Part 5 Release & Our Future
June 6, 2023

One Year Later...

Hello and welcome! It's been quite a while, but we've been busy! A lot can happen in a year and indeed a lot has happened, so we wanted to give you all an update on development, and where we're headed in the future. First and foremost: HL2:RA Part 5 is now available!

HL2:RA Part 5 Now Available

HL2:RA Part 5 is now available for download at our workshop page! This pack has, once again, turned out to be our largest asset pack by numbers, and we're excited to finally get it out to the community. However, in order to get this to you guys, we made the decision to cut our playable showcase map for this release. We know this was a highlight of our previous release, and we're sorry to disappoint in that regard, but we've still got plenty of example content for developers.

Part 5 by the numbers:
113 3D assets with PBR materials
10 PBR Environment Materials With Blend Layers
13 VR-ready interactive prefabs
2 asset zoos for developers

For 138 total custom assets!

Part 5's goal was to help expand Half-Life: Alyx's asset library outside of City 17, to help devs create environments that aren't confined to the narrow streets and corridors of the city. We're very happy with the work we've put together for Part 5, and we think the community should find these assets very useful for campaigns where you venture beyond City 17's walls.

Coming hand-in-hand with the VR interactivity that we always focus on, we went the extra mile for this pack, and focused heavily on asset modularity for this release. Part 5 contains more prefabs itself than we previously had among all of our previous packs combined, and the majority of them feature built-in functionality to customize their configuration for whatever purpose you might need.

We're very happy to get this pack out to the community after such a long time in development! We're very proud of the work that this pack encompasses, and we're all looking forward to seeing what the community does with these assets. However, as evidenced by the lack of the promised playable showcase, Part 5's development was not without it's struggles. Over such a long development cycle things are bound to change, and you'd be lucky if the situation at the end was at all similar to the situation when you started, especially when working as volunteers. Over this time, we've learned several hard lessons, and as such we have to announce that HL2:RA Part 5 will be the last sequential HL2:RA release for the foreseeable future.

Don't worry though! Project 17 development is still ongoing, and we have some very exciting work underway otherwise! You can still expect to see more content coming from us, just not in the form it previously took. While we can't say much specifically about what we're working on yet, we think you'll all be very happy to hear about it once we can. In the meantime, we still feel the community deserves an explanation on why this pack took so long, and why we're choosing to change our approach.

Unforeseen Consequences

Part 5's development turned out to be, by far, the most difficult development cycle we've had. Having such high hopes for this release, combined with the ambition to fulfill our promises no matter what, led to significant delays once life started returning to some kind of normalcy post-pandemic. As a studio that started during the height of lockdowns, the consequences of their ending proved to have a profound effect on our team. With in-person schooling restarting, or the end of remote work for many of our members, our previous development pace simply couldn't be matched. The showcase map we promised proves the best example of what went wrong.

Concept art for our cut playable showcase map, by Francesca Magali.

Shortly after Part 4's release, we already had Part 5's asset library planned out and decided on. For Part 5, part of that process was to build it around a central "theme" that our showcase map would do a good job of, well, showcasing. In this case, we opted to theme the pack around the coastal areas of Half-Life 2, with a paired showcase map to demonstrate the new mechanics like the thumper as well as new assets. Things went well for some time, with progress on the showcase map and asset development keeping pace with each other. But, soon after pandemic lockdowns lifted, large portions of our team were called back into work, or back into in-person schooling. This marks the point where our team capabilities shifted significantly. However, we were determined to press on and deliver on our promises.

Part of a styleguide map intended to help finalize the look and feel of Part 5's showcase map.

Remaining work was split between the members with availability, and circumstance had it that asset development was only lightly impacted, with level design & logic taking the brunt of it. Nevertheless, work continued on the showcase map where we could, but it quickly lagged behind development on Part 5's assets. Before long, Part 5's asset library was mostly complete, with the showcase map still in it's very early stages. Ultimately, we found ourselves in a situation where Part 5's assets were finished, but we had no showcase map to show them in. We continued to try and develop the showcase map further for some time, but with Part 5's asset library completed and Project 17 competing for resources, the choice became choosing to work on either Project 17, or Part 5's showcase map.

So, rather than potentially jeopardize Project 17's vision, the decision was made to cut the showcase map from this release. While we wrapped up Part 5, we took the time to do a "post-mortem" of Part 5's development, where we evaluate what we did right and wrong, what worked what didn't, and generally see where we could improve. We found that, due to our ambitions, we were slow to acknowledge when our capabilities changed from the norm, which stalled our development and harmed the health of all of our projects. In addition, we found that the change in our circumstances, being permanent, also warranted permanent change to how we handled our development.

In Conclusion

While we're very happy to finally release HL2:RA Part 5 to the community, we're also saddened to admit our new circumstances mean we can't support so many projects at once. The time we've taken to deliver Part 5 has been very eventful for us in many ways, with several lessons learned and exciting new opportunities opening up to us. We are absolutely stronger as a team coming out of this development cycle than we went in, and we want to reiterate our commitment to delivering Project 17. You can all look forward to seeing much more from us in the future, and we think you'll all be very happy with what we have in store.

Until next time, thank you all for your support!

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