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Kelly Bailey

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For other uses, see Bailey (disambiguation).

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Kelly Bailey
Biographical information
  • Game Designer
  • Programmer
  • Sound Designer
  • Composer
Time period

1997 – September 2010[1]

Kelly Bailey is a designer and composer who worked at Valve.


Bailey was a product unit manager at Microsoft and has a programming background that includes consumer multimedia, database engines, and networking. He studied Electrical Engineering at Oregon State University.[1] He also has a musical background which includes several years of singing, songwriting, and playing guitar in small local alternative bands in Seattle area. He was the lead singer for a Seattle band named Lucy's Fishing Trip.

Bailey was one of Valve's first employees. He had known Mike Harrington since high school and was his roommate when he moved to the Seattle area. They worked together at Microsoft, and this led Bailey to Valve.


Kelly Bailey in the late 1990s.


Bailey was a game designer and programmer on Half-Life. He also served as a sound designer and composer. He created all of the music and sounds effects for the game and implemented the software DSP system that provides reverb and echo effects.[2] Along with Ken Birdwell, he wrote the code to allow characters to speak and move their mouths when they're talking.[3]

Although his initial work on at Valve was focused on software engineering, he would soon become responsible for the game's full soundtrack. The development team reached a point where they needed in-game music. Bailey happened to have a home studio set up at the time that he used for the work he was doing with bands. He created several tracks to see how they'd feel in-game,[4] and after presenting a five-song demo disc to the company, he received the role of the game's composer.[5]

Bailey and John Guthrie built the test chamber disaster sequence witnessed at the beginning of the game. As they only had the weekend to accomplish this task, they worked for 48 hours straight on the scene, the end result being considered an amazing feat by the rest of the team.[6] The two later created Half-Life: Uplink on their own over the span of a couple of weeks without any additional code support.[7]

Half-Life 2[edit]

He composed the soundtrack of Half-Life 2 and its episodes, and a part of the Portal soundtrack (with Mike Morasky, and Jonathan Coulton for Still Alive). Gordon Freeman's face was based on Bailey's, among other Valve employees, such as David Speyrer, Eric Kirchmer and Greg Coomer.[8]


Reference photo used for Gordon.

Kelly's surname appears in Half-Life as an Easter egg in the Anomalous Materials laboratory on a locker and can be heard in announcements. His surname also appears as an Easter egg on a sign in the Hospital featured in Episode One.

On September 24, 2015, Bailey released a custom music kit called Hazardous Environments for Valve's Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, inspired by the darker side of the Half-Life universe.[9]

Selected gameography[edit]

Company biographies[edit]

Kelly Bailey - Senior Software Development Engineer/Musician
Kelly, formerly a product unit manager at Microsoft, has a programming background that includes consumer multimedia, database engines, and networking. He created all of the music and sound effects for Half-Life. He is also lead singer for a Seattle band, Lucy's Fishing Trip, and, therefore, shaves less than the rest of the staff.
Kelly Bailey - Senior Game Designer, Sound, Music
Kelly did all of the music and sound effects for Half-Life and wrote sound code to create character speech and DSP reverb effects. He spent last summer and fall working primarily on Half-Life game design. (Translation: spent 6 months in a big, trashed corner office, all day & night with Guthrie, Casali & Riller eating bad food, making bad jokes, working out tons-o-puzzles, and never, ever seeing the sun. It was great.) There is a vicious rumor that at one time he was an engineering manager at "a large software company in the Pacific Northwest." However, he has long since had the Borg implants removed, and is feeling just fine now.
Kelly Bailey - Senior Game Designer, Sound, Music
Kelly is Valve’s senior audio producer, responsible for creating sound effects & music.
Kelly Bailey - Sound/Music
No changes.


  1. 1.0 1.1 Li icon.png Kelly Bailey on LinkedIn
  2. Biography on Valve's official website (January 11, 1998) (archived)
  3. The Final Hours of Half-Life on GameSpot (November 25, 1998) (archived)
  4. Interview with Kelly Bailey on The Gaming Liberty (August 26th, 2011) (archived)
  5. Game Design: Secrets of the Sages by Marc Saltzman (1999)
  6. Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 39
  7. Chat log on Josh Karg's personal website
  8. Half-Life 2: Raising the Bar, page 145
  9. Hazardous Environments on Steam Community Market

External links[edit]