What kind of computer
do you use at home? Did you build it yourself?
[Doug Lombardi] I have three working PCs at my house,
the three current consoles, and many consoles and PCs from days past.
Two of the PCs are off the shelf Dells (a laptop and a desktop “for
everyone in the house”). The other began as a prototype unit AMD
sent me years ago that I’m continually Frankenstein’ng in
the endless attempt to stay current. As such, it’s the one that
only I get to touch, break, yell at, etc.
What are your personal
favourite games of "all time"?
[Doug Lombardi] Too many to include all of them, but
the classics always include Command & Conquer, Quake, Super Mario
64, Full Throttle, and – at the risk of disclosing just how ancient
I am -- Star Raiders (Atari 800).
We have had some great
releases in the last year within the FPS genre, but many lack a sophisticated
AI - which can ruin the game especially in single player mode, have
valve invested a lot of the development time into Half-Life 2’s
AI? Is there any specific part of the AI that you’re particularly
proud of or excited about?
[Doug Lombardi] Everyone here agrees that the great AI work
done for Half-Life 1 was key to the first game’s success. So,
naturally, we’ve made a significant investment in advancing the
AI for Half-Life 2. The two key areas are simple by definition, though
difficult to execute: combat and, for lack of a catching term, non-combat
NPC response to the player.
In terms of combat, the NPCs need to be aware of physics in the environment,
and know how to leverage the use of physics in combat. One of my first
experiences playing with this combination was with a zombie, a barrel,
and shot gun. As I approached the zombie, he turned toward me and slapped
the barrel my way. I shot it back at him as I continued to move closer.
He returned the volley, but this time with a bit more force that caused
the barrel to explode and kill me upon arrival. It was a strangely satisfying
experience that left me anxious to replay the scene and attempt different
interplay with the creature before taking him out and moving along.
In terms of non-combat NPC interaction, the AI found in HL2 allows us
to deliver story elements in a much wider variety of ways, while also
setting the stage for you to lead in squad combat with NPCs.
Some of the recent FPS
games have really pushed the envelope in terms of advancing elements
of the genre. If you could pick out one aspect of Half-Life 2 that makes
it a must buy, what would it be?
[Doug Lombardi] Physics, AI, plus a compelling story
and characters. Is that more than one?
In our interview with
Gabe last year he defined the progression of the story in Half-Life
2 as “We want to give the player lots of interesting choices”.
Is this approach still being taken or has the additional development
time seen a change in this approach to story progression?
[Doug Lombardi] No, that’s still very much the case.
If (when ;) ) Half-Life
2 is successful and meets expectations will there be a Half-Life 3?
More specifically; are there any plans for a part three now?
[Doug Lombardi] We’re focused on finishing HL2 at the
moment. But once we’re finished with that, and had some time to
rest, we have more stories we’d like to tell in the HL2 universe.
What are the plans for
Half-Life 2 on other platforms? And how soon can we expect to see any
[Doug Lombardi] An Xbox version is in the works, but
I can't give you an exact date right now. We’re in touch with
all the console platform holders and would like to bring the game to
as many platforms as make sense.
What important lessons,
if any, were learned from the leaking of Half-Life 2?
[Doug Lombardi] The community’s help with the investigation
was incredible and we learned, yet again, just how important a role
they play in our success.
As the release date nears
what are the current minimum CPU/Memory and graphics card requirements
in order to run Half-Life 2? Has this changed considerably between your
original planned min specs or has it remained relatively close?
[Doug Lombardi] The min spec is:
1.2 GHz Processor
DirectX 7 level graphics card
What do you feel is going
to be the most important development in gaming over the next few years?
[Doug Lombardi] It’s hard to say what will be the most
important. Certainly one area in which we feel there is still much room
for innovation is in the online space. Obviously, the PC has been a
viable format for online gaming for some time now. But only recently
has that really meant anything more than deathmatching. And the majority
of PC games released today still send customers chasing for a magical
patch and do a horrible job of connecting players, let alone players
who are evenly matched. In addition to cleaning all this up and executing
more interesting game designs for large group of people, I think we’ll
also see subsets of games that are detachable and interoperable with
handhelds and/or consoles, that can then be reconciled to the main game
which is played on the PC.
The game will obviously
be available through Steam, what are the plans other than Steam at this
time, DVD and CD versions? Also how will the releases be staggered?
Will it hit Steam before the discs are in stores or will it all be on
the same day?
[Doug Lombardi] There will be a standard edition box
and a collector’s edition box of Half-Life 2 released on the same
day the game is made available via Steam.
Where do you see the
most pressure coming from when you are developing a game that is receiving
a lot of attention? (gamers.....graphics companies ......MS.....share
[Doug Lombardi] The team members place far more pressure on
themselves than any outside party.
How is development progressing
on Counter Strike: Source?
[Doug Lombardi] Great. We’re holding the first playable
exhibition of it this weekend in Seoul, Korea.
Will Counter-Strike: Source
be a stand alone retail game, or HL2 mod that can be purchased or downloaded,
like the original Counter-Strike?
[Doug Lombardi] It’s likely to be sold in a variety of
ways. We will be releasing more specific info a bit closer to launch.
Will Counter-Strike: Source
be multi-player only, have single-player with bots, or also have "real"
single-player mode like HL2 and Condition Zero?
[Doug Lombardi] At launch, it will be multiplayer only.
How important do you foresee
3rd party modifications being to Half Life 2's success?
[Doug Lombardi] MODs are incredibly important to us, and to
the success of our games. In the previous generation, MODs such as Counter-Strike,
Day of Defeat, and hundreds more provided more compelling gaming experiences
than the majority of commercially released products. In addition, we’ve
enjoyed the benefits of hiring many of the members of these MOD teams.
As we approach the next generation, we plan to extend our support for
this community by providing not only our tools, but also offer the MOD
authors free versions of the third party tools we use such as Softimage’s
XSI EXP for Half-Life 2.