The original Half-Life was first announced in early 1997, initially set for that year’s holiday season. But one very impressive E3 1997 showing later, and suddenly Half-Life was on everyone’s radar – expectations were ramping up, and suddenly, Valve were in the center of the gaming world’s attention. And so, later that year, close to their projected release date, Valve decided that a delay was in order. Once they’d attained it, a lot of the pressure was off, and the team at Valve spent began to intensely evaluate every aspect of the game, and all of the content they had created in one year of development.
And while there had been a considerable amount of progress, and the game itself was in very good shape, it just seemed like there was something missing – as Valve engineer Ken Birdwell stated in The Final Hours of Half-Life, the game simply wouldn’t have gone “over the edge anywhere“. To Valve, it seemed like Half-Life could be a lot more revolutionary and a lot more groundbreaking. Thus, in late 1997, an entire game’s worth of content and design was completely scrapped, and Half-Life underwent a complete redesign, fully from the ground up.
What gamers eventually got one year later in November of 1998, amounts to an entirely new game (in fact, according to Ken Birdwell, it really is a Half-Life 2 of sorts). But what happened to the Half-Life that never was – the “Half-Life 0” that Valve unceremoniously threw out the door?