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Gearbox Software, L.L.C. is an American video game development company based in Plano, Texas. The company contributed to the Half-Life series with three games: Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999), Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001), and Half-Life: Decay (2001). Gearbox also developed the Brothers in Arms and Borderlands series, as well as 2011's Duke Nukem Forever. They also made homeworld 3.

Canonicity of the Half-Life expansions[]

Much debate has surrounded the question of whether the expansions developed by Gearbox Software are to be considered canon, added to the fact that no direct reference to any of the plot details of these expansions has been made in any of the subsequent games of the Half-Life series.

When asked on many occasions, the Half-Life series' writer Marc Laidlaw has said that during the development of Opposing Force, they (Valve) didn't insist that Gearbox developers abide by their rules and, likewise, Laidlaw generally did not factor in Gearbox's plot events when working on the story for Valve games. He had some input into the expansions writing, but it is unknown how much exactly, officially credited plot writers being only Gearbox employees, supervised by Randy Pitchford.

Gearbox took some liberty into writing their own things and experimenting designs, not validated by default by Valve. For instance, Laidlaw states that the Race X is purely a Gearbox creation that does not figure at all in his thinking about the Half-Life universe. He furthers adds that the Gearbox team wanted to come up with a set of creatures that would create gameplay they knew how to make, and that they could have been making an original title or an add-on for any other franchise, and plugged Race X into it - the reason being that they had gameplay they wanted to explore and needed the freedom of their own race of critters to conduct those experiments with. He also suggests that if Gearbox had kept making games set in the Half-Life universe, more about the Race X would have been revealed.[2]

Therefore, the general consensus will consider the Gearbox expansions canon (even though still ambiguous) unless Valve chooses to specifically contradict some of all the events depicted, in which case Valve has the hypothetical 'right of way' (much like Disney and the Star Wars’ universe). Retcons having been made since the first game's release.

References in subsequent games[]

  • While it is generally implied that the Barney from Blue Shift and Half-Life 2 are the same person, the Half-Life 2 Barney never makes any direct references to the Blue Shift events. Furthermore, the surname "Calhoun" is never said during the game, although it might be because Barney is in familiar terms with the protagonists he interacts with (while he is only referred to by "B. Calhoun" in Blue Shift). However "Calhoun" appears in the Half-Life 2 end credits, Marc Laidlaw gave the surname when Blue Shift entered development to set him apart as a separate character from other security guards.
  • Although Rosenberg, Keller, Green and Cross, all Gearbox creations, were important Black Mesa scientists, they cannot be seen in Kleiner's Lab picture.[3]
  • Gabe Newell stated that Adrian Shephard might be reused in the future, further blurring the lines between the games' canonicity.[4] When asked about this return, Doug Lombardi did not dismiss it but stated that there were no plans of bringing him back at the moment or anytime in the future.[5]


  1. DICE 2010: Gearbox's Pitchford On Borderlands, Perfection, Money. Retrieved on 2010-02-19.
  2. 2.0 2.1 Marc Laidlaw Vault on the HalfLife2.net Forums
  3. File:Photo group001a2.png
  4. Adrian Shephard return?. HalfLife2.net Forums (3 March 2006). Retrieved on 2006-11-28.
  5. Valve clears up Adrian Shephard Portal speculation. Eurogamer (3 March 2006). Retrieved on 2009-06-21.

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