Half-Life turns 25 years outdated tomorrow, with new maps and updates to rejoice. Valve additionally reunited the sport’s unique builders for an hour-long making-of documentary through which its unique programmers and artists reminisce about creating the first-person basic at a time when lots of them had by no means shipped a sport earlier than.
Chief among the many revelations inside is that each one of Half-Life’s textures have been created by a single individual, Karen Laur.
This is the documentary, produced in partnership with Danny O’Dwyer’s Secret Tape:
After all, ’90s video games have been made by a lot smaller groups than people who construct video video games immediately, even first-person shooters. But Valve had a number of programmers, a number of degree designers, a number of character artists. I due to this fact assumed that its textures would likewise have been created by a number of completely different artists. Not so.
One factor the documentary makes clear is that Valve did not have a cohesive plan for what Half-Life needs to be – together with the place its ranges ought to happen. Totally different folks on the staff initially labored independently, and later started-over to attempt to flip it into one thing cohesive. Consequently, Laur as texture artist had a variety of affect over what Black Mesa grew to become.
“To begin with I had a bunch of textures, after which everytime I made new ones, whoever was engaged on the brand new ranges can be like, ‘Oh contemporary textures, I am gonna use these!’,” says Laur. “Someone making one other degree would begin utilizing them [as well] and I used to be like no, that is chaos, we have to limit this, so I began naming the feel units by the extent that they have been made for. I used to be attempting to implement some visible cohesion, and that basically ended up working.”
“I grew up simply out D.C., and so there’s all these huge, actually banal workplace buildings, and that is sort of the course I went,” says Laur. “It began turning into a facility. So I began making these linoleum tiles, the drop ceiling, the concrete block wall, the black and white tile flooring.”
“It is simply an awesome quantity of labor”, says Marc Laidlaw, Half-Life’s author, of Laur’s solo efforts.
A part of my assumption that the textures have been created by a gaggle was pushed by how diverse Half-Life’s textures are, and the way important. After I first performed Half-Life as a 14-year-old, the Black Mesa Analysis Facility felt like an actual place to me in a means that different video games with sensible settings from the period, reminiscent of Sin and Kingpin: Life Of Crime, by no means did. The geometry of the underlying structure largely consisted of low-poly bins by technological necessity, however textures made every space appear totally distinct.
“Initially I used to be hand-painting the entire textures, and you’ll actually see a shift in a few of them the place they go from hand-painted to picture reference,” says Laur. “The picture references are a lot a lot better. So I used to be throughout Seattle – Harbor Island, Gasworks park – getting rusty metallic issues. What can I get good photos of that’s vaguely industrial and attention-grabbing to take a look at after which how can we use this?”
I additionally suppose the textures deserve a variety of credit score for the mapping and modding scene that grew round Half-Life within the years after its launch. Utilizing the textures for Quake or its sequel, all you might ever actually create was extra Quake. Half-Life’s actual world textures have been malleable sufficient that you might apply them somewhat in a different way, perhaps add only a few of your individual, and immediately have a setting totally separate from Black Mesa. That is the way you get from Half-Life’s singleplayer ranges to early Counter-Strike maps like Assault, Siege, and Prodigy, all of which relied on Half-Life’s textures.
The textures aren’t the one a part of Half-Life created by a single individual. All the sounds and music have been created alone by Kelly Bailey, who additionally labored on degree design. Half-Life’s sound results have grow to be at the least as iconic as its textures, and plenty of have survived unchanged into sequels and different Supply engine video games. I admit that my love of its textures runs deeper, although. I spent a few years as a youngster tinkering within the degree editor Worldcraft and have become intimately conversant in Half-Life’s texture WADs consequently. A number of a long time from now, once I’m discovered useless, the outdated picture clutched in my hand will not be of a misplaced teenage love, it’s going to be a printout of C3A1_W5D.
Other than discussing her work as a texture artist, Laur does additionally contact on one other topic close to the tip of the documentary. “I used to be worker seventeen. There was a lady that was sort of the workplace supervisor, and ultimately Lisa Guthrie got here in on the desk. I used to be the one girl on the staff,” says Laur, earlier than sighing. “That was not superior.”
Sadly Laur does not get an opportunity to elaborate, however the documentary is value watching all through. I’ve hoovered-up dozens, most likely lots of of interviews concerning the making of Half-Life through the years, in addition to listening to developer commentary and studying Elevating The Bar and so forth. I used to be due to this fact already conversant in a lot of the story the documentary has to inform, but it surely was nonetheless good to see its builders reminisce all these years later.