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IGN Speculates: “Half-Life 3 Or Episode Three?”

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At the moment, there’s two very important questions on the average Half-Life fan’s mind: “will I live to see the next Half-Life game”, and “will the next Half-Life game be Half-Life 3 or Episode Three”. Surprisingly, the latter question is by far the most important one, and no, it’s not because Half-Life fans are immortal or something.

IGN Speculates: “Half-Life 3 Or Episode Three?”

It’s because… well, it’s because we haven’t heard a single word from Valve regarding the next Half-Life in a very, very long while. This has driven many of us to desperation and crazy speculation. They’re probably not suffering from the former, unlike us, but IGN is most certainly suffering from the latter, as can be seen in their new article, titled “Half-Life 3 or Episode Three”, subtitled “Speculating about what’s next for Gordon Freeman.”

This is their third article revolving around Half-Life speculation, the first being “Waiting for the Next Half-Life”, which juggled various gameplay ideas for the next Half-Life. The second was “Why Half-Life 3 Isn’t Coming Soon”. It wasn’t a bad article by any stretch of the imagination, but the overall message was pretty disturbing, as it implied we’d end up waiting even more for the next Half-Life, and there just wasn’t any new and interesting speculation or conjecture.

The article starts off with a touch of exposition relating to Valve’s recent endeavors, and their total silence when it comes to Half-Life. But soon enough, the real speculation begins:

The game will still pick up after Episode Two’s dramatic cliffhanger, but now it’ll just be called Half-Life 3, and it’ll be a longer game. No sense dragging out the whole episodic format now that economy-sized chunks of DLC are the standard. As much as Valve wanted to reframe the Half-Life 2 expansions as “Episodes,” Episode Two felt very much like an old-school expansion pack.

We agree with most of the above – we’ll most likely be seeing a Half-Life 3, picking up after Episode Two’s ending. But we don’t think “economy-sized chunks of DLC” have anything to do with Valve’s decision. Nor do we think Episode Two felt like an expansion pack. It was simply a smaller, bite-sized continuation of the Half-Life 2 story arc. Whether or not it felt like an expansion pack isn’t really the problem with the Episodes at all anyway – the problem is that they had begun to rely too much on the Half-Life 2 gameplay and story formulas. Granted, they are excellent gameplay and story formulas, but there’s only so much Half-Life 2 you can play before you start to wonder who stole the new game paradigms.

The next speculation point talks about technology:

It would make sense if the Half-Life information blackout is because a whole bunch of employees are busy working on a new engine. Let’s call it Source 2 because I lack imagination. Developing something like this could take a very long time, especially if Valve is trying to drop the world’s jaw when the next Half-Life is revealed.

But then again, Gabe Newell told Develop that Valve was content to continuously upgrade the existing Source Engine instead of build something new. That’s a sensible thing to say. It means when Valve announces Half-Life 3 running on Source 2, it’ll be even more of a surprise.

Interesting, but I personally disagree. I think Gabe was pretty clear on the issue, and he isn’t the only Valve dev who has confirmed that they’ll be sticking to Source. It’s very possible that we will see a major Source overhaul or update for the next Half-Life, but a completely new engine doesn’t seem to be a possibility for the foreseeable future.

IGN next moves on to the question of a multi-platform release, which we’ll skip (partly because we already know the answer), to head over to a more interesting speculation point – “So when might it be ready?”

Considering the span of time between now and Episode Two, Half-Life 3 / Episode Three may already be done. While Half-Life 3 will very likely be a multiplatform release, that doesn’t mean it can’t come out on PC first. What better way for Valve to promote its digital download service?

May already be done… maybe. They did L4D2 in one year and they’ve had 5 years for this one. As for the “PC first” thing… well, it’s… one theory, but really, what supports it? Why would Half-Life be a timed PC exclusive? Hasn’t the console fanbase been waiting for Episode Three just as long as we have? Certainly, they have. Besides, what good would such a move do? It would seem quite counter-productive. The only benefit would be Steam promotion, but I’d say Steam has moved beyond needing promotion in the form of a first-party timed exclusive, especially when that would involve a pretty substantial sacrifice.

Taking this idea a step further is GameSpy editor Ryan Scott, who suggests that when Valve finally announces Half-Life 3 (this scenario precludes Episode Three), it will hit Steam mere weeks (if not days) later. Console versions will follow at some point, but the mouse-and-keyboard crowd will get first access.

Interesting idea… but there isn’t much to support it, is there? Certainly, it would be an incredible move and would have the gaming world in total shock, but there just isn’t any real evidence to suggest this. It is a possibility, particularly since Valve has had 5 years to develop the thing, and since this wouldn’t be the first time Valve announced a title only to release it a short while later, but it just seems like wishful thinking.

It’s not as though Valve really needs to advertise for Half-Life anyway; the community takes care of that, and would certainly support Half-Life 3’s release with viral YouTube videos and constant chatter across social networks.

Oh, certainly, a Half-Life announcement would spread like wildfire through word of mouth alone, but why would that mean Valve could skip out on advertising it? When combining this with the previous release possibilities mentioned in this speculation point (timed PC exclusive and a very short period of time from announcement to release), it sounds like a strategy that could very easily backfire and work as a shot in the foot.

Next up is a bit of multiplayer-related speculation:

Valve sees a lot of money in multiplayer experiences, so it’s likely the next Half-Life could be paired with one. Half-Life 2: Deathmatch was never much more than a goofy diversion. If the next Half-Life is to have a multiplayer component it could, a little more plausibly, at long last be Counter-Strike 2.

It’s a possibility! CSS was HL2’s multiplayer component, and when questioned about Counter-Strike 2 by Mooly Eden, Gabe reacted in a very interesting manner. But maybe we’d be asking for too much from Valve.

Leveraging the experience Valve’s had overseeing Counter-Strike Online outside of North America, Counter-Strike 2 would serve as another Valve entry in the free-to-play microtransaction market.

Any experience Valve has attained from overseeing CSO in the Asian markets is worth nothing in the West. CSO was a radically different approach to micro-transaction in a radically different market. It just wouldn’t work with a Counter-Strike 2, in the Western market.

Let’s not forget that based on what Robin Walker told Develop Magazine, Valve’s venture into the free-to-play world with TF2 may very well be the exception to the rule, and not a rule in itself. Sure, it’s been a success in TF2, but it’s rather unreasonable to assume that this will be true across all of Valve’s products, just the same as micro-transaction.

In this scenario, Half-Life 3 could also be free, or at least severely discounted on PC, leaving the microtransaction bit to generate profit.

No.

It might help explain why it’s been so very long since Valve has said anything about what’s happening with Half-Life – because the studio isn’t just working on one all-new game on new technology, but two.

Perhaps! On another note, HL3 and CS2 may not be the only top secret games Valve is doing, however. We know Valve is working on “a top-secret project in development that won’t be ready for another five years”, as Final Hours of Portal 2 stated.

Next is “What does Valve have to say about all this?”. The answer isn’t a tough guess, but we’ll be skipping this one as well. Next is… “totally crazy”, apparently:

Maybe the next Half-Life won’t be a single-player game at all. Maybe Valve is completely changing the format and making it a multiplayer experience where you can fight alongside Gordon, Alyx and resistance fighters or as the Combine soldiers.

I don’t even know what to say. I’ve already used “No”, so I’m all out of ideas.

Considering Valve’s commitment to microtransactions seen in everything from the now free-to-play Team Fortress 2 to the overpriced robot accessories in Portal 2, it’s very, very, very, very remotely possible something like this might find its way into Half-Life.

I wouldn’t even call it a remote possibility. It would be downright insane!

If it did, though, I would expect purists to completely lose their minds. I know I’d freak out. Half-Life has never been about any of this, and it would be extremely surprising if the studio moved in this direction. It’s always been about Gordon, the silent hero, overcoming impossible odds to plant crowbars in the foreheads of all that want to nefariously warp the world. And occasionally hopping across irritating terrain on Xen.

Indeed! Well said.

On the whole, an interesting article with some insightful, but controversial speculation. We skipped some parts, so you should check it out here.

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4 Comments

  1. http://www.podcast17.com/interviews/audio/gabe-newell/

    @5:33
    “I spent two weeks explaining that I meant single player needed to be richer, not single player needed to be eliminated.”

    There, now I wish people would stop assuming that Half-Life is going to be turned into a single-player oriented series. HL2DM was never intended to be more than a goofy diversion, but than again neither was HL1DM. I really wish people would drop this Half-Life 3 nonsense already too. More times than not it just seems like a way to pad a slow news week.

  2. I forget where I read it, but Valve has stated that they are moving in that direction with all their games. Making multi-player functions a primary focus for all of their games.

    And I personally think there is no HL news because they aren’t doing anything HL related. For the longest time they were the company that made Half-Life, now they are growing and expanding in so many ways. I predict that they are working on new IP, and saving HL for when they really need it.

    • Perhaps, but don’t you think that releasing a Half-Life now would actually help them further with the plan to make multi-player functions as a primary focus?
      It would extinguish the hunger of the community for the only single-player game that is expected of Valve and it would give Valve a big income which will help them test and develop more of these functions.

  3. An interesting read! Thanks for posting this Vic! I think is about time i gave Half-Life another playthough!

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