Half-Life: Alyx (opens in new tab) doesn't have a firm release date yet—it's still listed as "Coming March 2020" on Steam. Given that we'll soon be wheeling into the last week of January, that lack of specificity may not inspire great confidence that it won't be delayed. Valve says that's not likely to happen, though, because the game is now effectively complete.
"With the exception of some tweaks to the absolute final scene, the game is done. Lots of us at Valve, as well as playtesters, have played through the entire game multiple times," the Valve team—made up of Robin Walker, Jamaal Bradley, David Feise, Greg Coomer, Corey Peters, Erik Wolpaw, Tristan Reidford, Chris Remo, Jake Rodkin, and Kaci Aitchison Boyle—said during today's AMA on Reddit (opens in new tab).
"Right now we're primarily polishing and fixing bugs, which is where we'd hope to be at this point in the development cycle. We're confident we'll hit our intended release. (We let the Valve Time happen before we announced the game.)"
Understandably, the AMA doesn't reveal any deep, dark secrets about Half-Life: Alyx, but it does provide some insights into what players can expect from the big VR adventure. Weapons in the game only require one hand, for instance, although they can be held and steadied with your offhand if it's free.
"We really wanted to focus on simultaneous two handed play throughout the game, so we needed the player to always be able to easily have a free hand," the team explained. "We keep that hand pretty busy with gravity gloves, movement, world interactions, flashlight, and so on."
Inventory and weapon selection systems are also designed to keep players focused on the environment, rather than menus, as much as possible. Ammo is handled through an "'over the shoulder' contextual inventory system," for instance, while a quick-select for weapons will be available on the main hand.
The developers also addressed the occasional, probably-not-always-serious expressions of surprise about Valve's sudden willingness to talk so openly about the new games it's working on. Valve has always enjoyed communicating with its fans, they said, but for Half-Life: Alyx—"our first singleplayer campaign in several years"—it wanted to take a different approach than it does with service-based games like Dota 2 and CS:GO.
"That prompted much of the recent work we’ve done on social media and other venues like the new HL:A site. It was a great opportunity to widen our outreach as Valve more broadly," they said.
"We didn't talk about Half-Life for a long time because we weren't actively working on a Half-Life game. Once Half-Life: Alyx became a reality internally, it was already clear to us that this was something we wanted to involve the community in," they added in a response to a later question." We're going to be doing more of this in the next few weeks as we prepare to launch it!"
Half-Life: Alyx will feature a new voice actor (opens in new tab) for the lead character, Ozioma Akagha, in order to reflect the character's younger age in the Half-Life 2 prequel. But it turns out that Valve actually began working on the project with original Alyx voice actor Merle Dandridge, the developers said, before ultimately deciding to "go in a different direction."
"We love Merle, her work in Half-Life 2 was instrumental in bringing Alyx to life, and we hope to work with her again in the future," they said.
In case you missed it yesterday, Valve has made the entire Half-Life Collection—that's Half-Life, HL2, HL2: Episodes 1 and 2, Opposing Force, Blue Shift, and Team Fortress Classic—free to play (opens in new tab) until Half-Life: Alyx comes out.