Anomalous Materials (chapter)
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- "They're waiting for you, Gordon. In the Test Chamber."
- ― A scientist reminds Gordon of his duty[src]
Anomalous Materials is the second chapter of Half-Life.
The chapter takes place in the Anomalous Materials Laboratory. It is the workplace of Gordon Freeman. The security guard at the reception desk greets Gordon, tells him that there are problems within the system, and Gordon must head down to the test chamber once he gets his protective suit. The player can explore the lab areas, and interact with the environment before continuing on. The G-Man and a scientist can be seen in argument in an inaccessible room.
The scientists in the control room brief Gordon, and tell him that he is needed in the test chamber for an important experiment. They need to deviate from the standard analysis procedures for today's sample. Once the player enters the chamber, the scientists give the player orders over the intercom from the control room above.
Pushing the crystal sample into the analyzer triggers a quantum event called the Resonance Cascade, which opens a dimensional rift between Xen and Earth. Gordon is briefly teleported to the borderworld Xen and encounters alien life forms in the process. He loses his consciousness.
The chapter did exist in some form in the 1997 version of the game. The levels had white theme with more futuristic and complex geometry. Early overview images from the level editor reveals that the first two maps (
c1a0d) were originally connected. The entrance area was used as a storage room with no connection to the transit system. It is possible that this was the starting point of the game at some point. The suit room and the restroom did not exist, but the room with the sink was present. There appears to be a hidden space behind the beverage machines in the lounge, with a possible connection to the locker room.
The telephone panels may have been used as buttons before the retinal scanners. The security guard at the checkpoint before the elevator was to lean against the wall, and use a panel to open the doors. The security guard at the Sector B entrance also had a different standing animation. This animation is used in the OEM version of the game.
The portal device from the previous incarnation of the chapter can be seen in some of the screenshots from 1998. In this version, the scientists are using blue beams coming out of obelisk-like objects (which resembles a scorpion's tail) and a wormhole (it is in fact a skybox using the space theme) above the room to open portals, and possibly capture aliens. It should be noted that these objects look similar to "energy bio-pillars" seen in one of the cabals for Xen. These objects can be found in the map
env_beam in the SDK.
The PlayStation 2 version features updated visuals, including new advertisement poster textures. In Day One, a beam effect can be seen in the tubes in the ionization chambers room. The entities for the effect are also present in the final game, but they don't work. The tubes were rebuilt, and the effects were brought back in the PlayStation 2 version.
The demo of the PlayStation 2 version begins in the control room without any introduction. The level code for the chapter is Gordon Goes to Work in the Dreamcast version. Half-Life: Source contains a couple of test maps that include portions of the chapter.
Behind the scenes
Originally the game was meant to begin after the incident had already happened, with the first chapter being The Portal Device, a predecessor to the retail Unforeseen Consequences. Marc Laidlaw thought that just seeing the ruined labs did not make the reason of all the destruction clear enough, so he suggested cleaning everything up to show how it looked before, and then add the disaster itself as a transition to the already made levels. Brett Johnson liked the idea and built the pre-disaster version overnight.
According to Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, the disaster sequence was built by John Guthrie and Kelly Bailey in a weekend, during which they worked for 48 hours straight. After going home at the end of the weekend and coming back in the offices on Monday, "still in a zombie like state", John and Kelly were glad to see that the rest of the team loved the sequence after playing through it. The original script for the test chamber sequence by Marc Laidlaw can be found in the book.
It is possible that the analyzer was to explode when the player waited too long during the experiment (see
c1a0_sci_dis17a, an unused line by a scientist in the control room). Some of the scientist lines from the chapter can be heard near the final teleporter before the Nihilanth's chamber (map
c4a1f), including an unused line from the test chamber (see
c1a0_sci_dis14a). The announcement system mentions the locations visited by the player in the later chapters. It was to greet the player at the beginning of the chapter (see
The source files for the first two maps (
c1a0d) are included in the SDK. The texture light information for a green crystal texture (
crys_2top) can be found in
The player is teleported to a random location on Xen with two Bullsquids during the incident. The one on the left is supposed to walk away from the player when the player appears, but the scripted sequence does not work.
- The names of the developers can be found on the lockers. There are also unused names in the files (see the List of minor Black Mesa employees for the names). Brett Johnson's locker was purposely placed next to Gordon's. The developers are also mentioned in announcements.
- Gordon's locker contains a couple of Easter eggs: a photo of a baby, and two books by Marc Laidlaw, The Orchid Eater and The 37th Mandala (a texture for The Third Force was created, but left unused). According to Harry Teasley, the baby in the photo is his daugher, Isabel. He originally placed this photo in a completely different area, on the broken desk of a ruined office in another map, and had initially put a pin-up poster in the Gordon's locker. However, John Guthrie later performed a pass on the level, modifying the locker and placing Isabel's photo there instead.
- In the PlayStation 2 version, an Easter egg was added involving the two scientists occupying the toilet stalls in the locker room. The two now converse with one another utilizing existing scientist dialog lines in a humorous manner. While there are three normal exchanges which play at regular time intervals, a secret fourth scripted dialog sequence also exists which only plays once every five minutes.
- Half-Life section on Brett Johnson's personal website (archived)
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 39
- Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 40
- Half-Life Preliminary Findings
- Marc Laidlaw (Valve) – Interview on Arcade Attack
- Half-Life Research Facilities section on Brett Johnson's personal website (archived)
- The girl in Gordon's locker turns 14 today. on Reddit (January 3, 2012)
- I'm the dad of the girl in Gordon's locker on Reddit (September 1, 2016)
- Half-Life (PS2) - Toilet Scientists Conversation Easter Egg (June 8, 2011)