Half-Life turns 20 today, which not only makes us feel ancient, but reminds us of how much we miss the seminal sci-fi series. From its humble beginnings in the Black Mesa Research Facility to testing out the Gravity Gun in City 17, there are so many memorable moments that made it one of the most important shooters to ever grace a hard-drive.
But we’re not here to remiencese about all the things we love about Half-Life (if we did, this would be less an article and more a novella). No, instead, we’ve mined the archives for some buried nuggets of trivia that will have you stroking your beard and sagely nodding silently… because in this scenario, we’re imagining you’re Gordon Freeman.
1. It was originally called Quiver
When Mike Harrington and Gabe Newell set up Valve, they decided to make a scary shooter that would be built within id’s Quake engine (well, it ended up being 30% of id’s Quake engine, but y’know). And they were going to call it Quiver.
Why Quiver? Well, Newell was a fan of Stephen King’s The Mist, a short story that involves a lot of awful monsters and a military base called Arrowhead. This reference didn’t end being the title, with the team eventually plumping for… well, the actual title.
2. Gordan Freeman once had a big, bushy beard
It’s hard to imagine the quietest man in games not looking like the dapper scientist he is, but an original version of Mr. Freeman had one huge difference.
That would be a huge, viking-esque beard. Fans have affectionately dubbed this look for Gordan as “Ivan the Space Biker”, but we think we prefer his glasses and shave to the original mad-eyed version of our crowbar-wielding hero.
3. There’s a Half-Life 2 Japanese arcade cabinet
Yep, you read that right. Taito worked with Valve to bring Half-Life 2 to Japanese arcades with a version called Half-Life 2: Survivor. It had three modes for players to choose from: Story, which condensed the sequel into a bite-sized and action-packed version; Mission, where you had specific objectives to accomplish; and Battle, where you’re blasting other players in multiplayer matches.
Are we booking our flights to Tokyo to go play this right now? Well, is a Headcrab a disgusting creature that has lived in our nightmares for the past 20 years? (Yes to both)
4. Robin Williams was a huge fan
Yes, the brilliant actor who brought Mrs. Doubtfire (and Flubber) to life wasn’t just a big gamer, he loved Half-Life. In an interview with Zap2It, he regaled them about his love for the original game and its fervent modding scene.
On top of that, fan-site LambdaGeneration also revealed that he was one of the first people to see Half-Life 2 at Valve’s E3 booth in 2004. He nearly provided his vocal tones for said sequel, but alas, he couldn’t fit it into his schedule. We’re sure he still enjoyed skulking around Ravenholm though.
5. There’s a console version of the original
The original Half-Life has a PlayStation 2 port (itself based on a cancelled Dreamcast port), which turned a game built for mouse and keyboard into a cracking console shooter. But while there’s every chance you knew about it, it also had a expansion that came with it called Half-Life: Decay. This was a co-op experience that sends you back to Black Mesa as doctors Gina Cross and Collette Green.
Developed by Gearbox (the team behind Borderlands), it’s a rare glimpse into the extended universe of the series, as well as the only time you needed a buddy to help you save the world.