The fans behind the Half-Life 3 effort, code named Project Borealis, issued a development update on Wednesday. They may be enthusiasts working in their spare time, but this really is professional-quality design and iteration.
Project Borealis got going last year, inspired by a 2017 synopsis for Half-Life 2: Episode 3 by Marc Laidlaw, the former Valve writer who had worked on all of the preceding Half-Life games. In Laidlaw’s vision, Episode 3 takes Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance to Antarctica to find the Borealis, a research vessel mentioned in Episode 2. Freeman and Vance infiltrate a Combine base there and rescue a familiar face (Dr. Mossman), and the story builds toward a suicide mission to stop the Combine invasion.
There’s a lot of space to fill in, of course, but the Project Borealis team seems to be progressing well. The video above showcases their work on one level so far (“Listening Post”), beginning with a designer’s top-down sketch and the supporting concept art. Shown in an early in-engine build, we see the iterative refinements of shapes, textures and props, and finally a quick, rough playthrough. It’s as much a tutorial of the level design process as it is proof of where they are so far.
There’s plenty more, too. The second half of the video shows the team’s attention to updating and varying the physics for Project Borealis. The gravity gun will affect objects near the one grabbed, for example, and a new “Vortex Mode” alternate fire that looks like it will be hellaciously fun with large groups of friends (or ragdoll enemies). The development team is also taking particular care with sound, to give it more lifelike and atmospheric effect.
This looks like the kind of update an outsider would expect from a team at Valve, whose organizational structure (or lack thereof) encourages the kind of collective, self-started development seen here. (It also may have been responsible for Episode 3 withering and effectively dying).
Project Borealis is “a group of half-life fans who are spending our evenings and weekends creating the game we’ve been waiting so long for,” according to the group’s new website. There are currently about 80 folks pitching in. They have need for several specialists in unpaid positions, from environmental and texture art, programming and sound design to project management and public relations. If you’re just a Half-Life fan, knock yourself out with some concept art, music, and a few screenshots.
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