How an indie dev convinced Valve to allow his Half-Life game on Steam

Gordon Freeman
(Image credit: Valve)

Two years ago, indie game developer Daniel Almenara (or PinkyDev on ModDB) started working on a side project that would become Codename: Loop, a twin-stick shooter based on the original Half-Life, with the hopes of eventually bringing it to Steam. This week, he was overjoyed to share some good news: Half-Life creator and Steam operator Valve has given him the greenlight

"A year and a half ago I wrote to Valve telling them about my project," Almenara tells GamesRadar. "At that time the project was not very advanced, but the answer I received was that due to the nature of the project – it is a game made in Unity and not a mod – it was complicated to be accepted on Steam. However, the employee who responded to that email told me to focus on the mechanics and try to do something fun. So it was a no but also a yes? Or at least that's how I interpreted it." 

"I kept working on the project despite the response because, in a certain way, I felt that if I did something of quality they would take it into account, and I also have a lot of fun working on this project," he continues. "So a few months ago when I felt I had something good, I contacted them again, and after several verifications through Steam they allowed me to publish the game because it was good and fun!" 

With Valve's blessing, Almenara – along with the few other people who've been helping him along the way, especially with map design – hopes to have a Steam page for Codename: Loop live by the end of the year, hopefully with a playable demo attached. Codename: Loop will be totally free, unlike loosely comparable works such as Hunt Down the Freeman, a 2018 Half-Life fan game which caused quite a storm when it launched in a buggy state in February 2018, and is $9.99 to this day. 

Work on Codename: Loop – which was originally Half-Life: Loop but later renamed to distinguish the game from official products and help it pass Steam verification – actually started as an offshoot of Rogue Mansion, a survival horror game Almenara is co-developing with his brother. This explains the bizarre image that Almenara shared with us, which is technically the earliest screenshot of Codename: Loop – Gordon Freeman standing in an opulent hall of the eponymous rogue mansion. 

Codename: Loop

(Image credit: Daniel Almenara / Valve)

"I wanted to put Gordon Freeman as a secret character in Rogue Mansion," he explains. "Rogue Mansion is a roguelike game, and after seeing the HL1 Gordon Freeman model in Rogue Mansion an idea came to my mind and I started working on Codename: Loop. Unfortunately Gordon Freeman will not be in Rogue Mansion, or maybe he will be…" 

"My goal for this project is to have a complete recreation of the Half-Life campaign done in the top-down view with the addition of custom levels support and a roguelike mode," Almenara says of Codename: Loop, which he estimates will require another year of work that's usually done in his free time. "Initially the game was focused to be a roguelike Half-Life game, but later in the development I changed the focus because it was too much work and I wanted to have something to show before trying to do that." 

Almenara says the original Half-Life is his favorite game in the series, so he "wanted to do something with the quality and respect that Half-Life deserves." It's heartening to see Codename: Loop headed to Steam after all the work that's gone into it.

"I'm a game developer thanks to Half-Life, thanks to the modding community," Almenara concludes, "so I wanted to give something to them!" 

Here are 14 of the best Steam Next Fest demos to play before the week is over. 

Austin Wood

Austin freelanced for the likes of PC Gamer, Eurogamer, IGN, Sports Illustrated, and more while finishing his journalism degree, and he's been with GamesRadar+ since 2019. They've yet to realize that his position as a staff writer is just a cover up for his career-spanning Destiny column, and he's kept the ruse going with a focus on news and the occasional feature.