With a handful of high profile games being delayed in the last few weeks (like Cyberpunk 2077, Doom Eternal, The Last of Us Part II, and more) there’s been lingering worry that Valve—perhaps the game studio most infamous for delays—would wind up delaying Half-Life: Alyx. Not so, according to the game’s development team, which says it’s “confident” the game will be ready for its March release date.
Today during a Q&A session with Valve developers working on Half-Life: Alyx, the group confirmed the game is on track for a March release date.
“With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done. Lots of us at Valve, as well as playtesters, have played through the entire game multiple times,” the company wrote. “Right now we’re primarily polishing and fixing bugs, which is where we’d hope to be at this point in the development cycle. We’re confident we’ll hit our intended release.”
And the response didn’t come without a reference to the infamous ‘Valve Time‘, a term which has come to encapsulate the company’s habit of letting self-imposed deadlines slip by.
“We let the Valve Time happen before we announced the game,” the developers joked.
Valve developers Robin Walker, Jamaal Bradley, David Feise, Greg Coomer, Corey Peters, Erik Wolpaw, Tristan Reidford, Chris Remo, Jake Rodkin, and Kaci Aitchison Boyle represented the larger Half-Life: Alyx dev team during the Q&A.
They also answered a handful of questions about gameplay; we’ve pulled out some of the most interesting snippets here, but you can dig through the entirety of the responses over at the Q&A on Reddit.
On enemies, weapons, and movement:
Yes, Barnacles are a threat in VR. They don’t kill you instantly. You’ll deal with them in familiar ways, but the opportunities afforded by VR also give you new methods to use against them. We experimented with moving the player, but moving the player without their input in VR didn’t work very well. As with many aspects of working on this game, we’ve had to find new ways to take well-worn mechanics and other Half-Life staples into the specific framework of VR.
Similarly, Combine soldiers definitely return, both in the form you’ve previously seen them as well as with new variations to keep players busy and take advantage of VR.
Some creatures respond to audio more than others. We don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s an example of this we’re particularly excited about.
As with audio, limb dismemberment is not a factor in most combat encounters—but there is a very notable exception.
Because the game includes the ability to mantle in continuous motion, you don’t need often need to jump. For instance, if you need to get past an obstacle like a crate, you mantle up rather than jump up. The only time you need to jump is to traverse a short gap, which happens very rarely. We tried a few iterations of jumping, but ultimately found that even in continuous motion, players preferred dealing with those jumps with a teleport-style movement.
Our weapons all require only one hand, but they can be optionally grabbed and steadied by your offhand. We really wanted to focus on simultaneous two handed play throughout the game, so we needed the player to always be able to easily have a free hand. We keep that hand pretty busy with gravity gloves, movement, world interactions, flashlight, and so on.
We have a few systems for inventory and weapon selection, all designed with the goal of keeping the players eyes on the environment as much as possible. We have an ‘over the shoulder’ contextual inventory system for ammo on your off hand, Your weapon hand has a quick weapon select feature, and we have a couple of wrist bags for some of the other items.
On horror in VR:
Tristan here, I admit I cannot deal with headcrabs in general, and definitely not in VR. If I’m testing the game, and I’m in an area where I know one of those things is around, I’ll remove the head set and hold it off my face as I attempt navigate on the 2D monitor screen, to lessen the impact of headcrab discovery. Disappointingly for me, it seems that I’m the only one on the team who can’t deal, we handle the scarier parts pretty well in terms of making the game accessible.
Horror is part of the franchise, and through playtesting, we feel like we’ve gained some confidence about where to draw this line. Some of our gorier visuals tend to evoke a grim fascination rather than revulsion or panic, and apart from myself, we’ve hardly ever seen anyone nope out of a playtest, even during the creepier sections. So among testers I still seem to be the outlier on horror tolerance.
Support for Index controllers and other VR hardware:
Index controller finger-tracking allows for greater player expression and more opportunities for fine-grained engagement with the world. But the game was tested with all major VR solutions throughout development to ensure full compatibility for all required interactions.
Half-Life: Alyx will have subtitles in 10 languages:
We will be doing subtitles at launch for ten total languages: English, French, German, Spanish-Spain, Japanese, Korean, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish-Latin America, and Traditional Chinese. VO in other languages is something we’re still considering.
It’s actually illegal to ship a Half-Life game if you don’t spend at least a little time riding in a train.
The Q&A is still ongoing and we’ll be keeping our eye out for more interesting info from the team. For more on Half-Life: Alyx, check out our coverage of all the details surrounding the game’s announcement:
More on Half-Life: Alyx