Wuh? Valve Had Arkane Working On ‘Episode 4′

By Craig Pearson on January 14th, 2013 at 10:00 am.

Are you here to give me a birthday hug, lovely zombie?
Did you know that Valve and Arkane were once such super best friends that Valve contracted the Dishonored studio to make one of their mythical Half-Life episodes? Funnily enough, I did. Everything I knew about Return To Ravenholm has now been revealed by those scamps at Valvetime, meaning the treasure trove of inside knowledge that I’ve kept for six years (told to me by candlelight) is now useless. I can only confirm the details below. Also, it’s my birthday, and I hope to spend it only positing fun stories. If anything bad happens, it won’t happen in my posts. Everyone fix a smile and join me. Smilier! SMILIER! Good.

Valvetime’s sleuths were passed some images and animation examples by a mysterious source, then fansite Lambda Generation the details confirmed (a year ago – this post is in Valve Time) by the less mysterious Marc Laidlaw, Valve’s lore master general. Return to Ravenholm was to be a standalone episode set between Episode 2 and Episode 3 that Arkane were working on as far back as 2006, and would bring the players back to the wrecked, zombified mining town. But those were also the reasons that the project was canned. According to Laidlaw: “As I recall, we felt like a lot of the staples of Ravenholm–headcrabs and zombies!–were pretty much played out, and the fact that it would have to take place sometime before the end of Episode 2 (so as not to advance beyond where Valve had pushed the story) was a creative constraint that would hamper the project… and Arkane.”

So all we’re left with is this video, that has a few pieces of concept art and animation examples.

I hope Arkane recover!

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87 Comments »

  1. Davie says:

    Well, this is causing conflicting emotions.

    One one hand, this will never see the light of day! Sadface!
    On the other, this technically counts as actual Half-Life news of some sort! Tentative yay!

  2. Noise says:

    I really need to let off some steam after reading this

    • F3ck says:

      …indeed, if it’s from a reliable Source.

      edit: I’m so sorry.

    • jimangi says:

      We’ve got to look at the Big Picture here. If Valve nearly gave the Greenlight on this what else have they got hidden in their Workshop?

    • Low Life says:

      This sounds interesting, but a non-Valve Half-Life game could’ve ricocheted quite badly.

      • roryok says:

        That was terrible. You totally just crowbarred that in there

        • Nemon says:

          Are you Raising the Bar with your comment?

          • rasatouche says:

            As a member of the community, I think this discussion is about to decay.

          • D-e-f- says:

            Yea, I guess puns like these have a very short half-life.

            (Sorry, I couldn’t not do it)

          • f4stjack says:

            Not to mention there may be Unforeseen Consequences…

          • Milos says:

            Whenever I notice how these comments don’t cascade properly after a certain number, it resonates with my inner pedant making me very annoyed.

          • Trillby says:

            I have to admit that Arkane seem’s a great team for trussing up a Half-Life episode.

        • Low Life says:

          It would seem that we’ve got hostiles in our pun thread :(

          • DarkFenix says:

            Indeed, instead of being so adversarial you should perhaps Combine your efforts.

      • zain3000 says:

        Ugh, that’s too bad. Arkane is a great studio and surely wouldn’t have made a black mess-outta this.

        • bravesirrobin says:

          If Valve doesn’t release some HL3 info soon, we might have to plan a Counter Strike.

  3. mkraven says:

    I guess this explains why they were laying so low for all those years after Dark Messiah… A cancelled project doesn’t help your image I guess. Arkane is a really capable studio. I’m still sad the Studio that pseudo-ported it to the consoles screwed it up so bad.

    • Teovald says:

      Arkane has also worked on the Crossing : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Crossing_(video_game) .
      Sadly this project has been cancelled as well. Too bad, it sounded very interesting.
      I hope that Dishonored’s good sales mean that Arkane will get funds more easily for their next project.

      • The Dark One says:

        The failure of The Crossing to wrap up was probably what lead to them selling themselves to Zenimax. Dishonoured’s sales ended up beating their expectations, so they’re probably safe in terms of funding, but they also might be stuck pumping out sequels now.

        • WoundedBum says:

          Hopefully it’ll get to the point where they are trusted with something other than Dishonored (even that was probably a fairly big risk) and get a bit more free reign.

        • f1x says:

          I wouldn’t mind a Dishonored 2, not at all!

          but yes, I do prefer that Arkane is given the chance to work on whatever they want, be it a new thing or a sequel

  4. Premium User Badge Lambchops says:

    Smile you say?

  5. Ian says:

    Not one “Happy Birthday Craig!” yet? You people are animals.

    Happy Birthday Craig!

  6. DestructibleEnvironments says:

    Wait, what happened to Episode 3? I never played anything after Half-Life 2.

  7. Nalum says:

    Happy Birthday, it is also mine. And I’m happy to see Half-Life news on it, even if it’s not really about a game that is in development and going to be released.

  8. mckertis says:

    “According to Laidlaw: “As I recall, we felt like a lot of the staples of Ravenholm–headcrabs and zombies!–were pretty much played out”

    All of HL2′s content was played out by the end of the original game, except for the non-story you’ve “written”, but that didnt stop you people to produce two episodes that didnt help anything except your undeservedly fat wallets. Seriously, i’ve never played HL2 Episodes, but just the other day watched LPs of both, and was like…why does this even exist ?

    • Toberoth says:

      Hahaha, my god, did Laidlaw run over your cat or something?

      • Kaira- says:

        He has a point, though. Episode 1 was so pointless it hurt. Episode 2 had a bit more to it, but not much.

        • Toberoth says:

          Well, I enjoyed them. They were fun. I thought that was the point?

          • Premium User Badge TheApologist says:

            Your not one of those people that plays games to “enjoy themselves” are you? How gauche.

          • Jahkaivah says:

            Yeah they were certainly fun, and honestly better than the original HL2. But that is kind of irrelevant, point is that Valve felt headcrab zombies were played out, when the same thing is easily said about everything in Half Life 2.

            Honestly I think Valve would have said the same thing if it was a Half Life 2 game focused on the Combine or Seesaw Puzzles. It is one of the main reasons Episode 3 has taken a long time which is that Valve want to do something new for the next Half Life game, possibly looking for something to reinvent the series the same way the Gravity Gun did.

      • mckertis says:

        Well, if you happen to openly boast (like Laidlaw did) about how many pages you have in your script and how many lines of dialogue you will have in your game – you better fucking have some results to show. Yes, i know, i know, the game was cut down substantially, but that is no excuse for the story to end up like it did.

    • Kefren says:

      The problem is, HL2 wraps up without explaining everything or having a satisfactory conclusion. I was left wit unanswered questions which I’d have got answers to if I had a character who wasn’t a mute. I was really really disappointed by the game ending (as I was with Crysis), just leaving me feeling it was incomplete and a lot of build up to disappointment. It’s one of the reasons why I prefer Half Life 1.

      • Lukasz says:


        and HL1 ended up with ending which explained everything?

        • Kefren says:

          It felt like it to me. I survived an outbreak of aliens and killed the apparent mastermind behind it, which seemed to have been sending forces against us. The rest of the world was normal, I was congratulated, and hired by a mysterious Man In Black. It felt well rounded. Whereas with HL2 I had no idea – for the whole game! – whether this was a planet-wide disaster or just located in one area; I had no idea where I was (looked like Eastern Europe, people spoke American); I had no idea what had happened – and at the end of the game all of that still applied. Also I fought someone who was obviously not the ultimate enemy, yet the game just ended there. It felt unsatisfying and confusing to me.

    • Brigand says:

      Personally, I found HL2 to be quite tedious and Episode 1 and 2 to be a lot more fun. I don’t really care for the story though, except for those little E.T. guys but was Episode 1 just tacked on? I can’t remember the ending of HL2, something to do with a massive explosion at the top of a tower after running around with a gravity glove thing that removed any challenging element to it at all.

      • somnolentsurfer says:

        I loved the end of HL2. Finally feeling uber powerful, and just getting the freedom run around blasting rag dolls all over the place. What a payoff.

      • fish99 says:

        Personally I found ep1 kinda dull and just a remix of stuff from HL2. EP2 had a lot more variety.

    • f1x says:

      I enjoyed everything HL2 related, EP1, EP2, etc

      but I dont know if it would stand so good if I played it again right now…

    • Lemming says:

      ” but that didn’t stop you people to produce two episodes that didn’t help anything except your undeservedly fat wallets. Seriously, i’ve never played HL2 Episodes…”

      OPINION FAIL.

  9. Jarenth says:

    Wait, stop, hold the phone. A “standalone episode set between Episode 2 and Episode 3“? That’s… that’s not how numbers work. I don’t even… what would that make it? Episode 2.1? Episode (2+3)/2? Episode Q?

    • zeroskill says:

      It has been known for a pretty long time that Arcane and Valve used to work on projects together. It’s unfortunate that some of these projects (The Crossing which looked promising, and Return to Ravenholm) never have seen the light of day. Also, Viktor Antonov who basically designed City 17 and used to work for Valve, has joined Arcane (after he is believed to have finished his concept work on the next Half-life installment now) to help design Dishonored.

      The news here though seem to be the never before seen sceenshots, and animations, really.

    • chargen says:

      Looks like it was a forum rumor from last January, based on a video that was quickly pulled.

      • Low Life says:

        Except that the Marc Laidlaw quotes date back to those articles.

  10. Jason Moyer says:

    I’m pretty sure even Arkane would have a hard time making a Half-Life game that’s moderately interactive or interesting.

    • wu wei says:

      Does anyone make “I Hate Your Favourite Video Game” t-shirts? They could make a killing advertising on here.

    • EPICTHEFAIL says:

      What the hell happened to the community here, did someone piss into your coffees or something? I know the Hive Mind normally feels hatred that would render a Dalek catatonic, but this is ridiculous even by those standards.

      • zeroskill says:

        “What the hell happened to the community here”

        I’ve been wondering about that myself. It’s getting worse by the hour.

        • Premium User Badge TheApologist says:

          Yep – this is the most pointlessly angry thread I’ve ever seen on RPS.

          I can understand people feeling like Half-life 2 and its episodes weren’t quite their cup of tea, but the bile in comments here are just hilariously overstated.

          • Kollega says:

            People tend to get angry when they are promised something that fails to materialize. Even with the excuse of “it’s their franchise, they can do whatever they want”, Valve aren’t doing a bang-up job of keeping their promises.

          • zeroskill says:

            I actually think it’s much simpler then that. I don’t think anybody is angry about Half-life 2 Episode 3. I think the root of this problem can be found in fanboy’ism, and the general bile against Valve success and the way their are being look at by their fans and, generally, how well they are doing.

            Some people just can’t take that.

            I come to this conclusion since it’s always the same people throwing dirt at this company, at the slightest chance. It’s no coincidence.

  11. Mario Figueiredo says:

    The recent update to Half-Life 2 on Steam introduces a new Developer Commentary on Half Life 2: Lost Coast. It’s after you destroy the gunship and go down to the end of the game.

    In that Developer Commentary, Gabe Newell speaks of Episode 3 and how they plan to make that Half-Life 3.

  12. jalf says:

    Did people actually like Ravenholm? I always felt it was one of the weakest parts of HL2. It was an interesting enough area initially, but I thoughti t outstayed its welcome pretty quickly, and I definitely didn’t want *more* of it.

    • RobF says:

      No, it’s always been the least interesting part of Half Life 2 for me. Even more so than the “long way round” that is a lot of Episode 1′s design.

      The approach is wonderful, I *love* the dash into Ravenholm through the shells and devastation but once you get there, it’s too game designer’s hard-on for my tastes. It’s like the curtain comes down and you can see the wizard pulling the strings for a few minutes and you’re just there for the physics engine to be shown off and where were we again? Oh yeah, aaaand back we go…

    • Lemming says:

      I liked it, but it was exactly the right length in the right place. I couldn’t have stood more of it. It’s a great little horror interlude. Half-Life 2 is full of moments like that where it changes into different game-types as you progress. An entire episode of that would’ve been just annoying.

      Amassing an Ant-Lion army and the open-road exploring of the buggy levels are probably my favourite parts.

    • fish99 says:

      Ravenholm didn’t really fit with the rest of the game IMO. Suddenly from sci-fi / resistance-fighting type stuff it went into spooky horror. Didn’t really work for me. It’s thankfully short it you replay it now.

      It was the first time you got to go nuts with the gravity gun, which was fun.

    • Doomsayer says:

      Gravity Gun + Shotgun. All the zombies. What’s not to love?

  13. Monkeh says:

    I love Arkane Studios and Half-Life, so wouldn’t have mind seeing this released.
    On the other hand, if they figured it wasn’t worth pursuing, I guess I’ll have to respect that decision.

    EDIT: Yes, I really quite enjoyed Ravenholm.
    And happy birthday mr. Pearson!

  14. Armante says:

    1) Happy Birthday!

    2) Personally, I’m glad there wasn’t more Ravenholm. Not my favourite part of HL2.

    3) Not continueing the story line as set by Ep 1 and 2 would have made it fairly pointless to me.

    4) One of these days, we will get news of HL3. Hopefully, it will be a good game. Ideally, it will be in my lifetime..

    5) Awww, what a cute little headcrab, playing with a rock! C’mon, no-one else noticed that? Now I understand why Dr Kleiner had one :)