What Half-Life did to the gaming world 20 years ago

Apr 23 2019 4 min read

What Half-Life did to the gaming world 20 years ago ⚡⚡⚡ Esports and gaming news, analytics, reviews on WePlay! The latest news on WePlay!

We tend to take certain things in our lives for granted not realizing how close we were to not having them at all. Take smartphones for example — had Steve Jobs not perceived this crazy idea of sticking a SIM-card into iPod and giving it a sensor display, you could be reading this with a flipper phone today. Just like that, people can’t imagine where the gaming industry would be had Valve not released Half-Life in late 1998.

Back then the game market was saturated with FPS games like DOOM and Duke Nukem — a guy with a pistol shooting monsters in clunky 3D-space was the bleeding edge of FPS at the time. Game design and development process were done or dictated by programmers, who would eagerly tackle the technical problems (how to make a new animation; how to make this look better, etc.) but were less focused on the story and how the game felt overall from level to level.

When Half-Life was released, a switch flipped in the heads of game designers all over the world. A new standard of how games could (and should) be made was established.

Full immersion

The game starts when you are riding the horizontal elevator and observing the game world around — scientists and security personnel engaging with different objects and with each other. A simple text tells you your name and shows that you’re just a dude coming to do your job.

By the time you change into the uniform, you get immersed in a new role of Gordon Freeman and everything that happens to him happens to you as well.

You are tricked to be a part of the narrative

The game tricks you into doing things and makes you an integral part of the story — you walk around, pass through levels talking to people until eventually you find yourself in the main experiment chamber and become the cause of the cataclysm.

From this point on you have two goals — survival and fixing what you’ve done. Half-Life has a suggestion of a progression system, giving you crowbar at first, and as soon as you get tired of swinging it, you find a pistol, and the rest of the firearms are following.

The enemy AI was innovative for its time

The swat unit sent to kill the monsters and survivors was a small revolution by itself. The enemies communicated with each other, taking a good position as a team, as opposed to performing individual actions.

Half-Life gives birth to Counter-Strike and other mods

Mods were already popular by the time Half-Life shipped, but the new FPS game immediately captured modders’ the attention. In 1999, two college students Minh Le and Jess Cliffe made a Counter-Strike mod for Half-Life which you could download and play for free. Eventually, it started picking up fans and became much more popular than Minh and Jess expected it to be.

Just like with Half-Life, Counter-Strike redefined the meaning of FPS — it became not just about running around and shooting enemies, it was about strategy and team play. You chose what weapons to buy and tried to outsmart your opponents.

In 2000, Valve acquired the Counter-Strike IP and hired its developers. The player base of Counter-Strike kept growing until it became one of the most well-known esports games in the world. There are still fans playing the original Counter-Strike builds released in the early 2000s.

History will be made again (WePlay! plug)

If you want to experience the making of a new page in the history of esports and gaming, join us for the Forge of Masters. WePlay! League Season 1 LAN-finals that take place in Kiev between May 3 and 5.

Forge of Masters. WePlay! League is Counter-Strike: Global Offensive tournament between promising CIS teams that will be reaching for the stars very soon. CIS is the biggest subregion in Europe and has a great esports influence and potential that cannot be ignored, which is why we are going to great pains to expose the local talent to the world and to help it grow.

Learn how to get your free WePlay! League tickets and other details on this page.

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