Half-Life Episode 3, or maybe just a plain old Half-Life 3 -- gamers are frothing in anticipation of the possibility of just hearing the tiniest tid-bit of information regarding some sort of conclusion to the Half-Life story. Yep, it's serious business -- especially for David 'RaygunBrown' Rayfield and Patrick Stafford. Together they ask the question: will 2012 be the year we finally find out what's happening with the Half-Life franchise?
These two beautiful men have put their pride as video game writers, nay their dignity, on the line here. RaygunBrown believes that 2012 will be the year when something is finally announced, whilst Patrick Stafford reckons we'll still be waiting by the end of next year. Both have agreed: if either one is wrong about their predictions, they will totally dance in front of the Kotaku audiences, for my amusement.
Either way, I win.
David 'RaygunBrown' Rayfield, Kotaku reader and top notch scribe, thinks we'll be see some sort of Half Life 3 announcement before the end of the year, and is prepared to bet his dignity on it...
The most blindingly obvious thing about Gabe Newell’s lack of discussion regarding the Half-Life franchise is that he knows exactly what he's doing. Despite hundreds upon hundreds of interviewers asking about it over the years, the Managing Director of Valve Software is a master strategist when it comes to marketing the, I'll just say it, most anticipated game in history. Sorry Modern Warfare 3, you know I'm right.
It's even more amusing how Newell likes to tease his audience. If there's even a vague hint of a hidden code or phrase in a Valve game, people immediately jump on it like ravenous wolves; eager to fill their gullet with any and all possible information about the further adventures of Gordon Freeman. And like wolves, we're never satisfied for long. Newell still strings us along like children, never confirming nor denying the existence of the current development status of the game. But at the same time, giving us sparse, cryptic statements as to feed us scraps to keep us limping along, hungry for more. Even if an interviewer snapped one day, leapt across a table with their hands around Newell's throat screaming "What the hell do we have to do, you son of a bitch? You're killing us with suspense!", I imagine Newell's response would be to feign ignorance but then shoot off a knowing wink at the same time. Presumably resulting in the interviewer throwing themselves into oncoming traffic out of madness.
In the past few years, the scant amount of information about Half Life 3 (face it, that's what it will be called, not Episode 3) has started to slowly increase. More and more nowadays there's rumours, forum topics and anonymous tips that seem to point towards SOMETHING happening in the Half Life universe. Something sooner rather than later.
Some people have begun to lose hope that this game will ever be officially announced and that’s completely understandable. This is far from a typical method to market a product. But stick with me and your faith will return.
Let’s speculate for a moment, shall we? A last minute press conference is called at the 2012 Electronic Entertainment Expo in Los Angeles. It garners immediate attention as Valve's name is attached. Journalists, game developers and even Z-grade celebrities drop what they're doing and rush to the venue. Gabe Newell stands alone on stage, bathed in a single spotlight. He simply says "Here it is” and the screen behind him opens up to reveal a teaser trailer. Alyx Vance appears, as does Barney. Murmurs start to be heard throughout the crowd. On screen, The G-Man makes a brief appearance and says "Mr. Free...man". Gordon Freeman appears on screen, crowbar in hand. A final screen shows the title of the game that everyone has been waiting for.
At this point, the crowd erupts. A frenzy washes over the audience like a wave, propelling people out of their chairs under the force of screams and hollers. A few even start throwing their wallets onto the stage. Thousands of people watching the live stream around the world start running into the streets and tearing their hair out in excitement. Strangers embrace each other and spontaneous parties combust and explode on every street corner. The internet is crippled, brought to its knees by millions of message boards and fan sites choking under the pressure. Game journalists make their fingers bleed on their keyboards as they write stories which are nothing more than a long collection of vowels.
Valve Corporation’s stock doubles instantly. Pre-orders are opened on Steam following the conference and they are attacked in record numbers never before seen for any form of entertainment. Gabe Newell's personal worth skyrockets overnight and is immediately earmarked for Time Magazine's Person Of The Year as Valve overtake Apple as the most successful and influential company in history. Valve employees begin buying sports cars, yachts and flights into space.
Now, what I have speculated may contain one or two pieces of hyperbole. But at its core, the sheer excitement from all corners of the globe will be palatable for Half Life 3 when it is announced next year. Do you honestly think Valve would deny themselves such glory? They are guaranteed success with the release of this game. This isn’t Duke Nukem Forever we’re talking about. Millions of fans actually want this game more than any other game currently in development and Valve are ready to feed the wolves a full banquet.
Prepare to throw your wallets on the stage in less than twelve months.
Patrick Stafford blogs at Problem With Story and will dance like an idiot outside of the Kotaku audiences for our amusement if Half Life 3 is announced in 2012. That's how sure he is that we won't hear anything from Gabe Newell and company.
Valve has abandoned us.
There is no hope left. The climax of Half Life 2: Episode 2 is where the story ends for us - with Alyx draped over the bloody, brainless corpse of her father struggling to speak through sobs.
"Please don't leave me."
Sorry, Alyx. You're alone in this cruel bitch of a world and Valve has left you to die.
It's been four years since Valve released the second episode, or sequel, to Half Life 2. Remember when Gabe Newell promised the three episodes would come in six months of each other? Do you remember when he promised much shorter development cycles?
Such simple times.
Since that time, Valve has embarked on no less than the following:
- Two fully fledged Left 4 Dead games - An enormous amount of support for Team Fortress 2, including regular updates, overhauls - and hats! - A full sequel to Portal, including a co-op campaign with regular additions - A full sequel to Counter Strike - A new DOTA game, to be released next year.
That’s an incredibly impressive list. And the fact they were all completed to such a high standard surely makes Cliffy B cry into his Weet-Bix. But there's just one problem - there's no Half Life episode here.
That's because it's never coming.
Valve has simply given up on the series. Sure, we may have had a piece of concept art here and there, and Newell may have given some hints as to what valve might be doing in the future regarding co-op games and where he thinks the half life series mint be going.
But, please. Valve has moved on to bigger and better things. If it was really working on a Half Life episode, we would have seen more in the past four years than...well, nothing. We've seen nothing at all.
And that's telling, isn't it? It's proof that Valve has evolved as a company, onto games that evolve over times and can be amended to provide “entertainment as a service”, as Newell calls it.
You've got Portal, which can be added to with more co-op maps. Left 4 Dead, which can never really die and Team Fortress 2, which is still among one of the most popular games of its kind four years on. DOTA is set to be the same, and counter strike has fans wetting themselves in anticipation.
What's the link here? Absolutely none of these games, save Portal 2, have a gripping single player component. And even then, Valve has been playing up the co-op campaign much more than the single player campaign.
And that's a good thing. It shows Valve is rolling with the times. Newell is a savvy business man and he knows what people want, and how to make money by giving it to them. The company still makes the best games in the business, and has done for a long time. That's an impressive feat.
But the Half Life series just no longer fits into the games the company is making now, which are much more suited to regular updates of DLC than a fat single player campaign. They have cooperative features, can be updated quickly, and have a much deeper sense of humor than the Half Life series, which seems to suit Valve’s style.
And hey, it wouldn't be the first time this has happened. Dues Ex was largely abandoned before a studio picked up Human Revolution, and a huge number of sequels have fallen away of the years as companies move on to bigger things.
It's not impossible that a finale to Half Life 2 will eventually show up, but it definitely won’t be in the next few years.
And that's okay. Valve has continued to show it hires the best writers, the best developers, and it has continued to push forward narrative theory and structure in gaming. Portal 2 is clear evidence of that and sets a high standard for other developers to follow. It has enriched and bettered the industry.
I hope I'm wrong. I adore Half Life and would love to see how Valve could integrate what it's learned in the past few years with a new entry in to the series. But I'm not holding my breath.
I'm looking forward to some dancing outside the Kotaku offices. It just won’t be done by me.
What do you guys think? Is 2012 the year? Let us know in the comments below.