It was inevitable that fiddlers and modders would try to make Half-Life: Alyx into a regular ol' non-VR game, and yup, they're already encouraged by preliminary digging. Fans have poked around with debug options and got Alyx running without cybergoggles and with basic FPS keyboard controls, though that's a long, long, long way short of Alyx being playable the same as any ol' Half-Life. Valve's Robin Walker has previously said he's fully expected people to make Alyx non-VR, though he thinks that'll make them realise why VR is so important to it.
Tyler McVicker of the Valve News Network was one such prodder, digging around on Twitch last night. Yup, he was soon scampering about with standard controls and no goggles.
It's no surprise that so much of a regular FPS is in the engine. It is kinda neat that people found it so quickly. Though yesterday's patch also disabled some of the vital commands. Game dev Casey Billadeau was also larking about and shared how to bypass that, though it seems Valve may have blocked off that workaround too. But he was there, even if it was wonky:
Full playthrough of the first sequence up till the second elevator pic.twitter.com/TnIsdgunTz
— Casey Billadeau (@caseytube) March 25, 2020
I assume it'll take some actual rebuilding to make Alyx a solid non-VR game, work beyond the scope of debug console commands.
Before the launch of Alyx, Valve's Robin Walker talked to Polygon about the possibility of people getting a non-VR version running. He said some people on the team were concerned about that but he wasn't.
"Yes, it's going to happen. I'm fine with it, for the sake of the other members of the team I don't want to say I encourage you to do it, but it's going to happen," Walker said. "I think people will then hopefully have an even greater understanding of why we decided to build the product in VR than they do now."
It's not just Half-Life in VR, after all. It's designed to be a different sort of game with a different focus and flow, more about inhabiting a body than shooting through a space, but y'know if you just want that HL story and world it is there. But Walker thinks it'll be a bit disappointing.
"It will clearly demonstrate to people why we did this in VR," he told Polygon. "It will be a very crisp way of seeing all the stuff we got for the move into VR. If people play [a modded version on a standard display] and say this is is just as good, that will teach me a lot. I will realise I'm wrong, and we didn’t get as much as we thought, and I love to know whenever I'm wrong."
I'm not gogged up myself but even just reading our Graham's Half-Life: Alyx review, I can tell some parts just wouldn't be as good outside VR. Here's G-Man gabbing about his encounter with an old monster trope, the big beastie which can't see you but can hear you:
"Picture: me, the hungry contractor, crawling around fixing wires, only to accidentally knock a glass bottle off a shelf. It smashes, and the big brute comes charging towards me like a foreman with a clipboard. I have to put my trembling hand over my mouth to avoid breathing spores, and run off to hide in the corner of the room. It is the most frightened I've ever been while playing a game, and yet the absurdity of my real-world actions made it in some ways delightful, too. I was laughing at myself, even in the midst of panic."
That wouldn't sound nearly as special or interesting without VR.