date. Even the very first and freshest one was slightly curdled.
The Cause of the Resonance Cascade

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I think it was a perfect storm of malevolent influences, not to mention the fact that you personally must have put the crystal in wrong.Thanks for messing it up for everybody, Max!
Citizen Nationalities

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Viktor (Antonov, visual designer for HL2)was a big influence on the design but we were heading that way already--one reason things clicked so well when we first started talking with him. He was key in helping it crystallize. It certainly helped that the influences were in his blood.

The Americanness of the citizens was the result of audio limitations. One thing I wished we could have done, once the localization was accomplished, was mix it up so that the citizens' dialog drew from every single language we had translated for the game. The code to do this is not difficult; but it would have meant adding every single citizen audio file for every single language, rather than simply the local language. I wanted to do this for the City 17 announcer voices as well. If someone were to make this mod, it would represent what I think is a much truer picture of the City 17 that was in our heads.
White Forest

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
In early drafts of the episode, Eli and Kleiner had warmed up White Forest all by themselves, somehow, in the brief time after fleeing City 17. This seemed ridiculous, so we developed a backstory in which Black Mesa had acquired an extremely cheap Cold War bunker and developed some projects in response to budgetary and oversight problems associated with basing all work in North America.
The Combine and Aperture Science

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Sorry, can’t comments on unreleased story elements. I can only say they tried to get in.
Time between HL2 and Episode 1

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
Some time has passed--that's what you see at the beginning of Ep1. Gordon's in stasis and the vortigaunts pull a bit of a rewind and yank him out of there, out of the G-Man's clutches. The idea is that Alyx was looking for him for a few days. It's always troubled me how poorly we conveyed this.
Lack of Wildlife in HL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I imagine the suppression field had an effect on a great deal of mammalian life actually. The lack of creatures has more to do with where we were able to invest resources but it does raise an interesting story angle.
How Weather Impacts the Combine

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
When you ask about the Combine, you're sort of asking if the Roman Empire was affected by weather. Horses probably didn't mind the snow along their marches, but the men shivered. All the different creatures that comprise the Combine would react differently.
Why City 17 is Totally Americanized

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
If someone wanted to, they could mod a version of City 17 that would play as intended: Namely, the citizens should have spoken every language in all our localized versions, and Breen's broadcasts (and all the PA broadcasts) should have looped through all the translations. Maybe someday, the amount of audio you'd have to load to have all those wavs in memory will seem insignificant and this will be a really easy thing to do...but I always pictured the citizens speaking every language with every accent. The fact they all speak American English is just an unfortunate byproduct of our various physical limitations...it could be modded to be otherwise.
Why Marc Doesn't Like Sequels

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
(The fact that I don't like sequels is) nothing to do with "fear," just with what is actually interesting to work on or experience. "I prefer to create new worlds" is more accurate. Most sequels are inferior to the originals, with a few exceptions: Game sequels can often improve on the original because of the iterative process that goes into game design...this is very different from sequels in other forms. And there are sequels which aren't really sequels, but simply multiple parts of a long single thing. So for instance I don't consider the Game of Thrones books to be sequels...they are part of an ongoing serial story. And they would probably work anyway because GRRM is an amazing writer, even if you were to consider them sequels. I admit, I get cautiously excited when I find out that an author I like is going to do another book with a setting or characters that I already love...but the anticipation is mixed with dread that they'll blow it somehow...and often they do.
Inspirations and character development for Gordon

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc
At the time we created Half-Life, the typical videogame hero was Duke Nukem. Cigar-chewing, wise-cracking, crude although effective. Obviously he was incredibly popular and it would have been hard to compete on the same ground. But he was also the kind of character in whom I couldn't find anything to relate to myself. We thought making a character who was sort of a brainy scientist type would reflect a fair number of our audience, and then we could have fun with the contrast between this supposed know-it-all who actually had no clue what was going on at any time, and whose practice of physics was limited to turning power off and on by pushing buttons.

As a viewpoint character, he was in place when I joined Valve, so I think he just naturally came out of the setting. It was a research lab, so the likeliest inhabitant of such a place would be a scientist. Once the game itself started to come together, then Gordon and his dilemmas came into focus. We wanted to mess with the player’s concept of his own identity. Don’t forget, in Half-Life, you could play as an absolute maniac, murdering your peers with crowbars and grenades, and having a great time while you did it.

By the time we moved into a Half-Life 2, we thought the extra realism made the psychopathic behavior a lot less fun, and by then we were more interested in sculpting a deliberate narrative. Gordon couldn't be killing off his friends anymore. It meant a loss of some gameplay freedom…which was sort of like a loss of innocence. But anyone who wants to can still go back to the glory days of Half-Life and club extremely low-poly scientists to death with little remorse.
Fan works

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc
We don’t feel our fans have any duty to do justice to the games—we’re humbled that we inspire so many people to undertake these epic projects. When fans ask us about story details to work into a mod they’re putting together, it’s usually because they want to be true to the world and make something that feels like a part of it. We can’t share our plans, so we always encourage them to do whatever makes the most sense as part of their movie or game or story. We have gotten years of enjoyment out of these creations. With the introduction of SFM as a more powerful movie-creation tool, we are seeing more astonishing little films all the time.
Concepts for HL2

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc
We never thought for a minute about the world outside the walls of Black Mesa. So we ran in circles for a few years, trying out all kinds of possibilities. We developed a world that had been invaded by numerous alien races that were in conflict with each other—there was a race of bugs, among other things.

We stuck Gordon in a black leather HEV torture suit like something out of a Clive Barker film. Eventually we settled on a fairly straightforward story of one man against an invading force…our twist was that Gordon was no longer alone, no longer the one man saving the world, that everything he did was part of a cooperative effort. He did things for other people—most of the goals in the game are someone else’s. Which is a good way to motivate a cipher. Once we had the world, we still had to make it feel like Half-Life 1; it still needed some kind of connection. And we found that in the Science Team—the survivors of Black Mesa, who knew how this had all begun, knew Gordon, and had (in some inexplicable way) been waiting for him.
Iterating Ravenholm

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc
Ravenholm was originally just a dark, dreary mining town—it was all about the claustrophobic streets, the teetering buildings, the oppressive sky. We planned it to be a haven that had been attacked by the Combine, we thought it would have one obsessive inhabitant who lobbed grenades and molotovs from a church tower, to help you get through town. But at some point, when we started integrating our physics engine with the game and designing environments to take advantage of that, we turned it into what we called Traptown. That’s when it started filling up with saw blades and zombies.

Father Grigori was just your average “preacher with a shotgun,” but of course that didn't really fit the environment directly, so I started to work out a more unorthodox religious approach to the character. A lot of people were working on all these different parts, and eventually the pieces clicked. We moved Ravenholm’s appearance in the plot a few times…originally you were to have gone there before you met Eli, but we realized that the area was much more fun if you had the gravity gun already. And by putting Ravenholm later in the game, it gave us the chance to do all the typical foreshadowing that is so indispensable to horror settings, with characters pointing out the dark path to Ravenholm, and ominously warning, “We don’t go there anymore.”

The moment you hear that, you know you’re going there…and it had damn well better be terrifying to live up to your dread!
Early HL2 Journeys

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
(The version of the HL2 script referred to in the Final Hours, in which the game starts on the Borealis) wasn't really the "first pass" at the script. We had many different starting places and many different storylines we kicked around.

In that version, you started on the ice, on foot, near the ice-locked Borealis, and then you boarded it, made you way through the ship, the ship travelled out of the ice and you boarded a minisub that took you down to an underwater lab run by Dr. Mossman and an army of stalkers. The lab was flooded, you narrowly escaped in an escape pod, were rescued by rebels and fought your way to a weather station where you boarded a C40 that flew you to the city where you crashed into a skyscraper and worked your way down through the ruined building to ground level where...my memories become unclear because we never built most of this. We already felt it wasn't working and we were moving on to more compelling scenarios. So in answer to your question "how would this have worked, exactly?" I reply, "It wouldn't work." That's why we didn't make it.

I'm not sure why people thought Borealis was placed toward the end of the game in the stolen version. (By the way, it was not a "leak." It was "theft.")
More on early HL2 journeys

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
...This diagram shows a later version of the story than the one I described. And the DC/Middle East settings were even earlier than the version that had Borealis in it. Don't forget, we had six years to churn through alternatives and lose our way over and over again.
Barney's appearance in Episode Two

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
I'm not sure, but when this was first pointed out, I think I concluded that a level designer had randomly triggered one of Barney's congratulatory lines among citizen lines in the garage shop area after you conclude the final strider battle. If that's the one you're talking about, then it was...an accident. Personally, once I heard about it, I pictured him hiding inside one of those crates in the area.
Ages of the Half-Life characters

Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
We've never disclosed, because we didn't want to pin it down precisely, because that just leads to painting ourselves into corners.
Hazard Course timing, in relation to HL1
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The Hazard Course was done well before the rest of the game, at the very beginning of Gordon's employment.
Nihilanth and the Resonance Cascade
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The Resonance Cascade was not harnessed by aliens; it was an opportunity they exploited. First the Nihilanth and its kind came through, under desperate pressure of pursuit by the Combine; and eventually, more leisurely, the Combine tracked them and followed them through. So the poor Nihilanth was squeezed by enemies on both sides. In general, hunamity's experiments with technologywere noticed and attracted unwelcome attention...like a fly suddenly twitching on a spider's web.
Metrocop power structure
Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Laidlaw
The Metrocops are the lowest form of human security organized and run by the Combine. Ones who show aptitude may be promoted to soldiers. Ones who don't are probably treated like damaged equipment by management; if it's more expensive to repair them than they're worth, they are probably just discarded. Their buddies might try to save them, I guess--but the ones who don't bother will get promoted faster, and the ones who show weakness will probably get washed out pretty quickly.

Last edited by Lilgreenman: 09-29-2014 at 04:49 PM. Reason: Thanks, Crescent
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Old 01-25-2012, 02:22 PM   #5
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This post is reserved for future missives; there's a character limit.

Last edited by Lilgreenman: 01-25-2012 at 03:10 PM.
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Old 01-25-2012, 02:34 PM   #6
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Nice job, hopefully we can revive some discussion.
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Old 01-25-2012, 03:39 PM   #7
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nice, maybe this one well be better
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Old 01-25-2012, 04:44 PM   #8
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Adding the date of when Laidlaw said what could be a good idea.
It's a little confusing.
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Old 01-25-2012, 06:08 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by hahahafr View Post
Adding the date of when Laidlaw said what could be a good idea.
It's a little confusing.
We don't have the dates for most of these. Anyway, don't see why we'd need them, they're not contradictory or anything (other than the Episode 3 information).
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Old 01-26-2012, 02:24 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Lilgreenman View Post
We don't have the dates for most of these. Anyway, don't see why we'd need them, they're not contradictory or anything (other than the Episode 3 information).
I mean, are they sorted by date at least?
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Old 01-26-2012, 05:16 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by hahahafr View Post
I mean, are they sorted by date at least?
You can find some original dates for stuff at the Marc Laidlaw Vault over on halflife2.net. sm

http://www.halflife2.net/forums/showthread.php?t=114535
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Old 01-26-2012, 09:16 AM   #12
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Chuckles

I had to chuckle at the guy in the old thread telling Valve that "some of us are in our 20's now". I too have been following the HL series since HL1 was released, but I'm more like "50-something".

None the less, all humor aside, I do understand what that poster was talking about. It's a sad fact that the vast majority of new games seem to be aimed squarely at a 12-to-15 year old demographic, probably because the devs are trying to cash in on the console market. Sadly, console gamers do outnumber PC gamers by a factor of 3-1 or more. And, rightly or wrongly, it is widely believed that the majority of console gamers are in that 12-15 age bracket.

Personally, I'm not convinced that the widely-accepted figures are correct. I strongly suspect that the whole methodology of polling and study groups and surveys is inherently flawed on a deep and fundamental level.

Call me a cynic.
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Old 01-26-2012, 05:30 PM   #13
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Remember Lilgreenman to update this thread and DONT f***ing get banned
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Old 01-26-2012, 07:07 PM   #14
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I'll do my best.
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Old 01-27-2012, 08:07 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Solarmech View Post
You can find some original dates for stuff at the Marc Laidlaw Vault over on halflife2.net. sm

http://www.halflife2.net/forums/showthread.php?t=114535
Yes. I checked this thread, but it's long dead. Last post is from 2010, and the OP has not been updated after 2009.
This vault is a good idea. It could be even better with some years infos.
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