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no question that id Software’s Quake engine is the
best 3D world on the market today, and now one of the
industry’s biggest publishers, Sierra On-Line, is
jumping into the first-person 3D action market with
Half-Life. Created with the Quake engine by a new
development firm simply named Valve, this group is
already hard at work on creating what they feel will be
one of the biggest action games this fall. However,
don’t expect Half-Life to be a simple knock-off of
Quake. Valve’s development team has sold Sierra
On-Line on a combination of the incredible power of the
Quake technology and new proprietary technology
they’ve developed to bring even more realism to the
world of Quake.
Technically, the game will feature 16-bit color support, colored lighting, and environmental effects such as fog and transparency. One interesting bend on the Quake technology is a new metallic effect for characters, where the Half-Life engine will actually reflect light off the metallic surface like a mirror all through the level. Of course this incredible technological breakthrough will also be enhanced on systems with 3d accelerator cards, as Half-Life will support Open-GL, Direct 3D and MMX hardware right out of the box.
The developers promise that Half-Life will include a new proprietary skeletal animation system that will produce the highest polygon count and most fluid character motion ever seen in a first-person action game. We’ve heard that the animation of one of the characters in the game has more frames of animation that all of the cels in Quake and Duke Nukem 3D combined. There’s no question that one of the major downfalls of these 3D action games has tended to be somewhat lackluster character animation, and Valve plans on significantly upping the ante with Half-Life.
In terms of story, the name Half-Life has a truly atomic root. You’re assigned to a top-secret experiment at a former missile base. However, soon you’re alone on the missile base: alien monsters have infested every nook and cranny of the military outpost. After the monsters begin to tear into the base, you learn that there’s another impending threat: The government wants to totally destroy the facility and remove all evidence of this experiment – that means you are number one on their hit list.
The possibilities for Half-Life sound endless, and based on what we’ve heard, Valve is taking great creative license with the Quake engine. For instance, one of the levels of the game will have a pit of green tentacle monsters that will try to grab you as you cross a bridge. However, these tentacles aren’t your average run-and-shoot monsters, as their artificial intelligence actually reacts to sound in the room. Therefore, you’ll need to be extremely quiet when moving across the room – don’t plan on hitting any walls or running fast – or else the tentacles will turn into Venus flytrap-like monsters and quickly veg on your polygon-built carcass.
Developer Valve was founded in 1996 by ex-Microsoft employee Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington, a former Dynamix and Microsoft employee. Joining their team for Valve is a strong group of 3D game gurus, including Chuck Jones, one of the main artists behind Duke Nukem 3D; Harry Teasley, who was working on Shiny Entertainment’s new Pandemonium-esque 3D game named Wild 9’s; Ben Morris, creator of the Doom Construction Kit and WorldCraft; level designers Dario Casali (who did levels for Final Doom) and Dave Riller; and John Guthrie, creator of Quake Airplane and Quake Kart.
Overall, it’s somewhat surprising that Sierra decided to pick up Valve’s action game, especially with their hot new first-person 3D title Fear, based on the new EarthSiege 3 engine, scheduled to bow early in 1998. However, it sounds like Sierra feels that Half-Life will be innovative enough to dig its own niche in the 3D first person market. Let’s hope so, because shelf life will be a prime concern for any game this holiday season.
Stay tuned to GameSlice for more information on Half Life in the near future, including more screenshots and an interview with the development team.
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