Half-Life: Alyx gets in-game developer commentary in free update

The spectacular Half-Life: Alyx has received a free update that adds optional developer commentary throughout the game, and we spoke with Valve's Jason Mitchell about it.

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When Half-Life: Alyx launched back in March 2020, the team had planned to also include in-game developer commentary with it, as is often included with Valve games. Unfortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic threw a wrench in Valve’s plans and the team was forced to delay the commentary substantially. Months later, while working from home, Half-Life: Alyx is finally getting its developer commentary as a free update to the game. We spoke to Valve's Jason Mitchell about it.

Half-Life: Alyx in-game developer commentary launched as a free update on November 12, 2020. Following the update, when starting a new game, players can choose to toggle a developer commentary playthrough. Doing so will add 147 points of interest to the game in which the player can listen to developer insight on design, art, mechanics, rendering, and various other aspects of Half-Life: Alyx’s development, making for over three hours’ worth of commentary. As it is mostly in-depth behind-the-scenes commentary, Valve suggests that players finish a normal playthrough of the game before diving into a developer commentary run, as spoilers will definitely be present throughout.

Shacknews had a chance to ask a few questions about the launch of the developer commentary in Half-Life: Alyx, for which Valve developer Jason Mitchell obliged. When asked how much the delays affected commentary, Mitchell suggested that was both a good and bad thing. Bad because the team is working from home now and couldn’t be in professional settings to record (though he mentions the difference in quality isn’t too staggering) and good because the team had time away from the project to have a better retrospective look at their work on the game.

Throughout a Half-Life: Alyx developer commentary playthrough, players will be entreated to a wealth of design, art, sound, and further develop points of interest spread throughout the game for over 3 hours of behind-the-scenes insight.
Throughout a Half-Life: Alyx developer commentary playthrough, players will be entreated to a wealth of design, art, sound, and further develop points of interest spread throughout the game for over 3 hours of behind-the-scenes insight.

The points of interest, though many in number are also apparently paced well throughout the game. According to Mitchell, the gaming and VR mediums make for a unique opportunity when considering how to implement developer commentary, considering how players can engage and interact with the game as the commentary plays out.

It’s bound to be an enlightening experience to say the least, which is something Mitchell and much of the senior staff at Valve take pride in.

“We have newer co-workers who tell us that they were inspired by the commentary in our past products and that it was part of the reason they took the career path they did,” Mitchell concluded. “This is extremely gratifying to hear and, aside from making us feel old, is exactly the outcome we would hope for.”

With many Valve employees working from home, and at least one famously halfway around the world in New Zealand, it was a tougher task than ever to put Half-Life: Alyx's developer commentary together, but the distance from release may have helped it too.
With many Valve employees working from home, and Gabe Newell famously halfway around the world in New Zealand, it was a tougher task than ever to put Half-Life: Alyx's developer commentary together, but the distance from release may have benefited insight on it too.

Again, Half-Life: Alyx’s developer commentary is available in-game as part of a free update, so if you want to take a deeper dive into how the game was made, maybe it’s time to start a new playthrough. You just might learn a thing or two about why this game was so well-reviewed here at Shacknews and why it’s easily sitting at the top of our list of best VR games of 2020.

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.

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