|Warning! This article contains spoilers.|
It might spoil your gaming experience when first playing the related game(s). Read at your own risk!
Since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two in October 2007, there has been very little news from Valve on the next Half-Life game.
Half-Life 2: Episode Three, the third and final instalment of the Half-Life 2 episodes, was expected to follow soon after Episode Two, as Valve had stated that they aimed to release a new episode every six to eight months. However, as of March 2012, three pieces of concept art are all Valve have shown of the next game. Since then, Valve has released five games, and it currently has one in development.
Some fans believe Valve has scrapped the episodic model and is now working on a full sequel entitled Half-Life 3, but Valve employees have consistently refused to comment on the status or nature of the next Half-Life game, much to the displeasure of their fanbase. Despite general satisfaction with the games Valve has made since Episode Two, the next Half-Life game continues to be their most anticipated title, and with the long-awaited release of Duke Nukem Forever in 2011, it has become gaming's most infamous case of continuing vaporware.
Timeline of released information
What follows are the facts that have been revealed by Valve or found by gamers over the years about anything relating to the future of the Half-Life franchise.
- In May, Episode Three is announced for a Christmas 2007 release.
- The same month, it is revealed that a new Episode will be released every six to eight months, and will take four to six hours to complete. An Episode Four, developed outside of Valve and with a stand-alone plot, is also mentioned.
- In a May interview given by David Speyrer and Doug Lombardi about the development of Episode Three, it is stated that a lot of work has gone into creating a natural progress of topography and climate between Two and Three, and that the player will not head back to City 17, at least not in this game. Furthermore, Speyrer does not want to comment about speculation started by PC Gamer UK on the game's climax being a battle set at an Arctic research station.
- In October, Episode Two is released. At the end of the game, Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance are about to leave to Arctic locations, in search of Judith Mossman and the newly recovered Borealis, the Aperture Science icebreaker, suggesting this is what the sequel to Episode Two will be about.
- In a November interview, David Speyrer explains that an Episode Three teaser at the end of Episode Two was deliberately omitted to avoid ruining the mood the player would have been in after the final scene by having it followed by a high action trailer. Another reason was to give them more creative freedom, and avoid being committed to anything seen in the potential trailer, stating they are trying to do "something pretty ambitious". He also states they did not want to make the same mistake as with the Episode Two trailer featured at the end of Episode One, as it is radically different from the finished game.
- In November as well, the first concept art for Episode Three is released by GamesRadar.
- In December, Episode Three is said to be only the end of the current Half-Life 2 story arc, not the end of the overall Half-Life franchise, nor the episodic releases, with even more episodic games unconnected to the current story arc to be made. This hints at the Episode Four mentioned in 2006.
- In April, source code for three entities is released in the Source SDK in a folder named "Episode3", before being removed shortly after. They include "npc_combine_armored" (a heavily armored Combine soldier with separate shields for each part of its body), "npc_wpnscanner" (a scanner shooting bolts), and "weapon_proto1" (appearing in the Source Particle Benchmark and Episode Two as a test weapon). However, it is later stated by Valve's Tony Sergi that the code is a leftover of old material.
- In July, the second Episode Three concept art is released through the winner list of the Into the Pixel contest of that year, involving Gordon Freeman and his crowbar face to face with a Combine Advisor, and made by Valve artists Ted Backman, Jeremy Bennett, and Tristan Reidford. The same month, the third and last concept art so far is revealed again by GamesRadar.
- In an October interview, Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi states that news or an announcement of Episode Three might be revealed near the end of the year. In that interview, Lombardi also states that the distance between Episode Two and its sequel will be longer than the distance between the three current Half-Life 2 games.
- In December, video footage of what is presented as an Alpha version of Episode Three is released. It is later revealed to be a fan-made set of maps.
- Below is leaked Episode Three concept art from mid 2008.
- While the community is expecting an announcement on the future of the Half-Life franchise on June 1, Left 4 Dead 2 is announced instead, instantly leading to the creation of the Left 4 Dead 2 boycott Steam group. Following that pattern, on June 4, a petition named Message to Valve is created on the Steam forums by user Surfrock22, requesting more communication between Valve and the Half-Life fanbase (referred to in the thread as Valve's "oldest and longest running fanbase"), thus publicly release some information about the future of the Half-Life franchise.
- In an August video involving Gabe Newell and two interpreters discussing deafness and video games with a small audience of hearing-impaired people, the inclusion of an unidentified deaf character in a future game set in the Half-Life and Portal universe is said to be tested by Valve, as a new gameplay and Source engine feature aimed at providing better support for hearing-impaired players. Newell suggests that before Alyx met Gordon, she had a crush on a hearing impaired Resistance member, so she programmed Dog with knowledge of sign language so she could practice and easily communicate with him. Then this person went away from Alyx to fight the Combine someplace else, and Alyx and Dog started signing with each other when they wanted to communicate without making noise or without other people knowing.
- The same month, Newell explains in an interview that Valve is experimenting many techniques on their games, including Episode Three. He adds he has currently nothing to say about the game, and that the community will be notified as soon as they have material they are ready to share.
- In a March interview, Newell hints that Valve intends to return the Half-Life franchise to its psychological horror roots by exploiting the fans' deepest fears, which he sums up as "the death of their children" and "the fading of their own abilities".
- The same month, the Portal ARG is launched. At the beginning, the community starts to speculate it is related to Episode Three, until it is revealed the ARG is promoting the upcoming Portal 2.
- In an April interview, Gabe Newell states that Gordon Freeman will go unchanged in the next Half-Life game - he wants him to "largely remain an arm and a crowbar." There also are no plans to make him a talking character, as Newell considers making the player's companions more interesting and compelling seems a more fruitful avenue to explore.
- Shortly after Alien Swarm is released in July, unused hint nodes are found in its SDK, under the names "Ep3 Blob Shake Position", "Ep3 Fire Cover Position", "Ep3 Brain Cover Position", "Ep3 Brain Regenerate Position", "Ep3 Spit Position", "Ep3 Spawn Generator Position", and "Aperture: Nest". Given the prefix "Ep3" and the use of the name "Aperture", these may be leftovers of the sequel to Episode Two.
- In an August interview, Doug Lombardi states they hate to make the community wait, but that they have no announcements regarding Gordon Freeman or his ongoing adventures at this time.
- In February, Chet Faliszek states that Valve is "not prepared to talk about [Episode Three] at the moment".
- When asked about the future of the Half-Life series in a March interview, Doug Lombardi states that they are not done with Gordon Freeman's adventures, and advises the community to "hang in there" with them, without further detail.
- On April 19, Portal 2 is released. The same day, The Final Hours of Portal 2 is released. In it, author Geoff Keighley states that Portal 2 is probably Valve's last game with an isolated single-player experience. This is misunderstood by many members of the community as the simple end of single-player games made by Valve, which is negated by Gabe Newell in a May interview, in which he states that Valve is not done with single-player games, but rather done with single-player games as we know them today, and that they will transform into "single-player plus" games, thus single-player games with social components added to them. He reckons that entertainment is inherently increased in value by having it be social, letting people play with their friends, and recognizing that they are connected with other people, and that they have to work on adding this to their single-player games.
- In another May interview, Newell states that Valve is done with the episodic model as we know it, now rather updating the same game as much as they want through Steam, which was introduced with Team Fortress 2. This suggests that the next Half-Life game will not be in the vein of its two predecessors, leading the community to speculate that Valve has moved to a larger project.
- The same month, the Portal 2 SDK is released. In the files, code for an NPC named "Combine Advisor - Roaming" is found by users, and is shortly removed in a subsequent update.
- In May again, several .vcd choreography files labeled "magnuss" are found in Portal 2's VPK cache. They are named "magnuss_get_going.vcd", "magnuss_idle.vcd", "magnuss_nopoint.vcd", "magnuss_shakehead.vcd", and "magnuss_wave.vcd", and appear to be for the model "magnusson.mdl", Arne Magnusson's model. They don't exist in the Episode Two files, where Magnusson's animations are prefixed "mag", suggesting they may be either old discarded animations, or animations set to appear in the next Half-Life game.
- In June, at the Games for Change festival in New York, Gabe Newell delivers a keynote focusing largely on the educational benefits of games. When Newell asks the audience for any questions, someone asks when Episode Three is going to be released. Newell's answers "If you know enough to ask the question, you know enough what the answer is."
- On August 11 and 12, three fans picket outside of the Valve headquarters in Bellevue, Washington, requesting information about Episode Three / Half-Life 3. Gabe Newell in person comes out to speak with them, they go for lunch together, and are also given a tour of the offices by Erik Johnson, as well as pizza, playtesting of Dota 2, and some goodies. However upon being asked when a new Half-Life was coming out, Newell merely answered "I can't tell you.". The first day counts two fans only, and they are joined with a third one on the second day. The texts on their signs include "CANADA 4 THE RELEASE OF HALF LIFE 3", "HALF LIFE 3... IS IT LEFT 4 DEAD?", "HOW DID JUDITH GET TO THE ARCTIC SO QUICKLY? (rest unseen)" "I COULDN'T THINK OF A NEW SIGN... BUT YOU KNOW WHAT WE WANT (HL 3)", among others. As a Microsoft building is located nearby, presumably a Valve employee gave the picketers four humorous small signs to show, such as one asking Microsoft to bring back the former MS Office mascot "Clippy". The protesters claim that their picketing is not meant to be a serious protest but rather a joke; they just had free time on their hands, and felt like "chillin', maxin' relaxin' all cool" outside of Valve. Following the "protest", Kotaku also asked Newell if he had anything to say about a new game, to which he simply replied "I got nothing for you.".
- Around September 19th, a Vietnamese beta tester leaks Dota 2’s entire game client, as well as all of its files, to the Internet. Among the various files can be found code referring to a folder named "ep3", pointing at what appears to be weapons: "weapon_icegun", "weaponizer_concrete", "weaponizer_liquid", "weaponizer_metal", and "weapon_flamethrower". However, around September 23 Chet Faliszek states that the code doesn't mean anything and shouldn't be taken as fact.
- December 2011 sees several rumors about a Half-Life ARG, and that Gabe Newell has given the go-ahead to those in the know to drop Half-Life hints. Fans see what may be hints in Wheatley's "Character of the Year" award acceptance video for the Spike TV 2011 Video Game Awards, several fake official e-mails are shared, cryptic information is revealed through an unofficial Twitter account for Doug Rattmann, and an unofficial website, Black-Aperture.com, reveals other cryptic messages. All is debunked by Valve through Gabe Newell, Marc Laidlaw and Chet Faliszek.
- On December 1, Chandana Ekanayake, part of Seattle-based game developer Uber Entertainment, sees what he believes to be a Valve employee wearing what appears to be a Half-Life 3 T-shirt at a local developer event, and asks his permission to take a photo of the T-shirt as he is a huge fan of the series. Upon being asked if he knows anything about Half-Life 3, he appears to know nothing. On December 1, a fan named Alexei asks series' writer Marc Laidlaw about the validity of the T-shirt; he confirms its existence but has nothing else to elaborate on.
- On December 9, an anonymous US-based voice actor reveals that Valve has recorded lines for "Half Life: Episode 3" (sic). This leads to rumors that the next Half-Life game will be unveiled at the 2011 Spike Video Game Awards on December 10. However, this doesn't occur.
- During the Steam Holiday Sale, Valve drops several Half-Life references in their sale artwork. In the comic Randolph the Red-Nosed Turret released December 22, 3 socks are hung on the mantelpiece, for Gordon, Alyx and Dog. Above is the landscape seen by Chell when she reaches the outside at the end of Portal 2, with 3 clouds in the sky. Furthermore, in the image placed at the end of the slideshow of day 5 of the Holiday Sale (December 23) showing the Steam mascots riding with Santa Claus in his sleigh, one of the mascots is holding a golden Lambda necklace with 3 specks of light on it, among other things. This further fed rumors and speculation among the fanbase about imminent news about a new Half-Life game.
- On December 23, voice actor John Patrick Lowrie debunks on his personal blog the words of the anonymous voice actor from December 9 by stating in the comments on a post about his wife Ellen McLain being nominated for a VGA award that he hasn't heard anything yet about a new Half-Life game, and thus has not recorded anything yet. He states, among other things: "No Half Life 3 stuff yet. Haven’t heard anything." and "Ellen and I haven’t heard anything about a new Half Life episode. He later repeats this lack of knowledge on March 23rd, 2012
- On December 26, the petition launched in 2009 on the Steam Users' Forums (more than 1,600 signatures as of February 2012) evolves to a Steam group named "A Call for Communication (Half-Life)" (more than 50,000 members as of February 2012).
- On January 9, several references to the Half-Life series are found in the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive beta files, namely being several whiteboard texture files for the map "Office", containing the names of several Half-Life 2 main characters, among other things.
- On January 5, "Operation Crowbar" is launched on the Steam Users' Forums, as another form of protest against Valve's silence on the future of the Half-Life franchise (the operation also has its dedicated Steam group). It involves buying crowbars and mailing them to Valve, or, as a cheaper alternative, spam Valve's e-mail accounts and Facebook page with pictures of crowbars or crowbar-related puns.
- On January 10, IGN's editor Charles Onyett speculates that, based on industry trends, 2012 will be the year Valve finally starts talking about Half-Life 3, and believes Valve might be waiting for details from Sony and Microsoft on their next-generation consoles before announcing anything.
- On January 13, Marc Laidlaw confirms the rumor that a fourth and canceled Half-Life 2 Episode, Return to Ravenholm, was developed by Arkane Studios from 2006 to 2009.
- Following Ekanayake's information about the Half-Life 3 T-shirt, Garry Newman, creator of Garry's Mod, trolls the community on January 12 by showing a fake Half-Life 3 T-shirt on his Twitter, claiming it was sent by Valve.
- As of January 19, the Steam group "A Call for Communication (Half-Life)" has been covered by over 27 gaming publications.
- On February 4, the Steam group "A Call for Communication" organizes "A Red Letter Day", a group event which involves playing Half-Life 2, aimed at putting the franchise back in the spotlight, drawing more people to their cause and simply "be a huge group of Half-Life fans playing one of the best games ever made". Though hopes also are that Half-Life 2 would reach the top ten games played for that day, it only reaches #11, with a maximum of 13,216 concurrent players. A website is also launched the previous day to mark the event and coordinate the future ones.
- On June 27, a handful of concept art is leaked. While Valve has not commented on this, several forum moderators confirmed the art.
- A PDF file listing game announcements for Gamescom 2012 has been found to highlight the game Half-Life 3, however, Gamescom reps later reported that it was "a mistake". Valve have confirmed its falseness with stating "We're not showing any games in Cologne this year." The list have later been updated and Half-Life 3 removed.
- In August 2012, Spike TV had interviewed Gabe Newell about Counter Strike: Global Offensive. When Gabe was asked about Half-Life 3, He replied "I hate sharks".
- On September 17, while not official, a French website reported that they have gotten some information regarding Half-Life 3 from an anonymous source stating that the game will be featuring RPG elements. It also stated that the development for the game has been very chaotic, stating further that the project was revived several times and that its release date will be sometime after 2013.
- ↑ 1.0 1.1 PC Gamer, May 2006
- ↑ 2.0 2.1
- ↑ 3.0 3.1
- ↑ Whois Record For Half-Life3.com
- ↑ Half-Life 2: Episode One gold, Two dated, Three announced on GameSpot
- ↑ Opening the Valve - Interview at EuroGamer.net
- ↑ Valve comments on Episode Three progress at EuroGamer.net
- ↑ RPS Interview: Episode Two’s David Speyrer on Rock, Paper, Shotgun
- ↑ 10.0 10.1 10.2 The first concept art from Half-Life 2: Episode Three on GamesRadar
- ↑ Half-Life 3 on StuffWeLike.com
- ↑ Tony Sergi answer on the Steam Users' Forums
- ↑ 2008 contest winners at Into the Pixel
- ↑ 14.0 14.1 Interview: Valve's Doug Lombardi on Video Games Daily
- ↑ FAKE Episode 3 Maps for Half-Life2: Ep2 on Mod DB
- ↑ Left 4 Dead 2 Game Add-on #1 at the Steam News
- ↑ 18.0 18.1
- ↑ 19.0 19.1 Message to Valve on the Steam Users' Forums
- ↑ Steamcast Episode #9: "Exclusive interview with Gabe Newell"
- ↑ Gabe Newell: Next Half-Life needs to scare on ComputerAndVideoGames.com
- ↑ Portal Patch Adds Morse Code, Achievement - Portal 2 Speculation Begins on Shacknews
- ↑ Gabe Newell: Next Half-Life won't change Gordon Freeman on ComputerAndVideoGames.com
- ↑ Half Life 2: Episode 3 found in the Alien Swarm SDK! on the Steam Users' Forums
- ↑ How Valve will change PS3 on ComputerAndVideoGames.com
- ↑ 'When is Half-Life 2: Episode 3 coming out?' 'What? Sorry, we can't hear you...' at News.com.au
- ↑ Valve Software 2011 Video Interview at AusGamers.com
- ↑ Newell: Valve to Replace Single-Player With "Single-Player Plus" at The Escapist
- ↑ The Valve manifesto at Develop
- ↑ When is Half-Life Episode 3 Coming? You Know the Answer at 1UP
- ↑ Fans picketing outside of Valve’s office for HL3 at Halflife2.net
- ↑ Day 2 of the Valve protest - Still holding strong. on Reddit
- ↑ What Did Gabe Newell Say to the Half-Life 3 Protesters? on Kotaku
- ↑ Half Life 2: Episode 3 Same Old Story at Attack of the Fanboy
- ↑ Chet Faliszek's reaction to the rumors and the ARG on the Steam Users' Forums
- ↑ Tweet on the T-shirt at Chandana Ekanayake's Twitter
- ↑ Half-Life 3 T-Shirt Confirmed, But That is All on Kotaku
- ↑ Valve voice actor working on "Half Life: Episode 3" at Xbox 360 - The Official Magazine
- ↑ STEAM HOLIDAY SALE - DAY FIVE at the Steam News
- ↑ Ellen gets nominated for a VGA award, Part 3: Into the belly of the beast. at John Patrick Lowrie's Blog
- ↑ Prediction: Half-Life 3 Will Be Unveiled in 2012 at IGN
- ↑ Aftermath: Invite Party -- 17,500 current members at "A Call for Communication (Half-Life)" on Steam
- ↑ 58.0 58.1 58.2
- ↑ Let's Play Half-Life 2! - Event at "A Call for Communication (Half-Life)" on Steam
- ↑ Official Gamescom Listing Outs Half-Life 3? on GameSpy
- ↑ List of Releases on Gamescon
- ↑ Half-Life 3: our first exclusive information! (rumor) from journaldugamer