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Develop Magazine Goes To Valve And Uncovers Their Manifesto – Valve Done With Episodic Development: Episode Three To Become Half-Life 3?

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Episode Three is believed to have started some form of development in mid-2006, with full-scale development possibly commencing in late 2007. Valve temporarily stopped the main development pipeline in early 2008 for their Directed Design Experiments (that led to the creation of the Blobulators used in Portal 2 and Joshua Weier’s F-STOP gameplay mechanic which was at one point considered as the main game paradigm for a Portal 2 that would have taken place in the 1950’s), but since then, most people have assumed that some form of development is being done on it, despite Valve’s overwhelming silence on the subject.

There was a time when Valve did touch briefly on Episode Three during interviews, and they did say some interesting things. In addition, who could forget those mysterious 3 pieces of concept art we got, depicting surreal Arctic-Combine environments? But since then, there has been nothing. Not a single word. Mods, websites, and communities have come and gone. Valve has gone to town on plenty of other projects. In fact, if you went back in time to October 2007, and told the average Valve fan that he wouldn’t see any more Half-Life until at least late 2011, and that Valve would even do Dota 2, there’s a fairly good chance he’d laugh at you, throw Portal merchandise at you, then go back to staying up entire nights playing… well, playing Half-Life.

Valve has mentioned that they aren’t really doing episodic development anymore, but still, there are a few people who believe the next Half-Life will be the long-awaited Episode Three, and not EP3, expanded upon to become Half-Life 3. It does make sense – we know we’d laugh at Valve if all we got after 4 years of total silence was a mere episode. It’s been referred to as HL3 by journalists (most notably, Game Informer, who predict a HL3 reveal some time during this year) and even Valve itself. But we don’t quite know just yet.

Develop Magazine Goes To Valve And Uncovers Their Manifesto – Valve Done With Episodic Development: Episode Three To Become Half-Life 3?

Develop Magazine just went over to Valve to take a look at the company, the people, the games, and most importantly, the way they’ve consistently delivered nothing short of excellence. Valve does something new and interesting every single year. It’s one of the few companies that have spawned a fan following that spans across all of their games and platforms, and it’s one of the few companies that have never made a bad game.

All of Valve’s games have been critically acclaimed, and they do all that in an environment where the developer is not some soulless machine in a vast mechanism, jabbing away, trying to create an AAA blockbuster during crunch time. He is in there, doing his own thing, coming up with great ideas that other people look at and take into account when creating these games, games that deliver on all fronts – story, gameplay, sound and graphics alike.

As Erik Johnson says in this article, “nobody is a manager at Valve”. It’s an excellent read, even if hardened Valve fans probably know half of this by heart. Newcomers will most likely be overwhelmed. Still, there is some very interesting information in there, in the latter half of the article:

After Half-Life 2, a significant change was made to the timelines which Valve put on projects. The company had introduced an episodic model – one which was promised would shorten development cycles and give staff more room to breathe.

Two episodes later, that model has been completely replaced, Newell says. Everything Valve designs and makes today is built under the credo of the connected age – as ‘entertainment as a service’.

Games will no longer be cut into slices, he says, but instead will become their own platforms that Valve can continually evolve and update through Steam.

“We went through the episodes phase, and now we’re going towards shorter and even shorter cycles.

“With episodes, I think we accelerated the model and shortened development cycles with it. If you look at Team Fortress 2, that’s what we now think is the best model for what we’ve been doing. Our updates and release model keeps on getting shorter and shorter.”

And there you have it, from the man himself. It seems Episode Three has left the building, and Half-Life 3 is sneaking in. Fans clinging to their image of Half-Life sequels that bring a new setting and story arc with each new entry might get a bit sad, but does it really matter? Valve will almost surely deliver a great game, and we’re fairly sure the Arctic won’t be the only location we’ll be visiting. Expect some incredible off-world locales.

The idea of delivering a full game that can be supported with post-release content, turning video game entertainment into a service also fits with Valve’s idea of “single-player plus”, and moving beyond isolated single-player experiences that provide little replay incentive. Remember that Gabe did say Portal 2 may be Valve’s final isolated single-player title.

The rest of the article looks at Valve from various directions, and as previously mentioned, it’s an excellent read. Check it out. It’s time well spent.

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  1. I don’t really care much about the name but it would be nice for it to be named Ep3. Just for the sake of the first two episodes.

  2. i think they still can name it Ep3

  3. I told you all!

  4. I really REALLY wish I could believe this…

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