updated: Saturday November 8 1997
Faq maintained by jaspur
© Jason Thierbach. v.22
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Table of contents
1.1 About this FAQ
1.2 About the author
1.3 Where to get this FAQ
2. About Half-Life
2.1 What is Half-Life?
2.2 Who is making Half-Life?
2.3 Who is Valve Software?
2.4 Who is Half-Life's publisher?
2.5 What's the story behind Half-Life?
2.6 What are
2.7 When will
Half-Life be released?
3. Half-Life System
3.1 What are
Half-Life's system requirements?
3.2 Under which Operating System will Half-Life run?
3.3 Will Half-Life make use of a 3D accelerator and/or MMX
4.1 What kind of
multiplayer capabilities will there be in Half-Life?
5. Half-Life Editing
5.1 In what ways will
Half-Life be editable?
5.2 Can I change Quake C like in Quake(tm) ?
6. The Half-Life
7. Where to find more
information about Half-Life
7.4 Public Forums
9. Revision history
1.1 About this FAQ
This FAQ (Frequently Asked Questions) is about the
game Half-Life. It offers you all the available information on Half-Life, and hopefully
answers most or all of your questions. This faq was written because I felt the need. This
faq was started August 5th 1997.
1.2 About the
Jason Thierbach is the webmaster of the Half-Life
site on PlanetQuake:
Jaspur's Half-Life... located at http://www.planetquake.com/half-life.
1.3 Where to get this
All the new versions will be posted at http://www.planetquake.com/half-life
2. About Half-Life
2.1 What is
Half-Life is an upcoming first person 3D action game
by developer Valve Software. Half-Life introduces a revolutionary leap in 3D first-person
games by combining stunning technology enhancements with genre-breaking gameplay elements.
Gamers are given opportunities to wreak havoc--in true action-game fashion--but they are
also challenged to explore and strategize; for instance, telling friend from foe is no
longer a simple matter of humans vs. monsters. Half-Life's strong story elements, advanced
inventory system and story-integrated challenges create an experience never-before-seen in
traditional "run-and-gun" action games.
Half-Life can be played both single and multiplayer,
with support for OpenGL 3D accelerators and MMX processors.
Half-Life is based on the Quake(tm) engine by ID Software, with Valve's own
enhancements to the engine, such as 16-bit and 24-bit color and MMX support.
More on Half-Life's features in part 2.6
This is what Gabe Newell (Valve founder/managing
has to say about the game:
"Our goal with Half-Life was to build the most exciting and technologically
advanced game possible."
2.2 Who is making
See Team section (6) for all of the bios.
2.3 Who is Valve
Founded in 1996, Valve develops games software. It is
based in Kirkland, Washington, and consists of more than 20 leading artists, game
designers, and programmers. Valve's prestigious development team is comprised of
many well-respected names within the gaming community, including: 3D artist Chuck Jones,
formerly with Apogee/3D Realms, where he was an artist and animator for Duke Nukem 3D,
Rise of the Triad, Shadow Warrior and the Duke Nukem Plutonium Pack; game and level
designer Harry E. Teasley III, former art director of Williams' Doom for Sony Playstation;
Tools Architect Ben Morris, creator of DCK (Doom Construction Kit) and WorldCraft; game
designers Steve Bond and John Guthrie, creators of the Quake Airplane and Quake Kart; and
level designer Dario Casali, one of the world's best-known deathmatch level designers,
including those found on id Software's Final Doom. More information about Valve is
available through the company's web site at www.valvesoftware.com.
More information in the Team (6) section.
2.4 Who is Half-Life's
Half-Life is published by Sierra On Line.
2.5 What's the
story behind Half-Life?
Assigned to a top-secret experiment at a
decommissioned missile base, you've made an amazing breakthrough, an alarming discovery,
and a stupid decision. Now, with the pieces of your colleagues scattered around the lab,
you must fight your way past crafty alien monsters to the surface, where a full-scale
battle has erupted between the invaders and government troops. Safe at last? No! The
military is just as interested in silencing you as they are in eradicating the alien
menace. You must make a last ditch attempt to reach the alien world, foil their monstrous
schemes, and figure out how to make peace with your own murderous kind.
Along the way you'll discover fantastic experimental weapons, diabolically cunning death
squads, and grotesquely beautiful worlds. It will take a fast trigger finger and a faster
mind to survive, as not every monster is your enemy and not everything is as it seems.
2.6 What are
- 16 bit and 24-bit Color:
All other current quake engine games (Sin excepted) are 8-bit color, but Valve has
added it themselves. Half-Life supports a dazzling 65,535 colors without hardware
enhancement.One of the most noticeable limitations of first-person shooters has been their
8 bits per pixel (bpp) color quality. The result is monotonous, unrealistic lighting and
color that adds little to the gaming experience. And, even though an accelerator can
improve the appearance of 8-bit games, they cannot expand an 8-bit game's color palette
beyond the original 256 colors.
Half-Life is engineered in 16-bit color:
which expands the available palette to 65,535 colors. And, with support for graphics
acceleration, Half-Life lets those with advanced hardware see over 16 million colors. The
result is greatly enhanced realism and visual richness.
This comparison shot came from this CGW preview.
Specifically, 16-bit color makes the following innovations possible:
Realistic lighting, translucency, and blurring:
Thanks to those 65,535 colors per image, Half-Life engineers can blend light and color in
innumerable ways to get a variety of effects. Examples include smoke, metallic surfaces,
translucent water and energy beams-even force fields that can fade in and out. Different
colored lights from different sources will blend properly as they pool on a floor or wall.
And because these features are implemented in software, they can be made an integral part
of the gameplay experience, not just a visual treat for those with advanced hardware
Dynamically changing surfaces/Decals Surfaces:
in Half-Life are dynamic-they can change over time or as the player interacts with them.
Damp walls may grow mossy, water will ripple as the player moves through it and, through
the use of "decal" technology, hard surfaces will retain the scars of a previous
firefight. Decals--spot painting effects over existing textures--also make it possible for
opponents to leave threatening graffiti on walls, or for blood, water and smoke to leave
their marks on both surfaces and characters in the game.
- DSP(digital processing effects):
audio effects accelerated by MMX instructions allows for sounds to realistically
reflect the environment they take place in: high-end, tinny effects for confined spaces
and hollow, booming reverberations for wide open spaces. Sound cues are often a gamer's
best orienting tools, and Valve has made sure that Half-Life's sound technology provides
the same quality and feedback reliability as its light, color, and other realism effects.
Valve has created a proprietary method for producing DSP in real time. Without the DSP
functions, effects would sound the same in a small hallway as in a wide open space. With
DSP, however, a sound effect is muffled underwater, is deadened in a fabric-padded space,
and reverberates in a very large room. DSP affects every sound a player makes or hears,
such as shots and grunts or machinery and monster noises.
Valve's implementation of the DSP technology also saves disk space and memory. Half-Life
can reuse the same effect but give it very different sounds based on the geometry of the
room rather than have to record a separate WAV file for each type of effect. 3D sound For
any sound they hear, players can tell which direction it is coming from-left, right,
below, above, in front, or behind. The source direction changes as they move through the
space (e.g., engines that were revving on the left will sound off on the right when a
player turns around), and constant sounds recede as players get farther away.
- Skeletal animation system:
Hand-in-glove with a demand for realistic lighting and color effects is a desire for
monsters that look and move as realistically as possible. To accomplish this goal, the
engineers at Valve have created a skeletal animation system for monsters. Rather than
store a discrete set of polygonal meshes for each key frame of animation, as traditional
action games do, the skeletal system moves the "bones" within a monster and
deforms a mesh and texture map around them. There are a number of advantages this gives
Half-Life animators as they build more compelling and complex monsters:
Smoother and richer animation Half-Life players will see much smoother animation than in
typical action games. While both sprite- and mesh-based animation systems are based on a
fixed keyframe animation rate, which is typically targeted at the lowest common
denominator system, Half-Life's skeletal animation system does not limit the number of
frames in an animation. For instance, a typical walk cycle may have as many as 80 frames
in Half-Life, as compared to only 4 in some sprite-based games.
6000+ polygon monsters:
With Valve's new skeletal system, monsters can be much more complex than ever
before-without affecting performance. Half-Life will have monsters of up to 6000 polygons,
compared to the 500-plygon monsters in traditional mesh-based games.. Anatomically correct
motion Through skeletal animation, motion can become more realistic and natural because
the animation doesn't depend on thousands of interactions of mesh vertices that are
difficult to map in all permutations. The faster a character runs, for instance, the
faster the legs will move.
compound animations and switchable body parts Because skeletal animations are more
economical, Half-Life has many different animations per creature. And, rather than have a
fixed set of animations that involve a monster's entire body, Valve can build animations
of many different parts and then combine them into a whole. Monsters can turn their heads
to look at the player while they are running. Troops can pull out weapons and fire while
they are moving or kneeling. Compound animations also make it possible to remove or switch
body parts in response to the gaming action-say, to allow for a weapons change or to show
damage to a monster that's still fighting.
- Monster AI:
Half-Life's monsters and life-forms are also remarkably--even
Valve has created a technology that imbues Half-Life monsters with tactical
intelligence, multi-character cooperation, and a supreme will to live. The result is a
menagerie of new creatures whose intelligence and unpredictability make them truly
Traditionally, game AI is a set of hard-coded if-then decisions for every possible
situation that could confront a monster, such as, "If there is a bad guy in this room
then shoot at him." Valve took another tack, designing a module-based AI system that
provides practically infinite flexibility and monster growth potential. Below are just a
few of the ways that AI decision modules work together to produce unprecedented monster
Monster behavior based on player's actions moment by moment:
In Half-Life, monsters might advance only when it makes sense to. They assess how much
health the player may have, where the player is heading, how many of their own kind are
left in a room, and whether they have enough health themselves to fight. Such conditions
and others dictate whether a monster will chase, attack, or retreat. While in other games
monsters are basically suicide squads, in Half-Life monsters don't want to die.
Squad (group) behavior:
Valve's module-based AI technology also adds the new twist of squad behavior and
cooperation among monsters. Adversaries can make a threat assessment, recruit others and
then plan a coordinated attack against the player. Flocking behavior Achieving realistic
motion for creatures that travel in swarms, flocks, or packs is just as important as
achieving it for those that move individually. To do that, Valve has crafted an innovative
Flocking Behavior Model that realistically depicts the organic movement of animals such as
birds and fish.
Half-Life monsters possess a rich and varied group of senses for detecting a player's
presence-namely, sight, hearing, and smell. For instance, some monsters can't see at all,
but locate the player by sound. Others have the ability to track the player who has moved
on by using a scent trail. This forces players to rethink their tactics and weapons
- Improved technologies for more
Valve thrusts players into a full-surround gaming environment that is its own thriving
space. Half-Life has an ecology and a society. Monsters are breeding, herds are forming,
and some monsters prey on others. Players are dropped into the middle of this environment
and must learn from what they see. In order to survive, they must use both their weapons
and their wits. Some examples of innovations that enhance the player's gameplay experience
include: Continuous-world experience Instead of discrete levels that offer no chance of
turning back, Half-Life lets players return to any space they've visited-though what has
happened in that space in the player's absence may be surprising
Usable vehicles and props:
Valve's designers have made sure that vehicles and props aren't merely backdrops to a
story-they are tools that must be used to advance in the game. For instance, an
underground train system takes players to numerous stations and allows them to backtrack.
Some vehicles also contain, or can be used as, weapons to mow down monsters.
Ducking, crouching, and crawling:
For more realistic and varied action, Half-Life lets players duck and crawl in addition to
stand, walk, run, and jump. In addition to expanding players' tactical options, being able
to duck and crawl opens up myriad spaces once sealed off to first-person shooters, such as
a maze of duct work which can be used to help elude monsters or reach otherwise impossible
In Half-Life, physics and gravity behave more like in the real world than in other games.
Flooring can be unstable and rickety railings can give way. Even typical tactics for
obliterating the enemy must yield to Newtonian physics. For instance, blowing up a soldier
who's wearing a backpack of desirable goods also destroys the goods. An initial surprise
to experienced gamers, it will challenge players to dream up some interesting alternative
Scripted sequences to advance the story and interact with:
Rather than jar players out of their immersion by plugging in backstory details as a
voiceover or text screens between levels, Valve's new scripting technology reveals
information through sophisticated scripted animations that can be deliberately or
accidentally interrupted (such as by shooting at a character or bursting into a scene in
2.7 When will
Half-Life be released?
Half-Life is currently slated to be released 1st
3. Half-Life System Requirements
3.1 What are
Half-Life's system requirements?
- being required
+ not being required
- Pentium 100
+ MMX processor
- 16 MB RAM
- CD-ROM Drive
- SVGA graphics adapter
- Windows supported sound card
+ OpenGL supporting 3D accelerator
3.2 Under which
Operating System will Half-Life run?
Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0(or greater)
3.3 Will Half-Life make
use of a 3D accelerator and/or MMX processor?
Half-Life will support Direct 3D and OpenGL.
One of Valve's enhancements to the Quake engine is support for MMX(tm) processors
(Pentium MMX or Pentium II). If you have a 3DFX 3D accelerator, capable of running OpenGL at a
decent speed, it will look mind-bogglingly cool.
Other chipset support is not known at this time.
4.1 What kind of
multiplayer capabilities will there be in Half-Life?
Half-Life lets up to 32 players to play at once, and
it has the the ability to support spectators. Other features include support for game
setup, server filtering, and related Internet functionality.
Here is what level designer Dario Casali had to say about internet play:
"Net play in Half Life will have QuakeWorld style functionality and we are
currently discussing this with several gaming services. We are making sure that the
process of getting a net game going will be a simple one."
5. Half-Life Editing
5.1 In what ways
will Half-Life be editable?
(DLL's in this case), models, sounds, levels. Almost everything actually. Half-Life will
allow experienced programmers to modify via modules, Half-Life will avoid using an
interpreted language approach (ie, QC), which is better suited for Dos games.
Ben Morris creator of WorldCraft is part of the Valve
the definitive Quake level editor will be shipping with Half-Life.
5.2 Can I
change Quake C like in Quake?(tm) ?
Half-Life is Windows/NT based, allowing people to use
C/C++ to develop add-ons. Editing will be different in Half-Life, as Valve is using .DLL's
instead of .QC files. This makes editing harder for some,
but for experienced programmers, .DLL's are heaven.
6. The Half-Life Team
Gabe Newell -Founder/Managing
Gabe held a number of positions in the Systems, Applications, and Advanced Technology
divisions during his 13 years at Microsoft. His responsibilities included running program
management for the first two releases of Windows, starting the company's multimedia
division, and, most recently, leading the company's efforts on the Information Highway PC.
His most significant contribution to Half-Life was his statement "C'mon, people, you
can't show the player a really big bomb and not let them blow it up."
Ted Backman -Art
Ted has been a freelance artist and animator in the Seattle area for the last four years.
Ted developed many of the more unusual monsters for Half-Life, including the Head Crab,
Mr. Friendly and Big Momma. He is also a black-belt karate instructor.
Harry Teasley -Game Designer/Level
Harry came to Valve from Shiny Entertainment, where he was working on the upcoming game
Wild 9's. Prior to Shiny, Harry was at Williams Entertainment where he was lead artist and
designer for PlayStation Doom, and was lead designer for Doom64. Before Williams, Harry
worked with Sid Meier at Microprose on Civilization as well as Pirates Gold, among other
Chuck Jones -Illustrator/3D Artist
Chuck joins Valve from Apogee/3D Realms where he was an artist and animator for Duke Nukem
3D, Rise of the Triad, Shadow Warrior and, most recently, the Duke Nukem Plutonium Pack.
Formerly a tattoo artist, Chuck tagged Jerry Cantrell of rock group Alice In Chains long
before he created the space aliens who invaded Los Angeles.
Ken Birdwell -Senior Software
Ken has contributed to a wide range of projects in the last 15 years. These include
in-circuit emulators (CodeTap), 3D surface reconstruction (Surfgen), 3D prosthetics design
tools (Shapemaker), and satellite networking (Microsoft's Broadcast PC). He also wrote one
of the first graphical shells for multiplayer on-line games for Compuserve's Sniper. Oddly
enough, Ken has a BFA from Evergreen State University, where he studied painting,
photography, and animation. Ken has designed and implemented the animation system and many
other engine components for Half-Life.
Ben Morris -Tools Architect
Ben is the creator of DCK (Doom Construction Kit) and WorldCraft, the definitive Doom and
Quake level creation tools. He is currently developing tool-kits for our in-house
designers as well as for third party use and general release.
Kelly Bailey -Senior Software
Kelly, formerly a product unit manager at Microsoft, has a programming background that
includes consumer multimedia, database engines, and networking. He created all of the
music and sound effects for Half-Life. He is also lead singer for a Seattle band, Lucy's
Fishing Trip, and, therefore, shaves less than the rest of the staff.
Dario Casali -Level Designer
Joining Valve from England, Dario is a world-famous level designer. His work includes some
of the most popular deathmatch levels on the Internet, as well as Final Doom, published by
Steve Bond -Game Designer/Engineer
Having made the great trek westward from Fort Walton Beach, Florida, Steve is responsible
for much of Half-Life's sophisticated monster and entity behaviors, of which the
squad-level AI is his favorite. Steve worked with John Guthrie on several projects that
demonstrated the power and flexibility of the QuakeC development environment, which caught
John Carmack's attention, who in turn referred him to us. Before that, Steve worked at a
local Internet service provider and delivered pizza, a fact that we rarely let him forget,
even in his corporate bio.
John Guthrie -Game and Level
Along with Steve Bond, John started the influential and popular Internet gaming site,
Quake Command. John was also the co-creator of Quake Airplane and Quake Kart. Today, he
occupies Valve's darkest office, where he is hard at work constructing the chambers and
corridors of Half-Life's treacherous missile base and underground train system.
Brett Johnson -Level
Brett's craftsmanship as a musician is matched only by his ability to create traps which
snare, snag and frag unwary explorers in 3D environments. Valve lured Brett mid-way
through his final year at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and a promising career in
biochemistry. A hard-assed New Yorker, Brett continues to deny Seattle's claim to being
the birthplace of espresso.
-Illustrator/Texture-Maker/Artist at Large
Karen has contributed to Starwave Corporation's Castle Infinty and Eastwood, and
Activision's Zork Nemesis. She was the sole creator of Materia Prima, a texture collection
published by the Valis Group, and was head designer for Maya Romanoff, a prestigious
producer of hand-made wallpaper. Karen was also owner/operator of the Washington DC
Dave Riller -Level Designer
Prior to joining Valve, Dave was an active developer in the on-line Quake community, and
worked with id Software on the deployment of Quake World. For his day job, Dave was a
program designer/analyst at MSI, a Windows software developer located on the East Coast.
He also ran their website. Dave has been a beta tester for Doom 2, Hexen, Quake, and
Warcraft II. In his virtually non-existent spare time, Dave is a pilot and musician.
Marc Laidlaw -Writer/Game Designer
Marc Laidlaw is the author of half a dozen strange novels, including Dad's Nuke and The
37th Mandala. While writing a cover-story about Quake for Wired Magazine, he determined
that level designers had the coolest jobs on earth--although the fact that he'd been
working as a legal secretary for 10 years might have warped his perceptions very slightly.
In addition to building levels for upcoming projects, Marc will be working to ensure that
Valve's stories and scripts are as intense and entertaining as all the other elements of
its games. Oddly, he refuses to do anyone else's typing.
Jay Stelly - Engine/Special
Jay recently joined Valve from Tetragon where he was lead engineer and 3D engine developer
of Virgin's Nanotek Warrior. Before that, he developed titles for Sony Playstation &
3DO. Way before that, he wrote his first computer game (at age 9) and had a game published
in a magazine (at age 15). A native of Cajun Country, Jay finds Northwest buildings too
hot (what, no air conditioning?) and the food not hot enough.
Gregg Coomer - Game
Gregg has worked on a variety of graphic design, multimedia, and web projects for Nintendo
and Microsoft. Resident art-boy, he'll critique your shoes, interior decoration, and
interface design, in that order. His secret dream is to create a game called 'Aksidenz
Grotesk'. You know, for kids.
Yatzse Mark - Artist/Texture
Yatsze Mark (pronounced "Mark") came to Valve from San Diego where she was
working at the Lightspan Partnership, doing background painting for traditional cel
animation in educational games. Prior to Lightspan, she worked at Leland Interactive Media
(later to become Midway Home Entertainment) after her graduation from Art Center College
of Design in Pasadena. Her exceptional skill at painting is only exceeded by her
questionable taste in husbands.
Doug Wood - Animator/Modeler/2d
Doug joins us from Apogee/3DRealms where he worked on projects such as Duke Nukem3d,
Shadow Warrior, Prey (before everyone left) and the Plutonium/Atomic Edition for Duke.
Before 3DRealms, he worked for Origin down in Austin. As far as we know, Doug is the only
member of Valve who has ever been a Guardian Angel in New York City. Doug is responsible
for many of Half-Life's scripted sequences, including tentacles that pull unsuspecting
scientists through the ceiling.
Louis Donaldson - Office Manager
Louise is the only person at Valve who wasn't a hardcore gamer before joining. She is
still a bit suspicious when we tell her that not only is it OK to play games at work, but
that we expect her to play games at work. Her daughter thinks it is sooo cool that her mom
is working at a games company, even though her mom won't let her play Half-Life until she
Joe Bryant - Programmer
Joe, an Alaska native, recently joined Valve from Realtime Associates, where he was lead
programmer on Magic: BattleMage. Before that, he was a programmer for the Alaska Army
National Guard for 6 years (yippee COBOL!). Joe also worked on medical and oil pipeline
robotics and once spent 3 days on an Arctic Ocean beach debugging code for an oil robot.
Karl Deckard - Designer/Artist
Karl comes to Valve by way of Nintendo, where he was responsible for graphic design and
production on Nintendo Power Magazine and several player's guides, including Killer
Instinct, Yoshi's Island, and Super Mario RPG. His thorough familiarity with paper-based
role-playing games, wargames, and CCGs, combined with his knowledge of PC and console
video games, mark him as Valve's quintessential game fanatic.
Randy Lundeen - Mapper/Artist
Randy comes to Valve by way of Microsoft, where he worked as an interface designer for the
Internet Gaming Zone. Randy designs some of the most unusual and original levels in the
company; he also is the most likely person to be pushing the polygon and memory limits of
our engine. In his distant past, he was a key staff member at a potato processing plant
(his responsibilities including peeling and potato quality oversite).
7. Where to find more
information about Half-Life
You can check out the following webpages:
THE Official Half-Life
Sierra On Line
>VALVE EMPLOYEE PAGES
The Half-Life Benchmark
f r a g i l e m o r t a l i t y
Half of It
QNG - Quake
derivatives - Half-Life
3D Gaming Studio's Half-Life Page
#half-life or #valve on 3DNet...get mIRC at www.mirc.co.uk and select the 3DNet server.
Then type /join #half-life or #valve and chat with other Half-Life fans, and Valve
Telefragged's public Half-Life forum
Public Forum at North American War Council
Board at The Underworld _____________________________________________________________
- extra big thanks to Lisa Mennet from Valve
Thanks to Satanic maintainer of the Official Hexen2 Faq
9. Revision History
v.10 - Almost finished for first non-public release
v.20 - Too many things to be mentioned
v.21 - Changes in links, system requirements, and team sections
v.22 - Changed release date
The Half-Life FAQ is copyright 1997/98 Jason Thierbach.
Half-Life is copyright 1997/98 Valve Software.