Several versions of Half-Life 2 to be released (?)

This may be nothing more than pre-release hype, though creating confusion among potential buyers seems like a bad marketing move. Offering a single-player only version along side a single/multiplayer/MOD support version is reasonable if they are prepared for the inevitable whining from consumers who fail to read the box before buying. Considering there will be several patches in the next few months, a “collector’s edition” at the initial release seems premature, but I can’t blame them for going after a few extra dollars.

The subscription-based scheme is curious. I wonder if this is an experiment to see if FPS players are willing to buy into the monthly fee program (I am not).

Valve Software, Sierra Entertainment and Vivendi Universal have not had the best relationship during the HL2 project, complicated by the bankruptcy & sale of Vivendi to GE/NBC. Valve’s Gabe Newell may not have the final word on all this.

In case the link fails, this is the word from Newell:

Here’s my current thinking: Some people want to buy Half-Life 2 in a store. Right now we have three SKUs planned at three price points. One will have single-player only and not play MODs and we think of that as the mass market SKU (sold mainly at the Costcos and Walmarts of the world). The second is our traditional single-player plus multiplayer SKU that runs MODs and is sold at places like EBX. The third is the collector’s edition SKU with lots of cool bonus stuff for people who like cool bonus stuff.

In the Steam world, some people will want to buy it once, like the middle SKU above. Other people will want to buy the game on subscription (e.g. USD 9.95/month). The good news for the “buy it once” crowd is, well, they only have to pay once. The bad news is that when we come out with new content (expansion products, TF 2, and presumably other games) then they have to pay separately for those. We’re pretty sure that the USD 9.95 guys are going to get the better value, as we’ve been pretty good over the years at generating a lot of content.

Now nobody has done this before, so we’re scratching our heads and massaging the plans to make sure we’ve got the best set of options. We’ve had some feedback that we should sell the top SKU (single-player only no MODs) on Steam, and my reaction has been “yeah, right, for the three people in the world who have a broadband connection, are sophisticated enough to purchase software over the Internet, but DON’T want to play MODs and multiplayer”. Some people have said “I want a subscription, but I think the box and the manual are cool, so what about sending me those” and I think that’s pretty interesting and we’re trying to figure out what to do for them (needless to say Sierra isn’t exactly jumping for joy at the idea of selling us boxes so people don’t buy Half-Life 2 in stores).

But nowhere has there been a suggestion that people pay in the store and then pay a monthly fee on top of that a la the MMORPG.


The monthly fee thing seems odd. The idea seems to be, you pay for it at $10.00 a month, but that also covers all the add-ons and expansions. I don’t see how that works out to be a better value, unless they release a new expansion every three months or so. Which may be possible, if the buzz about the new toolset is accurate. Still, I’m not going to pay for it, and I doubt that this idea makes it to the market.

The WalMart version sounds like a good idea, though. Selling a stripped down, $20 version to the folks that made Deer Hunter a smash hit could be a savvy marketing move.

Interesting. The subscription things may make sense for casual gamers who just want to beat the main game. It’s like a rental (assuming you don’t have to pay upfront for the box).

Alternatively they may release a whole lot of bonus material every month which makes it worthwhile. There may be two types of patches: basic bug-fixing patches for everyone and patches with all sorts of playable goodies for the subscribers.

If true, this seems like good news to me. I’d definitely be buying the multiplayer only retail version. I couldn’t care less about any online, multiplayer, or MOD content, and like not having to pay extra for stuff I won’t use.

D’Oh. That first line should read, “I’ll definitely be buying the single player only version.” Being able to buy the core game without paying for all of the extras is something that I’ve wanted to be able to do for a long time.

Heh. I’m currently working for as a news poster, and I started and organize the huge info thread that collects all the scattered emails people have gotten from the devs in response to questions about the game.

So I’ve been dealing with this latest mess quite a bit lately: it’s got a lot of confused people up in arms.

But basically, they are offering five different purchase points

3 are for the retail markets

  1. SP only version of HL2: much cheaper (and you can later upgrade to the full version simply by paying the difference on Steam)
  2. SP/MP version: what you’d expect in terms of features/price
  3. Collectors edition: SP/MP plus “cool bonus stuff”- more expensive

2 are for purchase online, via Steam (their new cross-game frontend/content delivery/online store program)

  1. Regular SP/MP version (like the boxed version: maybe even with an option to be sent a box and hardcopy manual)
  2. Subscription service that gives you not only HL2, but ANY game, expansion, or other content that Valve puts out, including future games like TF2, CS2, etc. and older games, like HL, Op4, BlueShift, etc.

Option 5 is obviously the most controversial, and they have yet to really announce how it works, or what you’ll get (which is crucial , given that its hard to be sure what they’ll release, and when). Will you be able to treat it like a rental, and play HL2 all the way through in one month for only 9.95? It’s not clear yet.

What IS clear is that patches and other fixes and upgrades WILL be available for everyone, not just the subscribers. And if you aren’t a subscriber, you can still buy anything you want on a case by case basis (though it wont be as good a value)

Steam may well revolutionize the industry, changing the way designers deliver content to gamers. It’s a risk and an experiment, but it’s neat that they are trying something new on such a major scale. If it’s a big succcess, it could cut a sizable chunk out of the distribution costs that inflate game prices. In addition, Steam will let you access your “right” to HL2 (or other games) anywhere you go, independant of what computer you’re using. As long as it has broadband, you just download steam, log in, download your game, and play.

The Steam beta ends next week, meaning the release of the full version of Steam as well as, hopefully, the backlog of HL2 movies.

To clarify, buying any copy of HL2 will get you Steam (the and its ability to upgrade your copy of HL over the internet, as well as automatically patch and upgrade the game) Buying a copy of HL2 on anything other than the subscription is like buying a single “ticket” that give you to the right to play the game anytime you want (though that single ticket cannot be used to simulatenously run two copies of the game).

As I noted, even if this happens, they can easily upgrade to the full MP support by paying the difference in cost.

The collector’s edition means that it will be a bunch of release goodies (as yet unannounced). Probably something like metal boxes, t-shirts, a minature black hole, etc. :slight_smile: That’s what they mean by “collector’s.”

All copies of HL2 will patch/update themselves automatically as long as you allow them to do so (i.e., by default, and if you continue to allow it, Valve can have Steam download patches onto your computer, and then at some point they will switch it on worldwide at the same time, meaning that everyone will always be patched to the same version, without them even having to worry about getting and installing patches). They can do tiny (but important) bugfixes whenever needed, without worrying about, or waiting for, major releases. And they can add features to the engine as time goes on to take advantage of new hardware, drivers, etc.

Increased consumer choice? I’m all for it. But I won’t be buying any $10 monthly subscription. Good god, I would have sent Valve around $600 by now if I’d signed up for that plan back when they released the original Half-Life, and I still wouldn’t have the sequel or TF2, what with their perpetual delays. With that track record, you’d have to be a fool to fall for the subscription. But hey, fools are consumers too. :slight_smile:

It’s just another tool used by game manufacturers to try and milk game players. There’s no chance I’m paying anyone the price of a game + $$ per month to continue to play it. That is essentially what this will lead to.

Thanks for the details, Apos. I get that buyers will be able to download multiplayer content if they grab the wrong box. You know, however, that some people seemingly live to find things to complain about. I see it as a possible hassle for the retailers.

I’ll be interested to learn how the subscription plan plays out. Certainly there is a huge potential for Valve, both in generating $ from lengthy subscripitions and in lowering distribution costs. I don’t fault them for taking a chance, someone had to do it eventually. I imagine the publisher may have some issues with this after spending for promotion, packaging, and distribution to the stores. This obviously is not a major issue now, but I can see the developer/publisher relationship being strained over this and the division of subscription revenue in the future.

Only if players can’t so simple math. Like all purchases, you weigh the stream of benefits against the stream of costs, converted into present value. If costs are more than the expected benefits, no one is forcing you to buy. But that can happen regardless of a subscription option. Would you really buy a 50$ game for 90$ just because it was a single, upfront cost? The payment schedule is irrelevant to whether something is too expensive or not.

You may think that’s where this is going, but currently, this is not like MMORPGs. There is no “price of game” for the subscription service. It’s access to all Valve-related games, all content, etc., for the single fee. There is no upfront cost.

The boxes will be clearly labeled, and have obvious price differences. If people make a mistake, I suppose they could take it out on retailers, but since there is an easy remedy, I don’t think it’ll have much traction.

Definately. It will be very interesting to see how it all plays out.

Slightly off-topic: Why did it take so long for Valve to put out HL2? Have they been working this entire time on a new engine?

KidCharlemagne the short answer is yes.

This has been discussed to death, but what Valve did was develop the game in silence (unlike Doom III and a certain character named Duke Nukem ) and then drop the equivalent of a nuclear warhead on the gaming world when they said “Yes, there IS a Half Life 2, and it will be ready on Sep 30th.”

Go here for everything you always wanted to know about HL2.

They’ve been working on a lot of new stuff. Yes, they started from scratch on a new engine, and they’ve been working on a large number of new technologies that are above and beyond what was required to program the sort of 3d engine of yesteryear. They spent lots of time on dynamic facial animations, “acting” for characters, a real-time rigid-body physics model, and other things you wouldn’t have had to worry about in previous years.

In a way, it’s really just one instance of a problem for the whole industry. The more advanced technology gets, the longer it takes to develop a game. You need lots more higher-quality art. You need many many different technologies on top of just a simple renderer. And so on.

Of course, the real story on HL2’s development is yet to be told. for all we know, a “HL2” was finished 2 years ago, but they scrapped it and started over like they did with HL. They are supposedly putting out a book that details what happened in those 5 years.

Whether we’ll really see it on Sept. 30th, however, remains to be seen. They are playtesting, which is a good sign, but you never know what last minute bugs can crop up.

Sorry to bother you with another question, Apos, as I’m sure discussion of HL2 has become beyond tedious for you. I was over at Blue’s News and saw some ranting about Steam linked to a thread at where you were involved.

Let’s say I have no interest in online play whatsoever, all I want to do is play the solo game (the circular HUD looks very cool). So I buy the single-player only package. Am I required to install Steam to validate the CD_Key and download patches? Will Steam load on the front end when starting a single-player session? I may get into multiplayer in the future, if Sven co-op does a MOD, but for now I’d like to avoid the Steam network if possible. I guess I don’t have that “pioneer spirit” ;).

Nah, I love talking HL2.

Anyway the circular HUD is actually for Deus Ex Invisible War. HL2 has tiny yellow HUD elements on the bottom and sides of the screen.

If you buy the SP-only package, Steam will still come with it, because Steam is essentially HL2’s menuing/GUI system/frontend. However, you shouldn’t need an internet connection to play. If you have one, that’s great, and Steam will be the preffered way to patch the game, but I’m pretty sure that netless computers will have some means of activation.

You can purchase MP over Steam anytime you want, of course. You pretty much can’t avoid the Steam network if you have any online prescence in the HL2 gaming world: there’s no way around it. But if you stick to SP-only, you shouldn’t come in contact with it much. What about it bothers you?

Sven Co-op is pretty much the official Co-op mod for HL2: I can’t wait to see it (though it’ll probably take a few months for a beta to come out).

I was just looking at pilot141’s link about HL2 in which it is mentioned that a 2ghz processor is recommended. 2 GIGAHERTZ! I don’t even have 1ghz! And that site just casually mentions it in between some other bits of info.

It seems I’ve been out of the loop for a little TOO long. Time to start saving for a upgrade again…

the min specs are 733mHz and a TNT2 level card. Of course, it wont look very pretty… but Gabe has said that the major gameplay features, like physics and facial animations, will work even for the minimum spec.

Course, I’m going to get a new rig myself: I’m currently at 700mhz and a TNT2, ironically enough.

Whoops, I was looking at Deus Ex 2 screenshots, reading about HL2 and watching the NFL this morning. At least my screw-up was FPS related and not something about a zone blitz.

I have no specific reservations about Steam, from what I have read it looks like an efficient system. When I have time for multiplayer, I prefer to play co-op with friends with a speaker phone going so we can work together (lately in Ghost Recon & Raven Shield). The Team vs. Team multiplayer does not interest me so I have no need for a network log-in or a server browser (until and unless Sven does their thing).

The uninformed vitriol directed at Valve over this is hilarious. Apparently some people are taking their standard Microsoft rant and pasting “Valve” or “Steam” in place of the usual “M$.”