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Proto:Half-Life (Windows)/September 1997 Prototype

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The prototypical songs of Half-Life 0.52 should be compared to the retail versions, since there are noticeable differences.

This is a sub-page of Proto:Half-Life (Windows).


The September 1997 prototype of Half-Life is from before the game was completely redesigned and rewritten. Many differences exist at this point, including the plot, locations, and general concept. Originally meant as a press demo, the prototype was leaked to Reddit in January 2013. According to the Developer Console, it is version 0.52.

The physical disc sold on eBay for $709 US. Notably, the place of origin on the listing was "Bellevue, WA", indicating that the leak might have been internal.


Hl97 bullsquid1.png
Squad. Stay. Alert. For. Enemy. Differences. Over.
Hl97 c1a3b 1.png
Sweep. That. Removed. Level. Over.
These changed and removed sounds will sound good in my trophy room.

General Differences

Enemies Fighting Enemies and NPCs

In 0.52, enemies will never fight each other, nor will enemies fight NPCs (and vice versa). In fact, enemies can and will unofficially team up to kill you, while enemies will ignore NPCs to kill you.

Health and Healing

The player can only heal by using wall-mounted health cabinets. These cabinets heal a set amount of HP, from 25 points to 100. When used, they'll slightly open, then automatically close a few seconds later.

Unlike the final's health chargers, these can be used as much as one wants, making it easy to recover from any non-fatal damage.

Looking Up

The player cannot look all the way up in this prototype, like in Quake. This is changed in the final game so that the player can look straight up.

Prototype Final
Hl97 lookup.png Hlfinal lookup.png

Saving Map States

The game does not save a map's state once you exit. That means if you exit a map and then go back to it, all enemies and puzzles will be reset. This does not happen in the final game.

Climbing Ladders

When going up a ladder, the screen will tilt left and right while playing pain sounds to simulate the motions one can make while climbing up a ladder.

The final game removes this. It has the player slide up or down ladders without any special effects instead.


Extra damage is not inflicted if the player hits a target in the head in this prototype.


The Prototype's OpenGL mode doesn't work with modern systems that do not have a 3DFX Voodoo Graphics Card installed. This means that the game's OpenGL mode will not work until OpenGL32.dll is removed from the prototype's main folder. The only way to make the OpenGL mode fully work (meaning not removing OpenGl32.dll) is to use an application named nGlide. The program emulates the 3DFX Voodoo Graphics feature, allowing the prototype's OpenGL mode to work without problems. However, the OpenGL32.dll file must be kept inside the prototype's main folder in order to do so.

With nGlide installed, the gun's projectiles and various decals work properly, and the in-game decals stop flashing violently once a weapon fires at something.

Software Renderer

The prototype also comes with an executable that runs in software mode, but it only works if the computer is set to use 16-bit color. This can be done in Windows versions prior to Windows 8 by setting the color depth to 16 bit in the Display options.

Maximum Screen Size

The game has issues if it is run in any screen size larger than 800 x 600. When running the game with the software renderer while using a screen size greater than 800 x 600, the game will crash with a hunkaloc error if the player transitions from one map to another.

The OpenGL renderer will refuse to run the game at any size larger than 800 x 600. It will revert to 640 x 480 if the player specifies a size like 1024 x 768 via a config file. If forced to run with a larger screen size via command line parameters, it will crash while booting up.

Included Demos

The disc includes a series of demos recorded by the person who mapped the area, and showcases each of the disc's levels. A video containing all of these videos can be seen to the left. This video shows multiple features that don't actually work in this build, including the Human Assault enemy.


The prototype has a "+" crosshair that is not used in the final game. It does not match where bullets actually hit, making it difficult to use.


The prototype doesn't seem to have support for skyboxes. Areas that look like they should be (or are shown as having the sky in pre-release footage) are either jet black or use a clearly temporary texture where the skybox texture should be.

Prototype Pre-release screenshot, showing the same area with a sky
Hl97 outside1.png Hl Early landing field 03.jpg

Console Message Bug

The sentence "half-life, by valve l.l.c." will be printed above any on-screen message for some reason.

Message Placement

The prototype places player-typed messages on the upper-left corner (like in Quake), while the final game puts them somewhat near the lower left-hand corner.

Prototype Final
Hl97 message1.png Hlfinal textspace.png

Prototype Maps in the Final Game

The prototype's maps can load and will work in the final game just fine. Almost everything will load and be displayed properly.

Final game Prototype
Hl97inhlfinal1.png Hl97 forcompare1.png
Final game Prototype
Hl97inhlfinal2.png Hl97 forcompare2.png

Prototype Maps in Quake

The prototype's maps can also be loaded in Quake, though the game will spew out a lot of errors related to entities unsupported in Quake when loading.

Quake Prototype
Hl97inquake2.png Hl97 forcompare1.png
Quake Prototype
Hl97inquake1.png Hl97 forcompare2.png

Quake Version

The message that appears when loading states that Half-Life is built on version 1.07 of Quake. 1.08 is Quake's final version, which shows that Half-Life is built on a slightly-older version of Quake.

Prototype Quake
Hl97 version107.png Quake version108.png


The CD the prototype came on has several documents that discuss the game. These provide a look into how the game was supposed to be around August to early September 1997.

The documents have been transcribed onto separate pages, which can be found in the following sub-sections.

Half-Life Readme (in Word 95 format).doc

A readme for the game that shows how to play it and discusses some technical stuff.

Half-Life Readme


This document contains an early plot for the game.



This document tells the reader how to get through the maps. It also shows how some maps were meant to be, but are not in the prototype because of disabled events.


Technology Overview.doc

This discusses the technical advancements in Half-Life.

Technology Overview

Company Backgrounder.doc

Information on Valve and bios on their employees, circa August 1997.

Company Backgrounder


The Enemies and Allies that are from the final game are present in this prototype, but all of them are different from the retail game. As for the MPs and the scientists, they can be unruly at times due to the fact that their AI was slightly buggy, meaning they're unable to follow the player. The only way to make them follow is to enable Notarget mode or shoot them in order for them to work properly.

Gordon Freeman (Ivan the Space Biker)

Hl97 doctor1.png

Gordon Freeman's model is completely different in the prototype. The prototype has a much bulkier HEV design with a dark yellow color instead of the final's, large gloves, and the word "Research" on his back. Gordon himself has a large beard and a flat top haircut. He has a Pistol glued to his right hand.

This version of Gordon Freeman was given the name "Ivan the Space Biker" by Valve.

Inside the prototype's model folder are models for a blue Gordon, a green Gordon, and a red Gordon. These models are possibly for multiplayer team modes. If so, the prototype does not have a yellow model for Gordon (game modes with four teams would usually have red, blue, green, and yellow teams, as seen in popular Quake mods). However, considering the dark yellow color the regular Gordon model has, it could be that the regular model would've been used for players on the yellow team. These colored models use an older model version than the version the majority of the prototype's models use.

This design appears in several early pre-release images, including one of the first images ever released by Valve.

Interestingly, this model was added to the model files in the Steam version of Half-Life for some reason. This model appears to be using the same model version the rest of the prototype's models use instead of the model format the final's models use, which made it impossible to view in a model viewer for a very long time. It also appears in Half-Life: Source's files, this time compiled for the same model version the rest of Source's models use.

Prototype Final
Hl97 doctor1.png Hlfinal gordon1.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 doctor2.png Hlfinal gordon2.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 doctor3.png Hlfinal gordon3.png


Hl97 bluedoc1.png

A blue Gordon, likely for multiplayer.


Hl97 greendoc1.png

A green Gordon, likely for multiplayer.


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A red Gordon, likely for multiplayer.

Security Guard

Hl97 barney1.png

The Security Guard in the 0.52 prototype is very different compared to the retail. The officer's helmet is different from the final product just like the rest of his model, with initials saying MP, short for "Military Police." In his model file, the MP officer possesses a walk and shoot animation, but it's very bare bones. His face also has a frightened expression, with blood on his armored vest and trousers. On the other side of the coin, his name tag is also different, also showing a picture of himself. He is equipped with a standard pistol and a nightstick. The final version removes the nightstick.

In-game, the guard behaves similar to how he does in the final game.

While friendly to the player in-game, the walkthrough included with the prototype suggests at least one guard would be hostile; in C3A1, a guard was meant to activate two turrets in a lobby, and the player was meant to kill him to get a keycard.

Prototype Final
Hl97 barney1.png Hlfinal barney1.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 barney2.png Hlfinal barney2.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 barney3.png Hlfinal barney3.png


Scientists look a bit different in this prototype. Their ties are a blue and gray color, they wear a gray shirt, their pants look more like jeans instead of proper pants and lack a belt, and their shoes are lighter than in the final game.

In the prototype, scientists are useless. They cannot unlock anything nor can they heal the player. The walkthrough included with the prototype suggests they were meant to unlock doors with retinal scanners, like in the final game, but that function does not exist in the prototype.

The prototype's scientists lack a model for their needle, suggesting that Valve did not think of having scientists heal the player during the time this prototype was compiled.


Hl97 scientistwalter1.png

Glasses, also known as Walter to fans, is quite different in the prototype. While the general design is the same as the final's, his head is shaped differently from the final design, his eyebrows are in a > shape, he has some blood on his face, his lips are open instead of closed, and his glasses are slightly-less thicker, making it easier to see his eyes.

Prototype Final
Hl97 scientistwalter1.png Hlfinal scientistwalter1.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 scientistwalter2.png Hlfinal scientistwalter2.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 scientistwalter3.png Hlfinal scientistwalter3.png


Hl97 scientisteinstein1.png

The prototype Einstein is a bit different than the one in the final game. While still based off of the real Einstein, this one has large and innocent-looking eyes. His skin is more cream-colored than the final one's is, and his eyebrows and mustache are thicker and larger.

Prototype Final
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Prototype Final
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Prototype Final
Hl97 scientisteinstein3.png Hlfinal scientisteinstein3.png


Hl97 scientistredhead1.png

The prototype contains a scientist head that was removed in the final game. The head is a red-haired man with big, open, eyes and permanently clenched teeth. This variant appears in some early pre-releases screenshots.

According to the level editor definition file bundled with the prototype, the name for this head is Egon (named after a character in the movie Ghostbusters). Valve seems to have had a thing for Ghostbusters, as the final's Gluon Gun is named "Egon" internally.

Older Glasses Design

Hl97 cine scientist1.png

The models cine_scientist and scienceeat use an older scientist design. This scientist is noticeably shorter than the one used in the final game and the prototype.

His face is different from both the final and prototype designs. The prototype one has a permanently angry look on his face, round instead of squared glasses, no individually-modeled mouth, and lacks a glasses frame attached to his ears.

This design appears in early screenshots.

cine_scientist Used Glasses model
Hl97 cine scientist1.png Hl97 scientistwalter1.png
cine_scientist Used Glasses model
Hl97 cine scientist2.png Hl97 scientistwalter2.png
cine_scientist Used Glasses model
Hl97 cine scientist3.png Hl97 scientistwalter3.png


The prototype has only three functional weapons: the Crowbar, the Glock pistol, and the MP5SD submachine gun.


In general, all of the weapons are much weaker than they are in the final game. It takes close to 10 pistol or MP5 shots to kill a single Headcrab in the prototype, and stronger enemies are bullet sponges. The exception is the grenade fired by the MP5SD's M203, which is just as powerful as it is in the final game.

Weapons do not need to be reloaded. In fact, none of the firearms in the prototype have reload animations.

The player spawns with every weapon as soon as he enters a map. Each weapon has unlimited ammo, but there aren't any ammo pickups in the game yet.

Submachine Gun (MP5SD)

Hl97 mp5.png

The submachine gun is largely similar to the retail model, but the prototype's MP5SD is the proper length, the textures are not oversharpened, and the M203 is coloured green. The rear sight is also a block rather than the retail's MP5 sight.

This weapon is much more accurate than it is in the final game. Its grenades can be used to rocket jump in the prototype without killing the player, which is very handy for moving around and exploring the maps, especially while using god mode.

The prototype MP5SD is held by bare arms in the prototype. The textures for this arm can still be found in the Half-Life SDK and Half-Life: Source's SDK. While the final game uses HEV arms, both the prototype and final MP5 have the hands in the same positions and shapes. This is because the arms are the same, just for the final model they added a HEV arm model and made the hands use the chrome texture.

The grenade firing animation has Gordon pump it after firing. This is removed in the final game.

The prototype SMG uses stereotypical "pew pew" sounds that suppressed weapons in movies use when fired. The final game replaces them with beefier SFX.

Prototype Final
Hl97 mp5.png Hlfinal mp5.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 mp52.png Hlfinal mp52.png
Prototype SMG bullet spread Final SMG bullet spread
Hl97 mp5spread.png Hlfinal mp5spread.png

Pistol (Glock)

Hl97 glock.png

The Pistol is very different from its final design. The model itself is a bit blockier than the final one and the textures used are completely different. The grip is a lighter blue and looks nothing like a grip used by any of the Glock generation models, the slide uses a different design that is a light gray and lacks the markings on it, and the rear has no details on it.

The gun only has a shooting animation. The shooting animation lacks the slide going back, like the final's Pistol does.

In-game, the Pistol fires slightly faster than it does. However, it is noticeably less accurate than it is in the final game, to the point where its spread is closer to the final's SMG than it is to the final's Pistol. This version's Pistol does not have the alt-fire mode the final one's has.

The hands used by the Pistol are a man in a lab coat, which are different from both the hands used on the prototype SMG and the hands the final's Pistol uses.

Prototype Final
Hl97 glock.png Hlfinal glock.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 glock2.png Hlfinal glock2.png
Prototype Pistol bullet spread Final Pistol bullet spread
Hl97 glockspread.png Hlfinal glockspread.png


Hl97 crowbar.png

The Crowbar's model is completely different from the one used in the final game. It has less polygons, a different texture (which can be found in the Half-Life SDK) and a chromed front end for some reason.

When used, it has a very slow swing rate. Coupled with the very low damage it does per hit, the Crowbar is useless except for breaking certain objects.

Strangely, it doesn't have an arm holding it.

The Crowbar uses the graphic for a knife when selecting weapons in the HUD. Perhaps the Crowbar was a knife at one point.

Prototype Final
Hl97 crowbar.png Hlfinal crowbar.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 crowbar2.png Hlfinal crowbar2.png


HLproto97-icon fist.png

The HUD has an icon for a fist when cycling through weapons. When the fist icon is selected, the player will not have any weapon. He can still select another weapon, however.

Fire Axe

HLproto97-icon axe.png

The folder containing the HUD's graphics contains an icon for a fire axe. There isn't a model for a fire axe in the prototype nor is there a way to select one.

Other Weapon HUD Icons

Graphics for numbers 5 through 9 can be found in the HUD graphic folder. Considering they're numbered the same way the weapon's HUD graphics are, it's likely these are placeholder graphics for other weapons that would be used when other weapons were starting to be implemented.

Scripted Sequence Models

The prototype uses separate models for characters used in scripted sequences instead of including them with the regular model for that character.


Hl97 cine barney.png

A model used for a sequence where a security guard argues with a scientist, shoves him away and runs off, with the scientist getting eaten by an old Panthereye design afterwards. This sequence appeared in some pre-release material and can be seen in the map "techdemo.bsp" as part of that map's demonstrations.


Hl97 cine scientist1.png

Another model used for the same sequence cine_barney is used in.


Hl97 cine panthereye1.png

Another model used for the sequence that cine_barney and cine_scientist are for.


Hl97 cine3 barney.png

This model is used for a security guard that is dragged into a vent in the prototype's C1A2a.


Hl97 cine3 scientist.png

This model is used for a sequence where a scientist is pulled into a vent while gripped on the edges of the vent in the prototype's C1A2a.


Hl97 panthereat.png

One part of a sequence that shows an old Panthereye design jumping a scientist from behind, then eating him.

The full sequence with the model below can be found in the E3 1997 trailer.


Hl97 scienceeat.png

The second model used with panthereat.

Other Models

M44 Truck

Hl97 m44.png

The prototype has a unique model for the truck the enemy soldiers use. The final game removes it in favor of brush-based trucks.

The model lacks a hitbox for its engine and most of its cabin, letting anything walk through it.


Hl97 prrobot1.png

The map techdemo.bsp contains a model of a strange creature that does not appear in the final game nor any pre-release material as a demo for Half-Life's skeleton-based animation system. It appears to have a top similar to a horseshoe crab's with an eye at its front, thin limbs attached to something hanging from its center, and an engine.

Its animation names indicate that it could attack and die, suggesting it could've been an enemy (a real or a test one) at one point.


Hl97 polyrobo1.png

Polyrobo is a large model based on a Regult battlepod from the anime Super Dimension Fortress Macross (adapted in the US as Robotech). The model exists to test the amount of polygons the engine can handle for a single model. The model can be found in the map "testdemo.bsp".

It has a few animations; an idle, a silly dancing animation, and an unused walking animation. It will play the dancing animation in-game if the model is shot with a weapon. Strangely, after being shot again and returning to its idle animation, the Polyrobo will begin to track the player's movement.

A video of the unused walking animation can be seen to the right:

This model appears in some early pre-release images.


Hl97 shell.png

The prototype contains an earlier model for the ejected brass the Glock and MP5SD eject. The model in the prototype lacks the final's chrome texture, instead opting for a dull bronze.

Guns in the prototype do not eject brass, but some pre-release images show this model being ejected from guns.

Based on the prototype shell's position in a model viewer, it seems that the model was positioned specifically so that it'd eject from a gun at a certain angle. The final game has code deal with this instead.

Prototype Final
Hl97 shell.png Hlfinal shell.png


Hl97 shrapnel.png

The prototype's shrapnel model is dark, while the final's is a light gray.

Prototype Final
Hl97 shrapnel.png Hlfinal shrapnel.png



The HUD is completely different in this prototype. The prototype HUD has differently-shaped metal bars on the center-left, left-hand corner, and center-right of the screen. Health is indicated with orange blocks on the box in the left-hand corner. The other boxes do not show information, making it impossible to see what they would do.

Weapons are selected with a set of green boxes that appear in the center of the screen. An unused texture found in the prototype's files shows a weapon selection box closer to the final's, but styled like the rest of the prototype's HUD. This does not appear in-game.

The damage indicators are green in the prototype, but a light red in the final game.

The HUD is larger and has some transparency issues in the OpenGL executable. The weapon selection system's graphics nor the damage indicator graphics appear in OpenGL mode either.

Prototype Final
Hl97 hud1.png Hlfinal hud.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 hud2.png Hlfinal hud2.png
Unused prototype weapon selection Final
Hl 97640 top.png Hlfinal hud2.png
Prototype Final
Hl97 damageindicator.png Hlfinal damageindicator.png
Software OpenGL
Hl97 hud1.png Hl97 hud1gl.png

Early HUD

Hl97 earlyhud.png

The STATUS folder contains a graphic with an older HUD. It appears to be based on Quake's' HUD, suggesting this is a very early leftover.


The game's menu is completely different in this prototype. This menu appears to be Quake's menu, but with different graphics. The box that appears when one hits the "Quit" option still used (glitched) graphics from Quake. The cursor is also animated like in Quake, but the graphics appear to be taken from the sidebar, making it look like a glitch.

Note that the "Help/Ordering" option does not do anything.

Prototype Steam version menu
Hl97 menu1.png Hlfinal menusteam.png
Prototype Pre-Steam menu
Hl97 menu1.png Hlfinal menuwon.png

Quake Menu Comparisons

Prototype Quake
Hl97 menu1.png Quake menu1.png
Prototype Quake
Hl97 menu2.png Quake menu2.png

Prototype Quake
Hl97 menu3.png Quake menu3.png
Prototype Quake
Hl97 menu4.png Quake menu4.png
Prototype Quake
Hl97 menu5.png Quake menu5.png

Prototype Quake
Hl97 menu6.png Quake menu6.png

Credits Image

Hl97 credits.png

The "HUD" folder contains a graphic for the credits that is not used in the prototype. What's notable is that it mentions both Quiver (an early name for Half-Life) and Prospero, a cancelled game that was in development during the early parts of Half-Life's' production.

40mm Grenade Explosion Effects

In the prototype, 40mm grenade explosions will spew shrapnel (complete with smoke trails) when they explode. The final game gets rid of this effect in favor of an animated explosion sprite.

Prototype Final
Hl97 explosion.png Hlfinal explosion.png

Bullet Tracers

In the prototype, nearly every bullet fired by the Pistol and SMG will create a tracer effect. The final game reduces the chance of a tracer on these guns so that it is much rarer.

The prototype's tracers have an orange tint, while the final game's tracers have a more greenish tint.

Prototype Final
Hl97 tracers.png Hlfinal tracers.png

Alien and Human Gibs

Aliens and humans use human gibs in the prototype. The final game gives aliens their own gibs.

Gibbed Human Gibbed Alien
Hl97 gibbedhuman.png Hl97 gibbedalien.png

Early Quake Leftovers

Several raw uncompiled BMPs lie in the GFX folders that pertain to several graphics lumps used by Quake. Part of it are unused "dead" faces and variants on the quad damage face in which he licks around his mouth.

The palette was shifted and recalculated.

Plot Differences

As the game received a full rewrite, the plot is very different from the final, including:

  • Instead of Black Mesa, the game took place in an abandoned missile silo only referred to as "The Silo".
  • Gordon was originally meant to be "a weapons research scientist who has never touched a weapon".
  • The Silo was meant to have already developed a Portal, however the Portal was completely contained.
  • Gordon's lab had nothing to do with the incursion. Instead, the Portal's power core goes critical, causing it to rend space-time and producing the same effect the resonance cascade does in the finished product.
  • The rest of the plot is essentially the same, with the inclusion of acquiring "a device which means the difference between victory and annihilation".