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Half-Life is a series of video games developed by the Valve Corporation. Two of these games, Half-Life and Half-Life 2, are full length titles, while two more, Half-Life 2: Episode One and Half-Life 2: Episode Two, are shorter, episodic titles. A final episode, Half-Life 2: Episode Three, has been confirmed to be the next installment of the series. In each game the player obtains the role of the theoretical physicist Gordon Freeman. In addition, there have been two expansions to the original Half-Life title and a number of non-canon spin-offs. The immense popularity of the series and the praise and awards it has received have gained Half-Life a large following on the web.
Half-Life was the first title in the series, as well as the debut title of Valve Software. It was released on November 19, 1998. Two expansions, taking place during the same events as Half-Life but centring on characters other than Gordon Freeman, were released in the next few years. Half-Life: Opposing Force and Half-Life: Blue Shift were released on November 10, 1999, and June 12, 2001, respectively.
On November 16, 2004, Valve released Half-Life 2, the sequel to the original game. This was followed by Half-Life 2: Episode One on June 1, 2006, and Half Life 2: Episode Two on October 10, 2007. Half-Life 2: Episode Three has been announced as the third and final installment in the series of episodic expansions, although not necessarily the end of the franchise. Its release date is as yet unknown.
Upon its release in 1998, Half-Life was met with universal acclaim for its revolutionary graphics and immersive gameplay, and became a bestseller. It developed a cult following, similar to the Quake series. Its multiplayer mode was also popular among online gamers. Following the game’s initial success, several mods for further online gameplay were created, most notably Team Fortress Classic and Counter-Strike, both released in 1999. These mods became immensely popular and remained the most-played online games up until the release of Team Fortress 2 in 2007. As such, they had a large influence on internet culture.
Half-Life 2 was released in 2004 with a completely new, and once again revolutionary, graphics engine – Source. Like its predecessor, it became a bestseller and received numerous awards. Its cult following increased, and was greatly augmented by Garry’s Mod, released a month after Half-Life 2 itself. This spawned many YTPs, YTMNDs, and webcomics using the Half-Life 2 characters and settings.
The unofficial wiki for the Half-Life series is Combine OverWiki; the name is a reference to the Overwatch, an enemy encountered in Half-Life 2 and onwards. The site includes the Portal series, which takes place within the Half-Life universe. GameSpy hosts Planet Half-Life, which provides general information, multiplayer strategies, and walkthroughs, as well as hosting custom mods and maps. Planet Half-Life covers the entire Half-Life series, as well as the Team Fortress series, Counter-Strike, and Day of Defeat.
Due to the ready availability of the SDKs both for the older GoldSRC engine (with which Half-Life was made) and the newer Source engine (created for Half-Life 2, and used thereafter), and to the series’ popularity amongst mappers and modders, there are several sites devoted to providing resources for aspiring modders and mappers. One such site is The Whole Half-Life (TWHL), which provides tutorials for GoldSRC and Source mapping and modding, as well as hosting many mapping competitions.
There was also a large amount of speculation about the Source mod entitled Black Mesa, which is an unofficial third-party redux of the original Half-Life title, done using the Source engine. It was in development for over five years, with sporadic progress updates showing its faithful reconstruction of the Black Mesa facility, and was released on September 14, 2012. Its unexpected release announcement during late August generated a fair amount of interest online. Since its release, it has been very positively received by critics.
There has been a great deal of speculation and hype surrounding the release of the next instalment in the Half-Life series, titled Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Originally, Valve intended to release the three episodes 6 months apart. Instead, Episode Two was released over a year after Episode One, and Episode Three’s release details are currently unknown. Episode Three was originally slated to be released around Christmas 2007, but has been delayed indefinitely. Some concept art has been released and/or leaked, and there have been many rumours regarding its supposed imminent release; however, Valve has been largely silent about its development. This has angered some fans, who were irritated by how Valve seemed to be focusing its development on other games such as Left 4 Dead 2, Portal 2, and Counterstrike: Global Offensive.
Since the episode’s announcement in 2006, and the release of a number of concept art images in 2008 (see  for a gallery), there have been a number of rumours and hoaxes regarding the supposed announcement of a release date for Episode Three, all of which have been denied by Valve. In addition, numerous fan organizations have been created calling for an increase in communication from Valve about Episode Three. The most notable incident occurred on August 11, 2011, when two fans set up a picket demanding information outside Valve’s headquarters in Bellevue, WA (see image above). The protesters have stated that they intended their picket to be a joke, but it bolstered the fans’ anger towards Valve.
Full Life Consequences
Half Life: Full Life Consequences is a fanfic set in the Half-Life 2 universe. Its author claims to “have only been speaking English for not that long”. Because of this, Full Life Consequences has many grammatical and spelling errors, to the point of hilarity. It gained some measure of popularity by itself, but didn’t fully take off until after a Dramatic Reading from YTMND was combined with a Garry’s Mod video, and was uploaded to Youtube.
Concerned – The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman
One of the more popular Garry’s Mod-based webcomics relating to the game is Concerned – The Half-Life and Death of Gordon Frohman (not to be confused with Gordon Freeman, the game’s protagonist). It follows the misadventures of Frohman, who arrives in City 17 sometime before Freeman’s arrival and the start of Half-Life 2. The storyline follows that of the game with a satirical twist, parodying in-game characters and events. The comic also makes repeated jabs at Counter-Strike servers, notorious for being full of trolls. Frohman, as a character, is depicted as being the opposite of Freeman: he is passive, dumb, and likes (or at least doesn’t mind) the Combine occupation of Earth. A voice-over of the comic was started in 2009 and is sporadically updating.
Freeman’s Mind is a web series based off of Valve’s first Half Life game that started as an offshoot of the standard “Let’s Play” format. While, in a normal Let’s Play-style video, the creator simply makes comments about the game or the gameplay, the narration in Freeman’s Mind is entirely from Gordon Freeman’s perspective.
The creator of the series, Ross Scott, operates through his production company Accursed Farms. He has invented a highly intelligent but also extremely cynical and misanthropic character for the normally silent Freeman. It is this character’s thoughts which make up the narration.
The series has spawned several spinoffs – other video series which have taken silent protagonists (of which there are many) and have given them the same treatment. These characters include Cpl. Shepard (of Half Life: Opposing Force), Barney (of Half Life: Blue Shift), and Chell (of the Portal series).
The Crowbar is the signature weapon of Gordon Freeman. It is the first weapon acquired in Half-Life, and continued its appearance in Half-Life 2 and the Episodes, serving as a melee weapon, as well as a tool for puzzles. It is widely considered the iconic weapon of the Half-Life series.
On the internet, the crowbar has been featured in a large amount of fan art. It is commonly used in images of people standing in a threatening stance, or in images of things to be hit. It has gained the connotation of being the solution to all of life’s problems.
Headcrabs are the first enemy encountered in the Half-Life series, and are seen as an icon of the series. They have a distinctive method of attack: jumping on the victim’s head and turning them into a zombie. They have been represented in many ways by the community, frequently featuring in fan art. The crowbar is the classic (and at first, only) weapon for fighting headcrabs, and they are frequently featured together. Valve even sells a plushie headcrab through its online store.
Search interest shows a large peak on November 2004. This matches with the release of Half-Life 2.