Valve Does Sign Lanuage for HL2: E3?

Joystiq is reporting that Valve Software is researching sign language for the next episode (3) of Half-Life 2 by conducting a focus group with deaf individuals. The company is looking to understand the language and how it can be used in games. Valve's first use of the new sign language technology will be implemented into the backstory of Alyx as explained in this YouTube video with Gabe Newell.

"[Alyx] had a crush on someone who was hearing impaired, so she taught Dog how to sign so she could practice," Newell said. "Something happened, maybe, the person is off fighting the Combine someplace else, but that's why she and Dog would start signing with each other when they wanted to communicate without making noise, or communicate without other people knowing."

The largest aspect of virtualizing the use of sign language is not only the unique hand movements, but the facial expressions as well. While Valve Software has been one of the more prominent developers in regards to character facial movements, taking on sign language and its nuances is a huge--but ultimately a beneficial--project. Ultimately Valve wants to create a believable, authentic experience, a believable backstory for the heroine.

"It gave us the excuse to build the technology for signing," he said.

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  • LePhuronn
    That's all well and good, but I'd rather Valve got it in for Half Life 3 so we weren't waiting for another thousand years for HL2E3 to arrive!

    If you want Alyx and Dog to communicate silently then use military or ninja finger signals ffs signing will not add ANYTHING to the game at this stage.
  • Dangerous Beans
    "signing will not add ANYTHING to the game at this stage."
    Unless you're hearing impaired and /or know sign language, it which case it might be a nice touch. It's nice when the medium you are engaged with acknowledges that people like you exist, and that everyone isn't a fully functional, straight, white American.

    Look on it as primary research; it may not add much to the game, and it may not be used in future, but they are going to have to do some nifty animation to implement it which will get used somewhere else.
  • LePhuronn
    @dangerous beans:

    Don't get me wrong I fully welcome the inclusion of technologies that improve the gaming experience for those with impairments, but I guess I'm increasingly frustrated with Valve's age-long development cycles and right this minute, this sign-language thing strikes me as an unnecessary hold-up in the development of Episode 3, and another "wow that'll be cool, let's stick it in our next game that's already a year overdue and hold it up even more".

    However nice the HDR lighting effects are in Episode 1, they didn't need to be there. By all means continue to develop Source to keep up with rival engines, but considering how short Episode 1 was, especially having no new content other than the Zombine, it seemed like "we've delayed this by an extra year just to get some nice blooms and iris effects in".

    The Lost Coast tech demo would've sufficed to show it off prior to its inclusion in the Orange Box games, and even with the extensive reworking of the Source to cope with expansive environments as we saw with White Forest, Episode 2 I feel would have shipped sooner because development started sooner.

    I guess it just bugs me that it feels the ENTIRE Valve staff only ever work on one project at a time: Source needs to be updated so everything else is on hold. We want to do a zombie game and sign language so Episode 3 is on hold.