Hooting echoed across the virtual valleys and mesas of the Internet this week after those who pan the digital stream in search of anything ending with "3" got an inkling that former Valve writer Erik Wolpaw had returned to the Half-Life mob after leaving in 2017. And yep, Wolpaw has confirmed to me that he is doing work for Valve these days - because he never really stopped. Apparently he's been contracting for them all along, working on this and that as needed, on top of working for his niece's juice shop (which was not a joke). Looks like the digipanners found Fool's Three.
Erik Wolpaw's official time as an official Valve employee included writing for Half-Life 2's Episodes, Left 4 Dead, and Portal. Now he's officially not a Valve employee, he's dipping in and out, working on various projects with folks including fellow funnyman Jay Pinkerton (who also left, then actually returned) and Sean Vanaman of Campo Santo (who are now part of Valve) and In The Valley Of Gods. Doing stuff. Words, probably.
"I've had a contractor agreement with Valve since the day I left," Wolpaw explained to me today. "I've been helping Pinkerton and [Steve] Jaros and Vanaman whenever they need it. It's been more busy on that front lately, but I'm not a full time employee."
He added, "My main gig is still delivering juice for my niece Jodi's vegan juice shop plus a three-hour-a-day unpaid internship playing Slay The Spire."
I didn't know he and I had the same internship. We're not even working for exposure but it's still so satisfying.
The icy hot rumours of his return started after a snooper sent an e-mail to Valve head honcho Gabe Newell asking if Wolpaw was back and received an affirmative reply. The panners held their breath while waiting for confirmation that the e-mail was legit. The news came in: it was. Erik Wolpaw was back at Valve. Half-Life 3 would surely launch as a Steam Box exclusive within weeks. Then folks noticed Wolpaw was listed in the Artifact credits, suggesting he'd been there a while. Half-Life 3 would be here within days. But naw.
By the way, if you notice that the casual e-mail I'm quoting looks a lot like the one he sent Polygon, I swear to you that he sent it to me first but his clarification made me shrug the story off as overreaching non-news. By the time I realised I'd have the opportunity to gloat if I swept in and cleared up the misinformation, he'd seen my shrug and pasted it to Polygon when they asked. You can ask my uncle who works at Nintendo.
Disclosure: I do know some Valve folks through Campo Santo, though it's often adversarial. I once threw Sean Vanaman to the ground and stood on his chest to demonstrate that bullying is wrong. It made sense at the time.