Electron Dance
1Sep/15Off

Discussion: Goodbye, Dr. Freeman

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  1. Apologies for giving the newsletter last month’s subject of “The House of Zero”. Some confusion related to changing the template.

  2. I can’t argue with how acceptable it is for the Half-Life saga to simply end, for all the reasons you describe. I also can’t not argue that I want to see the story of its world (less so its characters) brought to a conclusion. I don’t mind a dissatisfactory conclusion if its in preference to a cliffhanger, I guess? I dunno; it has been a while since I last played Ep2.

    It’s pretty clear to me, in my dreamworld of magical speculation, that Valve have the mindset that if they’re going to do something, it’ll be when they have an opportunity to make it a game-changer in the way that HL was with narrative and storytelling, and HL2 was with physics and visual fidelity. For that reason I would not be surprised to see the saga concluded with a flagship Vive title. They have until March, I guess!

    Whatever happens, though, I’m with you all the way on one point: no one will miss Gordon Freeman.

  3. Shaun, I think you’re right that Valve probably wouldn’t want to unveil anything that was merely “not bad”. This may mean we will never see HALF-LIFE continued and no announcement to the effect made.

    I’m not sure HL is a reasonable for for Vive as reading what Tommy Refernes had to say about it, it seems it is scarily real. One of the concerns was that they could kill someone with this tech.

  4. Yeah, I can see how this sort of stuff could be really dangerous. That said, people climb mountains, ride quad bikes and go spelunking for fun.

    Since VR/AR is the new-ish area where the industry is competing most visibly (along with mobile), and assuming VR/AR doesn’t fall apart like a tissue paper wall, I’m fairly confident that people will find a way to make it work with commercially viable games. Obviously that doesn’t mean that what we end up with is in the same paradigm (sorry) as the games we’re used to seeing.

    As for human reactions, well, I think the human mind is very adaptable when it comes to new perceptual challenges. Extremely advanced VR may be a different story to the first photographs, films, video games etc, but ultimately doesn’t it all come down to the human brain learning to recognise a new set of perceptual abstractions? I guess it’s hard to say as the tech doesn’t quite seem to be in place to support any real research (at least that’s public; no doubt people like Valve have something along such lines).

  5. I had never given the “danger” of modern VR much of a thought until Tommy’s piece on Vive:

    To maintain my sanity and my control over the situation, I say to Jeep, the man running the demo, “If a Shark pops out at me, I will take this off and be done with this forever”. Through the headphones he says “No no, we feel that’s low hanging fruit, and honestly we think it might kill someone.”

    With that mentality in the Valve VR team, I can’t imagine something overly stimulating being their flagship title, certainly no horror bits. But maybe they would get around this by toning down the realism of the scene. They have a smart VR team at Valve.

  6. I’m going to miss Gordon Freeman’s voice. Still.

    I think Morgan Freeman should voice him. /jk

    Started The Knife of Dunwall the other day and what a difference Michael Madsen’s voice makes over Corvo’s silence.

    I think you’re right Shaun that Valve would only release the third installment with something else up their sleeve. At one point I imagined them releasing it exclusively on Steam OS and Windows but I don’t think Valve are that shitty. VR could be it, but I dunno.

    I’m not a huuuge fan of HL2 or Episode One, but Episode Two really popped for me. That final set-piece was amazing. HL2 was special for another reason for me: Alyx seemed so ‘alive’ as a companion — winking at me after doing some crazy jump in the car, or making some alien noise behind me in the dark then giggling, or covering her face when I shone my flashlight in it while exploring, or vaulting over a railing instead of using the stairs. These things added so much. I’ve been playing Skyrim recently and Jesus H Christ… Lydia. Even Elizabeth from Binfinite looked dollishly vacant at times, something I don’t recall Alyx being guilty of.

    Oh and don’t forget HL2 required Steam. The uproar. And now look at us.

  7. Thanks for that piece on VR too Joel.

  8. Well, it is no surprise that I could not give two shits about whether a sequel to Half Life 2 is ever released.

    I definitely agree that if it did it couldn’t just be more of Half Life 2 but prettier because pretty much every game that has ripped it off has taken the rollercoaster first person shooter experience to its natural extremes.

  9. Hi Gregg,

    I think silent protagonists have their place but I don’t feel Dishonored profited from it so much. NPCs often reacted to a Corvo which was not who I was trying to portray. I got the Dishonored expansions for my wife in Christmas 2013 – I hope to see, one day, how the DLC feels compared to the original. Yes, these are still unplayed!

    In the Bioshock Infinite video I’m making, for a game that was about Elizabeth being The Best Companion Ever, I noticed she sometimes gets a little “the lights are on but there’s nobody home”.

    And Badger Commander:

    Yes, no surprises there! The path that Valve started down with Half-Life has pretty much been turned into a gridlocked seven-lane motorway. They’ve got to go somewhere else with the formula and, if they can’t, a Half-Life continuation is dead in the water… unless Valve’s business model tanks and they’re desperate for cash.

  10. Silent protagonists have their place: in the quiet corner, natch.

    I don’t really feel like Gordon needed to say anything (unlike Corvo being interrogated: “You killed the Empress! How do you plead?” “…”), but it just seems weird and a bit silly that he’s silent through everything. He doesn’t even make noises when he’s shot. I would be really vocal if I was shot.

    I suppose as this stage it would break the spell if he suddenly decided to pipe up. Especially if he sounded like Morgan Freeman.


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