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Half-Life Alyx AMA: Everything we learned

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The developers of Half-Life: Alyx answered questions about the game on Reddit.

To save you rummaging through the Reddit thread, we’ve summed up all of the responses in one place.

SDK is not releasing alongside the game

The team is “not currently planning on shipping a full SDK.” They said it may come at some point, but it would be a lot of work at the moment, when they could be polishing the game instead. “Source 2 is a new toolset, much of which hasn’t been previously released. … Generally, this is how we’ve done SDKs in our previous Source 1 titles as well — making the game takes precedence, and after that’s done, we start looking at what’s next.”

It’s finished

The developers joked that “Valve Time,” a running joke about the studio’s delays, happened during the pre-announcement development cycle and the game is on track for its March release. “With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done. Lots of us at Valve, as well as playtesters, have played through the entire game multiple times. Right now we’re primarily polishing and fixing bugs, which is where we’d hope to be at this point in the development cycle. We’re confident we’ll hit our intended release.”

The developers also noted Half-Life: Alyx is comparable in length and content to Half-Life 2. Interestingly, the Half-Life: Alyx development team consists of around 80 people, which is the largest single team that has ever worked on a Valve project.

Secrecy

“Working on HL:A before we announced it was pretty worrisome. I have a teenage son, and for 4 years I’ve refused to tell him what game I was working on, because I knew he wouldn’t be able to keep it to himself. On the team we joked that releasing the game was much less scary than announcing it. But in the end, we are very happy with how it’s been received, and we’re really excited to get it finished and into your hands.”

More gameplay details, videos on the way

The developers confirmed that more gameplay videos are on the way before release. These will also showcase movement options and other VR-specific elements.

The developers also confirmed there will be a train ride in the game. “It’s actually illegal to ship a Half-Life game if you don’t spend at least a little time riding in a train.”

They also talked about how classic Half-Life monsters and enemies, like Barnacles, Head Crabs, and Combine soldiers, will work in VR. “Barnacles are a threat in VR. They don’t kill you instantly. You’ll deal with them in familiar ways, but the opportunities afforded by VR also give you new methods to use against them.”

Above: This looks spooky.

Image Credit: Valve

“We experimented with moving the player, but moving the player without their input in VR didn’t work very well. As with many aspects of working on this game, we’ve had to find new ways to take well-worn mechanics and other Half-Life staples into the specific framework of VR.”

“You can put a bucket on a headcrab, and it’ll move the bucket as it crawls around. Playtesters all keep reporting it as a bug.”

“Similarly, Combine soldiers definitely return, both in the form you’ve previously seen them as well as with new variations to keep players busy and take advantage of VR. Some creatures respond to audio more than others. We don’t want to spoil anything, but there’s an example of this we’re particularly excited about.”

Horrific headcrabs

It looks like UploadVR’s Jamie isn’t alone when it comes to VR horror – one member of the Alyx team admitted he struggled to play through headcrab sections. “I admit I cannot deal with headcrabs in general, and definitely not in VR. If I’m testing the game, and I’m in an area where I know one of those things is around, I’ll remove the head set and hold it off my face as I attempt to navigate on the 2nd monitor screen, to lessen the impact of headcrab discovery.”

“Disappointingly for me, it seems that I’m the only one on the team who can’t deal, we handle the scarier parts pretty well in terms of making the game accessible. Horror is part of the franchise, and through playtesting, we feel like we’ve gained some confidence about where to draw this line. Some of our gorier visuals tend to evoke a grim fascination rather than revulsion or panic, and apart from myself, we’ve hardly ever seen anyone nope out of a playtest, even during the creepier sections. So among testers I still seem to be the outlier on horror tolerance.”

No jumping

Jumping also won’t come into play very often during gameplay, either.

“For instance, if you need to get past an obstacle like a crate, you mantle up rather than jump up. The only time you need to jump is to traverse a short gap, which happens very rarely. We tried a few iterations of jumping, but ultimately found that even in continuous motion, players preferred dealing with those jumps with a teleport-style movement.”

Original Alyx coice actor was once involved

“We worked with Merle [Dandridge] at the beginning of HL:A development, but in the end, felt we wanted to go in a different direction. We love Merle, her work in Half-Life 2 was instrumental in bringing Alyx to life, and we hope to work with her again in the future.”

The team also reconfirmed that Alyx, the titular, playable character of the game, will speak. A speaking, playable protagonist is not overly common in VR games, let alone in Valve games. In the Half-Life series (and the Portal series), the playable protagonists have traditionally not spoken at all.

Valve writer Eric Wolpaw addressed this changed. “Having the viewpoint character speak is mostly liberating. It certainly makes writing scenes easier when you don’t have to write around the fact that the main character is mute. It’s also easier to have the player feel they’re actually an active participant in the scene. In portal we got around it a little by actually acknowledging the main character is mute. I think it’s a lot more tricky when you have to maintain a fragile fiction that the player character can talk but simply isn’t for some reason. Anyway, I was and still am happy that the main character speaks.”

Two-handed combat, inventory management

Above: These hands are made for bashing headcrabs.

Image Credit: Valve

The developers confirmed you can use one hand for all weapons, but a second hand can optionally be used to steady weapons. “We really wanted to focus on simultaneous two handed play throughout the game, so we needed the player to always be able to easily have a free hand. We keep that hand pretty busy with gravity gloves, movement, world interactions, flashlight, and so on.”

They also stated that the inventory systems are designed to keep the focus on the environment as much as possible. “We have an ‘over the shoulder’ contextual inventory system for ammo on your off hand, Your weapon hand has a quick weapon select feature, and we have a couple of wrist bags for some of the other items.”

V-Arms, Index finger-tracking

Some people brought up the lack of arms (and only hands) in the Half-Life: Alyx reveal trailer, which Valve addressed in the AMA. “We don’t render arms due to our experiences with playtesting – briefly, we found that players themselves don’t notice them missing (spectators do, obviously), and they don’t like them obscuring their view.”

“We actually simulate invisible arms though, which connect from your hands back up to your HMD, and we use those to detect impossible things, like completely closing a drawer over your wrist. We’re planning on releasing a video going into the tech behind our VR hands / interactions / etc, so there’ll be more on this soon.“

Meanwhile, when it comes to finger tracking on the Index: “Index controller finger-tracking allows for greater player expression and more opportunities for fine-grained engagement with the world. But the game was tested with all major VR solutions throughout development to ensure full compatibility for all required interactions.”

This is something we had mostly already heard before. The YouTube channel Tested even got to try Half-Life: Alyx out at Valve HQ and compare how the game plays differently on each headset.

Subtitles at launch, non-english voiceovers possible, dev commentary

Subtitles for English, French, German, Spanish-Spain, Japanese, Russian, Simplified Chinese, Spanish-Latin America and Traditional Chinese will be available at launch. Non-English voiceovers “is still something [they’re] considering.”

Likewise, the team “are huge fans of commentary and definitely plan on producing it for HL:A but it’s unlikely that [they] will have it in for launch day.”

This story originally appeared on Uploadvr.com. Copyright 2020



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U.S. Supreme Court rejects Apple appeal in patent fight with VirnetX

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FILE PHOTO: The Apple logo is shown atop an Apple store at a shopping mall in La Jolla, California, U.S., December 17, 2019, 2019. REUTERS/Mike Blake/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday refused to hear Apple Inc’s bid to avoid paying about $440 million in damages for using patent licensing firm VirnetX Inc’s internet security technology without permission in features such as FaceTime video calling.

The justices rejected Apple’s appeal in the long-running case in which a federal jury in 2016 found that Apple had infringed VirnetX’s patents and awarded $302 million. A judge later increased that amount to $439.7 million including interest and other costs.

The case dates back to 2010 when Nevada-based VirnetX filed suit in federal court in the Eastern District of Texas accusing Cupertino, California-based Apple of infringing four patents for secure networks, known as virtual private networks, and secure communications links. VirnetX said Apple infringed with its FaceTime and VPN on Demand features in products such as the iPhone and iPad.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington, which specializes in patent disputes, upheld the judgment against Apple last year.

During the litigation, Apple and other companies requested that a tribunal of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office review the validity of the VirnetX patents. The tribunal canceled key parts of the patents at issue in the case.

But in separate decisions also issued last year, the Federal Circuit set aside certain of the tribunal’s rulings, bringing VirnetX closer to collecting damages from Apple. Apple appealed to the Supreme Court, contending that the damages should be recalculated because the specific patents VirnetX accused it of infringing with FaceTime were nearly wiped out.

Apple in a court filing called the Federal Circuit’s refusal to entertain its demands “legally wrong and grossly unfair.” The company also said the lower courts impermissibly allowed VirnetX to request damages far beyond the value of the patented invention.

VirnetX told the justices: “The entire damages award … remains supported by claims that a jury – and the Federal Circuit – found valid years ago and that have not been canceled since.”

Reporting by Andrew Chung; Editing by Will Dunham

Our Standards:The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.



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5 amazing products at their lowest prices

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— Recommendations are independently chosen by Reviewed’s editors. Purchases you make through our links may earn us a commission.

Happy Monday! In my humble opinion, there’s no better way to start the week than hunting down a good deal. Not only can you get something you’ve been eyeing for a while at an incredible price, but there’s also a little excitement knowing a package will be arriving for you sometime during the week. Today’s deals are particularly exciting because you can find some of our top-tested products at their lowest prices including robot vacuums, Lodge cast iron skillets, and Roku streaming sticks. Check out all the ways you can save today.

Love a good deal?: Sign up for our weekly deals newsletter. It’s free and you can unsubscribe any time.

1. Lowest price: The best affordable robot vacuum on the market

2020 is the year I’ve decided to become a little more cleaner and organized, but being as busy as I am, the cleaning part—specifically vacuuming enough—has been left in the dust. But with a nifty robot vacuum, I could get it to do my dirty work for me before I can do a weekly (err, monthly) deep clean. Plus, you don’t even have to spend too much to get a great one. Right now, you can get our favorite affordable robot vacuum for $70 off in the color white, which is also the lowest price we’ve seen since the holidays. We love the Eufy RoboVac 11S for its great cleaning power and reasonable price, which is even more reasonable thanks to this deal.

Get the Eufy BoostIQ RoboVac 11S for $159.99 (Save $70)

2. Under $10: Our favorite cast iron skillet

Cast iron pans are a game-changer in the kitchen. Not only can you use them on the stovetop but they can also go in the oven or on the grill, making them a versatile piece of cookware. Lodge makes the best cast iron cookware, and right now you can get this popular 8-inch skillet for just $8 and the lowest price we’ve ever seen. It’s an ideal size for baking smaller desserts or cooking a meal for one.

Get the Lodge Cast Iron 8-Inch Skillet for $7.99 (Save $2)

3. $20 off: The best affordable streaming stick

During the colder seasons, there’s nothing I want to do more than binge-watch Disney+ or Netflix and avoid going outside. For the best binge-watching experience, you’re going to want a good streaming stick to watch it on the small screen as opposed to your laptop. The Roku Streaming Stick+ is the best affordable media streaming device we’ve ever tested. It offers 4K or HDR content and has an amazing interface, which means it’s probably better than the streaming interface your Smart TV currently has Right now, you can get it for $20 off, which is its second lowest price.

Get the Roku Streaming Stick+ for $39 (Save $20.99)

4. 25% off: The best packing cubes for traveling

The most stressful part about any trip is packing. You need to figure out how you’re going to fit everything in your suitcase, and how you’re going to find what you’re looking for without making a mess once you’ve reached your destination. That’s where packing cubes come in and this set from eBags is the best one we’ve ever tested. Right now, you can get the three-piece set 20% off and the six-piece set for 25% off if you clip the on-page coupon, which is the lowest price we’ve ever seen for either. If you have any big trips planned for 2020, this deal is for you.

  • Get the eBags Three-Piece Packing Cube Value Set for $23.99 (Save $6)
  • Get the eBags Six-Piece Packing Cube Value Set for $33.74 (Save $11.25)

5. Lowest price: Our favorite classic rolling pin for baking and more

I love baking cooking, pizza making, and the like, but for some reason, I still don’t own a proper rolling pin—and let me tell you, a wine bottle just doesn’t cut it. But now is the time to finally get one because the best classic rolling pin we’ve ever tested is down to its lowest price of just $8. We love how comfortable the pin felt in our hands (read: no hand cramps) and that it was seamless to achieve the desired thickness of the dough. It’s honestly the perfect pin for any kitchen, especially at this price.

Get the Farberware Classic Wood Rolling Pin for $7.99 (Save $10) 

The product experts at Reviewed have all your shopping needs covered. Follow Reviewed on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for the latest deals, reviews, and more.

Prices were accurate at the time this article was published but may change over time.



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Is There A Dangerous Link Between Corona Virus & 5G Technology? with Ole Dammegard & Special Guests

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News reports from China indicate the Corona virus is impacting virtually everything including the much debated 5G roll out, but is there a deeper connection between the feared outbreak and the controversial next generation tech?

Ole and I are joined EMF technology expert Olle Johansson and military technology expert Cody Snodgres.

Don’t miss today’s episode of Light On Conspiracies with Ole Dammeagard on SubscribeStar and Patreon

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