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  • Adam Engels On Black Mesa, Remote Work, And Game Design

    [05.19.20]
    - Oleg Nesterenko

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    You obviously tried to bridge the narrative and technological gap between Half-Life 1 and 2. But you also referenced Portal's long fall boots in Black Mesa. Are you going to throw something in from Half-Life: Alyx with a later patch? Have you played it?

    As of writing this I am about 6 hours into the game. We don't have any plans for tie-ins with Alyx.

    We put the Portal boots in as a head nod to the other series, and because Aperture was around when Black Mesa was, and could have got a government contract for high agility boots for special forces.

    If it hasn't already been 16 years, would you want to reimagine the original game even further?

    Probably not. We had a ton of interesting ideas, and some large sections of levels that we cut. What we really learned from making the Xen levels is if it does not compliment or add to the core design of the game, then it is probably better left on the cutting room floor. Quality over quantity.

    Sounds like Xen didn't come easy to you. It's just four chapters out of eighteen, but it took you around the same time to complete as the the rest of the game. Was figuring out your own Xen the biggest challenge of the entire development process?

    Yes by far. Making the Earthbound levels, even when we were making new sections, we at least had some reference of real world objects. Xen had to be our own creation. Other than some science gear, we couldn't use ANY of the assets we already created for the Earthbound levels. We had to figure out the design, figure out the art, and we quite frankly didn't know where to start. In the end we created roughly 4 distinct biomes across 21 maps, and about 5 hours of new gameplay.

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    For your next project, you are moving on to a new IP. But will you be also doing something different in terms of game design philosophy?

    Nope, not really. The broader approach is to have everything support the core loop of the game's design. A beautiful game with bad gameplay is going to feel bad. A great story in a game with bad gameplay is going to feel bad. Everything has to feed into the pillars of the game. You obviously have to take time, and make compromises for art and technology, but in the world of video games, the core design should come first. This is what Valve's philosophy does for their games, and it can be adapted to a wide variety of game designs.

    Adam, thank you for your time and good luck to Crowbar Collective. Looking forward to your next move.

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    This interview was originally published on Game World Observer on April 22, 2020.

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