Valve’s Half-Life: Alyx team sat down with the internet today to answer questions about the game in a Reddit AMA. The AMA (ask me anything) covered topics ranging from horror to accessibility and enemies. We were able to confirm that, yes, headcrabs in Alyx are about as scary as you think in VR. And yes, you’ll probably ride a train at some point, because Half-Life.
Apply directly to the forehead
It’s one thing to deal with a headcrab through the safety of your monitor, but probably not so much in virtual reality. When asked if playtesters removed their headsets due to the game’s horror elements, the Alyx team’s Tristan Reidford wrote that she did before dealing with the overly friendly crabs.
“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,” Reidford replied. “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.”
However, since Half-Life: Alyx is a VR game with full-motion hand support, the team did find a new way to deal with the headcrab menace. Taking cues on how to steal from shops in Skyrim, the playtesters discovered a useful tool.
“You can put a bucket on a headcrab, and it’ll move the bucket as it crawls around,” the team wrote. “Playtesters all keep reporting it as a bug.”
Alyx for all
Half-Life: Alyx is being designed with accessibility in mind. Though a lot of VR games are generally advertised as something you play while standing and flailing, many can still be played from the comfort of a chair. Alyx will as well, as it includes multiple options for just about everyone. When asked about locomotion and comfort features, the team replied, writing that you can play the game seated. There will also be an option for left-handed people. The team will showcase these options soon.
“Our locomotion and comfort features are all done, including things like Seated, Left-Handed mode, etc,” the team replied. “We have almost all our accessibility work done as well, but there’s a little bit more we’d like to do there (support for one armed play, for instance).
“We’ll be talking about and showing more of our various locomotion options in some upcoming videos.”
Making friends wherever you go
Some of Half-Life‘s classic enemies make a return in Alyx. The Combine soldiers, who patrol the streets of City 17, were already confirmed with the first trailer. However, the team confirmed in the AMA that we’ll run across “new variations to keep players busy and take advantage of VR.” New types of Combine soldiers can certainly keep players on their toes. But what about enemies that lift you off your feet?
The team was asked about Barnacles, the ceiling-dwelling enemies that would use a drooping “tongue” to pull you into their gaping maws. Thinking on that, experiencing their gentle tug in VR sounds jarring. The team wrote that Barnacles will come back for Half-Life: Alyx, but they’ve been modified with VR in mind.
“You’ll deal with them in familiar ways, but the opportunities afforded by VR also give you new methods to use against them,” the team wrote. “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.”
All that and more
The AMA went on for nearly three hours, and the team dropped a lot of new information for Half-Life: Alyx. It’s more than what I can report on here, but here’s a list of some of the responses that stood out:
- Half-Life: Alyx is “done,” and the team is currently working on polish and bug squashing.
- You’ll ride a train in the game, of course, because according to the team: “There must be a train in the game, or we legally cannot ship it.”
- The team isn’t currently planning on shipping the full Source 2 SDK, but it might “at some point.”
- The soundtrack is being done by Mike Morasky, who was behind Portal 2 and Team Fortress 2.
- All weapons only require one hand, but you can steady the weapon with your other.
- However, the game requires your other hand to be free most of the time for “gravity gloves, movement, world interactions, flashlight, and so on.”
- Each hand has its own inventory screen. The left hand chooses ammo, and the right weapons.
- Valve hasn’t been talking about Half-Life for so long because “we weren’t actively working on a Half-Life game.” Bummer.
For the AMA in its entirety, head over to the Reddit thread.