The oh-so-long wait between Episode Two and… whatever the next Half-Life will be, is starting to be very tough for the Half-Life fanbase. During the 6-year wait between HL1 and HL2, we at least had the modding community and the active HL1 multiplayer scene, but we also had official spin-off games like Opposing Force, Blue Shift, and Decay. Whereas now… we’ve sort of got… well, nothing. I’m sure some sort of Half-Life game released during this wait would have tided everyone over a bit.
But maybe that was the plan. Sure, the plan has changed, but what if Valve did intend to do just that? Well, today, we might have evidence pointing towards that.
Forum member Sappy, posting in the Steam Forums, shared some very interesting information regarding a Half-Life project that was being developed by Valve, together with Arkane Studios, a French development studio that created Dark Messiah, worked on the infamous The Crossing, and is now developing Dishonored. The project appears to have been named “Ravenholm” or “Return to Ravenholm”, and it began development and was subsequently cancelled in 2007. It’s probably not “HL2: Episode Four”, which Arkane was also developing, so the two are separate projects that Arkane was developing (and both “Ravenholm” and Episode Four seem to have nothing to do with this scrapped EA project, of which we saw some concept art, as that must have been a completely different project that EA was developing).
Of course, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. Such as this public LinkedIn resume for Nims Bun, who worked at Arkane as a Character Technical Director, from 2007 to 2009. His summary mentions “Ravenholm” by name, and implies it was developed by both Valve and Arkane. Interestingly, the resume on his personal site instead mentions a “Valve project”. Another person attached to “Ravenholm” was Regis Capotosto, a freelance 2D/3D artist who did some work for Arkane from 2005 to 2007. Again, his public LinkedIn resume mentions Ravenholm by name, and implies that it was being developed in 2007.
And last, but not least, we have Florent Perrin, a 3D character animator who worked at Arkane from 2006 to 2008. His personal resume mentions a “Return to Ravenholm”. But that’s not all. Let’s take a look at his animation demo reel, created to showcase his work to potential employers:
You might notice some of his work on Dark Messiah and The Crossing in that reel. But take a look at 00:30 to 00:40. That is a re-skinned Half-Life 2 citizen, who appears to be a zombie. No headcrab, though, but maybe Florent removed him for the demo reel, so the facial animation could be seen as well. Then take a look at 00:48 to 00:57. That’s a Half-Life 2 headcrab playing around with a zombie’s head. This is all work that appears to have been done for “Ravenholm”, or “Return to Ravenholm”.
So while we have no idea what it is, or how it might relate to the mysterious Episode Four that Arkane was also developing, it’s good to at least know of Return to Ravenholm’s existence.