David Speyrer was interviewed for his job at Valve on the day the original Half-Life went gold in late 1998. He started working there soon after, just as Half-Life 2 began its lengthy development. Since then, he’s risen through the ranks from programmer to project lead. Now, David talks us through some of the processes that led to Half-Life 2: Episode Two being the remarkable game it is. Warning: if you haven’t played Episode Two yet, there are spoilers ahead.
Has Episode Two taken you anywhere near where you’d thought the games would head after Half-Life 2? The escape-from-the-city buddy story?
David Speyrer: No. Well, during Half-Life 2’s development, there were times when it was incredibly difficult to predict what the product would look like at the end.
That’s part of the huge monolithic development cycle- they feel very unpredictable. At the beginning of Episode One, we did have a pretty good road map story-wise of where we wanted to go, broadly speaking. We knew we wanted to get to the event which concludes Episode Two. We didn’t know all the details of how to get there, and a lot of that’s driven by gameplay experiments- what succeeds and what fails directs the story quite a bit.
But we had a story to tell about Advisors and about Alyx and about the struggle of the Resistance versus the Combine. We had goals for things like setting- wanting to take players into more open environments. The final battle is an example of a scenario we were interested in exploring. Really broad, non-linear combat with a freeform epic feel. But no, we couldn’t predict Episode Two as clearly back then.