Code for sequel to best-selling game 'Half Life' leaked on to Web

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The Independent Online

In a sign that computer games have reached the same mass cultural status as music, books or films, parts of a new eagerly awaited game have found their way on to the internet.

In a sign that computer games have reached the same mass cultural status as music, books or films, parts of a new eagerly awaited game have found their way on to the internet.

Now the makers of Half-Life 2 are following in the footsteps of music executives, film-makers and book publishers, and appealing for help to find who leaked their unfinished product on to the Web.

Half-Life 1, released in 1998, became one of the world's best-selling games. It was renowned for its realistic Stephen King-like world, strong storyline and intelligent enemies. Players took on the role of Gordon Freeman, a research assistant at an American laboratory in a former missile base where a secret project is underway. The task is to fend off monsters and creatures that enter through another dimension. It won 50 game-of-the-year awards.

The source code of its successor - the core or engine of the program, which makes the game work - was leaked on to the internet after a sustained hacking campaign against the computers of the company responsible for writing it, Valve.

Although the complete game has not been leaked, the source code would make it easy to copy once it is released.

The leaked coding includes the physics engine - the software that makes objects behave naturally - and the sound, but not any of the graphics or levels.

Thirty programmers have spent five years working on Half-Life 2, Valve says, and the leak is likely to delay release of the much-anticipated game, which had been pencilled in for Christmas.

Gabe Newell, Valve's founder, said: "Ever have one of those weeks? This has just not been the best couple of days for me or for Valve."

Mr Newell said a hacker had found a way into his e-mail account in September. He then started having trouble with his computer, but he was unable to find out why. But as a security measure he still wiped his hard drive and reinstalled his system software.

In his statement, the Valve founder appealed for help from Half-Life fans to find out who was responsible for leaking the code. "If you have information about the denial of service attacks or the infiltration of our network, please send the details," he said. Valve has set up an e-mail account, helpvalve@valvesoftware.com, for people to send information.

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