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Half-Life: Alyx – Final Hours is a 25k words worth of multimedia packed into an interactive story-book by Geoff Keighley. Released on July 9, the feature speaks volumes about his two-decade-long tryst with the enigmatic Valve Software. The experience casts together never-before-seen concept art, prototypes, videos, canceled games, interactive floor experiences and timeline, a headcrab sound mixer (wait, what?), along with an interview of Rhys Darby aka the voice actor for Russell, the wise-cracking inventor of the Gravity Gloves in the game. Spread over 15 chapters this is a monumental achievement in the preservation of game history, akin to the likes of Danny O’ Dwyer’s Noclip videogame documentaries.

In the Half-Life: Alyx – Final Hours, Keighley talks about at least 5 Half-Life games that were canceled between Episode 2 and Alyx, along with many other projects.

Half-Life: Alyx - Final Hours
Combine Concept Art

Half-Life 3 – an attempt at mixing procedural generation and hand-crafted story moments for making a more replayable game. Created on the Source 2 engine, this game would generate play-spaces and objectives, and chart a route through it while populating it with enemies. This ensured that each run would play out differently than the previous one. The project was in development during 2013-2014 and was dropped because the engine was unfinished.

Left 4 Dead 3 – deemed too ambitious at that point, this game was supposed to be an open-world game set in Morocco, featuring co-op players battling their way through hundreds of zombies. Take a look at the environment design leaked here and check out some of the proposed character artworks down below:

Half-Life: Alyx - Final Hours
Left 4 Dead 3 Character Art 1
Left 4 Dead 3 Character Art 1
Left 4 Dead 3 Character Art 2

RPG – a codename from the genre it drew inspiration from – a mix of The Elder Scrolls, Dark Souls and Monster Hunter. It was planned to be released in modular pieces with regular feature updates but was abandoned at the concept stage. It was pivoted to become a single-player role-playing game on Axe aka Mogul Khan, an Initiator Hero from DOTA, but dropped again. The 2017 concept art from ex-Valve artist Drew Wolf about a co-op fantasy adventure game might have been RPG.

Half-Life: Alyx - Final Hours
RPG Artwork

A.R.T.I. – a casual voxel game similar to Minecraft. This game was built on a new engine with open-ended destruction and complex creation modes.

Half-Life: Alyx - Final Hours
ARTI Picture Credit: ArsTechnica

SimTrek – A VR game that was being developed by members of the Kerbal Space Program team that Valve had onboarded in late 2016.

Shooter – A Half-Life themed VR shooter that was supposed to join the ranks of the many experiments in Valve’s The Lab showcase. It was scrapped when it wasn’t ready for the Lab’s release.

Half-Life: Alyx - Final Hours
Shooter Picture Credit: ArsTechnica

Borealis – The VR-exclusive game whose cancellation reportedly led to writer Marc Laidlaw leaving Valve and penning the now infamous letter Epistle 3. Set on a ghost ship stuck in multiple time loops, Gordon and Alyx team up to send it to the heart of the Combine empire while rigging it for self-destruction. Project Borealis on the Unreal Engine 4 is in development by an eager team of fans who are trying to capture the essence of the proposed story of this game. Check out our report on it from 2018.

Hot Dog – Codenamed so that hawk-eyed fans couldn’t identify this game to be the new take on the Left 4 Dead franchise. Shelved, with almost no details.

Vader – Valve’s first VR headset prototype – a no-compromise design that had to be canceled after internal estimates pegged the price to be over $5000 per unit at release.

There is solace for disheartened fans like me – many of the team members at Valve expressed their interest in working on a full-scale non-VR game set in the Half-Life universe. Although there is a sense of anxiety in jumping into a game of such a scale, game designer Phil Co said, “The ice has been broken, now we’re hoping to smash through the ice completely. We’re not afraid of Half-Life no more“. Designer and programmer Tejeev Kohli mentioned, “Going from (Half-Life: Alyx) to a new big thing, which will be even bigger, is pretty exciting“. Hints were also dropped about a super-duper top-secret project also in development at Valve since 2018. There was no mention of the on-hold game In The Valley Of Gods by the Campo Santo team acquired by Valve, or of Artifact 2.0, the revamp of the card game currently in closed beta.

Half Life: Alyx – Final Hours is now available on Steam with Geoff Keighley’s previous works like the final hours of games such as Titanfall, Tomb Raider and Portal 2.

Want to understand all the fuss behind Half-Life? Check out our editorial on this masterpiece.

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