Half-Life

Last week we discussed the grandfather of the first person shooter Wolfenstein 3D. In this installment, we will be looking at one of the most successful and influential games of that genre: 1998’s Valve’s HalfLife.

The First Valve Product

Half-Life is a first-person shooter game developed by Valve and published by Sierra Studios for Windows. It was Valve’s product debut. During the game, players assume the role of Gordon Freeman, a scientist who must find (fight) his way out of the Black Mesa Research Facility. This is after an experiment with an alien material goes awry.


Gameplay consists of fighting alien and human enemies. During their exploration of Black Mesa and beyond, they acquire a variety of weapons. Progression also requires the necessity to solve puzzles. One of the qualities that made Half-Life unique was the player has almost complete uninterrupted control of Freeman. The story itself is narrated mostly through scripted sequences as seen through Gordon’s eyes.

Inspiration for Half-Life


The Valve development team was initially inspired by FPS games Doom (1993) and Quake(1996). In fact, it was based on the Quake engine licensed from ID.  Although, by the time they were done, it had been 70% modified. They also took some cues from Stephen King’s 1980 novella The Mist, and a 1963 episode of The Outer Limits titled “The Borderland”. According to designer Harry Teasley, Doom was a major influence. It was their hope that Half-Life would “scare you like Doom did.” And from my experience playing the game, they pretty much succeeded.

Making it Right

Because this was their first project, the Valve team took their time with the development of Half-Life. They had initially hoped to release it in direct competition with Quake 2.  However, after playing it themselves, they decided some further tweaking was necessary. Their caution paid off.

Eneba Many GEOs

When released on November of 1998, it was a big hit with gamers and critics alike. It won numerous game of the year awards and has been considered by many as one of the best games of all time. As far as sales went, by 2008, over 9.3 million retail copies had been sold.  In fact, Guinness World Records awarded Half-Life the world record for Best-Selling First-Person Shooter of All Time for the PC. This was in the Guinness World Records: Gamer’s Edition 2008.

With sales being what they were along with the critical success, a sequel was a must. Eventually Half-Life 2 made its appearance as did Valve’s new streaming service, Steam. But would Half-Life 2 equal the success of the first chapter? That is a tale for another time.

Have you played Half-Life? Either upon its original release or perhaps on one of its many incarnations? It is still available on Steam. Share your adventures at Black Mesa with us at GeekVibesNation.

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