Laidlaw Lays It Out

By John Walker on November 11th, 2007 at 8:49 pm.

Half-Life2.net have a quick interview with Marc Laidlaw, science fiction author and story writer/designer for Valve on the Half-Life games.

Asked how the episodes have changed the way they develop the plots, he explains,

“They forced our hand…instead of jumping forward another 10 years and letting players fill in the gaps for themselves, we’ve gotten the chance to develop some of the elements deliberately. But we’ve also had the chance to spend more time working on our characters and letting more of the plot emerge from them and their dynamics, rather than simply out of the demands of saving the world as quickly as possible.”

Read the rest of it here. (Warning: it contains some fairly major spoilers early on).

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25 Comments »

  1. drunkymonkey says:

    There’s so many links I need to check out for when I actually get and complete Episode 2. Seems like a good interview, and the inclusion of characters in Half Life has definitely made the series a lot less lonely to venture through. When the only people you met that didn’t try and kill you in the original were identikit scientists and security guards, Half Life 2 was very refreshing.

  2. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Good read! May I suggest a spoiler tag somewhere though, as the very first question kinda gives away the whole bag with ep2. Luckily, I just completed it this afternoon!

  3. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    I meant the very second question, of course.

  4. drunkymonkey says:

    Mmm, that’s why I stopped reading! Although that didn’t spoil it for me – that particular plot point was ruined aeons ago.

  5. John P (Katsumoto) says:

    Ah, galling! I’d somehow avoided it so it was quite a shock. Excellent scene though.

    I’m also now ready to go back and read everything everyone has written on ep2. For instance, nothing I had read prepared me for the shittiness of the second level with the antlions! For me, the weakest moment in the entire series, including HL1. Luckily the rest of it was utterly brilliant.

  6. Ace says:

    I thought this was interesting:

    The idea was to do something self-contained within the larger series, not to use them to wrap up the series. I don’t see how the conflict we’ve been slowly revealing could possibly be resolved any time soon. Humanity is just starting to glimpse the larger context.

    Is he suggesting a half-life 3? (or 4 if the episodes count as 3)? Anyway, hopefully ep3 will wrap things up well enough. Like, at least tell us what G-man is up to in all this.

  7. Bob Arctor says:

    Arse, just got majorly spoilered there!!! Haven’t even played Ep1 yet!

  8. John Walker says:

    Sorry – meant to put a spoiler warning on it, but was then distracted by a bee.

  9. Evo says:

    Ah the joys of halflife2.net :D

  10. Wickedashtray says:

    I wish he would go back to writing some of his own work in his spare time. The guy is immensely talented in his own right.

  11. Ging says:

    Is he suggesting a half-life 3? (or 4 if the episodes count as 3)? Anyway, hopefully ep3 will wrap things up well enough. Like, at least tell us what G-man is up to in all this.

    Honestly, I hope there isn’t an HL3 and that if there is I pray that they’re busy working on a new engine for it, one that’s an actual advancement over Source, rather than just the previous game with bits cobbled on.

  12. drunkymonkey says:

    I can’t see Valve *not* doing that, Ging.

  13. Ging says:

    doing what? releasing HL3 using a further cobbled together engine or writing a new one?

  14. Cruz says:

    Say what you will about the “cobbled together” source, you can’t deny that it with all those additions they have made to it, has aged extremely well. Besides, at this point, who is playing the HL games for “ooo shiny graphics” anyway? I thought we were all in it for the story.

  15. Pesh says:

    Get out of here Evo!

    Great interview, too bad the answers were terse. Looking forward to some non-Gordon Half Life in the future.

  16. Ging says:

    It’s not even about “ooh shiny graphics”, it’s just about them actually writing something new. I appreciate that they’ve extended it’s life a lot, but you’ve gotta be a bit concerned when there’s still bits of Quake code in there!

    At the same time, if they wrote a new engine, they could make it nice for modders to work with.

  17. Ace says:

    Well, I actually was just concerned about how they were going to wrap up the story. I’m all for a new game engine, though obviously that would be looking pretty far into the future.

    On a sort of related note, in case anyone is interested, I came across this short story by Marc Laidlaw awhile ago. It doesn’t have anything to do with Half-life but I thought it was very good, though as in Half-life it takes some effort to figure out what the heck is going on.

  18. TychoCelchuuu says:

    It’s nice to see him acknowledge that HL2 was approximately a short story’s worth of, well, story. I’ve always wondered whether Valve actually realized that the game that took them 6 years or whatever to make didn’t end up adding a gigantic amount to the universe. Not that it wasn’t fun or anything. I’m really happy with the direction the story’s taking, too, and I can’t wait for Episode 3. And maybe a Portal followup. Yes, more Portal. Please.

  19. Ging says:

    Well, I actually was just concerned about how they were going to wrap up the story. I’m all for a new game engine, though obviously that would be looking pretty far into the future.

    He certainly hits at the fact that the episodes aren’t going to wrap up everything they’ve shown so far story wise – so I’d be highly surprised if they didn’t do something to help complete the overall story arc (or several somethings) in the future, it’d be interesting to see if they could do something not in the form of an FPS (though I’m not sure what – or how well it would work without the player being Gordon).

  20. Ging says:

    oh, for an edit function!

    That should probably read “He certainly hints at the fact”.

  21. Wickedashtray says:

    Ace, thanks so much for posting that link. Absolutely great read.

  22. Ace says:

    Thanks for the thanks, there’s one other story by Marc Laidlaw there which is also good, and a whole lot of other stories by various sci fi authors. I bookmarked the link and have been reading them every now and then ever since I discovered the site. I particularly liked the stories by Scott Westerfeld and Gardner Dozois as well. (for some reason everything on that site loads very slowly, even though it’s basically just text.)

  23. Brog says:

    Ging: you’ve gotta be a bit concerned when there’s still bits of Quake code in there!

    Because code goes stale after a time? What?

    Code doesn’t age. They’ve rewritten most of the game engine, including all of the parts that can take advantage of new technology (rendering, physics, etc.). There’s no reason to spend time rewriting and debugging systems that already work efficiently.
    I’m sure they’ve checked through it all to see if there are any improvements that could be made. But Quake code is not bad.

  24. kadayi says:

    There is still plenty of life in the Source engine, and even now after 3 years there isn’t another engine out there that remotely trades body blows with it when it comes to Sources facial animation and lipsynching technology. I think the next big step in terms of it’s development is being able to handle much larger maps.

  25. Theory says:

    Source was designed from the start to be upgraded forever. They’ll probably replace all of it over time, but to mix a metaphor it’ll still be the same ship.

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