Curious about what made Half-Life: Alyx (2020) one of the most richly detailed and immersive VR games to date? Now Valve has released a developer commentary mode in the game that gives you a first-hand peek at every aspect of its development as you play.
Starting today, you’ll be able to switch on a ‘Developer Commentary’ option in Half-Life: Alyx, which includes 147 different ‘points of interest’ containing over three hours of commentary. Audio commentary delves into “every aspect of development, including design, art, animation, rendering, sound and more,” Valve says.
Like watching a movie for the first time, you don’t want your first time to be with audio commentary however; Valve says it contains “significant spoilers,” so it’s best to play all the way through first.
Although audio isn’t studio-quality due to work-at-home norms adopted by the team since the COVID-19 pandemic broke, the studio has been quietly recording commentary voice overs “in closets and blanket forts around greater Seattle,” the studio says.
And like all things Valve, the studio found a pretty innovative way to integrate audio commentary throughout those 147 points in the game: a floating headset will appear when you near a commentary spot that you can grab, put on and listen to. A commentary status panel will be displayed above your off hand, showing the playback progress and the name of the speaker.
Thankfully, commentary subtitles are also available in English, French, German, Japanese, Korean, Spanish (Spain), Spanish (Latin America), Russian, Polish, Traditional Chinese, and Simplified Chinese.
Once you’re done with a specific point, or want to take a break during any commentary track, simply remove the headset and drop it so it returns back to its original location.
This is by far one of the most interesting (and patently Valve) ways of integrating postmortem commentary we’ve seen to date. Earlier this year we published an interview with one of Alyx’s developers and also got a deluge of behind-the-scenes details—including what happened to other VR games that Valve was working on—but nothing like this before.
If you haven’t played Half-Life: Alyx, make sure to check out our no-spoilers review to see why we gave it a perfect [10/10].