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Steam Half Life: Alyx

Discussion in 'Gaming' started by RedFlames, 18 Nov 2019.

  1. malccy72

    malccy72 Minimodder

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    Anyone with any experience playing it non-VR ?
     
  2. boiled_elephant

    boiled_elephant Merom Celeron 4 lyfe

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    What...Alyx? You can't. Can you? I didn't think you could.

    Re: development, I worry about the long-term economic viability of VR games development, given what you've described, edzieba. As you say, not many people have gaming VR setups, it's a little niche. And I don't see it growing massively - there are too many barriers to entry besides cost. Even if cost dropped massively (as it did with the release of PSVR, for example) most gamers actually just don't want it or can't get on with it.

    Will devs ever take a break from making a lot of money, and voluntarily invest more time to make less money? I can't see why they would.

    Valve, we can infer from their interviews, were simply trying to do something new and cool, and trying to infuse the VR gaming scene with some much-needed momentum. But if other devs are focused on profit, first and foremost...VR gaming's never going to explode, is it?
     
  3. edzieba

    edzieba Virtual Realist

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    "It's cool, but needs a really expensive bit of proprietary hardware to run, and is it really all that much better? Nobody will make games for it if it's so expensive and so few people have one! It'll never catch on!" also applied to: graphics cards. And discrete sound devices.
     
  4. d_stilgar

    d_stilgar Old School Modder

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    It's not fundamentally harder to develop for VR. The existing engines still work and have integrated the tools needed for HMDs to run properly. The code is the same in terms of what the commands are, how syntax works, etc. It's new, not harder, which means all those tricks you've learned for successfully shipping non-VR games have to be adapted or changed or simply don't apply.

    The major differences are in optimization and gameplay mechanics. VR plays differently and needs to be paced differently. You have to bake the lighting in for everything that won't move in a scene in order to save GPU for keeping the frame rate up. It also means the number of dynamic light sources has to be pushed down as well. You can help the issue by limiting the number of items in the scene that can be moved as well, but this runs counter to the idea that, in VR, players want to be able to interact with everything. That means those decisions need to be much more deliberate in terms of what's important to be interacted with, but also in terms of art direction so the world feels lived in while not feeling empty. It's a balancing act. And as I've said before, performance and optimization is important for all games, but VR must hit the target frame rate essentially all the time or people will get sick. There's different "reprojection" schemes developed for all the headsets, but if there aren't enough frames being generated in the first place, you won't have enough stuff there to interpolate a dropped frame when necessary. I'm currently running a 2080Ti at home (thanks again, work) and find that I drop the most frames in Beat Saber of all things. HL:Alyx looked amazing with almost no dropped frames at max settings and 120hz. It's been optimized to the very last inch of its existence and there's no way that was inexpensive.

    On the topic of VR mechanics, HL:Alyx' weakest component may have been the shooting. It was just really easy to die and every enemy felt like it had a trick for how to defeat it. 'This enemy will shoot six rounds then pause. I need to wait behind cover and then shoot during that break. This enemy will release manhacks if I maintain cover too long, so I need to keep moving and try to flank them. Antlions just advance slowly like a weird (but fun) Pirates of the Caribbean ride.' Another notable weakness for me were the Combine puzzles to get into their ammo crates and upgrade stations. HL games have always tried to vary the gameplay with action and puzzles, but these felt like filler. Having the puzzle tied to alien technology works (almost) in terms of metaphor. I would have been more irritated if I was playing some weird mini-game in order to hack a human computer, but I still wasn't convinced by it. It sounds weird, but my biggest complaints about the game all revolve around the things that make VR "necessary" to play it. But if they had just not made those design decisions, the game could have been a standard WASD affair and still been great, just not innovative.

    Back on topic, the reason we don't see more AAA games (other than bad ports) in VR is the fact that it's very very expensive. I recently watched a talk (which I can't seem to find right now) of a professional in the industry talking about just how expensive game development it. He broke down a simple street scene for a AAA game: "This bench, $3000. This light pole, $1800. This building, $8000 . . ." By the time he was done adding up the cost to make a street that probably didn't play a significant role in the game's progression, it was over $100k.

    AAA games cost hundreds of millions of dollars to produce. They also make more than anything else; more than movies, music, TV. This is possible because these games get released for PC and all major consoles simultaneously. Total player base across all platforms is in the 100s of millions, so capturing a small portion of that at $60 each will earn your money back. This just isn't the case for VR.

    PC compatible HMD adoption may be in the range 14-20 million units total. Even if you get 100% of the players buying a game at $60 (which you won't), you're still only starting to get near the space that most AAA developers live in for their major releases.

    Valve's motivation in this seems to have a few facets. First, Gabe Newell has stated that he's been jealous of Nintendo, who can manufacture hardware and software concurrently, which allows for innovations and allowances for both simultaneously. With the Index and HL:Alyx, they were able to deliver on that for the first time.
    Second, I think Valve needed to show what could be done. Despite my criticisms, HL:A is amazing. The Index has been sold out since HL:A's announcement and for good reason. The current wait time is 8 weeks from time of order. Hopefully other developers notice the success of both the game and hardware adoption and start dedicating some talent for AAA VR games, even if they're similarly small 6-12hr games.
    Third, I think Valve knew they needed to return to the Half-life universe but didn't know how until VR was a way to innovate in the FPS space. The whole industry has iterated year after year, but it's been pretty much stagnant in terms of mechanics and game play for over a decade. The Half-life series has always done something to break new ground and VR was that thing.
     
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  5. malccy72

    malccy72 Minimodder

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    I saw the other day that someone had produced a hack for it so can use keyboard and mouse to play it.
     
  6. d_stilgar

    d_stilgar Old School Modder

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    Yesterday, I finished the game for the second time. I played on easy this time and was bit more bold for my gun battles and for a few scripted sequences where I think it's somewhat expected that you take a little damage.

    There were definitely parts I liked more the second time than the first. I spent less time hunting for resin because I remembered where most of it was (and wasn't) and I didn't take time to stare at every little detail. I also noticed some new things I didn't during my first play through. The combine puzzles were less annoying. Essentially, I wasted less time and the game was better for it.
     
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  7. wyx087

    wyx087 Homeworld 3 is happening!!

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    Despite excellent advice I was given. I made an impulse purchase on Oculus Quest last week when it was briefly in stock.

    While waiting for delivery. My i7 2700k is 10% slower in single thread than i5 7500, so I overclocked it by 30%. My 970 is 10% slower than 1060, I overclocked 10% factory OC by another 8%. Shame I can’t download more VRAM :lol:

    The recommended link cable isn’t recognised, might be because the motherboard isn’t charging the headset for some strange reason. Also might be dodgy cable, might be Intel 2000 chipset is too old.... too many unknowns.

    Fortunately I was able to play HLAlyx wirelessly using ALVR, within LOS to the router. Playing at 72 Hz low setting, game looks immense. So far, only noticing a few dropped frames with hologram in Russell’s lab. Everywhere else it’s butter smooth and very immersive.
    Controller tracking is spot on, the touch controller feels natural. Flick and grab works great. I’ll get a strap to allow Index-like grip release.
     
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  8. Cerberus90

    Cerberus90 Car Spannerer

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    Now that it looks like headsets are coming back in stock, I'm getting tempted again, :D

    Is a Strix GTX980 going to be able to run Alyx on a Rift S?
     
  9. wyx087

    wyx087 Homeworld 3 is happening!!

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    I completed HLAlyx twice using 970. 980 should be no problem.

    Your i5 4690 might be problematic though. Min requirement is i5 7500, which my overclocked i7 2600k is just slightly faster. Give it some beans (overclock) and give it a try.
     
  10. Pete J

    Pete J Employed scum

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    My brother was curious about it and he has my old 980Ti. Looking around on te intertubes, it does well for up to medium settings. A 980, with a bit of overclocking, should let you play it comfortably at low settings (backed up by @wyx087).



    Doesn't look too different to me on the various settings, though perhaps someone else who actually has the game can comment.
     
  11. Cerberus90

    Cerberus90 Car Spannerer

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    Going to be OC'ing my CPU once I decide on a new cooler.

    Cheers guys, have been pondering an upgrade, need more monies though as can't really afford VR and gfx card and new case and CPU cooler (pref water), .

    Might just stick with my current backlog of games for a bit longer.
     
  12. d_stilgar

    d_stilgar Old School Modder

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    Alyx has been out for over a year now. Anyone else get a chance to play it yet? For those who have played it, do you have any one-year-later thoughts? I've been thinking about the game a lot lately.

    I was disappointed, but not surprised that it was mostly panned at all the games award shows.

    I've played it a couple more times now. I played again after the liquid shader update, and I played after the developer commentary was added.

    I've had a lot of thoughts about the game and have been wondering how to communicate them all effectively. Part of the issue is that Alyx is a bit of a paradox in the way it retcons the old games. Here's an outline of everything I think contributes to Alyx's strangeness as a game.
    • In narrative fiction, a character has "agency" if they can make choices that advance the plot. Any other characters are just extras. The protagonist is an "agent" in this way. We're dissatisfied with protagonists or narratives when we feel that the plot was advanced without them. The Hunger Games Trilogy does this a lot. Katniss is a crappy protagonist. She's constantly passing out and wakes up after all the big events are over. She also has a lot of other peoples' decisions thrust on her.
    • HL has themes around agency and player choice. Valve is aware that their games put you on a rail (this theme is even alluded to by having the player start on a rail for several of the installments). Is Gordon an agent? Does he really have agency? We advance the plot, but we're not the movers and shakers. The G-man has orchestrated the events of the games every time. This is why you could say the G-man represents Valve themselves. They are self-aware of their role in the player's lack of choice.
    • Prequels are inherently problematic. The biggest problem is that you already know where the story will go. Star Wars prequels will end with Anakin becoming Darth Vader, Luke Destroying the Death Start (twice!), etc., so the events of the prequels are interesting, but inconsequential.
    • HL:Alyx tries to overcome the prequel problem by making a HUGE retcon to the Ep.2. Unlike Star Wars prequels, where the whole story is predestined, we get a prequel where the protagonist can actually change the outcome of the installments later in the timeline. However, this comes at a huge expense. In every other case, prequels limit the degree to which characters can be "agents" in the story because they're stuck ending where the next movie can pick up. By making Alyx an agent with the ability to change the ending of a later game, you trade Gordon's agency for hers.
    • This is made more difficult by issues of time in narrative fiction. As it turns out Back to the Future is a horrific mess. It was the inspiration for Rick and Morty, which comments on that idea by making it a joke that any time Rick and Morty screw up one timeline, they just jump to another one they haven't screwed up.
    • Christopher Nolan actually deals with this in a clever way, by making any of his movies that involve time travel single timeline, linear movies. If there is a multiverse, protagonists in Nolan films always stay in their own timeline/universe. Does HL:Alyx do this? Idk. I don't think so. I actually think the timelines of HL2 through Ep.2 are mostly incompatible with how HL:Alyx ends.
    • So this gets to "meta" thinking and multiverse timelines. It's possible Valve is intentionally setting up multiple timelines. There are at least two fan projects for Episode 3 which are going in their own directions. Valve, in a way, may rescue themselves from their own cliffhanger. They can allow fan teams to finish out those stories while not stepping on their toes, and can then take the story in the new direction the ending of HL:Alyx gave them. We now have branches on the timeline that can all be canon or canon-adjacent by way of multiple games all branching from this one point in time.
    • This multiple timelines idea could also set them on two paths. One team at Valve could make a standard FPS, picking up where Ep.2 left off. Another could take on the VR branch of the story with more Alyx sequels. I doubt this will happen, but it's possible.
     
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  13. Yaka

    Yaka Modder

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    i enjoyed it, despite suffering the odd "quirk" when playing on my quest 1 headset with aide loaded virtual desktop patch its been so long since i played hl ep 2 id didn't really give the story much thought has i couldn't prolly most of the interesting details in the timelines.

    ep2 was story was kinda b0rked as they planned more eps along the way and never made/released more

    this where movies trumps games one or 2 hours of your time and you are pretty much up speed and ready for next sequel or chapter. with games you gotta go through and play them and most are in the 20-30hours range these days and i seriously cant be arsed most of the time replaying games again
     
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  14. Otis1337

    Otis1337 aka - Ripp3r

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    VR game rating: 8/10
    When compared to none VR games: 6/10

    I was just happy to be in the HL universe again.
    HLA is also by far the best thing on VR and makes everything else afterwards feel rubbish. It actually ruined VR for me and ended up selling my headset soon after completing it.
     
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