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    The Final Hours of Half-Life

 
Part 1 - Introduction
Part 2 - The Microsoft
            Millionaires
Part 3 - The Valve
            Difference
Part 4 - Reassembling
            the Pieces
Part 5 - Squashing the
            Final Bug
Part 2 - The Microsoft Millionaires
Newell was right - in the gaming world, he and Harrington were unknown commodities. Both were decade-long veterans of Microsoft, helping to manage staple products such as Windows NT, OS/2, and Microsoft Bob. It may not have been glamorous, but it was lucrative - very lucrative. Both Newell and Harrington are part of an elite group dubbed the "Microsoft Millionaires," young software developers who all made enormous amounts of money with their Microsoft stock options. Some have gone on to start their own restaurants. Others have bought farms in Iowa. But Harrington and Newell wanted to make games.

"I like developing software, good working environments, and games," explains Harrington, who has a boyish charm and approachable disposition. "I put all [these elements] together and decided that I couldn't just leave Microsoft and do nothing."

"I envisioned him working out of the extra space above our garage."

- Monica Harrington on her husband's plan to develop games.
But Harrington didn't want to start the company on his own. He talked to lots of Microsoft employees about working together in the games market, but most were more interested in doing research than shipping products. Harrington didn't want to burn money on his hobby or toy around with technology forever. He wanted to ship games. And so did Gabe Newell. It was as simple as that.

Or so they thought. Mike's wife Monica, a marketing executive at Microsoft at the time, didn't take her husband's plan for a game shop very seriously at first. "I remember when Mike first told me he wanted to start a games company," she recalls. "I envisioned him working out of the extra space above our garage." However, she soon realized how serious both Harrington and Newell were about their new venture. "I woke up when he told me he and Gabe would be signing a five-year lease for office space in downtown Kirkland."


id Software's Quake Engine would prove to be a key component of Half-Life.
Office space was only the first of many pieces of the puzzle that would quickly fall into place for the fledging game studio. With their own pocketbooks funding the company, initial financing wasn't the major issue it often is at other start-up developers. Still, important decisions had to be made from the outset. The first was what genre the company wanted to tackle. It didn't take long to decide. "3D action games were our favorite genre," says Newell. "We also thought there was a lot of room for improvement."

The only problem was that Newell and Harrington didn't know a thing about developing a 3D action game. That's where Michael Abrash, a close friend of Harrington's, comes into the picture.

"My friend Michael Abrash had recently left Microsoft to go to id Software," says Harrington. "He told me that we had to license this new engine that he was working on with John Carmack." So, when the invitation came through to visit Abrash in Texas, Harrington and Newell were quickly on the road and on their way to id.

Next: The id Visit