Valve's Making Up Half-Life Along the Way

 Pages PREV 1 2
 

Ryan Hughes:
Yes, there was a minor reference to Black Mesa in Portal. More than that, what Yahtzee fails to realize is that Portal -and most of what he described in the article- can be referred to as a type of "minimalism." Though, what he gets wrong is that "minimalism" is not an excuse to make things up as you go, but rather the conscious act of showing the audience only a portion of the world and characters you have created, then allowing their own imagination to fill in the blanks.

At its heart, true minimalism always respects the intelligence of the audience. However, it can lead to people who do not understand the concept attempting to emulate it and producing truly shallow works, which is exactly what I fear will happen with gaming. Valve might be talented enough to avoid doing this, but can we say the same for EA? Capcom? Activision?

Minimalism's other major drawback is its lack of ability to communicate more complex philosophies and ideals. There is a reason that Kierkegaard, Kant, Goethe, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, etc. where not minimalists. Sometimes things need be said, and sometimes these things require lines like Dickens' "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity, or Death? The last, much the easiest to bestow, O, guillotine!" So, in my opinion, he is making a mistake by not acknowledging other types of writing philosophy that do not meet his own aesthetics so closely.

very much this. In fact, if you pay attention to the "behind the scenes" minigame in Left 4 Dead, they outright admit to this approach as a conscious effort. (In the scene, they are describing the sheet covered bodies often found near a safe house, and how they tell a story, about other survivors, and their losses and sacrifices. someone obviously cared enough about whoever is under that sheet to cover them, and that person might still be alive somewhere, trying to survive by the skin of their teeth, just like you.)

I derailled myself again, point is, Valve has often admitted that they approach their story writing from a point of being purposefully ambiguous, and allowing their audience to draw their own conclusions. Valve has nailed this method, and I love them for it.

WhiteTigerShiro:

o_O:
What with Valve jerking everyone around on when they'll actually continue telling the story

Um... Valve hasn't been jerking anyone around, people have been jerking themselves around on the matter by constantly asking about it; Valve has kept a consistent "We don't have anything to say on the matter" tone, and they've never brought it up unless someone else specifically asked them about it.

So by all means, be annoyed that it's taking so long for a sequel to come out, but don't act like Valve is specifically dangling a carrot in front of our faces when they clearly prefer to avoid talking about it.

How about Gabe's Half Life 3 t-shirt, or his line in the Clang kickstarter video?

They ARE teasing us.

Alterego-X:

WhiteTigerShiro:

o_O:
What with Valve jerking everyone around on when they'll actually continue telling the story

Um... Valve hasn't been jerking anyone around, people have been jerking themselves around on the matter by constantly asking about it; Valve has kept a consistent "We don't have anything to say on the matter" tone, and they've never brought it up unless someone else specifically asked them about it.

So by all means, be annoyed that it's taking so long for a sequel to come out, but don't act like Valve is specifically dangling a carrot in front of our faces when they clearly prefer to avoid talking about it.

How about Gabe's Half Life 3 t-shirt, or his line in the Clang kickstarter video?

They ARE teasing us.

Those are more recent examples and not really a tease, more of an acknowledgement of the wait for the game. The Kickstarter video was more of a way of just saying "Guys chill, we know, just give us more time."

Again, I think the internet is being the internet with itself so the slightest idea that something Half-Life related will become announced and the internet goes into a frenzy, and gaming sites aren't much better, fuelling the fire.

Portal was intended to be part of the Half-Life universe. Cave Johnson mentions Black Mesa in the second one and it GlaDos mentioned Black Mesa in Still Alive. They're meant to be rivalling scientific research corporations. It doesn't look like it was pulled from an arse. The reason why Portal is funny is because GlaDos is insane, and I think that it can be woven into HL2: Episode 3 quite nicely.

WhiteTigerShiro:
Snip

You know. Except for the whole five-years-to-make-an-episode thing. And ending on a cliffhanger like that. Kinda implies you're gonna have the next part out quickly.

Ep2 didn't finish up the overarching story, and also opened up a major can of worms. It teased. That is one hell of a dick way to leave your story off if you're gonna take more than half a decade to revisit it, since this kind of lack-of-ending is a carrot (more like promise of a carrot, actually) in its own right. No one in their right minds thought Valve was just going to abandon this story in favor of others at the time. And yet they did just that.

While yes, the fan base yanks its own chain now and again, I'd still say Valve is jerking us around. Whether they mean to or not is another discussion. I'd argue that at a half decade down the line, they are. Playing coy is no better than teasing. Good thing I can't summon up the willpower to give a shit anymore, or I'd be pissed. As is, I'm more like a disappointed bystander.

Tobias Wolter:
This is just the "Viewers Are Geniuses" trope, although in a lesser extent. If the vagueness of the quite upfront HL2 affronts you, pray that the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (or lesser examples like the Stormlight Archives) never get a videogamization.

If the Malazan Book of the Fallen got some video games.... oh god... that would be a Kingdom Hearts level of complexity and confusion and unresolvedness....

Maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't G-man originally nameless (or maybe not nameless, but just not 'g-man') and (I think this is the case) that the players called him g-man for 'government man'. I don't ever remember seeing a black mesa logo on his briefcase, but I wasn't paying too much attention to his briefcase, more focusing on the hoards of aliens trying to munch on my brains.

As fucked up as the Trilby game's continuity got towards the end, I always felt that if one would play only 5days and notes, it'd kinda make sense. Maybe because notes was the best game of the 4 and didn't have to retcon as extremely as 6days and 7days.

Yahtzee, I want you to listen to me, and I want you to understand me: There is no such thing as looking too deeply into Half-Life's plot.

I've been afraid of this since Lost proved to me how much lack of planning can ruin a good story. At this point I can't imagine Valve revealing the Gman's origins without being a big disappointment. Still, we probably won't have to worry about these things for a long, long time.

Also, kudos to Yahtzee for mentioning Walter's World. I haven't thought of that in maybe a decade.

The reason Valve isn't making Half Life 3 is because there is no demand for it. Why bother spending so much money on creating another iteration of a game that will probably not break even when you can continue milking your customers and tricking modders into making you rich?

I'm just going to come out and say this: being ambiguous is NOT good story telling. If all you're heading out the door with is a basic framework and some "neat ideas" that you'll back-fill later, you're not telling a story... you're being lazy and pretending a generic framework is the same thing as a complex narrative.

The bitch of it is that humans love mysteries. If you pretend something is significant and don't explain it (e.g. G-Man in HL1, Smoke monster in Lost, Cigarette-smoking Man in X-Files, the Black Lodge in Twin Peaks, and on and on and on), people eat that shit up. It's being provocative, but not providing anything of substance. In other words, it's masturbation... and it encourages people to get on internet forums and circle jerk with others about the significance of... whatever. Sure, it's fun... masturbation usually is... but it doesn't amount to anything because it's not part of the story... and whatever the fans spend hours theorizing is almost never how the story ends up playing out whenever things do get explained. And no, it's not because the final result outfoxes the fans... it's just to throw another curveball because that's all these kinds of writers know.

tl;dr: being vague is not being clever. Quite the opposite.

Burig:
Maybe I'm misremembering, but wasn't G-man originally nameless (or maybe not nameless, but just not 'g-man') and (I think this is the case) that the players called him g-man for 'government man'. I don't ever remember seeing a black mesa logo on his briefcase, but I wasn't paying too much attention to his briefcase, more focusing on the hoards of aliens trying to munch on my brains.

His name isn't mentioned in the games. However, in the game files, his character is listed as "G-Man".

Tobias Wolter:
This is just the "Viewers Are Geniuses" trope, although in a lesser extent. If the vagueness of the quite upfront HL2 affronts you, pray that the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (or lesser examples like the Stormlight Archives) never get a videogamization.

Oh Lord...a game of an Erikson book would need an in game wiki to help people keep tract of the characters let alone the vague plot threads.

OT: I always felt despite being vague at in places HL2 just seemed to make sense; I mean sure some parts are unexplained and seem tad odd but it never felt forced and I just went with it.

That's why I like Half-Life 2's story so much. First time I played it, and the Episodes, I got the main stuff. Then I checked the wiki and found SO MUCH MORE STUFF that I missed. I was like, "Wait, that never happened. What are they talking about? Where did they get this information? I don't understand..." So I would go back and play the game and look for all of this stuff and wow...and Yahtzee is right in that they can get away with so much because nothing ever seems to get nailed down. It's always just hinted at with everything, but never fully stated, so if they want to change something later, they can.

Such good storytelling. If only they didn't take so long to tell it. Well, whatever they do, I hope they don't reveal everything about the G-man. I want to know who he is, what he is, what he wants, and all that, but at the same time I'm fully aware that by giving me even ONE of those details, the Half-Life games will lose a massive amount of their charm.

"I know I come across as a big frothing Valve fanboy sometimes, but it's not just because they paid for me to go on holiday once"

Am I understanding this right? Valve paid Croshaw to go on a holiday?

Has nobody ever played the PS1 version of Half-Life 1?

There is an extra co-op mode with its own storyline that runs parallel to Gordon Freeman's wacky adventures, an it explains a lot about why things will happen the way they do in Half-Life 2. Huh, there is nothing in Wikipedia about this either, how odd.

From what I remember you play as two women scientists, I beleive one is Alyx's mother and the other is that woman who betrays Eli Vance and crew to Breen in HL2. I never beat this mode, but it starts off as Magnason, the department head, in the same room with the two player women, getting breifed via video by Breen, the administrator of Black Mesa. Breen tells them everything is under control, but Magnason strongly disagrees and orders the two players off to go rescue some other workers.

Hasn't anyone else played this? I remember Yahtzee complaining about Magnason acting like everybody knew him in Episode 2 when he wasn't familure with Magnason. Well, this is where he comes from.

WhiteTigerShiro:

o_O:
What with Valve jerking everyone around on when they'll actually continue telling the story

Um... Valve hasn't been jerking anyone around, people have been jerking themselves around on the matter by constantly asking about it; Valve has kept a consistent "We don't have anything to say on the matter" tone, and they've never brought it up unless someone else specifically asked them about it.

So by all means, be annoyed that it's taking so long for a sequel to come out, but don't act like Valve is specifically dangling a carrot in front of our faces when they clearly prefer to avoid talking about it.

Thank you! I have no idea where this idiocy keeps coming from! Valve has not been building hype for Half-Life 3.
People are doing it to themselves.

PercyBoleyn:
The reason Valve isn't making Half Life 3 is because there is no demand for it. Why bother spending so much money on creating another iteration of a game that will probably not break even when you can continue milking your customers and tricking modders into making you rich?

Hi, you must be new to around these parts.

Captcha: "Dueling Banjos". Umm... Yeah. Half-Life all makes sense, now. Thank you, Captcha...

I always thought G-Man was kindof like Q. He seems to have complete omnipotence, but he isn't as humorous as John De Lancie...

Towels:
Has nobody ever played the PS1 version of Half-Life 1?
There is an extra co-op mode ... I remember Yahtzee complaining about Magnason acting like everybody knew him in Episode 2 ...

When was it released?
In the developer commentary for HL2E2 (R2D2), someone (Gabe?) says that they wanted a third character, because why in the world would these two dweebs - out of all the Black Mesa staff - be the only ones to survive AND have prominent roles in the resistance. There were three scientist models in Half-Life, so they fleshed out a character for the white scientist with hair. [And the fact that he HAS to reference the casserole is neat, but asinine at the same time.]

In other news, I have to take the side against Valve's writing in HL being minimalist. It is true that there was a great sense of 'Wait, did I miss something?' in the game. At least one scientist speaks for everyone saying; "What is going on?" Much of this is intentional. They could have had Gordon get to work on time and sit through the full briefing, but the intro was already too long, and Valve would have had to make up a bunch of science-y words. Then I would have ended up doubting Valve's science-ness.

I thought HL told a fairly coherent story which I largely understood. I can even tell you why the "Gman" talks funny. It's because he's the same voice actor that plays Barney. Those were very early days for voice acting in games. In order for the Barney actor to not sound like Barney, he had to change his cadence. Although apparently a bullsquid ate his diction.

 Pages PREV 1 2

Reply to Thread

Log in or Register to Comment
Have an account? Login below:
With Facebook:Login With Facebook
or
Username:  
Password:  
  
Not registered? To sign up for an account with The Escapist:
Register With Facebook
Register With Facebook
or
Register for a free account here