Pre-Pitch Era

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The "Pre-pitch" era of Half-Life 2 is presumed to be the earliest collection of ideas (assembled as-then unofficially by company employees) under the project that continued on to become HL2.

Summary

This era started immediately after Half-Life was released, and largely consisted of pre-pitch designs before Half-Life 2 was inaugurated as an "official" Valve project in June 1999[1] (when it was presumably pitched to the rest of Valve). It consisted of mostly exploratory world building through writing and keyart, with very few assets or maps made - the concepts and assets intended for this era were later utilised or retooled for later eras, as by the time they were completed the context of the game had changed.

"It was with those six words that Gabe Newell launched the development of Half-Life 2 in June 1999. Yes, you read that right--1999, only six months after the original Half-Life shipped."

- The Final Hours of Half-Life 2

Development Background

Once Half-Life hit store shelves on 19/11/1998, there were immediate roundtable-style thoughts about a sequel with a much larger scope, teleporting Gordon across planet to planet around the galaxy and defeating the invading Xenians on each. The early discussions over these ideas served as the starting point to slowly reduce and refine the game's scope, as this concept ultimately presented issues of continuity between game levels.[1]

The game was initially thought of as dark rather than action adventure (the team gradually moved towards the latter by the end of development). The design philosophy did not include a visible end goal (like the Citadel) that you could see from each level,[2] instead it was on a smaller scale where each level or set of levels had an easily identifiable goal.[3]


It is this initial start to development that provided the basis for Half-Life 2's design philosophies when the game formally began development.

Known information

While much of the content in this era never had assets made, there were writings and concepts in-planning, of which describe 3 main alien races occupying the earth that had presence in the plot:

  • A race of Giant Primitive Tribal type insectoid aliens out in the Middle east that used hollowed out caterpillar subway as transport. (possible influence over dropship design in concept art)

  • A Warrior alien race that utilised Weaponized aliens, the weaponised aliens were homogenised under the name "the hoard". one of their creations is the sack ticks (inspired the headcrab canisters) which had hoard markings on them for task group and delivery vehicle, they were eventually modelled and programmed as an entity in the hyper era.
    An excerpt from Raising The Bar: Uncorrected Proof (p.204)
  • A 'Spy race' (similar/related to the Gman) with a citadel in a Prague-like city.

Plot

Much of the plot devised at this point in production is unknown, however it is known that the player was to start the game as gordon freeman who had been forced into working as an agent for some alien body (presumably gmans race) and as such you are wearing an unfamiliar more sinister stealth suit with an unfamiliar voice system rather than the hev suit.[4]

One of the introductions mentioned for this era was where you were waking up in a hospital before being broken out by rebels possibly inspired by jacobs ladder.[3]

The only other information about the plot and its locations comes from the overlap with the next era.

Locations

While this era was scaled down from the initial galaxy spanning adventure, it was more focused on different places all around the planet, seemingly thrown together from a list of "cool" places to have the game.

Many places in different countries are visited, although they might not have had a story line devised to link them together as of yet:

The Weizzman Institute of Science in Israel
Location Explanation Cut/Survived into next era?
Chicago Skyscraper/Vertigo was set in Chicago, apparently around in this period Partially
Arctic base? Arctic locale survived into Hyper era as Spire and/or Weather Control Yes
Cairo/Middle East Alien race riding giant insects etc No
Weizzman Institute of Science[3] You'd be defending the Israeli institute from aliens No
Kraken Base Possibly not named Kraken at this stage, rather just a general idea for an undersea base Yes
Prague-like city Gman alien race 'spy city' w/ a Citadel in the centre Partially

Emails

A number of emails discussing this era are available.

Inspirations

The work of Brothers Quay may have served as inspiration,

Dark City seems to have played a role in the early visual tone of the game, as well as the design of the stealth suit.[4]

the Hospital from Jacob's Ladder[4] was used as inspiration for a possible introduction for hl2,

David Speyrer mentioned that they took influence from a film called The Pianist which took place in Warsaw Ghetto.

David speyrer Pianist emil.png

The Manchurian Candidate seems to have been used as inspiration for the background story between the player and the GMan-like race. In it, the main character is abducted before being trained and conditioned to be an assassin or special soldier to act as an agent for a country. [5]


References

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