Best Games - Half-Life
Half-Life isn’t a game. It’s a place. It’s somewhere you go for a while. You spend time there. Like going on vacation or travelling to an amusement park.
You will have fun. You will have new and uncommon experiences. A lot of those experiences will be designed for you. You wouldn’t call an amusement park a game. You wouldn’t call a holiday a game. They’re different.
Half-Life is like that.
There were, of course, many first person games, adventure games, and even first person adventure games, before Half-Life. Half-Life was built on a modified Quake engine, so there was already a legacy of first person games when Valve started working on it.
It’s not surprising that Half-Life shares a lot with those earlier games. Fast action, lots of shooting, encounter spaces custom built to deliver certain moments. The difference is, most previous games are sort of a set of toys, or a series of challenges. Half-Life is a place that you inhabit for a while.
The story for the original Half-Life is not earth shaking. You won’t feel emotionally invested in the characters or plot, but it’s serviceable. There is enough there to give purpose to your actions.
What you will feel, is a sense of place. You will recognize the shape of the world of the game. It will be encoded in you as if it were real. That makes everything you do there much more meaningful.
In the very opening moments of Half-Life, you are introduced peacefully to the environments you will later be fighting through. The opening of the game is slow and methodical and mundane. You have time to wander. You become accustomed to the lighting, the sounds. How common and normal everything is. You are given just enough time before everything changes.
I think that the first person perspective does a lot of the heavy lifting when it comes to really burning the locations and events of Half-Life into your brain. Doom was probably the first game that gave me that feeling of truly playing in a new environment. I remember those places, but there was no logic or reason to Doom or Quake levels. They are built for your enjoyment, not for practical reasons. The areas from Half-Life are pulling double duty. They act as interesting gameplay spaces, but they also have a sense of practical realism to them. This is a place where people worked and lived. They did paperwork here. They chatted with friends here. They picked fantasy football teams and brought their kids to work. This is a recognizable and real place. Until it isn’t. And that makes the events of the entire Half-Life series so much more memorable and terrifying.
Maybe Half-Life isn’t the absolute first game to create this sense of place, but nothing before (and even for a while after) took advantage of that feeling in quite the same way.
Half-Life is one of the most enjoyable adventure travel destinations, and maybe even best games.
I like to ride my bike. If I’m going somewhere fairly nearby, I will probably take my bike. If I’m going somewhere further, but plan to stay a while, I will probably take my bike. If I’m going to be drinking, I will absolutely take my bike.
For quite a while, if I was headed downtown, I would bike to the train and ride it the rest of the way. More and more often, I have been riding the entire 10 to 20km for events. If the weather is nice and the paths are mostly clear, it’s great. If there is snow on the path, but it’s packed down, I just take the fat tire bike, and it’s great. If it’s really cold, I dress warmer.
I’m sure this sounds bonkers to a lot of people, but think of it this way. I never need to look for or pay for parking. I can always choose to have another beer before I leave a place (I never do, but I could). My bike never runs out of fuel and I never have to fill it up. My largest ongoing expense is extra train tickets when I don’t want to ride.
Then there is the maintenance. Most bike parts last for years or even decades. My main bike frame is about 20 years old. I have replaced a lot of the main components in that time, but not all of them. The real kicker is that when those parts did need replacing, I did it myself. If you look around a bit you can get most of the parts cheaper than at a bike shop too. I think there are two special purpose tools that you need to fix a bicycle. A chain tool, and a crank puller. A bike stand is nice, but not required. Other than that, it’s all wrenches and screwdrivers.
I know to some people I’m ‘that guy who rides his bike everywhere’ but it’s just so much easier than driving sometimes. More relaxed. Safer. Even in the cold. You put on a snow helmet, goggles, and mask, and you can ride through a lot of weather.
Except rain. I hate riding in the rain.
That’s all. I did some seasonal tune-ups on my bike and it made me think about how much I like biking. Nothing more to it. Go ride a bike. They’re good.
I’m working on a small test project with Godot. The last, and only, time that I did anything significant with Godot was a game jam back in 2019. Safe to say that it’s been a while. Also, safe to say that Godot has changed a lot in that time.
I’m only at the very beginnings of figuring out how the engine works, and I’m pretty certain I didn’t understand it back when I made a whole game jam project with it. On one hand, I miss some of the nifty tools and add-ons for Unity. On the other hand, I really like how uncluttered and simple it is. Where Unity has some pretty prescribed ways of working, Godot is a bit more “*shrug* how do you want to do it”. There are a lot of ways to achieve the same goal, but a handful of them are sort of built for you. Maybe. To translate it into terms that only my old 3d modeller brain will understand, it’s more like Maya 1.0 and less like whatever Maya is now. All the parts are there, but some assembly might be required.
If you haven’t been reading any of these, or you don’t know me very well, you might not know that ‘some assembly required’ is pretty much my happy place. I like to put stuff together, and I like to figure out new ways of making things, but I’m not about to try to program my own engine or anything.
I will be posting sporadic updates on the progress of this thing. If you recall, a few weeks ago, I posted an image of a CRT filter painting setup. Well, here is what that same (similar) setup looks like running in the Godot engine.