“The Game Is Done”: Six Major Answers From The Half-Life: Alyx AMA

Valve set up its own little round-table ahead of the Half-Life: Alyx release and answered a small number of pressing fan questions.

Excited for Half-Life: Alyx? Valve too, apparently.  seem to be bursting at the seams with excitement — enough to make a whole AMA, aka a Reddit Q&A session, out of it.

There’s definitely precedent to the hype. Half-Life: Alyx is the first real Half-Life game since Half-Life 2: Episode 2. And even as a virtual reality game, it looks fantastic. It utilizes the Valve Index’s precise hand and finger detection to allow players to interact with the in-game environment.

The good news for fans is, Valve has taken some initiative in communicating with its fans lately. Its social media accounts are more lively, and developers pop up more frequently in forums. But this is likely the biggest initiative to get in touch with its fans.

While limited in replies (it is Valve, after all), the AMA hits some pretty interesting topics about the upcoming game. Here are some of the highlights from what Valve answered.

1. Alyx Speaks, But It’s Not The Original Actress

Valve isn’t flipping the switch on your character’s voice box. As Alyx once spoke in the past, of course, she’s back to get a few more words — and the Valve team seems happier for it.

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

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Unfortunately for older Half-Life fans, Alyx’s original voice actress, Merle Dandridge, isn’t returning. And it wasn’t for a lack of trying.

“We worked with Merle at the beginning of HL:A development,” the account generally replied, “but in the end, felt we wanted to go in a different direction. We love Merle, her work in Half-Life 2 was instrumental in bringing Alyx to life, and we hope to work with her again in the future.”

2. Half-Life: Alyx Has Some Accessibility Features (And Valve Wants To Make More)

Valve wants as many people in the Half-Life VR experience as possible. Of course, in order to do that, you’re going to need some accessibility features. Thankfully, it seems Valve had that in mind.

In a reply to a question about “locomotion” features — meaning, movement within meatspace — Valve replied that there were already such features as “seated” and left-handed modes, plus an “et-cetera,” meaning there’s possibly others in store. They also said they’d “like to do more,” including a one-handed mode.

If you have any requested features that would get you into the action, they suggest you either reply or email Gabe Newell. (His email, if you’ve missed it over the years, is: gaben@valvesoftware.com)

3. Relations Are Reportedly Good With Marc Laidlaw

Rumors of Laidlaw’s demise have been greatly exaggerated. At least as far as Valve’s concerned, anyway.

After former Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw left Valve, fans speculated about the future of Half-Life. Laidlaw eventually posted a blog post titled “Epistle 3,” which had a world paralleling that of the Half-Life universe. Of course, that led fans to believe that Laidlaw had given up on Half-Life—as well as Valve—altogether. That doesn’t seem to be the case, according to Valve.

“We’ve never been able to figure out where the rumors of us falling out with Marc came from, because there’s no truth to it,” the general account posted. “He’s been super generous with his time throughout the development of HL:A, answering many questions from Erik, Jay, and Sean as they hammered away on the story. As is always the case with Marc, we send him an email, and he sends us a response, and then roughly 40 more replies to his own email.”

In other words, Laidlaw has, to a degree, been involved in making sure the glue of the universe stays together. Praise be.

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4. Half-Life: Alyx Is Pretty Much, Reliably Done

Looks like we aren’t living in Valve Time(tm) anymore. Or at least, they didn’t let you know they were in Valve Time(tm) when they were taking so long. [taps finger to forehead] Hmmm?

Anyway, the staff at Valve would like you to know that Half-Life: Alyx is, in fact, finished. Or at least, it’s good enough that they can do a few play-throughs without too much trouble.  And that looks like, in a season of heavy cancellations, that we’ll see the game on time.

“With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done,” Valve said. “Lots of us at Valve, as well as playtesters, have played through the entire game multiple times.”

“Right now we’re primarily polishing and fixing bugs, which is where we’d hope to be at this point in the development cycle. We’re confident we’ll hit our intended release. (We let the Valve Time happen before we announced the game.)”

So minus some basic QA shenanigans, it looks like Valve is pretty confident in their spring release. So which strong female character are you gonna be acquainted with this March: Isabelle or Alyx?

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5. Half-Life: Alyx Merch Is Coming

More crab hats? Valve’s various versions of its merch store always has a small trickle of merchandise. If you were hoping for more for this specific release, well, so is the Valve team. It sounds like it’s working on some Half-Life: Alyx merch to drop before the game itself shows up, so you can show your loyalty to the developer overlords.

“Physical merch is something we want to do more of,” said the Valve team. “We plan to have some of it available before release.”

So get your wallets ready, because release is in just about two months, and merch comes before that.

6. There Will Be A Little Train, As A Treat

“It’s actually illegal to ship a Half-Life game if you don’t spend at least a little time riding in a train.” — Valve