Half-Life Turns Ten Today

By Alec Meer on November 19th, 2008 at 9:20 am.

Yep, Valve’s unfortgettable opening salvo officially gets a decade under its belt on this very day. This terrifies me in ways I can’t quite vocalise.

Said terror is not simply because it makes me feel so very aged, but also because it’s been so long and yet still most FPSes seem entirely ignorant of what HL did with setpieces, incidental detail, gaming-specific narrative style, pacing and world-building. The straight line to most of today’s shooters that started with Doom seems to almost bypass Half-Life. Fortunately, there is one huge, positive side-effect which does ensure HL’s legacy is unassailable: modding.

Names like Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress Classic, Natural Selection, The Ship and Sven Co-Op trip off the tongue almost as quickly as Half-Life itself. The GldSrc engine might look ten years old by now, but it’s still one the driving forces of community and customisability that defines modern PC gaming and the freedom thereof.

In honour of the occasion, Moddb’s mustered a round up of Half-Life’s notable mods, both commerical (the list) and non-commercial (the video). It’s all too easy to fall into thinking HL modding’s just about Counter-Strike clones and grey weapon renders, but even this collection of the more obvious names makes it clear quite how landmark a modding platform this game was and is.

Happy birthday Half-Life, you wonderful old man, you.

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120 Comments »

  1. Irish Al says:

    I’ve seen quite a few people ask what all the fuss is about after playing this for the first time due to it’s Orange Box inclusion. IT’S TEN YEARS OLD, PEOPLE. The enemy AI was revolutionary, the tentacle beast, the narrative that got away from ‘find key, open door’, the chopper battles, the cliff …

    And yes, the mods. Counterstrike. DOD. This is the mother-lode.

  2. diebroken says:

    Heh, I remember sneaking out with some friends at boarding school to buy this in town, and then having to wait weeks to get home to play it (lived overseas, wanted English version, no computers at school with CD-ROM/GFX cards, etc). :)

    Good old times indeed.

    Natural Selection is still great fun to play, although I wish NS2 Source would hurry up… and don’t even mention Black Mesa: Source…

    P.S. DOOM will be 15 on 10th Dec.!

  3. Sum0 says:

    Happy tenth, Half-Life. I have an urge to play you all over again.

  4. Lukasz says:

    Yay. HL can now get his very own Pip Boy.

    Congratulation.

  5. aldo_14 says:

    I’ve seen quite a few people ask what all the fuss is about after playing this for the first time due to it’s Orange Box inclusion.

    Half Life 1 is in the Orange box? I never saw it…..

  6. Mike says:

    ‘Yay. HL can now get his very own Pip Boy.’

    lol, very good

  7. nabeel says:

    This game changed my life. It came out around the time I switched from being generally a console gamer to being generally a PC gamer. Everything changed for me: from being aware of quality titles via magazine reading, to learning more about computer hardware because of the looming requirement of 3D accelerator cards, to learning more about what made games and software in general tick thanks to the wonders of modding, and so on. I still love the game itself, but it’s everything else that it brought with it that makes it very dear to me.

    nabeel

  8. Gurrah says:

    What an abomination that screenshot is, the original HL shotgun had no folding stock!

  9. Yhancik says:

    I didn’t play HL1 right at its release, but whatever, excellent memories.
    The only FPS I had (really) played (and finished) at that time was System Shock. I completely skipped the whole Doom-Quake-Unreal lineage :p

  10. phuzz says:

    Happy Birthday Half Life!
    Still one of the best openings of a game ever (remember when you first realized it was all done in game?)
    Good morning and welcome, to the Black Mesa transit system. This automated train is provided for the security and convenience of the Black Mesa research facility personnel

    Looks like the Black Mesa Source team have put out another media update to celebrate, and a new trailer is promised soon.

  11. Schmung says:

    I played it many a time and I probably spent more time playing various HL mods than I have done with various retail games. I think a nostalgic mod binge is in order tonight.

  12. Homunculus says:

    Yay. HL can now get his very own Pip Boy.

    That bit in Fallout 3 where you get stuck in the half-pipe and witness the, ah, main antagonists descend in one of their flying vehicles and pile out of it to storm the key location struck me at the moment as being pure Half-Life.

  13. Seniath says:

    Hip hip, hurray!
    Hip hip, hurray!
    Hip hip, hurray!

    My word, ten years. I’ll be damned…

  14. Bobsy says:

    Man… I didn’t get you anything.

  15. Nameykins says:

    I’ll have to install and play this today, to celebrate.

  16. AndyK says:

    Heh nice addition of the hat, that wasn’t there a minute ago!

  17. pauleyc says:

    H-L was so good I bought it twice (after lending my first copy to a friend, a situation that became quite permanent). Great memories, especially the intro sequence – it took me a minute to realize the mouse controls were already enabled and I was able to take a look around. Not to mention the AI (playing hide and seek with the marines in warehouses), the Ospreys, the tentacle monster…and Xen.

    What better way to celebrate this occasion than to cut the price of the H-L 1 anthology, eh, Valve?

  18. Optimaximal says:

    The straight line to most of today’s shooters that started with Doom seems to almost bypass Half-Life.

    I can’t agree with that. Half-Life set the bar for game design and narrative that pulled almost every shooter out of the basic Doom game design. For example, everyone loved SiN during pre-production as Half-Life was getting a lot of flack from its delay, then Half-Life came out at the same time and showed just how poor it really was.

    What an abomination that screenshot is, the original HL shotgun had no folding stock!

    High-Def pack.

  19. subedii says:

    I still remember the first time I tried the demo. The cinematic style of the opening was amazing enough, but what really stunned me was the behaviour of the AI soldiers the first I time encountered them.

    Up until that point, the extent of enemy behaviour in any FPS was “run, shoot, dodge maybe a little”. But these guys, they dashed from cover to cover, they worked together as a group, they actively tried to flank you. Waiting around a corner for them to come running around to great my shotgun didn’t work anymore because the only thing that came around that corner was a grenade to flush me out. I had to completely re-think my approach to combat when I encountered them.

    I must have died around a dozen times the first time I encountered them as they slowly beat the FPS mentality out of my head and instilled in me the need to actually think about what I needed to do. And that was just from two of them.

    It really is hard to overstate just how much Half-Life affected the genre. Also, a congratulations to Valve for ten years, and not resting on their laurels but using Half-Life as a foundation to really push things for the genre, and for gaming in general.

  20. KindredPhantom says:

    Many happy returns Half-Life!

    I look forward to Half Life 2, 10 year anniversary!

  21. Alec Meer says:

    Optimaximal – I think FPSes were breaking away from the straight door/key thing anyway, but you’re right that it did it better than owt else. Comparatively little seems to have realistically escaped the killing for killing’s sake pattern, though.

  22. Flint says:

    That mod list linked is missing They Hunger, which is a pretty bad omission.

  23. macc says:

    Just played the intro again, awesome..

  24. sammy says:

    Since somebody brought it up, is it possible to get and play “They Hunger” on Steam? Man, I loved those games, and would love to give them another spin.

  25. manintheshack says:

    Ah, good times. One of my favourite, most played games. I remember how depressed I was at school the day this was released, knowing that I couldn’t afford to buy it and then, when I got home, my brother had already made the purchase. What a fucking game.

    Still play it through every time a new HL game is released, just to get in the mood… and it never disappoints (Ssshhh, Xen)

    But ten years. Ten years, man! TEN YEARS! Yeah, I can make references as well…

  26. manintheshack says:

    EDIT: Here’s hoping that They Hunger makes a comeback following Left 4 Dead’s release…

  27. Schmung says:

    Flint : the list just has the mods that went commerical. If you watch the vid then there are short features on They Hunger, The Specialists etc etc

  28. diebroken says:

    All this talk of They Hunger is making me hungry (delicious pun!) for They Hunger: Lost Souls:

    http://www.blackwidowgames.com/

    Ravensholm was one bit of HL2 I actually liked, only because it reminded me of that mod (inspiration for L4D?) ;)

  29. Ginger says:

    Those frickin nearly invisible ninja birds were bastard hard though.

    Happy Birthday HL

  30. Gap Gen says:

    I can still hear the “tap tap” on the metal walkways…

  31. ZeroByte says:

    RE: Natural Selection 2. The devs have moved away from the source engine and have made their own engine for use in NS2 mostly cause they have pretty specialized needs that’s hard to do in source. They have a video of the engine running a test level, the lighting alone looks fantastic and the hardware target isn’t crazy high so.. yeah off topic. I just loved NS until perhaps combat came around.

    NS couldn’t have come about without HL though so there is that to be grateful to HL about. The mods alone have given me so much game play over the years. Best value game ever.

  32. Aftershock says:

    They Hunger is in the video.
    The list is only for mods that received a commercial release, ie, CS, TFC, DoD.

  33. AbyssUK says:

    Also valve learnt a lot from half life about endings…they realised they can’t do endings very well so in all there next games they just didn’t add real endings always keeping it open so we never get any closure….

  34. Urael says:

    TEN YEARS??? Good grief!

    I remember when HL1 came out very clearly. I was working in a computer retail shop – a local business, not one of the big ones – and had just bought myself a Pentium II 333mhz system with a 12mb Voodoo Banshee card in it. HL1 was the very first game I bought for it. I remember enjoying it so much I talked my sales-floor colleague into buying a copy too!

    Once I finish Ep2 I might have to go back and play the HL games through again. If only Black Mesa Source would hurry the heck up!!

  35. Jon says:

    I remember pre-ordering it after following the development.. but due to release delays the game didn’t arrive for another 6+ months! (seems that 10 years on, Valve still have suffer from scheduling issues – although to be fair, the quality of their work is exceptional)

  36. kert says:

    I’ll raise System Shock 2 to your Half-Life bypasses.

  37. Masterdog says:

    I’d argue that Quake had a bigger effect on the modding community (you could almost argue HL was a Quake mod), but HL had a huge effect on FPS gaming generally. What a fantastic game, even if hearing it’s ten makes me feel very old.

  38. Del Boy says:

    What made HL so great for me was that I knew absolutely nothing about it when it came out. I had completely missed any mention of it anywhere.

    A friend came to school one day with the CD and said he’d recieved it through the post with one of those ‘games clubs’ things but couldn’t get it too work.

    Needless to say, I had the last laugh.

  39. Thiefsie says:

    I still remember bringin home my sepcial box on release day and fondly regarding the fold out cover with hadcrab zombie and soldiers in the black mesa tiled background.

    Probably the most memorable and influential game on me as far as PC gaming goes.

    To think that was 10 years ago. Wow.

  40. Crispy says:

    Jim still hasn’t explained why he didn’t like Natural Selection…

  41. Tarn says:

    There are a few games from that general era that haven’t had as big an influence as they should have – Half Life, System Shock 2 and Deus Ex, to name three obvious ones.

    There have been occasional influences, though. Bioshock, of course. Chronicles of Riddick seemed to be very influenced by Half Life. Nothing’s really attempted a Deus Ex though…

  42. Muzman says:

    Somewhere Thief: The Dark Project sits alone humming ‘happy birthday to me’, but can hardly hear itself over the half life din from next door. After tiring of the noise it wanders to a bar and after a few hours of swigging everything transparent, bores any patron who’ll sit still long enough with ‘On the Waterfront”-ish tales of how all the AI, pathfinding, sound, complex level design and interactivity everyone now expects started with it. Those few who deign to acknowledge its raving don’t offer more than a “Sure thing pal. Who do you think you are? Half Life? And I’m fucken’ Wolfenstein 3d”.
    Another ten years and it expires alone in some fleabag, undiscovered for days. Half Life shows up at the cremation to give an obituary, railing against the cruel and indifferent industry that knows nothing of its own history and is only interested in the latest fad, rounding off with a heartfelt unacompanied rendition of ‘Wind Beneath My Wings’.

  43. Pod says:

    The Ship? Did anyone even play that? :/

    In a week I shall celebrate my 10th anniversary of buying half life. HURRAH!

  44. Tei says:

    Lets just make a Monty Python joke here!

    Valve? bah… a one trick pony company.
    Yes, Valve has created Half-Life.
    What else has created Valve. NOTHING,.. other than TeamFortress. Yes, Valve has created Team Fortress and reinvented it again as TeamFortress 2. But other than Half-Life, and Team Fortress, has created nothing.
    Counter-Strike,.. yes, Valve has created Counter-Strike.
    But other than Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Team Fortress 2, .. what has created? NOTHING.
    Well… has created “Steam”. TEH internet digital downloads service.

    Yea, other than Half-Life, Half-Life 2, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, Team Fortress 2 and Steam … Whas as created Valve?

    NOTE: I can continue the joke with Portal, Capture The Flag but I think enough is enough for a joke. Valve has created a amazing stream of good titles, and raised the quality bar for PC gaming. Thanks valve!

  45. Tei says:

    RE: Natural Selection 2

    Can use the ioquake3 engine, and call it “Tremulous”

  46. ETPC says:

    @muzman: That’s horribly depressing, but true :(

  47. The Hammer says:

    The Ship? Did anyone even play that? :/

    Played the Source version. Hilarious fun with mates at a LAN.

    Bappy Hirthday, Half Life! You’re the quintessential example of PC gaming, I feel. The very pinnacle!

  48. PHeMoX says:

    I still don’t understand why Valve sort of half-assed the HL1 remake that came with HL2.

    It’s sort of a nice gesture, but at the same time it feels like they could have done so much better by just doing what lately happened with Tombraider.

    I guess the franchise / game isn’t old enough yet?

  49. Saflo says:

    It’s the game I get misty-eyed just thinking about.

  50. B Rad says:

    One of my all time favorite games, happy birthday half-life!

    I want a remake now!!