Half Life 2: Lost Coast HDR Eye Candy:

Half Life 2: Lost Coast HDR overview Eye Candy Half Life 2: Lost Coast HDR overview Eye Candy
These are scenes from the Monastery, which features many of the HDR features listed on Page 2: Blooming of the bright sunlight; Refraction as it pours through the stained glass windows; HDR Light Maps where the light hits the walls; even HDR Cube Maps where the light on the floor reflects on the surface of the oil lamp hanging from the ceiling.

Half Life 2: Lost Coast HDR overview Eye Candy Half Life 2: Lost Coast HDR overview Eye Candy
This old geezer is just someone we bumped into down on the dock: he mumbled something walking his dog, but I didn't see one around. This final shot is simply stunning: only the crosshair gives it away as an in-game capture, as it could easily pass for high-quality concept artwork.

Naturally, all this eye candy comes at a price, but Valve are still figuring out where exactly the recommended specification lies for Lost Coast. When pushed, Lombardi revealed that while the CPU requirements may be relatively low at 2.0 to 3.0Ghz, the hunger for RAM borders on the guttenous at 1Gb to 2Gb, though he stresses that these figures are still to be finalised.

Naturally, the more the better, but considering most gamers have 512MB of RAM, and even enthusiasts somehow make do with "only" 1GB, the suggestion that Lost Coast could need as much as two gigabytes of RAM to run HDR optimally may mean that most of the gaming public won't see the full performance for a while yet.

The graphics card requirements are slightly less than stratospheric, at 6800GT / X800Pro level, though as Lombardi points out, "Higher will be better, as always." Just how much better is unknown at this point: "We have not yet had a chance to complete our testing on the highest end products coming from the leading vendors," Lombardi told us, "But we hope to have those details and a final release date to share soon."

And will HDR be retrofitted to the full Half Life 2 game? IGN quotes a Valve rep cornered at E3 who said that "HDR would be partially implemented in HL2 in a future patch" but completely recoding the lighting was off the cards, for two reasons: the required download would total approx 5GB (!), and also that Valve feel that certain sections of the game play better with standard rendering.

The exact release date for Lost Coast has not yet been announced, but its release has been anticipated for some months now: Lombardi quoted "A month or so" back in February which then changed to May; the E3 demonstration suggests a degree of completeness, and yet the promised "Spring" release passed at the beginning of June. The interesting thing to note is that Lost Coast will perform rendering on X800-range cards, showing that you don't need Shader Model 3.0 to perform HDR operations, and meaning that Valve certainly aren't waiting for ATI's R520 to launch, as had been speculated previously.

Half Life 2: Lost Coast will be a free download via Steam and frankly, we can't wait.

15/06/2005 Update: as mentioned in the original story, the net is rife with speculation that ATI specifically asked Valve to hold back Lost Coast until the launch of their next-gen GPU, R520, reported to be on the 26th of July. We can now firmly dispell that theory, thanks to an email follow-up from Doug Lombardi:

On the release date, right now we're looking at some time in July. The only reason for the change in date was internal development - no external factors.

Meanwhile, this will run on the X800 as well as the 6800 line of cards, as well as the coming highest-end products from both ATI & NVIDIA - it was shown on dual 6800s at E3.

So there you have it folks - no conspiracy theories here!
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