Half-Life: Alyx's New Developer Commentary Will Teach You All of Valve's VR Secrets

Half-Life: Alyx's New Developer Commentary Will Teach You All of Valve's VR Secrets

Sadly, it's not *more* Half-Life, but it is a free and interesting update.

Valve launched Half-Life: Alyx back in March, which by the metrics of this year already feels like a lifetime ago. Still, compared to the long silence between Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Alyx's release, Valve's been pretty busy on the Half-Life front since then. Today, Alyx has received yet another update, this time adding over three hours of developer commentary.

All owners of Half-Life: Alyx can get the commentary update today for free, regardless of what virtual reality kit you use to play it. It's possible that the commentary might go into some specifics of how Alyx accommodates the finger-tracking Valve Index controllers, but interfacing with the commentary nodes will be simple with any compatible VR set-up: you just walk up to a floating headset hologram in the world, grab it, and then place it on your head to start that bit of commentary.

On YouTube, Valve has uploaded a preview of some of what Alyx's new commentary includes. As with previous Valve commentaries dating back to 2005's Half-Life 2: Lost Coast tech demo, the info isn't just limited to a developer talking in your ear. Commentary nodes can also reveal things like how the Combine run animations work or the way objects travel along a graceful arc toward the Gravity Gloves when plucked from afar.

While Half-Life: Alyx doesn't necessarily do that many revolutionary things in VR—as I said in my review, it instead builds a polished, linear FPS on established VR shooter principles—I bet plenty of VR developers are going to want to hear everything the developers have to say about how it tuned its movement and novel features like the Gravity Glove. Shader wizards are also sure to get a kick out of an in-depth explanation of how Alyx' ridiculously realistic liquid effect works.

Hopefully, the new dev commentary may also help Half-Life: Alyx's tiny mod scene. Valve released its new Source 2 level design tools earlier this year along with all the raw map files from Alyx's campaign, and while some pretty fun levels have made their way to the Steam Workshop, nobody's really made a hefty campaign to rival Valve's own just yet. Some commentary wisdom could go a long way toward inspiring a big wave of modder creativity.

For more behind the scenes info on Half-Life: Alyx, readers can also check our two-part interview with developers Chris Remo and Erik Wolpaw from the game's launch and take a look at Geoff Keighley's giant Final Hours story on the past decade at Valve. Be warned: Valve's developer commentary, our interviews, and Keighley's story all have spoilers for Alyx's ending, so be sure you know how it wraps up before diving in.

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Mathew Olson


Mathew Olson is a writer formerly of Digg, where he blogged and reported about all things under the umbrella of internet culture (including games, of course). He lives in New York, grew up under rain clouds and the influence of numerous games studios in the Pacific Northwest, and will talk your ear off about Half-Life mods, Talking Heads or Twin Peaks if you let him.

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