Half Life 2: Raising the Bar REDUX: June 2021 Update
Hey everyone. Welcome to our second update of the year and also the second update of Division 2! We’ve made bucket loads of progress, and having conducted a few phases of testing, the actual playable foundation of Division 2 is beginning to get locked into place. The levels still have some way to go visually, though – and alongside models, music, and voice acting, you’ll get a glimpse at how we’re progressing on that front, too. Let’s get this ball rolling!
First off, a look at our first go at an Airboat remake! Full disclosure – we’ve decided to take the airboat in a different direction so this model will actually be replaced before release. Nonetheless, its been our airboat remake for a good chunk of development and we’d be remiss not to have mentioned it. The new edition will take the design much further in an interesting, but still logical, direction. Saatvik’s work on this version shouldn’t go unappreciated and we’ll thus aim to ship it as an addon with Division 2 as an option for anyone who would appreciate using this redesign over the final work.
Our odyssey with remaking Alyx has been a long one. She’s a crucial character and so it was vital we got our interpretation of her model right. Several kitbashes, concept arts, scratch models, and years later, we’ve finally got our more or less finalised edition of Alyx! Mohamed’s work laying the foundation was then built upon greatly by Egon, who finalised her body design. Her facial retexture adds a lot to her character and the hair – also done by Egon, utilising Half-Life: Alyx’s hair – was also well-crafted in helping her stand-out in RTBR’s vision of Half-Life 2. It’s been a long journey to this point and our brilliant voice actress, Hosekii, had a few words to say about her character:
Hosekii: "Hi guys! I’m Hosekii and I’ve been the voice actress for Alyx since April of last year. I’ve really looked to draw inspiration from the cut content in voicing her and bringing a unique take to her personality and mannerisms that differ from the original. I didn’t realize just how important of a role she was when I first started out, but overtime I've realized just how crucially important her role really is, so I’ve brought my very best in performing it! We hope you love the way we’ve brought Alyx to life just as much as I have and we hope that you will continue to support us on this journey!"
This ammo crate by Alexander is a faithful restoration of the cut content design, providing a good general-use asset. We’ll adjust the boxes to contain different icons depending on the ammo type, of course, and we have progression in Division 2 that will make use of the occasional crate here or there. It’s a firm work by Alexander and another great asset he’s made for the team.
As well as Alyx, and her gun, we’ve remodelled her EMP too! We based this design off of Half-Life 2 Survivor’s interpretation, which we felt fit better stylistically and thematically with the designs we’ve already got implemented in RTBR. Alexander handled this one too and it’ll be a great visual addition to Alyx and in-game scenes!
As part of our ongoing work to get Maxwell’s lab standing out with loads of unique props, Egon modelled eye scanners based off of the design seen in Half-Life 1. It’ll perform a similar function to those seen in Black Mesa East, only with a unique spin to its interaction that brings so much individual personality to even the basic interactions in Maxwell’s lab.
Speaking of Eli Den, with the whole narrative now fully voiced, choreographed, and implemented, work begins on making the surrounding levels look good to match! We’ve got lots of custom assets at work and CW3D’s initial work here is just incredible – he has been closely eyeing the concept art and added in even more scripted sequences to make the whole experience that much more engaging. He’s got some thoughts to share on how he put this all together:
CW3D: "With Eli's Den, the very first thing I got to work with was an iconic room that is shown within valve's concept art for Eli's Den. For this area, I heavily looked over that concept art and tried to incorporate that within the map, making lighting and prop placement as accurate as I could. Detail within the map varies from little things like Xen flora that helps light the scene in darker areas, interactive details around the den, and detail that builds onto Eli's character. Scripted scenes were also touched up as well as adding in extra ones to make these characters and the environment feel more alive and real."
Long Jump Module
The first of our new modeller’s work, White_Red_Dragons! White has been tasked with continuing our work of developing Maxwell’s Lab into its own unique locale totally separate from Kleiner’s thematically and visually. We figured it’d be great to have a callback to one of the old pieces of equipment Gordon would’ve been hopping around with, and White really did a great job bringing it to life. It won’t be usable – it’s been years since Black Mesa, so it’d be optimistic to expect it to work still – but it’ll be a great detail piece to enjoy as part of the overall set dressing.
Last update, we showed you the web spore – one interpretation of the spores from Half-Life 1 by Andy. This is his other interpretation – a little more traditional, but still carrying his signature flair. These spores will contribute hugely to environments, helping them feel more overgrown with life. They’ve also received a unique animation set we’ll be showing alongside some other animations later this update!
Much like Alyx, as Grigori has been remodelled, so too has his weapon – and it’ll find its way into the player’s hands, too, for a short while! The Annabelle was modelled by Sutty during his time on the team, and it’s currently in the process of getting a gorgeous and impactful animation set by Silent! It’ll be a memorable part of Division 2’s arsenal, and a fearsome zombie-killer in the hands of Quarrytown’s warrior-priest himself.
Inner canals will be your introduction to the world outside City 17, and to that end, we’ve begun doubling down on the use of xen wildlife and fauna, as well as custom-made flesh textures and new fleshy decals to add to the atmosphere. Outside the city’s walls are many dangers kept at bay only by the Combine, and as you leave the relative safety of Kleiner and the underground resistance behind to venture out alone, you’ll encounter all manner of dangers. Inner canals through to Outercanals 03 (six maps in total) recently underwent a gameplay test, the feedback from which was invaluable in getting the first six maps of Division 2 in a brilliant state. The art passing you see here was undertaken by our tester Clatronix after they tested through these maps. We can’t wait for you to try them out yourselves!
The barnacle is an iconic enemy that Andy once again took up the mantle of reimagining. Taking inspiration from Half-Life 1’s barnacle in colour and design, we ended up at this beauty. It’s a great way for us to add extra hazards in the player’s way and the design really fits with all the other wildlife we’ve gotten thus far. You’ll fight many barnacles during your escape from City 17, so keep your eyes up!
Volumes 5 and 6
Our composers have been hard at work designing more tracks not only for Division 2 – which is chock full of memorable tracks like Good Mourning or No Longer Safe – but beyond. As of today we’re shipping two more compilations of music – twenty new tracks in total – for your listening pleasure. Our composers CW3D, Entity, and Name continue to develop the audio landscape of RTBR and bring levels that extra layer of immersion and atmosphere.
With a new airboat model came a new dock model, also courtesy of Saatvik. Whilst a relatively unassuming prop, it’s a great additional detail that will fit in well alongside our new Airboat as well as the old.
Modelled by Olezen during his time on the team, the MP5K is an iconic part of the cut content’s arsenal. Whilst ours won’t feature in Division 2, it will maintain its own part in the repertoire of weapons the player has access to beyond Division 2, and it’s also worth noting we share this model with Entropy: Zero 2, so if you like how it looks, keep an eye over there too to see how they’re choosing to make use of it!
MP5K, Shotgun, and Hoofspore Animations
Our shotgun has received a totally overhauled animation set since the last update, and of course our new MP5K model has a great animation set to go with it, both animated by Silent. Our Hoofspore also has a great idle animation created by Peeps to give it that little extra feeling of being alive. Take a look!
It’s rather unfortunate the last time you saw Grigori was a part of a meme, but wait no longer! His remodel is in keeping with the concept art we showed last update, featuring Mohamed’s body model and also Egon’s resculpted head model, based off of the few images that were released of an earlier sculpt of Grigori’s model. Both really help him come to life, but one of the most important parts of this is the work of our Grigori voice actor, Amicus, who has a little to say on his inspiration:
Amicus: “Hello everyone – I’m Amicus, the voice actor for RTBR’s Father Grigori. Father Grigori has always been a fascinating character to me in Half Life 2, so for my performance I really want to make sure his mania is always deeply rooted in his character, whilst digging into the more tragic, darker lines from the cut content. Grigori is a man who has been through a lot of pain, and that is always a focus of my performance for him. But we can't have Father Grigori without his signature maniacal laughter!”
As with Inner Canals, Outercanals (our airboat maps) recently received a gameplay pass over that made them much readier to be put into your hands in the future. Visual overhauls continue next, and I’ve been building upon Obsolete’s fantastic foundation as he took over Inner Canals so he can focus on making every inch of that smaller-scale map look brilliant. I’ve been aiming to make the Combine sections look really established and overtaking the human elements. I hope to bring more xen overgrowth to the map to establish these environments as being hostile and out of control. This map has been a real challenge – all vehicle maps always are – but it’s paying off, bit by bit!
Another impromptu fauna designed totally from scratch by Andy, much like the tube fauna! These xen flowers will be scattered around xen infested areas – you’ll have seen some already in this update – and will add even more layers onto our environmental detailing. They’re easy to use and a great addition to our wildlife options!
Whilst RTBR won’t be doing a rendition of the bus journey, for Maxwell’s lab and elsewhere, we still wanted to implement the bus design as a detail item that helps setup the world. Val modelled this one and created a few variants to boot – he has a little to say about his process:
Val: “Hello, I'm FearellVal. I'm a hard surface artist for RTBR. While working on the beta bus, it was crucial for me to retain everything iconic about the design while still adding realism and detail to it. I tried to replicate every brush and texture, all the way down to following the wheel's tire pattern and individual bolts locations from the original. The only place where I allowed some freedom to myself was the interior for realism. You will find several colour variants of this bus scattered throughout the entire game, with one of them featured in Eli's Den.”
As always, Flash makes fantastic progress on quarrytown, promising to deliver one of the most detailed and immersive renditions of Ravenholm to date. New industrial design, revised environments, and modified layouts lead to our quarrytown firmly standing out. The phenomenal attention to detail Flash employs in every corner of the map means every nook and cranny will have something new to discover, and will help to sell the believability of Grigori’s work of salvation.
And that’s all for the second update of Division 2! One of the biggest updates we’ve ever done for sure – hopefully all the proof you need that Division 2’s development is going well! If you want to be a part of it, we’re looking for a few roles right now:
- Competent level designers – we really need gameplay/blockout level designers. If you have an interest in creating levels and interesting mechanics, get in touch!
- Facial flex/sculptor – we also need someone confident in sculpting facial models and creating VTAs for them to make some of our custom character work stand out in their faces too as our previous sculptor is on a hiatus
If these roles interest you, feel free to add me on Discord at Kralich/David#0901. Thanks for listening, and we’ll see you in September for the third update on Division 2!