boreal alyph was not cancelled due to drama or toxicity or w/e the hell people are goin on about. it wasn’t cancelled because we lost the files. it wasn’t cancelled because valve sent us a cease and desist. it was cancelled because the Game Couldn’t Be Made. it was overscoped
all the “source drama” tweets and other nonsense stepping around the genuinely important to understand issue here has been actually frustrating to see. there is an actual teachable lesson here and writing it off like another Source Engine Moment is seriously reductive
look: episode 3 is one of the most famous vaporware games of all time, and the expectations are HUGE. you literally cannot compromise or compress the game beyond being, at minimum, an ep2 length epic that needs to provide a satisfying conclusion to the half-life series
actual half-life games are made by dozens of experienced people working hours a day in a single, collaborative space, and they get paid to do it. this is why nobody goes around downloading half-life mods and saying that they’re worse than ep2. we understand these things
fans who might still be learning how to work their way around game design working remotely in their spare time are probably gonna be incapable of making something like ep2. it would take many years and the end product wouldn’t be as well informed. this is fine and normal!
(not to mention that games like ep2 are also the result of lessons learned from making and shipping big half-life games to millions of people for close to a decade, and a lot of that underlying experience is probably not available to anyone in the half-life fan space)
all of this is to say that valve-quality half-life is generally an impossible bar and people don’t fault you for not getting there. we’re all just fans making things out of love, and that’s enough. we have our own personal bars to reach, and we just hope people enjoy what we make
which is not to say that you can’t do better work than valve (BA’s Combine AI was overwhelmingly better than valve’s), but you get my drift. hl2 especially has flaws but if unpaid volunteers started making a hl2 game that long with the same scope it’d have even more flaws
ok, so

let’s assume you decided to start your project by promising an ep2 length valve-quality half-life game that not only needs to get made by a bunch of fans working remotely in their spare time with no pay, but also needs to *end* the series in a satisfying way
Boreal Alyph did this

i’ll take this moment in the thread to say that absolutely none of this is an insult or disparaging way to refer to anyone who was working on BA. the work we *did* was amazing imo, and nobody is silly for having worked on it (because working on it was fun)
i’m saying that boreal alyph was doomed from the very second on august 25th 2017 when it was decided that epistle 3 was a call to action to make the episode 3 valve had never decided to finish making. the mission statement is just Bad dude. it’s a silly thing to decide to do
this is what was struggled with on boreal alyph: not just the onus of having to make a ton of content, but the onus of... everything. we were expected to provide a long, complex, and gripping game with a story that satisfyingly continues the most infamous video game cliffhanger
on most fan projects, when it becomes clear that you’ve bitten off more than you can chew, you compromise and compress and make cuts until you have a smaller and more manageable thing to make. this is because most mod concepts are only held to your ideas. you’re in control
random hypothetical example: let’s say you’ve taken on the task of remaking all of half-life 2 in source 2 as a black mesa type thing. at a point, you go, hey, this is a whole lot to do! well, if you start cutting out chapters, it’s not a hl2 remake anymore. what do you do?
we had the full creative freedom to make an ep3, but it had to be ep3 no matter what. at any point the only result you could get from confronting that it was too much work and/or impossible was “do something completely different” or “cancel it.” no compromises, no adjustments
we had expectations that were impossible to meet. these were distinct from unreasonable fan expectations, because they were unreasonable *development* expectations. when it was set that we were making ep3, it was do ep3 or throw in the towel. the latter was inevitable
especially after the release of half-life alyx (which was a statement on its own, for obvious reasons) we talked a lot about doing something different and just making a half-life game in the snow. same assets, same people, but without the burden of the mission statement of BA
my one big regret is that we didn’t push that forward and do it. i actually think things might’ve picked up with the idea of ep3 off our shoulders, but by then we were in too deep and it just killed it
so here’s my fan project advice: always plan to make something small. always plan to make less than what you think can be made, but always make your plan *scalable*. maybe the small plan starts to come together and your team can make something bigger, you never know!
never go into a project with a plan that literally cannot be made more manageable. it was real sad to have to cancel boreal alyph, but not surprising or unusual. really, i’m actually surprised by how much faith people had in us. it’s really nice that people cared at least
i am hoping (and trying) to write a larger and less informal piece digging more into lessons learned from boreal alyph’s unique history, but i’m busy with @ArrowheadDev and life and other stuff, so it might take a lil bit. i just want people to learn from this more than anything
boreal alyph’s end benefit was great, though. it led a bunch of people who were never gonna work together otherwise to form connections and get better at what they did together. now those people are going forward with new friends and lots of experience. it’s wonderful

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More from @thetaxgoblin

11 Oct 20
sat down before my usual half-life 2 replay to try and cook up a scheme to make the game fresh again. anyways the only thing i could come up with was livetweeting the entire thing stream of consciousness style. this is gonna take forever and suck let’s do it Image
i’m probably just gonna rattle on about literally everything: plot details, gameplay setpieces, easter eggs, weird stuff in the maps, etc etc. it’s the quintessential “i have nothing else to do today and will undoubtedly regret starting such a massive commitment” vibe. godspeed
starting with Point Insertion, obviously. these horrifically low resolution chapter images are practically a source engine art form Image
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