The Ted B interview
DD: First tell us which monsteres you have created, that have already been mentioned elsewhere, in previews or magazines etc..
Ted B: Half-Life has more than forty characters. These include everything from the massive big mamma to the lowly cockroach. Of these, I've modeled, textured and animated approximately half. Some of my favorites are the human grunt, alien controller, female assassin, houndeye, scientist, bullsquid, big mamma, headcrab, ichthyosaur, kingpin and of course, Mr. Friendly.
DD: Second, I was wondering how the skin will be wrapped around the mesh, the models show don't seem to have stretched skins or a noticeable seem line.
Ted B: Well it's pretty simple actually. You can put textures on however you would like. You can have one or one hundred maps assigned to your model. There are no restrictions on the direction or angle of any given mapping plane. What this means is that you don't have to follow any kind of template or formula if you want to create maps. All you have to do is select a group of polygons and lay on your texture.
DD: What program do you use to model the characters?
I use 3D Studio Max v1.2 with Clay Studio Pro to model. If you haven't seen Clay Studio Pro before, it's pretty cool. You can construct your creature using nurb muscles; it's very intuitive. But this is just the setup I use, Chuck Jones still uses Animation Master to make his models because he's used to spline modeling. You can use whatever you want to model really, as long as it can export to a common format. Texture placement and animation must occur in 3D Studio Max though.
DD: Yes/No: Will there be any cameos, or comic relief as most games have done?
Ted B: There is humor in the game, but it's more the kind of humor you'd see in an adult action film than the slapstick Saturday cartoon humor you see in some action games.
DD: Let's finally clear this up: what is the Average poly count for a creature.
Ted B: Our polygon count is determined by the behavior of the creatures. Those creatures that prefer to exist in squads, packs or gangs are going to have fewer polygons. Creature that are loners have much higher polygon counts. We have created the creatures with radically varying polygon numbers, so to give an average wouldn't really tell you too much.
DD: Are those manta and/or other ambient creatures still going to be used?
Ted B: There's around ten different 'ambient' creatures. I've squealed like a little pig on many occasions while playing 'squash the cockroach'. Steve Bond is my hero.
DD: Is Mr. Friendly still in the game?
Ted B: Yes
Question: How easy will it be for amatuer editors to manipulate the skeletal animation system? What programs will we need to accomplish this?
Ted B: We will provide the necessary tools for people to create and animate Half-Life creatures. We will also provide source code for people who want to create their own tools or create plug-ins for other modelers.
Can you give me some examples of the animations of the enemies (like the grunt)? On the N64 game Golden Eye there in some really cool animations made by the Skelletal animation system will you have even better and more animations?
Will players be able to choose diffrent parts of the body of the player in multiplay so you can make a lot of combinations so that every player can be recognized in multiplay. Like diffrent hair colors and diffrent combinations of clothes. The skelatal animation system should make this possible.
Ted B: The human grunt has more than 45 behavior animations, plus hundreds of frames of unique scripted sequence animations. For instance, you'll see a scientist plead with a grunt for help and get rather violently rebuffed. You'll see grunts rappelling out of helicopters. It would be safe to say that the human grunt has more frames of animation than all the characters combined in other action games.
Ken Birdwell is an incredibly talented and experienced programmer and the animation system he created is amazing. In Half-Life, you'll see characters moving due to traditional behavior animations, programmatic animations (like heads turning), level designer's instructions, site specific sequences, and unique scripted sequences. Our engine is an animator's engine; we are truly spoiled by it.
With the new Skeletel Animation system can you change the looks of the same character to create character diversity?
Ted B: The skeletal-based model system lets us substitute body groups. This means is that you see characters with some of the body parts changed. The most common use for this is alternate heads. For instance, in Half-Life you'll see many unique scientist characters. All the (male) scientists share a body model but look quite different because we have created a variety of different head models. Another example of how we use this capability are the alternate body parts used for the German version of the game.
In Half-Life, how will you pick up weapons? Will they spin and float in the air like Quake (I hope not) or will they be on the ground and other places like real life?
Ted B: One thing we are trying to do with Half Life is make it as realistic as possible. We think sounds should be affected by the type of room you're in, monsters should have a sense of self-preservation, wet floors should be slippery, etc. Weapons will not spin, but will be placed so as to make sense. You will find a gun rack in a security area, a pistol in a drawer, a rifle laying on the ground near a half consumed corpse. And when you want to improve your health, you need to find a first aid box on the wall rather than find some "health symbol" spinning in the air.