Basic Information

Half-Life will use ID Software's Quake engine. You may think this is old technology, but Valve has made major changes to the engine to make it a completely different game. One of Valve's goals was to make almost every advantage of hardware acceleration, available in software.-- Mike

Improvements to the Quake engine

All first-person shooters in the past (including Quake) used 8-bit graphics, giving them a maximum of 256 colors. This feature made the games have unrealistic lighting and wall textures. Not so with Half-Life; Half-Life will have 16-bit graphics in software! That's right, for you people (and me) who don't have a 3D accelerator, you can see the game in beautiful 16-bits. 16-bits has 65,536 colors which are down-rendered from the original 24-bit graphics and are a great enhancement over the 8-bit, 256 color palette. But those of you who are lucky enough to have a 3D accelerator, and those really, really lucky people who have 3DFX cards (I'm still looking for a donation!), the game will show the full 24-bit graphics. A 24-bit color graphic has over 16.7 million colors! This will make Half-Life probably the most realistic game ever! But these visual enhancements also come at a slight frame rate drop. Expect a 20-30% decrease in performance with 16-bit colors instead of 8-bit.-- Mike

Here's a crash course in images.:
1 bit = an on/off switch.
1 byte = 8 bits, therefore 1 byte = 256 possible combinations (2 to the 8th power).
an 8-bit graphic takes up 1 byte (8 bits) per pixel, thus limiting colors to a 256 palette (2 to the 8th power).
16-bit graphics take up 2 bytes (16 bits) per pixel, which creates a color choice of 65,536 colors (2 to the 16th power).
finally a 24-bit graphic takes up 3 bytes (24 bits) per pixel, allowing 16,777,216 colors (2 to the 24th power).
If you still don't get it, don't bother reading further.
Most images don't need all 256 color, most look fine at 100 or even as low as 64. The reason Quake was so drab was that every image used the same palette. If the graphics each used their own palette, which some game that I can't remember the name of is planning, the colors would still be confined to 256 but each would be free to have their own combination. A palette is a collection of colors that a gif or 16-bit bitmap is confined to. Hexen 2 uses the same technique, as well as Quake2. Quake2 can have 16-bit graphics because OpenGL smooths the colors and makes the quality better. There is no file that supports 16-bit graphics. GL upgrades an 8-bits image and the upcoming Unreal and Half-life will downgrade a 24-bit in order to achieve the 65,536 colors of a 16-bit graphic. Both 8-bit and 24-bit graphics use all possible combinations of the three basic colors, red, green, blue, to create 16,777,216 colors, but the 8-bit must choose 256 of them while the 24-bit may use all of the colors. But this uses up much more space, three times as much. I once ended up with a 106Mb bmp on my hard-drive from my scanner. Jpeg's support 24-bit graphics, Gif's support 8-bit, and BMP's support 1-bit, 4 bit, 8-bit, and 24-bit graphics. 1-bit is 2 colors, and 4-bit is 16 colors. The easiest way to remember the color amount is to calculate 2 (a bit, which is the on/off switch) to the power of the graphic.
2 to a 1-bit graphic = 2 to the 1st power = 2X1 = 2
2 to a 4-bit graphic = 2 to the 4th power = 2X2X2X2 = 16
2 to a 8-bit graphic = 2 to the 8th power = 2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2 = 256
2 to a 16-bit graphic = 2 to the 16th power = 2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2 = 65,536
2 to a 24-bit graphic = 2 to the 24th power = 2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2X2 = 16,777,216
-- Dann the Man

Lighting, translucency, and blurring

Half-Life designers can blend light and color in any way they want it, so the possibilities are endless. Some things that have alredy been included are metallic surfaces, smoke, see-through water and energy beams, even force fields that will fade in and out. And no this is not only for those people that spent $200 to get a new 3D card, all this will be put in software, but will look even cooler in hardware!-- Mike

Skeletal Animation System

Did you ever notice that in all FPS games, the monsters do the same movements over and over again? That's because the engineers had to make a whole new model for each frame of movement. To make fluid monsters this way, it would take forever. But Half-Life is introducing something new that has never been seen before in a PC game called Skeletal Animation System. The only game ever to use this is Goldeneye on N64. This allows designers to make very fluid monsters because they are not sprites, the monsters actually have a spine with skin wrapped around. Also to make a new movement, a whole new model does not need to be made, all that has to be done is for the body parts that are going to be moving to be changed. This allows for frame cycles of around 80 frames, or maybe even more! So eye blinking, scratching, finger movement, realistic gun movement, monsters turning their heads to look at you, and many other possibilites are possible. Also monsters will do things while you are not there, or they don't notice you, such as swatting flies, scratching themselves, grooming, etc.-- Mike

My computer cost more than my car, let it do the work. -- Dann the Man

High Polygon Monsters

Another advantage of the skeletal animation system is the ability of having complex, high polygon monsters. Most FPS games have no more than 500 polygons in their monsters, but Half-Life is rumored to have a monster that has 6,000 polygons! I doubt this, but almost all Half-Life monsters will have around 1,000 to 2,000 polygons.-- Mike

Different Body Parts

Yet another advantage of the skeletal animation system is the ability to swith skins on a model. If you don't get what I mean, picture this: Valve probably has only made 1 scientist model, so you would think they all look alike. WRONG!!!! With the skeletal animation system, body parts can be changed so that scientists have different hair color, different faces, no glasses, different clothes, different skin color, etc. This will allow for a much more realistic gameplay.-- Mike

Artificial Intelligence

Smart monsters. Smart monsters. How long is it gonna be before companies figure out that smart monsters is the key to a great game. How long I ask....... the answer is when Half-Life comes out. No more of monsters with shotguns running up to you with your rocket launcher when they are almost dead (unless Valve intends to make that monster really dumb), and then they get blown into tiny little chunks. The Half-Life monsters will have something that no other monsters in any other game had: The will to live. When a monster knows it is badly injured, overpowered, or just knows it can't win by itself, they will run away or get some friends to help. No more kamikaze runs. The monsters in the game are probably smarter than you and me. The monsters know how much health you have, how much ammo you have, and what situation you are in. This is what they will study to see if it makes sense to attack or not. Some monsters are group monsters. They will get together and attack you, thinking that 20 is better than 1. Some group monsters are Houndeyes and Headcrabs. Monsters also have certain senses like in real life. Monsters use their best senses, whatever they are - sight, hearing, smelling, feeling, or tasting to hunt you down. This will greatly affect how a player would want to play. The best strategy in Half-Life isn't always run and shoot. An example is when you enter a room with a Tentacle, who can only hear. If you go in with your guns a blazin', the Tentacle will sense you right away, and smash you like a bug. But if you go in quietly, get above the Tentacle and drop a gernade onto it, you will be much more succesful than before.-- Mike

Game Play

Half-Life will put you into a whole new dimension of real life. There is so much going on that you don't know about when you enter the game - Monsters are breeding, groups are getting together, etc. Not all of the monsters are bad, and not all of the humans are good. Not all monsters are interested in killing you, some just want to eat, and some just want to be left alone. There is really no such thing as levels in Half-Life, just short pauses before you can continue your ourney through the hall. Also going back through these levels is possible, and needed to pass the game. When you go back to a level you haven't visited in a while, you might notice that all is not what it used to be. When you left the level, all the was left were 2 Headcrabs, now there are a 100! That's because the Headcrabs reproduced while you were gone. A really cool feature are drivable vehicles, and usable props. Haven't you played a whole bunch of games, and sometime you say "Wouldn't be cool if I could drive that truck to run over people," or "I wish I could pick up that broken piece of glass and chop someone upp with it"? In Half-Life these things can be done. If you got a Prelim CD, you could see that you could drive a train and run over people. You also have complete control over it: stop, go, change tracks, turn, etc. In addition to run, walk, and jump, in Half-Life you can duck, crawl, and crouch. This will be an interesting feature in not onlysingle play but also multiplayer. Think about it..... crouching behind a crate waiting for someone to come along.-- Mike


Half-Life will support up to 32 players! Multi-player will probably be done over Sierra's, and TCP/IP.-- Mike


Valve will use DSP (Digital Signal Processing) to make sounds in Half-Life. In traditional FPS games, all the sounds sound the same, even in completely different environments. But with DSP, a gun shot will sound muffled in a tight area, and will echo in a large, open area, just like it would in real life. DSP will also save hard drive space and memory. DSP also allows for 3D sound. 3D sound allows a player to tell what direction a sound came from - up, down, left, right, in front, or behind.-- Mike

System Requirements

Minimum Requirements
  • Pentium 100
  • 2X CD-ROM
  • 16 MB RAM
  • Windows 95
  • SVGA 640 x 480 at 8-bit
  • Windows compatible Sound Card
  • A mouse and a keyboard
  • Pentium 166 w/ MMX
  • 4X CD-ROM
  • 32 MB RAM
  • Windows 95
  • SVGA 640 x 480 at 16-bit
  • Sound Blaster or compatible
  • Joystick or gamepad
  • 3D accelerator card HIGHLY RECOMMENDED