Page 9: Oh My God
The lights came up and Newell turned to the team to deliver his verdict. "You guys did amazing work," he said. But the way he complimented the team made everyone think there was a big "but" coming. They were right. "We could take this to E3," Newell told the team. "But you want this to be the thing the fans want it to be--something that is going to blow them away." The implication was that the demo wasn't quite good enough. The character technology was visually impressive but the dramatic scenes were too long and boring. The physics gameplay seemed interesting, but there weren't any moments that really sold how the physics would take first-person shooters to the next level. Newell finished his review by delivering the bad news: "Guys, unfortunately we are just not there yet." The decision had been made. Half-Life 2 would not appear at E3 2002.
"The failed proof of concept reel was an agonizing reminder that Half-Life 2s success wasnt a foregone conclusion."
Suddenly, the momentum on the project disappeared. After nearly three years of work, the employees began wondering if they were on the right track. No one was confident about the project's future. Had they been wrong all this time--would the physics gameplay really be as revolutionary as they had once thought? Were the dramatic sequences going to bore players to death? What seemed like brilliant choices three years ago were now being questioned. The failed proof-of-concept reel was an agonizing reminder that Half-Life 2's success wasn't a foregone conclusion.
The disappointment was amplified by the fact that Valve didn't want Half-Life 2 to just be a good game--it wanted the game to blow the competition out of the water. "Look, getting game of the year won't be good enough for guys like [designer] Steve Bond," Newell says. "If Half-Life 2 isn't viewed as the best PC game of all time, it's going to completely bum out most of the guys on this team." So, if anything, the failed proof of concept meant that the team would want to double its efforts going forward. They weren't going to give up, they were just going to work harder and longer until the game was in fighting shape. "That was the hard part," Newell admits. "We had already been working on this thing for bloody forever and now we couldn't see the end point anywhere in sight."
"Guys were walking around the office saying, 'Oh my God, what if we actually f*** this up?'"-- Gabe Newell on the aftermath of the failed proof of concept
The seemingly invincible Valve had stumbled in a very dramatic--yet very private--way. According to Newell, the mood at Valve took a turn for the worse: "Guys were walking around the office saying, 'Oh my God, what if we actually f*** this up?'"