Q: What's the story on the OEM release?
Gabe: Board manufacturers and PC manufacturers have really long lead times. In order to make Christmas shipments of the boards and first quarter 1999 shipments with PC manufacturers, we had to release an OEM version of the game. The OEM version is called Half-Life: Day One.

Half-Life: Day One is single-player only. It supports a wide variety of 3D accelerators and 3D sound cards. It's fairly large, at about 250 MB, and contains the first 36 BSPs in the game. These are exactly what is in the full retail game, so it didn't create any extra work for us to put this OEM release out.

Q: So who is going to ship it and when will it come out?
Gabe: The three manufacturers who have announced are Diamond, Thrustmaster, and Guillemot. There will be other board and PC manufacturers announcing their bundles in the next few weeks.

We don't really know these companies' timing for release yet, as they were waiting on delivery of chips, drivers, PCB manufacturing, and so on themselves. Obviously they are hearing a lot of demand from people to get this out as quickly as possible.

Q: Approximately how much of the full game does the OEM version represent (say, as a percentage)?
Gabe: It's around 20% of the full game.

Q: So why not release the OEM version as a demo?
Gabe: Demos are getting pretty big, but even so, 250 MB is too big to release on the Internet. That's also way too much game to give away for free.

Right now our focus is getting the retail game out as soon as possible. This means finishing off the single-player parts of the game that weren't in Day One as well as finishing the multiplayer support. Getting the retail release done is pretty much our exclusive goal right now.

Q: Sounds like a public demo is in question altogether -- will there be one? If so, about how long after the game's release would a demo be released? Will it include multiplayer?
Gabe: At this point the demo is a lot less important than getting the retail release out. Once we are closer to putting that to bed, we'll figure out what to do about a demo.

Q: So? When will Half-Life be out?
Gabe: Getting Day One out the door meant we had to get to shipping quality on everything in the engine except multiplayer, which is good. The models and animations are pretty much done except for tweaking. The levels are all in playtesting. Direct3D is running well. We've been through configuration testing.

Our biggest risk right now is getting multiplayer fully implemented and robust enough for a real world deployment. Right now we're looking at having everything pretty much done by the first of October. Leaving time for surprises, bug fixes, and lots and lots of playtesting, we're looking at the end of October for the game to be out.

Q: How many e-mails do you get asking you "When is Half-Life going to be done?" or "When is the demo coming out?"
Gabe: We get a couple of hundred a week. We've started getting mail from other developers asking us when they can get their copies. My parents have started sending me e-mail asking me when we'll ship. Pretty much the first thing I get asked by anybody I run into nowadays is when will Half-Life ship.

Except for Mark Rein, Epic's VP of Marketing/Sales. He dropped by our booth at ECTS and joked that if we decided not to ship Half-Life until after Christmas, that would be fine with him.

Q: What was the reaction at ECTS? What were you showing?
Gabe: We showed Half-Life and Team Fortress. People would come up, watch the game for a while, tell us how amazing it looked, and then plead with us to ship it.

We showed the non-player character (NPC) interaction, with people talking to the player and each other, healing the player, operating retinal scanners, fighting for the player, etc. We showed a group of human grunts fighting a group of alien grunts to show how with identical starting situations the AI does different things each time. We showed the Osprey flying in to drop off a squad of human grunts during the middle of a mortar attack. We showed a fight with an Apache, and brief glimpses of Gargantua and the assassin. We showed the tentacle snatching up a scientist, since that was so popular at E3, as well as a demo of the Loader, to help people understand the flexibility of the skeletal animation system. We switched back and forth between the s/w and h/w renderers so people could see that they are at functional parity. It was about 25 minutes of gameplay from the first third of the game, which is a pretty long demo. For Team Fortress we showed a bunch of the UI elements and some of the maps.

I got to show Half-Life to Warren Spector, since he hadn't seen it since E3, which was a lot of fun. He gave me a Deus Ex demo, which is his Unreal based game. They've come a long way in a very short time. He had a bunch of things running I wish we had enough time to steal for Half-Life, which we don't, obviously. I also got to talk to the producer on Goldeneye 007. He's working on Rare's follow-up title, Perfect Dark. He wasn't able to show me anything on that yet, but he did spend a lot of time going through the details of Half-Life with Robin. If nothing else, I'm pretty sure Perfect Dark will have procedural head turning.