Half Life 3 won’t come


half-life_2_citadel copy

The secret patience test chamber under G-Man’s office

 

DISCLAIMER: Everything in this article is its author’s speculation. This is only my opinion – nothing more, nothing less.

Half-Life 3, or Half-Life 2: Episode Three, is the ultimate joke when it comes to games stuck in development hell. People from all over the world have been expecting Valves vapourware to be released since its announcement in 2006. It has been delayed multiple times and today we are not even sure if it exists.

It was supposed to end Half-Life 2’s episodic trilogy, but now, six years later it has a very sensitive fan-base, whose reaction to the slightest suggestion of the games alleged existence raises huge amounts of controversy.

 

Throttle

Valve, like every other developer, over the years of its existence, has delayed games from its catalogue. In fact several times, which is completely acceptable, and one of them is Team Fortress 2. It was supposed to come out well before HL2 (2004), but for various reasons, some obvious and some less so, it came after it – 2007.

One obvious reason for the delay of TF2 and other games from Valve is, I’m assuming, the leak of Half-Life 2 in 2003. But if we want to answer why TF2 was delayed for so long, just like HL3 now, we have to look at Valves internal development system, which is quite different, compared to other companies.

 

Valve company photo

Valve company photo

 

People at Valve are, if you like, communists: they decide together what to do, when to do and how to do it. This method of production gives power to everybody, which means that good ideas are encouraged and bad ones are abandoned. Employees develop ideas and pitch them to their colleagues.

More manpower means faster development for the given project and perhaps with Team Fortress 2 we’ve seen what happens when the lead designers of a particular game do other stuff. While people were expecting TF2, its main creators were trying to achieve different objectives with Half-Life 2: EpOne, Steam itself and Gabe knows what else.

Perhaps this is exactly what is going on with Half-Life 3 – Valve is working on other projects. A few years ago there were rumours that they were getting into hardware too (after being renowned as “the saints of the PC platform” by their fans), and today Valve is actually charging ahead with their OS, Controller and Machines.

This clearly shows us that they are much more than a software company now. Judging by Valve’s recent history, they release one game per year. So, is it fair to expect HL3 in the coming year or two? The answer, of course, depends on what stage in development the game is.

 

Vapour

The biggest question I have about Half-Life 3 is its state. Is it still in design stage? Did it ever get to some sort of alpha? Because the secrecy surrounding its existence creates unnecessary and unhealthy anxiety. I hope that one day it will be released. But I’m afraid it won’t be what we are all hoping for, which I will talk about later.

And what do we want? A next-gen (PC side), Source 2 FPS with amazing gameplay, which concludes the story started in Half-Life 2, but does not end the interesting universe the franchise is set in. The problem is that we want too much, we want the long wait to pay off. Which may lead to a big disappointment, of the level of Duke Nukem Forever. Many of you would disagree with me, because the comparison of the two games to you is perhaps unfair, but do you actually know what HL3 is? Last time I checked it was a phantom wet dream of nostalgic people. Contrary to that, we actually do exactly know what DNF is: garbage, a sunken ship, which was only made to fulfill the desire of a long-forgotten promise, in a bad way.

 

Not pictured: strippers, broken dreams

Not pictured: strippers, broken dreams

 

This is exactly what happened with Battlefield 3 in 2011 too. It was supposed to be a sequel to the (arguably) best of DICE’s MMFPS series – Battlefield 2. And that hope was shattered like a mirror, dropped from the roof of Eiffel Tower. The veterans of the series wanted something very simple: an improved Battlefield 2 with the Frostbite engine. The same game, revamped for the current technology, similar to HL’s fans. But DICE failed to live up to this simple promise.

In these three cases nostalgia is an issue and it should be handled with caution. Publishers and developers should let people know exactly what they are offering, otherwise demands exceed the delivery and everything crumbles down.

 

Origin

For the longest time people’s hopes have been supported by their belief that Valve is smart and can deliver on the promise of a kick-ass sequel to the beloved Half-Life 2.

But can they? If they knew what to do, they would’ve given us something already. It has been so long now, that all the silence at this point means that they don’t care. I think they’ve chosen the easy path, which is not to try, because trying is very risky. Over the years Valve has developed only a handful of games. Their biggest and most expansive singleplayer franchise to date is indeed Half-Life. And the high expectations and constant pressure of the audience is very challenging to deal with, to say the least.

So many fan based campaigns have been done in the name of getting answers, but the only reaction people have gotten is the lack of any, really. Up to this point Valve’s franchise management process is something on these lines: They either have a concept for a cool and fun game, they develop what I call a “proof of success” and release it. OR they flesh out a mod, developed with their Source Engine.

 

Gordon's Mod

Gordon’s Mod

 

These are short games, demoes for potential, fully featured and AAA quality games. If people like it, they develop a more sophisticated sequel to it. That’s what happened with Portal for example: the first game was definite proof that people wanted more and Valve delivered.

You might say that Counter-Strike doesn’t hold up to this theory, but hear me out. The first CS (1.6) was more of a robust version of what became CS: Source. And today we have Counter-Strike: Global Offensive – an excellent sequel.

Looking back, Half-Life 1 is something of a starting point for Valve, the further development of the franchise and its expansions helping fuel the fan’s hunger for more. HL2 was exactly the next gen sequel (at that time), the franchise needed.

Unfortunately, it was never finished, even with its small episodic continuations. Earlier in the article I played the blame game, but that doesn’t change the fact that there is more to this story, which we have no control over – Valve itself.

 

Charmless tree

This leads me to the conclusion that sometime in the future we will see the end of Gordon Freeman’s story, but as I said before, it probably won’t be the way we are imagining it to be: a sequel in the form of a video game.

My speculation is that Valve is probably going to the end the story in one way or another. They might explain it in some other franchise or just release a short novel, which will, hopefully, fulfill the need.

Or perhaps they will manage to live up to the expectations of delivering after so long. At the end of the day, it doesn’t really matter. It is pointless to make a fuss about a game we know nothing about, when there are a dozen others we can enjoy.