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    jp's GameLog for Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (PC)

    Friday 25 January, 2008

    It took me a while to "cool down" after all of the problems and issues I had last time I played. So, a few days ago I booted the game up again in a context most unlike any I have ever played a PC game in before: waiting to board a plane in the airport! The hardest part of all of this was using the mouse (since I had no real flat surface, I used the underside of my laptop bag). Fortunately, I didn't notice any real drop in my reaction times and in all, it worked quite well. :-)

    One of the things I've enjoyed most about the game so far is something which I think might have been implemented in Episode 1, but if so I only noticed it now in Episode 2. Designer commentary! I'm playing this game with designer commentary "turned on". Essentially this means that there are little icons (sort of like orange speech bubbles) littered around the place that, when you walk up to them and activate them, trigger a short audio clip from someone who worked on the game who then talks about something related to wherever it is you are. While some snippets are more interesting than others, I've really enjoyed listening to all of them, in particular when they describe the multiple iterations they made to certain encounters, the design intention they had for certain areas or set-pieces, and how players reacted. Listening to these as you are actually in an area adds a whole layer of depth to the experience as you gain a greater appreciation for the intentional design of the areas. Also, I've often been surprised by moments when they discuss how certain "it must obviously be done this way" moments backfired on them.

    If you want to be a game designer, you should absolutely play this game and listen to ALL of the commentary.

    As a first-time player of the episode however, I've had to carefully navigate the issue of WHEN to listen to certain snippets. Sometimes, they reveal certain things about an encounter you're about to you can certainly spoil the fun if you listen to them as soon as you see them. On the other hand, sometimes you have to listen to them in order to avoid getting stuck in a situation where you can no longer go back.

    Oh well. Great fun anyways!


    Commentary is indeed in Episode 1 - there's an option for commentary in Half-Life 2 itself, but so far no actual commentary is in that game.

    The commentary bubble system started with Lost-Coast, the freebie "tech demo" that's available to everyone who has HL2 in their Steam account. They use it in Portal and TF2 as well.

    Friday 25 January, 2008 by ajrich
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