How do you keep Half-Life characters "real" while all the technological whiz-bangs and G-Man mysteries are flying around them?
Laidlaw: We try to draw strong relationships between the characters; making each one part of a believable network of family and friends (and rivals) makes it easier for players to relate to them. Characters in weaker science-fiction stories often seem flimsy because they're solitary heroic figures without parents, siblings or ordinary relationships. Character-driven drama depends on social context, status transactions, how they relate to other people in their world. We also assume our characters have spent their whole life in this world - especially Alyx, who grew up surrounded by headcrabs and Vortigaunts. The crazy sci-fi details are just ordinary obstacles to them - still full of potential threats and surprises, as in our own world, but with a grim internal logic.