Valve Software Interview : Marc Laidlaw


posted 10/27/2003 by John Yan
other articles by John Yan
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Gaming Nexus: Without going into specific details of course, were there aspects that you had to leave out of the first game that you incorporated into the sequel?

Marc Laidlaw: There were some very specific sequences and characters we wanted in the first game, but had to cut for lack of time and resources. We had a major female character in mind, and a number of supporting female characters, and they obviously never made it into the first game despite Black Mesa being an Equal Opportunity Employer. It was a priority to make sure they were in the sequel.
[ED Note: I remember the first time I interviewed Marc and he mentioned this. I did find it rather humerous that being an Equal Opportunity Employer, the first game had no females wandering the halls]

Gaming Nexus: Were you ever limited in writing the story for the Half-Life because of the limitations of the engine? And with the new powerful Source engine, are you less confined in writing sequences that would not have been possible with the original engine? Or was that not even a factor when it comes to writing a story for the game?

Marc Laidlaw: I try not to think of engine limitations when I’m thinking about the story. It’s better to aim high and then see how far you get before you come back down to earth. The things that seem difficult to me might not be difficult to another person on the team. Plenty of editing happens when you are actually building the game-there’s no reason to limit yourself too early on. I just put the stuff out there and then, if it turns out to be impossible, make adjustments at the time.

Gaming Nexus: Tell me, what's the feeling like seeing the both Half-Life and Half-Life 2 gradually take shape over the years and seeing your story come to life on the computer screen.

Marc Laidlaw: It’s half discovery, and half recognition. Nothing ever ends up on the screen completely the way you envision it. When it does, there’s a moment of recognition, the satisfaction of seeing the vision realized, and then you quickly go on to enjoy the stuff you didn’t expect, the surprises. Working on the game, I am constantly surprised by things that others bring to the project. This is the best part of the design environment.

Gaming Nexus: Which was more fun, generating the story for the first game or Half-Life 2?

Marc Laidlaw: HL1 was fun because I was in an environment where I was continually learning new things, using my writing skills to navigate in this new terrain. HL2 has been, obviously, a slower process of creation…a lot more deliberate, and rewarding in very different ways. These things tend to be more fun in the later stages. The first part of game design is a lot of planning and writing design documents. The final stage is one of implementing, reworking, finding the fun. I think that’s the same for both projects. It was certainly true in writing novels-first drafts are painfully hard work, but by the time you’re into the final draft, it’s really enjoyable. You keep finding ways of making connections between the bits and pieces you’ve assembled. Assembling them is not always fun. But hooking them up is a thrill.

Gaming Nexus: What games do you like to play in your spare time other than the ones by Valve of course. :) Any all time favorites?

Marc Laidlaw: I most enjoy games that draw me into original, atmospheric worlds. Thief is probably my all-time favorite PC game. I am a devotee of Zelda in almost all its incarnations. I still play Animal Crossing on Friday nights when K.K. Slider is in town. Symphony of the Night and Um Lammer Jammy were my favorites for the first PlayStation. Ico and Fatal Frame are my favorite PS2 games, and I’m eagerly awaiting the sequels. I have to say, Wind Waker spoiled me for other games. Since finishing that, I’ve been reading a lot of books, watching movies, and thinking about playing it through again.

I'd like to thank Doug Lombardi, Marc Laidlaw, and Valve Software for taking time out of their busy schedule to grant us this interview. Let's hope it won't be too much longer before the game is released so we can all enjoy the fruits of their labor. And be sure to also check out our E3 Half-Life 2 article.

Would you like to see the original interview with Marc that was posted on September 25, 1998? Well go to the next page!
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