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Abandoned Half-Life Episode Featured Magnet Gun, Warren Spector Says

by Tim Turi on Apr 24, 2015 at 07:21 AM

It's not every day that we get to write news about Half-Life, but we do today. We have new details about video game legend Warren Spector's role in a ditched Half-Life project. Warren Spector is one of the most influential developers in video game history, with each of his games (Deus Ex, System Shock) focusing on letting players express their own style via gameplay. Half-Life is one of the most celebrated first-person shooters of all time, created by Valve, one of the most successful game developers of all time. Spector previously stated that he worked on a Half-Life project while heading the now-defunct Junction Point Studios, but we now have confirmation that the game was an episode of Half-Life 2, complete with a new addition to players' toolset.

We interviewed Spector, now a professor at the University of Texas, on the most recent episode of the newly rebooted Game Informer Show podcast (now with video!). The conversation shifted to the rough beginnings of Spector's former start-up studio, Junction Point. Spector discusses several deals falling through as he and his team struggled to find solid footing in the industry.

 "Valve actually stepped in and saved us, frankly," Spector says. "We were doing some concept development for them for a year, maybe even two. While at the same time I was doing concept for Disney on what became Epic Mickey. It was pretty exciting. Doing a startup is a little like jumping off a cliff, and I had to pay payroll out of my pocket for a while. It was pretty crazy, but the core of that team stayed with me and we ultimately ended up doing some pretty cool stuff with Disney."

When asked to expand on Junction Point's collaboration with Valve, Spector opened up about his involvement in the Gordon Freeman saga.

"We were working on an episode," Spector says. "[Valve] was really into episodic content at that point. We were working on an episode that would fill in one of the gaps in the Half-Life story. So we were trying to flesh out a specific part of the world of Half-Life and we created a new tool. A thing we elegantly called the Magnet Gun, which I still wish they would do something with. We came up with so many cool ways to use a magnet gun that were completely different from anything [Valve] had done and was really freeform in its use. I still think it'd be cool, but when the deal with Disney really started to bear fruit, I just couldn't say no to Disney. I'd always wanted to work there, so we never completed the work with Valve."

The possibility of Spector, the creator of cyberpunk RPG epic Deus Ex, working on a Half-Life 2 episode is an enticing one for fans. We asked if this means we can essentially blame Mickey Mouse for preventing another episode of Half-Life 2 from coming out. The truth seems to point toward Gordon Freeman's episodic adventure being doomed either way.

"Maybe," Spector says with a laugh. "I think Valve was rethinking their episodic plan, anyway. When you have the opportunity to work with the most recognizable icon on planet Earth, anybody who says no to that is nuts. It was fairly iterative. [Valve] left us alone more than we expected. We were working on... I don't know how much I can say about this even now. But what are they going to do, say 'You'll never work in the games business again?'"

This Half-Life news is only one snippet of a larger, fascinating conversation we had with Spector on today's Game Informer Show podcast. Be sure to watch or listen to our overhauled podcast to hear Spector discuss a planned Command and Conquer RPG, the Disney years, and his teaching career. Episode 244 of the new Game Informer Show podcast is embedded below, and Spector starts talking Half-Life at the 1:44:05 mark.

Our Take
Like many, I'm a tremendous fan of Half-Life, including the two episodes that continued the story after Half-Life 2. I also have a lot of respect for Spector's work, especially in the first-person arena. I would've loved to have experienced his take on Valve's amazing universe, especially with all the havoc a Magnet Gun might unleash. Given Half-Life 2's physics-heavy engine, I envision the Magnet Gun being a tool giving players a power comparable to the X-Men's Magneto, which would've been amazing.