Recent Valve VR update contains hidden Half-Life demo code

Remember when Valve didn’t just perpetually rake in money and instead made games for a little franchise called ? It has been well over a decade now, but it looks like Valve might be ready to get back into the business, if a bit of code discovered in a recent update for VR demo collection is anything to go by.

‘s Hands-On Update last week was pretty innocuous on the surface, adding some new physics code and support for a “skeletal input system” like that found in Valve’s Index controllers. But digging into the update’s source code a bit, Valve News Network found that decompiling the update’s Unity-based DLLs resulted in a lot of readable C# code: “Almost the entire source code for a VR game,” as VNN’s Tyler McVicker puts it.

Yes, we’ve seen too-cute-by-half references in unrelated Valve code in the past. But this time, the decompiled code shared by VNN (and independently evaluated by Ars Technica; see a small sample here) reveals a relatively complete skeleton for a game codenamed “Shooter.” That code features a treasure trove of suggestive class, procedure, and variable names making reference to character, items, and locations in the universe. That includes everything from “CombineSoldier” and “AmplifyBreenCast” to “shooterLogicC17Sim” and “playAudio_gmanTest” (emphasis added). Pistols, shotguns, and AR-type weaponry also earn references.

Combing through the code (which includes plenty of helpful Debug Log printouts and descriptive naming conventions) paints a picture of a VR demo set in a “holoroom” version of ‘s City 17. Players would go through a sequence of challenges—labeled Puzzle, Corridor, Window, Doorway, Pillar, and Ducking, in order—each of which seems to involve shooting through waves of incoming enemy soldiers. A ScoreCard object would keep track of the player’s performance in each section, presumably lending some level of replayability to the demo.


This code’s sudden, hidden appearance in a new Valve game update may have some excited for the possibility that a VR demo may actually be coming soon. But VNN speculates that it’s more likely an old, defunct demo was inserted into the DLL through code regression in the latest update. McVicker says he has “heard many times about this cut demo,” likely created years ago as Valve was just starting to experiment to see how a shooter would work in VR.

McVicker suspects that this early VR demo was likely cut from in favor of building out a more complete VR experience. That fits somewhat with vague statements from HTC co-founder Cher Wang back in 2015 suggesting the company was working with Valve on a game (Wang later walked back those comments). And Valve’s Gabe Newell mentioned a “new IP” in the universe back in 2017.

For now, we’re stuck combing through this decompiled code for clues to Valve’s intentions (VNN has set up a discord server if you want to aid in that combing). Meanwhile, we continue to wait for concrete news about the three “full-length” VR titles Valve promised back in 2017. Valve issued some more hints about a “flagship VR game” as recently as April, suggesting that the mysterious title would be available sometime this year. Translating that statement from Valve time, we could well see a new themed VR experience by the end of 2023.

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