Former Half-Life designer shows bloodbaths of rejected names
It’s always great to take a peek behind the gamedev curtain at things that could have been. Former Half-Life level designer Brett Johnson delved into his old work and memories to share some of Half-Life’s early prototypes and ideas that never saw the light of day. Would Half-Life have been a classic if it had received the name “Belly Of The Beast”? I don’t know, it doesn’t roll so well on the tongue, does it?
Johnson is now working with ArenaNet on Guild Wars 2, but recently shared some memories of his time with Valve on TikTok.
In a video, Johnson quickly talks about titles. He explains that Half-Life’s working title was never going to be his final name, but apparently a few of the other contenders were quite different. “Trip Hammer” was one of them. It’s good, I guess. Not so memorable but not terrible. “Belly Of The Beast” would certainly have set a whole different tone.
In another video, Johnson shows a mockup image of what has become the Half-Life locker room. Johnson explains that he was a huge fan of the GoldenEye 007 game. He remembers trying to hunt down scientists, finding out that they were missing around a corner and thinking they really should have a place. where to go. In this image of the eventual Half-Life locker room, there’s an awful lot of blood splattered on the walls as Gordon pursues a scientist with his trusty crowbar.
“In this particular image, I did this to send it to the team to stimulate a conversation about ‘how bad do we really want our game to be violent? and, as you know, we ended up backing off a bit. “No kidding. Looks like someone hooked a pipe to a barrel of tomato soup to spray the locker rooms.
Johnson also shares a little background on the prototyping and design of Xen and a first level of prototype in which he says he was “looking for a style, using some of the earliest textures from photographic references”. Everything is pretty neat, considering the early iterations and decisions that were taken into account but dropped.
Oh, and it’s TikTok so there’s bound to be, memes.