Aftermath/lost coast

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ou broke my brain!" said the agitated voice on the other end of the line when Marc Laidlaw picked up. The person who had tracked down the writer/designer behind Half-Life 2 echoed the sentiments of many a gamer after that ending. The abruptness of it all left the feeling of having been played like the pawn in some cruel game, and that was exactly what Laidlaw intended. But that's just the beginning of what we were able to dig out of Valve. Broken or not, the brains of CGW editors Darren Gladstone and
It's the leaving of possibilities, without ever contradicting them, that lets the design develop creatively .
Shawn Elliot returned from their mission to Half-Life HQ overflowing with so much information it filled the cover and pages of their October issue and spilled over onto 1UP.

Performers have long known the value of the adage about always leaving 'em wanting more, but there's more at work here. In a design sense it was important to Laidlaw that Half-Life 2 was a game, and not a book or movie. As such, it made sense that after solving puzzles all the way throughout that the story, including the ending, would work the same way. In that sense, it's the mystery, and really all the parts that figure into it, that drives the experience -- clear it up too soon and
Freeze sucka! City 17 Police.
there is the risk that fans respond (as Laidlaw puts it) "Oh, ok, well I'm done with that."

As a part of the bigger picture it's the leaving of possibilities, without ever contradicting them, that lets the design develop creatively around a framework rather than being forced down a predetermined path. That is an important benefit for a team that enjoys just developing stuff -- new technology, dramatic scenes and about anything else they can think of -- and designs all of it in a uniquely unified way. Programmer/designer Robin Walker points out that similar to the outline approach for the story "We have sort of a roadmap for our A.I. and a roadmap for specific NPC's that we'd like to build that we think would be interesting, and stuff like that."

Yes, Aftermath, the much-anticipated answer to the question: "what happened at the end?" is coming together nicely. But after what we've come to understand about Valve's approach to story it's becoming clear almost as quickly that it probably won't answer as many of our questions as we might like. What it will do is bring you back to City
It probably won't answer as many of our questions as we might like.
17 where the Citadel is up to its tricks again and some characters you cared about wait for support. And unlike expansion packs to the original Half-Life, you won't want to miss this one. It's part of core progression to the story.

Or you might not want to miss it because it co-stars Alyx. Whether there actually is chemistry between her and Gordon remains to be seen, but there will be plenty of chance to explore the relationship. She is alongside the Freeman throughout the entire game. Being able to really focus in on her for an entire project, as the episode format allows, lets her personality and character take a big developmental step forward.

It also posed the team one of its biggest challenges for Aftermath. The standard Half-Life 2 has set for the game experience doesn't allow any room for mechanical or
No, really, behind you.
repetitious actions. Walker says, "She's enough of a person that people have developed in their head her personality, and now they're trying to evaluate what we build against their opinion of who Alyx is."

This made developing her A.I. the center of much attention. To some degree, the foundations had been laid with the Grigori in Half-Life 2 (the priest who Gordon encounters in Ravenholm). But his character was exaggerated, and that allowed some room for things that weren't quite right being dismissed as just quirks. Alyx offers no such luxury. Thanks to the perceptions gamers already have about who she is Walker tells us writing A.I. code, "hasn't felt like A.I. code, it's felt like personality code."


One of the first goals Valve set for itself post Half-Life was to do a game where Barney followed alongside you from one to the other of Black Mesa. This poses a whole set of problems of how to make sure your new sidekick is able to get to where you go no matter how you get there. With Barney, Valve took a little poetic license. Because he was generic, he could be left in one room and then magically appear in the next. Likewise, when that "new" Barney repeated the same stock phrases over and over it was almost comical and, at the very least, expected.

It's quite the opposite with Alyx. Repetition would kill her character. What she says, even while standing around waiting on you to solve some puzzle, expresses that character, and is one more piece added to your perception of who she is. Likewise, her actions have to be more than just an automated "go here and attack" response. She takes cues from what's going on around her and will take the initiative to jump in and help out. It's not anything completely out of left field. Her abilities compliment your own and together you are able to accomplish your goals.

Click here to check out 18 exclusive new Aftermath screens!

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