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An Interview with the Folks behind Half-Life 2: Episode Two Done Quick

Community & Projects Half-Life

I first met the folks of Half-Life 2: Episode Two Done Quick in the Twitch chat of a stream I was doing for the Black Mesa countdown. Later, they were kind enough to answer some questions I had about EP2DQ, their relationship with Half-Life, and how they got into speed-running. Check it out after the jump.

How did you get into SpeedRunning? How’d you get from there to EP2DQ?

Most of you have probably seen the legendary Half-Life 2 Done Quick speedrun, or Spider-Waffle’s Half Hour Half-Life. For most of us, it has been the main inspiration to try the tricks by ourselves, master them and create something similar.

SourceRuns was formed in 2009 with the goal of creating an Episode One speedrun together with some of the members from the original HL2DQ team. More and more players showing interest in speedrunning have joined throughout the years, helping to set new records, as well as being an inspiration to those who are just starting out.

 

A speedrun of Episode Two was one of our longest goals. The project started soon after EP1 run was finished in 2010. The original team has made some progress but it slowed down, and eventually stopped when we started to work on DWaHMoV instead. After DWaHMoV was finished, we decided to resurrect the old Episode Two run. Since we had found many new tricks and new routes during DWaHMoV, we have decided to restart the run from scratch. After finishing around 10 maps, even bigger tricks were found, leading in another restart, this time being the final one.

What was your first experience with Half-Life? Have you played it on any thing other than PC?

A lot of us got into Half-Life through friends, Counter-Strike and gaming magazines, as well as other gaming-related articles, news sites or videos. Most of us have only played the game on the PC – the platform that the game was originally designed for. There has been a runner who did speedruns on a PS2 version of Half-Life 1. While it’s a lot harder to run with a controller in hands, some of the tricks he was able to perform were as amazing as those that can be done with a keyboard and a mouse.

How do you go about preparation for the run? Is it replaying the game multiple times or do you go even further and decompile the maps to understand how the triggers and clips work?

The classic approach to doing segmented runs has been a two phase process. In phase one you go over the whole game and route it. Then in phase two you start the actual running and start segmenting. History has shown though that you often don’t end up using many of the routes from phase one. In this run we did do a sort of a phase one a long time ago, but ended up restarting the run quite a few times due to new skips being found.

Decompiling the maps is pretty useful when you need really in-depth knowledge on how the map works. This was especially useful for figuring out the strider order . For movement sections you just go into the game and try to figure out how to launch over the whole map. It mostly comes down to trial and error.

In the commentary you guys mention times the game will lock up, what has been the most surprising lock or crash while performing the run?

S.: Because of the nature of segmented runs, having the game softlock is not as big of a deal since it would just mean a segment reset. Other softlocks can be avoided by simply using a slightly different route, which is easily accounted for in segmented runs. Examples of this are teleporting Magnusson/Alyx past certain doorways with a trigger in them, or being too fast on the map with the helicopter so it will get stuck in some remote part of the map.

 

The funniest and possibly most frustrating softlock has to be the one that occurs within the very last second of the run. The advisor will do the screen distortion thing once and Alyx will shout “Oh My God”, but Alyx, Eli and Gordon won’t actually be taken out of control by the telepathy and the advisors never appear. They all just stand there and because the cutscene never starts, it also never finishes. What causes this is unknown. It has nothing to do with the advisors being killed or not, but might have to do with excessive Zero Point Energy Field Manipulator punting and/or wandering off too far when the cutscene is supposed to start, as the only recorded instances of this softlock involved doing so.

 

I also somehow managed to kill dog once on the same map, while the rocket was neutralizing the portal. I picked up a plastic crate with glass bottles in it and threw it in the air. I turn around and find Dog lying dead on the floor. It probably got killed somehow by a glass shard, but I haven’t been able to reproduce it. It prevented the cutscene from continuing.

 

A surprisingly common game crash can occur on the strider battle. For some reason killing specific hunters at specific times crashes the game, despite doing nothing out of the ordinary.

 

D0g being able to move the car is quite a neat trick, how’d you guys discover that one?

Jukspa: I found this while doing a segmented run using routes you would use in a Real Time Attack/Single Segment run to see what the best possible time would be. I accidentally got the car stuck inside dog while attempting a segment, although at the time I didn’t consider it to be useful. I actually uploaded a youtube video about it as well (this was the first time I performed it)

The Strider battle at the end takes up a good third of the run, how long did it take to get the strategy of beating that section as efficiently as possible?

The start and the end are really the only difficult sections in the strider map. In the middle part you have plenty of time to set up for the striders so the movement doesn’t have to be super optimized. The route was developed in about a year, although there was a pretty huge break in between.

Here is one for Jukspa, how’d stopping the rocket launch with the chair come about? That part is fantastic.

Jukspa: I found this trick accidentally as well. The shot is actually incredibly precise and random as the chair has to get lodged between the rocket and the ground. The reason the rocket starts flying later on is because I punt the chair out of the way and that gets the rocket unstuck.

A couple of you said that the Strider battle is probably the best part of the run, which I’m inclined to agree, aside from that what part do you think is a great highlight of the run?

Completing the first few maps in just a few minutes, Dog grabbing the car and racing Gordon on foot, the fast navigation in the autoturret part and just general movement, gliding through the maps in a very precise way. It’s difficult to summarize, the whole thing has impressive parts in one way or another!

What run are you guys going to tackle next?

We have multiple projects that we’re working on, a few of them being Half-Life 2 Done Quick-er a old engine run of Half-Life 2, Black Mesa, new Portal Out of Bounds speedrun, Half-Life 2: Episode 1 re-run and others. There isn’t really one team anymore that does all of the runs, most people specialize in certain games.

What are some of the new tricks you picked up on in EP2DQ and where will they be useful in future runs?

One of the biggest tricks that have been discovered is Save/Load buffering – the clipping seen in the OoB areas. The discovery of this trick allowed us to trim down the time by a couple of minutes, skipping cutscenes and huge chunks of maps. The trick brought huge timesavers for pretty much all games, and even though it was discovered during this run first, other runs have already showcased it before EP2DQ was released.

 

We also found a couple new movement techniques: backwards circle jumping and double jumping. With circle jumping, we’ve been able to double our speed on the first jump. Double jumping has allowed us to gain speed faster (since the speed you gain from ABH depends on how many times you jump). Circle jumping works in all the SP Orangebox games so it can be applied to other runs, but unfortunately double jumping only works in an earlier version that HL2 and HL2:EP1 were never ported to.

Are you excited for the next installment of Half-Life and do you think it will be runnable?

Definitely excited! It’s really hard to guess whether Valve will decide to hunt down all the glitches or leave something for us to play with! It seems unlikely that it would have ABH, but we’re hoping for it to have some sort of bunnyhopping technique. Maybe Half-Life 3 won’t have anything to begin with, but knowing Valve..

 

S: Tbh, Half-Life 3 probably won’t be released at this point, or it will be sh*t.

Thanks to the everyone who participated in the interview for their great answers and being so patient with me. For more information about the run itself, check out the article I posted earlier this month. 

As always you can find more great speedruns for Valve games on the SourceRuns YouTube page and check out the SourceRuns site that comes complete with a comprehensive wiki on every trick and technique done in the runs.

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