⬅ The Mail Vault

Marc Laidlaw

Archive of things Marc Laidlaw has said on many subjects in the Half-Life universe, taken from the emails sent by Valve Archive or submitted to us. Click here for a full archive of posts from the actual "Marc Laidlaw Vaults" on the Steam Powered User Forums and ValveTime forums.

Half-Life: Blue Shift Ending:
December 1st, 2013

When the Gearbox games were being made, we hadn't really started to distinguish Barney or the scientists as separate characters with distinct histories, so the adventures of Barney Calhoun in that game are in an indeterminate state. In HL1, all Barneys were one Barney...by HL2, there was only one Barney. So I figure that's one possible story of one possible Barney and how he escaped...and the same goes for the science team. However those scientist characters are Gearbox characters and don't figure in any of my thinking about the game, except in a very general way (i.e., some of the science team survived). I don't know about HL Decay, that was done with very little reference to Valve and I've never played anything past the very opening (I couldn't find a co-op partner when it came out). None of this was planned in the early days... we really had no idea it was going to turn out to be a big deal.

Barney's Name:
April 9th, 2015

The evolution of the name is that in HL1, we called all the security guards Barney. They're all different but...the same guy. It was down to texture and model limitations of the time we shipped. He was called Barney because in early development he looked like Barney Fife... I suspect Chuck Jones, the artist, actually based him on Don Knotts. (He got a bit less crazy looking before we shipped.) When Gearbox started doing Blue Shift, which would follow the adventures of one individual, they wanted a name for the character, so I came up with Calhoun. By the time we got to HL2, we were able to treat more of our main characters as individuals, and I thought it was amusing to stick with the name Barney Calhoun for the particular security guard who survived Black Mesa. I try not to think about it too hard. I didn't have any idea what they were making in Blue Shift and didn't play it until it was done. The game put you in the shoes of one of those many Barneys at Black Mesa...one who managed to escape. Were they ALL named Barney Calhoun? I don't know, but it's the sort of nonsense question that arises when you try to retrofit logic on something that initially made no sense. I try not to think back that far. I don't know Blue-Shift well enough to know if it conflicts with anything in HL2--I enjoyed it when I played it, but it didn't influence decisions in HL2. But it also doesn't particularly bother me to think maybe it was the story of how the Barney in HL2 escaped Black Mesa.

Another bit of trivia, which I sometimes point out...his name was originally spelled Colqhoun, after Robert Carlyle's character in Ravenous, which I had just watched when Gearbox asked for a last name for the character.

Early Half-Life 2 Settings:
May 31st, 2015

Not much to it, Jonathan. Early in development, there was just a list of possible settings, including American ones. I remember we had written "Washington, D.C." and one of the level designers said, "Ugh, I lived in D.C., I would never want to build or play that level." That's probably when the idea of setting it in the US went out the window. Once you've got some settings that give rise to gameplay, then you try to pull together something resembling a plot. This is a good example of how the story can (and, in a game, should) depend on many other factors.


No, it was always set on Earth with aliens coming here as invaders, but there were a few different alien civilizations that had taken over areas. It never made any sense. That would have come later, we hoped.

Gravity Gun using Xen Crystals:
January 1st, 2016

I dont think so. The orange glow is similar to Xenium though, isnt it? Zero Point Energy theory has nothing to do with Xen afaik.