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Happy 20th birthday, Valve! Yesterday. Happy 20th yesterday. Sorry, I only just saw the Facebook notification. On August 24th, 1996, ex-Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington made a beautiful baby who was mighty eye-opening.
In the dreamy game of “What if…?” one curious hypothetical is: what if Valve never existed? There can’t be many companies who’ve had nearly as much impact. Steam (eventually) revolutionised digital distribution, changing the entire landscape of PC gaming. Half-Life was seminal; its mod scene was legendary. That’d be plenty, but Valve have made a load of other really good video games too.
You might have noticed all your friends’ avatars and profile pictures turning into comic book drawings or impressionistic paintings over the last few weeks. That’s because of Prisma, a photo editing app for iOS and Android that let’s you apply a couple of dozen filters to images you feed it. The app goes further than simply messing with the hue like Instagram does, using a process similar to Google Deep Dream to warp and twist photographs – without shoving fucked up dogs in every corner.
I spent last night feeding it game screenshots, to find out what No Man’s Sky, Half-Life 2, SimCity and more would look like if their artists abandoned realism.
I’ve just finished Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, a first-person parkour game about Faith Connors and a scrappy band of outlaw runners and hackers who deliver secret packages under the noses of an oppressive corporate government. By rights you should root for these underdogs. If only they weren’t all dicks.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game retrospectives. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
Gearbox’s Barney-starring add-on is the black sheep of the Half-Life family, although at the time I never encountered any reason why that should be the case. My teenage tastes were perhaps less discerning then, but more importantly any> return to Black Mesa was irresistible. I wanted new monsters and new guns, everything that a young’un wants from a follow-up to their favourite shooter, and I also had a vain hope that maybe I’d get to shoot that creepy suit-guy in the face and rescue Gordon. … [visit site to read more]
A fan-made, semi-official follow-up to Opposing Force, the Half-Life expansion Gearbox made, is now out. Prospekt [official site] continues telling Half-Life-y events from the perspective of marine Adrian Shephard, who’s still chasing after Gordon Freeman. This time he’s helping Gordo, though, causing trouble out of sight for the Combine during HL2’s Nova Prospekt section and onwards. It’s the work of fan Richard Seabrook, and Valve have given him the all-clear to sell it. This can only be good news for my dream of Valve endorsing my career as a writer of erotic Dog/turret fanfic.
We live in complex times. When I was a youngster, it was perfectly reasonable to buy a game simply because it had more monsters than the other games. Playing through shooters, RPGs and platformers alike, I’d be tempted to give up when I reached the point where no new enemy types were appearing. The very idea of a game with only one type of enemy, no matter how intelligent and believable, was poison. Give me all of your mutants, demons and aliens>, I cried, give them to me now>.
Here are a few of my favourites, ranging from the first-person shooters of my teenage years to the surreal horrors of my childhood.
Have You Played? is an endless stream of game recommendations. One a day, every day of the year, perhaps for all time.>
Okay, now we’re nearly 300 deep into these recommendations we’re clearly getting a little obscure, a little desperate, but it’s still possible that a few people will have played this oddity. Half-Life 2 came out in 2004, but as there’s been no Half-Life 3 in the eleven years since one can only assume it didn’t sell well.
“Laughter is the best medicine,” say people who are about to discover laughter actually makes a broken nose worse. Laughter’s pretty okay, though, as are other emotions – and creative mediums can help stimulate them. Valve have rolled out the red carpet (it smells rusty?) for the year’s finest Source Filmmaker machinima, little films mostly starring Valve characters, declaring which are the bestest best so you too can easily experience such human emotions as Action, Comedy, Drama, Short, and Extended.
An envelope arrived in the post this morning. Thick, stuffed with books. Diaries, in fact. Someone has sent me Gordon Freeman’s diaries from the last eight years. I don’t really know what to do about this. I mean, this is obviously big news, but this is also someone’s private life. But what if it was Gordon himself who sent them? What if he wants the… the misery therein to be exposed?
I’ve decided on a compromise. I’m going to publish some extracts, picked almost at random from the lot. If Freeman wants them taken down, he can get in touch and we’ll honour that right away.>
I have just booted up Half-Line Miami [official site] – a mashup of Hotline Miami and Half-Life as created by student Thomas Kole.
As someone who has never really played Half-Life 2 or Hotline Miami (I did about one level of Hotline Miami at a demo booth one time and apparently own it on this here PC – who knew? As for the Half-Life games, I played the original until a bit where you have to climb into a ceiling vent which you reach by dragging a box over. I’d killed something directly below the vent and their corpse became an immovable object so I couldn’t put the box in the right place to climb up. After trying all the solutions I could think of I gave up rather than restart at my last save which was ages away. I tried the second game as part of the Orange Box on XBox 360 and got as far as Water Hazard.) I feel well placed to explain Half-Line Miami.