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By Christopher Dollard

Gabe Newell On Valve’s “SOB”: “‘Stars of Blood’ Was An Internal Project That Never Saw The Light of Day”

News & Rumors Valve

Let it forever be known that the best way to get interesting information out of Gabe Newell is to buy him a hat on his birthday, surround him with fans, and ask daring questions like never before! After all, you saw how it helped us find out about Valve’s upcoming next-gen game engine!

But what if it can also help us find out more about Valve’s fabled space-centric game, known only as “SOB”? As you can tell from the title above… yes, it can! Read on.

Gabe Newell On Valve’s “SOB”: “‘Stars of Blood’ Was An Internal Project That Never Saw The Light of Day”

Fans from 4chan’s game-centric imageboard, /v/, visited Valve on Gabe Newell’s 50th birthday, one week ago. After giving him the present, Gabe stayed to chat with the fans, and answer some questions. Video footage taken from this Q&A session of sorts was posted on YouTube, and the result was a 52-minute YouTube video of the entire birthday party. We’re going to look at one of the interesting parts, starting from 47:43 within the aforementioned video – a fan asks an interesting question, and receives a very informative answer:

Fan: A second rumor; there were some pictures floating around, like a month ago, of apparently… Valve concept art for a space game?

Gabe Newell: “Stars of Blood“? [...]

Fan: Could you talk more about that?

Gabe Newell: We’re not doing it anymore. We had an internal project [incomprehensible] called “Stars of Blood”, which was a space pirate game, and that never saw the light of day. [incomprehensible]

Well, there you have it. The mysterious Stars of Blood project isn’t in active development anymore. This does explain why concept art for the project has been featured openly on Peter Konig’s website for well over a year, and why concept footage for the game showed up in Valve animator Gray Horsfield’s development showreel at the beginning of this year. It does fit with what we already know, and it does mean SOB was real after all.

But even though we still know almost nothing about it, it’s incredibly fascinating to look at the mountains of detailed concept art, and the aforementioned high-quality concept footage, and just wonder… what could have been? Though long-time Valve enthusiasts are probably used to the feeling, by now!

Remember the mysterious Prospero? It was the second game to be conceived at Valve, way back in late 1996; headed by Greg Coomer (Valve’s eighth ever employee, and the man who helped give the company its name). Prospero was developed concurrently with what would eventually become the original Half-Life, and as HL1 gathered more and more momentum, it absorbed some of Prospero’s design concepts and stylistic ideas.

In the end, Prospero was permanently cancelled some time in late 1997 – and thus, it became the first game Valve ever cancelled. At the same time, Half-Life was going back to the drawing board, with a full design overhaul. With the Prospero development team now on their side, Half-Life was able to push on through to a late 1998 release, and thus became one of the greatest games of all time. So maybe it’s not that bad that Prospero got canned!

Our comrades at ValveTime have also discovered that the domain name and website: “www.starsofblood.com” (which is a picture of a bloodred starfish, and nothing more), is owned by long-time Valve animator and engineer Ken Birdwell. Interestingly, it was first registered in April of 2006 – Stars of Blood’s development and conception must have been going on for quite a while, at least in some capacity.

In any case, even if these news have got you down, keep in mind that at Valve, nothing is ever completely lost. Every scrapped concept or canned idea is preserved, and eventually reused. Perhaps this isn’t the last we’ve seen of SOB!

Thanks to Niamor for the tip, posted in our comments section. Original discovery made by community member Marlamin.

17 Comments

  1. Pirates in space?? Sounds like Firefly to me. I would have loved it :) )

  2. Kinda glad to hear this. One less project to slow HL3′s release.

  3. I would totally play that game. A futuristic gta, count me in!

    • For anyone who wants a huge, open-world RPG exploring space game with a huge amount of environments and roles to take on:
      I strongly recommend Freelancer by Microsoft Game Studios.

  4. Am I the only one who thinks the concept art looks like something out of Blade Runner?

  5. I’m actually relieved. I thought it was going to be about HL3.

  6. I wish that, as you said Vic, they reuse the concept of that huge world, cities that stretch far into the distance. Could even be maybe as an open-world game, like those HL3 rumors were saying. Exploring a planet like that seems really interesting.

    • I very seriously doubt those open-world HL3 rumors were legitimate at all, but I do agree – greater, vaster environments are a must for future Half-Life installments, especially if we’re going off-world.

  7. *sob*

  8. Well, Son Of a Bitch. At least we got an answer to what it was

  9. :(

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