Are Valve Working On Something Horrible?

By Quintin Smith on March 23rd, 2011 at 11:02 am.

It's kind of like somebody guessing what Alec's mum might look like.

This is quite the thing. PC Gamer has caught sight of a photo posted by Team Fortress 2 community member Political Gamer on his recent visit to Valve’s offices, which he writes about on the Steam forums here. Most of the images in the thread are idle photography, but one of them- which you’ll see in full after the jump- is a wall of sci-fi looking concept art showing space-ships and whole load of headshots of people who might best be described as “incorrect”. My unstoppable speculation follows…

Click for bigger!

In their own coverage of the story Big Download point out that later in the thread Political Gamer claims that these sketches are “just some art done by people at Valve”, a strange sentence where the word “just” has no place whatsoever. The above wall is hundreds of man hours of work! Surely it must have been put together with a game in mind. If you really wanted to downplay the importance of it you could speculate that it showed art belonging to an abandoned project, but that’s no fun whatsoever.

Instead, let’s assume that this is all concept art for a game they’re working on right now. Here’s my guess as to what that game might be.

Here’s your protagonist, Lick Powder, Intergalactic genius. Powder travels from star system to star system, in his trusty ship the U.G.V. Monstrous Monstrous-

- on a quest to find and kill the elusive Miss. Joanna D’Forehead -

What did D’Forehead ever do to wrong Lick Powder so grievously? Nobody knows. But one thing is certain- these two unimaginable intellects are drawn to one another like two black holes caught in one another’s orbit.

The game will be divided into two parts, the first being a free-roaming space exploration, Freelancer-type deal, with Lick Powder pulling off various daring heists and feats of heartless blackmail to fund his continued search, and sections of FPS combat as Lick Powder uses a nanofibre whip of his own design to rip through destructible environments towards targets that might provide information and profit. The whip will also function as a grappling hook.

But Powder’s not the only one doing the pursuing! No. In a nod to Jeff Lint, a sinister group of exclusively female space pirates known as The Ladies Of The Belly hunt Powder relentlessly, seeking payback for Lint’s daring robbery of Mother Belly, which will be explained in a series of flashbacks that play – in reverse – during the game’s loading screens.

I should probably go and do some actual work now, but I reckon you guys should pick apart the rest of the art on that wall an explain what role those characters and ships play in the game.

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125 Comments »

  1. diebroken says:

    Episode 3! No wait…(?!)

    • Ricc says:

      The guy next to the space ships, with the thing legs, looks like a Stalker. :P

    • Pop says:

      Could be! I’ve been furiously replaying HL2 and its episodes in the vain hope that it would spure Valve into some kind of action.

      Could be the transhumans you have to deal with?

      However… I have now gone into post-excitement with Episode 3. I’ve staggered from desperate waiting into apathy, where the agony of waiting can no longer be felt. I now doubt Valve will ever release it – I mean how can they possibly make that story line resolve in any kind of sensible manner?!

    • konrad_ha says:

      What I fear most is that cancer or an accident will strike me down before Episode 3 is ever released. I could never go in peace with the storyline of Half Live unresolved.

    • Xercies says:

      I’m sure if your nice enough God would tell you the ending

    • Pop says:

      @konrad_ha “Half live”? Do you know something we don’t? Is that a subtle hint at an upcoming F2P browser based Half-life?

      Could that be the very reason the Black Mesa Mod seems so dead? Is portal 2 release actually episode 3? Did Valve kill JFK?!

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      It’s their new collaboration Games for Windows Half-Live.

    • Andrei Sebastian says:

      It’s totally Counter-Strike 2.

      Because, you know, that’s exactly what the gaming medium needs most at this point.

    • surv1vor says:

      Nah, it’s Richochet 2.

    • apa says:

      This is a bit like those catholics who see jesus in everything ;)

  2. sbs says:

    wooo! speculation!

  3. Arglebargle says:

    For all we know it could be work from contestants for a ‘Warp that Image!’ contest that wins the artist a free pizza.

    Or it could be test work from their secret project “Space Aliens Stole my Baby!”

  4. Caddrel says:

    For some reason I really love the idea of “unstoppable speculation”.

  5. Premium User Badge

    dartt says:

    Nailed it.

  6. Nighthood says:

    A lot of people are theorising it could be related to that cancelled Spielberg game, what with the style of the pictures and shapes of their heads and things.

    Still, if Valve make a game set in the far-future I will be the happiest person alive. Maybe they’d even do an RPG! That would be something.

    • Mike says:

      This is significant because Doug Church was apparently involved on the project. Cue speculation that his recent hire brought on this art.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      That’s mad as hats. Project LMNO was a near-contemporary game featuring a single alien with a big forehead, no? And this is a sci-fi game with spaceships where everybody seems warped in some way. The only link is literally big foreheads.

    • Alex Bakke says:

      Also, comparing the picture of evolvo-girl here: http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/2010/11/05/footage-info-on-spielbergs-cancelled-game/ , the proportions are too different. Evolvo-girl looks like an egg, but everyone here looks like their head’s exploded from the inside but their skulls are too tough for it to show.

    • Nighthood says:

      I’m not saying that’s what it really is, just that some people are theorising that.

      Personally, I’d say it’s more of a very-cyberpunk, very far-future thing, with human genetic mutation/augmentation.

      Other conspiracy theories are that Valve actually wanted him to take a picture of that art, to increase speculation and start an ARG. Not so sure about that though.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      The only link is literally big foreheads.

    • Quintin Smith says:

      Haha. That would be amazing.

    • Tei says:

      The world need more of what Avatar did. Pretty aliens. Cameron accidentally found a diamond mine, seems.
      Is like Pretty Woman, Dirty Dancing and E.T. in a single package.

      post data:
      I am not writting this, and you are not reading this.

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      Lars Westergren says:

      Found this on Reddit.
      http://i54.tinypic.com/2q9vypt.png

      Possible, but not certain. It’s hardly a unique design.

    • sexyresults says:

      similar, but not conclusive

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      TheApologist says:

      Hats can be perfectly sensible.

    • Urthman says:

      Hasn’t anyone digitized the pictures and run them through audio recognition software to look for hidden radio messages?

    • jeremypeel says:

      Also, EA project made into a Valve game? Take Blizzard’s angry staring into account and they’d be fighting a staring contest on two fronts!

    • YanDaik says:

      “Maybe they’d even do an RPG!”
      NO! PLEASE! NOOO! I beg you.

  7. Alex Bakke says:

    Hmm – Joanna D’Forehead reminds me of the evolved human from Spielberg’s cancelled game.

  8. Stephen Roberts says:

    I like Valve’s approach to design. Those spaceships have moteefs (motives?) throughout that mean they could easily be translated into guns or armour or whatever. A bit like the combine gun shape is similar to the train shape. Geometry!

  9. DanPryce says:

    Fart Cops seems to be coming along nicely then.

    • chargen says:

      I was yawning while I read this, so my chuckle came out as big goofy *chirp* and now everybody at work is staring at me and now I have to keep typing and clearing my throat and hoping no one else asks “who the hell was that? what the hell was that?” while I try to play that off as some kind of “singing cough” that I just came down with.

  10. Javier-de-Ass says:

    oh good more urban douchebag designs. need more of those in games.

  11. InterstellaUK says:

    Can I just say, I REALLY want to play Quinns’ game!

  12. Kaira- says:

    I believe they are designing new Alien mothership-styled hats for the deformed heads of TF2-warriors.

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    KingKrapp says:

    I’m getting a rather Pathologic-y vibe from some of those pictures, especially that blue-danny-devito-with-a-fantastic-collar fellow when compared to this.

  14. Leelad says:

    People mutated after being stored in aperture for too long?

    Saw this on facepunch though. The whole lot is well worth a read/look.

  15. Tei says:

    This is probably just testing ideas for new “franchises”.
    Why are we seeing this thing? normally this things are secret.

    I would play any game with these graphics. Have some high-quality science-fiction quality with it. So whatever whas these draws for, is nice work.
    Other than that, I can dream of a Portal game in the future, where GlaDOS has created a demented giganteous worldwide city, and humans are subject of all type of experiments. Somewhat like the BLAME episodes. But …oh well.. I am a fanboy. Probably it would be even more awesome if his really new, and not a continuation of anything already existing.

    • wu wei says:

      They made an anime of BLAME!? Fantastic, thank you :D

      Tsutomu Nihei’s artwork is fantastic but I never have any idea what is going on storywise…

  16. mcwill says:

    Reminds me really strongly of the hybrids from X-COM: Apocalypse.

  17. Valvarexart says:

    As if this isn’t an intended viral leak… Someone at a respected magazine like PCGamer would never do that without permission from Valve, and Valve would CERTAINLY not be happy about it…

    • sexyresults says:

      They grabbed it from the steam forums. They likely shot an email to valve about it, but I’m sure they didn’t need their consent.

  18. Kadayi says:

    The guy at the bottom of the left hand section looks a tad like Doug Lombardi tbh (in a caricature type way). Still defintely does look like a new IP and that in itself is no bad thing.

  19. Bodminzer says:

    Every single fucking bit of idle speculation here is going to resurface on forums as “Pretty sure I heard Valve confirm this at some point though I can’t find anything on it at the moment.” in like, 2 months.

  20. Giant, fussy whingebag says:

    I rather think those might be oversized, sci-fi guns rather than ships… at least some of them.

    Also, as with some others, it made me think of the cancelled Spielburg/Doug Church thing, but I guess it’s just a “People have strange heads” connection along with the recent news of Church’s move to Valve…

    EDIT: Although… the art in the very centre of the photo is particularly reminiscent of evolvo-girl. Obviously not identical, but trying different variations is part of the point of concept art, no?

  21. Valvarexart says:

    Jay Pinkerton? Hmm. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jay_Pinkerton

  22. N'Al says:

    They’re just designing the new Aphex Twin album cover, is all.

  23. Curvespace says:

    Someone’s got a ‘thing’ for Kate Moss, that’s all.

  24. westyfield says:

    The people are what we’ll have evolved into by the time Episode 3 comes out.

  25. AbyssUK says:

    Rumour has it that this is just a picture of the RPS meetup in London

  26. Shazbut says:

    This game is not a patch on the original Half Life. I, for one, have been most disappointed in Valve’s decline in quality. D’Forehead is quite funny though, but not as good as Glados.

    In general, it starts well, then gets boring towards the middle, then gets better towards the end but not to the same level as the beginning.

    EDIT: – Actually this would work better for any company other than Valve

  27. MadTinkerer says:

    Just because Valve have some concept art, that does not mean it’s actually in development. Without some kind of in-engine screens or at least some models it’s more likely to be:

    1) Not greenlighted yet. If so, we probably won’t hear anything official for at least two years.

    2) Very recently greenlighted, still high likelyhood of being cancelled and/or shelved long-term. TF2 was once mentioned in the same breath as Duke Nukem Forever, and we’re still making “Episode 3″ jokes.

    3) Already turned down, and the artists are busy archiving their work for the next Raising The Bar Artbook which will feature the art and basic premise of the game and why they felt it wouldn’t work out.

    After Portal 2, DOTA 2 is what Valve are intending to release next and we haven’t even seen anything beyond concept art of that. That’s for a game they plan to release this year, pending Valve Time. Plus there’s Counterstrike 2, which has been leaked that it’s being worked on but we’ve seen even less of that.

    All that said, I’m sure Valve do intend to bring out some new IP eventually, and this game may be one they’re seriously considering. But it’s going to be a looooong time before we find out for sure.

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      HermitUK says:

      This is Counter Strike 2. It now takes place in space. With aliens. And laser guns. And hats.

  28. wsmieszek says:

    Some of these spaceship resemble guns as well.

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    VelvetFistIronGlove says:

    SPACE[ship]WHALES!

  30. Jonathan says:

    But Pinkerton’s a writer.

  31. Ubernutz says:

    Theoretically. A large video game company, could have their artists put together some really cool art work – just ask them to make something they want to. And then they could leak the pictures, and watch what happened. A couple of days, and an incredible amount of speculation later, they’ve got a mound of new game ideas detailing what people do and do not want. Conspiracy ahoy!

  32. Mr_Hands says:

    Just gotta say. I’m happy it’s (probably) not Episode 3.

  33. markcocjin says:

    This will all be found on Half-Life 2: Episode 3 on its way to Half-Life 3.

    The Combine Advisors are just brain carriers that move about via psychokinetic energy. The actual Combine themselves are descendants of humans who travel to the past which is our present scouring the universe for organisms to weaponize. The threat is an actual alien species to our galaxy of which their arrival spells certain demise of all life as we know it.

    Or it could be about the sci-fi noire game Fart Cops.

  34. itsallcrap says:

    Do you RPS types knowingly use ‘quite the thing’ wrongly?

    I can see how the utterly vague wording makes it an amusing idiom, but surely it means fashionable rather than remarkable…

    • kael13 says:

      I was about to lambaste you for being such an uncouth American, but I believe you might be correct.

    • Premium User Badge

      Saul says:

      Language evolves. I can’t even get my head around it meaning “fashionable”, as it’s not an expression anyone ever uses down my way. I’ve picked up the RPS usage, and it does nicely.

    • itsallcrap says:

      I am, at worst, an uncouth Englishman.

      That said, they do know more about the correct use of English than most of us (listen to John’s Rum Doings podcast if you’re in any doubt about that one) and they do use that phrase incessantly, so I’m inclined to believe it’s a deliberate part of some in-joke of which they are amused to leave us ignorant.

    • Koozer says:

      I have never heard or read of the phrase being used to mean “fashionable,” but plenty of times to mean “remarkable.” As we all know, anecdotal evidence is the best kind of evidence.

    • itsallcrap says:

      Since my last post I’ve been trying to cite a reference, but practically all of them seem to be American.
      The wily former colonials certainly seem to agree with me, but the only definition I can find from a British source is around half way down this page:

      http://www.oxfordadvancedlearnersdictionary.com/dictionary/thing

      … and that appears to agree with neither me nor the Hivemind. The obvious means of settling the issue is a fight to the death, but since they’re all impractically far away it will need to be by post.

    • FRIENDLYUNIT says:

      So if I say something is “the shit” your head is going to *completely explode*?

    • itsallcrap says:

      Nnng. No. I’m not trying to enforce rules. I was just asking whether it was deliberate. This has gone on far too long and I never got a useful answer anyway. Sigh.

  35. Premium User Badge

    mickiscoole says:

    What if it isn’t concept art at all?

    We know that valve are doing experiments with focus testers getting biometric data by putting probes on people, what if these are photos of some of their more extreme focus testing experiments that have had horrible consequences?

  36. Ultra Superior says:

    It looks like a submarine rather than spaceship.

  37. edit says:

    It really does seem more likely to be ‘some art on a wall’.

    This talk has got me craving some new Valve IP. Would love to see their take on an open world RPG in an original universe.

    • Marcin says:

      This.

      Any creative studio, be it gaming or otherwise, is going to have some type of concept art on the wall, and it can be a concept for anything. Our wall at GG was full of art for 4? potential projects, none of which saw the light of day – but some of it was repurposed elsewhere.

      So yeah, it’s just some art.

  38. Premium User Badge

    Monchberter says:

    Am I the only one here thinking this tranche of art looks rather generic?

    Like a more kooky Mass Effect?

    High sci-fi is a very hard genre to do with any originality.

    My thoughts are that this a a far flung future game, hence additional evolution and weirder looking humans / post humans. Expect telepathy, huge lasers, space pirates but no actual aliens.

  39. clownst0pper says:

    What if Episode 3 is set on the Combine home planet and doesn’t involve Gordon? Or is set in an alternative City 17 hundreds of years in the future?

  40. Clean3d says:

    I was planning on finding the personal art blogs of some Valve employees, certain that at least a FEW of these artworks would show up. That would prove (at least to me) that they really are just personal pieces that got hung up inside the office.

    Unfortunately, Valve employees seem to be a focused lot, in that they don’t seem to spend their time on fancy websites where they post their artwork. -_-

    At any rate, at least one of those spaceships is done by Peter König.
    http://peterkonigart.com/

    You must now raise your conspiracy theories up a notch.

  41. Premium User Badge

    The Sombrero Kid says:

    I’m more focused on 2 black holes caught in each others orbit, the way i see it, either one is inside the others event horizon & they’d be instantly merged, or they’d be outside each others event horizon & the gravitational impact would be insanely negligible.

    That leads me to conclude that Quinns must be talking about the former as opposed to the latter, any thoughts?

  42. VarianTemplar says:

    Niven’s Ringworld.

  43. BarerRudeROC says:

    HOLY MOLY COULD THIS BE SYSTEM SHOCK 3?

    • rpsbot says:

      SYSTEM SHOCK 3 – YESSSSSSSS. Only Valve can handle a franchise this hardcore, now that Irrational has dropped the ball.

  44. Soon says:

    Jay Pinkerton is an anagram of “Ninja Yet Pork”. Therefore it’s Valve’s take on Super Meatboy. You’ll play a ninja, yet one who is made of pork. The people look strange as they are sausages squeezed vaguely into shape with a face drawn on. They fly spaceships.

  45. propjoe says:

    I’m not usually one for conspiracy theories, but I have to say: look at all of his pictures. One of these things is not like the other. All of the pictures are fuzzy, largely overexposed shots of models from already-released games, or Valve’s many trophies – except this one. This one is clear, crisp, and of something we’ve never seen before. There isn’t even a Valve employee in any of the shots, save for Gabe. I have to go with the “Valve planted it/let him have it for a reason” theory.

  46. BobsLawnService says:

    I seem to recall a while ago arstechnica had a tour of Blizzard’s offices and they also had framed art on their walls drawn by in-house artists. Sometimes you have to tell artists to just go nuts and create something unique and individual to allow them to express their creativity. Contrary to popular belief most game artists create their assets according to very strict guidelines set by the art directors and it can be quite a restrictive environment.

    Also, how is “just” out of place there.

  47. thegreatcaligula says:

    Valve, I love you, but please work on HL2: Ep3. Your killing me.

    • Vinraith says:

      I sincerely don’t understand their lack of interest in finishing the Episode trilogy. It’d make them a fortune, presumably they’ve known what they wanted to do with it since Ep2, they’ve already got the engine, what on Earth is the hold up?

    • Nick says:

      blue balling us after a cliffhanger is quite annoying too.

  48. godgoo says:

    occupation: speculation

  49. Howl says:

    Oh, now that is a wall-full of Clive Barker-born wrong’uns. I would pay damned good money for a next-gen MMORPG by Valve penned/painted by Barker.