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What Was Prospero, The Fantasy Game Valve Never Made?

The road not traveled is uninteresting to me when the road we are travelling is winding, densely populated and has no speed limit. (The road I’m talking about is videogames.) That didn’t stop me being intrigued to find out more about Prospero via the latest episode of Valve Time Database. Prospero was one of two game’s Valve were working on when the company was founded in 1996, and Valve Time Database is a series of short YouTube videos detailing elements of Valve’s universe of games.

Episode 3 contains previously unreleased screenshots of the never released game, along with quotes from Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw. I think the information is new, but either way it’s entertaining and embedded below.

When Valve was founded the company began work on two games, Prospero and Quiver. Quiver would eventually grow and change to become Half-Life, while Prospero seemed to disappear entirely. It was mentioned in Half-Life 2: Raising The Bar as a fantasy game inspired by Myst and Borges, but this is the first time that I’ve heard that it was third-person, or that it was set in a hub library through which you could access a database of player-created worlds.

It sounds in some ways, as the video touches on, like Steam Workshop: The Game. In fact, it seems like a lot of the ideas the game contained have been revived elsewhere, as recently as in Portal 2’s level creator and as significantly as the lambda symbol originating in this piece of Prospero, er, concept art.

There are Prospero screenshots over here, but it’s worth watching the above video for the quotes and details of what this thing could have been. The first episode of Valve Time Database, about headcrabs, is also good watching.

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Graham Smith

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