Unlimited Hyperborea: Half Life 2′s Missing Information

By RPS on July 25th, 2012 at 5:00 pm.

Joe Martin is a Half-Life 2 obsessive who often wells up with actual tears when he thinks of the content Valve cut during development. Imagine his joy at finding the Missing Information mod, which collects workable snippets from the stolen HL2 beta and assembles them into a Steam-compatible mod. Joe takes a look at the parts of HL2 Valve didn’t intend for us to see, and wonders if the game we got was the best it could have been.

The Borealis sits ominously in the water, sealing into place as the Arctic ice surrounds it. I climb the ladder on the side of the ship and greet the terse, moustachioed man who’s waiting for me. His name is Odell. He looks just like someone I used to know.

Or, rather, there’s someone looks just like him. When Odell’s character was cut from the original version of HL2, his model was re-used for the role of Resistance leader Col. Odessa Cubbage. This is the Half-Life 2 that was never seen. Scraps taken from the leaked beta and E3 footage, crafted into a playable mod by the delightfully named team, Gabe’s Love Tub.

Odell and I move through the ship’s empty corridors and I can’t help noticing how old everything looks, how bland the art style is. Blunted orange hues sit against off-whites and steel-greys, with only the occasional emergency-red wallbox to brighten up the place. I open one and take the flare gun I find inside – a weapon cut from the final release.

“I’ve got an idea, Freeman,” Odell/Odessa says, sitting down. “You’ve got a gun, I’ve got a cigarette lighter. How about you take the lead?”

Alone, I move down empty, plain, shoulder-wide corridors, unable to shake the disappointment at how dull this has been so far. I’ve spent years fantasizing about what the Borealis might contain, going over and over the extracts contained in Raising The Bar – and a lonely, monotone boat is what greets me? Was this worth salvaging from the illegal betas and level fragments?

Up ahead is enough trouble to distract me for a while – a handful of Combine loitering purposelessly on deck in odd-coloured armour, carrying OCIW rifles I remember from screenshots of the leaked beta. I smother the soldiers in flarey flames and, when I’m done, there’s a litter of weapons left behind. Rifles, shotguns… and a fire extinguisher? I blast the smouldering corpses to no effect, move on, then return to try again and investigate if it has a secondary fire.

It doesn’t. Moving back down into the Borealis – which is called the Hyperborea in this map, but is identical to the point that the names are interchangeable – it strikes me that nothing seems to make sense. The Bridge leads down towards a meat locker, but there’s no kitchen in sight. There are zombies everywhere, but no bodies or headcrabs. The demented geography funnels me through engine rooms and cargo bays with no logic or pattern guiding the route.

Why the zombies and soldiers are here, I have no idea. The Borealis has existed in so many versions of HL2′s script that it’s impossible to know which one this is. The ship has been everything from the starting point of the game to a critical objective in its own right, but Odell didn’t give any reason for this visit in particular and there’s no clue in the environment, which is bland and inconsistently paced.

It’s not until I stumble into a couple of stalkers that I start to pay real attention. The stalkers, like the Borealis, were constantly cut back from their original outline, and felt under-used even when they finally stepped up in Episode One. Perhaps they are a chance for the Borealis to shine in my eyes? Instead though, without enough room to dodge their precise laser-beams, they feel like the lowest point yet.

Eventually I find Odell again – though I’m sure he must have noclipped his way through the ship to be able to get this far ahead. He leads me up to the deck where, hanging from the end of a crane, a submarine awaits us. He tells me this is the way out, and before I can even muster enough anger to hit Alt-F4, the screen fades to black and the main menu pops up.

I can’t believe it. All that expectation and…that was it?

Desperate for and convinced there’s more, I boot another of the standalone levels. The Borealis is nowhere in sight now; I’m back in City 17 instead. There’s open battle on the night-blanketed streets, ‘though I’m forced to stick to the rooftops and snipe manhacks out of the air through the OCIW’s sickly green scope.

The rooftop level is short and buggy to the extreme, but it’s still not all that different to the City 17 that was included in the finished game; same blocky architecture, same pastel textures. The mood has changed slightly though, and it’s not until I’ve cleared the first area of baddies that I realise why – this is the first time I’ve seen City 17 at night.

Viewed after sunset City 17 drifts an awful lot closer to the bleak dystopia that it was originally planned to convey. The Missing Information mod sadly doesn’t restore some of the more explicit attempts to capitalise on this – such as the Manhack Arcade where City 17′s gamers would unknowingly pilot Freeman’s foes – but there are hints to the overall tone. The Combine uniforms are more threatening for being re-done all in black, for example, while a different citizen uniform speaks to their own oppression.

Most of all the mix of enemies suggests a far more brutal, possibly desperate Combine force. Headcrabs, soldiers, striders and stalkers all mix together within a few hundred yards. Again, the stalkers prove to be the most annoying and it isn’t long before I pull down the console and look for a quicker weapon to kill them wi–

The selection of weapons fills the screen. Missing Information hasn’t just limited itself to adding fire extinguishers and assault rifles, it seems. There are AKs and Molotovs and SMGs. There’s a hopwire grenade which I can’t use without killing myself, the flamethrower that was supposed to be wielded by the lost Cremator enemy, and that tau cannon you always wished you could rip off the buggy. There’s even a huge ‘Combine Guard Gun’ which turns out to be the strider’s main cannon.

Once I’ve cleared my way past the stalkers, I try them all out on the remaining enemies. I start to really appreciate the way an old-fashioned AK-47 hints at an undersupplied rebel force, and the power of the knockback caused by charging the tau cannon.

But there’s something wrong, and I have to delve into the remaining levels – mostly restored versions of what was shown at E3 2003 – before I figure out what it is.

For starters, the variety that’s on show is simply too much. It feels like all the weapons of Borderlands have been dropped into a world and UI that were never designed for them. Trying to navigate the weapon list is impossible, while wielding mega-weapons like the strider cannon sucks the tension from the combat. What’s worst is the incredible overlap in ideas. There are three different types of assault rifle with under-barrel grenade launchers, two identical SMGs, three different melee weapons. They nearly all have alternate – or tertiary! – firing modes. It’s too much, too similar.

Compare that to what was eventually included in the finished game, where every gun was suited to a specific situation and I find it hard to look at Missing Information in the same way. It no longer feels like a memorial to the HL2 that might have been; it’s more like a graveyard full of ideas there’s no point pining over. All that time I spent pondering what the game might have been like has been a waste, because the value isn’t in the ideas themselves – it’s the refinement of them.

Guiltily, I thumb open my copy of Raising The Bar and take a fresh look at what lays inside. A quote from Gabe Newell’s foreword immediately pops out: “It doesn’t matter what we cut, so long as we cut it and it gives us the time to focus on other things, because any of the options will be bad unless they’re finished, and any of them will be good if they are finished.”

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59 Comments »

  1. faillord_adam says:

    Tried the Hydra map?

  2. Vorphalack says:

    The only thing I can think of to make HL2 more complete would be an explanation as to how Judith and Eli got out of the citadel. I doubt any amount of cut content could fill that plot hole.

    • Grey Ganado says:

      Teleportation. Or the Vortigaunts ex machina.

    • ReV_VAdAUL says:

      I haven’t played Ep2 in a long time but didn’t Eli admit to doing a deal with the Gman? if so at the same time as putting you back in limbo he could’ve pulled Judith and Eli out and putting Alyx at the bottom of the tower.

    • Eddy9000 says:

      25/07/2012 at 17:16 Vorphalack says:

      “The only thing I can think of to make HL2 more complete would be THE THIRD FUCKIN’ EPISODE”

      Fixed that for you.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      The cut dialog files explain this. They took escape pods. Valve probably figured it was too didactic to leave that in and opted to leave it up to the imagination instead.

    • Bhazor says:

      Or an explanation about why the hell Gordan decides to get in the coffin conveyor belt at the end.
      Or an explanation about why Gordan refuses to talk when spoken too. Is he just a complete arsehole or is he actually literally a mute? Why do characters seem to react as if he responds to them?
      Or why I can’t open balsa wood doors when I’m carrying a crow bar and high explosives.
      Or some variety in soldier AI who seem to have had a lobotomy since the original half life.
      Or if the ending wasn’t a damp squib of fighting your fourth carrier.
      Or a button that let you yell “Shut up and open the door” for whenever they lock you in a room with an animotronic telling you about their day.
      Or not repeating the stepping stone puzzle five times and the “hold ground till lift arrives” set piece three times.
      Or if it wasn’t so incredibly linear that I felt like I was actually travelling somewhere rather than just walking along the only available path. So in the end I feel like I just kind of wander into most set pieces like some kind of heavily armed tourist wandering bleary eyed through soho.

      The stuff people forget when it comes to Half Life 2. It was a good game but it really didn’t change the gaming world like the original did. It was just a good shooter.

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      • Xardas Kane says:

        The hate is strong in this one. Considering that you hate on HL2 whenever you can, including commenting on articles that have virtually nothing to do with HL2, one has to wonder if you don’t have some kind of a personal vendetta against it. Such a silly list could be made for absolutely every game ever made, including the original Half-Life (and indeed, some of the points go for the original as well), while others are complete and utter bullshit.

        TL;DR – the game is widely considered to be one of the most influential games of the last decade. Deal with it. You are free not to like the game, but stop acting so hip and hating on it whenever you get the chance to.

  3. simoroth says:

    Great article.

    The inclusion of the OICW always bemused me. It almost became cliche mid last decade as every developer rushed to put one in their FPS. The thing never even went into production. I’m glad they rethought the mess of weapons.

    That said, the game’s weapons were horribly unsatisfying when compared to Half Life and the flare gun really would have been great, especially when combined with the physics gun. (from my experience of checking out the leaked version on youtube)

    • sinister agent says:

      The weapons were a major flaw in the game to me, yeah. It’s good they didn’t fill it with poorly balanced or redundant or plain boring (once upon a time, there were games that didn’t have a bloody AK47 and M4 in) ones, but what was there felt weedy and dissatisfying to use. Even the shotgun sounded toothless.

      • Smoky_the_Bear says:

        I have to disagree, while they may not have felt like you were permanently about to blow a hole in the world, what HL2 did better than any other game was weapon balance, you would find yourself switching weapons to fit the situation rather than like most FPS games where you use the most powerful weapon until it runs out of ammo then switch

    • Brun says:

      What’s OICW? Please explain for the uninitiated.

      • Fumarole says:

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Objective_Individual_Combat_Weapon

        From the article:

        The Objective Individual Combat Weapon or OICW was the next-generation service rifle competition that was under development as part of the United States Army OICW program; the program was eventually discontinued without bringing the weapon out of the prototype phase. The acronym OICW is often used to refer to the entire weapons program.

        And some more:

        The central idea of the program was to develop a rifle that enabled the attacking of targets behind cover by using airburst munitions. The munitions were to be much smaller than pre-existing grenades and grenade launchers, but large enough to be effective. The idea was refined into a combination of a short assault rifle and semi-automatic, low-velocity cannon firing air-bursting munitions. The OICW aimed to use advances in computer technology in a weapon that fired grenades automatically pre-set to explode above or beside targets hidden from view. Fragmentation from the exploding grenades would defeat the target when normal rifle fire would be ineffective.

      • Flint says:

        Basically a really sophisticated/futuristic assault rifle with a scope and grenade launcher. Was under development in real life and looked so cool that loads of action games from the early-mid-00s period feature the gun. It became a mini-fad of sorts. A fad which died down when the actual weapon was chucked into the rubbish bin.

      • grundus says:

        Firearms Geek Mode, ENGAGE! (Yes, I realise I’ve been beaten to it but here’s a short version!)

        The Objective Individual Combat Weapon is a G36 variant rifle with a huge semi-automatic 20mm grenade launcher on top. It fires ‘smart’ grenades that can be programmed to detonate at a certain distance using a laser rangefinder, allowing the user to attack targets who are in cover. It’s many fun to use in Ghost Recon because although it was just a semi-automatic M203 in that particular game, you could blow up a door with the first grenade and hit the people inside with the second from as far away as you want.

        (Didn’t realise I was beaten to it twice and the second time was shorter than my explanation!)

      • Universal Quitter says:

        Interestingly enough, though the OICW program was in fact cancelled, as previously stated, the US military did approve one prototype (CDTE?) called the XM25. Wiki claims it is already in afghanistan and has been in full-scale production since last year, but I’m yet to meat anyone who’s seen one. I live near Ft. Hood, so I get to talk to the people that fire these kinds of things, from time to time.

        Human ingenuity and our means of finding new and interesting ways to kill and cripple each other always amazes me.

  4. Discopanda says:

    Well, they’re going to show us what happened on the damn ship eventually. Probably. Oh Valve, you overly patient rascals!

  5. Salt says:

    That quote from Gabe at the end – he really is a smart man.

    And that quote from Joe Martin: ” the value isn’t in the ideas themselves – it’s the refinement of them”, he’s a smart man too.

    On another note, I was curious what City 17 looks like at night, so found a video of the mod: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gQjOPfrLm-s
    Personally I think the lights being on in (most) the buildings makes it look a bit too much like a normal city. The daylight scenes in the game leave more ambiguity as to how much of the city is still lived in and still functioning.

  6. PleasingFungus says:

    Sounds about right, yeah.

    I do like those robots in the last screenshot, though. Cute!

  7. Premium User Badge Hodge says:

    That was an excellent read.

    The Gabe quote at the end reminded me of that adage about a work being done when there’s nothing more to remove. EDIT: Which a quick googling imforms me is a quote by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry: Perfection is achieved, not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.

    • Servizio says:

      I guess that explains it. Episode 3 is already the perfect game. It’s all been taken away.

  8. S Jay says:

    I remember absolutely nothing of HF’s lore…

  9. Beelzebud says:

    The actual leaked beta is neat to check out. It’s like an archeological dig of a game in the process of being built. My favorite thing is the map, which is basically a miniature version of the coast highway. It shows the entire path you’ll take on the road, but has no game play.

    That being said: WHERE IS EP3??? ;)

  10. nukeofwf says:

    Only one thing, Isn’t it the Railgun that is attached to the buggy? I thought the tau cannon was the radiation firehose backpack thingy ™

    • The Hammer says:

      Pretty sure it’s the Gauss cannon attached to the Highway 17 buggy!

      • Flint says:

        Tau/Gauss cannon is the one attached to the buggy, Gluon/Egon gun is the radiation beam backpack gun.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        Half-Life has never had a “Gauss cannon” or a “railgun”. That’s a Tau cannon.

        In the code, it’s called “gauss” after an earlier weapon that didn’t make it into the final game. This means that doofuses who spend more time poring over data files than paying attention to actual in-game text/dialogue call it the “gauss”.

        The Ghostbusters-looking firehose deal is the Gluon Gun.

        • Premium User Badge Malibu Stacey says:

          It showed up in the console as “gauss” when you killed someone with it in the original HLDM which is where the popularity of the name comes from.

  11. Moonracer says:

    I’m glad to hear Missing Information is available again. I have only played an earlier version a couple years ago that became unavailable (for, I thought, Valve reasons) so perhaps my take will be different. edit: It was the 1.4 version for anyone interested

    I thought a lot of the weapons were great. in particular the hoppwire and gravity grenades once you figured out how to use them. The missing map bits were certainly not perfect, but they were interesting The version of the ship exploration I played through involved discovering secret combine tech (which looked like a HL1 female assassin with a combine super soldier uniform on in a suspension chamber). Even if that was just a placeholder I would have loved to see a variant of the female assassin in HL2.

    Another interesting mechanic was that when barrels explode they would spread fire in the immediate area that would last a couple seconds. This gave them a significant new tactical function for covering paths. Worth another play through of the finished campaign with this mod for me.

    • Skabooga says:

      Aww man, to this day the assassins in Half-Life 1 cause me to freak out whenever I enter an area they inhabit and they start attacking me.

    • Moonracer says:

      I gave 1.6 a try and can see that there is a lot of content missing (heh) that was in MI 1.4. Anyone interested should seek out a copy of that version instead. It is a much more pure look at what Valve was planning. It also looks like the modders have added their own content. The site even has media images to further suggest this. So it is hard to tell what is old Valve and what has been added by the mod team (which kind of defeats the purpose).

  12. Kein says:

    If I’m not mistaken, according to old bits of info the Borealis was part Aperture Science Dep. in some research expedition and had the whole damn lab on the board (Experiment 911 vibes goes here). They say we were [in the original story] supposed to discover the ship and the project Aperture was working on, which was supposed to outshine BlackMesa’s one. This is really what bugs my mind and make me curious: what Valve originally had in pans for Borealis? What was original project/technology? We will never know, I guess.

    • Brun says:

      I imagine that the “project/technology” was probably the Portal Gun. Would have been a great feature in a Half-Life game but I guess since they didn’t continue the Half-Life franchise they ended up using the concept to make Portal.

      Put another way, it wouldn’t surprise me at all if the Portal Gun was developed as part of Half-Life, but when Valve decided they weren’t ready to make more episodes they ended up using the idea to make Portal instead.

      • Kein says:

        Portal Gun seems to be the first thing that comes in mind, yes, but if you start to think about it throughly (as valve always do during development) – it wouldn’t really make sense to develop portal technology on the ship… unless the ship is the object they planned to teleport across their almost infinite playfield – the ocean.

        • Brun says:

          Sure it would – the levels involving the Borealis would be occurring after the Combine invasion, so it would be plausible that Aperture was forced to move Portal development to a shipboard laboratory in order to keep it from falling into Combine hands. Keeping it on a ship means that you could sail around and make it difficult for the Combine to nail down your location.

          • Beelzebud says:

            One problem with that theory. Play Portal 2. There is a hidden room which is a dry dock, and there is a Borealis life preserver laying on the ground, but no ship. This is inside the facility that they are testing the portal gun, and if you follow the timeline of the chambers, they kept testing the portal gun at that facility long after the Borealis was gone.

          • Xerian says:

            There was also a bit of (dialogue?) in I think portal 2, saying that they’d “lost the damn ship” or something like that, as in.. It’d teleported away, somehow, by accident. Either way, I’m guessing its got to do with teleportation. And why is everyone talking like there’ll never be another HL game? Its *OBVIOUS* that there will, but when? Pf, only time’ll tell. And it will, obviously, involve the Borrealis.

      • Phasma Felis says:

        Nah. The portal mechanic was first used in Narbacular Drop, where it was magical and summoned stone faces with portal mouths and flaming blue/orange eyes. When Valve hired the Narbacular Drop dev team, they reimagined it as a portal gun.

      • archimandrite says:

        Portal 1 and Episode 2 were originally released together in the Orange Box, which I think puts a hole in your theory.

        Also, what Phasma said.

    • Crimsoneer says:

      The Borealis has been in so many script variants, it’s pretty much impossible to tell what it’s for. It was conceived far before Aperture even came into existence.

    • JoeMartin says:

      The Borealis as it currently exists in the HL lore is made by Aperture. It was part of their initial testing with portal technology in the basement of the Aperture facility, but a malfunction caused it and a large portion of the dry dock to disappear. Supposedly it carried all sorts of Aperture technology that was lightyears ahead of what Black Mesa was working on (because Aperture cut all sorts of corners).

      However, the Borealis had a number of roles in the HL lore long before Portal and the portal technology were even known to Valve – i.e., long before Narbacular Drop had even been thought up.

      The Borealis was, for example, an ice-breaker ship used to reach an old research base/rebel outpost in the artic (called The Kraken Base). It then later shifted to be a damaged vessel in its own right which you had to explore. In the very FIRST draft of the HL2 script Gordon actually begins the game on the Borealis, which functions as a mobile base for the rebels.

      So, while it’s attached to Aperture now, it wasn’t always. The Borealis/Hyperborea has been persistent in the lore for a long time, just because Mark Laidlaw really likes the name and concept, apparently.

  13. Yosharian says:

    Man, I have to replay the entire HL + Portal series sometime. This makes me nostalgic as hell.

  14. Trithne says:

    I honestly felt that Valve, in their quest to trim the fat from HL2, somewhat killed it a bit. It’s still a fantastic game, but if you go back and play it now, a large portion of it is you shooting people. Three-quarters of the enemies you face are humans, or human zombies. There’s only one non-standard weapon, not counting the gravity gun. I liked Episode 2 because it tried to bring out more of those alien elements, but I really wanted the Cremator’s gun that Raising the Bar mentioned, and some of the other alien or high-tech weapons and gizmos that HL1 had.

    • Brun says:

      You’ve got to keep in mind that HL2 was released in 2004, before the “game mostly about shooting humanoid and/or zombie enemies” was creatively exhausted by the post-COD shooter explosion. The Gravity Gun and physics engine (not to mention the story) was enough to set it apart from its peers back then.

      Playing it now, HL2 definitely does seem like a more average shooter – but I think that’s because it (and Halo) became the standard for FPS games until MW2 arrived.

  15. deadly.by.design says:

    OICWYDT

  16. Kamikaze_Tutor says:

    “For starters, the variety that’s on show is simply too much. It feels like all the weapons of Borderlands have been dropped into a world and UI that were never designed for them. Trying to navigate the weapon list is impossible”

    Remember that the E3 demo showed Gordon drop the shotgun to hold a rpg. Half-Life 2 was going to drop the arsenal touting hero for a two weapon + melee inventory capacity.

    • JoeMartin says:

      Oh, yeah, I’d forgotten about that.

      Mind you, as far as I know that idea was quickly abandoned after negative feedback. People like the HEV weapon system too much.

  17. DXN says:

    Apropos of nothing in particular, the main thing I missed going from HL1 to 2 was the crunchiness of the sound, especially for the guns. They weren’t afraid to hit the redline even if it made things a bit crackly. Hell, they made an MP5 sound like a cross between an M60 and a can-crushing plant; they made a glock sound like someone falling through a glass window. The gristly expectorations of the vortigaunts. The deafening roar of the Ospreys. Everything didn’t just echo, it resonated. Oh, and the guns visually jumped and bucked in your hands when they fired.

    In HL2, everything felt much lighter and quieter. Firing the pistol and the SMG was a pretty disappointing; even the magnum and the combine rifle were only a bit better. But still, it did give HL2 a unique feel, and there are so many other ways that it shines…

    • Terragot says:

      That was beautiful man, I totally agree. Both magnificent but that soft spot for HL1 because the sound design travelled through all the mods and map packs.

      Robot announcer voice is still the greatest : http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rh32mC-dor0

    • Tyrone Slothrop. says:

      I’m not quite sure I agree, at the time when I first decided to load up Kazaa and download the leaked beta, I was astounded by the sound design, keep in mind it was a notable feature to have different materials which sounded different when hit by weapons and there was an amazing appropriateness to guns, a certain realism that came from a lack of exaggeration. The pistol felt like it looked, half plastic and the PDW seemed solid.

      When I first played the original, the weapons were comparably astounding to experience, just in terms of the satisfaction in firing weapons but then, these were contemporary judgements, eight years later the combat feels profoundly dated in either game. After experiencing the sound design of Battlefield 3 and the peerless animation of Max Payne 3 I wonder what the hell Valve must do to create combat which again raises the bar and in must lie why another entry in the Half-Life universe is taking so long; their peers are advancing faster than they are.

      I still consider Half-Life 2 a masterpiece, overall an astounding creation in gaming that still bewilders me in just the sheer variety of the experience, be it desperately taking cover behind a metal table and trying to roll grenades into turret compartments in a ludicrous-security former museum/bank to using physics puzzles to cut zombies in twain to racing across toxic rivers in an airboat… I could go on citing a spectacular variety of gameplay vignettes. Yet… the combat and engine need radical overhaul and I hope it’s done for HL3.

  18. MadTinkerer says:

    ” I’ve spent years fantasizing about what the Borealis might contain, going over and over the extracts contained in Raising The Bar – and a lonely, monotone boat is what greets me? Was this worth salvaging from the illegal betas and level fragments?”

    There were even less complete levels leaked that weren’t even included in MI. The original Governor’s Mansion (that the helicopter crashes into on your way back from the Borealis) is functional but hilariously “blocky” and very much made in the mindset of Half Life 1 levels. It may have been one of the first playable levels they made with the at-the-time new engine.

    Pretty much every leaked level and asset I’ve seen immediately demonstrates why it was cut as soon as you interact with it.

    ” It feels like all the weapons of Borderlands have been dropped into a world and UI that were never designed for them”

    You were supposed to lose all of your weapons and start over twice in the original plot. Each of the machine guns would have been used in different parts of the story. The ice pick, rather than the crowbar, would be the melee weapon for the Borealis part. The Fire Extinguisher can be used to put out fires, which might have also been used in Ravenholm until they decided letting you just turn off the gas for the fire traps was a better idea.

  19. MI_Junk says:

    Hi, I am Junk, co-leader of Missing Information.

    I am sorry that you didn’t like the mod.

    Missing Information was made as a love letter to the die hard Half-Life 2 nerds who pored over every last detail in the leak from 2003. It was not designed to be a complete package but more of a sampling of what Valve didn’t give us in the retail game. Your article describes you as a person who “wells up with actual tears over the content Valve cut” but judging by your reaction it doesn’t sound like you ever actually played the leak or explored its content. Rather, it sounds like your preconceptions from the cherry picked screenshots and concept art from Raising the Bar are getting the better of you. Missing Information is made precisely out of content that Valve cut, but with our own enhancements added to it in the way of models, animations, textures, and gameplay.

    Yes, the Hyperborea chapter isn’t perfect (by the way, this was the Borealis’ original name and we called it this to further differentiate it from the Aperture incarnation of the ship). If you were to play the Borealis levels in the state they were when Valve stopped working on them in 2002, you would have almost zero enemies to fight and zero scripted sequences. We had to create all of Odell’s scripts from scratch, including custom code and animations just to have him cut open the door with a torch and navigate down the steep staircases. The hollowed-out section of the ship was painstakingly remade from scratch by us, whereas in the original files it was just a chunky mess of brush based garbage. We did the best we could with the materials that were leftover, including two distinct and conflicting conceptual storylines, to flesh out the atmosphere of this chapter. Of course you wouldn’t appreciate it if you didn’t know the fractured state Valve left this chapter in.

    And yes, you are right that this is a collection of maps and weapons that feel like chaotic, conflicting, incomplete concepts. The reason is because when Half-Life 2 was in development, it WAS a chaos of conflicting incomplete concepts. You complain that the weapons menu is hard to navigate, but what are you even disappointed at? The fact that we let you play with almost every deleted weapon from the game when you cheat impulse 101? What we have done is provide this ancient content more or less the way it was implemented in 2003 on a platform that can be easily played without exposing yourself to a myriad of Russian viruses. The more I read your article the more I realize that your disappointment doesn’t lie in anything that we did as a mod team but rather the shattering of whatever romantic idea you had of what Half-Life 2 used to be. Games that are in development are usually broken as hell.

    So, while I respect that you did not enjoy the mod, I don’t think you were really our target audience to begin with.

    • JoeMartin says:

      Hey Junk,

      I appreciate all the extra work you put in – I’ve followed MI since at least 1.4, if not before, so I know all the hard work you put into recreating those interstitial moments. The piece wasn’t meant to rubbish your work at all, which is incredibly impressive when you consider the state of the beta (which I have played parts of, years ago). Any complaints were more levelled at the base content you had to work with, rather than the work you’ve done.