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A Breencast is a regular broadcast made by Dr. Wallace Breen, delivered to the populace of City 17 (and possibly other Combine controlled towns and cities) via private televisions and, more commonly, large video monitors mounted on walls in public places such as town squares and railway stations. The term Breencast is an obvious portmanteau of the words "Breen" and "broadcast."
At several points during the game, Dr. Breen uses these Breencasts to deliver announcements and messages to the citizens of City 17, and, later in the game, Gordon Freeman himself. The following are transcripts of several of these announcements.
Dr. Breen welcoming Citizens to City 17
Welcome. Welcome to City 17.
You have chosen, or been chosen, to relocate to one of our finest remaining urban centers. I thought so much of City 17 that I elected to establish my Administration here, in the Citadel so thoughtfully provided by Our Benefactors. I have been proud to call City 17 my home. And so, whether you are here to stay, or passing through on your way to parts unknown, welcome to City 17. It's safer here.
Dr. Breen on instinct
Let me read a letter I recently received. "Dear Dr. Breen. Why has the Combine seen fit to suppress our reproductive cycle? Sincerely, A Concerned Citizen."
Thank you for writing, Concerned. Of course your question touches on one of the most basic biological impulses, with all its associated hopes and fears for the future of the species. I also detect some unspoken questions. Do our benefactors really know what's best for us? What gives them the right to make this kind of decision for mankind? Will they ever deactivate the suppression field and let us breed again?
Allow me to address the anxieties underlying your concerns, rather than try to answer every possible question you might have left unvoiced. First, let us consider the fact that for the first time ever, as a species, immortality is in our reach. This simple fact has far-reaching implications. It requires radical rethinking and revision of our genetic imperatives. It also requires planning and forethought that run in direct opposition to our neural pre-sets.
I find it helpful at times like these to remind myself that our true enemy is Instinct. Instinct was our mother when we were an infant species. Instinct coddled us and kept us safe in those hardscrabble years when we hardened our sticks and cooked our first meals above a meager fire and started at the shadows that leapt upon the cavern's walls. But inseparable from Instinct is its dark twin, Superstition. Instinct is inextricably bound to unreasoning impulses, and today we clearly see its true nature. Instinct has just become aware of its irrelevance, and like a cornered beast, it will not go down without a bloody fight. Instinct would inflict a fatal injury on our species. Instinct creates its own oppressors, and bids us rise up against them. Instinct tells us that the unknown is a threat, rather than an opportunity. Instinct slyly and covertly compels us away from change and progress. Instinct, therefore, must be expunged. It must be fought tooth and nail, beginning with the basest of human urges: The urge to reproduce.
We should thank our benefactors for giving us respite from this overpowering force. They have thrown a switch and exorcised our demons in a single stroke. They have given us the strength we never could have summoned to overcome this compulsion. They have given us purpose. They have turned our eyes toward the stars.
Let me assure you that the suppressing field will be shut off on the day that we have mastered ourselves...the day we can prove we no longer need it. And that day of transformation, I have it on good authority, is close at hand.
Dr. Breen on Gordon Freeman
We now have direct confirmation of a disruptor in our midst, one who has acquired an almost messianic reputation in the minds of certain citizens. His figure is synonymous with the darkest urges of instinct, ignorance and decay. Some of the worst excesses of the Black Mesa Incident have been laid directly at his feet. And yet unsophisticated minds continue to imbue him with romantic power, giving him such dangerous poetic labels as the One Free Man, the Opener of the Way.
Let me remind all citizens of the dangers of magical thinking. We have scarcely begun to climb from the dark pit of our species' evolution. Let us not slide backward into oblivion, just as we have finally begun to see the light. If you see this so-called Free Man, report him. Civic deeds do not go unrewarded. And contrariwise, complicity with his cause will not go unpunished.
Be wise. Be safe. Be aware.
Dr. Breen addressing the Overwatch
I have been asked to say a few words to the transhuman arm of Sector Seventeen Overwatch, concerning recent successes in containing members of the resistance Science Team.
Let me say up front that I regret having to temper my heartfelt congratulations with a strong measure of disappointment. But I wouldn't be doing my duty as your Administrator if I didn't pass along the message I have received from Our Benefactors.
The capture of Eli Vance is an event of major significance, make no mistake. And while it's true that conceivably we could have taken him at almost any time in the last several years, the manner of his capture may prove to have unexpected benefits. It cannot have gone unnoticed by all resistance members that Doctor Vance's capture coincided with the act of giving shelter to Gordon Freeman. This might cause other resistance members to think twice before harboring Doctor Freeman. It might cause them to question his allegiance; even prompt some to turn him out, or turn him over to our cause. However, we cannot count on such developments. Doctor Freeman's reputation is such that other desperate renegades are likely to grant him a great deal of license in the spirit of spreading general chaos and terror.
This brings me to the one note of disappointment I must echo from our Benefactors. Obviously I am not on the ground to closely command or second-guess the dedicated forces of the Overwatch, but this does not mean I can shirk responsibility for recent lapses and even outright failures on their part. I have been severely questioned about these shortcomings, and now must put the question to you: How could one man have slipped through your force's fingers time and time again? How is it possible? This is not some agent provocateur or highly trained assassin we are discussing. Gordon Freeman is a theoretical physicist who had hardly earned the distinction of his Ph.D. at the time of the Black Mesa Incident. I have good reason to believe that in the intervening years, he was in a state that precluded further development of covert skills. The man you have consistently failed to slow, let alone capture, is by all standards simply that--an ordinary man. How can you have failed to apprehend him?
Well...I will leave the upbraiding for another time, to the extent it proves necessary. Now is the moment to redeem yourselves. If the transhuman forces are to prove themselves an indispensable augmentation to the Combine Overwatch, they will have to earn the privilege. I'm sure I don't have to remind you that the alternative, if you can call it that, is total extinction - in union with all the other unworthy branches of the species. Let's not allow it to come to that. I have done my best to convince Our Benefactors that you are the finest the species has to offer. So far they have accepted my argument, but without concrete evidence to back it up, my words sound increasingly hollow even to me. The burden of proof is on you. As is the consequence of failure. I'll just leave it at that.
Dr. Breen on collaboration
It has come to my attention that some have lately called me a collaborator, as if such a term were shameful. I ask you, what greater endeavor exists than that of collaboration? In our current unparalleled enterprise, refusal to collaborate is simply a refusal to grow--an insistence on suicide, if you will.
Did the lungfish refuse to breathe air? It did not. It crept forth boldly while its brethren remained in the blackest ocean abyss, with lidless eyes forever staring at the dark, ignorant and doomed despite their eternal vigilance. Would we model ourselves on the trilobite? Are all the accomplishments of humanity fated to be nothing more than a layer of broken plastic shards thinly strewn across a fossil bed, sandwiched between the Burgess shale and an eon's worth of mud?
In order to be true to our nature, and our destiny, we must aspire to greater things. We have outgrown our cradle. It is futile to cry for mother's milk, when our true sustenance awaits us among the stars. And only the universal union that small minds call 'The Combine' can carry us there.
Therefore I say, yes, I am a collaborator. We must all collaborate, willingly, eagerly, if we expect to reap the benefits of unification. And reap we shall.
Dr. Breen addressing Gordon Freeman
I'd like to take a moment to address you directly, Dr. Freeman.
Yes. I'm talking to you, the so-called One Free Man. I have a question for you. How could you have thrown it all away? It staggers the mind. A man of science, with the ability to sway reactionary and fearful minds toward the truth, choosing instead to embark on a path of ignorance and decay. Make no mistake, Dr. Freeman. This is not a scientific revolution you have sparked...this is death and finality.
You have plunged humanity into freefall. Even if you offered your surrender now, I cannot guarantee that Our Benefactors would accept it. At the moment, I fear they have begun to look upon even me with suspicion. So much for serving as humanity's representative.
Help me win back their trust, Dr. Freeman. Surrender while you still can. Help ensure that humanity's trust in you is not misguided.
Do what is right, Dr. Freeman. Serve mankind.
Dr. Breen to Gordon Freeman
So, this is Dr. Freeman... at last. I wish I could say this was a pleasant surprise, but it's neither a surprise nor, as you will surely agree, very pleasant. Well, I'm nothing if not pragmatic.
Well, Dr. Freeman, under other circumstances I like to think we might have been able to work together in an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect. Certainly judging from your brief tenure at Black Mesa, while I was its administrator, you showed every promise of becoming a valuable and productive contributor to the scientific process. And yet, I'm not sure what spurred you to it, but there is really no place in this enterprise for a rogue physicist.
Your mentors are partly to blame, of course; my disappointment in Eli Vance and Isaac Kleiner is far greater than my sorrow over your unfortunate choice of career path. In a way I suppose you could not have done otherwise. Who knows what seeds of iconoclasm they planted when you were young and gullible? But while they certainly share a great part of the responsibility, for the recent troubles, it is you alone who have chosen to act with such willful disregard for humanity's future.
Tell me, Dr. Freeman, if you can: you have destroyed so much — what is it exactly that you have created? Can you name even one thing?... I thought not.
I have laid the foundation for humanity's survival, and not as we have narrowly defined ourselves but as something greater than we could ever imagine, something that we can now only begin to glimpse.
Look, Gordon, look at what you are throwing away. Is it worth it?
Dr. Kleiner to humanity
Careful, Lamarr! These lamps are quite hot!
Ahem... Is this on? Yes? Very well, I... I am not much of a public speaker, but I'll... I'll do my best.
Ahem... Fellow citizens... Residents of City 17 and environs... by which I mean sentient residents, of course, human and otherwise, although I believe there is little need to explain recent developments to our Vortigaunt allies...
At any rate... First, as a matter of great urgency, if you find yourself still within the confines of City 17, you are well advised to leave the city at once by the fastest means available to you. We have restored service to much of the commuter transport system in order to carry citizens out of the city as quickly as possible. We have also established camps and triage areas in the surrounding environs.
I repeat, you must evacuate the city at once.
While there was certainly a great benefit in destroying the Citadel's teleport core, we have detected one rather unfortunate side effect.
It would appear an inevitability that very soon now, the Citadel will be consumed in a destructive event whose magnitude I cannot currently estimate with any certainty, except to say that it will almost certainly irradiate an area of many miles' radius.
Therefore, I repeat, evacuate City 17 at once if not sooner! I cannot state this without enough undue emphasis!
On a lighter note, if you are already in one of our designated safe zones, I feel obliged to point out that a more fortunate side-effect of the reactor's destruction is the complete removal of the Combine's reproductive suppression field.
Previously, certain protein chains important to the process of embryonic development were selectively prevented from forming. This is no longer the case. For those so inclined, now would be an excellent time for procreation. Which is to say, in layman's terms, you should give serious consideration to doing your part for the revival of the species. We must make the most of the time we have, as it is by no means certain how much time we have secured ourselves before the Combine attempt to restore their dominion, as they certainly shall.
Since this is in fact the first opportunity we have had to speak openly of the baleful influence of the Combine, there is much ground to cover—and in fact I hope to institute a series of useful bulletins in the days ahead. However, for now, we will have to content ourselves with some relatively meager exposition.
The destabilization of the City 17 reactor has had repercussions that were not entirely unexpected, although we hardly dared speak this hope ahead of time. The destructive pulse forced a damper on the entire network of linked Citadel reactors. Thus, for the time being, I believe that all Combine portals have failed completely, as well as all communication systems based on that technology.
In short, the Combine are completely cut off. Combine forces currently stationed on Earth are now isolated units. Stranded.
However, this is most likely a temporary state of affairs. As we once learned to our dismay, even the relatively tiny fracture at Black Mesa gave our enemies an opening which they were able to force ever wider, as they poured through in greater and greater numbers.
In addition to the completely xenotheric species, there are many modified post-human allies still remaining on Earth who will be doing their utmost to re-establish lines of communication and supply with the larger forces.
Even so, there is greater reason for hope now than at any time in the past decade.
We have made, in secret, several technological advances which we will do our best to deploy in advance of the Combine's return.
We continue to diligently assemble and train a new generation of scientists and technicians.
For what the Combine fear the most is not any tangible human weapon, but our will, our intellect, our ability to respond selectively and rationally to every terror they turn against us.
We place our firmest hope in the human spirit, even knowing how easily it may be shattered. We have all seen friends and family crushed by the Combine. Some of our neighbors have allowed themselves to be co-opted, and purged of their humanity, by the military machine.
And those who resisted have met a most terrible fate.
Still, I cannot overstate how important it is that we retain our humanity. Only this will allow us to hold together as we must for their inevitable return...and what is certain to be unimaginable retaliation.
And...oh yes, if you missed any part of this message, it will loop repeatedly until there is no point in looping it any longer.
I apologize for any inadvertent errors or omissions. As you can imagine, we have had scarcely time to record, let alone rehearse-
What's that, Eli? Oh, right.
This has been Dr. Isaac Kleiner, formerly of Black Mesa, now simply a citizen, like all of you, of Earth.
Let me just add to all those who can hear me now, as we struggle out of the shadow of our malefactors, welcome back to the light.
Now...where did I put that calculator...?
Behind the scenes
Just like Wallace Breen himself, the Breencast device went through different aspects before its final version. Two early versions, designed by Dhabih Eng, show the device hanging above the ground, covered with screens, and attached to the surrounding buildings from its top. A version was designed in cluster-like compound eyes, with the City 17 logo in each screen when idle, and bearing some similarities with the screen running around the Consul's chair in his original office in the Citadel. Another version featured many yellow screens from different sizes, showing the Consul making his speeches. This latter design recalls films like 1984 (and its original novel) or Brazil. Indeed, Breencasts brings to mind the image of Big Brother himself in that they reflect a figure meant for purposes of propaganda and absolute control. Early sound clips for the early Breencasts exist (in the folder /sound/C17/, "c17pa" from 0 to 4, "pa" standing for "public announcement"), all starting with "The true Citizen...", with a foreign/made-up language heard behind.
- The large, tall screens used for most Breencasts are comprised of several holographic layers, possibly to amplify visibility.
- The Breencasts use a separate model of Breen featuring only the top half of his body and located in a distant, out-of-map room that is only accessible by using the noclip cheat (this was directly addressed in the commentary track for Episode One). If Breen is killed, the Breencasts will stop. Furthermore, any entity spawned in his room will be seen on any Breencast screen present in the map, the Breencast being in a way broadcast to an in-universe real camera.
- The G-man replaces Breen in one instance where a Vortigaunt is supplying a portable television with his blue energy, also looking at the screen itself. However, it is noted that the bottommost portion of his chest in this instance is missing.
- The G-Man can sometimes be seen on the large rectangular monitors used for Breencasts; in these instances, they will flicker a ghostly version of his image. This can be seen in the "Water Hazard" and "Anticitizen One" chapters of Half-Life 2.
- The Breencast is the successor to Half-Life’s Black Mesa Announcement System. Portal’s equivalent is the Aperture Science Speaker System.
List of appearances
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