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One 4 Nine

By Kevin Edwards

6 Years Ago, Half-Life 2: Episode Three Was Announced

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Yes, you read that title correctly. Hit the jump for all the juicy details.

6 Years Ago, Half-Life 2: Episode Three Was Announced

Today, it has been six years since Valve announced the development of HL2: Episode Three, which was then set for a Christmas 2007 release. It was May 2006, and HL2: Episode One had just gone gold. Right around this time, part of the Episode One team began pre-production development on Episode Three, while the other part joined up with the Episode Two team.

This means that the next entry in the Half-Life series has been in development, in some form or another, for exactly 6 years.

At the time, Episode Two was set for a late 2006 release, but of course, Valve Time struck, and EP2 would ultimately be released in October of 2007. Following its release, Valve said very little about Episode Three throughout 2008 (aside from implying it would be a very ambitious game), and released no media officially (the only three pieces of concept art of EP3 ever released, were actually distributed by gaming publications). By 2009, the project had completely entered radio silence. Over half a decade on, we know so much, yet so little of how and when the Half-Life franchise is set to continue.

Most fans now accept that Episode Three is, more or less, as dead as a dodo; and that it has been superseded by a full-fledged Half-Life 3. A hypothetical HL3 would continue the story from where EP2 left it, and would presumably take it to all-new settings, perhaps even beyond Earth. It may very well be a next-gen title (since it most likely won’t be released prior to late 2013, and at least two of the upcoming next-gen triumvirate will have been released by that time), perhaps built on a revamped version of the Source engine, sporting revolutionary new tech - otherwise, what would be the point?

That said, some fans have lost at least some faith in Valve’s abilities – they might have been let down by Portal 2, or perhaps by CS:GO. Given that the community’s expectations rise as each month of total silence goes by, many doubt Valve’s ability to live up to the immense expectations and the overwhelming hype that the aforementioned radio silence has established, and deliver a satisfying and fulfilling Half-Life threequel. And I have to admit – I can’t really blame them.

But surely, with most of the Half-Life 2 team and their immense creativity, talent, dedication and skill – all still on board; and after over 6-7 years in development (more than HL2‘s development time), and what we can only assume will be a pretty huge budget (after all, Valve is worth billions of dollars; as is Gabe himself; and let’s not forget about the 20-50 million dollar in-game trading economy of Team Fortress 2), it’s not too far-fetched to expect Valve to ultimately deliver a solid and impressive Half-Life release. I’m sure veteran fans might also have experienced such doubts during the lead-up to Half-Life 2‘s release, as well as during the lead-up to its reveal at E3 2003. And as we all know, the final product turned out to be one of the greatest games ever made.

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23 Comments

  1. Alright. That makes sense, I suppose. I still feel like the article could have had more in it. But well done nonetheless!

  2. I’ve stopped imaging what the next Half-Life game will look and be like. Either I’ll end up disappointed or being way off.

  3. Oh hey this same old story. Poor dead horse.

  4. Hey, One day before my birthday! How… ironic.

  5. Interestingly enough, it would seem the team working on episode 3 was actually dissolved back in 2007 towards the end of the orange box’s development.

    From an interview with David Speyrer from December 2007:

    “…There was a period where the episode one team leapfrogged ahead on episode three preproduction. Later, we looked at the scope of episode two and decided it was more valuable to take what was the episode three team and move them to all three other games in the orange box…”

    “…We laid out the groundwork for episode three but aren’t neccisarily locking ourselves into that…”

    I found that tidbit a while back while looking into my old archive of Games for windows live magazines, but you can actually find it online over at 1up.com at the link
    http://www.1up.com/do/feature?pager.offset=4&cId=3165930

  6. I don’t think Valve have been working on HL all that much in the last few years, because they’ve been announcing and releasing tons of other shit (Portal 2, CS:GO, DOTA 2, some new IP (Intellectual Property), Mac/Linux support, “Big Picture Mode”) that it seems a bit implausible that they have had the staff to also work on HL while all of that is going on.

    • They’ve got 325 employees, so I’m pretty sure they’ve had a team working on HL. Remember – their desks are on wheels.

  7. Great read Vic.
    I already had suspicions that we won’t see it in stores until at least 2013-2014
    But I was so sure this year they’d say something, even give out real hints that aren’t trolls from community.
    I guess the Ricochet 2 thing was a relief to some degree, they’ve said at least something about it.
    But I’m still with the idea that they should keep all information about the game quiet until it’s at least 98% baked and there satisfied with it so far and won’t be changing anything.
    We don’t want it to end up being like Half-Life 2 and its episodes, where we got footage, trailers, unnecessary grief over delays, and on the release date the game ended up not being exactly what we were shown.
    Obviously ‘one’ of the main reasons they haven’t been talking about the game.

  8. I painted a big lambda symbol over my entire wall :)

  9. Sorry for the double post guys but Episode 3 is just around the corner. I think Valve are putting finishing touches on advertisement for it. I think they would have announced a lot more games between 2004 and 2011 if they weren’t working on something big. Valve wouldn’t ditch Half-Life to work on Portal 2 and CS:GO.

  10. Thank you for this Vic. This is really what I needed to hear to keep me patient. You summed up every bit of evidence that this will happen. I’m now willing to wait as long as it takes to make it one of the best games ever. I know Valve wouldn’t end Half-Life with a bogus episode. That makes me think about how much they care.

    Hey, maybe they sold all of those crowbars we sent them for production money!

  11. Although this is a good article, I would have liked more content here. Perhaps even reference the penny arcade interview and the “ricochet 2″ interview.

    That said, I doubt that valve really care for next gen consoles. Like of course, that must be a factor, but the delays are artistic, and tech improvements. (and the next “gravity gun”).

  12. Yeah you’re right @hogsy, in a way we think the next half-life will be like the new Diablo, just awesome. But the truth is that we’re all afraid it’s just another Nuke Dukem: Forever…..

  13. Gaben is busy making hats and boots to TF2

  14. Let’s not forget, money doesn’t make games — neither does the popularity of a company. Money certainly doesn’t make good games. So saying that “we can only assume will be a pretty huge budget, it’s not too far-fetched to expect Valve to ultimately deliver a solid and impressive Half-Life release” is entirely inaccurate. Doesn’t matter how much money they throw at the game it can still be incredible disappointing and not worth the wait. You certainly can’t make the assumption that big budget = possible solid release.

    Let’s stop putting Valve on a golden pedestal for once.

    Anyway, happy birthday I guess…. Let’s all celebrate another disappointing and uneventful year full of Valve trying to monopolize on shit I don’t care about.

    • No, it doesn’t, but both budget and development time are an extremely important part of game development (and quite frankly, it’s childish to think otherwise).
      In fact, isn’t that part of Valve’s recipe? To my knowledge, they don’t have any set development budget or set development time for any of their games, which means they can use as much of both as they can. And they do just that, and that’s part of why they make great games.
      Half-Life 2, which is one of the greatest games of all time, took 6 years and $40 million dollars. Evidently, Valve’s talent, skill, creativity and ingenuity played a HUGE part in making HL2 happen, and much of the HL2 team remains at Valve (which is why I maintain a positive outlook on the future of Half-Life), so I don’t see how exactly the game could be so disappointing. Do you?
      But there’s no way that they’d have pulled HL2 off as well as they did, without all the trouble they went through, and without all the time and money they put into it (while the so-called “indie” game phenomenon has shown us that we can have great games made in little time and with little resources – never has there been an “indie” game that was of HL2′s caliber). No rushed game was ever good, William – I thought you knew that.
      The same goes for Diablo 3, Team Fortress 2, StarCraft 2; and, I believe, Half-Life 3.

    • You’re right. I mean, look at Portal. That had the smallest budget ever. And its called “the perfect game”

    • Vic and I talked about this. He added “creative quality” to that sentence.

      I really do think good video games rely primarily on creativity and not so much on money and time. I really hope Valve hasn’t lost any creative juices as of late.

      I see the arguments for and against the case.

      • Yeah, we had an enjoyable debate regarding this on Steam. We ultimately reached a stalemate (we actually agree a LOT on this subject) – but he made some interesting points, which is why I decided to follow his advice and add some stuff to that sentence.

  15. I think the big issue is that the longer Valve leave us in silence the greater our expectations are going to be which will probably only put more pressure on those working on it. I’m not saying they should hurry up but we really should be told at least something by now…

    • Well not necessarily. I’m sure eventually we’ll stop expecting it to come out. If they don’t keep teasing the third one. (or giving us reasons to find threes everywhere). It could regress into a type of game we wait for but don’t actively wait for, if you know what I mean. It could happen. I know it’s less likely, but still. Im prepared to give them as long as they need. Like even 20 years. Just give me a good game that will be the best game ever the way the previous ones were.

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