Ravenholm – Database: Episode 6 [60FPS!]

Ravenholm – Database: Episode 6 [60FPS!]

Hi, and welcome to a spooky Halloween
special edition of ValveTime Database. In this extra-creepy episode, we’re going to be taking a look at one of the most iconic and infamous
locations from the entire Half-Life series: the desolate mining town of Ravenholm. It’s a fan favorite location, and for good reason, so it’s definitely the perfect choice for the first location we’re going to be discussing here on Database. And what better time than Halloween? [EVIL LAUGHTER] Let’s get on with it: Introduced in Half-Life 2, the town and its
surrounding graveyards, mines, and tunnels function as the primary locations within the game’s sixth chapter, appropriately named “We Don’t Go To Ravenholm.” The town, like locations all throughout the Half-Life 2 saga, is located somewhere in Eastern Europe,
possibly near Belgrade, the capital city of Serbia, also known as City 17. While it’s never clearly shown or explained, Ravenholm is likely located somewhere around
30 kilometers to the East of City 17, if not more, a journey taken by Gordon Freeman which comprises
much of the game’s first act and day. Aside from the more obvious environmental contrasts with City 17, the appearance and layout of Ravenholm provide
an excellent contrast to the rest of the game. Unlike City 17, which features a vast amount of large-scale
architecture such as apartment complexes, Ravenholm is comprised mostly of smaller,
more densely packed houses and factories built from more traditional materials such as wood and brick. This, of course, fits Ravenholm’s nature
as a relatively remote mining town prior to the Combine Invasion in the early 21st century. As a densely packed, zombie infested town, Ravenholm was at least partially inspired by the Sealed Section within the Old Quarter of “Thief: The Dark Project.” While it definitely wasn’t the first “zombie infested town,” this theory is supported by the fact that Tom Leonard, the designer lead for Ravenholm’s level and AI, previously worked on Thief prior to being hired by Valve, and, while the Sealed Section was designed by Randy Smith, it’s still quite likely that some elements of the location,
or Thief in general, crept into Half-Life 2. It should also be noted that Thief: The Dark Project
was, at one point at least, Marc Laidlaw’s favorite PC game, and it’s
certainly not uncommon for game designers to sneak aspects or references from their favorite
games into those they themselves create. Given its distance from larger cities and its relatively small size, the town became a perfect refuge for rebels
looking to escape the Combine rule. For an unspecified amount of time up until
the opening chapters of Half-Life 2, the resistance used a network of underground stations,
known as the Underground Railroad, to help citizens flee City 17 before reaching
Black Mesa East and Ravenholm via a series of canals seen throughout the
“Route Kanal” and “Water Hazard” chapters. Some time prior to Gordon’s arrival, the resistance
base within Ravenholm was discovered, prompting the Combine to bombarde
the area with Headcrab Shells: large metallic missiles filled with a number of Headcrabs. After being deployed and crash landing
somewhere near the target destination, the rear of each Headcrab Shell automatically opens, allowing the parasites within to escape and
run amok throughout the nearby area, eventually killing any inhabitants. While Headcrab Shelling is shown throughout
Half-Life 2 and the sequel episodes, the results of such an attack are shown
no more prominently than at Ravenholm, where the entire crew of resistance
civilians have seemingly been killed. Despite the extremely numerous Headcrabs and Zombies
which fill the streets and mines of Ravenholm, it is very unlikely the entire populace of the town were killed, as survivors, such as Father Grigori,
may have fled the area towards Black Mesa East or the coast as the shelling began. That said, the death toll for the shelling
must have been insanely high, forcing Black Mesa East to seal a connecting tunnel to Ravenholm in order to stop the possible spread of Headcrabs. It would also appear Black Mesa East and Shorepoint base deliberately damaged the elevators and
equipment linking either base from the town, showing the extent to which the resistance were
willing to go to further blockade Ravenholm. Despite this, it would appear the machinery
contained within Ravenholm is still powered from somewhere other than the town itself, likely from the dam used to power Black Mesa East as passed during the final moments of the “Water Hazard” chapter. This would mean the power grid used
to power lights and traps within the town is still wired up to Black Mesa East despite being sealed off months or years prior to Gordon’s arrival. Prior to shelling, the town and its surrounding
areas remained hidden from the Combine for a number of years, potentially over
a decade, before being discovered. This mean that, unlike most of Half-Life 2’s locations, Ravenholm appears extremely “normal” – that is, almost entirely untouched by
advanced Combine technology. This would imply that, other than headcrab
shells and possible air reconnaissance, it is likely no Combine personnel or military
unit has ever stepped foot near the town, making it something of a rarity in a world almost entirely controlled or
destroyed by the Universal Union. Ravenholm as a target actually provides a relatively
good, early example of the Combine’s might, as the lack of any kind of invasion proves just
how powerful their military capabilities can be, given the right scenario, allowing them to wipe out an entire area
and make it totally uninhabitable without ever having to endanger their own troops or technology. As we mentioned earlier, the famous Father Grigori,
also referred to as the Mad Monk, stands as the only known survivor of Ravenholm and also stands as one of the main elements that
fans remember from their time in Ravenholm. Grigori’s loud personality and religious outlook
were brought to life by actor Jim French, who has since went on to voice the
Fisherman in Half-Life 2: Lost Coast, Bill Overbeck in the Left 4 Dead series,
and Elder Titan in Dota 2. Jim was identified by Valve while voicing the “evil scientist guys” during the development of Sierra’s Gunman Chronicles, as confirmed by Half-Life lead writer Marc Laidlaw back in 2012. Grigori’s face, however, was brought
about by totally different means. As many Valve fans know, a lot of characters
from their “realistic” titles are based off scans of real-world actors or
personalities, and Grigori is no exception. During the development of Half-Life 2,
an artist known as Horia Dociu regularly invited his father, Daniel Dociu,
to the Valve office for visits. Half-Life 2’s art director Viktor Antonov thought his “mug” would fit the character best before
the game’s producer, Bill Van Buren, offered him a role in the game. Numerous reference photographs were then taken
and used to create an in-game likeness, as shown by the ridiculously uncanny
resemblance between Daniel and Grigori. Daniel has since gone on to work as the art director
for ArenaNet’s Guild Wars 2 MMORPG, meaning the artstyle of one of the world’s most popular MMOs was likely influenced by the real-world likeness
of a possibly-mad survivalist monk. Now back to Ravenholm itself: Over what was likely years, sections of
the town were sealed off one at a time in order to break up the narrow streets into various zones, presumably making it far easier to contain
the slower, less mobile species of zombies. While Gordon shows how many areas can still
be navigated relatively easily by humans, most zombies clearly lack both the cognitive ability and physicality necessary to scale the various ladders,
walls, lifts, and traps that litter the town. It’s never really touched upon in-game, but it’s possible these walls were erected by the town’s inhabitants in order to slow the spread of headcrabs
and zombies throughout the town as the Combine shelled more and more areas, though we feel it’s more likely these barricades were constructed at least partially by Father Grigori in order to make it
easier to control and cull zombies en masse. There’s certainly no denying the design and creation
of the numerous traps spread throughout Ravenholm, as Grigori explains they are the result of a “man who once had too much time on his hands and
now only finds time for the work of salvation,” suggesting he may have become a self-appointed
priest sometime following the Combine’s shelling. It’s possible other individuals within
the town assisted with his creation of the traps before escaping, being killed, or being zombified. This is hinted at through several of
Grigori’s random voice lines, including, “I still remember your true face”
and numerous references to his “flock,” implying Grigori personally knew and interacted with many of the inhabitants of Ravenholm before its fall. Ravenholm and its inhabitants didn’t always
take on their current form, however, as proven by the infamous leak of
Half-Life 2’s source code in 2003. Like almost every component of Half-Life 2, Ravenholm underwent major changes
throughout the 6 year development cycle, including shifts to the town’s environmental setting, purpose, thematic tones, relevance, and a whole lot more. Ravenholm and its surrounding areas went through
many different names over the course of development, including “Town,” “Zombie Town,”
“Phystown,” “Quarry,” “Quarrytown,” and the most well-known, “Traptown,”
amongst possible other unknown titles. Presumably the one of the first versions
of Ravenholm, simply known as “Town,” stood as just “a dark, dreary mining town”
focused on what Marc Laidlaw described as “claustrophobic streets, the teetering
buildings, [and] the oppressing sky.” At this stage, Father Grigori was created as an “obsessive inhabitant who lobbed grenades
and molotovs from a church tower” to help the player through a town. It wasn’t until the Source Engine’s physics
system began to be implemented that the designers started creating environments
to take advantage of traps and physics objects, eventually transforming Ravenholm into “Traptown,” as shown in the famous E3 2003 gameplay demo. We’ll come back to that version in a moment, as it would appear numerous other
iterations exist between it and Town. While it’s hard to imagine Ravenholm in
anything other than a nighttime setting, it would appear the location was bathed in sunlight
just as much, if not more, than moonlight. It’s not entirely clear why Valve were attempting to experiment with creating a horror setting using a daytime environment, but hey, why don’t we ask Left 4 Dead 2 the same question? This focus on daytime is shown heavily
in a trio of work-in-progress versions found within the Half-Life 2 leaked files, including Quarrytown, Zombie Town, and Canals. As one of the largest known versions
and one of the most visually striking, Quarrytown appears as a large industrial
town filled with mining equipment in the middle of a mountainous area of the Wastelands. It’s believed Quarrytown dates back to around 2001, which explains why the location appears vast and largely open, not claustrophobic or uncomfortable. Much of the architecture and environmental
themes seen throughout Quarrytown are extremely similar to those seen in the
industrial areas of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, while some streets do appear quite similar to areas
seen in the final retail version of Ravenholm. The focus on large, industrial vehicles is continued
in several other basic maps referred to as “Quarry,” thought to be featured in the same version as Quarrytown, as a crashed cargo train and a placeholder quarry truck can be seen throughout the quarry
alongside an odd conveyer belt puzzle. One version that lacked the large vehicles but
kept the industrial theme is “Zombie Town,” a very large, rather empty, and clearly unfinished wasteland town which featured a small handful of zombies. As one of the earliest and most unfinished versions of Ravenholm, Zombie Town is actually quite interesting
as it clearly originates from a time before the Eastern European setting
for Half-Life 2 was fully nailed down. It’s known one of the original proposed locations
for the game was the United States of America, something supported by numerous signs
and cars seen throughout the town. They all clearly show that this particular version of Ravenholm, and likely the rest of Half-Life 2 as well, were to take place somewhere in or near
a desert or wasteland within the US, with one sign reading “Springfield: Next 3 Exits.” It’s unclear if Springfield was set to
even feature as a location in Half-Life 2 or if this is simply a placeholder sign. Unlike the damaged, undrivable vehicles shown
throughout the retail version of Half-Life 2, the cars shown in Zombie Town appear damaged but functional, much like the trucks we previously spoke about which were set to be used in Half-Life 2:
Episode Four, which we’ll come back to in a bit. Likely the most unusual version of Ravenholm
is simply referred to as “canals.” While these canals technically only function
as the entrance to Ravenholm, this small map shows how the player was going
to enter the town straight from the sewer canals during the daytime, rather than first passing
through Black Mesa East in the evening before arriving at Ravenholm by nightfall. Unlike Quarry, which features no enemies at all, and Zombie Town, which only features a handful of zombies, Canals actually features a number of
headcrabs on rooftops and walkways, likely foreshadowing the zombie-infested
town the player was about to enter. All of these early versions bring us to the most
widely loved pre-release version of Ravenholm: Traptown, the believed near-final version shown
during the Half-Life 2 gameplay demo at E3 2003. Like the final Ravenholm, Traptown takes
place during and shortly after dusk, and much of the town’s layout appears very similar
to the locations present in the final version, albeit slightly less polished. One of the most interesting things about this version is the Combine presence seen throughout the level. Throughout the E3 demo, Combine Soldiers are shown patrolling the streets and rooftops throughout the town, but it’s not entirely clear if the scripted
action sequences from the demo were placed there purely to show off more of the physics engine, or if the Combine were at any point set to feature
a real presence within areas of Ravenholm. Another one of the major distinguishing factors
between Traptown and Ravenholm is the appearance of a large, damaged
dock on the coast of an ocean or lake. After many different iterations, this area did not
appear in the final version of Ravenholm and was cut from the game entirely. It’s widely believed that this dock area was
to feature as the entrance to Ravenholm, and remnants of the connection between the docks and Ravenholm can still be seen in the final version of Half-Life 2. After getting off the dock and reaching the walls of the town, the player was to take an L-shaped alleyway into Ravenholm itself, where they would exit close to the first meeting
with Father Grigori included in the final game. After being scrapped, the entrance from the dock was
quite literally fenced up and made inaccessible, but the area beyond the fence still features
the same layout and brush work as it did in the scrapped dock version, while the dock itself was obviously
replaced by the entrance to Ravenholm we have all known for the past ten years. While the entire design philosophy and impact
of Ravenholm changed massively over time, it’s clear some ideas remained relatively
untouched from their first conception to the final iteration we’ve had for the past decade or so. This can be seen most prominently
within certain pieces of concept art, including this piece, which was released alongside a “Final Hours of Half-Life 2”-themed
article on Gamespot back in 2004. The scenario depicted in the concept art will appear
familiar to anyone who has played through Ravenholm, as the structure of the apartment sequence shown
hasn’t actually changed all that much. The few changes that were made include closing off the stairwells, removing the ground floor “clinic,” removing the appearance of black headcrabs in the streets, and taking out a “child body” hidden under a bed, which is obviously a consequence of removing
children from the game’s narrative altogether. From the rooftop, however, the sequence is eerily familiar, as the player must fight past hordes of zombies,
speak with Grigori on the roof to obtain the shotgun, then jump across the street into an open-air water tower before climbing a pair of ladders to reach a rooftop. Several other mechanics also survived
through much of the design process, including the propeller trap, shown multiple times here, while some were featured heavily early on
before being removed entirely. The most famous cut set piece required Gordon
to destroy a “Combine Big Momma Pod” using a large digger in the Ravenholm mines. The Big Momma Pod, which merely appeared as
three placeholder Advisors in the unfinished files, essentially functioned as a captured Gonarch
strapped to Combine technology, which would force the Gonarch to breed as
a means of flooding the surrounding areas with innumerable headcrabs, effectively filling in the
same role as the shelling raids in the final game. After the Big Momma Pod was cut for unknown reasons, the digger and all focus on larger,
mechanical vehicles disappeared forever, leaving only much smaller, less elaborate,
and more believable traps in their place, such as the well-known propeller, propane, and electric traps. Given how Ravenholm continues to stand as
one the community’s most well-loved locations, if not the most, it’s not surprise Valve decided it was worth revisiting
the location in a substantially different form in Arkane Studio’s now cancelled “Return to Ravenholm,” a game better known as “Half-Life 2: Episode Four.” As the work-in-progress title suggests, Ravenholm was to feature as the main location for an unknown protagonist to visit for an unspecified reason. We’ve covered Half-Life 2: Episode Four a lot in the past, so we’re not going into too many details here. However, it is important to note that the version
of Ravenholm set to appear in Episode Four was likely going to appear much larger in order to
accommodate more locations in a standalone title. As shown by these in-engine screenshots
dating back to sometime around 2007, Ravenholm was to feature much larger
concrete buildings such as a hospital, something not even remotely alluded to
during Gordon’s visit in Half-Life 2. The hospital locale and “Absorption” option on the in-game HUD both reference an unconfirmed central game
mechanic possibly related to radiation, some kind of otherworldly energy,
or some kind of airborne infection. For way more information about the scrapped,
non-canon version of Ravenholm, check out our previous ValveTime Spotlight Exclusive episodes, as we go into a lot more detail over there. Speaking of non-canon appearances,
a massively altered version of Ravenholm also appeared in the Japanese “Half-Life 2: Survivor”
arcade game as “Mission 2” of three main “Mission Mode” maps. In reality, the only real similarities between Ravenholm
and its arcade counterpart are visual and thematic, as the “Mission Mode” variant is actually a totally custom map which has players damage explosive packs held
within “zombie houses” in order to destroy them. Once activated, each “house” spawns an endless wave
of zombies, fast zombies, and poison zombies, which strangely lack poison headcrabs. A unique zombie also makes an appearance, one that explodes upon being killed in a fashion
similar to the Boomer from the Left 4 Dead series, just without the bile and everything. Killing zombies and destroying the
“zombie houses” award the player with points to add to their high score total, while destroying
a specific house close to the end of the mission will spawn an unusually mute Grigori as an NPC assistant who will fight alongside the player
much like the original Ravenholm. A modified version of the “real” version of Ravenholm does make an appearance elsewhere in the arcade game during the third chapter of the “Story Mode.” While substantially shorter than the full version
of Ravenholm featured in Half-Life 2, the sequence actually features a number of pre-rendered
cutscenes used to fill in most of the gaps, such as much of Father Grigori’s dialogue
and Gordon’s eventual escape. And that’s quite literally all we have
to say about Ravenholm for now. Hopefully you’ve enjoyed this extra-long, spooky,
special Halloween edition of ValveTime Database. Obviously, the episode itself wasn’t all that terrifying, but there’s definitely no better Valve
location to discuss for Halloween, except maybe Mann Manor, that is. Be sure to leave suggestions for future
Database episodes in the comments below, and don’t forget to subscribe to our YouTube channel and to follow us on Facebook and Twitter to
keep up-to-date with all the latest Valve news. Thanks for watching and bye for now.

Danny Hutson

100 thoughts on “Ravenholm – Database: Episode 6 [60FPS!]

  1. I don’t get why people say Ravenholm doesn’t feel like part of Half-Life 2. It perfectly demonstrates what could happen to a rebel base or city because of the combines use of headcrab shells. Overall, it works well.

  2. If hl3 ever gets released i really want a chapter that returns to ravenholm
    But with gonomes and new kind of zombies and someone to follow you

  3. My power was lost in places which were not mine. Affliction besought me, and the merciless ones attacked me without cause. Father Grigori.

  4. How can Valve have IP's such as L4D, HL and Portal on its hands, and not be developing new sequels? I know Steam is their main, and extremely lucrative cash cow, but in business if you don't keep moving you're dead already.

  5. 8:45 типичный русский центр города. Казань, Москва похожи на эти скриншоты 1 в 1.

  6. 13:11 Personally, I would've stood around at the dock for hours, and waited until daytime before passing through Ravenholm!!!!

  7. "City 17 is somewhere in serbia,probably Belgrade"

  8. Dude, city 17 is Belgrade!!!???!!!??!? One of my favorite games is set in my home city, that's fucking awesome!!!!!!!!!

  9. That's interesting…

    First Half Life took place in Black Mesa, which was located in New Mexico, United States.
    By the time of Half Life 2, Dr. Kleiner and Eli had to escape Black Mesa and relocate to Western Europe for whatever reason. I wonder if that was prior or after the Combine Envasion? Assuming 8 Hour War took place around the whole world, major areas of the Earth at least.

    Also speaking of Western Europe, Half Life's universe is strange.
    I cannot recall every location in Half Life 2, but I do recall spotting Russian letters throughout City 17 and finding some props of those letters in Garry's Mod, pulled from Half Life 2.
    If this was Western Europe, then how come we can spot Russian letters and building (4:12 for example)?
    Either it may be closer to Eastern Europe, which I would take my guess at being located in either Latvia, Estonia, or Lithuania.To this day they have buildings that remain from Soviet Union along with a large Russian population.
    Or it's just a fictional universe in which perhaps Russia or Soviet Union managed to have a better realtionship with Europe.

  10. What makes you think City-17 is based on Belgrad? It could be Sofia just as well. Comparing the visual style mix of east-block socialist modern architecture with classic buildings and the overall urban design and density, Sofia is an even more likely Candidate for a City-17-Template.

  11. I just realized that the spinning trap is literally a V-6 engine that’s been put on its back and has a blade attached to where the driveshaft supposed to be

  12. I believe the best version of Ravenholm is the one that we got because it ended up being very distinct and standing up from the entierty of Half Life. The second best "Trap town" while it looks amazing too it wouldn't have been so distinct cause the player is fighting combine soldiers all along the game so the chapter would have been another battle arena with the combine albeit with the element of traps included

  13. The simplest answer as to why they were experimenting with a day-time setting for a horror-like environment was that they were trying to go against the type. I mean, plenty of horror franchises (not just games) generally are set during the night or in visually dark settings, to play on a basic human fear of the dark. However, good horror franchises that go against this trope do so by essentially saying that daytime is not safe either. That's my two-cents about the "Daytime Ravenholm."

  14. If City 17 is located in Europe, then why are all the citizens American? I understand that there are citizens that have been relocated from their original homes but there should still be some people left that have European accents and speak either English and/or French, German etc.

  15. Fun Fact: On steam if you select Half-Life 2, one of the background screenshots will be one of the early iterations of Ravenholm, shown mainly by the fact that the zombies have the old textures, and less so that the area that it takes place in is an area i cant find ingame (correct me if im wrong)

  16. I thought city 17 is in America? How is black Mesa or well a section of it so close by in a forest to city 17 If this is taking place in Serbia? Why is there a black man if it’s Serbia?

  17. The set of the ciry 17 and the whole game is thought to be Bulgaria…simply said Viktor Antonov is a bulgarian guy, well a french born bulgarian.
    More is thah sign цимент which ia cement in bulgarian and is the only language which reads it in this way.

  18. Although there is no canonical answer to the question of which city is City 17 I personally feel like Riga makes the most sense, seeing as its very close to the Baltic coast. I also feel that a rough model of the Serbian Parliament building being used has more to do with the lead art designer for Half Life 2 being Serbian than it being the canonical location.

  19. I believe there are more survivors in Ravenholm as throughout the chapter you can hear cries, screams (distant) and more sounds that might proof that there are indeed more survivors than Gregori

  20. whomever canceled return to raveholm ..I hope u watch ur entire family die in a fire then u get cancer and suffer until your last breath

    and I rly rly mean it

  21. Whenever someone reminds me of the HL games, Ravenholm is the first place that comes to mind even more than the Black Mesa facility.

  22. I'm suprised it's a fan favorite, I completely hated ravenholm because nothing exciting really happens there and it's also full of the most annoying creature in the game, in my opinion.

  23. i played through ravenholm yesterday and i figured out fi you try to walk in the tunnel alyx mentions about the town being a mining town

  24. I always loved Ravenholm more than the rest. It’s an abandoned town inhabited by the undead and one man bent of the salvation of the infected aka Father Grigori.

  25. 4:10 i think the ravenholm has it's own generator. Because there is a large facility with smoke coming out from chimneys

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