News Half-Life: Alyx - Releasing March 23, 2020 on SteamVR

Alextended

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Again, not really proof, someone saying something legit once doesn't make everything else that comes out of his mouth such. Given you agree about behavior and clickbait if anything it's likely he'd use his repuation over one or two legit pieces of information to bring him attention when he lacks such information as well. Personally I've seen nothing that says Boneworks has any influence on Alyx, if anything they're kinda taking the opposite core approach (ie, floating hands, not IK bodies, though Boneworks isn't the first prominent project to have these either) and once again, there are tons upon tons of other games that have done the things it's claimed Boneworks influenced. I have no reason to bring up Valve's perceived myopia (if anything it's the Boneworks developers that appear to be so given many mishaps in their own implementations of things that came before) or any other opinion I may have of them just to reinforce that indeed if there was no Boneworks Half-Life: Alyx would have been a total amateur hour project resembling 2016 VR experiments nobody wants. It's frankly, simply, absurd.
 
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Aelphaeis Mangarae

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Again, not really proof, and someone saying something legit once doesn't make everything else that comes out of his mouth legit.
The only case of VNN having a problem was when they were covering user-submitted emails/responses from Gabe Newell (Gabe does respond to emails) and someone submitted a fake email along the lines of "Don't die within the next 5 years."

I have never seen any evidence to discredit VNN's anonymous sources within Valve. All claims attributed to these anonymous sources have proven correct AFAIK. Being an old school fan of Half-Life, I've followed VNN on and off over the years, and I've never seen a "My sources tell me X" claim that turned out to be bullshit. Being right about things year after year without fail is proof. It's the only kind of proof that really matters.

When VNN says that their sources have told them that Valve are making Left 4 Dead VR, I believe them. Because they were right about everything else. When they say that non-teleportation movement isn't working in HL Alyx at the time of writing, I believe them. This is how verified anonymous leaking works.

Regardless, HL Alyx failed to appear at the TGAs, disrupting the show. It is unfortunate. Reliable sources indicate it is because Valve didn't want to demo the game running in teleportation mode because everyone will compare it to Boneworks, and because none of the other locomotion methods are working currently. That's the current status of the game. It missed its 2019 release date, and I wouldn't be surprised if it misses its March release date, too, to ensure that the game consistently rivals its competitors in terms of functionality.
 

Alextended

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I guess you can add these claims as more of those that weren't proven to be bullshit (never mind they can't be proven true either, that's a minor detail, who cares about that, right?) so that the next time something else is said it'll also be just as true, since by saying things that can't be proven one or the other way, one can claim they have an ever expanding perfect track record. Great methodology, lol. Gabe could bother commenting on rumours and speculation like that for once and it still wouldn't matter because hey, someone got a thing right, so every thing they say is right, Gabe is a lying jerk would be the conclusion (I mean, you're a jerk to begin with if the one time you comment on rumours it's just to shoot down a poor indie project like that after all), just as Valve being a myopic developer who hadn't seen a gazillion other notable VR projects before Boneworks (and essentially missed the whole direction VR gaming has been going the last several years) is apparently the logical conclusion I should arrive at here. I guess the next thing to claim is that Boneworks is the reason the knuckles (Index) controllers even became a thing because clearly if you don't care or have any concept of such physical interactions why would you care for controllers that enable those interactions to be more realistic and involving? Ah well, why be so modest, let's just say Boneworks is the founder of modern VR gaming, period.
 
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Swenhir

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I think the idea that Valve reacted to Boneworks only makes sense and the general argument for keeping your eyes open to what is going on during development is far from extraordinary. Where I think the phrasing - or the leak - is pushing it is when they say that Alyx's entire physics-driven gameplay exists solely as a reaction to Boneworks. I don't buy that for a second, not from the people who created Source and made that demo.

To be honest the whole leak revolving around Boneworks sounds really fishy to me.
 
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Aelphaeis Mangarae

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I think the idea that Valve reacted to Boneworks only makes sense and the general argument for keeping your eyes open to what is going on during development is far from extraordinary. Where I think the phrasing - or the leak - is pushing it is when they say that Alyx's entire physics-driven gameplay exists solely as a reaction to Boneworks. I don't buy that for a second, not from the people who created Source and made that demo.

To be honest the whole leak revolving around Boneworks sounds really fishy to me.
It's worth noting that The Lab didn't have proper physics until August 2019.
Prior to this update, your hands simply phased through everything unless you were specifically grabbing.
 

Alextended

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The Lab came out in 2016 as stated on that page, it's not necessarily gonna be constantly & timely upgraded to the level of all future Valve tech forever more. Alyx is obviously a 2020+ game so obviously there are a ton of VR games that came out before it, that's not proof any one of them is the cause of any feature.
 
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Durante

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I think the idea that Valve reacted to Boneworks only makes sense and the general argument for keeping your eyes open to what is going on during development is far from extraordinary. Where I think the phrasing - or the leak - is pushing it is when they say that Alyx's entire physics-driven gameplay exists solely as a reaction to Boneworks. I don't buy that for a second, not from the people who created Source and made that demo.

To be honest the whole leak revolving around Boneworks sounds really fishy to me.
Honestly, that idea just sounds like bullshit to anyone with an iota of industry experience. That's not how any of this works.
 

Aelphaeis Mangarae

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Honestly, that idea just sounds like bullshit to anyone with an iota of industry experience. That's not how any of this works.
There are reliable anonymous Valve insiders claiming that for most of its development, HL Alyx didn't have physical presence for the player. It had the exact same kind of "hands phase through the environment" gameplay seen in every single Valve VR demo prior to mid-2019. That it didn't have any locomotion methods besides teleportation. That the team behind the game thought it didn't need any kind of trailer. It paints a picture of a team misunderstanding its audience and drifting away from the IP where IP expectations didn't align with what they were making.

Now they are scrambling to retool HL Alyx into something closer to what the audience expects. Think Thief 4 and its development issues. What the audience expects is the level of interactivity seen in Boneworks. Much of the hype behind Boneworks was driven by the perception that was a sort of Half-Life spiritual successor, headcrabs and all Also a "next gen" VR game.. It would be a very bad look to have Crowbcat videos and the like mocking Alyx as outdated. Just imagine:
  • Boneworks Clip: Sweep condiments off table.
  • HL Alyx Clip: Try to sweet condiments off table, hand simply phases through them like all of Valve's VR demos prior to mid-2019.
  • Sad clown noises.
That's physics driven gameplay in a VR context. Just in case you were confused by the semantics. Nothing Valve have done prior to mid-2019 demonstrated any interest in physical presence in the world to my knowledge. If anything, they were opposed to it. Valve felt that in order to prevent disconnects between player movement and ingame movement, you should simply phase through objects. Valve sidestepped certain problems for years by treating the player character as a disembodied ghost that only interacts with things by specifically grabbing them.

Insiders claimed that HL Alyx didn't have non-teleportation movement for most of development. This aligns with Valve's somewhat dogmatic devotion to teleportation exclusively. Weeks ago, insiders claimed that non-teleportation movement wasn't working yet. Then the TGAs roll around and HL Alyx gets pulled hours before the show. Insiders claim it's because the non-teleportation methods aren't ready and Valve got scared about what would happen if people saw nothing but teleportation. (The HL VR trailer didn't have Alyx teleporting around the room for very good reason.)

I think more than anything else, the "valve bubble" was initially burst by Artifact. Valve failed to notice the myriad glaring problems with Artifact as a concept, as a game. In the wake of its catastrophic reception, they humbly declared, "Artifact represents the largest discrepancy between our expectations for how one of our games would be received and the actual outcome." Valve's handling of Artifact is comparable to Ubisoft entering panic mode after GR: Breakpoint catastrophically missed the mark with their audience. Valve has pivoted from ivory tower "everyone is going to love this" to watching their peers/competitors carefully and listening to community. We saw this shift pretty strongly with DOTA Underlords.
 

Durante

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To me, all of this sounds like so much made-up drama. Trying to build a compelling story rather than reality. At the very best, hugely embellishing and misunderstanding a few core nuggets of facts.

Much of it isn't falsifiable without direct information (always a good thing if you want to tell a compelling story without too much fact checking). Still, given that I've just rewatched some Valve VR-related talks from 2015 and 16 yesterday that are still, in many ways, ahead of the pack compared to the state of the art right now, almost in 2020, I just don't feel inclined to buy into those stories. At all.
 

Alextended

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To me, all of this sounds like so much made-up drama. Trying to build a compelling story rather than reality. At the very best, hugely embellishing and misunderstanding a few core nuggets of facts.

Much of it isn't falsifiable without direct information (always a good thing if you want to tell a compelling story without too much fact checking). Still, given that I've just rewatched some Valve VR-related talks from 2015 and 16 yesterday that are still, in many ways, ahead of the pack compared to the state of the art right now, almost in 2020, I just don't feel inclined to buy into those stories. At all.
Feels like alongside the general anti-Steam sentiment people are eager to put down everything Valve does. From how the store/library updates were "too long overdue" (never mind it still was better than all others and became more so) to how they have no passion for game making and Alyx is just a product to push VR (by negatively misinterpreting their own statements). Now they've also talked about all the prototypes and experiments, somehow that's considered "a strange development cycle" showing some indie game is the sole reason Alyx has any qualities to show at all, when it's pretty damn normal (at least when you don't just set out to create another clone of that existing popular thing with your own twist and start with a default FPS SDK found in your engine of choice or something, never mind when you're developing for a brand new medium you were pivotal in shaping the capabilities and hardware of). Hell, Nintendo has talked about all the quirky prototypes they had going before arriving to BOTW's, Splatoon's even Mistwalker's The Last Story's final form. It's normal if not desirable, it's just not often shared with the public and when it is most people don't even care to take notice except when someone uses it to make up some drama like this.
 
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Aelphaeis Mangarae

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I think it comes down to choosing not to believe things because you don't want them to be true for whatever reason.

A month before HL Alyx was announced, this video released. People who disputed it ended up with massive amounts of egg on their faces. He was even correct about the game not having a "pancake" version. (Mouse and keyboard, non-VR.) The reason people were in denial about Half-Life VR being a prequel starring Alyx was that they didn't want the next Half-Life to be a VR-only game. There's still a lot of anti-VR stigma, and Valve going all-in on VR was viewed with disdain. You've still got people arguing that this game is just a stepping stone for Valve to make a "real" -- read: non-VR -- Half-Life game.

It's one thing to dispute the veracity of claims because they come from unreliable sources or they contract known facts. The claims made by VNN about HL Alyx are backed up by Valve's own internal development pipeline leaking through engine updates. They are backed up by the Half-Life Alyx trailer.

Over the years, strings were added indicating aspects of gameplay. We can spot that the game originally used teleportation exclusively. The engine wasn't set up for anything else. We knew about the Gravity Gloves. (Originally called Grabbity Gloves). We can spot that the game originally used classic non-physical hands. We can see that fairly recently, the game's interaction systems were redone. There were no updates to The Lab between 2017 and 2019. And then out of the blue, Valve adds a completely new style of interaction to the game.
The interaction system originally created for The Lab has been completely overhauled. Nearly all interactable objects can be freely poked, thrown, bashed against each other, stacked, toppled, and smashed. You are no longer a ghostly visitor to VR, your hands are physical like everything else, grounding you in the universe and raising your immersion to new heights. The Lab is a playground, and one that you can now enjoy like never before.
The two key gameplay claims are thus:
  • HL Alyx used teleportation exclusively for most of development.
  • HL Alyx didn't have physical hands until fairly recently, and the game is currently being retooled to add more physics.
There is little to no evidence disproving this.. On the other hand these is plenty of evidence in Valve's own engine updates pointing towards it, in addition to claims made by reliable insiders.

I especially don't understand why it's suddenly a disputed point that Valve would use teleportation as a primary locomotion method in HL Alyx. They've always used teleportation. Yet suddenly it is disputed that non-teleportation movement systems are a recent addition when this is clearly verified by Source 2 engine updates.

There's a distinct feeling that some people won't believe anything unless Valve tells it to them directly. Half-Life 2 is most definitely hitting that 2003 release date. Anyone who says otherwise is wrong. What's that? Someone stole the game and it is incredibly unfinished? Nonsense. Reliable insider says the VGA demo for Alyx was cancelled because smooth locomotion wasn't working? Let's just dispute this despite nobody having a better explanation.
 

Alextended

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And Boneworks only added smooth turning at the tail end of its development, that doesn't mean I can point out of the blue to a specific game that was the reason for it because you can't think of a better explanation. Again, bits and pieces of correct information here and there don't have to arrive to VNN's clearly biased conclusions and you taking them as gospel and expecting everyone to do the same. You've not added anything new to the discussion with the above post, just chose to circle jerk around its course and claim people who don't believe it are Valve fanboys, further showing the flawed logic in your conclusions.

Yes, circa 2016, the dawn of modern VR with Vive having just been launched, it was a common theory smooth locomotion was too much. Nobody disputed this. But no, Boneworks hasn't in any way been a pioneer in changing that mindset, they have only been following developments and progress as others did before them. As for the physics, again, Valve has been doing them long before VR, there's no evidence or logic in suggesting they'd ditch it for their VR games and a 2016 mini game collection released for free to VR's first adopters isn't evidence towards reinforcing that Boneworks fan fiction. What you show is confirmation bias, having a nugget of "truth" that you then bend all circumstantial at best and unrelated at worst evidence to fit inside it because some guy rambling on YouTube for 10 minutes at a time after information you can sum up in 3 words says so. Sorry if I don't think any of that is proof Valve's developers are essentially incompetent and out of touch with the VR medium they're directly responsible for creating in its modern iteration and working with a ton of devs to further, as if the analog sticks on the Index controllers could be for anything other than allowing for free locomotion as sticks do in non VR games at their most basic.
 
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Aelphaeis Mangarae

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And Boneworks only added smooth turning at the tail end of its development, that doesn't mean I can point out of the blue to a specific game that was the reason for it because you can't think of a better explanation (like standard game development progression isn't one).
Your attitude towards Boneworks is very strange. You seem to view HL Alyx taking influence from the only third party game to ever appear on Valve's Steam Master List (albeit temporarily) as some kind of insult. Imagine someone saying, "Oh, the reason Duke 3D has mouse look is because someone played Terminator: Future Shock and sent an email to the developers asking them to implement it." And then you say, "that doesn't mean I can point out of the blue to a specific game that was the reason for it because you can't think of a better explanation (like standard game development progression isn't one)." It's like those people who disputed that Thief was influenced by GoldenEye up until the point Looking Glass released an interview talking about how their favorite game during Thief's development was GoldenEye. Or those people who disputed that Half-Life 1 was influenced by GoldenEye even though HL1 was rebooted a month after GE released and David Doak met Valve at a trade show and they told him his game had forced them to redo stuff.

Why on earth is Valve taking influence from popular games and listening to the desires of the community a bad thing? Why do you view claims that Valve is now conscious of how their games will be perceived as a bad thing? You seem upset about the allegation from a reliable source that HL Alyx's VGA demo was cancelled because smooth locomotion wasn't ready. Why? Would you rather Valve had demoed the game to negative reactions? Cancelling was rude and clearly derailed the timing of the VGAs.

I find it very strange that you and some other people are upset to learn that Valve initially built HL Alyx with The Lab-style interactivity, and after Boneworks (and other games -- this doesn't have to be said, BTW) they decided to pivot to physicalized hands which they made an effort to show off in Alyx's trailer.
 

Alextended

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It's not an insult because it's Boneworks or any game but it does point to Valve being quite incompetent and out of touch with the medium they (co)created if they needed Boneworks of all things to show them things like physics and free locomotion are viable in VR. And I don't care if Valve is or isn't incompetent, I'm just pointing out there's little evidence to suggest they are this bad. It's just absurd and I have no reason to lap it up and put Boneworks on a pedestal and further VNN's so called reputation just because it's not something to get worked up over. That's how bullshit spreads, by people with the logic to question them not saying anything at all because hey, it's no big deal one way or the other, let those guys have their fanfic. Feel free to believe this, I'm not trying to change your mind, clearly you're quite adamant you know the truth and anyone disputing it has some kind of fanboyish motive behind it, just don't expect everyone to believe it when you clearly lack proof, when you admit you lack proof, when you admit all you have as evidence is some guy saying so, yet then still try to twist and bend pretty much everything surrounding this topic as evidence supporting your belief with nothing but confirmation bias. Feel free to continue saying you think such and such is plausible because such and such said so, I'll continue saying it's not proof when you present it as an argument or a fact in a discussion.
 
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Aelphaeis Mangarae

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as if the analog sticks on the Index controllers could be for anything other than allowing for free locomotion as sticks do in non VR games at their most basic.
My understanding is that Valve never wanted to include the analogue sticks. They were added because developers kept asking for them. Also, the initial batch of Index controllers had defective analogue sticks.

Don't underestimate design being shaped by the tastes of higher ups. Do you know why EA games in the early 2000s didn't have conventional dual analogue controls? Because an unnamed EA executive didn't like them. This factoid comes from a former Eurocom dev. This exec preferred the GoldenEye 1.1 Honey-style controls where you moved and turned with the left stick. Chet Faliszek, who was lead VR evangelist, didn't think that smooth locomotion was the way to go.

Now here is the thing. I am not saying that people like Chet Faliszek are WRONG. Merely that his views pushed Valve away from smooth locomotion for a long time, even after he departed. Sometimes the public rejects good ideas because they want devs to chase fads. Ignoring unwise customer requests wisdom. (A good example of this is how both Crytek and Valve refused to implement arms in VR. People kept mocking Crytek over it, and Crytek stuck to their guns because floating hands flat-out work better. Time has vindicated them.)

Multiple things are being conflated here:
  1. Valve being myopic/overly optimistic. Thinking HL Alyx didn't need a trailer, for example. Very bad idea. Good thing they changed their mind. Reflects saner heads prevailing.
  2. Valve being paranoid about public perception. They've become way more self-conscious after Artifact. This is the exact opposite of the previous point. Valve didn't want their game misunderstood by people who don't understand the purpose of teleportation movement. Let's be clear. There's nothing wrong with teleportation movement as an option, or in some cases as the only movement system. Let's not forget how much hot water poor Crytek ended up in when they decided to only support smooth locomotion in games like Robinson: The Journey. But smooth locomotion, particularly with some tricks to reduce head movement, looks way better for demos. Unfortunately, smooth locomotion wasn't ready for the VGAs. You can choose not to believe this if you want, but I see no reason to.
  3. Valve making fairly drastic overhauls way too close to the release date. For example, deciding that HL Alyx needs to be far more physics-driven to utilize player physical presence in the world, which is a recent addition. This is a good change, but it's very late to be making it. They are cutting things very close with this game. I think it will be delayed again. (Remember that the original release date was 2019.)
when you clearly lack proof, when you admit you lack proof, when you admit all you have as evidence is some guy saying so
I'm sorry, but that's literally how anonymous sources work. See this article? It's an in-depth exploration of Mafia 3's design, and the game turned out the way it did. It is based on 100% anonymous interviews.
There is zero reason to doubt the contents of this article because Jason Schreier is a consistently reliable source. Do we trust his speculation on series like Splinter Cell? Not necessarily. But when you are consistently right about things, this gives your word weight. VNN has been releasing videos for 8 years. A lotta clickbait. A lot of speculation based on engine strings. A number of pure speculation videos. But among it all is a consistent thread. Whenever a claim is backed by "My source tells me", it is correct as far back as I can remember.

There is a difference between casual unverified rumours that are fun to talk about, but everyone takes them with a grain of salt vs claims made by a consistently correct source. You can fault his speculation. You can't fault his sourced claims, IMHO. If he were guilty of spouting bullshit as fact, you'd easily find examples of it. The guy has made a career out of being right about stuff in bite sized chunks stuffed inside 10 minute long videos. You haven't given any reason to disbelieve these claims beyond not wanting to believe them because you don't like the source and/or the implications of the claims.

If VNN claims that HL Alyx was rebooted in early 2019 with veteran HL Episode writers returning, I believe them unless someone comes along with evidence that contradicts it. I for one do prefer hard evidence to anonymous sources. However, their sources are consistently correct, and massive story revamps a year before release are not new for Valve. I have absolutely no doubt that when Raising the Bar for HL Alyx is released details will match. (Whether Valve are open about certain details such as why Laidlaw left the company is another matter, though.)
some indie game is the sole reason Alyx has any qualities to show at all,
At the end of the day, reliable sources claim that prior to Boneworks, HL Alyx did not feature the physics-driven gameplay seen in this clip. Previously, the player's hands were not physicalized. You could not brush objects aside to reach the shotgun shells since hands would phase through geometry. You would have to pick them up manually. This functionality, which is a huge paradigm shift for VR design, was not added to The Lab until mid-2019, and sources we have no reason to doubt claim it was a recent addition to HL Alyx.

Imagine if The Lab had featured physicalized hands prior to Boneworks. That would settle it, wouldn't it? But unfortunately, The Lab didn't implement this stuff until several months after Valve got their hands on Boneworks. It doesn't matter that Boneworks is one of several games Valve took influence from. Reliable sources say it was a key source of influence on HL Alyx's recent design pivots. This isn't saying that HL Alyx was a bad game at any point during its development. Merely that the very immersive environmental physics seen in the trailer were not in the old versions of the game.

Whether anyone likes it or not, Boneworks is the game HL Alyx is being measured against. It is the new benchmark for VR FPS design. The bar that HL VR is striving to surpass. I think there's a decent chance HL Alyx will surpass it and become the killer app for VR, in part because the devs give a shit about player comfort, unlike Stress Level Zero, who take a somewhat condescending "git gud & git not motion sick" approach. But I take the good with the bad. This would not be the first time a Valve project has run into problems. nor the first time there has been a disconnect between what Valve wanted to make, and what people expected them to make. Valve have started paying attention to community feedback precisely because they want to avoid a repeat of Artifact.
 
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Alextended

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Lots of talk with no proof, again. I already said I'm not trying to change your mind so idk what you're trying to do when you can't provide proof to back up your claim yet continue to circle jerk the same things people have already responded to. Refer to previous posts for still valid responses to all the above, 0 new stuff.

Yes, Valve was fond of touchpads in place of sticks as on the Steam controller, doesn't mean those also don't have locomotion at their core, plus versatility.

If ignorant people that don't have that much experience with many other VR games and fell for the successful marketing hype that got Boneworks as well known as it is (and I fell for it myself, I had high hopes) want to measure Alyx against Boneworks it will only seem that much more impressive, polished and fun. But all this has absolutely nothing to do with the topic at hand, joe gamer thinking Boneworks is the first/best in anything doesn't mean Valve thought so too.

That bar will be surpasssed easily, handily as there already are better games than Boneworks, whether joe gamer knows of them or not, whether they try to do the same things Boneworks fails at or try different approaches and actually do them successfully instead. Unless Valve is as incompetent as you think, we'll see.

I never said Valve doesn't care for community feedback either. That doesn't make all your other claims true. And they don't only do it after artifact, that's silly to claim. Steam itself is built upon taking feedback from both users and developers/publishers to heart. Taking in feedback doesn't mean they're immune to making games that fail to catch on like artifact for you to think they only started looking at feedback after that game. Anyway, you're doing nothing but circle jerk the same proof-less talking points and confound discussion by adding all kinds of random unrelated points such as this. Again, if any of this appears to be evidence that backs up your primary points, it's only your adamant confirmation bias that leads you to think so. Because it's not and does not.

I'm done with the topic until something worth discussing comes up, otherwise it became poinltess several circle jerk posts ago.
To me, all of this sounds like so much made-up drama. Trying to build a compelling story rather than reality. At the very best, hugely embellishing and misunderstanding a few core nuggets of facts.

Much of it isn't falsifiable without direct information (always a good thing if you want to tell a compelling story without too much fact checking). Still, given that I've just rewatched some Valve VR-related talks from 2015 and 16 yesterday that are still, in many ways, ahead of the pack compared to the state of the art right now, almost in 2020, I just don't feel inclined to buy into those stories. At all.
Honestly, that idea just sounds like bullshit to anyone with an iota of industry experience. That's not how any of this works.
 
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Durante

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Hey look, fully implemented joystick locomotion (that was additionally confirmed to work really well by the Tested guys on reddit).

But obviously VNN has "reliable sources" since the guy makes up a sufficient number of (often unfalsifiable) bullshit to be right once in a blue moon.
 

Joe Spangle

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Oh man, I wasnt too bothered about geting the Index as I have a Vive but I did want the new controllers for HL:A. I tried to order them last night and its saying ships after 8 weeks! Not sure what to do now, wait for them or just get Alyx at launch and play it through with Vive controllers.

All these vids are not helping my hype.
 
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prudis

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hmmm , thx IGN for not hyping it up
The result, thus far, is that Half-Life: Alyx is every bit the masterpiece its predecessors were, albeit in a new medium we’ve not seen utilized this spectacularly before. It is the antidote to the open-world, procedurally generated busywork that’s become rampant in many other contemporary first-person shooters. Every moment seems to have been painstakingly hand-crafted. Every scene serves a purpose. The pacing is more deliberate. In short, Valve wants you to be in City 17, and you’ll want to be there too, Headcrabs and all.
i should have got the Knucles :-( , but well Vive wants will have to manage
EDIT: ordered them knuckles anyway
 
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Wok

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This is the review of HL:A in Edge May issue:

Every Half-Life game has had its defining tool. In the original, it was Gordon Freeman's iconic crowbar, as useful for smashing open crates and breaking down obstacles as it was dispatching enemies. Half-Lift 2 had the Gravity Gun, the perfect way to toy with the game's unprecedentedly sophisticated real-time physics. Portal — to stretch the definition of a Half-Life game a little, though Alyx underlines that the two share a universe — introduced the Handheld Portal Device, a space-warping concept so compelling an entire game's worth of puzzles could be built around it.

Half-Life: Alyx has the Gravity Gloves. At first contact, they lack that instant sense of revolution. In fact, the Gloves feel a little underpowered. They don't have much in the way of offensive capabilities, and are fairly ineffective for building steps out of level detritus, try as we might. But during one of these failed barrel-stacking attempts, it finally sinks in: we're thinking of them in entirely the wrong terms. For all the immediate similarities, they're not just a poor man's Gravity Gun. Rather, they're working to an entirely different end.

Here is what the Gloves actually do: they extend out the range of your arms in VR, enabling you to reach any item you can see. Simply point your hand in its general direction and, with a 'get over here' flick of the wrist, bring it tumbling into your palm. The Gloves free you from bending down to investigate every item on the floor, or stretching into weird positions because that one collectible you're trying to grab is sat in a spot of virtual space currently inhabited by the arm of a resolutely non-virtual chair. They're also a neat counter to the inevitable minor inaccuracies of hands reaching for something they can ultimately pass right through.

So the Gloves don't revolutionise interactivity in quite the way their forebears did — they're arguably more solution than invention. But that's all in service of the larger leap in interaction, as Alyx removes the keyboard-and-mouse-shaped barrier between you and Half-Life's world, and lets you get your hands dirty. The hole the Gravity Gun was patching over, we start to realise, was that tapping E to grab a crate and hold it in your hands never quite felt satisfying — so instead HL2 gave you a superpower, the ability to blast objects around as if they were weightless. Alyx goes the other way: you don't need to fling objects because, not only can you pick them up and hold them, you can sweep them aside dramatically or prod with one outstretched finger to see if it'll cause them to topple.

These are the nuances of motion Alyx is interested in — letting you express yourself in the way you open a door or handle a rag-dolled body. Every action comes with added physicality: health is doled out in the form of syringes that you jam into your arm. You must load weapons manually, sliding individual shells into a shotgun, racking the slide atop a pistol to chamber your first bullet. You can steady your aim simply by propping up your gun hand with the other. And in this context, of delicate, almost 1.1 movements, the Gloves are a superpower - one that, emerging from long sessions with Alyx, we are disappointed to remember we lack in the real world.

After a few hours, it becomes second nature to use your real hands and the extended Mr-Tickle reach of the Gloves in concert. We glimpse some pistol ammo off in our peripheral vision, bring it tumbling end-over-end towards us, catch it with our left hand, eject the current clip with our right hand and slam the new one into the base of the pistol — all without looking. We screw ourselves into a tight ball on the carpeted floor so that, inside VR, we're a smaller target than our paltry scrap of cover. We count down the shots as they ping off metal, poke out our head just enough to scoop up that grenade we spotted earlier, prime it, throw it.

The action has a very different rhythm to what you're likely used to as Gordon Freeman. Cover is a much bigger factor, and — if you use the default teleport-based movement system — evasion is a matter of blinking instantly from spot to spot rather than strafing and back-pedalling. In every other way, though, this is unmistakably a Half-Life game. There are head-crabs, supply crates to smash, and red barrels that make a satisfying boom when you put two pistol rounds into them. What's remarkable is how many of these elements feel custom-made for VR. The traditional Half-Life progression of enemies translates perfectly into a training course for fighting with your own hands.

Barnacles, static on the ceiling, provide initial target practice and teach careful spot-to-spot movement as you dodge their lolling tongues. Next, the zombies introduce human-shaped targets that give you time to study them before engaging — and even then, don't move too much, or too fast. By the time head-crabs start launching themselves at your face, you should be proficient enough to pick them out of the air, or at least know how to sidestep. Not that this makes encountering them for the first time any less horrifying. Head-crabs are, after all, essentially a fleshy VR headset so the threat of them enveloping your skull is uncomfortably real. VR is great at scares, and Alyx, frequently dials up the horror elements, a couple of sections that are seemingly waiting to be branded 'the new Ravenholm'.

Like the other Half-Life games before it, the campaign is built out of this kind of set-piece, each introducing a new spin on the formula then riffling on it for half an hour, before dropping it entirely and moving onto the next idea. The whole thing is strung together into a story, but for the most part it just feels like an excuse to move you between set-pieces. You rescue the princess, Eli Vance, who at this point is so accomplished at getting captured you rather suspect he's on a one-man crusade to gender-balance the damsel trope. You make preparations for an attack on your own personal Death Star (the Vault, a floating hunk of angular metal architecture that looms over City 17, home to some kind of Combine super-weapon). The plot beats of Alyx don't stray far from the rails of video-game action storytelling (with the exception of the final movements, which are breathtaking) but what really matters here isn't the story as much as the way it's told.

This is, by far, the chattiest Half-Life game you've ever played. Unlike her predecessor, Alyx Vance is a far from silent protagonist, and she has almost constant company from a voice in her ear — provided by Russell, a would-be Black Mesa scientist and inventor of the Gravity Gloves. Through conversation, the pair fill out their personalities, and the backstory of this world, but most of all they make jokes. Honest-to-god funny jokes. There's a large helping of Portal in Alyx's script — no surprise, given the game shares two-thirds of its writing staff with Portal 2. Russell, played by Rhys 'Murray from Flight Of The Conchords' Darby, recalls Stephen Merchant's role as Wheatley in that game. He's a safe pair of comedy hands that make sure every line lands. Who needs complex plotting when a game can consistently make you laugh?

And then there's the world itself, which is immaculately realised. Alyx, sitting between Half-Life 1 and 2 in the timeline, does a good job of not only updating the visuals of both games but also harmonising their aesthetics by demonstrating the effects of Xen infestation on the world we know from HL2. As you explore, the hard Antonovian lines of City 17 blend smoothly into the buboes of the Quarantine Zone. These spaces, overtaken by otherworldly flora, are the star: The Last Of Us by way of the Upside Down, fungal motes drifting in front of your vision, walls seeming to breathe, the gap between inanimate and alive blurring.

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RESIN-ANCE CASCADE

One of Alyx's biggest tweaks to the Half-Life formula is the inclusion of collectibles that you can spend to upgrade your weapon. Scattered throughout levels you'll find Resin: squat little cylinders of corroded ore, every chunk swiss-cheesed in a slightly different way, with soft white light leaking out of the holes. It's an immediate contender for the game-collectible hall of fame, worthy of sitting alongside Mario's red coins and power stars. Resin gives off a faint glow, so in darkened rooms you can spot it even at the back of a littered shelf, but collecting every last cylinder means engaging with the game's physics for some neat mini-puzzles. And the upgrades? Oh, yeah, they're pretty good too.
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Alyx gives you time to take in these environments. For a shooter, the pacing is relatively contemplative, with gunfights portioned out sparingly. It's a long while before you go head-to-head with your first Combine soldier. But once those battles do arrive, they're some of the most thrilling we've ever experienced: a mad dash of ducking shots and unexpected flanking manoeuvres. We learn the true meaning of `blind-fire, squeezing off shots over one shoulder until the clip is dry, then praying for that telltale flatline sound. Using the Gloves, we pull an incoming grenade off its trajectory and toss it right back. We press our spine straight against some imagined cover, waiting with the shotgun at chest level for a Combine to round the corner.

And, once it's all over, we take a moment to catch our breath. In part because fights are physically demanding — at least the way we play — but also because it's an opportunity to admire our handiwork. What the game asks of you might be fairly standard shooter stuff, but the act of playing it out with your own hands lends it a fresh magic. That's Alyx in a nutshell: this is a Half-Life game almost to a fault, the old formula polished to a 2020 shine, made new again by the way you manipulate it. The Gloves aren't the new crowbar or Gravity Gun, the defining tool of Half-Life: Alyx. Your own hands are.

9/10
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Can Half-Life: Alyx make the case for consumer VR?

The odd thing about reviewing Half-Life, Alyx is that it isn't just a game. It isn't even a system-seller, in the traditional sense of that term. It has been specifically designed to make the argument for an entire medium, to do for capital-V-virtual capital-R-reality what Super Mario 64 did for 3D. So asking if it's the best VR experience we've ever had isn't quite enough. (For the record, though: allowing for the fact that Tetris Effect is almost as good on a Tv as it is inside a headset, while Alyx is completely VR-native, yes, it is.) The question instead becomes: is that enough?

When Alyx was first revealed, it was accompanied by a sense that even the fans who've spent the last decade clamouring loudly for another Half-Life game were resigning themselves to not being able to play this one — largely due to the sheer cost. Alyx not only has to sell people on the dream of VR, it has to sell them to the tune of almost £1,000 (plus a sufficiently brawny PC to do it justice). This is, admittedly, only if you want the best possible experience. Valve is supporting pretty much every PC VR platform you could possibly name (which for most of us is a pretty short list). We play through Alyx on an Index, but also test it on the considerably cheaper Oculus Quest (linked to a PC) and HTC Vive. While the visual downgrade is noticeable, it doesn't hurt the game too much. The bigger constraint, for our money, isn't a technical one at all. It has to do with space.

Valve is trying to solve this by making Alyx as flexible as possible in terms of how it's played. You can play at full room-scale, free to wander as far as your physical walls will allow — but, as long as you've got enough room to swing a head-crab, there's also the option to play it standing up or even sitting at your desk. (In this case, crouching and standing is handled with a button press, and as long as you're not too prone to motion sickness, we'd recommend switching to the stick-based 'continuous motion' mode, which means the whole thing controls more like a traditional FPS.) These are important accessibility considerations, and though it hasn't been implemented in the build we play, Valve is working on a single-handed controller scheme.

But provided you are able to play the game at room-scale, it's clearly the best option. The freedom of movement opens up so much of what makes Half-Life: Alyx great, letting you duck and dive and occasionally lose all sense of your position in the real world. And with that in mind, here's the ugly truth: your enjoyment of this game is going to be directly proportional to the amount of space you have to play it in. Being able to potter around freely without fear of destroying furniture or squashing beloved pets is hugely important.

With VR, physical space becomes an extra system requirement to take into consideration — and even those of us who find the allure of Alyx enough to drop a grand on an Index are unlikely to also shell out for a new living room. And even that might not be enough. We play in optimal conditions — a spacious room, all but cleared of obstacles — and still frequently find ourselves brushing up against the translucent boundary wall in-game.

Some of Alyx's best moments involve you being in the dark, or a tightly enclosed space, and often both. VR is excellent at creating tension in these moments, wrapping you in the absence of light, squeezing on your sense of claustrophobia. But the effect is somewhat marred by the presence, if you happen to be stood in the wrong place, of a gridded cage that cuts through the darkness. It's far from a deal-breaker — clearly, given how much we enjoy Alyx — but they are the kind of things you need to be willing to shrug off as a limitation of the technology. Which, when you're trying to convert people to the joys of virtual reality, is not the greatest sales pitch. Worse, it's a problem we can't see a solution to, at least not from a technical perspective — and warehouse-sized VR arcades, much as we'd love to see them, don't feel like a realistic prospect.

This all gets to the strange contradiction that's right at the heart of VR. The common argument for the technology is immersion: that with this virtual world wrapped all around you, it's easier to convince your brain it's real. But there's also more that can wrench you out of it - the occasional tug of a cable, or the occasional itchiness of foam pressed firmly against your forehead. These are the kinds of problems currently sat at the top of Valve's to-do list, hardware-wise, but the simple fact of simultaneously existing in two overlapping spaces means you're playing not just playing the game itself but often a second metagame, as you try to reason where you are outside of the headset and whether you're about to bump into something.

Occasionally, even with the presence of that gridded wall, we manage to let go of that second layer. The game envelops us entirely, and it's a magical moment - until we bump shin-first into a chair, or punch a wall. Honestly, the experience of playing Alyx is worth these minor battle scars, but VR more broadly? We're not sure whether it ever will be.
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Wok

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Oct 30, 2018
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I have tried to extract the important points from the review:

Every Half-Life game has had its defining tool. Half-Life: Alyx has the Gravity Gloves. Here is what the Gloves actually do: they extend out the range of your arms in VR, enabling you to reach any item you can see. So the Gloves don't revolutionise interactivity in quite the way their forebears did — they're arguably more solution than invention. But that's all in service of the larger leap in interaction, as Alyx removes the keyboard-and-mouse-shaped barrier between you and Half-Life's world, and lets you get your hands dirty. The hole the Gravity Gun was patching over, we start to realise, was that tapping E to grab a crate and hold it in your hands never quite felt satisfying — so instead HL2 gave you a superpower, the ability to blast objects around as if they were weightless. Alyx goes the other way: you don't need to fling objects because, not only can you pick them up and hold them, you can sweep them aside dramatically or prod with one outstretched finger to see if it'll cause them to topple. These are the nuances of motion Alyx is interested in — letting you express yourself in the way you open a door or handle a rag-dolled body. Every action comes with added physicality.
The action has a very different rhythm to what you're likely used to as Gordon Freeman. Cover is a much bigger factor, and — if you use the default teleport-based movement system — evasion is a matter of blinking instantly from spot to spot rather than strafing and back-pedalling. In every other way, though, this is unmistakably a Half-Life game.
By the time head-crabs start launching themselves at your face, you should be proficient enough to pick them out of the air, or at least know how to sidestep. Not that this makes encountering them for the first time any less horrifying. Head-crabs are, after all, essentially a fleshy VR headset so the threat of them enveloping your skull is uncomfortably real. VR is great at scares, and Alyx, frequently dials up the horror elements, a couple of sections that are seemingly waiting to be branded 'the new Ravenholm'.
Like the other Half-Life games before it, the campaign is built out of this kind of set-piece, each introducing a new spin on the formula then riffling on it for half an hour, before dropping it entirely and moving onto the next idea. The whole thing is strung together into a story, but for the most part it just feels like an excuse to move you between set-pieces.
This is, by far, the chattiest Half-Life game you've ever played. Unlike her predecessor, Alyx Vance is a far from silent protagonist, and she has almost constant company from a voice in her ear — provided by Russell, a would-be Black Mesa scientist and inventor of the Gravity Gloves. There's a large helping of Portal in Alyx's script — no surprise, given the game shares two-thirds of its writing staff with Portal 2. Russell, played by Rhys 'Murray from Flight Of The Conchords' Darby, recalls Stephen Merchant's role as Wheatley in that game.
For a shooter, the pacing is relatively contemplative, with gunfights portioned out sparingly. It's a long while before you go head-to-head with your first Combine soldier. But once those battles do arrive, they're some of the most thrilling we've ever experienced. What the game asks of you might be fairly standard shooter stuff, but the act of playing it out with your own hands lends it a fresh magic. The Gloves aren't the new crowbar or Gravity Gun, the defining tool of Half-Life: Alyx. Your own hands are.
Provided you are able to play the game at room-scale, it's clearly the best option. The freedom of movement opens up so much of what makes Half-Life: Alyx great, letting you duck and dive and occasionally lose all sense of your position in the real world. And with that in mind, here's the ugly truth: your enjoyment of this game is going to be directly proportional to the amount of space you have to play it in. With VR, physical space becomes an extra system requirement to take into consideration — and even those of us who find the allure of Alyx enough to drop a grand on an Index are unlikely to also shell out for a new living room. And even that might not be enough. We play in optimal conditions — a spacious room, all but cleared of obstacles — and still frequently find ourselves brushing up against the translucent boundary wall in-game.
The simple fact of simultaneously existing in two overlapping spaces means you're playing not just playing the game itself but often a second metagame, as you try to reason where you are outside of the headset and whether you're about to bump into something. Occasionally, even with the presence of that gridded wall, we manage to let go of that second layer. The game envelops us entirely, and it's a magical moment - until we bump shin-first into a chair, or punch a wall. Honestly, the experience of playing Alyx is worth these minor battle scars, but VR more broadly? We're not sure whether it ever will be.
 

fantomena

MetaMember
Dec 17, 2018
2,419
5,076
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I think this might be the first time in my life that I keep delaying my playthrough of a game because I don't want it to end. I never expected it to be this good. Im only on chapter 3/11 (googled how many chapters there are) and I keep hearing that the second half of the game is absolute crazy nuts.

Looking forward to whatever the next VR game from Valve will be.

Im also super happy that Valve has the luxury to pour millions into making a game without worrying about low sales.