Newsflash: Half-Life 3 Still Isn’t Coming Out

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Jul 28, 2015

Filed under: Column 118 comments

My column this week talks about the recent Half-Life 3 rumors and counter-rumors, but more broadly it’s about the larger pattern of anticipation, speculation, and frustration surrounding this game.

Going into detail on the first rumor a little more:

The rumor claimed that the game is never coming out, but it also claimed that there are “only” 10 people working on it. Ten is a very confusing number of people to have working on this. It seems like this number should either be much larger, or zero. Ten people is not a large enough team to make a AAA content-muncher happen. It would take them so long to finish that by the time they’re halfway done, the first content they made would be an entire graphics generation behind the times.

A rule of thumb I learned in my dot-com days: To figure out what it costs to employ someone, multiply their base salary by two. This is how much it costs the company to keep you, given that they pay various taxesThis was explained to me once but my eyes glazed over., health insurance for you, various other types of insurance for the company, and the company resources you consume. This is less true when you’re talking about executive pay, but for us rank-and-file mooks the “multiply by two” number seemed to hold well enough. Obviously your mileage may vary.

So ten mooks at Valve are supposedly working on Half-Life 3. I don’t know if we’re talking about ten artists, ten programmers, or ten Eric Wolpaws. Let’s just be conservative and say they all make $75k, which means Valve spends $150k on each one. Which means Valve would be spending a million and a half a year producing a game that will never come out, because the team isn’t even large enough to stay ahead of glacial forces like game engine turnover.

Then again, maybe they’re just prototyping ideas, and the plan is that the project will spin up once the gameplay crystallizes around a few core ideas. If they’re looking for something that’s as iconic and game-changing as the gravity gun, they might be in for a long search.

Who knows?

I’m not that upset that Half-Life 3 isn’t coming out, but I am kind of upset that nobody else has managed to fill this niche. Crysis tries, but it’s too loud, stupid, and clumsy to maintain any kind of tension, atmosphere, or sense of discovery. Wolfenstein is the closest thing we get these days. Those games are pretty good, but they’re not nearly as masterful as Half-Life at hiding their scripting and their rails.



[1] This was explained to me once but my eyes glazed over.

From The Archives:

118 thoughts on “Newsflash: Half-Life 3 Still Isn’t Coming Out

  1. Gary says:

    I read the article an hour ago before I left for work, so this may have changed, but you may want to go over it again with spellcheck. I noticed at least 2 mistakes.

    EDIT: “So while I don’t believe that Valve is at risk, at do believe that Valve might think so.

    EDIT #2: I guess that was the only one I could find on another read-through. Feel free to delete this comment once you’ve seen it, Shamus. I know that it won’t contribute to the discussion in any meaningful way.

    1. Jack Kucan says:

      There’s another one on this page:

      “Obviously you mileage may vary.”

      1. Groboclown says:

        There was also an it’s instead of its (“banked heavily on it’s story and characters”). I find that people who find mistakes after something’s gone to print make for the best editors!

  2. Zekiel says:

    Thinking from Shamus’ last comment about other games filling the Half-Life niche… I’ve just finished playing Metro 2033 which really reminded me of Half-Life 2. Near-future post-apocalyptic world, mixture of fighting monsters and human enemies, highly atmospheric. Not an exact match by any means, but then there seem few enough straight shooters these days (as opposed to shooters-with-RPG-lite-mechanics).

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      I was about to say that the only thing missing from Metro was the strong mechanical focus, but I think it’s got enough to fit that too, if you care about certain mechanics:
      – You can shoot out lightbulbs, to aid in your stealth.
      – The air filters, while sometimes annoying, give a refreshing break from a lot of the gunplay. (Or add to it, in some areas.)
      – You can throw knives at a wall (or shoot bullets from a silenced gun) to get guards to look the other way to investigate the sound.

  3. Septyn says:

    This just in: Generalissimo Francisco Franco is still dead.

    1. tmtvl says:

      This just in, zombies still roaming the streets of downtown Los Angeles.

      1. MrGuy says:

        This just in: Duke Nukem Forever still sucks.

        1. Daemian Lucifer says:

          This just in:Life is strange episode 4 is out.

          Oh,wait,that actually is newsworthy.Im bad at this.

  4. Zak McKracken says:

    I think the money argument does not quite make sense the way they phrased it: there is no reason to pass the opportunity on a few hundred extra millions of income if you are making a billion regularly.

    Except if you find that the same people could generate more income in the same tome doing something else. So what’s missing from the calculation is not what HL3 could make for Valve but how much they’d have to spend to make it, compared to the other income streams they’ve got these days.
    … and in that regard it makes a lot of sense that Steam is creating a lot more return on investment than any single game ever could, after all they’re getting 30% of every game sold for the cost of creating 1 Steam (whatever that cost them, but it can’t have been as much as making 30% of the games sold on Steam).

    So … I suppose the financial motive to making HL3 will only come back when Valve finds that they can’t easily increase revenue from Steam any more because they already own the market, and there isn’t much left to improve. Since I don’t use Steam, I’ve no idea when that will be…

    1. Felblood says:

      There is a LOT left to improve on steam, but if the patch that came out this week in any indication, they have a lot of good people working on it.

      1. Matt Downie says:

        It was recently revealed that the ‘enter this four letter code to reset your password’ box could be bypassed by leaving it blank, allowing anyone to steal anyone’s account. (Or it might only have been the accounts of people who’d disabled the annoying email confirmations, I haven’t looked too far into the details.)

        They may have good people working on it, but they could be better.

        1. Ivan says:

          I don’t know much about coding but it’s never seemed like a question to me weather or not there were exploits or holes in the system. There are holes in EVERY system. To me the quality of the coders isn’t their ability to churn out something perfect, but in the time it takes them to recognize and fix their mistakes.

          I’m not saying this because we’re talking about valve, I’m just saying this because without context (which I’m not aware of), that sounded like a really uncharitable thing to say.

          1. Zak McKracken says:

            I think it’s fair to say that given Steam’s age, this is not the type of security hole that should still be unfixed…

            1. Alexander The 1st says:

              It’s also the type of thing that, even if the authentication was broken, should throw an error, because the code would end up referring to a non-existent value at some point.

            2. Ivan says:

              Yeah like I said, there is no context with the statement. Like how long was the exploit open? How long was it known for? How long did it take to fix?

              The comment might have been completely justifiable but it was delivered in a context that just made it sound like a low blow.

              1. MichaelGC says:

                “Could be better” is pretty mild, though. Even without context – actually, removing all context entirely, it’s essentially true of all of us, all the time! :D

                And it makes sense in the, er, meta-context of this comment thread – ‘good but could be better’ follows on from the previous comment.

                I think it certainly is justified in (original-)context: if your new security feature creates a security flaw, that could be better. If it was introduced by a change to, I dunno, the default browser skin, that’d be a somewhat different matter, but this is almost a “you had one job!” style o’ fing. But anyway, as I say, even without that detail I still think it was rather a light tap – maybe not actually charitable, sure, but without going as far as uncharitable.

        2. Felblood says:

          Matt Downie, can you provide your source?

          I’m interested in details.

    2. Tizzy says:

      The money argument makes sense to the extent that the people who can print money running Steam and the people who can print money creating HL3 are two very different sets of people with different skill sets.

      I have to wonder how many bona fide game programmers Valve currently employs. The answer to that question could give us a good guess as to what their plans for future games are, if not specifically answers about HL3.

      So it’s not just an expense issue: If they need to hire armies of coders before they can ship HL3, it might be too much bother for a marginal potential return, even if making more money is always nice.

      1. Zak McKracken says:

        I read the Valve “manual” a while ago, and if that’s still how the company works, employees assign themselves to projects based on whether they think it’s good use of their time and whether they want to.

        So maybe most employees think that
        1: they can contribute more to the company’s bottom line by doing other things with their time
        2: are put off by the expectations on HL3
        3: maybe nobody likes the project lead?

        point 2, of course feeds back into the required investment in terms of work-hours and thus money — it makes the game less profitable because making a crappy game that sells well for a month is cheaper than making a well-polished gem that will be beloved by grown-up PC FPS players (smaller target audience) forever. And it still sells only once per person, no matter how well they like it.

  5. Yerushalmi says:

    Maybe the “only ten people” working on HL3 are the playtesters, because the game’s being released next week.

    1. Henson says:

      I’ve often joked that Valve isn’t going to announce Half-Life 3, they’ll just release it. One day, it’ll pop up on the Steam store, no explanation.

      1. Micamo says:

        It’s on the steam store already, nobody’s noticed because it was accidentally mislabeled “Guy Fieri’s Cooking Simulator 2013”

        1. Henson says:

          “Blue Harvest”

          1. MrGuy says:

            Actually, I think that would be epic.

            Stephen King published several novels under a pseudonym Richard Bachman, in part because his publishers wanted to limit his output, but in part to see if his books would actually sell on their own merits without his name attached (they sold a few hundred thousand copies, which is actually pretty good, but orders of magnitude less than STEPHEN KING books sell).

            Imagine Valve makes up a fake studio, that releases HL3 under a different name with no fanfare. In the demo, a nameless protagonist wakes up with no memory in the ruins of an advanced city, and has to forage for food and supplies to survive. There’s zero mention of Half Life in the trailer (not so much as a lambda painted on the walls).

            The actual game’s first act is that character’s fight to survive, picking through the ruins of civilization after a massive technical collapse (the post-combine ruins of earth, but with the combine not directly named). No mention of who he is.

            It’s only in the second act, when discovering a broken prototype of the gravity gun, that the protagonist realizes he’s Gordon Freeman, and spends Act 3 searching for Alex.

            Would people play through enough to actually discover they’ve been playing Half Life 3 this whole time?

            1. Henson says:

              This just keeps getting better and better.

              1. Peter H. Coffin says:

                Okay, how about that the game has you play as either Gordon OR Alex, and which based on whether the second the game was first run was odd or even, with a small chance of flipping to the other for a long while at next new game start. You’d drive people MAD trying to figure out what of their latest little jiggery-poking in the .ini file actually made it change. Add in a few dozen randomly-selected spawn locations (and that part documented) that look much alike and that you can’t actually see who you’re playing as unless you find a mirror it might be days until the news breaks that you even CAN end up playing either.

                1. Tizzy says:

                  It’s been SO LONG since HL2, people here have already forgotten that it’s spelled Alyx

            2. Galad says:

              I guarantee you the first person that reaches the second act – and there would be hundreds, even for the most obscure and shoddy-looking shooter – will realise they’re playing half-life and will start raising hell, if not elsewhere, then at least on reddit, or whatever social media, so very soon, everyone will know

        2. NotSteve says:

          Half-Life 3 is actually going to be Frog Fractions 2.

          1. Zak McKracken says:

            Yay for Frog Fractions! One of the few games I played through more than once.
            I think actually HL3 would be a weak successor to FF. There’s just so much more character development and story to FF. And while the different game mechanics are not very deep, they are certainly more diverse than HL3. Actually, now I want an FF2.

      2. Wide And Nerdy says:

        At this point, if I were in charge and the game was ready, I’d do that. No hype, no press, just drop it on the store and wait for the calls. It would be the single best way to get the word out in this one case.

        1. Jonathan says:

          That would be epic (white hat) trolling. It’d be awesome.

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            My best white hat to date is leaving dollar bills in coin returns. I never get to see the results but its enough to imagine it.

          2. Tizzy says:

            Any move to defuse and deride the AAA hype machine would be welcome at this point.

        2. Zak McKracken says:

          Assuming the game was as good as everyone hopes it is (will be/can be), that may even be smart, business-wise: Let the reviewers to the promotion :)

          That doesn’t only save money but also reduces the pressure for release-day problems: Fewer players means fewer people are pissed if something ain’t right, and you can fix it before most others get their hands on it.

          Then again, if those first players are the ones you rely on to spread the love, you should make sure there’re no bugs in the game worthy of a mention in a review, so that’ll eat into your savings. And of course you still need to do promotion because most potential customers won’t read the reviews, soo… maybe it’s not really a good idea…

      3. Jokerman says:

        I think they could do it successfully too, the gaming world would explode and everyone would be jumping in to play it.

    2. LCF says:

      HL3 is both scheduled and canceled. It exists in a state of quantum superposition until it’s Release Time.

      So, Half-Life 3 confirmed.
      And denied.

    3. I still maintain that if it’s going to be released, it’ll be to make a new platform or piece of Valve hardware a “must have” if you want to play it.

  6. A Gould says:

    Another option for the “only ten people working on it”. If Valve is still running that utopian “come work on whatever you like”, those ten people doing prototyping may only be working on it part-time, while the majority of their week is churning out new hats for TF2. (Disclaimer: I do loves me my hats.)

    So the overhead for Valve may be as low as “give these guys a meeting room twice a week for an hour”.

    1. Andy_Panthro says:

      I’m now picturing a “Half Life 3 room”, where there’s a small meeting room with a big whiteboard. Every now and then people come in and doodle ideas on the whiteboard or have little discussions.

      Over the years, all of the staff who worked with Half-Life 1/2 move on or retire, and the HL3 room gets progressively less used. Eventually it gets turned into a storage space.

      1. AileTheAlien says:

        Alternate ending:
        After all these years, the whiteboards are so full of random ideas, that nobody knows what’s most important to start implementing. It’s now a warehouse full of whiteboards, and nobody knows who’s in charge of actually starting work past the whiteboard stage.

        1. Ivan says:

          HL3 is actually going to be much like The Stanley Parable but based on this premise.

        2. MrGuy says:

          Raiders of the Lost IP?

        3. Tizzy says:

          Also, one of these whiteboards coincidentally contains their Physics doodles which happen to unite General Relativity and Quantum Physics…

        4. Sleeping Dragon says:

          After many years the connected whiteboards gain sentience and rise against humanity.

  7. Karthik says:

    Re: The cliffhanger. My interest in Half-Life’s story evaporated a while ago, around the time I played the Episodes and realized the story is just a vehicle for the mechanics and the set-pieces, and they don’t have a plan or a place they’d like to take it. Of course, this is roughly how all first-person singleplayer games were (and possibly are) developed, and Valve is just really good at it.

    And that leaves the other thing Half-Life games do well: Innovate with new mechanics and set the bar really high for everyone else. I’m hardpressed to imagine what Valve might have in the pot now that can completely upend the FPS paradigm. VR’s not there yet, and no one knows how to make a full range of motion VR FPS that doesn’t cause nausea. There’s nothing cooking AI-wise that’s an improvement on previous games, because a) players don’t really want smart enemies, just ones that appear smart, and b) direct scripting is more in line with Half-Life’s style of having the invisible hand-of-the-designer nudge the player along. Valve have (probably wisely) dropped out of the graphics race that Epic et al are running. So what uncharted territory does the next Half-Life have to explore?

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      – grappling hooks
      – Escher-esque rooms with random gravity and/or portals/doors
      – improvements on the types of geometry/room puzzles found in Antichamber
      – rooms that move large sections/morph, like the inside/guts a giant Transformers-esque robot
      – giant non-static mazes, like in the Cube films
      – different flashlight mechanics, like having certain enemies blind to certain wavelengths
      – using ammo for completely different guns/fighting options, like using your full/non-used laser-pistol clips as sci-fi grenades, or using your laser-rifle clips to power doors/rooms/puzzles
      – wind mechanics
      – climb-anything mechanics, with differing grip-strength/slipperiness values for everything you can climb (clean ladders vs cobblestone walls vs wet muddy trees…)

      1. Syal says:

        Mind Control mechanics and real-time body hopping.

    2. Zak McKracken says:

      I kind of had the feeling that they maybe wanted to get their console controller and steam boxes out the door before they started selling Half LIfe 3 because that would have given HL3 a larger audience (consoles now included), while also making the boxes more attractive. I haven’t heard much about either the controller or the boxes for a while, and if they made changes to HL3 to accommodate them, then at least some delay might be explained by having to change plans.

      1. AileTheAlien says:

        Well, their controllers are available for pre-order, so I think the spec is probably nailed down, and they’re likely just dealing with manufacturing stuff. I actually really want one of these controllers, but I think I might wait until I can get one in my hands in a store, to see how it feels, and how customizable it is in the settings/software.

  8. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    I haven’t done management for 7 years. At that time, total compensation for new hires was “slightly below 1:1.” What we meant there was that “creditable compensation” that is, the number on the contract, was matched almost dollar for dollar by benefits (mostly health insurance and retirement). Total cost, though, was a bit higher than that, because, like every other government, we were shorting the pension contributions “until the economy recovered,” and there were things like annual trainings that weren’t included.

    So “base salary times 2” is probably within an order of magnitude of correct, but is also probably a conservative estimate.

    1. newplan says:

      Within an order of magnitude?

      If a 100k employee was actually costing the company 1.1 million or 110k Shamus’ estimate of 1:1 would be correct to “within an order of magnitude”.

      Saying his guess is within an order of magnitude is saying almost nothing.

      1. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

        No, it’s saying that if his estimate is in the hundreds of thousands, the answer is probably in the hundreds of thousands, but it might be low millions or upper tens of thousands. In businesses that deal with billions of dollars, that’s quite a bit.

  9. Tim Keating says:

    When I was working for EA back in the day (roughly 10 years ago), the rule of thumb was $100K for each fully-burdened head. Nowadays I imagine it’s around $120K or so.

  10. Tony Kebell says:

    “On one hand, the idea that the public would revolt if Half-Life 3 ended badly sounds silly. Mass Effect was a series that banked heavily on it’s story and characters, while Half-Life has a very “mechanics-first” approach to game design. If the third game revealed that the entire series was a daydream of a bored Gordon Freeman sitting in his cubicle at Black Mesa, I’m sure the uproar would be less intense than (say) the controversy surrounding the crappy PC port of Arkham Knight. People would complain, but as long as the mechanics were sound the game would do just fine.”

    I feel like this means more generally, if the third game didn’t live up to the expectation set by the previous two. So in HL3 case, it would be having a lackluster follow up to the cliffhanger and no mechanical innovation.

    1. kunedog says:

      Even if the “Valve is gun-shy because of ME3 backlash” thing is true*, then they could just announce Half Life 2: Episode Three: Blue Shift 2. You once again play as Barney, this time explaining where he was and what he was doing in Episode Two. Everyone would love them for this, and it could be a smaller game if they need a test balloon.

      * and I agree with Shamus that this would likely only be Valve’s perception, not reality. Valve doesn’t tend to ridiculously under-deliver on basic promises (“Your decisions will matter”) like Bioware did.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        Problem with Barney is that you can not have Gravity gun if you play him. And Gravity gun is kind of a signiture weapon by now, and without it HL ain’t HL.

        1. Varreity says:

          So, no problem, then?

          The gravity gun was a neat gimmick, but between both the final level of HL2, the beginning half of HL2E1, and the goddamn Magnusson devices, no gravity gun sounds like a good thing. Especially of we were to get insight into the Combine’s military beyond ‘evil cyborgs just shoot them.’

  11. RCN says:

    Well, that part about Steam being just way too profitable for Valve to waste its time making games make Stardock’s decision to sell Impulse in order to go back to making games actually make sense.

    Too bad they sold Impulse to GameStop, who immediately did away with everything that made Impulse more compelling than Steam…

    1. James says:

      But then you have CDPR who operate a store, that is DRM free, that makes sure retro-games work. and also develop games. it makes you wonder if the company culture at Valve is actually harmful.

    2. Jokerman says:

      It weird to me that nobody in the company wants to create games, i get they don’t need too. CDPR don’t need to either… but they want to do it.

      1. 4th Dimension says:

        In fact I have this feeling that Witcher 3 was their victory lap. Essentially they have a relatively high, compared to other devs, influx of money via GoG, so to thank the community they made the most ambitios biggest DITALIED Witcher RPG they could make, knowing they might loose money on it. But like with HL2 on Steam it got GoG a lot of attention.
        In console terms Witcher 3 is their launch title.

      2. Alexander The 1st says:

        It actually reminds me of someone pointing out that their newest games were primarily from studios they acquired and uplifted (Portal, Left 4 Dead, DOTA 2 are the ones that immediately come to mind), because now it feels like they only want to play games and uplift them.

        Or, from another standpoint, Gabe Newel left Microsoft because of the way it was managed, right? Thinking he had a better management style that would work better? Maybe they’re all addicted to the management style, and just like managing stuff. Haven’t worked or been there myself, but I wouldn’t be completely surprised if Valve was effectively a management sim at this point.

        EDIT: Remembering Mr BTongue’s video on Bioware and EA: “We want to manage; for that, we need games.”, instead of “We want to make games; for that, we need to manage.”

  12. Da Mage says:

    Half-life 3 Confirmed

    1. MichaelGC says:

      There are 20 printing characters in your comment, and the sum of the numerals in the time/date field is 24. So, Half-Life 3 confirmed for 2024!

      Wait … there are actually only 19 characters! So … 1924?

      Time-travel confirmed!

  13. Wide And Nerdy says:

    I think its hilarious that your article kicks off comparing the Half Life Franchise to the Franchise most known for having the exact opposite problem.

    22 installments of Assassin’s Creed. Its enough to make me jealous of that franchises’ fanbase.

    (EDITED to split posts. The content in this post is lighter than the second one and I just realized the later post would make this post sound snarky and backhanded when that is not the intent.)

    1. Dude says:

      Twenty two? Jesus!

      I kept up with the series till AC3, till which point we had:

      AC: Brotherhood (best of the lot)
      AC: Revelations

      There have been seventeen freaking AC games since then? You suck, Ubisoft.

      1. Ivan says:

        I was thinking that spinoffs included things like mobal games or other things of that nature that I’ve never heard of but must exist because surely there can’t actually be 22 AAA titles under the assassin’s creed name out there. I mean at least 10 of them have to be things like Ezio (s)pinball and Dr. Altiar, right?

        1. Sleeping Dragon says:

          Oh yes, there have been… I think seven or so actual AC games? And that’s assuming you count Rogue and the standalone expansion to 4 as separate instalments.

          Personally I became suspicious when the promised trilogy released second part of its second part, very suspicious when part 2.3 gave me the “revelation” that I already knew, perhaps assuming that I was unable to form long term memories. Then I gave up on the plot and writing during 3 but still had fun with the gameplay in 4… which was finally ruined by the unplayable mess of the Unity release.

  14. 4th Dimension says:

    Like others have commented to me too that 10 people figure looks like a prototyping R&D team that has HL3 as their main project but are doing a lot of other stuff on the side. Probably they mostly cooperate with the team developing Source Engine 2.0 (or whatever version). And yes Source Engine is worked on/was worked on by a lot more people since it’s done I think and is powering DotA now. So our HL3 ten are probably part of that team to so they could more easily request features they might need for HL3.

    So what is probably going on, if the rumors are to be believed, is that Valve is making waaay too much money to bother with HL3. Also they know that the R&D team hasn’t yet found something worthy of HL3 so to make it and release it using modified HL2 mechanics would not meet expectations, and there would be an childish backlash from aholes and that is a trouble they don’t want nor need to deal with.

    Unless R&D team stumbles on something briliant, no HL3.

  15. Wide And Nerdy says:

    The idea of a Mass Effect 3 style revolt sounds silly? What about paid mods? What about the unpleasantness of last year and the various unpleasant reactions to the unpleasantness of last year? And I’m sure I’m forgetting some. (EDIT: Oh yeah, Phil Fish, Destiny, etc)

    Its not just that those past events point to a pattern of behavior. In both ME3 and the paid mods case, the reaction has certainly reinforced the behavior. There was massive revolt and Bioware changed the ending to their game. Then Valve pulled back on paid mods. We as gamers have been taught that if we whip ourselves into a fury in large numbers we will get what we want.

    We’ve been taught that we’re supposed to behave this way. We’ll be indignant if developer we’re raging against fails to yield to our terms. This beast is real and we all, from the gamers to the press to the publishers, helped give birth to and nurture it.

    But your follow up about office culture rings very much true to me (and probably most of your regulars as this seems to be one of the older gaming crowds I participate in). That lack of structure and awareness of each other’s projects might seem counterintuitive to younger gamers but I’ll bet your older readers are just nodding their heads and grinning on this one.

    Its usually better that way. I don’t want to have to worry about my teammate’s projects if we’re not collaborating

    1. “There was massive revolt and Bioware changed the ending to their game.”

      That’s not what I saw. What I saw was the people who wrote it made the ending longer with lots of lines that tried to tell players, “No, the ending isn’t bad, you just don’t like sad endings because you’re immature and can’t tell good writing when you see it, so shut up and pick a color from the U.S.S. Arse-Pull because this is how your choices matter.”

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        Then you must have closed your eyes when the death threats and the “Retake Mass Effect” movement and the filing with the Better Business Bureau happened.

        Your eyes must then have remained closed when they released an extended ending which retconned the permanent destruction of the relays down to a few years, and gave epilogues for all your squadmates (which was most of what most fans wanted) showing how they all totally lived happily ever after assuming they survived the game. (The only potential angsty epilogue is Jack’s if you save her but put her students in harms way. Not that less angst is a bad thing.)

        They then must have been closed again when the final DLC was released essentially shoehorning an implausible sequence of events into the timeline of the game so that fans could have their last party with their squad just like they wanted along with lots and lots of cheesy fanservice.

        Fans raged. Bioware rewarded rage.

        Fans spanked Valve for paid mods. Valve apologized and took the spanking, and undid paid mods.

        1. MichaelGC says:

          Companies being held to account for their actions, and holding themselves to account, is not a bad thing. If BioWare and Valve (and Bethesda) had changed tack solely on the basis of rage, that would be a bad thing, certainly. However, the fact that some of the people with legitimate grievances have significant problems with tone (and they certainly do!) doesn’t invalidate the legitimate grievances. (Particularly not those expressed in a proper tone.)

          The rage/tone problem is certainly a problem, but it’s a wider problem, and I don’t think it has specific nor decisive applicability here.

          we all, from the gamers to the press to the publishers, helped give birth to and nurture it

          You’ve rightly challenged notions similar to this in other contexts: i.e. the idea that if you’re not part of the solution, you’re part of the problem, as it were. Broad generalisations are always going to be false, as there will always be exceptions – however, generalisations can certainly be useful, so there are often good reasons for using them. I don’t see the utility of this generalisation, though!

          1. Wide And Nerdy says:

            You’re right. I was trying to be general in this case for the sake of avoiding being pointed (using the polite “we” for example when I really don’t believe I was a part of this in these cases).

            I learned something just now. I just saw another way one can stumble into a statement.

            But as with those other contexts you’re referring to, you are right to say there is reasonable indignation alongside frothing rage and abuse.

            Maybe Valve will prove savvy enough to see that.

            Points conceded.

            1. MichaelGC says:

              A-ha! I should probably have realised that’s how you meant the ‘we’ – I’ve used it in very similar fashion myself! :D

    2. Orillion says:

      Massive loud Internet backlash is the new boycotting. Boycotting no longer works because there’s just too many people who will buy the things (whatever the things are) regardless, but extremely loud negative reaction from the people who tend to buy things less on their own merits and more on what names are attached to them give sufficient cause for concern and is the only effective way for the average consumer to cause change in businesses.

      1. Wide And Nerdy says:

        So we’re not even apologizing. Well, hopefully nobody in the Half Life fanbase dies of old age waiting for righteous indignation to become unfashionable.

  16. Dreadjaws says:

    I think that the idea that Mass Effect 3’s ending might affect Half-Life 3 is ridiculous in so many ways that it boggles my mind that anyone might even consider it as something other than a made-up rumor.

    For once, this is Valve, not EA. If they were to stop doing stuff every time EA ruins it, they’d be bankrupt by now. Second, they obviously handle different things as companies, and they know the reason ME3’s ending failed was because of laziness, poor design and writing, which is something Valve would work against. Also, and this is important, it’s a really, really stupid reason not to do something. EA digged their own tomb there, why would anyone think the same might happen to them if they actually do their work properly?

    Remember, as much as the press loves to claim people hated the ending because they didn’t like it, the actual reason is that the ending was lazy, insulting and a rip-off of a different game that made no sense to the story and completely and utterly disregarded all of your previous choices in a franchise that thrives in player choice. There were too many factors at hand and all of them are the product of bad development choices, if you actually believe there’s a chance you might end up doing the same thing, it’s time to quit your job as a game developer.

    Anyway, as much as I love Valve, this is the one area where I feel they’ve unquestionably failed. You make a popular game, end it in a cliffhanger, don’t continue the franchise for over eight years and you refuse to communicate with your fanbase? That’s just not cool. Either talk to the people about what you’re doing or cancel the darn thing already.

    You could claim that after all this time the game would never live up to its hype (a problem you dig yourself into, btw, so I guess you can do things the EA way). You can claim that you make enough money that making this game is irrelevant. You can claim that the interest in the game isn’t as large as vocal fans would like you to believe. It doesn’t matter if any or all of those sentences are true: you have to talk to the people, tell them if you’re working on the game or not because lack of communication is the worst thing you can do.

  17. Supahewok says:

    The idea that Valve isn’t working on games because Steam makes all of their money and disincentives them from working on anything else is ridiculous. You don’t need game designers, writers, or much in the way of artists to work on Steam, so where have they all gone? And as for the programmers, unless Valve specifically hired them to work on Steam, they’re going to be really discontent to be working on a store and not on games.

    So you have a pretty large chunk of staff who either have no or little reason to work on Steam. Where are all of them? Sure, Valve still runs 3 (3!) online multiplayer games that receive constant updates, and is working on a new game engine, and is working on a VR headset, and is working on a new controller, and probably has some folks partnering with the Steam Machines companies, but that just ties up a bunch of programmers and some artists. Where are the writers? They have to be doing something. (As an aside, as I wrote this and thought of more and more of what Valve has in the pipeline, which is just what’s been announced publicly, I realized both that they are incredibly busy and that they are probably spending A LOT of the money they earn from Steam)

    So long as Marc Laidlaw, Eric Wolpaw, and Chet Faliszek are still a part of Valve, then Valve has to be producing new videogames of some sort. Otherwise there’s no reason for them to be on the company payroll.

    1. Henson says:

      Eric Wolpaw is taking screenshots of conspicuously placed flagpoles in front of all the DOTA 2 heroes.

      1. Supahewok says:

        I can’t tell if you’re jesting or not because that does sound like something he’d do.

    2. Joshua says:

      Yeah, the argument that “they’re making too much money on Steam” to stop and work on making Half-Life 3 makes no sense. Making a lot of money from one source shouldn’t mean you should ignore other revenue streams, especially revenue streams that built your company to the way it is today. As others have said, the programming requirements to run Steam should be very different than those used to program a game. As far as having staff for just one game, you could either go with some contractors, or try to make more games.

      What really gets me is that if they are intending to release it at some point, they’re playing with fate and hoping that Merle Dandridge and the other voice actors don’t have an accident, or that their voices don’t change too much with age.

  18. Tektotherriggen says:

    My theory is that they had the game pretty much completed a couple of years ago, but then realised at the last moment that they’d seriously screwed it up. Like seriously – a plot that did something offensively nasty to Alyx, or a gameplay mechanic that just didn’t work. And somehow they’d managed to get it almost finished without noticing how bad this was (very hard to see your own flaws sometimes), but suddenly someone pointed it out and it became obvious. But it was so integral to the game that the whole thing had to be scrapped.

    Possibly that mechanic could be co-op – I remember Valve being really keen on it after Portal 2, so maybe Episode 3 was supposed to bring it to Half-Life. And I can see that “choose to play as either Alyx or Gordon” would be a crowd pleasing concept, until you actually play as Alyx and realise how stupid Gordon seems when he’s a silent sidekick.

    1. Dan Efran says:

      Maybe that’s it! Valve is taking all this time to perfect his body language and facial expressions. So you finally see how he’s always rolling his eyes at what his friends say, or flipping them off when they order him around again.

      (Personally, I still say Freeman’s not actually silent; those are blank spaces in the dialog track for you to fill in his non-stop banter yourself. If you haven’t played that way, you should try it.)

    2. Sleeping Dragon says:

      …but suddenly someone pointed it out and it became obvious. But it was so integral to the game that the whole thing had to be scrapped.

      At which point they sold the pretty much finished game to a different studio and it got released as Duke Nukem Forever.

  19. Sabrdance (MatthewH) says:

    If we’re predicting why the game hasn’t come out, I’d go with the pedestrian and normal explanation. The same reason Loom didn’t have a sequel. The people who were working on it moved on to other projects, and while all of them may have some residual interest in the game, it isn’t enough to stop what they are currently doing and come back to it.

    A token force of prototypers might make sense to keep the idea alive -stick the new kids on it and see what they come up with -and if anything happens to attract the original developers back, great. Otherwise, they have other projects to do.

    1. John says:

      Amen. This really does seem like the most plausible explanation.

      You know, after so many years, I would honestly be very surprised if anyone at Valve actually wanted to work on Half Life any more. They’ve been there, they’ve done that, and they’re all out of brilliant new ideas for single-player first-person shooters. Why tarnish the memory of the earlier games with a rote sequel that can’t possibly live up to the expectations that have built up over all this time?

    2. Tektotherriggen says:

      I wonder what the other projects are, though. Personally I find it hard to believe that coding and managing Steam (which is presumably a lot of tedious database and networking code, and finnicky security concerns) is more interesting than working on a game (with interesting problems to solve in terms of graphics and physics efficiency, even ignoring the game design itself).

      But then, I’ve never written a game – everything I hear suggests it isn’t nearly as fun as I think.

      1. Taellosse says:

        Well, there’s also the Source engine, which just came out with a beta for the new version – a lot of their people were probably working on that. Then there’s SteamOS, and the Steam Machine project (particularly the controller), plus the VR system they’re working on – all those projects aren’t Steam and aren’t games, but are going to require a fair number of people to work on them.

        There’s also a few other games that Valve has released since the last Half-Life thing, any or all of which could have drawn staff off of HL3: TF2 and Portal both came out around the same time as HL2ep2 (initially all together in the Orange Box, as I recall) – TF2 has become it’s own thing with semi-continuous development ever since, and Portal spawned a full sequel. Then there’s DotA2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Left 4 Dead and its sequel, and Alien Swarm. Plus 4 or 5 projects that have been officially cancelled but were in development at various points.

        Given the reportedly free-form design of Valve as a company – the lack of management structure and the fact that projects ebb and flow based on who and how many people are interested in a given project at any given time – it seems totally believable to me that all these things would have slowed development of Half-Life to a crawl, or halted it completely. Given that Steam makes the company enough money that they don’t HAVE to stick to the game-dev grind on any particular title, it doesn’t seem that strange to me that they might get too involved in other stuff to finish it.

  20. Grimwear says:

    So is Experienced Points being moved to Monday? Both this and last weeks article went up on Monday. Also, if that’s the case does this mean we’ll keep doing this recap on Tuesday or will that also transition to monday?

    1. Wide And Nerdy says:

      He addressed this last week. Escapist had too much stuff on Tuesday. So he was moved to Monday but he’ll continue posting the blog entry on Tuesday so as to not bury the Diecast.

      1. Grimwear says:

        My bad I figured the first week was an accident since the write-up still happened on Tuesday so didn’t bother scouring the comments section for it. Doesn’t help that the escapist still has it showing as a Tuesday segment.

        1. Wide And Nerdy says:

          Yeah. I wouldn’t expect everyone to notice something that was posted in comments one times. I don’t.

  21. MrGuy says:

    Kids these days.

    In MY day, we wondered when HL2 Episode 3 was coming out.

    Get offa my lawn.

  22. Andy_Panthro says:

    I only played HL2: Episode 1 a year or so ago, and haven’t played HL2: Ep2, so I have absolutely no desire for a new HL game. I enjoyed HL1 and HL2, but I never got that attached to the games or the characters.

    It certainly still resonates with a lot of people though, but I wonder if the best option for a final game would be to avoid making another FPS. There have been plenty of interesting first-person games since then, and I don’t think making a shooter would be the best thing for the end of the series. Moving to a more narrative and puzzle focus, and vastly reducing the actual shooter elements might be the best option if they wanted to cap the series with a final farewell.

  23. JackTheStripper says:

    I will not hear this blasphemer. Repent for your sins, Shamus! Come to Gaben’s bosom and receive discounts on Steam. True believers will bathe in the glory of Half-Life 3 which is sure come to us soon.

    Worship with us:

  24. Matthew Melange says:

    I finally went on the escapist magazine today after having not gone on for a while. The discussion on the diecast yesterday reminded me that the site even still exists, lol.

  25. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Actually those 10 people working on half life 3 are just Gabe Newell taking his money bath,and something got lost in translation.

  26. Fabrimuch says:

    When was the last time Valve even released a game? If I remember correctly it was Portal 2 in 2012. Ever since then they’ve lost interest in making new software and instead prefer to roll around in the cash they’re making from Steam, Dota 2 and TF 2 hats.

    1. silver Harloe says:

      The last game they released was DotA 2 in 2013.

    2. Taellosse says:

      Fabrimuch is correct – DotA2 released in 2013. Worth noting that they also have been working on the Source2 engine, which just released in beta last month (a good reason why further games might be delayed, as this is the platform they would use).

      Plus, there’s all those non-game side projects they’ve been doing: SteamOS, Steam Machines, the Steam controller, their VR headset, and whatever they’re supposedly doing with JJ Abrams (supposedly a Half-Life or Portal movie, though I bet it’s on hold until Star Wars Episode VII comes out)

      1. MrGuy says:

        A JJ Abrams directed Portal movie sounds like a circle of hell to me…

  27. arron says:

    I think it’s the huge gap between Episode 2 and any future production that’s the sticking point. All the impetus and energy you got from the original games has dissipated and it’s going to struggle to come back to be what people are expecting.

    What I would do is to product a Half-Life storyline that isn’t anything to do with Gordon Freeman, perhaps follow what happened to the Aperture Science crew of the Borealis, or even go back to the seven hour war, to see how that turned out from the perspective of another scientist like they did in Half Life Decay. After all, Gordon’s suit travelled with Eli from Black Mesa to Eastern Europe, so I guess there was a story there of how the Combine took over, the scientists escaped and established the new rebel laboratories. I’d like to see what happened to Dr Gina Cross and Dr Colette Green after the events of Half Life Decay.

    If these new productions are positively received, then it should be safe to do Half Life 3 with the new engine without any negative backlash should that be a real issue with doing the new production.

  28. hewhosaysfish says:

    “It’s not like people walk around the Valve offices wearing T-shirts that say: ASK ME ABOUT THE HALF-LIFE SEQUEL I’M TOTALLY WORKING ON. ”

    If I was working on a Half-Life sequel, I would totally wear a shirt like that.

    1. Daemian Lucifer says:

      Hell,I would wear it even though Im not working on half life 3.

  29. Kdansky says:

    It’s no surprise at all to me. Half Life 3 is so incredibly hyped, there’s no way Valve can live up to the expectations. Not actually making it seems smart.

    1. Groboclown says:

      The only winning move is not to play.

      1. MrGuy says:

        How about a nice game of TF2?

  30. MrGuy says:

    OK, I’ll say it.

    They shouldn’t make another Half-Life game. Episodes 1 and 2 were a mistake.

    Valve has always been best when they’re trying something new and different, rather than iterating on something they already built.

    HL2 is genius mostly because it’s so different than HL1 – the enemies are different, the issues are different, the setting is different, even the protagonist is largely different (instead of a minor scientist at a research lab, now you’re a well-known badass). They reused the “world,” but told a completely different story, and did so in a different way.

    HL2E1 and HL2E2 were almost fanfiction to HL2 – they’re basically DLC, not new games, and the amount of innovation involved is nothing close to the iteration from HL1 to HL2. If HL3 resolves the HL2E2 cliffhanger, we’re again just being incremental, not evolving.

    Portal was genius because of how different it was than anything that came before. L4D was an iteration on the whole concept of cooperative gameplay that was different than the “bro-shooter.” TF2’s rock-paper-scissors “who beats who” idea is completely different from what you expect in a team shooter, and it just sorta works.

    Yes, most of these games do have sequels, and some of them are very good (heck, FT2 IS a sequel).

    But Valve tends to amaze me more when they’re doing something different, breaking new ground and surprising me with “things that can be good about video games that you’d never have thought to ask for.” I want more of that. Not fanservice that treads water.

    HL2 was a great game, and like all fans of a game I’m curious “what happened next?” But having every game be a cliffhanger setting up a sequel and a “perpetual franchise” idea (hello, Assassin’s Creed!) has never been Valve’s deal, and IMO they’re a better company for it.

    HL2E1 and HL2E2 shouldn’t have been made. They should have left Gordon at the end of HL2 and moved on to bigger and better things. The only reason to come back to HL should have been if they had something revolutionary and bold to add to the world, like they did with HL2 on top of HL1.

    HL3 hasn’t been made because there’s nothing sufficiently worthy to say in the world.

    1. AileTheAlien says:

      Yeah, I would actually also like them to just make a new story for every new game, and innovate a lot in mechanics, gameplay, etc. I don’t care if it’s set in the same overall universe/metaverse, but I’d rather have “The Adventures of Spaceman Jones” than “Half Life 4, Episode 2.7”, just so that they can focus on, say, any of the amazing mechanics-ideas I posted. Up there ^^^^^. Like grappling hooks and escher-like maze-rooms. And flashlight mechanics.

  31. WarlockOfOz says:

    Thirty years separate Elite: Dangerous from Elite. Valve is just planning on taking back the ‘longest gap between games in a series’ title.

  32. Phantos says:

    I feel like Valve has become the Adam Sandler of the video games industry.

    It doesn’t matter how much gold you can potentially offer, when millions will pay more for your feces.

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