[UPDATE 2: Looks like Leveraged and another reputable Steam Forum user both know something we don't.]
[UPDATE: Added a small paragraph on the mysterious Valve Gift Grabs, near the end of the article.]
Could Leveraged and Spitfire’s informant have been right? Has the green-light really been given for Half-Life viral marketing? After all these years, has the time finally come for a new Half-Life installment? Let’s take a look at some pretty convincing hints regarding Half-Life, that have come from Valve in the past month. I’ll give you a few of my points of view, but it’s up to you to decide what to believe. In the words of an ancient Chinese wiseman, and totally NOT just Morpheus from The Matrix: “I can only show you the door. You’re the one that has to go through it.” I swear it’s not Morpheus, though. I… don’t even like The Matrix. I mean, I do, but… yeah, you get the idea.
The first and biggest hint towards Half-Life 3 came just a few hours ago, on the Steam Store. Buyers and Steam users were simply looking through the games and sales on display as part of Day 5, until they noticed that there was a final hidden image at the very end of the slideshow (keep clicking right on the arrows or just click the final square), completely unrelated to the main event. This is that image:
Those are the three main Steam Store mascots: Sir Roderick Bodkin, or Bodkins for short, in yellow. Cyl is the little cynical, mean-looking dude in black, and Tappet is the guy in orange. In case you didn’t know, all three names fit with the valve-steam theme that Valve have got going on. In addition, these three all represent gamer stereotypes: Cyl represents the more pessimistic, “hardcore” gamer. Tappet is a bit of a newbie, and Bodkins is caught in between. There are three other, “secondary” mascots, so to speak, that I can’t identify, but they are not in this picture, so forget about them.
So, as we can all see, Cyl, Bodkins and Tappet are riding along with Santa Claus, on his pimped-out sleigh. What makes this picture interesting, you ask? Well, it seems that Bodkins has received a very special gift from Santa. A golden Half-Life necklace. With precisely three specks of light shining on its surface. Three. As if to imply Santa will be bringing us something HL3-related for Christmas. Now, I don’t know about you, but it’s a bit suspicious that this is the first time Valve has acknowledged Half-Life outside of a promotional occasion.
It also comes days after we heard someone at Valve had given the green-light on Half-Life viral marketing through hints and teases. And it’s a bit odd that this is inside a hidden image placed at the end of the sales slideshow. I mean… it isn’t advertising anything, it’s not affiliated to anything. Half-Life isn’t even a daily deal today, itwas a daily deal on Day 2. But, there’s a bit more to be found in this image. The gem directly under Bodkins’ necklace also has three shiny specks of light on its surface. In addition, the “S” on Santa’s sleigh has five specks of light on it, arranged exactly in the shape of a Lambda, the symbol of the Half-Life franchise. And, of course, Tappet has unboxed a golden candy cane that looks a lot like a crowbar.
Is that the only hint we’ve received straight from Valve? No, surprisingly. Let’s head over to the Valve Store, where they’ve got a holiday sale going on as well. To celebrate, they’ve given us a lovely little comic called “Randolph, the Red Nosed Turret”. It’s 4 pages long, and it tells the story of a little Aperture Science turret named Randolph, whose nose has been a source of ridicule for him, from fellow turrets. However, when he is tasked by GLaDOS to defend the Christmas tree from any would-be gift burglars, he passes with flying colors, albeit at the cost of killing Santa Claus and wrecking the room. The turrets are happy, but there’s one catch. Let’s take a look at page 3 of the comic:
Take a look at those Christmas stockings. How many? Three. That’s 3 stockings on page 3 of the comic. What’s written on the stockings? “Gordon”, “Alyx”, and “D0g”. What lies above these three stockings? A painting of the idyllic landscape we saw in Portal 2′s ending. Except the sky has been changed from what it looked like in the game, for no apparent reason. There are now precisely 3 clouds on the sky. This may be the first time Valve has acknowledged the existence of any Half-Life characters in a very long time. Would they really do it out of the blue, for absolutely no apparent reason? Breaking the Great Half-Life Wall of Silence? Or would they do it, knowing they now had a reason for it? You might say that they’re simply giving nods to all the Valve game franchises in this picture, except Team Fortress is nowhere to be found.
That’s not all. Speaking of Team Fortress, let’s take a look on the TF2 front, shall we? This step is simple: head on over to an official in-game Valve server. Once you’re in, open up the console and type “status”. Take a look at the results. If you’re simply too lazy to take a look yourself, then simply take a look at this YouTube video. Yes, that is another strange Half-Life reference. No idea when exactly it was added, but it must be fairly recent, as someone would have surely noticed it before. It doesn’t seem to be in any other Valve titles, so that rules out the possibility of a long-time coding mix-up.
And, finally, our last and, perhaps, more interesting hint, from the Steam Translation Server – this will be a description for one of the upcoming Holiday Sale achievement objectives, and it is currently on the STS for the community translators to translate it into all the different Steam languages, before it becomes an actual objective:
Imagine all the games they could have used for this example. All the active Valve franchises. Yet, they chose Half-Life. A franchise they’ve been ignoring for a very long time. In the midst of all this pandemonium. Doesn’t that strike you as a bit odd?
And lastly, let’s take a look at the infamous “Valve Gift Grab” achievements we’ve seen in L4D2, CSS, DOD:S and TF2. Secret, hidden achievements – unlike the rest of the holiday achievements. They haven’t appeared as objectives on a single day of the Holiday Sale event. And the number of in-game gifts you need to collect from dead enemies’ corpses is… yes, precisely three. What purpose do the Gift Grabs serve? Well, let’s hope we find out soon.
Now, I’m not going to make any assumptions or theories. You’ll hear no speculation from me – but consider this: in the past month, we’ve seen more hints out of Valve regarding Half-Life than we’ve seen in the past 3-4 years. And we’ve heard that Valve has given the green-light to release hints regarding the franchise, from two reputable sources with an informer who hasn’t let them down in the past. And let’s not forget that Game Informer did say we’d see a Half-Life 3 reveal this year. Didn’t we also hear a US-based Valve voice actor tell Official Xbox Magazine that he had done voice work for the upcoming Half-Life? And, of course, we have Wheatley, implying a new Valve singleplayer title will be out in 2012.
Hey, I’m just saying!