Half-Life 3 Dev Commentary Revealed
Recently, the Internet noticed a file named hl3.txt was included in a DOTA 2 update, and everyone had a massive brain aneurysm and died. Or something. Later, everyone noticed it was probably mostly inconsequential.
OR WAS IT
Below, you’ll find some excerpts from what appear to be subtitles for Valve’s trademark Developer Commentary that were hidden away in the file. The’re not labelled by name, so it can be hard to know who’s saying what, but some bits are easy to guess. Don’t read on if you don’t want to see massive spoilers, obv.
When we left Alyx and Gordon, Eli had just been murdered by that giant worm thingy and things were pretty much in the toilet for our heroes. One of the things that delayed the sequel for so long was Erik’s insistence that Dr Kleiner’s headcrab couple with Eli as he dies, and a resurrected ‘Zomb-Eli’ be your comic foil for this game. He clung to that pretty hard. And since we have this whole Valve Culture thing going on and none of us could really overrule him, we basically had to wait until he stopped finding it funny. It took six years.
We were super excited to have Clint Hocking on the team. Unfortunately, he left for Amazon in the meantime. I think he’s just gone back to Ubisoft? There actually aren’t many obvious signs that he ever worked on Half Life; probably on account of he spent most of his time here rocking back and forth in his chair, messing with the enemy respawn timer.
It’s not that we ever stopped loving Half-Life – we just got hugely excited about other games. You’ll see some shoutouts to those games hidden in Three. For instance, if you look closely, you’ll notice that this skybox is made entirely of recoloured TF2 hats.
We knew that when we took the players to Aperture Science, they’d be expecting the Portal Gun. So we had the G-Man drop some hints about it before you go; in this interruption, he predicts your excursion will be a ‘huge success’, then notes that he’s ‘still talking when there’s mysterious-alien-man stuff to do’. Just really getting the player excited to get to the chambers. That way, it makes the fact that we didn’t include the Portal Gun and instead filled that section with Ant Lions even more of a fun twist.
Once it was clear that Zomb-Eli wasn’t happening, I pitched a bit where Eli’s ghost possesses Dog, and for some reason that turns Dog into a mech that Gordon can pilot and just stomp Combine ass with. It was around then that Gabe told me he’d give me a raise if I wrote Team Fortress 2 comics forever and never talked to the Half-Life team again.
Foley work for the new alien enemies was a lot of fun. You really end up finding the perfect sound in the most random places. That low menacing drone of the Impure Combine? The one that sounds like the inhuman bugle call of an alien apocalypse? That’s actually a completely untouched recording of Gabe’s reaction when legal told him we’d have to start offering refunds.
I did leave a post-it on Laidlaw’s monitor suggesting that Judith Mossman become “Queen of the Ant Lions’, because they somehow emit the same pheromones. It even had a little stickman drawing of Gordon riding Dog into battle with Judith, who was charging around on one of those Antlion bosses. Then another post-it note underneath that just said “WOW” in big block letters with little stars around it. That was when everyone wheeled me, and my desk, into the men’s room.
So, I really feel like that Combine battle explains exactly why this game’s development became such an extended thing. Not because it was difficult or time-consuming to make, but because in the time it took you play through that, we made more money from DOTA and Steam than you’d see in three full lives. Singe-player is dead, and someday you will be too, but Steam? Steam lives forever. Gabe out.