Update 3: First in-engine gameplay and more

Posted on

Hello everyone,

The Project Borealis team would like to welcome you to our 3rd update! Yes, you heard that right - we made it to number 3. It’s been a few busy months since our last update, and the team has been making excellent progress. As usual, we’re excited to share some of that progress with you here today. Please keep in mind that in an effort not to spoil the tech demo or the final game, we are only opting to show you non-spoiler content at this time, and the content shown here is just a small portion of the overall progress we’ve made.

You can also watch this update in video format!


Steady progress continues to be made on the gameplay front, with Gordon now having access to several of his weapons complete with near-finished animations in-game. When animating our new weapon models, it was important for us to retain the timings of the originals while also introducing some subtle flair of our own. The end result are animations which match their Source counterparts in gameplay feel and general style, while also taking the opportunity to improve on those we felt could use a little more work. Special shoutout to our lead animator, RockingChair, who’s been doing a great job tackling all these iconic animations! Check out the video below for a WIP preview of the animations in action! Please note, final visual effects have yet to be implemented for any of the weapon fire modes.

With the addition of these animations, Gordon is now able to believably walk, jump, crouch, sprint, crouch jump, fire, and reload using the same animation timings as he did in Half-Life 2. At this stage of production, we’re feeling confident that Gordon’s player movement’s are nearing parity with the original, making it easier for the level design teams to get a good feel for pacing throughout the game’s various environments.

Speaking of level design, the level design team has been hard at work blocking out some of the game’s initial levels for flow testing and puzzle development. Simultaneously, the 3D and Concept team have been making huge strides developing many of the necessary environmental assets needed to bring arctic landscapes and imposing Combine structures to life. Here’s a short video showcasing a singular room within a decaying warehouse overtaken by the elements, which we’ve created solely to test our lighting and texture systems in unique situations.

On the technology and coding side of creating the gameplay, our programming team have been keeping optimisation in mind, experimenting with new rendering techniques such as Vulkan to ensure that the game will run on a wide range of hardware. Since the last update the game has also seen physics updates, stability and performance enhancements, an initial graphics settings menu, and of course numerous bug fixes! We’ve also begun work on a new sound system with a wide range of audio effects, and have developed a good base AI system.


We’re proud to announce that the first full draft of the Project Borealis script has now been finished! The writing team has taken the plot points outlined in Marc Laidlaw’s Epistle 3 and fleshed out the details and gameplay elements into a full and engaging script. Since finishing this first draft, the rest of the team have had the opportunity to give constructive feedback, and the writing team is now working on incorporating some of those suggestions into a second draft. It’s important for an ambitious project such as this to have realistic expectations for what can and cannot be included for either pacing, thematic, or technical reasons.

Concept Art

The concept art team continues their work on providing a wide range of illustrations which help guide the rest of the team’s vision for how the game and its environments will look. In this update we’re showing just a few spoiler-free pieces.

The first is a series of drawings showing iterative designs of an updated arctic take on the classic Houndeye. These illustrations show how our concept artists begin with a variety of rough sketches, playing with shapes and sizes before settling on a few more refined shapes. From these, the designers will explore many different versions, including some perhaps unconventional designs, to find the right one. Of course, while we explore many different iterations of Half-Life’s wild creatures, it’s important for us to keep in mind what makes sense from a logical, world building perspective. With that in mind, we’ve also gone and created an updated version of the original, creating several final designs for our 3D artists and writers to choose from based on the final needs of the story.

We’re also experimenting with designs of the Combine Elite character models to be featured in some of the Combine’s higher security zones, implementing ideas that are new and unique while staying true to their original designs. Here, the concept team has taken a ‘refreshed’ approach, creating a few new designs of the Combine Elite helmet.

Helmet Concepts

Lastly, we’ve started thinking about Alyx’s design for the game, focusing on the cold-climate clothing she might be wearing. The first concepts update Alyx’s design from previous games in subtle ways for early or indoor portions of the game. We’ve also produced three outdoor variants with assorted items of clothing suitable for the cold environments that the player will be travelling through.

Keep in mind, while we are showcasing designs like these in our development updates, that doesn’t necessarily mean they’re guaranteed to appear in the final game, or to even look like the concepts if they do. Some things might just not work the way we initially hoped they would. Only time, and a few hundred hours of sketching and prototyping, will tell.

Music and sound

As always, the music team has been working to create tracks that build on Half-Life’s unique soundtrack to create fresh but familiar tunes for the game. A link to Compilation IV, our fourth publically released album, is available below. Have a listen and let us know what you think!

Meanwhile, our sound effect artists have been working with the animation team to complete some of the first drafts of the Gravity Gun, Pistol, Shotgun, and SMG sounds. The next priority is the game’s various footsteps across different surfaces, and impact sounds. We hope to have more to showcase in this regard in Update 4.


As development continues to ramp up, the team is in need of several experienced members to join our ranks!

Open positions will regularly and continually be posted here on our website.

The PB team would like to thank the community for their ongoing support and patience as we tackle this ambitious project. We’ve seen many openly offer to support us monetarily and while we do appreciate the gesture, it is our aim to support this project on our own. Our team members continue to graciously donate their time and money to keep this project going in the hopes of bringing Half-Life fans a worthy entry into the community-created Half-Life scene.