Everyone knows the story of Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Lacking a diktat from on high, folks and teams within Valve have never quite found the inspiration, momentum, or cohesion for another Half-Life, so attempts have faltered and they, y’know, haven’t made it. Everyone knows that. It’s knowledge as common as cleaning windows with white vinegar and newspaper. And yet! You — you there — are still harping on about it and cracking those same awful “Half-Life 3 confirmed???” jokes. Go play something else. There are loads of great games! Go for a walk. Go for a swim. Go swallow needles for all I care! Or, fine, read this Game Informer bit which explains, using an unverified source, what everyone knows. Then please shut up about it.
Andrew Reiner explains that he contacted loads of current and former Valvefolk, trying to find out anything he could about ‘Half-Life 3’ for a piece on Valve’s inner workings. Almost everyone he asked was silent or turned him down, all bar one person who spoke with him for half an hour on condition of anonymity. Then the wall of silence meant he couldn’t confirm it, and he wasn’t happy building upon unverified information. A sound decision! But, with appropriate disclaimers, he has now shared some of what he heard and maybe this will make you stop.
Due to Valve’s buckets of money and weird flat-ish-but-not-really structure, a new Half-Life is an option rather than a requirement. That’s not to say no one has been working on a new Half-Life. Reiner explains:
“I know at various times there have been different groups of people that have started things that they hoped and imagined would be Half-Life 3. I know over the years some of those things have had different degrees of awareness and involvement, whether it’s the inclusion of senior or principle members of Valve, including Gabe Newell. There are also efforts that other people may not have known were going on. All of them are actual, valid things that are happening inside of the walls of Valve. To pick one thing and say, this was absolutely Half-Life 3, or this is Half-Life 3, that’s hard to do given the nature of how Valve works.”
“I’ve heard that some teams have had two to three people working on it, and they eventually ran into a wall, and some teams may have gotten up to 30 or 40 people before it was scrapped.”
“You have people that were working on Half-Life, people that finished Half-Life: Episode 2, that already imagined where they wanted to go next – they were cooking, and wanted to keep the wheel spinning. You also have a body of influencers and decision makers. When I say decision makers, Gabe is probably the king of that group. When he proclaims where the wind blows, it just blows that way. If you fight it for too long, you are going to find yourself either out or executed or just exiled. It’s really a weird climate for them.”
“Some people – I don’t want to name names – were excited about their projects. They’ve had some different thoughts about what it should be. Some are all over the place, from one end of the spectrum being what you would expect – a single-player narrative-focused game – to completely different entertainment ideas that are as wild as they are weird. They were thinking about using the Half-Life characters as a brand for entirely different purposes. Some were bizarre, like turning Half-Life into an RTS, or a live-action, choice-driven game. These things have been contemplated by people, but were never being considered by the whole of Valve as “Yeah, that was the plan.” The nature of Valve is there aren’t plans like that. That’s not how Valve operates. Ideas come from the passion and drive of the individuals within the company’s walls.”
All of which amounts to what we’ve known forever: Valve will release a new Half-Life when they’re happy with what they make. That’s great! If they’re not happy with it, they won’t release it. That’s also great! Aren’t your precious memories glad Valve didn’t release a wonky live-action game?
Should Episode 3 (or Half-Life 3, whatever) happen, whatever it might be, I’m sure it’ll be mighty special if it manages to overcome inertia and unite Valve. I am excited about the prospect of playing such a game. But mercy me, I’ll not go on about it and keep making those same tired jokes. There is so much else to enjoy in the world! And your jokes are shit.