Perhaps the most satisfying moment was reuniting Alyx and her father Eli. They were always separated by screens which fizzle out. You had a fear they’d never meet. And then it finally occurs in that oasis in the middle of the action.
DS: We really wanted to create a calm in the story in that point in the game. So much of the episode pushes you forward. There’s the urgency of getting to White Forest before the Combine, and getting the data package there and all that. And then the final battle demands so much of the player. It’s so intense and epic feeling. We really wanted to create a contrast to all that when you arrive at the base. Without the contrast in pacing, the impact of the high moments, the action moments, is less.
Did you always intend for Alyx to play such a major role?
DS: Yeah. When she was created for Half-Life 2, she was designed as a focal character. But I think she really matured as a character in Ep One, which was when we really sat down and designed her. Alyx in HL2 was designed by the writing of her character - and she has a great character. She’s smart and charming and witty and tough and scrappy and all those things.
But in Ep One, because she was with you through the game, it was the first time we really sat down and almost engineered her character. We figured out the things she couldn’t be. She couldn’t ever be annoying. She could never seem critical of the player. People when they’re playing the game are going to naturally make mistakes, and if Alyx calls attention to the mistake in a way which seems at all critical, players really react. It becomes a negative experience. They like her less, and they like how they’re doing less. They feel like they’re doing poorly because someone’s telling them they’re doing poorly.
In Ep Two, when Alyx is riding along with you in the car and you slam into the tree, she laughs about it. She notices it, because it would be strange if she didn’t. But we had a few reactions from her in Ep Two which came off as exasperated. “Oh, she’s getting annoyed with my driving. I’m already feeling bad because I ran into a tree.”
Do you think she’s a muse for Gordon?
DS: In the sense of being an inspiration? You need a character like Alyx to interact with others in the world so that their character can come through more richly. Eli shows a lot of himself when he talks with Alyx - that he’s a caring, tender father. Though a lot of his character comes through with his interaction with you as well. But really, I think Alyx is important as a motivator, to provide the player with someone to feel strongly about. She’s kind of a good reason to fight, and she’s a great vehicle for bringing out other characters.