DGC Ep 069: Interview with Marc Laidlaw

Welcome to Dev Game Club, where we are discussing Valve Software's 1998 classic Half-Life. This week we welcome Marc Laidlaw, long-time Valve employee and writer of Half-Life. Dev Game Club looks at classic video games and plays through them over several episodes, providing commentary.

Podcast breakdown:
0:40       Interview with Marc Laidlaw
1:04:50  Break
1:05:16  Feedback/Questions

Issues covered: getting started at Valve, looking at story in first person games, unshipped game at Valve, getting Quake community people to work on Half-Life, the early plan for the company, finding features by building lots of tests, randomly discussing features with press, making outrageous promises to spur on the team, the development of a fully realized place, totality of effect, designing from the bottom-up and fitting stuff together later, having employees who were used to working alone, going back to the drawing board, hinting at other levels and wanting the glory, non-physical spaces, lone wolves, needing an overall director to enforce co-authorship, using the Cabal to fulfill that role, being in the trenches and etching into your brain, living Half-Life for two years, avoiding the space marine trope, making the gimmick "science," doing science experiments in game development, intricacy of clockwork levels/Chinese puzzle boxes, the technology of magic, working to get a reaction, characters emerging from setting, bridging to Half-Life 2, magic tricks being even more impressive when you know how they're done, user testing, knowing what questions to ask, players not getting to the ends of games, trying to avoid having to teach the player, expecting a literate player, keeping it clean and transparent, having no model for the main character generating a constraint, reacting to player experiences of the demo, working out of a corner/desperation, creating within constraints, having too much freedom (analysis paralysis), Marc's work available on Kindle, taking breaks, writing in the early days of video games, always in the helmet, E3 memories/discussion.

Games, people, and influences mentioned or discussedDay of the Tentacle, Half-Life 2, Portal, Counterstrike: Day of Defeat, Team Fortress, DotA 2, Eric Wolpaw, Jay Pinkerton, id Software, Quake, Michael Abrash, Mike Harrington, Gabe Newell, WIRED Magazine, Worldcraft, Ben Morris, Prospero, John Guthrie (Choryoth), Steve Bond (Wedge), Blues News, Harry Teasley, Peter Molyneux, Edgar Allan Poe, Thieves' World anthologies, Randy Lundeen, Shigeru Miyamoto, Kelly Bailey, Dave Riller, Ken Birdwell, Dario Casali, Alfred Hitchcock, Microsoft, Uncharted 4, Duke Nuke'em, Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, Prey (2017), Nioh, Breath of the Wild, Bill Roper, Janos Flosser, Starfighter, Wayne Cline, Republic Commando, Ryan Kaufman, Mike Stemmle, Hal Barwood, Sean Clark, Jonathan Ackley, Larry Ahern, Tim Schafer, Dave Grossman, RebelFM, Phil Rosehill, Link to the Past, Super Metroid, ToeJam & Earl, LucasArts, Alexander Farr, Kotaku, Final Fantasy 9, Jason Schreier, Tacoma, Ico, Shadow of the Colossus, The Last Guardian, Halo 5, 343 Industries, Bethesda Game Studios, Unreal, Nintendo Wii, Evil Avatar, Phil Kollar, Polygon, Sony, Metal Gear (series), Witcher III, Anthem, No Man's Sky, Hello Games, Joe Danger, Assassin's Creed (series), Red Dead (series), PAX, Ficus/@giant_rat.

Next time:
Another Interview!

Marc's website

@brett_douville, @timlongojr, and @devgameclub