The crowbar caused too many problems to be included in Half-Life: Alyx

Crowbars and Half-Life go hand in hand, so why wasn't there one in Half-Life: Alyx? Valve's Robin Walker says they tried, but a multitude of reasons kept it out of the final game.

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When it comes to mainline Half-Life games, the implied relationship between Gordon Freeman and his trusty crowbar has always been just as important as anything else going on. So how did such a versatile weapon get left out of Half-Life Alyx? Apparently, Valve actually tried to include the iconic tool in the game, but according to designer and programmer Robin Walker, the weapon ended up creating more problems than it was worth to have in the final game.

Walker opened up about the matter of the crowbar and Half-Life: Alyx in a recent conversation with Kotaku posted on March 25, 2020. Apparently, Valve spent a substantial amount of time tying to get the crowbar to work in the game.

“We lost, like, a year and a half of our lives trying to get a crowbar in VR,” Walker explained. “It certainly unlocked a lot of gameplay we liked. There were puzzles where you had to slip it between bars and hook something and pull it over to you. It could function as an extra remote hand, which was cool. But it had lots of problems.”

According to Valve, crowbars are more of a Gordon Freeman thing while devices like the multi-tool seem more unique and fit to a character like Alyx Vance.
According to Valve, crowbars are more of a Gordon Freeman thing while devices like the gravity gloves seem more unique and fit to a character like Alyx Vance.

According to Walker, the crowbar’s hook would catch on a lot of the environment when players had it out of sight, and there wasn’t enough functional feedback to show players what or where the issue was coming from. More than that, Half-Life: Alyx isn’t a very melee-focused game and the team never felt like using it as a weapon felt right.

“We did a bunch of experimentation around melee, and we could just never get it to the level we liked,” Walker told Kotaku. “The player really had to kind of come along for the ride more than we were happy with... we don’t like it if there’s a real way you can do it that seems natural to you, but that the game really doesn’t want you to do.”

Ultimately, the team also felt like the crowbar was a thing that was far more narratively contextual with Gordon Freeman than Alyx Vance. In fact, players and testers were the ones who made this issue clear to the dev team.

“It didn’t matter how much we told them, like, literally at the start of the game, that they aren’t Gordon. We would finish playtests… and players would think they’re Gordon,” Walker further explained.

Ultimately, Alyx’s gameplay was built around firearms, her multi-tool and more, which felt more narratively and functionally distinct in putting her apart from Freeman. It also arguably worked quite well for the game. Check out our Shacknews review to see how well it did, or check out our other Half-Life: Alyx coverage, including a math teacher who designed and recorded an entire lesson in the game.

News Editor

TJ Denzer is a player with a passion for games that has dominated a lifetime. When he's not handing out beatdowns in the latest fighting games, exploring video game history, or playing through RPGs with his partner, he's searching for new food and drinks in the constant pursuit of good times with good people inside and outside the South Texas area. You can also find him on Twitter @JohnnyChugs.

From The Chatty
  • reply
    March 25, 2020 1:55 PM

    TJ Denzer posted a new article, The crowbar caused too many problems to be included in Half-Life: Alyx

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      March 25, 2020 4:20 PM

      I was wondering why it wasn’t in the game, but this makes sense. Hope it’s still in a level somewhere, out of reach, requiring another crowbar to get it.

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        March 25, 2020 8:00 PM

        Given the jank in Boneworks with melee, I can see why it was left out of Alyx in the interests of a smooth and jank-free VR experience. Maybe it'll be modded in?

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      March 25, 2020 4:25 PM

      That’s a shame about the melee. I hope for their next iteration of whatever they do with the franchise/VR/Alyx that they manage to figure it out because that really bummed me out.

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        March 25, 2020 4:32 PM

        It'll be ready for Source Engine 3.

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        March 25, 2020 8:07 PM

        I doubt it’s possible to do right with physics. Melee requires you hit something with a prop and that prop stop once it makes contact.

        It’s harder to do in VR as there is nothing to stop you physically from moving forward past the point of contact, causing the physics to whack out. That’s why Gorn had rubber dildo weapons I think to give them some give if you moved them too far.

        It’s also hard to swing a virtual club without any weight.

        If the melee weapon was completely devoid of physics and sliced/clipped through everything like in a fighting game then I think it could work.

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        March 26, 2020 4:17 AM

        I was listening to Jeff on the latest Bombcast describe how the game immediately sets you up for melee combat and then immediately disappoints.

        It sounds like the game is still good despite the lack of melee, but yeah... still seems disappointing.

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      March 25, 2020 10:43 PM

      Melee in Skyrim VR is the worst thing I've ever felt.

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