Get Your Free TVs (Demo)

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Get Your Free Tvs (also known as GYFTVs) is an early tech demo of Half-Life 2 which was privately shown at SIGGRAPH.


GYFTVs was shown at SIGGRAPH privately in 2000/2001, to show off the then-unnamed Half-Life 2 engine's new technologies. It took place in a version of the city_test series of maps, and unknown others. The demo likely exists at least as a video file, judging by the compression artifacts in the screenshot we have. However, as of the time of writing[1] it is unavailable to the public.


GYFTVS was an early effort to create a sequence in Half-Life 2 simulating a battle between rioting citizens and the metropolice. "There would be APCs and tanks rolling down the streets. Citizens would throw Molotov cocktails at the vehicles, which would then gloriously explode, thanks to the physics engine."


The viewpoint begins in a dingy-looking slum (likely at the current beginning of city_test), where alarms are blaring in the background. Two gasmask citizens carrying TVs come from around the corner, one saying "TVs! Free TVs!" and the other, in a fast-paced mutter, "Get one. Get a TV. Get yourself a TV!". After rounding a corner, he would see a citizen throw a molotov at a building, and then get into a (reportedly hilarious-looking) fistfight against a metrocop. Afterwards, it is unknown exactly what happens.

There are likely multiple maps used, as Laura Dubuk mentions "i think the citizens were fighting against the soldiers in the terminal square".

Though the context is unknown, "an early incarnation of the Breencast monitors, scanners that moved more like fish (likely Combots), a red-haired Alyx, Odell, the cremator, and the crab synth" were shown at some point.

File Discoveries


During mid 2019, VCC member, Security Officer The Fonz had found a texture as well as a model in the 2005 tactical FPS game, SWAT 4. It is very likely these could be exact files due to both Half-Life 2 and SWAT 4 being from around the same time, both being published by Sierra, and having relatively the same timeline of being developed after each other's last release (Half-Life releasing 1998 and SWAT 3 releasing 1999).


The engine is a much earlier version of the one used in Half-Life 2.

Several details are apparent in the one shot given, including that the HUD used in Half-Life has not yet been replaced, that brush-based vehicles are still in use, and the noticeably hard-weighted citizen.

According to David Spreyer, the engine at this period also had (early) fire tech, displacements, physics-based destruction, the VMT system, and facial animation.


There are several different sources, each giving and reinforcing different pieces of the GYFTVs picture.

Marc Laidlaw 1

By Bun, April 19, 2016

It was just a test map with citizens running around in it simulating an uprising. A citizen holding a TV ran past you screaming "Free TVs!" Another would throw a Molotov at a building, then he and a metrocop would have a very terrible looking melee fight. That's about all there was as I recall. One of our devs ran it as part of a closed-room demo at SIGGRAPH so somebody must have seen it. I tried to hunt down a copy of the video to release to fans, but I never got an answer about whether it would be OK to let it out, so I didn't bother finding the video.[2]

Marc Laidlaw 2

By Free TV Warlord, April 13-14, 2018

I do not retain any files from my time at Valve.

The video as I recall was of the viewpoint character moving through some dingy buildings on a deserted street, when around the corner run two citizens carrying old-fashioned boxy television sets. The first one shouts, "TVs! Free TVs!" as he runs past. The second one says, a bit more of a fast mutter, "Get one. Get a TV. Get yourself a TV!" I think as the viewpoint keeps going, you round a corner and see a citizen and a cop in a very awkward scuffle, where the cop tries to konk the citizen with his nightstick and the citizen is trying to protect himself with this fists. Somewhere in here (maybe a different map?) another citizen hurls a molotov at a building and starts a small fire. I think there might be alarms going off the whole time? It was a pretty short clip, and I'm not even sure what it was supposed to demo considering it was SIGGRAPH and not a gameplay demo.

[Also, did they have eyes? In the screenshot the community have seen, they were just white voids.]

Can't recall. Sounds like the model is missing a texture. This was a long time ago so I wouldn't trust my memory. Except for the lines of audio which i remember pretty well. I recorded the lines for Kelly in about 10 seconds and then heard them for years afterward so they are burned in my memory.[3][4]

David Speyrer

By Bun, September 21, 2016

We showed "Free TVs" at siggraph in 2000 as part of a tech demo video that featured early versions of fire tech, physics destruction, materials, displacements for terrain, and facial animation. Art-wise, it showed gas mask citizens, an early incarnation of the Breencast monitors, scanners that moved more like fish, a red-haired Alyx, Odell, the cremator, and the crab synth. It's particularly weird to see red-haired Alyx, but the most hilarious part is the fisticuffs combat sequence between citizens and metrocops.[5]

Yahn Bernier

By PikaCommando, ~2016
Yahn Bernier states that his presentation at SIGGRAPH is unrelated to GYFTVs.

No idea. Wasn't one of my images hah!

[What about this presentation?]

It's the same presentation from the Game Developers Conference[6]

Orig[7], VA[8]

OddDoc/Laura Chatlog

By OddDoc, May 4, 2016

Laura Dubuk: did he show you the video, or did he just mention it?
Laura Dubuk: i know that was one of his favorites!
Laura Dubuk: i don't think i'd be able to find the video if it's not on YouTube, though.
Laura Dubuk: but i am looking for it.
Maxim: He just wanted to help us to find it. And nothing more. (:
Laura Dubuk: ahh i see
Maxim: Yup, there are nothing on YT, unfortunately.)
Laura Dubuk: ahhh that's too bad
Laura Dubuk: yeah i remember there was an old version of city 17, and they showed the citizens living there, and one of them was running and shouting "free tv! free tv!" while holding a tv. it's just weird humor.
Maxim: He is also told us, that this video also demonstrated fist-fight assault between metrocops and rioting citizens. Is it true?
Laura Dubuk: if it were set in city 17, then that could be true, yes
Laura Dubuk: i wonder if it had a Cremator in it
Laura Dubuk: yeah i think the citizens were fighting against the soldiers in the terminal square
Maxim: Sounds interesting. It would be really cool to see it. :D
Laura Dubuk: yes it was really funny
Laura Dubuk: I'm trying to find it.
Laura Dubuk: there's this one, but i don't think that's it
Laura Dubuk: here it is
Laura Dubuk: that's a screenshot!
Maxim: Yep, we are know about that famous screenshot.)
Laura Dubuk: oh :( haha well i understand the problem now
Laura Dubuk: that was the old tv model. i modeled the version after that[9]

Gamespot Article

By Geoff Keighley, November 12, 2004
EXCLUSIVE: A never-before seen image from “Get Your Free TVs!” the first test level for Half-Life 2 created in 2001.

Suddenly there seemed to be a lot of positive momentum on the project. So Valve decided to try something ambitious during the summer of 2001: The designers started working on a test sequence that would highlight all the new technology. The concept was to simulate a street war between rioting citizens and the Metrocops sent to contain them. Such a sequence would test the engine's ability to create a vast, believable world and lifelike characters. There would be APCs and tanks rolling down the streets. Citizens would throw Molotov cocktails at the vehicles, which would then gloriously explode, thanks to the physics engine. Other characters would start looting stores and yell, "Get your free TVs!" There was even a hand-to-hand fighting system so the Metrocops and citizens could get into fistfights.

No one actually thought the level would make it into the final game. "It was really just an early attempt at getting something--anything--in the game that used non-player characters and physics," Guthrie remembers. Still, the street-war sequence showed tremendous promise. So much promise that, after seeing the sequence, Newell asked the team to prepare a "proof of concept" reel for the actual game. The reel would contain about a dozen different snippets of gameplay. If it looked good, Half-Life 2 would be given the green light for full-scale production. In late 2001, the team started work on the reel, hoping to finish it in early 2002 and then unveil the game at E3 2002.[10]


Free tvs.jpg