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Half-Life is a science fiction first-person shooter video game developed by Valve Software and the company's debut product. First released by Sierra Studios on November 19, 1998, the game was also released for the PlayStation 2 on November 14, 2001. Valve, set up by former Microsoft employees, had difficulty finding a publisher, with many believing that the game was "too ambitious". Sierra On-Line eventually signed the game after expressing interest in making a 3D action game. The game had its first major public appearance at the 1997 Electronic Entertainment Expo. Designed for Microsoft Windows, the game uses a heavily modified version of the Quake engine, called GoldSrc.
In Half-Life, players assume the role of Dr. Gordon Freeman, a recent graduate theoretical physicist who must fight his way out of a secret underground research facility, whose research and experiments into teleportation technology have gone wrong.
On its release, critics hailed its overall presentation and numerous scripted sequences, and it won over 50 PC Game of the Year awards. Its gameplay influenced first-person shooters for years to come, and it has since been regarded as one of the greatest games of all time. As of November 16, 2004, Half-Life has sold eight million copies. As of July 14, 2006, the Half-Life franchise has sold over 20 million units. In celebration of the game's 10th anniversary, Valve lowered the price of Half-Life to U.S. $0.98 on November 19, 2008 for three days.
The sequel, Half-Life 2, was merely a rumor until it was finally revealed at E3 in May 2003, which ignited a firestorm of hype surrounding the game. The player again takes the role of Gordon Freeman, this time several years after the Black Mesa incident in the dystopic Eastern European "City 17" where he must fight as part of a rebellion against an alien regime. After a series of controversies and delays, Half-Life 2 was released on November 16, 2004.
In 2005, Valve released a cut chapter Lost Coast as a tech demo, followed by two sequel installments, dubbed 'episodes', in 2006 and 2007 that left the story on a cliffhanger. The anticipation over the next game in the series (presumably Episode 3, although some have talked about Half-Life 3 instead) has since become a longstanding running gag in the video gaming community.
To experience firsthand the processes mod-makers would have to go through with the new engine, Valve ported Half-Life (dubbed Half-Life: Source) and Counter-Strike to their new Source engine. Half-Life: Source is a straight port, lacking any new content or the Blue Shift High Definition pack. However, it does take advantage of vertex and pixel shaders for more realistic water effects, as well as Half-Life 2's realistic physics engine. They also added several other features from Half-Life 2, including improved dynamic lightmaps, vertex maps, ragdolls, and a shadowmap system with cleaner, higher resolution, specular texture and normal maps, as well as utilization of the render-to-texture soft shadows found in Half-Life 2's Source engine, along with 3D skybox replacements in place of the old 16-bit color prerendered bitmap skies. The Half-Life port possesses many of the Source engine's graphical strengths as well as control weaknesses that have been noted in the Source engine. Half-Life: Source is available with special editions of Half-Life 2, or separately on Steam.
Half-Life Source has been criticized for not fully utilizing many of the features of the Source engine found in Half-Life 2, as it still uses textures and models from the original game. Due to this, third-party modders undertook a remake called Black Mesa that was released to the public September 2012.
Half-Life 2 was the original platform for Garry's Mod, and as such, is virtually synonymous with early Gmod-based machinima. After switching to Gmod in 2008, CivGeneral drew heavily from HL2 lore for his plotline, and several characters from the Half-Life universe frequently appear in DRAW Your Own Story: Dr. Breen was the main villain in late DYOS X and a minor foe in its sequel; Alyx Vance was CG's girlfriend until Samus' introduction in 2009; the G-man has served several times as a plot device; and Gordon Freeman plays a "Where's Waldo?" role in Gmod comics by Thorvald of Lym.
- Black Mesa: Source official site