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Highlighting HL2 Episode One's Commentary Track 44

Via GameSetWatch, an article on Waxy.org highlighting the great audio commentary for Half-Life 2: Episode One. The article includes a few excerpts from the experience, via flash movies. From the article: "Most of the game's 115 nodes are audio only, pointing out interesting tidbits about the scene you're currently in, such as the visual design, character dialogue, or gameplay. Some of the best examples discuss the iterations a stage or puzzle went through, why original versions didn't live up to expectations, and how they reached their final design. It's a fascinating glimpse into the minds of the developers, very much like sitting next to them as you play through at your own pace. But a few commentary nodes do much more, taking over the player's view to show them something hidden or entirely new. I've captured video from some of my favorites." Completely worth it to play through a second time to experience.
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Highlighting HL2 Episode One's Commentary Track

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  • by Future Man 3000 ( 706329 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @05:17PM (#16055373) Homepage
    Granted, I've always enjoyed easter eggs, but I have to figure audio commentary takes up a huge chunk of HDD space -- space that's already all-too-scarce when games now take multigigs to install. It's not bloat if you want it, but if you don't want it can you get rid of it?
    • by Dr. Eggman ( 932300 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @05:23PM (#16055414)
      Nope, its part of the package. Extracted from 1.19 GB GCF, for my out of game listening enjoyment, however it's only 68.4 MB. Not massive and I suspect the GCF has some sort of compression that means it's not really that much space.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by lolocaust ( 871165 )
      It's part of the game's data files. I'm sure they're compressed highly, since I've compressed (to MP3) voice only sounds to really low bitrates with little perceptable loss in quality. tbh, it's probably nothing compared to the rest of the gamedata.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Southpaw018 ( 793465 ) *
      HL2 shows as 841 MB on my HD; EP1 shows as an additional 606 MB (the games are independent of one another, and when you delete a game, you're free to download it later).

      The Source engine core is probably another 2.5 GB. All told, my SteamApps folder, which includes Valve's ENTIRE catalog (19 games, including the entire HL and CS series) + 2 3rd party games is 15.2 GB.

      Direct answer to your question: as others have said, no. This is included with the game.
    • by SharpFang ( 651121 ) on Wednesday September 06, 2006 @07:30PM (#16056193) Homepage Journal
      Stop complaining about diskspace of the commentary track. It's relatively small and definitely a feature. Instead look into the "sound" folder and replay all the sounds that are there.

      Developers sure didn't care to remove development, testing and obsolete files.

      There's LOTS of quite lengthy sequences including at least two versions of every single sentence said by most major characters, including something that was scrapped from the game (secret shrine with Breen's busts collection anyone?), plethora of random sentences to be said by your squad (you get a squad of 1 or 2 for a really short piece of the game), and lots of other sounds you're never going to hear.
      I really wonder if the situation is similar with the rest of the game data. Seems likely.
    • by DaFrog ( 703113 )
      Yep - You have to install it the same way you installed a bloated OS and a few bloated apps - A word processor (Textor) used to fit on a single 5"1/4 floppy... (darn, I must be old) - However, a Gig is less than $1 today, so, is this really a problem? -DaFrog
  • It needed it. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by wileyAU ( 889251 )
    Completely worth it to play through a second time to experience.
    I beat the game in less than 6 hours. Playing again with commentary added some much needed value to the package.
    • by ClamIAm ( 926466 )
      Ditto for movie DVDs. Of course, I'm not sure if I'd watch some movies again just to hear the commentary.
      • For some films it is worth it, particularly comedy films as the people commenting are often very funny. Spinal Tap actually has an 'in character' commentary with the three main characters looking back at the time they were followed around by a documentary crew, it is like a whole extra film and is (unsuprisingly) very funny.
    • Today I started playing Episode 1. Let me rephrase that. Today I finished playing Episode 1.

      No, really. I found it to be an altogether enjoyable experience. It was much more fun to work with others (namely Alyx) throughout the duration of the game. Speaking of, I clocked in at just under 4 Hours, including a 30 minute dinner break. The length was kinda disappointing, but such is life. as a side note, I am an avid FPSer, and it will likely take most people much more time, such as the 6 hours the parent po
  • I played a bit of Episode 1 with the commentary on and found it interesting, though not enough to finish the entire episode a second time. I'm looking forward to Episode 2, which looks better in every way.
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      How about playing it with a slow-motion button so you can study the physics in greater detail?

      http://jooh.no/clips.html [jooh.no]

      Just add this
      bind "g" "host_timescale 1.0"
      bind "q" "host_timescale 0.3"
      Steam\SteamApps\username\half-life 2 episode one\episodic\cfg\config.cfg
      You may need to enable cheats, add a sv_cheats "1" line too.

      If this is software then I'm really excited about what a PPU like Ageia PhysX can do. Wreak havoc with explosive projectiles and bullet-time ability among hordes of monsters with no dip in
      • The problem with the commentary for me was that there was no way to fast-forward, skip, or rewind. Some parts I found tremendously boring, while others were fascinating. I only want to hear the fascinating parts. Going slower by watching physics is not something that I'm interested in. I'm good enough at FPS games that I can typically just do something a second time if I want to see it again.
  • by Anonymous Coward
    Here's a great 47 minute video of great player commentary of some of the best moments of Episode One.

    http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-779199230 4107970746 [google.com]
  • Unpleasant truth. (Score:2, Interesting)

    by SharpFang ( 651121 )
    The idea is nice but it reveals some of the internals which are NOT pleasant. What do I mean? "Player gets rewarded by the view of...", "Here we get an opportunity to display some Alex's emotions, making her more believable", "we tried [some horrible, really dumb idea] but we got reports from betatesters that they didn't like it, so we changed it." "It is important to reward the player with praises from Alex"

    The story is not a result of a talent. Talent makes the story feel real, be believable because it fe
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      The commentary made it very clear that the designers aborted what they wanted to do with the game - you were not supposed to have a weapon other than the gravity gun until the final third of the game (partway through Urban Flight). That would have made it a very different and unique game. [This is stated as late as the commentary node about pulling the boards of so Alyx can snipe the zombies in Urban Flight]. Given they had to fudge their concept back into something more traditional, it's not all that su
    • by garyok ( 218493 )

      The underlying script - the concept - is good. But when it left hands of the writer, it wasn't implemented with the game written around it. It got in hands of game designers and they hammered it into the concept of a game, mangling it beyond recognition. Real world isn't split into physics puzzles, vistas, combat arenas and storytelling locations. The commentary track just makes it painfully obvious.

      Sometimes I think game designers shouldn't listen to the focus groups. Like Dilbert said, "What users wan

    • Im not sure I understand your complaint. A game like half life 2: episode 1, which has a set script, can really never be made any different way than with a massive amount of triggers. The entire game is able to tell a well thought out story by leading the player through an environment with only minimal hints at what they should do. If anything, thats what I got out of the commentary track, that they went through a great many iterations of the same scene to make it feel like more fluid an experience. I usual
      • by grumbel ( 592662 )

        A game like half life 2: episode 1, which has a set script, can really never be made any different way than with a massive amount of triggers.

        There is nothing wrong with a bunch of triggers, the throuble that I had with Half Life 2 (or better the Ravenholm Demo, since I haven't played the full game) however was that the triggers where all to obvious. It looked and feld like a tour in a theme park, you visit some interesting places, have some fun, but you aren't allowed to leave the trolley. There simply w

    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      by cgenman ( 325138 )
      When you're developing a game, you rely upon certain techniques to create emotion, a sense of forboding, etc. These techniques can be as simple as "your robot pal dies here" or as complicated as having multilayered reactive music enter and drop out as conditions change. But they're all techniques. A well-scheduled plot twist here, a stat-driven character building dungeon there... all thought about down to the moment, all heavily planned, and all relying upon a simple batch of techniques that the devleopm
      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by SharpFang ( 651121 )
        A well-scheduled plot twist here, a stat-driven character building dungeon there... all thought about down to the moment, all heavily planned, and all relying upon a simple batch of techniques that the devleopment team picked up over the years.

        When you write a book or a story, you may lay out the plot schedule on paper, plan every piece of action and interaction, apply plot devices at strategical points, then wear it nicely in words and you most likely get a horrible, boring, unreadable pulp. Or you write a
        • The golden rule of GOOD books is

          Yeah, but.

          Good books require good writers. Games, generally, don't have good writers. A number of years ago, I played a few games and I was impressed with a number of technical things that were beyond my comprehension. "There's some mighty clever programming, there" I thought to myself. I also thought to myself "but some complete idiot wrote this script. I could do better myself."

          I could have done better myself. Though all my paid writing had been nonfiction, the cra

          • by cgenman ( 325138 ) on Thursday September 07, 2006 @09:49AM (#16058825) Homepage
            Most of the gaming companies I know hire writers specifically. The problem isn't that writers aren't involved, the problem is that writing for games is very different than writing for other mediums.

            For a short run-down: Dialog needs to be very, very short in games. It needs to be visual. You need to define characters in ways that don't conflict with player initiated actions. You need to integrate real gameplay sequences (which would normally be terrible writing). You need to establish and stick to a palette of expressive animations. You need to write your plot for all of the possible ways that the player can traverse through that plot, and ensure that conflicting information and worldstate is never achieved. It needs to be paced for 20 - 40 hours. It needs to be technically possible to implement on a budget, which means paradoxically that flying through space is OK but fabric falling to the floor is not. It needs to be modular enough that when you cut two sections for time from the final game, the plot still makes sense. And it needs to "feel" right when you've moved your sequence from ten lines on a page to eight months later when you have a character running and jumping and dying.

            A friend of mine just finished a project which had hired a big-name and well skilled author to write scripts for his game, and the results were functionally unusable. He just didn't get the structure of gaming, the non-linearity of it, and the types of things which can be effectively communicated or done in the digital realm.

            Game writers need to have strong backgrounds in game design, and more than a little programming, art knowledge, and production. Oh, and they have to be amazing writers. That's a pretty rare overlap of skills. They had to dump him, hire a lesser known hollywood writer, dump him, then hire a game designer with a writing background to finish up.

            Most gaming companies that I've seen "get" that they need writers. They just have a terrible time finding the right ones.
    • Wow. This post and the replies to it have to be some of the most sanctimonially ignorant game critiques I've ever seen. And that's saying something.
      • Re: (Score:1, Offtopic)

        by SharpFang ( 651121 )
        Please reword or apply parenthesis. This sentence is way too ambigious.

        sanctimonially ignorant game critiques:

        - critiques of sanctimonial and ignorant game
        - sanctimonial and ignorant critiques of game
        - sanctimonial critiques of ignorant game

        especially considering how sanctimonial the commentary track is, and pieces of real ignorance show through. (Alyx, with her piss-poor AI, leading the player through half the game and nagging him to hurry up continuously?!)
    • This objection seems kind of... missing the point?

      You complain about the commentary system breaking immersion. Fine - turn it off. It's like complaining because DVDs ship with a director's commentary as an optional extra - you don't like it, don't listen to it.

      The whole point of these kinds of commentaries is to give the playter an insight into the "behind the scenes" processes that went into making up the game - developer motivations, how and why the action is paced, things they did to tighten up the plo
      • by cgenman ( 325138 )
        Not to take too much away from your commentary, which seemed otherwise dead on, but Myst is the third best [ownt.com] selling PC game of all time. In sales, it only trails The Sims and Counter...err... Half-Life 1.

        It was truly, insanely, ridiculously profitable in the way that only a very few games have managed. The mechanics did not hinder sales numbers.

    • by Guspaz ( 556486 )
      I'll ignore the discussion on HL2 for a minute and mention that when HL1 did this, it was revolutionary. A huge improvement over games that came before it, such as Quake 1, that didn't feature any scripted events at all. Back then, it was real innovation.
      • Most of essential pieces of HL1 weren't directly scripted. They depended on game physics, enemy AI and player wits. I could sneak VERY slowly with the crossbow and shoot the assassin's kneee as soon as I saw it sticking from behind a corner, without them seeing me. I could drop a grenade down some pipe then see dead headcrabs on the bottom. Lots of it vanished in HL2. I run into a building and lob a grenade into a tiny locker. 20 seconds later I get ambushed by two grunts walking out of that very locker. If
    • The idea is nice but it reveals some of the internals which are NOT pleasant. What do I mean? "Player gets rewarded by the view of...", "Here we get an opportunity to display some Alex's emotions, making her more believable", "we tried [some horrible, really dumb idea] but we got reports from betatesters that they didn't like it, so we changed it." "It is important to reward the player with praises from Alex"

      Movies are shown to test-viewers and scripts are changed according to their suggestions
      so: no di

      • Agreed - games suffer all of the current illnesses of the movies, plus a handful of their own. The only really crappy scenes in Lord Of The Rings - the movie - were the ones inserted by Jackson. Wherever he kept to Tolkien's script, the movie was good.
  • Perhaps they should get the mystery science theater characters' commentaries too. Or maybe those guys from cheap seats. Or me, I can comment on anything funnily! Yup, that's a word.
  • When I tried to play through the game the second time around, it would crash every 15 minutes or so. I think my power supply is to blame, but still... with those load times, it's not fun.
  • Irrespective of its pros and cons, this just highlights the fact that the lines are blurring between gaming and traditional film and television entertainment.

Logic is the chastity belt of the mind!