Er… so Half-Life’s writer maybe just revealed the complete plot of HL2: Episode 3

hl3

The lesson here is “never go to sleep.” All sorts of things happen while people sleep. Cats go on adventures, presidents threaten nuclear war and, well, ex-Valve writers post thinly-disguised plot summaries of the unreleased and, so far as best guesses go, long-cancelled Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Long time Half-Life scribe, the excellent Marc Laidlaw (who left Valve last year), casually tossed out a link to his website last night, which led to a short story about Gertie Fremont, Alex Vaunt and their climactic battle against evil alien invaders the Disparate. (The site’s having a wobble, but the page is archived right here).

While that might sound like satirical tomfoolery, the actual story very much sounds like how the final chapter of Half-Life 3 could have played out. It involves time-travelling cruise liners, resurrected overlords, the heart of the Combine and the fate of one Doctor Gordon Freeman.

This is really happening.

First things first: until Mister Laidlaw breaks cover with full context for this tale and what, if any, links it has or had to Half-Life 2: Episode 3’s development, there’s no way of knowing if this is the shape game would have taken (or will yet take, haha). For now, he persists with the line that his revelations are nothing more than “a genderswapped snapshot of a dream I had many years ago”.

This might imply all this ever was is draft plot summaries, merely a glimpse of scribbles from the writer’s notebook rather than the totality of Valve’s vision for a never-was game. But, in the near-complete vacuum of Half-Life news over the past decade, this is as real a deal as we’ve ever got, and may ever get.

I strongly encourage you to read the story itself rather than rely on my summary below: there’s far more detail, other character’s fates are revealed, it’ll only take ten minutes, and the entertainingly Poe/Lovecraft-esque writing style (i.e. a first person letter about monstrous events, penned in a Victorian tone) is most agreeable in itself. As noted above, most of the characters have been genderswapped – Gordon is Gertrude, Alex is… well, Alex, but a male Alex, we get Wanda Breen and sinister grey figure Mrs. X.

As long-suspected to be the case, the tale centres about a great lost ship, the Borealis (here named the Hyperborea), stranded in the Arctic (or Antarctic, depending on which version you go with) and which contains something of potentially critical importance to the human-Combine war.

bor

Spoilers for the theoretical and unconfirmed plot of the theoretical and unconfirmed Half-Life 2: Episode 3 now follow.

In short, the ship contains a device, created by scientists before the Combine invasion, that enables it to traverse space in an instant. However, it also possesses some manner of time-jumping prowess, which a) means the ship flickers in and out of existence, thus making the act of boarding it complicated for Gertude and chums and b) once they do board it, they are treated to visions of other times and places – including the Seven Hour War Nine Hour Armageddon and an immense Combine Disparate staging ground, somewhere off in deep space.

With the ultimate assistance of a resurrected backup of the mind of, er, Wanda Breen, now housed in the sluglike form of a Disparate overlord and who reveals that they were more of a prisoner than they previously admitted too, Gretrude and Vaunt take control of the Hyperborea and eventually come to the realisation and decision that they can steer it right into said staging ground, thus delaying – or perhaps even ending – the Disparate’s ongoing invasion of worlds, and hopefully opening the way to Earth’s salvation.

Our heroes seem set to perish in the impending explosion, but “sneering trickster” Mrs. X – gee, not a man? – appears at almost the last moment. But, rather than absconding with Gertrude, as per previous form, she whisks Alex off to either safety or servitude and leaves Fremont to her fate. In perhaps the single most intriguing detail here, it’s also revealed that Alex previously met the not-G not-man when a child. Spooks!

Is this the end for Gertrude Fremont?

No, because those other space-bending mysteries, the ‘Ghastlyhaunts’, appear at the last moment and teleport Gertrude to some unknown safety – though not before she realises that the sheer scale of the Disparate world means it is unlikely to be much affected by the weaponised Hyperborea.

But what of Alex, spirited away by Mrs. X to who only knows where? It sounds as though there may have been new adventures there. Or could the Ghastlyhaunts have seen Gertrude eventually reunited with him?

Is this it? Is this really how it ends? Will the great silence now fall, for many more years again, or even forever? It should be noted that there is no small amount of apparent subtext about HL2:E3’s development in the tale’s final paragraph:

“Enough time has passed that few remember me, or what I was saying when last I spoke, or what precisely we hoped to accomplish. At this point, the resistance will have failed or succeeded, no thanks to me. Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Except no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final epistle.”

Might this imply that the studio lost sight of the project, that too many of the development team have moved on (or been moved off), but also that there may be someone within Valve who fight for more Half-Life despite its apparent abandonment? In any case, it would seem that this is the last thing Laidlaw intends to say about the Half-Life 2: Episode 3 that might, and should, have been.

After this, can we be at peace? Or will this just re-awaken old hungers? Thank you, in any case, for trying to calm our long-held worries, Mister Laidlaw.

99 Comments

  1. dangermouse76 says:

    Just finished reading it myself. Sounds epic actually.
    Is this really it over ?
    I dont know what to think. I thought I didn’t care if they ever finished it as it has been so long, but seeing this sketch of a plot.

    Not like this Valve, not like this.

    A fan mod will be in the works as we speak. Maybe there I can find the closure I didn’t realise I wanted.

    • dangermouse76 says:

      This does also seem to go for the we are all pawns in other peoples ( aliens ) games.The futility of life on a cosmic scale, do we have any free will – ah Freeman, ironic.
      Do we fight for ourselves or are we always fighting for others in the end.

      It looks like the actual final paragraph refers to Valve and what he feels has changed within the company. If I’m reading into that correctly.

      “Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final episode.”

    • RobinOttens says:

      Sounds like an excellent project for the Black Mesa Source team once they finish with Xen.

      Dunno, reading Laidlaw’s summary gave me enough closure to just let it rest. But it would be nice if someone picked this up some day, be it Valve or someone else, and made a proper game out of it.

    • tenseiga says:

      That’s exactly how I felt too. Years of memes and HL3 CONFIRMED jokes. But reading that spiel made me ache for what could have been. A very bittersweet Friday afternoon read for me.

  2. Oakreef says:

    WTF Alyx you shot the best character.

  3. Doomsayer says:

    So looks like Half-Life was permanently canned ages ago, just as we all feared. What I want to know is how Valve convinced itself to give up on the series.

    • G says:

      If what they wanted was for each game to be a meaningful step forward*, from that description it sounds like the most important bit was the time bending. Perhaps they never got that to work in a way that they were happy with.

      * Please ignore Episode 1

      • RobinOttens says:

        Yea that’s what I thought.

        The rest of the summary doesn’t contain any unexpected or any especially interesting developments, it all flows pretty logically from HL2’s story and what HL2 did gameplay-wise it sounds like.

        But the time shenanigans aboard the uh, Hyperborea, sound like it would have taken a lot of effort to pull off. Because knowing Valve they’d have wanted to do more than just scripted spectacle and actually pull some interesting puzzles, mechanics and dynamic encounters out of it.

        Valve could have pulled it off though. I’ll never understand why exactly they didn’t just finish their story. Well, loot crates and collectible pixels I guess…

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          MajorLag says:

          ‘A delayed game is eventually good, a bad game is bad forever.’ -Shigeru Miyamoto

          Let’s be honest: The Half-Life series was getting dull. Half-Life was a masterpiece that revolutionized the genre, Half-Life 2 gave us a spectacular engine and the gravity gun, Episodes One and Two… existed. Sure, they could have just finished the plot, but then the story of Half-Life would always be that the last few games were uninteresting entries meant only to satisfy some fans’ desire to see the narrative completed.

          I think Valve doesn’t want to do that, they want the next Half-Life to be as highly regarded and revolutionary as it was when they made the first one. Unfortunately for them, it’s been hyped so much by now that it would be virtually impossible to put out anything that could even remotely live up to it.

          I think our best bet for ever seeing an HL3 (or even an HL2:E3) is that Valve comes up with some mind blowing way of making it work in VR such that the entire platform is forever justified and leaves no doubt that it is the future of gaming. That’s a tall order, so I wouldn’t hold my breath.

          • Unclepauly says:

            Kiss your mother with that mouth?!

          • LexW1 says:

            I’m no Half-Life worshipper and have a ton of criticisms of HL2 (particularly in it’s profound failure to innovate in the FPS genre – unlike, say, the two-year-earlier Far Cry), but “a bad game is a bad game forever”? Seriously? How about more like “A good-but-not-truly-great game is a good-but-not-truly-great game forever” – because that’s where we were with Episodes 1/2. Not in “bad” territory. Not in “mediocre” territory. Not in “decent” territory. In “good” territory. Sounds like episode 3 could have brought them back to “great”.

            If they make HL3 VR only, well, they can, and I know no other way to put this, fuck themselves if they think I’ll buy their VR solution to play it. If VR becomes mainstream maybe I’ll go back and play it but otherwise… They can double-fuck themselves if they can’t even be bothered to do HL3, and we just get some half-arsed (no pun intended) Half-Life universe-set VR game that they think we’re going to buy solely because it has “Half Life” in the name.

          • Werthead says:

            Two years? Far Cry came out seven months before Half-Life 2. I agree that in several respects FC was a far more satisfying shooter, but the gap between the two wasn’t that big.

    • Lobotomist says:

      Both HL games were revolutionary for gaming and FPS games. But at the moment FPS game technology advanced so much that its virtually impossible to make next game that would be revolutionary at any level.

      It will basically never as good as that imaginary HL3

      So they just decided to quit while they are ahead. As any champion should do.

      Its not like Valve is in need of money anyway

      • LexW1 says:

        That doesn’t really make any sense.

        HL1 was remarkable and indeed arguably revolutionary in that it set out how all future major FPSes would do single-player, and its mods set out how a lot of multiplayer would work too. Its impact is incalculable, more, I’d say, than even Quake or Doom. Even the latest CoD or BF owes something to HL1, in terms of ideas of how cutscenes should work and how certain things should be presented.

        HL2… was a very good game with extremely good facial animation and the gravity gun. It was not revolutionary. It really was just the sequel to Half Life. The mechanics seemed outdated, the gameplay was good but not amazing and only the visual design, facial animation, and general bleakness of the setting really stood out (bleak being quite different to grimdark or hellish). The episodes were also good but not revolutionary.

        HL3 did not need to be revolutionary. It just need to be very good. They could certainly have achieved that in 2008, or 2012. But clearly they just gave up on it, and ceded the territory to the array of mediocre to good (very few, if any, great) single-player shooters released by others. They didn’t quit whilst they were ahead. They just quit.

  4. ata says:

    A bit of a sad way to hear the conclusion to the story but it’s probably the only way we will, it sounds like it would’ve been a hell of a game.

    Valve were so good at crafting those single player experiences, they’re some of my favourite ever games, it’s such a shame they’ve left that behind.

  5. Tafdolphin says:

    The most fascinating aspect here is the mention of the “Bree-slug.” From 2012 to 2014 Laidlaw unceremoniously tweeted out the entire history of the shu’ulathoi through the account @BreenGrub, framing it as the ramblings of a captured Breen living in his own “I Have No Mouth” level of hell:

    link to twitter.com

    A great bit of fiction in itself, it’s worth reading in it’s entirety. It now links directly to this new synopsis, making me wonder if the account was an attempt at a bit of viral marketing or a frustrated Laidlaw desperate for a creative outlet for his stories.

    • Lumière says:

      Thank you for sharing this. Really hope some tallented developers are willing to bring all this effort to life in a mod of some kind.

    • dkfgo says:

      This is great!

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    Ninja Dodo says:

    Seems like a slightly alternate take since I think he mentioned in an interview at one point he saw Episode 3 ending with Freeman being put in stasis again, but this seems more like a complete ending.

    In the absence of a game I guess this is as good a way as any to wrap it up.

  7. Seafoam says:

    We must all be thankful of the closure. Maybe now the gaming community can move past HL3 into something new.
    Can’t stay in the past forever. Everything is impermanent, even the wait for Half Life 3.

  8. Mario Pajas says:

    Spoiler: Mrs. X is Gertrude from the future.

  9. A Gentleman and a Taffer says:

    :o

    Sounds cool, but I can’t see those locations making the most interesting levels to fight through. Would give anything to see a skybox of overlapping times and spaces outside the ship, mind.

    I think we’ve all accepted it can’t meet the hype now, can we just play it out of curiousity, Valve?

  10. Kollega says:

    As someone who appreciated Half-Life 2 and its Epistles when they were still current, but didn’t grow up on the first Half-Life and was more of a Team Fortress 2 fan anyway (untill that game mutated into a horrendous hat-festooned monstrosity), I feel the need to pitch in.

    For me, and I imagine some other people like me, the thing is… the cliffhanger at the end of Ep2 and the subsequent catastrophic failure to resolve it on Valve’s part was still an affront as far as good writing is concerned, yes, but the world doesn’t revolve around Half-Life. To be more specific, it doesn’t revolve around Half-Life in terms of shooter innovation. I got to play Titanfall 2 recently, and while it’s more MP-focused, the singleplayer campaign is an example of a game just as good as Half-Life 2. And that’s not just about innovative gameplay; as awesome as it is to wall-run across a bottomless pit while shooting a bunch of goons with a chunky assault rifle, or as cool as the parade of inventive levels like “Effect and Cause” and the chase after the Ark are, the writing is also no slouch. To me, personally, Cooper and BT came off as even more human and believable and sympathetic than lauded-for-those-traits characters of Half-Life 2. The fact that Titanfall runs on a modified Source engine is just the meaningful cherry on top.

    So, to sum it up… it really sucks that this is how the dedicated Half-Life fans find out the ending to the HL2 story arc (Not even an official comic? Come on, Valve!) – but if Valve feel too comfortable with just raking in Steam and DotA money, and don’t give a damn about their old fans still waiting for resolution on that cliffhanger, maybe it’s time to look elsewhere. Like I looked elsewhere when all the good things about Team Fotress 2 got flushed down the toilet.

  11. Pizzzahut says:

    I’m just gonna come out and say it; Half-Life 2 wasn’t a great game. It was merely and okay game. Half-Life 1 was great though. Let’s just stop pretending that Half-Life 2 was anything other than a 7.5/10 game.

    • poisonborz says:

      Been saying this for ages. HL2 is so overrated. Technical (Source engine) and style aspects were cool, but as a game it was mediocre.

      • Daymare says:

        Nope, it really was that good.

        • LexW1 says:

          How so? It was good to very good, but not great, gameplay-wise. If you disagree, what would you point to that made it better than, say, 2002’s Far Cry?

          • liquidsoap89 says:

            Half Life 2 has a second half that’s worth playing.

          • Daymare says:

            Great facial animations and how human these characters behaved; really funny VA I guess? Kleiner and the Priest in ‘holm. Loved the invasion story, different vehicles and weird weapons (grav gun, pheromones, disintegrator rubberballs), and the down-to-earth setting merged with weird alien tec still fascinates me. Those wonderful, grey beaches!

            First fight vs striders freaked me out. All those bio-mechanic enemies (the chopper!) were unique and cool and I haven’t seen anything like them again,afaik.

            First time into a zombie-infested tunnel on the road freaked me so much I still remember. First time playing with instead of against the ant-lions was lots of fun. Physics stuff was cool, gunning car wrecks off a cliff, cutting zombies in half with gravity sawblades etc.

            That enough? All those things and many more made it really good for me.

            I’ve never played any FC except for 3, so can’t compare them rightly.

      • Pizzzahut says:

        Definitely agree. Engine great, game average.

        • Nogo says:

          source really shot itself in the foot with “Loading.”

          Locked them into sparse environments and just plain embarrassing transitions.

    • Spuzzell says:

      No.

      Sit down son, you’ll hurt yourself.

    • Deston says:

      That sort of transparent edgy contrarianism doesn’t make you as cool or smart as you think it does.

      • Pizzzahut says:

        Not being ‘edgy’ as you call it. I played the HL1 demo to death, HL1 was a masterpiece. HL2… eh? What happened?

        • Unclepauly says:

          You find HL2 in bed with your wife or something?

          • Nogo says:

            I’m a big fan and don’t really disagree. Go watch Robert Yang’s replay/critiques of HL2 (he’s wrapping up soon) and it’s kinda glaring. After Lost Coast it’s a bit of a nose dive. Also good lord the seesaw puzzles.

            In fact, I’ll say the unsayable, CoD:MW pulled a nasty back-breaker on HL.

      • MrUnimport says:

        I think HL2 is a masterwork of level design, environmental storytelling, and atmosphere, but come on dude, people are allowed to have opinions.

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        Edgy contrarianism? If this was 2005 maybe. Some games age out of being considered great and for many people HL2 is one of them.

    • mavrik says:

      I agree with you here – HL2 had a few pacing issues and personally, move from Michael Chricton style “present” scifi to the apocalyptic future with generic stormtroopers really didn’t sit well with me.

      Having said that – the effect of Half-Life 2 on evolution of FPSes can’t be overstated.

      • LexW1 says:

        HL2? Do you mean HL1? The impact of HL1 on the evolution of FPSes cannot be overstated. The entire design of campaign, the interactive cutscenes, just the way the game was presented and information delivered and so on vastly impacted single-player FPSes, for example. The mods completely changed multiplayer, too, or at least extended trends that were already there, and made them into entire games (like CS).

        HL2, however, had no such impact. It was a great game, and had a huge impact on gaming by popularizing Steam and getting us to sign up for it, but on FPSes? What impact do you see that’s specific to HL2, not merely an extension of HL1’s impact?

    • MikoSquiz says:

      Absolutely. It was Yet Another Perfectly Okay 7/10 Shooter with an extra .5 worth of “look, physics” and next-gen graphics sprinkled on it. And it has pacing issues that make it actually kind of long-winded and dull to get through now that cooing over the fancy visuals doesn’t fill the time any more.

      It was very much above all else a sequel, and people have been breathlessly anticipating a sequel to a sequel to a sequel to a sequel from a company that isn’t strictly profit-driven and does what it likes. I’m surprised people were seriously expecting it to come out for this long.

    • Faxmachinen says:

      I’d give it an 8/10, but agree otherwise.

    • rustybroomhandle says:

      I also consider HL2 merely “ok”. There are bits I enjoyed, but generally the action parts just went on too long and I found myself mostly wishing they would end.

    • lokimotive says:

      The initial launch was fraught with problems that, I’ll admit, tainted my view of the game, but even now it’s kind of a saggy game that really drags in a lot of areas. Even at its release a lot of the mechanics (unlimited guns, linear levels) were out of date, and they’re more glaring problems now. I think it was the site that pointed out that Half-Life, as a series, really drove home the idea of spectacle as the driving force in FPSs. There physics based gameplay can still be really cool, and the artisty behind the actual overall look and feel of the world is still top tier, but there game is a bit of a snooze.

      Even at the time, I thought it paled in comparison to both Far Cry and the No One Lives Forever games.

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      Godwhacker says:

      It’s too long, but I loved it. The Sandtraps / Nova Prospect sequence was excellent, but there was far too much filler. Episode 2 however is utterly fantastic.

    • geldonyetich says:

      An individual’s opinion of a game is not reflective of a game’s merit in a larger sense. Sorry you bounced off on it, but no game is going to appeal to everyone.

      That said, I’m with you insofar as to say Half Life 2 is quite dated now. Where once it might have been the cutting edge of first person shooter narratives, from a present day perspective it looks like somebody hacked together a game out of Gmod (even though the reality is closer to the opposite).

      Put me in a room with Half Life 2 and Prey, give me 24 hours to kill, and I know it’s not going to be spent revisiting a classic, not even to chuck toilets at people with a gravity gun.

  12. poisonborz says:

    To me this short just proves how HL2 storyline was just a hodgepodge dead end. As much as I cheer HL2’s technical brilliance and unique half dark scifi-half sunset-easteurope aesthetics, the “story” itself is just doesn’t live up to the name. Half Life also had a thin plot, but that was still leagues more serious and vivid: a science facility, government agents, aliens and a lone, silent employee going through it all.

    HL2 was instead like a Canadian miniseries with moralizing figures in knitted hats. All the characters described, the combine were shallow stereotypes you couldn’t care less about. The whole thing just screamed the fact that nobody had any coherent vision of how it would pan out.

    • Chaoslord AJ says:

      I never thought there was a plot at all. Just mystery and extradimensionals and that G-man walking around in the background for no reason. Everything up to interpretation but no commitment to some kind of coherent story.

      • jonahcutter says:

        Well, on a cosmic scale that really may be the case. The state of things is actually so far beyond our general ability to understand it, it does seem like random, arbitrary nonsense when we do glimpse it.

        Our species is largely limited by the limitations of our perceptions (three dimensions). We can imagine more dimensions and time. We can even understand and calculate some of the rules behind it (a few of the more intelligent of us can, anyway). But we cannot perceive those dimensions. And we can only actually perceive time in the immediate moment.

        We just may not be capable of understanding what Gman actually is. And thus his actions and motivation come across as random and arbitrary.

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      This is all so true. HL1’s plot was driven and made interesting by a handful of big mysteries whose being solved would ruin them because they could never live up to whatever the imaginations of the players could create. The writers were smart enough to realize this and avoid that pitfall by giving away the identity of the G-Man for HL2, but it doesn’t leave much else for a story. Thus the thin characterizations, the generic fascist bad guys, and the introduction of ever more implausible sub-plots across Episodes 1 and 2.

  13. Monggerel says:

    G-Man: …Time, Doctor Freeman? Is it Really *That* Time again? It Seems as if You’ve only… Just… Arrived.

    Doctor Freeman:
    CON TE PARTIRÒ
    PAESI CHE NON HO MAI
    VEDUTO E VISSUTO CON TE
    ADESSO SÌ LI VIVRÒ

  14. rustybroomhandle says:

    I suspect that Valve asked themselves “how can we monetise this thing indefinitely without spending much on it” and could not come up with an answer, so here we are.

    My feeling – just license Half Life and the rest of the story out to Hollywood, and we can all just watch it play out on screen. I believe they have been chatting with some folks already. Heck, there might even be contracts in place, who knows.

    • Premium User Badge

      Ninja Dodo says:

      They could give it to Naughty Dog.

      link to twitter.com

      When I saw this I thought “yeah, actually The Last of Us does almost feel like a third-person Half Life 2”. Not the same exactly, but you could see how those guys could do something interesting with it.

      Then again, maybe better to just let it be and do something new.

    • Premium User Badge

      particlese says:

      Gabe and Abrams have certainly done some mutual flirting: some Lost stuff as a HL:E2 Easter egg, a playable Super 8 teaser accessible in Portal 2’s menus. Probably loads of other stuff and cooperative hints at bigger things, too, judging by the links on the Internet I saw when lazily fact-checking this reply.

    • April March says:

      Oh yeah, licencing the story to Hollywood would be a perfect way to get closure by watching a completely different story about people who happen to have the same names.

  15. Andrew Kleiner says:

    It is pretty much awesome. And it’s sad that we will never see Episode 3. I still remember how I finished Episode 2. Inspired, I was waiting, years passed, but Episode 3 just never came out.

    But hey! At least we will have Artifact! Isn’t that great? Who needs Half-Life if we have the dota card game…

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    Earl-Grey says:

    I find alcohol tastes sweetest when I’m in a slightly melancholy mood; tonight I will drink to Episode/Half Life 3 and treasure what could have been.

  17. ColonelFlanders says:

    You know what, Valve can just fuck off. Transparency and honesty is important; they could have just quietly say “sorry all the fans, but HL is no more”. There would have been outrage and weeping neckbeards for a bit, but then it would have all blown over, and nobody would have had to listen to this will-they-won’t-they horseshit for the last ten years. All Valve have proven here is that they’d rather monetize a fad than actually deliver on a vision. Well you can all sodding well sod off.

    • kwyjibo says:

      You can’t describe digital distribution as a fad.

      • ColonelFlanders says:

        I’m not, I was talking about Valve as developers. MOBAs are definitely a fad, and while I appreciate that Dota2 is a money spinner for them, they have left everything else by the wayside in favour of it, and have been irritatingly cryptic about the future of a franchise that I’d argue a lot more people care about.

        • kwyjibo says:

          That’s one hell of a long fad.

        • Urthman says:

          I think you could make a much better case that linear environmental story-telling focused FPS were a fad than that MOBAs are.

          • ColonelFlanders says:

            I’ll give you linearity, But, BioShock, Deus Ex, Metro, FEAR, Dishonored, Prey, and I’m sure a few others I’ve forgotten all follow that particular formula fairly well. There are only two appreciably decent MOBAs out there, and they are League and Dota. Smite is ok and Heroes of the Storm has some interesting ideas I guess, but they are ot in the same league as, well, League. I also doubt greatly that the player numbers would be as high as they are if you had to buy them for 20 quid or something.

            FPS games and story driven games have been around for a fuck of a long time, and when the MOBA bubble eventually bursts they will still be getting made and selling like hot cakes. I say this with a great fondness for MOBAs – I have racked up God knows how many thousands of hours playing LoL since 2009.

    • ByrdWhyrm says:

      When they’re making as much money as they are off of DOTA/Steam/hat sales, I don’t think it can be called a fad anymore. I get your point, though. It makes perfect business sense to pursue the avenues that give the biggest return on investment, but that unfortunately means they stopped making games that I enjoy after Portal 2.

    • RichUncleSkeleton says:

      The writing’s been on the wall since about 2010 (2011, being generous) for anyone willing to open their eyes and read it. Valve’s only sin here, as far as I’m concerned, is that they painted themselves into a corner, narratively speaking, that they never had the means or the will to get out of. Either you permanently become the Half-Life Studio in order to service an ever-expanding scifi universe, to the detriment of everything else you want to make, or you drop the whole thing sooner than later.

  18. Zaxwerks says:

    It seems so ironic that the reason they decided to break the series into 3 episodes was so that we wouldn’t have to wait as long for a massive Half Life 3 and instead get the game in 3 shorter episodes, and we all know how that ended… or didn’t to be accurate.

  19. ByrdWhyrm says:

    I’m not the first person to suggest this, but I wonder if we could eventually see a new half life game from another strong developer other than valve? It seems unlikely that they’d trust anyone else to make Half-Life 3, but they have shown a greater willingness to let others make products within their IP with Black Mesa and that Opposing Force follow up. I can’t see it happening (anytime soon, at least), but I’d love to see what the studio behind the Wolfenstein games could do, or what Arkane or Respawn could do within that universe.

    • Chromatose says:

      Weren’t Arkane already working on a follow-up episode for HL2 before dropping it? Ditto for Junction Point.

      • ByrdWhyrm says:

        They were! I think it was a standalone episode set in Ravenholm. There are screenshots from the discarded project floating around somewhere.

    • Urthman says:

      But why? There’s literally nothing interesting or original about the Half-Life universe. The only reason to look forward to a Half-Life 3 was that the specific developers who created Half-Life, HL2, Portal, and Portal 2 were amazing, had a culture of making really good FPS games and had nearly infinite resources to keep polishing the game until it was good. But while Valve’s money still exists, that group of people and that institutional capacity is probably gone forever.

      At this point, I just hope a talented studio gets the resources to make another game in that style. Nobody needs the Half-Life license to make a good FPS with aliens and cool guns (even portal and gravity guns if you want) and great level design and evocative environmental storytelling.

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        At this point, I just hope a talented studio gets the resources to make another game in that style. Nobody needs the Half-Life license to make a good FPS with aliens and cool guns (even portal and gravity guns if you want) and great level design and evocative environmental storytelling.

        I agree completely. Half-Life is special for how it told its story, not the actual story itself.

  20. Chromatose says:

    Honestly, this marks a pretty sad end to the whole affair. Years of promises from Valve, big talent attached to additional episodes that all gradually dropped their work and moved on, talk of increasing ambition, scale and grandeur, all reduced to a few cryptic paragraphs on a writer’s personal blog, before a final, resigned sign-off. What a huge waste of potential.

    Valve now has more money than all the dreams of avarice, all the while slowly bleeding talent from its ranks and goodwill from its customers, and one of the most anticipated games never released becomes little more than a footnote.

    Anybody fancy a whisky?

    • TheApologist says:

      Well put. Without claiming consumer entitlement or elevating HL2 to divine status, I still feel the way Valve has treated Half-life is a huge waste of potential to entertain players and to develop the first-person single player gaming in general.

      This is a sad end for a series that deserved more respect from its creators, and it diminishes Valve’s place in gaming in the process.

    • Daymare says:

      I realized HL–and pretty much all of Valve’s narrative-driven games–were dead forever when a) all their writers left during this last year, and b) they didn’t really make any interesting game since … DotA 2, if you wanna count that? Was itt already outsourced? Please don’t tell me those VR minigames count.

      I’ll have the whisky, please.

  21. Small Ivory Knight says:

    The Path to Half Life 3 has been one full of Entanglement and Undue Alarm. But thanks to Our Mutual Friend’s, (i.e. Marc Laidlaw’s), Direct Intervention, today will always be remembered as a Red Letter Day. Saddly, it looks like unless there’s some Unforseen Consequences, we must Forget About Freeman. It’s over. Exit 17. Yet we still have a glimpse at what might have been So buckle up, Anti-Citizens, we have Black Mesa Inbound.

  22. Vandelay says:

    This means one of three things. The most pessimistic of these is that Valve have given Laidlaw the go ahead to release this as they know that Half Life is over and they will never be continuing the story.

    Second meaning, Valve have told Laidlaw that they are going to deviate from his original plans, so he is free to release his version.

    The last, and very much the most optimistic reason, is that this is the start of them finally announcing something. Possibly the beginnings of some silly ARG.

    I think the second is probably the most likely. I can’t imagine Valve saying never to more Half Life, but whatever it could be is unlikely to be what was planned back in the days of the Episodes.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      I think the most likely scenario is that Marc knows that nothing serious is brewing at Valve regarding a Half-Life 2 sequel, so he figured he’d toss fans a bone, ’cause he’s a nice guy.

      • Vandelay says:

        Potentially, but I wouldn’t think that he would just release this without at least some kind of nod from Valve. I don’t believe there is any suggestion that his departure was through any ill will and having worked there for so long he presumably had good relationships with senior members, if not being friends.

        Also, if this is what would have been Episode 3 or even just one of the plans, it would very much be the property of Valve. I can’t imagine they would take any action against him for releasing something in this way, but it wouldn’t be something you would expect from a former employee, unless they had pissed him off in someway.

    • Chromatose says:

      Newell all but confirmed that they essentially gave up on HL2:e3 / HL3 a while ago, with the stated reason being that nobody at Valve had a clear idea of what they wanted the game to be, and that none of the internal prototypes ever passed the insanely high bar they set for themselves.

      Indeed, after the rash of recent departures from Valve, an even bleaker picture than your most pessimistic outcome described emerges: Valve do not have any interest in traditional narrative-driven games anymore. Properties like DOTA and CS:GO are simply more valuable to them in spite of their focus on microtransactions and incredibly toxic playerbases.

  23. RichUncleSkeleton says:

    Meh. This provides a sort of closure for me, but not for seeing how HL would or could finally end. No, I get closure from this because it demonstrates how silly HL’s story was getting by the end of Episode 2 and, on a more fundamental level, how arbitrary fiction writing really is. Someone at Valve finally took a step back, said, “hey guys this is pretty dumb, huh? let’s go use our considerable talents to make something fresh” and they did. In some alternate dimension, they’re up to Half-Life 6 or 7 by now and Gordon Freeman was last seen plotting an intergalactic time-traveling revolutionary war with Einstein and George Washington.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      How is remaking Counter Strike and a Warcraft 3 mod “fresh?”

      This was all about money. Which is fine, that’s what businesses do. But the idea that abandoning their only truly creative endeavor (narrative-driven games) was a creative decision doesn’t ring true to me at all.

      • RichUncleSkeleton says:

        Portal? Left 4 Dead? VR? Walking away from a commercially-proven self-published and distributed IP does not strike me as a strictly financial decision.

        • ResonanceCascade says:

          Portal literally came out with Episode 2. Left 4 Dead not long after. Episode 3 was in the works for quite a while after that.

          Based on what Newell has said over the last few years, it sounds like the opportunity cost of making a Half-Life game couldn’t be justified vs making games that can be monetized forever. So yeah, financial.

          • RichUncleSkeleton says:

            I’d like to see where he ever bluntly said that, because it doesn’t make any sense. If you have a game with a self-owned IP that sells 12 million copies, as HL2 has, it would take some next-level business theorizing to decide that it wouldn’t be profitable to follow up on it, or at least to sell the IP to some deep-pocketed publisher like EA or Activision.

          • ResonanceCascade says:

            He did an interview with the Washington Post a few years that goes in-depth on his thoughts about user generated content and why it makes more money for them than discrete single-serving products.

            But yeah, Half-Life 3 would sell 10+ million copies. But in the meantime, they could have made 10 million copies of HL3 worth of money from UGC in their online games with far less work on their part. That’s why I mentioned opportunity cost.

            It sucks as a fan of what Valve used to do, but it’s hard to argue with the logic of it — especially for such an absurdly metrics-driven company.

          • RichUncleSkeleton says:

            You’re assuming that they couldn’t make HL3 and sell people TF2 hats and trading cards at the same time. I see no reason to believe that’s the case. Valve isn’t some scrappy little indie outfit. And from what we know of the corporate culture at Valve, they tend to be very tolerant of individual employees going off and working on their own little long-shot projects and ideas on the company dime. Not exactly the picture of ruthless, laser-focused moneymaking you’re getting at here.

          • ResonanceCascade says:

            I didn’t say they’re ruthless, I said they’re metrics driven. And they are. They brag about it.

            Also, you can’t just do whatever you want at Valve. You just have to justify what you’re doing to the collective rather than, say, a middle manager. If you’re wasting time and money trying to make a big AAA game when a bunch of other employees are creating profitable, shippable trading card systems and UGC tools for Dota and CS:GO, you’re going to wash out fast.

            There’s also the fact that almost every legacy employee who is known for single player games has left the company or been fired in the last four years, including all their writers (Marc Laidlaw, Ted Kosmatka, Erik Wolpaw, Chet Falisek, and Jay Pinkerton).

  24. E_FD says:

    It’s been so long I don’t even remember who “Jerry Mass” is supposed to be an analogue for.

    Anyway, it sounds about on par with HL episodes 1 and 2, possibly better depending on the actual presentation and level design, but that’d still be a far cry from the original two games.

    If this had come out in a timely manner, my guess is it’d be regarded as a competent enough entry in the series, albeit basically only for hardcore fans desperate for more Half-Life. If it’d come out anytime in the last several years, though, I think it’d be seen as a thundering anticlimax.

  25. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Marc Laidlaw, today you are my hero.

  26. Red_Fox says:

    I didn’t read it. But, I think some talented people should get together and make a mod on the source engine with this plot.

    And hide an easter egg somewhere within, an “F U” on a sign or in graffiti, right next to a big red valve.

  27. soopytwist says:

    I’ve “Half-Lifed” the text and fixed some grammar and spelling errors: link to dropbox.com
    You’re Welcome.

  28. nightcabbage says:

    Wake up and smell the ashes.

  29. Premium User Badge

    Skabooga says:

    Also, Laura Michet has started an Epistle 3 game jam on itch.io:
    link to itch.io

    I expect some fun contributions.