I’m Still Seeing Breen

Uncle AndrewUncle Andrew
Filed under: @ 4:44 pm

I’ve been meaning to post this for a while now, ever since my friend Gary showed it to me at a party.

You’ve heard me mention before my deep and abiding love for the game Half-Life 2. As much as the game truly rocks, the experience of playing it was greatly enhanced by my contact with Gary, who is Executive Engineer In Charge Of Shiny Stuff (or something like that) at Valve Software and was integral to the development of HL2. He has allowed me a glimpse of what goes into producing a monumental piece of software like this….I even got to play-test the game!

One of the cooler aspects of the HL2 game engine is the ability to turn any speech—in any language—into facial movements on a character model. Say it into a microphone, and your character can say it on screen. This makes game development appreciably easier.

A few months back, machinima.org member Paul Marino got hold of Valve’s FacePoser software (with their permission) and used it, along with some standard developer cheat codes for the game, to make a music video for the song “So Cold” by Breaking Benjamin, “filmed” entirely within the HL2 game. The video features the lyrical stylings of “The G-Man”, a central non-player character in the Half-Life series.

The music fits quite well with the overall feel of the game, which takes place in a totalitarian society run by a select group of humans doing the bidding of their alien overlords, generically referred to as “our Benefactors”. The brief speech given at the beginning of the video by Dr. Breen (hence the title of the video, and this post) is taken straight from the game. It is part of a longer sequence played and replayed on giant monitors throughout City 17—where much of the game action unfolds—and seems to tie in strangely to the theme of the music as well. The overall effect of the music—earnest, dark with an undercurrent of violence—matches the atmosphere of Half-Life 2 to a T.

I’m not actually trying to read more into this video than is really there, no matter what it sounds like; it’s basically a neat idea, well executed, and it plays more or less exactly like a conventionally-directed thematic music video. I have no idea what the members of Breaking Benjamin think of it.

Click here to view the movie. Requires a DivX-compatible video player. QuickTime for the Mac does not seem to like the audio codec, so I’d rcommend VLC Media Player for OSX instead.

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