HTC hints at Half-life virtual reality video game

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Half-life 2Image source, Valve
Image caption,
Half-life remains one of gaming's best known series, despite there not having been a new title in close to a decade

HTC's chairwoman has told the BBC she "hopes" a Half-life video game will be one of the titles released for her company's virtual-reality headset.

Cher Wang was speaking a day after HTC revealed it was working with games publisher Valve to put its VR helmet on sale before the end of the year.

Half-life is perhaps Valve's most famous and best-loved franchise.

However, the BBC understands that Valve is not planning to make an announcement about the game at this time.

There have been unconfirmed rumours for years that the US company has been working on a fresh instalment.

Ms Wang said HTC was "co-operating with Half-life", but she would not be drawn on whether that meant a new game - potentially Half-life 3 - or a virtual-reality remake of one of the series' existing titles. Valve distributed a test "beta" version of Half-life 2 to developers working on Facebook's Oculus Rift VR helmet back in 2013 - and it could be this that the executive was referring to.

But the BBC understands that Valve's own employees were surprised by Ms Wang's comments as they were not working on a Half-life game for the new helmet at the moment.

Even so, one expert suggested that in time the game could make a useful addition to the virtual reality kit's library.

Image source, HTC
Image caption,
The HTC Vive is likely to compete with Facebook's Oculus Rift and Sony's Morpheus

"[Valve's online marketplace] Steam has a community of 125 million gamers," said Nick Parker, a video games industry analyst at Parker Consulting.

"All of them are very familiar with Half-life, a significant number have played it, and some are still playing it.

"People won't buy the headset without a good catalogue of games, and there's certainly an engagement loyalty with the Half-life brand."

Interview transcript:

Media caption,

HTC chairwoman Cher Wang discusses games that might be released for the HTC Vive

BBC: One of Valve's most famous games is the Half-life series, and I know there are millions and millions of gamers that are desperate for a new Half-life game to come out. Is the new Half-life going to be on the virtual-reality headset? Is that what Valve is going to do with this machine?

Cher Wang: I think Valve's best game is Dota, right, and Portal and [Team Fortress] and I think they are very keen to have them.

BBC: But how about Half-life - is that going to be on there?

Cher Wang: We are co-operating with Half-life, and I think... I hope, you know, it will be on it.

Half-life and its sequel Half-life 2 are sci-fi action titles set in a future in which an experiment goes wrong, resulting in aliens taking over the planet.

Players control the main protagonist, Dr Gordon Freeman, who resists the invasion.

Valve made two add-on episodes for Half-life 2, the last of which was released in 2007.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Gabe Newell has discussed further instalments to Half Life, but it has been a long wait

The last instalment ended on a cliff-hanger, and Valve co-founder Gabe Newell hinted at the time that the story would be continued.

Image source, Valve
Image caption,
Half-Life 2 Episode Two went on sale in October 2007

Despite strong sales and high review scores, Valve opted not to release further chapters - a decision that may have been influenced by the fact that the company has an unusual boss-free office environment in which its employees have the power to decide what projects to work on and with whom.

In the meantime, suggestions that Valve employees had begun work on a third game with a new storyline have taken on near-mythical status.

"Releasing the helmet with Half-life 3 would be a fantastic way to publicise the capabilities of the device, providing that the game is built with virtual reality in mind," said Rob Crossley, UK News Editor at the GameSpot new site.

"I played the retrofitted VR edition of Half-life 2, and something as simple as going up and down a ladder made me nauseous - you have to build games with VR in mind.

"But if Valve does jump through all the necessary hoops, I think it would have a great chance of getting people interested in the technology because people love Half-life."

VR hardware

HTC's headset - called the Vive - includes two high-definition screens that simulate the experience of being part of a computer-generated environment.

Media caption,

Dave Lee gets an early reaction to HTC's VR kit

The headset also contains more than 70 sensors - including a gyroscope, an accelerometer and a laser position sensor - and will be sold alongside wireless controllers and a base station. When combined, the kit will be able to track the wearer's movements, replicating their position and gaze in the virtual world they are inhabiting.

The price for the machine has yet to be announced, but HTC said a test version would be released shortly, with a consumer edition to follow before the end of 2015.

Valve is expected to provide more details about the launch at its own presentation at the Game Developers Conference (GDC) in San Francisco on Tuesday.

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