Dev reveals that Half-Life could've been called 'Bent', 'Screwed', 'Trash', 'CrYsis', and my personal favourite, 'Dirt'

Half Life key art
(Image credit: Valve)

Dario Casali, who started working at Valve in 1996, has started his own playthrough of the original 1998 Half-Life on YouTube (thanks, Gamesradar). The episodes are coming out at a blistering pace, with Chapters 1 through 8 already released, but the Chapter 1 walkthrough comes front-loaded with a fascinating glimpse into the classic's early development.

"When I joined Valve, the project was named 'Quiver'," Casali explains. "A few other names were thrown around when we were trying to settle on Half-Life." He then presents a list like he's unfurling one of the dead sea scrolls. The kicker? Half-Life wasn't even at the top of the list at the time. Here are some of my favourites, in no particular order.

  1. Bent
  2. Pressure Pit
  3. CrYsis
  4. Death
  5. Fallout
  6. The Pit
  7. Trash
  8. Screwed
  9. Dirt

"I think we should've called it Screwed," says Casali, almost wistful. "That would've been amazing." 

He then goes on to share a bounty of images from 1996, the "first images I was ever sent", as he was still in the United Kingdom waiting for his visa to go and work at Valve. It shows a peek into the early concepts for a game that, like its sequel, was a few steps ahead of its time. 

The pictures feature atmospheric fog which "we obviously couldn't do" and a spiral staircase "we probably could never have built", thanks to the "face" budget for the scene, which just one step would've spent at the time. We've come a long way.

An image of a tunnel from Half-life's development, showing some fog that would've been impossible to recreate in-engine at the time.

(Image credit: Valve / Dario Casali on YouTube)

A monochrome picture of an in-development Half-Life, showing some spiral staircases that are way out of face budget.

(Image credit: Valve / Dario Casali on YouTube)

Casali also shares some insights into the opening tram ride, which is like a tour within a tour. "We basically wanted to throw every last feature we had into this, because we were pretty aware that you have most of the players at the beginning of games, and they sort of drop out over time."

Considering we're still eternally waiting for Half-Life 3, kicking the first game off with a bang feels pretty accurate. But just think—we could've ended up pining over the third instalment of Screwed, Dirt, or just… Trash. Quick, someone go back in time and step on a butterfly, I want to live in the Trash 3 timeline.

Harvey Randall
Staff Writer

Harvey's history with games started when he first begged his parents for a World of Warcraft subscription aged 12, though he's since been cursed with Final Fantasy 14-brain and a huge crush on G'raha Tia. He made his start as a freelancer, writing for websites like Techradar, The Escapist, Dicebreaker, The Gamer, Into the Spine—and of course, PC Gamer. He'll sink his teeth into anything that looks interesting, though he has a soft spot for RPGs, soulslikes, roguelikes, deckbuilders, MMOs, and weird indie titles. He also plays a shelf load of TTRPGs in his offline time. Don't ask him what his favourite system is, he has too many.