Half-Life
Changing scripted fate
Colin Fahey

1. Introduction

2002.04
I played the video game "Half-Life" to completion several times in the years following its original publication.  I have also played the sequel video game "Half-Life : Opposing Force" to completion several times in the years following its original publication.  I enjoyed playing these games because I like seeing how the artificial intelligence (AI) of the game characters behave and react in various scenarios. 
These video games internally use "scripts" to control the behavior and reactions of game characters in some circumstances.  A specific "script" is activated (or "triggered") whenever specified conditions exist.  In the video games "Half-Life" and "Half-Life : Opposing Force", a script sometimes relies on the behaviors of other game entities (which are also scripted), or on the effects of game rules, to tell a desired story.  For example, a script might cause a character to run in to an area with many hostile creatures, and might rely upon the reactions of the hostile creatures (for example, attacking the character) to tell the intended story.  When a script relies on circumstances in the environment, or relies on the presence or behavior of other game entities, then sometimes the intended story can be disrupted by changing the circumstances in the environment or by changing the presence or behavior of other game entities. 
I enjoyed playing these video games with the intention of disrupting as many game stories as possible, using only my own game character to affect the game environment, and without using the "console" to alter the game status from outside the context of the game itself. 
The following images show some of the interesting and humorous behaviors and reactions of the characters in the video games "Half-Life" and "Half-Life : Opposing Force".  The images also show how I changed "fate", "doom", and "destiny" by using my game character to change the environment. 

2. Microwave oven

When the video game "Half-Life" was published in 1998, "Half-Life" had many more character and object behaviors than any other game in its genre (first-person action game).  Some of the character and object behaviors were included simply to fascinate or entertain the player.  Video games published after "Half-Life", such as "System Shock 2" (1999) and "Deus Ex" (2000) included much more character and object behaviors, but, in 1998, "Half-Life" was an exciting advance in the complexity of interactivity for games in its genre. 
One example of an unimportant object with entertaining behavior in the video game "Half-Life" is a microwave oven in a particular kitchen area in the Black Mesa research facility. 
microwavebefore.jpg
Microwave oven
microwaveafter.jpg
Microwave oven after "activating" it several times : damaged by food explosion
After pressing the "activate" key on the keyboard several times, while focusing on the microwave oven, the food inside the microwave oven explodes, badly damaging the microwave oven.  After the explosion, a scientist seated at a table nearby says, "My god! What ARE you doing?!".  Hilarious! 

3. Light switch

One of the rooms in the Black Mesa research facility has a switch that controls the lights on the ceiling of that room.  The room is occupied by two scientists, one of whom is walking around the room.  Turning off the light switch in that room leads to a simple and reasonable result, but is nonetheless amusing to observe.
meswitchon.jpg
Light switch before turning it off
roomswitchoff.jpg
The light is off
One of the two scientists in thr room, noticing that the light is turned off, starts walking toward the light switch.
walkswitch.jpg
A scientist walks toward the light switch
guyswitchon.jpg
The scientist has activated the light

4. Interrupting conversations

Before Gordan Freeman makes history in the legendary "test chamber", two fellow scientists describe the experiment and the predicted results.  These two scientist are not entirely ethical.  They carefully avoid telling Gordan Freeman about the potential dangers of the experiment!  While the two scientists take turns describing the experiment to the player, the player can press the "activation" key on the keyboard (called the "Use key") to provoke a scientist who is not currently speaking to spontaneously say something.  Thus, even though the two scientists are involved in a lengthly speech about the experiment, the player can provoke a currently-silent scientist to engage in casual conversation, such that the scientist will say something like, "I'm rather busy right now.", or "Please wait until AFTER the test.". 
conversationinterrupted.jpg
Scientists willing to chat in the middle of a long speech
In the image above, both scientists are talking at the same time.  One scientist is telling his part of a long story about the experiment that will soon be performed, and the other scientist is engaging me in inconsequential chat (upon my provocation).

5. The earliest opportunity to kill a hostile alien creature

Hostile alien creatures start appearing in the Black Mesa research facility immediately after the disastrous experiment in the test chamber.  Gordan Freeman escapes the test chamber, but is soon attacked by alien creatures.  The earliest opportunity to kill a hostile alien creature is almost directly outside the test chamber, as seen in the following images. 
killtrappedheadcrab.jpg
The player can kill a "head crab" trapped in a container, in a room near the test chamber

6. An attempt to rescue scientists in a falling elevator

I attempted to rescue scientists in a falling elevator by jumping in to the elevator shaft and trying to use my body to disrupt the falling elevator.
elevatorfalling.jpg
Scientists trapped in a falling elevator
When you push the button for the elevator, or when you smash the glass leading to the elevator shaft, an elevator containing three scientists starts falling several floors and gets crushed at the bottom of the shaft.  I was hoping I would be able to somehow rescue these scientists. 
besidefallingelevator.jpg
I'm falling parallel to falling elevator.  (Note the scientist facing me with his mouth open. He is saying, "Ahhhh, good to see you!", totally relaxed and chipper!)
I first tried to fall alongside the falling elevator, just to get more ideas.  Immediately I noticed that scientists started talking to me as if they just encountered me walking down the hall or some other normal scenario: "Good morning, Gordan.", "Hello, there.", etc. 
besidefallingelevator02.jpg
I'm falling such that I'm below the falling elevator.
underfallingelevator.jpg
I'm falling such that I'm almost under the falling elevator.
It tried this dozens of times -- made easier by doing a quick save at the point just after smashing the glass and entering the elevator shaft, so I could just do a quick load again and again and perfect my jump down the shaft. 
Anyhow, I tried jumping up against the bottom of the falling elevator, and I tried using my body as an obstacle to cause the elevator to become jammed.  Amazingly, these approaches sometimes delayed the final, fatal crush of the scientists.  For a while I thought this strategy would eventually work, if I could just get the timing right. 
crushpoint.jpg
Elevator at the bottom of the shaft, with one of the three doomed scientists already crushed.  NOTE: I'm already dead. 
I tried again and again to save these guys, and there were many times I thought I might have succeeded -- since there was often a significant pause (after my effort) with the elevator sitting in the bottom of the shaft, and I could see the scientists alive inside.  But a moment later and the top of the elevator collapsed in to them, and this was followed by the usual explosion. 

7. Successful rescue of a freaked-out scientist

In the video game "Half-Life" I rescued several scientists from probable death.  For example, at one point Gordan Freeman enters a room and witnesses a scientist who is in extreme panic.  The scientist cries out, "For God's sake, open the door! We're all going to die! I've got to get out of here!" (or somthing like that), and then he runs away from a sealed security room, past a raised fire door, and around a corner -- and is shot by tripod-mounted machine guns, and blown up by laser-tripped mines.  I loaded the game at a point in time just before entering the room.  Then I ran in to the room, disregarded the scientist's crazy speech, ran past him, and triggered the lowering of the fire door.  The scientist finished his raving, and ran for the fire door, which was now lowering. 
firedoor01.jpg
A rescued scientist, still eager to meet his doom.
The panicking scientist continued to run against the door, pausing from time to time.  I was able to put my body in the way of the scientist and the door, open the door, and crawl under the door as I closed it again.  The scientist was saved! 
Anyhow, later in the game Gordan Freeman happens to return to the same area -- through an air duct!  And...the scientist is still there!  Running against the fire door in a mad urge to get blown up. 
firedoor02.jpg
The rescued scientist, still at the fire door there when I emerge from an air duct (see room to the right with open air duct) -- and this scene is 'hours later' in game time! 

8. Getting close to the "G-Man"

At various points in Half-Life you see a mysterious figure carrying a briefcase: the "G-Man".  You can never get too close to him, but there are times you see him talking behind thick glass, watching you from behind a sealed door with a window, or walking away in the distance just as you notice he's there. 
With some experimentation I was able to reach the "G-Man" and interact with him!  All without any use of the "console". 
gman01.jpg
"G-Man" on an elevated walkway
gman02.jpg
"G-Man" starting to walk away
When you cross a certain threshold in the room, the "G-Man" starts walking out of the room.  At first, I just tried running directly for the ladder, and running to the next ladder, and running across the catwalk so that I'd catch up with him.  But he was gone -- and this bugged me because I should have caught up with him pretty easily.  Still, I am open-minded, allowing for the use of a portal, etc. 
Next, I tried shooting him with the machine gun.  After hitting him with 20 bullets, he stopped walking and simply stood there.  Hey!  Maybe this would work. 
I walked up the first ladder, and he didn't move.  Wow, this was easy!  Then I walked to the second ladder, and that's when he started walking out of the room again! 
Here's what finally worked: 

(1) Shoot him with the machine gun so that he stops walking; 
(2) Climb the first ladder; 
(3) Do NOT cross the concrete bridge to the second ladder! 

Instead, go beyond the bridge to the gap, jump on to the railing, jump across to the railing on the other side; 

(4) walk to the second ladder (stay against the wall); 
(5) ascend the ladder with your back to the wall (keep an eye on the Administrator); 
(6) Approach the administrator, shooting your machine gun at him if he starts walking. 
gman03.jpg
Hanging out with the "G-Man"
I tried hitting the "Use Key" to start a conversation with the "G-Man" -- but as one of your fellow scientists tells you just after the disaster: "I tried telling the "G-Man", but he just would not listen!"
gman04.jpg
Machine gun fire doesn't bother the "G-Man"!
gman05.jpg
Grenade explotions don't bother the "G-Man"!
gman06.jpg
With some prodding, the "G-Man" walks to the next room, descends the stairs, and generally walks around. 
I tried to get the Marine to shoot the "G-Man" as part of friendly-fire when trying to shoot me (Gordan Freeman).  But I didn't get that to work.  Also, I tried even greater explosive strength to try and destroy the "G-Man" (so I could witness a paradox later in the game, with the "G-Man" showing up here and there, alive) -- so I shot the explosive drums you see in this image.  BOOM!  No dice.  Maybe one day I will succeed in prodding the "G-Man" through the level, but I'm guessing he simply won't enter the elevator...  But, it's a fun fantasy: getting the "G-Man" to meet himself, all made possible by normal game playing! 

9. Other Half-Life rescue notes

Early in the video game Half-Life I tried to save a scientist in a locked room from being killed by a "head crab".  For this experiment I did go in to "god mode".  I turned off collision, and ran through all the walls, straight to the doomed scientist.  I made it in to the room with plenty of time to spare.  The scientist was backing in to the wall, and the head crab prepared to leap, and I totally unleashed weapons of mass destruction in a confined space, enough to destroy the entire Black Mesa facility, and... and... the head crab leaped on the scientist's face and it was all over!  Destiny. 
I saved a few other scientists in other scenarios, but I have to warn you if you think of trying this yourself: They're ungrateful, and they often remain in a crazed panic and won't chat with you. 

10. Half-Life : Opposing Force rescue notes

In the game "Half-Life : Opposing Force", I tried to distract a friendly soldier from going through an elaborate script that ends with his pointless death.  I repeatedly hit the "Use Key" to get him to start a conversation with me -- and this crashed the game.  This happens 100% of the time when I try this; maybe I stole the lead character from a script, and the game tried to access him again.  Anyhow, I found another way to save the soldier, so all's well that ends well.  Eventually I had four soldiers following me around, and the only reason I wasn't able to build an army of a dozen soldiers (eventually) was the fact that there were silly "obstacles" that the soldiers just couldn't figure out!  For example, they just wouldn't step on to the transit system train car.  I was tempted to somehow cause an explosion that would kick their bodies about six inches, just enough to get them on to the train car -- and somehow I'd have to do it in such a way that they didn't hate me and start shooting at me and kicking me.  Maybe I'll try to make this work, because it would be really cool to get the whole platoon on the train car and unload them at the next area, and start building a crazy army from there!  Listen, I'm sure a simple Q2/HL mod, or even "console mode", would make this possible without the fuss, but I'm interested in exploring the possibilities within the normal game paradigm.  But I'll admit that it's all a matter of degrees (given the "save" and "load" capabilities). 
In the game Half-Life : Opposing Force, I saved a scientist from falling to his death.  The following screen-captures show the success of this mission. 
of3a2_first.jpg
Half-Life : Opposing Force, Level 3a2, just before the horror
of3a2_first.sav
Saved game for the scenario shown
86865 bytes
MD5: e65a339103947c8451bfe9e9ba270a2b
of3a2_second.jpg
Scientist and "Displacer" gun falling from random portal high above.
of3a2_third.jpg
Dead scientist, and my *new* "Displacer" gun!  But I couldn't let that poor scientist die like that... 
Here's what I did to save the scientist from his unfortunate fall.  First, I tried simply walking to the exact point where he would land, figuring I could break his fall -- but then he just fell on top of me and we were BOTH crushed by the impact.  Then I thought of a nutty idea: Jump up in the air shortly before the scientist fell on me, and, well, counter his impact with my jumping, and then the both of us would gently fall from a modest height of five feet, say.  Although the theory disregarded the magnitudes of the physics quantities involved, it had a certain plausibility and boldness.  I gave it a try, and that's when the miracle happened: We both survived!  But, there was a minor glitch... 
of3a2_last.jpg
Scientist alive and well, chatting with me.
of3a2_last.sav
Saved game for the scenario shown
87147 bytes
MD5: fa65b192ce0d5621db399f0ed022f2ee
I saved the scientist, but he was stuck floating above the ground -- and he was still waving his arms and legs wildly, like he was still in a freefall.  But I was able to jolt him out of this funk by jumping to his height and hitting the "Use Key" to start conversing with him.  He immediately entered a standing position and started talking: "I predicted all of this you know, ALL of it!"  At this point he is almost completely normal, and I was able to hit the "Use Key" again (while jumping to his level) to tell him to "follow me", and he does start to make a walking motion...  But he doesn't move anywhere.  If I wander to another location (nearby asteroid), he exclaims: "This is as far as I go!"  Ah, how right you are! 
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