Nowadays, you can find all sorts of weird stuff on TikTok, including, as it turns out, an extremely early prototype of the original Half-Life courtesy of level designer Brett Johnson.
Seen by The Tax Elf on Twitter Earlier today, Johnson recently shared some looks at Valve’s first shooter at the beginning of development. As noted, it seems that long before Half-Life really found its visual identity, with concrete corridors reminiscent more of Quake than the more grounded installations of the final game.
Half-Life Prototype 001 ## halflife ## games ## valve ## leveldesign
Joining Valve shortly after its founding in 1996, Johnson’s TikTok feed reviews his work in the FPS that defines the genre, occasionally shows short clips of cropped content and answers questions about the game's design (including a of two parts in the notorious Xen chapters of Half-Life).
Today's post is the deepest immersion in unpublished content to date. In the comments, he points out that this clip comes from a period when he was still "looking for a style", using the first textures with photographic reference. The segment was supposed to represent an industrial block hidden just behind the laboratories and has a much more abstract architectural style and more typical of Id shooters.
Johnson notes that more of this level was discarded than was eventually used in the final game. But even if these rooms never became Black Mesa, it’s a fascinating reminder that Half-Life didn’t appear spontaneously from the air. These things needed to be figured out, and I'm excited to see if Johnson releases more of these prototypes in the future.