Poll Question 161 – When does Half-Life stop being Half-Life?

28th February 2010

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

About two months ago jjawinte wrote something that I have been pondering for a while. He said:

Valve couldn’t have done it better for the Half Life franchise. Subtle changes have been made through the years of course, but they never strayed from the anchoring elements of the story, and should the franchise continue further, I pray that they never do.

With each change we gain and lose and being the ever optimist I am, I thought about how Half-Life 10 would look. What would a long-time player recognize?

The poll this week’s is less serious in its answers than other weeks, purely because the question itself isn’t really suited to a poll. So, by all means vote, but let’s have the real discussion here on the comments.

The Poll


  1. I’m fairly sure I am no longer playing Half-Life when I start worrying about wide-quests, damage-per-second, and whether the new weapon in DLC I decided on purchasing turned out to be mostly harmless.

    1. The Dias

      This is probably the closest to an answer I’d agree with as you can get.

  2. HL10! In Valve Time! The Earth will have stopped spinning or been engulfed by the sun by then.
    At 62 I’ll count myself fortnate indeed to play HL5!

    Voted other: No Combine & no Gordon

    Yes, jjawinte is sharply observant and manages to say so much in so few words leaving us poor humble humans to struggle around expressing ourselves as best we can. I’m with him on his point.

    HL2 is a continuing evolution. The differences between HL2 and EP2 are stark and I suspect the same between EP2 and EP3/HL3.

    Valve will continue to evolve. HL will continue to evolve.
    New enemy, better hardware and vehicles, ever improving AI, new ordnance, new game play mechanics and things we probably will not think of. Valve know how to extract money from us players, rest assured and for many years to come.

    Think of all the mods we could get to develop and play. The future looks very bright to me.

  3. Mel

    it’s been a great ride now for over ten years, and I am prepared to be taken where ever the next adventure takes me.

  4. Mel

    I should have added with or without Gordon Freeman.

    1. Yeah, I agree because I was quite happy with Blue Shift and Opposing Force, and those only had cameos from Gordon.

  5. Michal

    I voted for headcrabs, but it could be whatever common enemy in HL series. When you think about it, there were HL1 addons (OF,BS) and there weren’t crowbar as weapon (well there was in BS) and you didn’t play as Gordon , but it was still one storyline, one enemy you fought against. Nowhere in HL series headcrab was absent.

  6. Legionnaire

    I think that so long as Gordon is in there somewhere, it’ll still be Half Life.

    Who knows what exactly we’ll be facing in Half Life 10, when or if it comes out? The jump from Half Life 1 to Half Life 2 changed quite a few things and added even more and yet the player is still Gordon Freeman in your trusty HEV suit and with your trusty crowbar. In Half Life 1, Gordon was assisted by scientists and security guards and the main antagonists were from Xen. In Half Life 2, Xenian aliens are still a threat, but the real antagonists are the Combine and you are assisted by a completely different group of people.

    Maybe in Half Life 10 we’ll be fighting something entirely different. Maybe we’ll have entirely different allies. But I think it’s safe to say that Gordon Freeman will still have an important role in the story at the very least, regardless of whether we play him or not.

    I’m not saying that the player has to be Gordon Freeman for it to be a Half Life game; look at OpFor, Blue Shift and all of the various mods produced over the years for proof of that. Almost all of those games/mods acknowledge Gordon’s existence even if it isn’t explicitly mentioned.

    Just keep him in the universe and it’s still a Half Life game in my book :P.

  7. In every Half-Life game ever played, EVER, there were headcrabs. Sometimes Gordon was not present. Sometimes the crowbar was not present. But headcrabs were always there.

    It boils down to this – when a Half-Life game fails to present an Earth that was forcibly fused with Xenian life, then it will stop being a Half-Life game. Behind the Combine, the main characters, and even Black Mesa, Xen is the focal point of the entire series. We have yet to understand Xen, so we have yet to see the end of the Half-Life universe.

    A close second would be G-Man, who has also been present in every single game to date.

    1. It boils down to this — when a Half-Life game fails to present an Earth that was forcibly fused with Xenian life, then it will stop being a Half-Life game

      I understand what you are saying but it wouldn’t surprise me if in Ep3 we leave earth and play on the Combine world with no Xenians at all. What then?

      1. If that happened, it would take on a feeling more in keeping with the original Half-Life games. Traveling to other worlds is certainly one of the more memorable things about the Half-Life series, regardless of whether it was well received or not.

        I mainly meant to say that it would feel less like Half-Life if the plot wasn’t at least partially caused by the Black Mesa crisis and the Xenian invasion. The headcrab is a symbol of the Xenian invasion as a whole.

  8. Kyouryuu

    It stops being Half-Life when the quality of the game falters.

  9. Kasperg

    Half-life stops being Half-life when the continuity of the player’s activities is broken by something other than loss of consciousness or sleep.
    In all of the Half-life games, the experience is continuous. Maps don’t jump from one location and moment in time to a different one unless it’s forcefully needed (Nova Prospekt -> teleport -> City 17).

    The idea of us knowing exactly what our character has been doing since we start each game until we finish is one of the reasons why its so immersive. Not cutscenes with mision briefings, no flashbacks to fill in the gaps etc.

    1. Kasperg

      I obviously meant the player’s ingame activities in that first paragraph 😀

  10. I voted “Other: All of the above” crowbar, gordon, and headcrabs are iconic elements of half life. Even if only as a cameo appearance, all of them should be mandatorily included in every game that is riding on the “Half-Life” label.

  11. ANonEntity

    I voted “Other”: When Valve stops developing HalfLife. Anybody else would be an imitation….lol!

  12. TVulis

    Its not HL anymore if Im not having fun and dont care whats around the corner.

  13. David

    I associate Half Life with the supporting characters, fluidity, lack of a physical body, and a silent protagonist. Most of that can be boiled down to silent protagonist.

  14. I guess the g-man is also a big and important influence in HL, he moves gordon through places, he manipulates people (spying gordon in half life 1) making him kill the nihilanth.. etc

  15. BlueWolf72

    I will understand if you think my idea is silly but on the next ep of hl I want to see the babies of the head crabs or the ant lions. I want evolved enemies but this is just what I desire.

  16. Berrie

    I voted other.

    As long as the story can be connected to the the previous titles, the game can be considered Half-Life. And as long as Valve stands by it’s own philosophy in regards to customer support and quality I’m fine with it.
    Of course major gameplay changes will probably be more of spin-off than an actual Half-Life sequel. But as long as when looking back I can see where the game originated and what their connection is.

  17. Here are the “Other” responses:
    When There are No Aliens
    When the continuity of the experience is broken.
    all of the above
    When it is not the Halflife story
    When the strugle between humans and combine ends.
    G-man, aliens, combine
    When the other characters are gone
    when there are no Mystery in it
    When Valve stops developing HL
    When there is no human style enemes
    When it becomes a Sandbox game.
    All of the above
    No combines or xen creatures
    when the girls get in it and run their gob, and you have to take care of them!
    When it is set outside the half life world
    When the story is terrible
    When it doesn’t feel life Half-life… vague I know
    When Gordon say his first word.
    No Combine

    I think the interesting one is “When Gordon say his first word, which is so true.

    1. The Dias

      when the girls get in it and run their gob, and you have to take care of them!

      What the hell does this even mean?

  18. Four things: Overall very high quality, excessive attention to the detail, Gordon Freeman, and action.

    Those four things creates Half Life. So this criteria rules out Blue Shift and Opposing Force from being HL games.

  19. Martin

    Valve disappointed me with the stupid achievements, doesn’t belong in SP games that have good/serious story. Not fun if there popup “Gratz you have killed 200 headcrabs” when something importend happens.

    HL is over when Gordon Freeman is gone.

    1. The Dias

      You can turn them off. Problem solved.

  20. Martin

    I know that I can turn them off but thats not the point.

    This is the point they don’t belong in SP games that have good/serious story. Achievements doesn’t belong in the HL universe, did someone update the HEV suit to take record how many headcrabs Freeman has killed?

    1. Kasperg

      I wholeheartedly agree.
      It was something (even seeing it in the menu) that made HL2:Ep2 feel suddenly more like a “game” than the interactive virtual experience it had been all along.
      But I guess someone forced them to include them, since console games have massively gone down that path these past few years.

    2. Berrie

      I did not find them that bad. On my second playthrough I enjoyed the achievements.
      I can understand that they can be a bit experience jarring, but I’ve never been fully detached from the fact that I’m playing a game so that pop-ups and the likes bring me out of it.

  21. I voted “When we have our planet back”, which doesn’t mean the adventure can’t continue off-planet.

    I agree with the people who’ve said that we’ve played as other characters than Gordon in OF and BS–they may not technically be Half-Life games, but they are set in the HL universe. We’ve also played without the crowbar in OF/BS.

    There have always been headcrabs, but I think the Half-Life universe consists of more than headcrabs, so we could get along fine without them, as well.

    Maybe it quits being Half-Life when there’s no more G-Man. (Wish I would have waited to vote, now!)

  22. RustySpannerz

    For me it will be over when Valve say it’s over. (Not soon I hope)

  23. JDamien

    When there are no more Vortigaunts.

    Even if Gordon dies, or there is a parallel storyline (say, with a different hero), or even if the G-Man leaves for parts unknown, the Vortigaunts and the “Vortessence” would continue to govern events in the Half-Life universe.

    If ever the Vortigaunts were killed off, or the combine cut our link to the Vortessence, then the feel of Half-Life is ruined. The all-knowing Vortigaunts add so much to the mystery of the story. They seem to know what Gordon (and everyone else, as of the Episodic releases) has done and is going to do — but they keep quiet until afterward. Usually.

    Half-Life stops being Half-Life when the feel of predestination is removed. When you are able to do whatever you want without guidance and have to accidentally discover the next plot point.

    Half-Life ends when Vortessence ends.

  24. john

    as long as it stay’s first person shooter. gordon,shepard,barney, ect. is ok. if it goes rpg or something quest like it ain’t half life no more.

  25. Inky

    I personali think that half-life will be stop being half-life when they will be put modern crap like regenerating,gears of war cover system and etc.(dont mind my bad english)

  26. Pingback: Episode #73 » Podcast17

  27. Anthony

    When they make 3 + DLC’s for one title.

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