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Epistle 3 (marclaidlaw.com)
470 points by verroq on Aug 25, 2017 | hide | past | web | favorite | 177 comments



The story actually sounds really fun to play, and fits the Half-Life universe perfectly. Funny that this script has reached the top of Reddit, HN and Twitter within hours of posting, and even crashed the authors site. Even to a blind man it's obvious the demand for the game is there, so it's amazing that Valve continues to ignore it and the fans, but I guess without a cash flow problem they really don't see the point in spending time developing it. A shame.

Edit, GitHub Mirror: https://github.com/Jackathan/MarcLaidlaw-Epistle3/blob/maste...


> it's amazing that Valve continues to ignore it

Valve isn't a monolithic entity nor a top-down controlled company though. This argument doesn't reflect how they make decisions.

They have spoken on a few related points in the past:

* Their projects often change dramatically during development, even being scrapped or started over again from scratch (Half-Life is a rework of a scrapped project, Team Fortress 2 was completely rebooted)

* They prefer not to talk at all about things that are very hyped because they believe it's more painful to the community to go through those twists and turns than have radio silence

* If they aren't happy with the quality of something they produce it doesn't see the light of day, rather than release something that isn't great

* For it to happen requires enough people within the company to decide to work on it, and see it through


> If they aren't happy with the quality of something they produce it doesn't see the light of day, rather than release something that isn't great

This is very important. If HL would have been a EA game, you would have had it years ago. And it would have sucked, but everybody would have bought it and EA would have made bank.

Valve cares. Sometimes that means you will not have what you want, because they know they can't provide it.


> Valve cares.

I might get downvoted, but cares about what? Valve didn't manage to release HL2 Episode 3. That's a miniscule effort compared to pretty much anything.

Valve is just like EA, i.e. perfectly content milking the Steam and DotA cash cows.


It makes me sad to say, but I agree with this. Valve has largely given up their legacy of incredibly polished games that were worth the wait. Not only are they now content to sit back and allow the merchant/gambling/loot crate money flow in, they are actually neglecting their games. I remember the addition of a new gun (the R8) to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive that was so broken and unbalanced that it was clear the devs had never once started up the game and playtested the weapon before pushing the update to players.

It really is a sad state. Valve used to be the bastion of the gaming world, because players and other developers alike looked up to them as a role model of what it meant to care about releasing a good game, no matter what it took. That they would give it all up simply by allowing their reputation to languish - not with a bang, but with a whimper - really breaks my heart. I hope other game devs do not forget Valve's story and remember that there are customers and fans who really do respect and value when time, care, and true effort is put into making a game fun and meaningful, not just profitable.


I was a huge Valve fanboy at one point, so it really pains me to see what they've become. They are clearly still able to make great games, because at its core, Dota 2 is still a great game. But they've bundled it with a gambling platform targeted squarely at teenage children.

I suspect their next game, the Dota 2 themed collectible card game, is going to go down a similar route, since Hearthstone has already demonstrated how a gambling-based business model can be applied with overwhelming success to a collectible card game.

At this point, I doubt they have any interest in investing in any game that's not amenable to that ethically appalling, but probably overwhelmingly profitable business model.


It's clear from the context that they're referring to quality.

[EDIT: to all the people responding to me, I'm answering the parent's question of what the GP's 'cares' was referring to, which is clearly indicated by the comment they are in turn responding to. I'm not making any point or argument about Valve's commitment to quality or lack thereof]


They obviously don't. Look at TF2, they refuse to say it's dead but it hasn't received a proper update in a year. Instead, they spread a gambling model across all their current games and now sit and collect profits. Heck, even those "steam boxes" which were supposed to make PC the "final gaming platform" fell way short. Valve is an e-commerce company with a game development side business now and frankly, their recent output hasn't been good...


Not fair man. Just because they don't manage to do everything don't mean they don't do their best.

As a dota fan, I can tell you that they are doing a LOT of things in there.

They have limited number of devs and designers and so many projects. Just maintaining the steam infra is madness.

Look at blizzard, and see how often they release stuff.

Good things take a lot of resources.


This isn't a defense but the TF2 team is only about like 7 dedicated people last I heard? There's artists and what not shared between teams who I'm not including in that tally though. Valve News Network talked about it once.


Apparently the quality manifests itself as a F2P MOBA and/or a F2P card game. What's next? F2P Pahcinko machine? Slot machine?


Yeah and that F2P MOBA is one of the most beloved, polished, and competitive games around. I don't understand the comparison to a slot machine.

I can't speak to the F2P card game because it does not exist yet.


The issue with DOTA is that its audience is self-limiting. You're locking 5 strangers together in an hour long game where failure is heavily, heavily punished and you're penalized for leaving early.

Where are the games for those of us who loved Half-Life and Portal? The last thing I want to do at the end of a long day is be yelled at by college kids and teenagers for an hour.


Sure, DotA 2 is a rare F2P MOBA that's fair. I mean, I find most of hero kinda meh, but I do appreciate their business model.

But a Card game based on DotA can only mean one thing:

- A F2P game. I can't imagine there being a different model

- A collectible card game. They won't innovate here.

- Buyable cosmetic, but not community made. It's not like they'll allow visual clutter on your cards.


The trading cards/badges in Steam are basically an F2P Pachinko/slot machine already.


Designers' perceptions of quality can get out of synch with what users actually want. Sometimes we assume that people want things that are actually negotiable.

More concretely, would HL fans rather have a HL3 that is merely a game, flaws and all, or are they waiting for the second coming (third?)?

If HL3 gets made, is a game with warts and all, that's not necessary a bad thing. It may be that the dev team is holding themselves to an impossible standard rather than users holding them to an impossible standard.


About quality. I don't think anyone can reasonably accuse valve of releasing poor-quality games.


Or any games, really.


I laugh.

But it's unfair. They have a limited set of resources like everybody and they are working they ass off on so many projects already.

E.G: The whole international event on dota is just such a huge piece of work.


I keep seeing "But they're doing so well with DOTA! Well good for the f#$%ing Dota fans. The rest of us meanwhile are out here in the cold.

I can't stand multiplayer games-as-a-service. Any of them. Team Fortress, Overwatch, Dota, on and on it's all the same rehashed ideas with the same business model at it's core; continuing to make money well after release by releasing a trickle of low effort, easy to market in-game assets that are all worth exactly NOTHING when the next popular one comes out (or in the case of Destiny, even the sequel).

I've never touched any of these stupid things because it's all artificial; artificial scarcity of items by way of limiting the rate they come out and not allowing trades; artificial hype by employing the very best of marketing sleaze and artificial competition of various groups/clans/teams all pitted against each other in a dance of noise and anger signifying nothing.

And then the next one comes out and everyone goes to that, leaving all the achievements, collected items, won prizes and earned trophies to sit in the digital dust until the publisher gets tired of hosting it, pulls the plug, and then it's gone forever. Nothing was learned, nothing is retained, nothing is remembered, all packaged up and shipped off for the next set of customers.

It's the most cynical and hollow business model and hopefully will someday piss off so we can get more good story driven titles again.


I fully agree with you about the cynicism of the taking-your-cut-at-both-ends marketplace, but this business model is never, ever, ever going away so long as we have games. Single-player games are going to be relegated to what's functionally art-house stuff because of the revenue model implications. That's where what you want (and what I want!) is going to live.


ooo zing!


>they know they can't provide it.

Valve cares so much that they provide us with all these hats, skins, trading cards, and microtransactions because they know they can deliver a great hat or trading card?

In this case Valve has been completely unable to deliver a new, good videogame since at least 2012, which is when many online say most of the good writers and developers left. In that case it'd be less hurtful for the community to hear the truth than "radio silence."


Exactly. Not only will we never see HL3, we SHOULD never see HL3. It's so ubiquitous as some sort of second coming of Gaming Christ that no option existed except to have it be disappointing. It would have been Duke Nukem all over again.


I don't believe that. From all reports Duke Nukem Forever was a pretty flawed game (I haven't played it). If they did HL3 and did a good job of it, then they've made a good game, and I think there'll be enough people who will appreciate that.


Sure, but the effort would be better spent on another Valve project. HL3 just straight can't live up to expectations, it will be disappointing no matter how good it is because it's been drummed up for years and years as the best possible game, it just is an impossibility to be as good as everyone thinks it'll be.


I don't think so. I mean, read the story. It's written really well. Many years passed between Half Life 1 and Half Life 2, and yet #2 was very successful.

Another example is TF2.


> If HL would have been a EA game

It was! I know EA are the go-to bad guy in these comparisons, but EA is the distributing publisher for physical copies of Valve games, and Valve are on record as loving working with EA.


Maybe EA is a good distributor, not a good game maker.


What incentive to Valve have to make HL3 though, really?

They make a ton of cash on Steam and DOTA2. It's sad for the fans, in the recent DOTA international tournament, Valve announced a new game to the crowd who were whipped up into a frenzy.

The new game, to the collective groan of the audience, was a DOTA2 card game


This is why the best creative works in the world are led by individuals with something to prove or to say and not faceless flat organizations.

Valve has released just one game this decade that wasn't built by external developers or by mod authors brought in: Portal 2.


Their entire business is built around mod authors they brought in. CS, TF, Portal, Dota, and I think even some of the HL mods started as grassroots efforts. Not sure on that last part.

Valve doesn't make their own games. They had to make HL back when they were struggling. It's their model, and it's one of the most lucrative in the world.

I think it's mistaken to say they have nothing to prove. They're held to the highest standards by the community, and they work their ass off to deliver quality content. Icefrog certainly has something to prove.


its been 11 years, nobody cares anymore about the structure in their company

they could be riding clowns while coding hl3, all I care about is for hl3 to be released someday


First of all, Valve has lost some interest in single player games [1]

Valve is also likely waiting for their new game engine, Source 2, to be completed because Source 1 is hideously outdated by today's standards.

And finally, they're going to have to come up with something truly great to live up to nearly 10 years of hype

[1]https://kotaku.com/5795355/valve-probably-done-with-single-p...


> Valve is also likely waiting for their new game engine, Source 2, to be completed because Source 1 is hideously outdated by today's standards.

Source 2 was patched into Dota 2 years ago, and being patched into CS:GO this year.

Furthermore Source 1 didn't really get outdated as such, it got iterated on numerous times before introducing Source 2, which I assume will not be "completed" until Source 3 gets named the next version.


> which I assume will not be "completed" until Source 3 gets named the next version.

Haven't you heard? Valve never releases a third version of anything.


I'm assuming it's still not complete because there's still no news about a developer SDK (I'd assume they'd love to rake in engine licensing as soon as possible)

>Furthermore Source 1 didn't really get outdated as such, it got iterated on numerous times before introducing Source 2, which I assume will not be "completed" until Source 3 gets named the next version.

The main outdated thing about Source 1 is the authoring tools, which haven't changed much since Half Life 1 was released. Source 2 is supposed to fix that.


The new authoring tools are already available for Dota 2, you can install them in Steam.


> I'd assume they'd love to rake in engine licensing as soon as possible

Source does rely on several other technologies (i.e. Miles, Blink, Havok) that you must license from their respective license holders, however Source is free to use if you're distributing on Steam and you only need to license the Source Engine for distribution off Steam or if you choose to distribute the SDK's tools with your game.

So with that in mind, I doubt the rely much on licensing fees as a source of revenue.


>and being patched into CS:GO this year

Do you have source for this?


Not confirmed that entire game will be Source 2 based but they are certainly working on elements of it.

https://www.reddit.com/r/The_Gaben/comments/5olhj4/hi_im_gab...


https://www.pcgamesn.com/counter-strike-global-offensive/csg...

Although this is from the Chinese press conference, and Valve hasn't confirmed it officially, it's at least credible.


I'm not really holding my breath on CS:GO getting that sort of treatment. They told us months ago we'd basically be getting a shoe-horned in Panorama UI and NOT a full Source 2 Reborn-type deal.


>And finally, they're going to have to come up

Nope, they are making too much money from Steam and microtransactions for CS:GO/DOTA/ etc. Now Valve is like a fat pig to which gets lots of good food everyday. No reason to get up and "fight"/make games, the money gets to them anyway.

Sad.


As someone with a Vive headset, I find this view, that Valve are sitting on their fat asses doing nothing while raking in cash, completely ridiculous.

They're revolutionaries within an entirely new industry, and they're spending a lot of resources trying to get it to the point where it'll go mainstream.

They're definitely not phoning it in


As someone who ordered the Vive seconds after it went online, I find your view ridiculous.

Everything Valve does is half-arsed. For example:

- SteamOS is half-arsed: It barely gets updated and considering the vast resources available to them, they can actively fix all the problems upstream and pressure/encourage/incentivize game devs to release their games on SteamOS on day 1.

- Steam Machines are half-arsed: Instead of releasing a high-end, premium, subsidized, perfect flagship machine, they just told PC vendors to take SteamOS and do whatever. Couldn't be more half-arsed if they tried.

- Steam Controller is half-arsed: Same as above, they can afford to offer really good incentives to game developers to make the controller a first class input method in their games.

- Vive is half-arsed: At launch, Vive had only one Valve-developed software and it was a simple & forgettable demo. They've been promising to release full, Valve developed games for the Vive since before the release and all we got so far is hot air.

- Steam is half-arsed: Bugs that do not touch money making features have been left unfixed for years. People have been asking for library management improvements for a decade now and Valve simply doesn't care.

I could go on for quite a bit more, but it's probably best to leave it here.


I can completely agree on Steam. I just opened it last week and it felt like a jump in the past.

It may sound like a small detail but... when was the last time you saw a macOS app that's not retina? Steam's browser is not retina. Retina Macs have been around for 5 years. Five years.


A few days ago I had to manually clean out some registry keys to fix a Steam "frozen download" issue that has been open since 2006. Not 2016, 2006.


> - SteamOS is half-arsed: It barely gets updated and considering the vast resources available to them, they can actively fix all the problems upstream and pressure/encourage/incentivize game devs to release their games on SteamOS on day 1.

As far as I can tell, SteamOS did the job it was meant for: be a big enough threat to push MS in a game-distributor-friendly direction, away from pushing a Windows Store only environment.


Feedback at GDC had more to do with Microsoft's change of mind than anything SteamOS related.


I don't really see what the rest got to do with my post. I've never used SteamOS/Controllers or have had any issues with Steam so I can't (and probably wouldn't) argue against any of that

> Vive is half-arsed: At launch, Vive had only Valve-developed software and it was a simple & forgettable demo.

The vive, hardware, was a full product when it came out. Not half arsed

The lab isn't exactly what I'd call forgettable. It's basically the wii sports of the wii, which depending on who you are is either high praise or damning criticism.

>They've been promising to release full, Valve developed games for the Vive since before the release and all we got so far is hot air.

The fuck you expect? They've promised 3 full games, they're not just gonna shit 'em out.

Do you want them to half-ass it or not?


> I don't really see what the rest got to do with my post.

I'm pointing out that, in my experience, Valve are not this rebel revolutionaries you make them out to me. To me, they have become just another lazy, greedy company who wants to do the least amount of work possible to make the most amount of money possible.

> The vive, hardware, was a full product when it came out. Not half arsed

Wrong. I enjoy my Vive, but it's barely more than an internal engineering sample. For the price they are charging, it's too uncomfortable, the display is way too weak and it lacks polish in general.

Given that, Valve could have chosen to dramatically subsidize Vive to make sure VR becomes the revolution they claim they want it to be. I would personally have much less to complain about if they sold it for, say, $200. Make no mistake, they could easily afford that, they chose not to.

Instead they invested more in gambling & cosmetics sold with microtransactions in their 3 existing, old games (Dota, CSGO, TF2) and the only new game they've announced in a decade? A trading card game, like Heartsone, set in Dota lore. Wow, truly revolutionary indeed.

> The fuck you expect? They've promised 3 full games, they're not just gonna shit 'em out.

> Do you want them to half-ass it or not?

They have also promised HL2 Ep3 in ~6 months after Ep2 released. After waiting more than a decade for it, forgive me if I don't put my trust in their promises.


> Wrong. I enjoy my Vive, but it's barely more than an internal engineering sample.

It's sturdy as fuck though. I don't think you're giving the design enough credit for what they were trying to do with it. Function over form

> the display is way too weak

It was literally the best display available for mass production at the time. And they've even tweaked it to be brighter than it initially was (compared to the same screen, in the rift)

> lacks polish in general.

What kind of polish?

> Given that, Valve could have chosen to dramatically subsidize Vive to make sure VR becomes the revolution they claim they want it to be. I would personally have much less to complain about if they sold it for, say, $200. Make no mistake, they could easily afford that, they chose not to.

Yeah or they could give it away for free. Or pay you to use it.

> They have also promised HL2 Ep3 in ~6 months after Ep2 released. After waiting more than a decade for it, forgive me if I don't put my trust in their promises.

That's fine, but I don't think there's any reason to think that they're sitting on their thumbs when they've said they're actively working on 3 projects.


> That's fine, but I don't think there's any reason to think that they're sitting on their thumbs when they've said they're actively working on 3 projects.

A history of products that have failed to materialize is an excellent reason to be skeptical of their claims about future projects. The Vive was unveiled almost 2.5 years ago, and has been in customer hands for over a year. So, how long should customers wait for those claimed games?

Further, HTC is rumored to be looking to either spin off or sell their Vive business, and they've dropped the price by $200. This suggests that HTC doesn't expect the Vive to be a money maker for them and are trying to get out now before they lose more money on it, which is another reason to question whether or not the Vive has a future.


I really don't think that's why HTC is breaking off the Vive division. But I agree the Vive probably doesn't have a future. The HTC offshoot is currently working on a standalone headset that probably won't have anything to do with SteamVR

I doubt Valve is working on Gen 2 in cooperation with HTC, so the Vive is basically dead

Currently LG is working on a SteamVR headset that looks ok


This argument is devolving into a pissing contest so I'm not going to try and weigh into the discussion about could haves and should haves.

To add the relevant context I do know, I use both the Rift and Vive routinely at work. The Vive definitely has functional advantages with the lighthouses, but that's really it. The Rift is so much more ergonomic, comfortable, and polished. Looking at these two devices, I cannot believe they shipped at nearly the same price point. I have no idea what "sturdy as fuck" means in this context since I've never considered the Rift fragile in any way and it certainly feels less janky and dev-kit-like than the Vive does. The Rift's controllers are an exemplary model of form and function and absolutely waste the Vive controllers as VR input devices.

Valve's engineers made some really impressive contributions to the field of VR with tech like the low persistence display. However, that smacks to me as the product of the part of their engineering team that has passion and motivation to complete new challenges. As soon as we're back to the same old challenges - developing a compelling narrative game experience - Valve drops the ball again. As others in this thread have pointed out, their fountain of money from the steam platform offers no incentive to innovate. As far as I'm concerned Valve and Oculus are both behind on tracking technology now, since Windows MR's inside-out tracking is a completely superior solution that doesn't require staying in view of real-world sensors, rearranging my house, or screwing hardware to my wall.


Even customers and critics are half assed ;)


I don't know how anyone can say that with a straight face. Imagine for a second if Nintendo or Sony had released a peripheral like that and had released nothing but a demo disk in over a year. There is no way people would be speaking about it as fondly as you are.

I feel Valve gets way too much credit just because they run a digital Walmart with cheap games.


> I don't know how anyone can say that with a straight face.

Which part?

Do you disagree that they're revolutionaries when it comes to VR? Every headset out there right now is based on the prototype tech they developed

> Imagine for a second if Nintendo or Sony had released a peripheral like that and had released nothing but a demo disk in over a year.

Imagine for a second that Valve had ten times as many employees as they currently do. Then maybe it would be comparable?


I do just wish Valve was doing SOMETHING. Like, even if they just occasially improved the Steam Client. But it basically got one reskin in 14 years.


Your prayers have been granted. VALVE REVEALED UNTO US:

    A F2P DOTA CARD GAME!!!


There is a massive client upgrade in the works.


I'll believe that when I see it. Half-Life 2: Episode 3 was also in the works.


Are you able to add any further info to this? I assume you know about this courtesy of your position in the developer community, but do you know what's being upgraded, when it's expected to hit, or can you point us at a press release / etc?


It was leaked: https://www.pcgamesn.com/steam-universal-new-client-leak

IIRC, they were asked about it in this interview and confirmed it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=atwE-K8y-ws

Might not be that exact video but I recall it being in one of the ones VNN did.


Not sure what the parent is referring to, but Steam Direct [1] is the most recent change to the Store. Before that there was the Discovery Update [2] released at the end of last year.

[1] http://steamcommunity.com/games/593110/announcements/detail/...

[2] http://store.steampowered.com/about/newstore2016/


That's definitely valid, but as someone who really has zero interest in VR in any capacity I feel a little cast aside. Obviously Valve has no obligation to make a product just because there is demand, but I know many many people who have left games behind entirely who would shell out for a new PC just to play a new Half Life. Again, there is no obligation it just sucks that I'm not in their demographic anymore.


I look forward to being able to play Half-Life 3 on release day on my affordable VR-ready PC and headset.

Another 5 or so years for both should be plenty.


Is that 5 years in real time, or in valve time? ;)


Absolutely. I still hope that HL3 will be built as a VR game.


Valve has slowly transitioned from a game developer to a platform developer. They make more money with Steam than they would ever do with a single game, and with Steam they have done the entire gaming community a huge service.

I have always expected Valve to come up with Half Life 3 to boost one of their new toys. For example, release it for Steam Box with VR support and something new/cool in the gameplay; having the portal gun in a more open world game would be awesome...

Never releasing Half-Life 3 won't be because Valve is lazy, if they cancel it I think it would be because the current generation of gamers haven't even played Half Life 2, so the market for it might have disappeared.


If you are as good as valve once where- you can make the market appear from thin air. Chicken and egg dilemmas do not apply to someone with such abundance of finance.

Well, time to close the steam account. Nothing to see here.


Titanfall and Titanfall 2 run on a modified Source engine as well, don't know if it qualifies as "Source 2" but those are 2 recent games


Source2 has been done for a long time. It's not published yet because they don't have it documented and figured out whole packaging and publishing process. Source: https://youtu.be/YpaNnX_9Q5s?t=1641


They are already running their largest game, Dota 2, on the Source 2 engine.


I'm surprised it's not complete yet. DotA 2 has been using it for 2 years, but CS:GO is still being ported to it and expected to be finished later this year.


IMHO this is the problem that occurs when things are built by committee. You need a strong person who "owns" a creative project, lives and breathes it, and sees it through.. like a movie director or an author does. We shouldn't be thinking of Valve's motivation to make the game, but some creative who defines what it means to be "Half Life".

Valve's structure doesn't feel very supportive of this sort of creative game making even if it's perfect for running infrastructure and creating storyless games like Dota and TF.


Not sure if you've seen this or not but it sounds really plausible to me.

Why valve will never release Half Life 3 - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=50lSIaSR3zc


HL3 could solve their VR problem, there's a lot of people who are "waiting", who don't see a reason to get the system yet. HL3 could push them over the edge.

Plus, it would be a really sweet game.


It's probably got to the point now that whatever they did would be negatively received because it cannot live up to the hype of the past N years. And since they're basically free-printing money out the wazoo via Steam and DOTA etc. why even bother with the hassle?


I still remember the underwater fish sound, eh uh eh uh eh uh eh uh frantically trying to find a way out of the water


Valve released HL2 along with Steam. I'm convinced they'll release HL3 with their own, Valve-branded console. I'm also guessing that it will be an exclusive to SteamOS for 6 months or something.


That was my hope when I first heard about SteamOS: A Linux distro with great drivers that would free gamers from a Windows reliance.

HL2 launched Steam, HL3 would launch SteamOS.

Oh well.


Steam was released before HL2. I remember playing HL1-based games on it.


The first "game" on Steam 1.0 was a dedicated server app released immediately before CS1.6. The people with the lowest SteamIDs are server operators. Valve bribed people to use Steam by making all HL1 games available with any HL1 engine game CD key.


My steam id is 10###, was required to play half life multi-player / counter strike.

Steam came out 1 year 2 months before Half Life 2.

They didn't really 'bribe' people, it was more to do with 1.6 CS only working on steam and patching was done via steam.


Registering any of these boxed games on Steam got you access to all of them: HL, Opposing Force, Blue Shift, Counter-Strike, Team Fortress Classic. + some Valve made mods: Quake DM, and Ricochet.

That's a pretty good "carrot" to use Steam if you ask me.


That may have changed after I got steam.

I only had Half Life, and Counter Strike was free when I started playing so I only got HL / CS. I didn't get the others free until HL2 came out...


This is what you should have got with any retail HL CD key:

https://steamdb.info/sub/1/apps/

I can confirm it worked with HL1, CS Retail and Blue Shift keys.


Still waiting for Ricochet VR.


Well, my point was that HL2 was a Steam-exclusive.


"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."

This feels a lot like Marc talking about Valve, no?


If the paragraph you quoted is indeed Marc talking about Valve, then I feel that the sentence,

> "I expect you know... the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it."

points to the hope that people will take this story and create fan games with it. Having seen the tremendous quality and effort put into the Black Mesa [0] remake, I have great faith that the inevitable fan-made Episode 3 will live up to expectations.

[0] https://www.blackmesasource.com/


Here lies Anarcho-Syndikalism, a concept that was proven to work under less favorable conditions, but stagnated in self-strangulation due to unreasonable risk avoidance.

One wonders how much that piece of paper at valve is really worth.


That's exactly my feeling too.


Other places[1] are referring to this as 'Half-Life 2: Episode 3 Plot', not HL3

[1] http://www.shacknews.com/article/101110/half-life-episode-3-...


With no official confirmation of either title, "HL3" has come to refer to whatever is next in the series. I've seen tons of comments across different sites that continue to "correct" this but I really don't think it is a distinction that needs to be made.


The distinction is absolutely significant. It's all about expectations. The originally promised "HL2:Episode 3" didn't need to be some huge revolutionary product, just a satisfying conclusion to HL2 and its episodes, while setting up the scene for the next game. As soon as people start saying "HL3" they expect some grandiose, ground breaking product.

The story laid out here by Marc is much closer to what you would expect from Episode 3 rather than HL3.


I basically meant that (generally) everyone who has been talking about HL3 over the years is just referring to the next hypothetical installment.


> events following those described in my previous letter (referred to herewith as Epistle 2).

If 'Epistle 3' does not mean 'Episode 3', then 'Gertie Fremont' does not refer to 'Gordon Freeman'. That's what the author called it, whatever the internet at large thinks at any point in time is less relevant IMO.


You're right, must have missed that part. Regardless, whether it's HL3 or HL2:E3 I think it's safe to say it's not happening. I'd be surprised if Valve really is sitting on this project for the next big tech breakthrough they achieve. Hard to say.


I agree - this is the story outline for HL2:EP3. If this is close to the truth of the projected story line, it's way too short. It wraps up HL2:EP1 and HL2:EP2 nicely but I'm going to be naive and say it's not the end of HL3.

Maybe the best move now is to just move on directly to HL3 and reference part of this released story line as flashbacks.

I can dream, right?


Valve has basically implied that this is going to be the case, since it's been too long without a release for them to continue the episodic format


Valve don't seem particularly inclined towards the HL franchise and haven't been for a long time. Do you have a source for that claim?


Code leaks in updates to some of their newer games reference "hl3": http://www.valvetime.net/threads/minor-half-life-3-reference...

Gabe Newell talks about abandoning the episodic schedule here: https://www.develop-online.net/analysis/the-valve-manifesto/...


> Code leaks in updates to some of their newer games reference "hl3"

My assumption has been for years that "HL3" is as much a joke inside Valve as it is outside of it.

> Gabe Newell talks about

This was six years ago.


Trying to imagine playing this, it sounds like they were struggling to get it "right", and it may have kept feeling like a poor cousin of other games. In comparison to HL1 & 2, the plot seems a bit slow-starting, ends on an actual anti-climax instead of a cruelly-interrupted climax, and the game mechanics (snow/stealth, map phasing, time bubbles) seem to suffer from other recent games having done variations on these very well.

Add the inherent disappointment of not having the portal gun that everyone's expecting to be in there somewhere, and it could feel like it was bound to disappoint.

HL1 & HL2 did a very good job of switching genres and game mechanics from level to level, while still keeping everything clear and centred on a simple familiar mystery plot. The levels were able to establish their genres very fast -- usually from the first scene you saw as the doors opened or you rounded a corner. Everything was clear, and in both cases the motivating story was very simple, and the "plot" was setting. You've got to get help; you've got to get to Lambda Complex, We've got to get you through the portal to shoot what's on the other side...

This HL3 plot seems to have got a bit "Lost" (sorry, tv series reference) as people's motivations are uncertain and there's exposition, and an attempt to partially unfold the mystery while always adding new ones... and still trying to make those bug-pod things work as a villain that didn't work in Ep1 or Ep2.

Still, the bones of a good game are there. From my amateur eyes, it just looks like it needed to stop trying to resist/subvert the viewer's expectations, and just hit a few of the notes the player's been waiting for so they can have a note of satisfaction on the way to the new mystery.


No game mechanics are mentioned in the story, so why wouldn't there be a portal gun? Extrapolating, if one is in a time travelling ship, the portal gun could actually generate portals between different time dimensions, and I can already think of a ton of gameplay ideas that could use this concept.


Using the portal gun to not only jump through space, but time as well?

Ummm, YES!

The 'structure' of the puzzles you could use that with would need to be very tightly controlled (enemy position vectors, amount you can travel backwards in time, maybe some sort of energy mechanic you have to pick up as you go along, etc). But still, WOW! Jumping back to the start of a level at the very end and you must manipulate time to accomplish the level, there is a LOT of possibility to talk about there. I have no idea what jumping forward in time would look like except if you went back, say 5 minutes, and then you could only go forward again up to that 5 min mark.

However, you can't use this in a PvP manner very well, only co-op. Maybe you could have the players ALL jump back in time except the user of the time device who got to essentially teleport around. However, the cheesing of that mechanic would be frustrating in the extreme.


You should check out the Titanfall 2 campaign. They do a thing like this and it's one of the coolest things I've ever seen in a shooter.


I wish I could!


"This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experienced a critical change in my circumstances, and was redeposited on these shores"

Marc Laidlaw left Valve in January 2016. The end of the post is also probably about Valve, as others have already figured out. I wonder what else there might be to discover.



Not quite a mirror: the names have been changed to match actual Half-Life characters instead of the genderswapped versions in the original.


The link is a forbidden error, for me.

Edit: Fixed now, and the title changed.


While the source article is overwhelmed with requests; why was the story released this way?


Well why shouldn't it be released? As we now know it's unlikely to be delivered in a form of a game so it can be given its due another way.

.. Ha-ha, 2 downvotes and no explanation. Is this about so-called 'copy right' bullshit?


Apparently his NDA has just expired.


Valve's ownership of its IP surely didn't expire so this still seems pretty odd.


The writer is claiming it's fanfic, and all the names have been changed.

I also suspect that if no game is going to be released, Valve will not bother with legal action; they look bad as it is already.


Valve's current market idea to not really make games doesn't mean that they don't want to take action on the ip 5, 10, 20, 50, 70 years from now and per their rights they are in their rights to wait that long. Content creators don't owe you a thing unless they already took your money for it.


An argument for content creators not owing you anything seems to mirror that content creators aren't owed any respect for their creations either. I mean we have IP laws to encourage content creaters to create by ensuring they can capitalise on their creations or perhaps to allow them to preserve the artistic merit of these creations.

In that spirit there's probably a good argument to be made that it's in the public interest to add to clearly incomplete bodies of work that appear to be abandoned. Whether that's practical or does more harm to the public good is the question.


Sure but what's a valid window? At 5 years Martin would have lost game of thrones.

Also they owe you for the thing they made already. If you forced them to complete works on your timeline then you're indenturing them.


Likely disgruntled with not getting his story told.


My website's down for now. I guess fanfic is popular, even a genderswapped snapshot of a dream I had many years ago.

https://twitter.com/marc_laidlaw/status/900960760481726464



I'm not sure if I'm an idiot or if it's because English is not my native language or what, but I find it really difficult to follow this narration style.

Can someone give a short summary of what happened?

TD;CU (too dumb, can't understand).


They go to Antarctica to find the Borealis (the ship built by Aperture Science from Portal).

The Borealis is phasing in and out of reality. Rescue Dr Mossman from the Combine, she has details to make the Borealis phase in for enough time to get Freeman+Alyx+Mossman on board, chased by Combine.

While on board, discover Borealis is moving through Time as well as Space. Mossman wants Borealis recovered for the Resistance, Alyx wants it destroyed. They fight, Alyx kills Mossman.

Borealis reconfigured to fly through Space to Combine planet to try to destroy it with explosion, as they arrive G-man takes Alyx off the ship, Vortigaunts take Freeman.

Combine world too massive, powered by a Dyson sphere, Borealis explosion does nothing.

Freeman back on Earth sometime in the future, won't take part in any more conflict with Combine.


I haven't played the game, so I'm a bit confused: what parts of the story are slyly referring to Valve itself rather than the HL3 story? How do you get "welp, looks like HL3 is cancelled" based on this story?


The last paragraph is almost definitely about Valve:

"And here we are. I spoke of my return to this shore. It has been a circuitous path to lands I once knew, and surprising to see how much the terrain has changed. 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. Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final episode."

No more HL2:Episode N coming, the development team is too different.


Original says "my final epistle" which makes more sense contextually. But epistle has certainly been used as a clever stand-in reference to Episode.


Yeah, I should have said that I copied this from the "corrected" version which replaces the character and place references.



So... if Gordon is on the Earth in the future, did the Combine go away, or what? It really doesn't answer this important question.


Thank you very much!


The boat mentioned during HL2 E2 can teleport anywhere easily and instantly. The crew set it teleport to random places so the aliens wouldn't get it. Gordon and Alyx are able to board the boat, where Judith Mossman wants to use the technology to help the resistance while Alyx wants to destroy it as Eli wished. Alyx kills Judith and rigs the boat to explode. Her and Gordon teleport to the alien homeworld on a suicide mission. Alyx is recruited by the G-man and Gordon is rescued by the Vortigaunts. The boat bomb is much too small to damage or destroy the alien planet. Gordon awakens on an Earth where much time has passed.


Spoilers for everything!

- Freeman and Alyx Vance, acting as an advance party for a larger Resistance force, seek out Borealis, the Aperture Science research ship which Eli Vance charged them to find and destroy shortly before his death. Their helicopter crashes near the site, and they make the last few miles (?) by probably somewhat frostbitten foot.

- On reaching the location in Antarctica where Borealis is last known to have been, Freeman and Vance find the ship is phasing in and out of spacetime, and a Combine garrison has been established to capture it at earliest opportunity. They also find a surprisingly alive Wallace Breen and kill him, and a captive Judith Mossman who, despite her earlier actions painting her as a Combine quisling, insists she's actually a Resistance double agent. She also has the plot coupon required to access Borealis. Freeman and Vance break her out and bring her along.

- The party succeeds in boarding Borealis, as do some of the Combine troops from the garrison. The ship immediately desynchronizes from local spacetime again, both isolating the boarding parties from the Combine and the now-arriving Resistance forces, and exposing them to severe disorientation as distant times and places impinge upon the tenuous reality aboard the ship.

- Borealis's situation proves to be caused by an incomplete long-distance teleportation system, the "Bootstrap Device", which was being developed aboard the ship prior to the Combine invasion. As Combine forces seized the graving dock which housed Borealis during the Bootstrap Device's development, the science team on board favored the possibility of escape over the certainty of capture, and activated the untested Device with a target destination of Antarctica. It sort of worked, but left Borealis unstuck in spacetime. The fate of the science team is unknown.

- Two options emerge for what to do with Borealis. Mossman favors permanent resynchronization with the ship's destination spacetime, allowing the Resistance to study and exploit the technology aboard. Vance favors rigging the ship's reactor (or something) to explode, and synchronizing her with the major Combine military staging area that's been a recurrent feature of her shifts through spacetime - thus fulfilling Eli Vance's final instructions and likely achieving an immediate and significant strategic victory, at the cost of whatever longer-term benefit the ship's unique technology could offer. Mossman attempts to disable Vance and implement the former option; Vance shoots Mossman dead and implements the latter.

- The G-man rescues Vance, but leaves behind Freeman, for whom it appears he has no further use. The Vortigaunts rescue Freeman immediately before Borealis materializes in the middle of the Combine base, which is gigantic on a previously unappreciated scale, and the ship explodes to no meaningful effect whatsoever.

Here the plot ends, and Freeman's story - or at least our involvement therein - apparently with it.


TL:DR; Alyx ruins humanities only chance to one up Combine with time travel and buggers off with G-Man.


Chuck "SFDebris" Sonnenburg made a great point about this in his review of Carpenter's Prince of Darkness: time travel is the ultimate gamble, because you don't know and can't control how it is going to come out. It's the thing you only do when literally anything else is preferable to the status quo. I don't think the situation of humanity at the end of Episode 2 meets that standard. It's bad, sure! But there are countably infinite ways in which it could be much worse.


And there are infinite ways it could be much better then sucidie bombing a Dyson shpere for no effect.


What if you make it work and the Combine takes it from you?


What if you make it work and there is no more Combine to take it from you?


What if you make it work and there is no more Combine to take it from you because they have been replaced by something many times worse?


Remove them too.


I think a new Half Life game would be the perfect opportunity for Valve to showcase their virtual reality kit. So far there are no blockbuster VR games and the Half Life franchise (Portal included) has a history of being very innovative (e.g. HL2 using a physics engine for the narrative, HL1&2: story told through level design). There is a lot of potential to use immersive virtual reality to enhance the story telling.


They said years ago that HL3 would not be a VR focused game but I suspect that has changed by this point. There are still issues with normal locomotion in VR and nausea so I suspect either there will be some new idea in that realm or HL3 will take on Portal technology to explain teleportation based movement.


Im waiting for the fans to pick up the pieces and make it real.


While someone inevitably will try, I don't see it being good. The hallmark of the Half-Life series was not its plot, but an almost compulsive obsession with the gameplay quality. Few professional studios could rival Valve in that, let alone a fan project.


I mean, I don't know if you've seen Black Mesa (the game), but they've done an incredible job at making an HL1 reboot, with some levels drastically expanded, a lot of things tweaked, and it's amazing how well it works.

Valve doesn't have a monopoly in gameplay quality - they're just very consistent about it.


Black Mesa is great, but it also took over 8 years of development for first release and it still isn't done (last I checked the Xen chapters aren't in). So that's 13 years of development and counting.

They also had the entirety of HL1 to build the game from. Obviously they created a ton of unique assets and reworked stuff, but they had an entire game to work from.

Trying to make a full 'mod' of Episode 3 is nothing like Black Mesa and would be an incredible amount of work. With that said, I would love to see someone try.


I found Black Mesa to be crappy, to be honest. I don't know how anyone could imply that they were on Valve's level there, except in terms of leveraging much newer engine technology. I played the first public version and maybe it has improved...



Half-Life 3 confirmed dead? :(


Well "Half Life 2: Episode 3" (what this post is really about) seems to be.


This would have been a treat for those who had finished episode 2 and were waiting anxiously for the next step in the saga.

Sometimes its simply not possible to do things and fans understand but Valve just shuttered the series and turned their back on fans. It's like Game of Thrones suddenly deciding to close down for no obvious reason and with no explanation to fans.

This reeks more than a little of the arrogance of success and it's in some ways a betrayal of all the gamers who appreciated Half life for what it was and propelled Valve to its initial success.


Yeah, it never would have lived up to the hype. Explained nothing.


> it never would have lived up to the hype.

If this had been released as episode 3 a couple of years after episode 2? Sure it could


Has any entry in the Half Life series really explained anything? We get little glimpses into certain events, some from different perspectives (like the Black Mesa incident). We never get the whole picture and what we, as the player, know is told to us by other characters or shown through events we experience.


Yes, in that HL1 & 2 played on such well known tropes that it only needed to show you the scene and you knew the story.

The opening was laden with every disaster movie signal (up to and including "Nothing will go wrong" said in emphatic tones). The lift doors in Office Complex open to archetypal zombie horror. The scientist getting gunned down by the military cover up in We've Got Hostiles hits any number of movie tropes while clearly signalling the next bit is Rambo-style action...

It's fairly similar to the first Star Wars movie, in that because it is hitting the tropes quickly and clearly, and jumping from setting to setting, it can tell the story very efficiently.


My point was there are no arbitrary narrative components like computer terminals where you read a dead guy's email that explicitly explains the set up in text format. Or whatever, that seems to be a really common (lazy) way to tell a story.

I would argue that what you said is all about show vs tell. Which is a good thing for visual media.


I love those terminals and books in the Deus Ex series. They flesh out the world with much more detail than could ever be shared in cutscenes or NPC dialogue.


Did people love the Half Life series because of the story? I was never that interested in it personally, I played because of the exceptional game mechanics and level design.

> It was impossible to hold a coherent thought, given the baffling and paradoxical timeloops, which passed through the ship like bubbles.

I would have loved to have seen what Valve would have done with this.


> Did people love the Half Life series because of the story?

Yes, or at least I did. Very much so. I loved the story so much that I would probably be quite happy watching a Half Life 3 movie.



I used to have this perspective on media, and I think LOST broke it for me. I don't need everything explained anymore, I just want to enjoy an engaging and entertaining story. Sometimes leaving some stuff to the imagination is the right move.

Fun fact: there IS no "Half-Life story bible", so it's not like they're witholding story from you, they just literally haven't written it: https://twitter.com/marc_laidlaw/status/899511161145573376


Yeah I was hoping for at least a bit more on the Gman's motivations.


It's interesting how much this differs from the storyline of the infamous leaked HL2 Beta [1], which was based on a rough version of what became HL2, Episode 1, and Episode 2. [1]http://combineoverwiki.net/wiki/Half-Life_2_original_storyli...


Not much of a story really, it seems like they had no intention of actually answering any of the mysteries around the G-Man and Alyx, but it sounds like it would have been a fun game.


This plot may have been originally intended more as Half-Life 2: Episode 3 than Half-Life 3.


The G-man is a Deus Ex Machina, it's always a lazy plot device.


perhaps, but he transcended that. his visible and unreachable appearances at other times, combined with his bizarre diction, made his character capture the imaginations of many.


Yeah, dragons and eagles, and now a guy in a suit.


Most of the obfuscated references have been elucidated, but I'm not finding anything for who "Dearest Playa" is. Does anyone know?


"Dear Player"


It's a good and short read, and I accept it as closure for what I always thought was a very well written series.


Half Life 3 confirmed!


a lot of complaints about valve. u know what people also complain about a lot... companies milking their intelectual property.... i think half-life so far has left a great legacy. if they ever decide to continue it , it would be sweet. i'd hope it would be in the same fashion, shooter for pc, not VR bullshit. but hey... still enjoying half life 1 and 2+ so fuck all the whiners. be thankful for what you have got, not a needy little baby crying for more!. maybe if u guys behave thankful people like gabe/marc and others involved with what we love would listen.




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