The other cancelled ports of Half-Life


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Jun 11, 2004
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In today's article, we're going to talk about several lesser known cancelled ports of Half-Life and their development histories.

Lorenzo's Mac port

After Logicware's cancelled port in 1999, there was another attempt to port Half-Life to the Mac which involved an individual named Lorenzo. In his words, he tried to connect the right people at the right time, and he almost managed to make it happen.

Lorenzo had a contact at Valve who was still at the company and worked with Gabe Newell on a daily basis at the time. He thought he could get the game ported to the Mac if he could present Valve with a packaged deal that would only require Newell’s approval and not require any investment or additional work from the company's side.

Lorenzo was already in touch with the lead developer of the previous cancelled Mac port for unrelated purposes. He asked, if he could get permission from Valve, would that old compile still be functional for OS X? The answer was yes. Lorenzo then contacted Apple and told them that Half-Life was coming to the Mac, asking if they would provide coverage. He received an incredulous but enthusiastic response.

Everything was now in place. He had an agreement between all parties, and the only matter left was getting Newell's okay. The port was still compiling for OS X, and Apple was ready to give it coverage on every channel. Lorenzo went ahead and called his friend at Valve who was more than happy to help. The next reply, however, was negative. Newell said no. Lorenzo doesn't remember the reason why, but that put an end to the prospect for a Mac port once again.

Many years later, Valve developed and released their own Half-Life port for the OS X through Steam without any prior announcements on January 25, 2013. Lorenzo indicated to us that he wished to review the original exchanges between the companies and himself to clarify more information about the proceedings, but he has been unable to at this point in time. Apparently, there was an unnamed third company involved who was interested in porting and maintaining the port. We don't have the full details yet, but we'll keep you updated in the future.

PyroTechnix's Sega Dreamcast port

Before Captivation Digital Laboratories' involvement, the Sega Dreamcast port was originally planned to be developed by PyroTechnix, a division of Sierra at the time.

In November of 1998, after PyroTechnix shipped Return to Krondor, their PC role-playing game, the company received time off for December. Brian Kraack, a Software Engineer there, was told that he'd be leading a port of Half-Life to the Dreamcast following the break. He spent that month playing the game to learn about the title.

Kraack received the software development kit for Half-Life some time in January, as he recalls, and started the process of going through it. It was slow going at first because he was receiving "hand-me-down" equipment, and the documentation was missing or incomplete.

Although he hadn't received the full source code for the game yet, he had already begun working on some Dreamcast-only enhancement ideas that would utilize the hardware and accessories of the console. These include a Headcrab scanner in the same style as the motion detector from James Cameron's film Aliens. This function would be displayed on the small LCD screen on the VMU, the portable device inserted into the controller which acts as a memory card. Kraack says he had this scanner working in the simulator.

He finally received the disc with Half-Life’s source code on a Friday, and with warnings of a major snow storm approaching, he took it home to be able to work on it during the weekend in case he was stuck inside. However, as the weather ultimately proved fair, he ended up never taking the disc out of his backpack for the duration.

The following Monday, Kraack returned to work early and started his first task with the code: building it on his system. However, that was all he was able to do as, right before their lunch time, the entire company was gathered into the lunch room and informed that they were now let go. Sierra had shut down PyroTechnix, and they had sent a representative whose sole responsibility was to physically retrieve the disc with Half-Life's source code and ensure no copies of it remained on any hard drives.

As Kraack only had the code for about three days, the project didn't last long enough for anyone else to join his team. The development of the port would then enter the hands of Captivation where it, too, would be cancelled in time.

Gearbox's Nintendo GameCube port

There were plans to port Half-Life to the Nintendo Gamecube. In early 2002, Gearbox hired Russell Bornschlegel, who previously worked on the cancelled Dreamcast port of Half-Life at Captivation as the lead engineer, to perform the engine research.

He says the company already had a pretty solid PlayStation 2 port and were thinking about bringing it to the Gamecube. He did a feasibility analysis and, after bringing the engine up on the console, determined that a port would be doable with the memory reduction techniques they employed on the Dreamcast. However, that was all of the work that was completed. According to former Gearbox designer Matthew Armstrong, the port didn't go forward due to the belief that it ultimately wouldn't be profitable.


Barney and Marphy Black

Special Thanks

Lorenzo, Brian Kraack, Russell Bornschlegel, and Matthew Armstrong for answering our questions
Slartibarty for the help
Thank you, Ennui. It took us only two years to complete it.
I keep checking back up on the site specifically for these articles now. These are really good and insightful.