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Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three

Remember when you first finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2? The excitement? The shock? You were ready to set out with Alyx at your side, ready to show those alien bastards who’s boss. The trilogy, and with it, the Combine’s rule over Earth, would end soon.

Except it didn’t. At the time of this writing, almost five years have passed since the supposed release date of the final instalment in Gordon Freeman’s saga. Half-Life 2: Episode Three was slated to arrive Christmas 2007. It didn’t. As the weeks and months went by, confused fans tried to glean whatever information they could from Valve, but, by and large, they were unsuccessful. The company remained silent.

In this Kotaku Timeline, we follow the fans’ process of dealing with Valve’s silence, cataloguing their forays into leaked code, and their communications with the developers. We detail the ways the gaming press interacted with Valve over the years, and list what little has been revealed. In addition, we will keep watch over the game, and take note of any events, good or bad, in the months and years to come.

There were no mentions of the final episode — called Half-Life 3 by some — between 1999, when Valve registered the domain halflife3.com, and 2006. But then, announcements were made, and names were dropped. And so this is where our timeline begins…

April/May — Gaben and episodic gaming

In the May issue of the print version of PC Gamer, Valve Software co-founder Gabe Newell talks about Half-Life 2 and its episodes (including Episode 3!), and why he thinks episodic gaming is the way to go. A full transcript is available through the link below.

May 26 — Remaining episodes announced, dated
Valve officially announces Episodes 2 & 3, saying that the trilogy is slated to end by Christmas 2007. Yeah.
June 6 — Lots of little Episode 3 details
Gabe: “Half-Life 3 [a.k.a. Episodes One to Three] is about the relationship with the G-Man and what happens when he loses control of you.”
Eurogamer talks to Valve about the upcoming episodes, who divulge a few details regarding locations, characters and possible expansions.
May 17 — Episode 3′s already being worked on
Lombardi: “Pre-production is definitely going, and it’ll be ramping up rather quickly now that they’re ramping down on Episode Two.”
Eurogamer gets hold of Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi, who talks about Episode 3, which is apparently already in pre-production.
November 9 — Valve doesn’t want to overcommit
While talking to RPS, Episode 2 project lead David Speyrer says the reason for not having an Episode 3 trailer is that they don’t want to make promises they can’t keep. (Which is ironic, considering Episode 3 was supposed to ship in 2007.)
December 19 — Episode 3 is not the end of Half-Life
In an interview with StuffWeLike, Doug Lombardi drops the fact that the Half-Life franchise won’t end with Episode 3.
April 21 — The first Episode 3 files are found
Three files are found by a Steam forum user in a folder titled “Episode3″ in the Source SDK. They’re later described as unused leftover assets by a Valve employee.
June 27 — Episode 3 won’t be at E3
Doug Lombardi debunks the rumour that the latest Half-Life episode would be presented at E3 2008.
July 10 — Our first look at Episode 3

The first pieces of concept art for Episode 3 are released. Take a long, good look at them, folks, ’cause you won’t be seeing anything like these for a while.

October 15 — Lombardi and the Long Wait
Kikizo interviews Doug Lombardi, who promises more details by the end of the year. (Unsurprisingly, Valve doesn’t deliver.)
October 17 — Episode 3′s taking too long? Blame Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2
Lombardi: “We want the next instalment of Half-Life 2 to be really big.”
Doug Lombardi tells Shacknews that the reason why development on Episode 3 is so slow is that the company is focusing on their other games.
June 4 — A call for communication
Steam forum user surfrock22 creates a petition, asking Valve for more and better communication after their latest failure to deliver news on Episode 3 (they announced Left 4 Dead 2 instead.)
August 7 — Episode 3 might have a deaf character
Gabe talks about the possibility of introducing a deaf character, and with it, sign language, to the Half-Life series with Episode 3.
August 12 — Gabe talks to Steamcast, but doesn’t have much to say
Steamcast, a (now discontinued) fan podcast for all things Valve, nabs an exclusive interview with Gabe Newell, who briefly talks about why there’s been no Episode 3 news. You can read a transcript of the relevant segments below.

Steamcast: Alright, first question: this is one of the most commonly asked questions that we had received and we’ve tried to format it into something you might be able to answer: you’d kept Episode 3 under incredibly heavy wraps thus far; we’d like to know why have you chosen to adapt such a reclusive approach this time around, as opposed to previous releases. Was it based on the reception you’d received about letting out too much info prior to Episode 2, or just something completely different?

Gabe Newell: I think that what’s going on, you know, we’re sort of always experimenting, we’re always trying out different kinds of things, and that has positive as well as negative consequences for ourselves and for the community — so if you look at our different products, we’re trying out these different rhythms. (Ed.: Here Gabe talks about how Valve handles updates for Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead.) Right now, the Half-Life 2 episodes themselves are on a third sort of rhythm, and, you know, we think it makes sense for the product and for what we’re trying to do there. The reason that we’re not talking about anything is mainly that we don’t have anything to say; it’s not like we decided we released too much information, it’s just that if we had information that we were in a position to deliver to people, we would — and right now we don’t have anything to say about it. It really is a consequence of these different rhythms to release schedules we’re trying out. (…) So, Ep 3 is sort of victim to our willingness to experiment, and as soon as we have stuff that we’re ready to say about Ep 3, we will.

Steamcast: Alright, fair enough.

January 19 — No new Half-Life in 2010
According to the January issue of Game Informer magazine — specifically, its rumours column — Episode 3 won’t be landing in 2010.
March 26 — The new Half-Life better be scary
Gabe: “I feel like we’ve gotten away from genuinely scaring the player more than I’d like.”
While talking with Edge Magazine, Gabe mentions that they’d like Half-Life to return to its terrifying roots.
April 4 — Gabe doesn’t want Gordon to change
In yet another interview with Edge Magazine, Gabe says that he wants series protagonist Gordon Freeman to remain the blank slate he’s always been.
July 21 — More Episode 3 assets found in the Alien Swarm SDK

Steam forum denizen StickZer0 (his image to the left) happens upon several Episode 3-related files while poking around in the Alien Swarm SDK.

September 23 — Even Peter Molyneux’s son is sick of waiting
Peter Molyneux puts up a video of his son protesting Valve’s silence.
December 18 — “Call for Communication” hits 1,000 signatures
The “Call for Communication” petition hits its original goal of 1000 collected signatures. The creator sends an email to Valve, but unfortunately, there’s no response.
February 21 — Valve still won’t budge
While organising a conference call with Valve’s writing team for a Portal 2 Q&A session, News.com.au deviously sneaks in a question about Episode 3. Sadly, they don’t get an answer.
April 8 — What does Portal 2′s co-op campaign have to do with Half-Life?
Kotaku has a theory on why Episode 3 could be taking so long.
April 25 — No more singleplayer games from Valve?
Keighley: “Portal 2 will probably be Valve’s last game with an isolated single-player experience.”
A quote from the Final Hours of Portal 2, a documentary-app detailing the last stages of Portal 2′s development, seems to suggest that Valve is done making single-player games.
May 7 — Valve to introduce “singleplayer plus”
Gabe talks about the importance of sharing your singleplayer experience with friends in an interview with a high-school student.
May 14 — Valve has a hole in its pocket; Episode 3 code found in the Portal 2 SDK
Someone finds code pertaining to Half-Life’s slug-like Combine enemies, the Advisors, in the Portal 2 SDK.
May 18 — Valve won’t be showing up at E3 2011
Replying to reporters asking for appointment times for E3 2011, Valve announces that they won’t be showcasing any games at the event.
June 22 — Gabe still refuses to talk about Episode 3
Gabe: “If you know enough to ask the question, you know what the answer is.”
Gabe appears at the Games for Change festival held at NYU, primarily to talk about the role of video games in education. When asked about Episode 3, he (predictably) refuses to answer.
August 10 — Protesters show up near Valve HQ

A pair of young Canadian gamers show up on the lawn of Valve Software HQ, wielding cardboard signs, demanding that Valve release some Episode 3 info.

August 11 — These protesters are quite persistent
It’s day two for the protest on Valve’s lawn, and it’s still going strong.
August 17 — What did Gabe tell those protesters?
Gabe: “They wanted to know when Episode Three was coming out. I said ‘I can’t tell you.’ And they were, like, ‘Okay…’”
The protest ends peacefully. Kotaku catches up with Gabe to speak to him about what happened.
September 19 — Hey, guess what; there’s some new Episode 3 code out in the wild
A beta tester leaks the Dota 2 beta client. People immediately begin datamining the files, and they naturally find several bits of code related to Episode 3. At this point, one begins to wonder if Valve is doing it on purpose.
September 22 — Gabe knows when Episode 3′s coming, but it won’t fit in a haiku

A redditor posts an email exchange he’s had with Gabe.

September 23 — That Episode 3 code doesn’t mean anything
Faliszek: “I guarantee that if you went into the original Half-Life source code now, you’d probably find mention of unrelated stuff labelled ‘HL3′.”
Valve writer Chet Faliszek tells NowGamer that there’s nothing to get excited about.
November 24 — Even Volition wants to know where the hell Episode 3 is

Reader Naroon sends in an Episode 3-related easter egg from Saints Row 3.

December 2 — Half-Life 3 T-Shirt Confirmed

An Uber Entertainment employee sees someone wearing a very peculiar shirt at a game developer event in Seattle.

December 9 — They might already be recording dialogue for Episode 3
A US-based voice actor tells the Official Xbox Magazine that he’s been working with Valve on recording lines for a certain “Half-Life Episode 3″.
December 20 — It’s coming in 2012. Yes or no?
Two video game journalists decide to make a bet. Their dignity’s on the line.
Dec 22 — Here’s a fresh new batch of Episode 3 rumors
~12:55am — A fairly crazy theory of a possible new game in 2012
Valve releases the unaired Video Game Awards Character of the Year acceptance speech of Wheatley, one of Portal 2‘s main characters. An off-hand remark Wheatley makes prompts some wild speculation about a new game.
1:00am — A new site pops up

A new site displaying a huge Half-Life 3 logo appears. While a troll, it’s still somewhat clever. At least we get a sweet wallpaper out of it.

~1:15pm — Half-Life hints are go… or, maybe not
A Steamcast co-host posts on the Steam Forums that he’s been told by an unnamed informant that Gabe “has given the go ahead to drop hints for the next Half-Life game”. Gabe later partly debunks this rumour.
December 23 — JPL denies any involvement in Episode 3
JPL: “Wish I had better news for you. I would love to do another episode.”
John Patrick Lowrie, veteran Half-Life voice actor and husband of GLaDOS’ voice actress Ellen McLain, in a post unrelated to Half-Life, tells commenters that neither he nor his wife have been contacted by Valve regarding Episode 3.
December 24 — LambdaGeneration’s rumour Roundup
LambdaGeneration looks at exactly how Valve has been teasing the community lately.
December 28 — Debunking rumours left and right
Faliszek: “This is the community trolling the community, nothing more.”
Valve (specifically, Chet Faliszek) shares their opinion on the newest Episode 3 rumours.
January 6 — Operation: Crowbar
A bunch of fans decide to send Valve cheap crowbars in protest. While the approach is refreshingly crazy, Valve won’t budge.
January 8 — A call for communication; round two
MtV: “Your oldest and longest running fanbase would like better communication.”
Remember that petition from 2009? It’s gotten a lot bigger, and it even has its own Steam group now.
January 10 — There really should be an announcement coming this year
IGN argues that there’s no reason for Valve not to break their silence in 2012.
January 12 — Garry Newman is a funny guy

Garry Newman, the man behind the vastly popular Garry’s Mod, tweets a picture of a Half-Life 3 shirt supposedly sent to him by Valve. Later, he says it was only a joke. This of course kicks the LambdaGeneration rumour mill into overdrive.

January 18 — Half-Life easter eggs? CS:GO has them

A resourceful Steam forum user uploads all the Half-Life references he could find in CS:GO’s files. Unsurprisingly, nothing of real value is found.

January 21 — Jesus in toast: Half-Life edition

Vaguely lambda-shaped onion ring? Half-Life 3 confirmed.

January 31 — A red letter day
In a move far less insane than Operation: Crowbar, tens of thousands of fans plan to play Half-Life 2 together on the same day to send Valve a message.
February 5 — Aftermath of the red letter day
The event catapults Half-Life 2 to the 11th spot on Steam’s list of most played games. But did it have the effect the organisers had hoped it would? (Spoilers: It didn’t.)
March 1 — Portal 2 still holds some secrets
The ever-vigilant Steam forum community uncovers some animation files belonging to a side character from Episode 2 that are definitely new. Not very interesting, but new.
April 18 — April fools!

A redditor tries to start a hoax involving a supposed pre-order ad for Episode 3 at Best Buy. It doesn’t work out.

April 20 — Gabe finally spills the beans on Ricochet 2. Wait, what?
Gabe: “We think that the twists and turns that we’re going through would probably drive people more crazy than just being silent about it.”
On Seven Day Cooldown, a gaming podcast, Gabe Newell talks about the future of Ricochet 2. If you know what I mean.
April 28 — It’s time to look at the numbers
Kotaku reader Igor explains, using the magic of numbers, that Episode 3 will definitely be revealed at this year’s E3. Except…
May 2 — No Episode 3 at E3 this year
Shock and awe.
June 27 — Here’s some new Half-Life concept art!

Valvetime posts a bunch of concept art that they’ve received from an anonymous source. However, the images are at least four years old.

August 14 — Half-Life 3 at Gamescom! Or not!
7:22am — Half-Life 3 to be shown at Gamescom
A product listing advertises that Valve will be attending Gamescom and showing off Half-Life 3.
8:15 am — Valve steps in
Doug Lombardi confirms that the listing was a mistake. Oh well.
August 15 — Buy this keyboard to play Half-Life 3 with!

Mad Catz releases an ad for their new keyboard that shows a Half-Life 3 icon. Wild speculation and nerdrage follow.

August 17 — Gabe Newell hates sharks
Gabe: “I hate sharks.”
Spike TV interviews Gabe. They get to the question about Episode 3. Gabe says he hates sharks. It makes perfect sense!
September 20 — Someone says Half-Life 3 is now an open-world game
French gamer site Journal de Gamer reports that, according to an anonymous source close to Valve (we certainly haven’t heard that before), the series is moving away from its linear roots towards Skyrim-esque open-world gameplay.
November 11 — Gabe tells /v/ all about Source 2
During /v/’s birthday visit to Gabe at Valve HQ, he (shockingly) shows willingness to divulge a few facts about a new engine they’re working on. Unfortunately, he doesn’t really talk about what it’s for. Full video of the event to the left.
developer:
valve corporation
publisher:
valve corporation
platform:
pc
release date:
tba
genre:
first-person shooter
modes:
singleplayer
rating:
tba