Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar - A Behind the Scenes Look: Prima's Official Insider's Guide is a coffee table book written by David Hodgson and published by Prima Games in November 2004, in a hardback and paperback cover, comprising a collection of images chronicling the development of Half-Life, Team Fortress, Day of Defeat, Counter-Strike, Counter-Strike: Source and Half-Life 2. Text includes notes on game design, development, cut concepts, information relating to voice actors and game development. Numerous interviews of the Valve staff members also fill the book.
The book has been discontinued and has thus become a collectible item, although it can still be found on websites such as Amazon.com. It is also not listed anymore on the Prima Games official website.
Foreword by Gabe Newell
In this foreword written August 11, 2004, Valve's managing director Gabe Newell makes some acknowledgments, talks about team work, the importance of the gaming community and wonders if Half-Life 2 will be successful.
Investigation 1: Anomalous Materials
Half-Life: A Nonstandard Specimen
Depicts the development of the Half-Life enemies, cut and kept, and how the final game stemmed from Prospero and Quiver.
Extra Life: The Mod Movement
Expands on information related to the mod community that developed in the game's wake and the subsequent retail release of iconic mods such as Counter-Strike, Team Fortress, and Day of Defeat.
Investigation 2: Unexpected Interference
Covers the long development of Half-Life 2, also containing many characters, creatures, locations and weapons concept art, as well as screenshots of cut content. It also covers character creation and design.
Half-Life 2: Creature Discomforts
Covers the Half-Life 2 creatures, how they evolved and why some were cut.
Half-Life 2: Digital Drama
Covers character creation and design, acting, motion capture, and face posing, as well as some information about the characters' real life counterparts. It also includes story excerpts by Marc Laidlaw given to the team for design inspiration.
This section includes concept art by Ted Backman, Dhabih Eng, Anry and Moby Francke.
Half-Life 2: Welcome to City 17
Covers Half-Life 2's setting evolution, and how it started from a globe-spanning vision to a tighter, circular path that gave birth to City 17 and its surroundings. It again includes story excerpts by Marc Laidlaw.
Half-Life 2: Final Sequence
A more technical section, it covers polishing and adding detail, mapping, prop creation, NPC behavior, general gameplay, etc.
Images included in this section are mostly screenshots from the retail Half-Life 2.