I wanted to update the Half-Life community on a couple of things.
Doug Wood did a security guard multiplayer model, which we are going to be making available on-line. Dario Casali did a small 1:1 or 2:2
multiplayer map called Frenzy, which I've attached. Feel free to distribute.
We've been working with PC Gamer to distribute a multiplayer level
called The Hill, which they are going to be distributing with their magazine. It's a very vertical level, and is pretty popular here at
Valve (it's Marc Laidlaw's favorite multiplayer level right now). We've also been working with comic artist Shannon Wheeler to produce a
multiplayer model of Too Much Coffee Man (http://www.tmcm.com) that PC Gamer will also be distributing.
This is just the beginning of the additional content that will be available from both Valve and third parties.
Speaking of third parties, Harry Teasley (firstname.lastname@example.org) is
working with people who are interested in building maps, models, add-ons, expansion products, etc... Two other resources are the
Wavelength site at http://www.contaminated.net/wavelength/ and Chris
Bokitch's new page, http://halflife.gamedesign.net/.
People interested in commercial publication should contact Scott Lynch,Sr. VP of Sierra Studios (email@example.com).
The server situation is pretty good, with several hundred up at a time with good worldwide coverage. There were around 1,000 applicants to the
Primary Server Program. This program will be ongoing, and is intended to reward people in the Half-Life community who are doing things which
benefit the community as a whole (by hosting servers, running websites, and so on). Doug Lombardi at Sierra (firstname.lastname@example.org) is the
best contact for now if you have questions about this.
Zoid is working on the Linux port of the Half-Life dedicated server.
Once he's finished with that he'll be addressing some console related features that people have asked for that should make the dedicated
server easier to administer.
Yahn and Jay have been working with Tim and Jack at GameSpy to get
Half-Life support working. Some people have posted messages on-line that imply that GameSpy will somehow bypass the authentication and
validation of clients, but GameSpy fully supports the WON authentication process.
The pirates have been somewhat pesky. We started receiving fake
authentication requests from a non-gold release candidate over a week before the product was in stores.
The WON guys have been watching pirates trying to steal keys by sending the authentication servers bogus authentication requests. So far
they've been able to find about 6 valid keys this way (at a cost much higher in computer time and network bandwidth than just buying the
game), and fortunately they are not keys that have gone out in boxes. To date, no one should have had a pirate using their key, at least if
the pirate was looking for a key by talking to the WON servers.
The key generation software that was being sent around on the warez
channels is pretty goofy, and never would have passed the WON authentication scrutiny, just the single player game check. We've had
some pirates call up Sierra product support and complain about that.
The thing that is most annoying to me is that the bogus data they are generating makes it that much harder to assist people with legitimate
support problems. Fixing the shared key between client and dedicated server problem (described below) probably took an extra day because of
some bogus information that was posted by a pirate.
People who run dedicated servers and multiplayer clients at the same
One thing we totally screwed up was sharing a key between the dedicated server and the user's client. Basically if you ran a dedicated server,
you were locked out of playing multiplayer games with your client until you had stopped using the dedicated server for about 15 minutes. Ooops.
We decided to implement a simple solution to this - all dedicated servers will share a single hardwired key. The update will patch this
on the dedicated server. Since most people never run the dedicated server, or have even realized it was on their CD, it didn't cause too
much of a problem, but it is still an embarrassing oversight on our part, and we apologize to the server operators that this inconvenienced.
This also means that the dedicated server and client can be in the same directory.
Viruses and Half-Life
To reiterate a point made in another piece of email, Half-Life essentially acts as a virus checker by checking to see if the game files
on your machine match those of the current version. If you have a virus on your system and it infects your Half-Life files, you won't be able to
be authenticated by the authentication servers. This is much, much, much more likely to be a source of failed authentication than a pirated
The reason we put the check in is to make sure that people have the latest version of Half-Life. To a lesser extent it also makes it more
difficult for people to play with a hacked version of the game that would give them an unfair advantage (like the bogus player models people
used on Quake 2 for a while). As a side effect of the check, it also catches the case where the hl.exe has been modified by a virus. The
work around is simple - run a virus checker to detect and remove any viruses, uninstall and then reinstall Half-Life.
We're also putting out an update that should address some of the more frequent support problems. One problem that has confused some people is
that they have CD-ROM drives that either can't play the music tracks (because their CD-ROM doesn't deal with music tracks that start after
the data track) or they have disabled CD audio on that device. We've decided to disable the portion of the CD authentication that checked for
the music tracks, since it was tripping up legitimate customers. Of course they still won't hear the music until they get their CD audio
fixed, but they would have that with any game that uses CD music.
Here's a piece of e-mail that Ken Birdwell asked me to distribute to
help people until they get the update:
It looks like most everyone who is being stuck with the "Could not
validate Half-Life" error after being asked to "Please Insert the
Half-Life CD" is being caught by one of three things:
1) The Half-life CD needs to be in the first CD-ROM
2) Another application is actively using the CD
Audio when Half-Life starts up.
3) CD Audio isn't enabled.
To fix the first problem, make sure the Half-Life CD is in your first CD-ROM drive. To fix the second, close other applications which may be
accessing your CD-ROM drive, such as CD music players. If neither of these allows you to start a Half-Life game, run the application "CD
Player" that comes standard with Windows, it's under Programs > Accessories > Multimedia. If that doesn't work, then check Control
Panel > Multimedia > CD Music > CD ROM Selection, and make sure it's set to your first CD-ROM drive. If you're under NT, you may also want
to check Control Panel > Devices > Cdaudio, and make sure it's not disabled. Once the first two requirements are met, and the "CD Player"
application works, then Half-Life should "validate" without any problems.
Once people have the update, they will only have to do this to enable the music in the game - Half-Life will not look to see if the music
tracks are present before validating the CD.
We're also going to tweak the default configuration for multiplayer to
be more appropriate for people with lower speed modems or with high ping/bad packet loss. We had optimized them for more middle of the road
We're going to make sure that the default rate for LAN games is now hardwired to 9999 so that people won't have to set that themselves, and
we're also going to turn off the WON authentication attempts for LAN games. The theory behind that was that if servers were able to
authenticate via WON, then they should be running an Internet game, but the timeout on the WON authentication was confusing people. Instead
we'll limit LAN games to a single Class C sub-net. That should work a lot better for people running a home LAN or organizing a LAN party.
This update will be available on Wednesday, and will be available through the built-in autoupdate feature of Half-Life (or you can use the
Sierra Utilities to install the update as well).
For specific support information, FAQ's, and so on, some useful
* Sierra Studios Half-Life Information
* Message board for server administrators
* Sierra's main support page
* Half-Life Tips n Tricks on WON
There's a new forum on WON for reporting and getting
answers to support questions. People at Valve will be responding to
people's questions and issues.
* Madwacker's Unofficial Half-Life support page
* Half-Life hints from Prima's strategy guide
3rd Party Support
We'll be releasing four-speaker support with Creative Labs shortly. It
sounds very nice, and will be available as an automatic update.
On the video driver side, NVidia will be releasing new TNT drivers to
address some of the problems people have been seeing there. Matrox is also updating their G200 drivers for better D3D Half-Life support. Mike
Harrington has been working with S3 on support for their texture compression hardware, and as we get closer to releasing that, we'll let
people know more about it.
The localized versions of Half-Life should start appearing in stores
shortly, with the International English, French and German appearingright away, followed by Italian and Spanish in a few weeks. Japanese
will take a bit longer.