Half-Life: Alyx will have Valve Index exclusive features

When rumors first began circulating about Half-Life: Alyx, they included the idea that it would be heavily integrated into Valve’s other VR projects. It only made sense, as Half-Life has traditionally been a tech demo for whatever the studio is working on at any given time. Earlier this year, the Valve Index released, a top of the line VR headset for those that can afford it. Thankfully, Valve is smart enough not to make Alyx exclusive to the Index, but that doesn’t mean that Index owners won’t get a few bonuses.

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For one, owners of the headset will get the game for free, which only makes sense. The more important update revolves around the Index’s fancy controllers, which tracks individual fingers and straps around the user’s hand. Speaking with UploadVR, Valve technical artist Bronwen Grimes revealed that the Index Controllers would make certain actions in the game much more natural. “There’s a small set of things that Index Controllers can do that other controllers can’t do at all, and they’re fun but not required – like being able to crush a can that you’re holding in your hand.”

Grimes continues that there are further actions that everyone can do, but will feel better on Index. According to Valve tests, basic actions like picking up and holding objects work best with tracked fingers. “So while you can perform most actions with just a trigger or a button, we just think it feels more natural with the way the Index Controllers operate.” Finally, the most important action the Index controllers provide is actually inaction.

Half-Life Alyx G-Man

“The ability for the player to relax their hands without dropping their controller turned out to be a significant factor in our Half-Life: Alyx playtests. As our Index Controller prototypes started replacing our older controllers in playtests, we started seeing players able to play for longer and longer stretches of time, because they weren’t required to hold onto a real-world object the entire time. This wasn’t really something we saw as a problem in our early days of VR development, but now that VR games are becoming longer and more fully-featured, we think it’s becoming more important.”

So, to make a long story short, every VR owner will get the chance to play Half-Life: Alyx, but only Index owners get the full experience. It’s almost a throwback to the days when console ports of PC games were strange mashups of missing features and altered gameplay. Since VR is still in its own infancy, I guess that makes sense.