Half-Life: Alyx playtesters were “obsessed with collecting stuff”

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Honestly, have you ever seen some silly garbage in a game that you could pick up and not wanted to keep it? Collect it? Hoard it? You haven’t. Admit it. According to RPS’s inside scoop with Valve’s developers, the effect is multiplied in VR. Valve tells us that Half-Life: Alyx playtesters just couldn’t get enough of collecting things. You name it and folks want to pick it up and keep it. Just in case.

“The exploration was a big deal in terms of how much—when we were watching people play it—how people consumed the actual content at a much slower rate and really dug through stuff for items or world fiction,” says Valve’s Jim Hughes. “So we tried to densely pack it to match player’s expectations.

“At the end of the day, the currency we have to spend in the game is the player’s attention,” adds Valve’s Robin Walker. “The things that they pay attention to are the things we get to spend time on, and so, as Jim says, they explored the world much more carefully than they have before, and that meant we got to spend more time on it.”

Graham confirms in his Half-Life: Alyx review that “rummaging around in cupboards” is one of the three main activities in Alyx, right behind shooting and messing with electronics. Matthew too seemed to have a grand time rummaging, given the spiritual experience he has with a bread roll in the clip below. 

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“People were obsessed with collecting stuff in the world before they even knew what to do with it,” Hughes says. The system where Alyx can use resin as a resource for upgrading her weapons was always planned, but even before it was functional players instinctively wanted it. “We’d put in the collection resin, and people didn’t know what it was, and they were still collecting it obsessively, saying ‘This is something important, I want this.’”

As for the system itself of trading a collectible resource for upgrades, Walker says Alyx drew from past experience. “To some extent, I think Half-Life 2 informed that,” he says. “There were periods of Half-Life 2 where we really struggled to create optional stuff, like there were often points in a Half-Life level where you’d want to have the main channels the player has to move in but you also want to build some side area, and all we could ever give you in Half-Life 2 was ammo. We needed something you’re always going to want, no matter how well you’ve done so far, and that’s where all that started from.”

Whether you’re collecting resin (important) or bread (also important), Half-Life: Alyx’s VR environments look like a treat to dig into.

Half-Life: Alyx is out today. On Steam, of course.

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