Early last year, we got to take a look at some… well, some really fancy-looking concept art laid out on the walls inside Valve’s headquarters. There was one thing we all immediately noticed, apart from just how fancy-looking it was – it looked nothing like any existing Valve intellectual property: it had weird spaceships, weird space aliens, and good stuff like that. No one knew what it was all about, and supposedly, Valve didn’t take kindly to this concept art finding its way online at that time. Then a couple of months later, Portal 2 came out, and we were too busy playing that to death to care about whatever Valve’s got cooking in that secret bunker they open by turning the big valve.
Then Dota 2′s beta client got leaked. And among the client’s coding, and among the interesting mentions to “ep3″ and ”cstrike2″ were a number of references to something called “SOB”, including code references for ”nebula”; “npc_ship”; “ship_guns”; “client_ship”; “flightplan”; “server_ship”, and quite a bit more, which you can find on this mirror of the code references, provided by Cyborgmatt. Naturally, most of us assumed that this SOB game might just be what that concept art is for.
Now, we have a solid connection between the SOB code and the concept art, and there’s more. Read on!
Meet Peter König, one of Valve’s best 2D and 3D artists (credited in 30 films and numerous games, with a 25-year career), who’s done work on L4D2, Dota 2, and Portal 2. He’s got a really fancy site, showing off most of his work, including his L4D2 stuff. Wait… you know what else was fancy? That weird concept art we saw last year! And, surprise, surprise, quite a few of those unidentified space concepts from last year are on König’s site! But the really interesting one? Check this out:
A starfighter of some sort, which heavily resembles Peter’s other work on the strange space game… and has “SOB” written right on it. And it turns out that right around the same time those images at Valve HQ were first uncovered in early 2011, Peter had this earlier and slightly different version of the very same concept art on his site (in addition, in a May 2011 interview with IdlerMag, Peter divulged that he was working on unannounced projects at Valve).
I believe we might have a winner, people. And I must confess – I am a wee bit excited. Because at this point, I’m a bit skeptical about HL3. Who knows if it’ll live up to the expectations we’ve set for it? What if all that multiplayer development has made Valve lose their touch? But SOB seems like something fresh, something new, and it sounds like one hell of a blast. With no real expectations behind it, I think it might turn out to be a very pleasant surprise for all of us.
Smash, volunteer moderator on the Steam Forums, and writer for HL2.net, actually e-mailed Peter and asked him if the art is for a new Valve title, or simply his own creations, and he replied:
Some of it is mine, not all. Can’t comment on it either way…. Some of it is on my site now, so it can’t be toooo sensitive, now can it?
It’s good to see Valve devs are still just as cryptic as they’ve always been. Let’s hope we find out more about SOB. I’m hoping it’s a monolithic singleplayer space opera adventure type deal… but a Valve space MMO also sounds very tantalizing. And I can tell you right now that if it is, you’ll be hearing a lot about me, because I am going to be space pirate number 1.
Still, who knows, at this point? Maybe we’ll even see a reveal at E3. At this point, would that really be so surprising? Meanwhile, I’d be looking on Peter’s site, to see what else SOB-related I can find.