Half-Life Alyx was released to near-universal critical acclaim and is seen by many as one of the best VR games that launched in 2020, if not all-time. The game was praised for achieving unprecedented levels of player-environment interactivity, but there were a few aspects that didn’t make the final cut. Every video game goes through a rigorous process of trimming out non-essential gameplay elements, and a recent developer interview with Kotaku shed some light on a neat feature that never saw the release.
In Half-Life: Alyx, players take control of the titular character and absorb the events of the game through Alyx’s eyes. Those eyes are going to see a lot of hands, as Alyx’s digital digits are the primary method of player interaction with the game world. Besides manually reloading and firing weapons, players can also pick up and manipulate a myriad of objects that behave realistically through individual control of Alyx’s fingers. This also means that any finger can be raised independently of the others, allowing players to flash the peace sign, give a thumbs up, or flip the bird at any character in the game.
According to Valve programmer and Alyx hand specialist Kerry Davis, such actions do not go unnoticed by the game. Different hand signals trigger code that recognizes the gestures, with the original intention of programming specific responses from the denizens of Half-Life. Whether angering Combine soldiers or encouraging other iconic Half-Life characters, the player could interact with NPCs beyond shooting or letting Alyx talk with them. Implementing the feature would be a difficult endeavor, as it would undoubtedly cost valuable resources to create the requisite scripting and animations, not to mention the possible narrative implications.
Besides, not every VR set is capable of recognizing individual finger movements. The feature is standard on Valve’s Index VR set, but Half-Life: Alyx players on other devices would miss out on the feature. Since a large portion of the player base wouldn’t have the capability of doing it, and even more probably wouldn’t even notice it, NPC gesture recognition was ultimately cut before the final release.
Even so, Half-Life: Alyx remains a stellar exemplar of player-environment interaction, with an obsessive attention to detail. The removal of gesture recognition possibly made room for other features like a working piano and realistic liquid physics in wine bottles. Perhaps Valve or another studio will one day implement such a system in a game, but for now, players have to settle with the personal satisfaction of flipping the bird to an unresponsive audience.
Nintendo caused an uproar among the Zelda community by announcing the latest amiibo for The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD. While players could always travel to the Sky in Skyward Sword by approaching a bird statue, the new Zelda and Loftwing amiibo allows Link to travel from any part of the map. Obviously, this is a major quality of life improvement, but many are angry about the fact that this is locked behind an amiibo paywall. This isn't the first time features have been tied to the purchase of amiibo in what is becoming quite a troubling Nintendo problem.
With the launch of The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD rapidly approaching, fans are beginning to grow excited. The Legend of Zelda: Skyward Sword HD may not have been the Legend of Zelda announcement most were hoping for at February's Nintendo Direct, but it was a welcome one regardless. Although Breath of the Wild 2 is always on the minds of Zelda fans, remakes were also right at the top of the wish list for The Legend of Zelda's anniversary this year. However, fans can only hope that Nintendo's recent amiibo announcement doesn't have too much of an impact on the gameplay and reception of the remake.
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