It is a sad day for pretend archaeology. Firewatch developers Campo Santo have placed In The Valley Of Gods on hold, instead choosing to work on Half-Life: Alyx, Dota Underlords, and other Valve projects. This follows their move to Valve last year, which John (RPS in peace) quizzed them on at length in 2018. That means we’ve got a weird, melancholy portal into when Campo were excited about what the move would mean for their new game.
Half-Life with a sprinkling of Firewatch sounds neat and all, but I was looking forward to filming pyramids.
Campo co-founder Jake Rodkin made the announcement in a statement to Polygon. “In the end, Valve Time makes fools of us all”, he said, before explaining that the path away from The Valley Of Gods was something of a slippery slope.
“You hear a lot about how at Valve you can work on what you want. It turns out that’s true, and there’s a lot of work available. As we integrated ourselves into Valve it became clear there was a lot of valuable work to be done on Half-Life: Alyx. Some of us starting lending a hand, and have since become full-time on the project as it approaches launch. Similarly, some ex-Campos are working on Dota Underlords, some are on Steam, and so on. So to answer your question as of today, In the Valley of Gods development is on hold — but it certainly feels like a project people can and may return to. And when that happens, we’ll find an exciting way to let fans know.”
I’m suspicious of that definite “when” mingling with a hesitant “can and may”. It’s easy to imagine the team will just keep sliding down that slope, further fragmenting as they move on to bigger and other things. That’s their prerogative, of course. As (ex?) Campo Studio head Sean Vanaman put it to John, when telling him about how he loves helping other devs get established: “no one on the team that I’m on would begrudge me pursuing those things if it was what satisfied me as a human being, and also what made good sense for the enterprise as a whole.”
He then added, a little heartrendingly, “I love working with this group of folks and I don’t see that changing so it’s too hard to say.”
In The Valley Of Gods can and may be about unearthing and documenting ancient pyramids in 1920s Egypt. Its Steam release date has been changed to “TBD”.