Valve is probably never going to make ‘Half-Life 2: Episode Three’ or ‘Half-Life 3’

Valve has introduced disruptive technologies in the gaming space. Valve owns Steam, a digital distribution platform for video games, has introduced Steam OS, a gaming oriented operating system and a virtual reality hardware platform known as Steam VR that it has opened up to third parties.

Valve has a stellar list of video game titles. Portal, Half-Life, Defense of the Ancients 2 (DOTA 2),Left 4 Dead, Counter Strike and Team Fortress were all successful titles with a large fan following. DOTA2, Counter Strike and Team Fortress top the play time charts.

Half-Life was the first game by Valve, released in 1998. The game did away with cut-scenes, and provided an immersive experience as if players were really living the game as the protagonist, Gordon Freeman. Half-Life influenced first person shooters that came after it, won a number of Game of the Year awards, and is considered one of the greatest games of all time. Half-Life 2 was released in 2004, and continued the story of Gordon Freeman. The game was developed over a period of five years.

Three episodic sequels were planned for Half-Life 2. Half-Life 2: Episode One released in 2006, and a year later Half-Life 2: Episode Two was released. Half-Life 2: Episode 2 had a cliffhanger ending, and the stage was set for the third sequel. Half-Life 2: Episode Three has not been released yet. It has been 10 years since gamers have seen the release of a Half-Life title, and there is a hunger for a new title, a lack of closure for the series, and players are left hanging when it came to the story.

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There have been hints that Valve had been working on a Half-Life game over the years. A leaked database of internal documents saw some references to potential new titles. Stars of Blood, Return to Ravenholm and Episode 3/Episode 3 Movie were a part of the database. The documents seemed to hint that Valve was not only working on the third Half-Life game, but even better, was interested in making a movie for the franchise. It has been four years since the database leak, and Valve has not made any formal announcements on new Half-Lifetitles.

An interview with an anonymous Valve employee by Game Informer sheds some light on what happened behind the closed doors of the secretive studio. Every time work started on a new Half-Life experience, the momentum fizzled out, making it tougher for the next attempt to succeed. Employees at Valve are given freedom to spend time on pet projects, and apparently a number of different approaches were tried for Half-Life including a real-time strategy interpretation for the franchise. There were at least three different sets of concept arts, scripts and treatments at various points of time.

The idea of a third Half-Life installment just does not sit well with the senior management at Valve. Left 4 Dead, Portal 2, Steam Hardware, the distribution platform, and other projects are of a higher priority for Valve than Half-Life 3 and Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Developers who invest time into anything related to Half-Life themselves realise that they are better off working on other projects. A series of collapses of Half-Life related initiatives within Valve has made it increasingly difficult for another attempt to succeed.

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Sadly, it looks highly unlikely that there will ever be another Half-Life game. The fans have a lot of expectations from the studio, and the bar of the Half-Life titles are astronomically high. The impact of the original game cannot be replicated easily, as it was a new way to tell a story through a video game. The series has a legacy, and this legacy can be tarnished with the release of a sub-par title. Valve has ruled out outsourcing the development of the title to another studio.

The interview was from a single source within Valve, and the information has not been independently verified by another source. However, the reasons for the title getting shelved sound plausible. Gamers might never get a conclusion to Half-Life 2: Episode 2, or a third installment in the form of Half Life 3. The developer does believe that alternative experiences in the Half-Life universe are still possible. One way to avoid disappointing fans are Half-Life experiences that connect to the universe, but are not the flagship sequel. JJ Abrams has apparently attached writers to movies based on Portal and Half-Life.