Half-Life: Alyx is just the beginning of Half-Life's comeback story, and Valve reveals why they chose to make a VR-exclusive game rather than jump right into Half-Life 3.
The new Half-Life game isn't what we expected. It's a VR-only Half-Life 2 prequel that aims to be virtual reality's killer app and justify Valve's massive investment into the still-fringe platform. But it also serves another big role: Half-Life: Alyx is basically a practice run for new Half-Life projects. It's a way to get Valve back into the groove of the franchise, all while learning new things about Source 2 like optimizing graphics, textures, and FPS mechanics. A lot of what Valve learns from Half-Life: Alyx can translate into other Half-Life games, even if they're not VR projects.
In a recent interview with Geoff Keighley, Valve programmers talked about how Half-Life: Alyx is a stepping stone to new things. The team might not be ready to work on Half-Life 3 just yet, but this new VR project will help pave the way to that magical threequel.
"Back in 2016, when we started this, Half-Life 3 was a terrifyingly daunting prospect, right? I think to some extent VR was a way we could fool ourselves into believing we had a way to do this," said Valve's Robin Walker.
"By starting with VR then trying to think about Half-Life and how it worked, and playtesting those experiences, you're immediately in a space where we have something we understand well, like Half-Life's core gameplay, and then a new platform with new prospects and new possibilities.
"We can do that translation [to VR] and then watch people play it. So within a week or two, we're starting to learn. So it was really easy not try and think about of the big picture of like 'we're making Half-Life 3' and just figure out what people enjoy in this and then let's make forward progress."
This progress isn't just limited to VR. Of course, Half-Life: Alyx's development would mostly translate to more VR games, but the systems, textures, designs, and overall mechanics could still be molded for a traditional mouse and keyboard setup.
Valve knows that VR is a niche market. They hope to accelerate headset sales with Half-Life: Alyx, but they know most gamers still play on PC. And of course have assertions from Valve that more Half-Life games are on the way--there's no way that the lucrative IP would be locked to such a small addressable market.
Other fun tidbits about the interview: Valve resurrected other franchises in VR, possibly even Left 4 Dead 3.
"There's projects we've worked on in the past 9 years that people never heard about and that never shipped," said Valve's David Speyrer.
"All along the way in building Source 2 we tried various games in different franchises. Each of them kind of moved the engine forward in some way and explored some ideas, and they were all back-burnered for good reasons I think. They were more like milestones along the way to get where we are with Half-Life: Alyx.
"I think it'd be really fun to delve back into those [games]."
Half-Life: Alyx is due out March 2020 exclusively for SteamVR headsets, including HTC Vive, Oculus Rift, Valve Index, and Windows Mixed Reality HMDs.
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