Valve's virtual reality demo at the Game Developers Conference melted my brain. Afterward, my mind swam with possibilities. So of course, I ignored most of them and asked the age-old question: "Half-Life?" Surprisingly, Valve actually had an answer for me.
The short version is: Valve has tried using Half-Life characters, settings, and ideas in VR, but that doesn't guarantee a game is on the way.
"We've said, 'Let's take some existing art and see how it fits,'" Valve programmer Jeep Barnett told me during an interview. "So yeah, we'll grab some headcrabs, we'll grab the machine guns from Half-Life, the rocket launcher — all those different fun things — and see how they play in VR. But right now, it's a tool for exploring the different kind of game designs we want to do."
He noted that sometimes these kinds of experiments even result in entirely different games. For instance, the original Portal came out of experiments with Half-Life assets.
But is a Half-Life VR game a possibility? Is it something Valve is working toward releasing eventually? Right now, Barnett said, things are still things are still up in the air. The headcrab might be out of the bag, but there's still time for it to scuttle back in.
"We're not saying, 'no,'" he said, "but we don't know what the right thing is [yet]. Our most precious resource is time, and we don't have enough time for people to do everything. Would we like to make all of our franchises in VR? Absolutely. But we don't have enough time or people. So we have to figure out what's the best fit, what plays to the strengths of VR."
He noted that the Portal VR demo — which was on display behind closed doors at GDC — was an example of things clicking just right. "The modular things, these concepts of containment and giving you rules you have to follow in Portal — all of those things fit the type of demo we wanted to make." He added that a version of that demo will likely launch with the Vive VR setup when it comes out later this year.
As for Half-Life and other series, Valve is still evaluating which ones make sense for VR and which ones don't. At the moment, nothing's off limits. He said that the studio's done experiments with Left 4 Dead and DOTA 2 as well. The former mainly involved pre-existing art, but the latter let people experience DOTA's world up close and personal. He listed off other interesting experiments as well — for instance a cover-based shooter inspired by Time Crisis and an escape-the-room-style game that caters to people with smaller spaces.
"Is Half-Life a good fit? Is Left 4 Dead a good fit? Is a new franchise a good fit? I don't know yet. We're really trying to cover the broad spectrum of what we could do, and then we'll start focusing on spearheading that."
We'll have more from our interviews — and impressions of Valve's spectacular VR headset — in the near future.