Half-Life at 25

Late last week, I had the pleasure of immersing myself in Valve's 25th anniversary hour-long documentary, which focuses on the remarkable journey behind the creation of Half-Life. The game turns 25 and Valve felt it was worth a celebration. If you aren't familiar with Half-Life, this may sound odd. So, let's rewind.

Half-Life was the first game by Valve, the company behind Steam and the Steam Deck. Released in 1998, the game was a first person shooter but unlike anything that had come before it. Half-Life (HL) was designed to tell a narrative story that immersed you in the environment. It was built to tell a story, take you through an experience, and play out like a movie. The game also featured incredible sound and a rudimentary AI for characters in the game. By 1999 the game sold over 200 thousand copies.

HL spawned two expansions (Opposing Force and Blue Shift), but also unleashed one of the biggest community games ever: Counter Strike. I could go on and on about CS but suffice to say it was a big deal. Counter Strike started as a HL mod to make a multiplayer map where two teams competed to eliminate the other. To this day CS is still a major competitive eSport.

Back to Half-Life, what struck me the most was throughout the documentary, I was captivated by the sheer dedication and determination of the team as they strived to craft not just a good game, but a truly exceptional one. Valve was a brand new company with no game experience. They didn't know what they didn't know. It was simply 'make a good game' as its mantra.

The team from top to bottom had an unwavering commitment to creating something different right from the beginning. Valve's approach was distinct from the prevalent industry tendency to release half-finished games and rely on subsequent patches to fix them. The company was not interested in meeting deadlines at the expense of quality.

Half-Life shattered expectations by being an extraordinary game right out of the gate. It set a new standard and forever transformed the landscape of cinematic and narrative-driven video games. Countless titles in the genre owe their existence and success to Valve's groundbreaking efforts.

In an era where launching a game plagued with issues and resolving them later has become the norm (Cyberpunk being the prime example), Half-Life's flawless debut was a breath of fresh air. It defied conventions, leaving a permanent mark on the industry.

The impact of Half-Life cannot be overstated. It demonstrated that an commitment to getting it right, coupled with innovation and visionary storytelling, can lead to a game that resonates deeply with players.

If you played HL at any time, the documentary is a fantastic trip down memory lane. If you never played it, it's an incredible look at how a few people changed the gaming landscape with a single game.

And if you want to try Half-Life yourself, Valve actually freaking patched and updated it with a brand new update to bring it up to modern standards. Oh and for a limited time it's free on Steam ($10 if that sale has ended).

You can watch the documentary here or below.

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