Half-Life 2 Episode 3 Planned Story Released By Writer


#1

It will probably never be a game at this point, but it’s very cool to know what was going to happen after that climactic scene. Marc Laidlaw left Valve fairly recently, along with some other writers, which doesn’t bode well for the potential of a third Half-Life game to actually happen. For those like me who still care at least enough to read a few pages, here it is.

This was originally posted in a coded form with names and proper nouns changed at http://www.marclaidlaw.com/epistle-3/, which appears to be down.

I don’t know about all of you, but this is kind of the only thing from the series I needed closure on. I didn’t really care about playing another Half-Life game. So this is very nice!!!

Spoilers probably follow, I guess?


#2

Well… that’s definitely a Half-Life ending. By which I mean kind of unsatisfactory.


#3

There’s one word that feels so remarkably out of place, and I hate it with a feisty passion, but fucking up portrayal of Alyx for no apparent reason was kinda what they did in the Episodes, so I guess it tracks.

Kinda fun playing through this in your head, totally tracks like a Halflife game. Cool.


#4

Episode 3 or Half-Life 3, or is that the same thing?

It’s still incredible to me that they seemingly refuse to make another Half-Life game. It really doesn’t need to be so revolutionary as they maybe think it needs to be? They have the engine, just make some cool maps. You can’t fool me into thinking they wouldn’t be able to do something even a little cool after HL2, Portal 1 & 2. Like, they got the chops.


#5

I don’t read that as Alyx killing Mossman in cold blood. I think that can be interpreted as the two of them engaging in a physical struggle over Alyx’s explosives and the gun going off by accident. Still messed up, though.

I wonder how they would have done the scene on the Borealis. It describes seeing multiple eras of time, even multiple locations simultaneously. There are obviously “cheap” and “easy” ways to do this, but I feel like, say, the Titanfall 2 solution for visualizing multiple times wouldn’t be applicable here, and it would be lame if it was just a bunch of anachronistic stuff thrown in a mixing pot, where you have a cliff face from one era sitting inside a building next to ice. But how else do you solve that problem? Maybe that’s something that contributed to the game’s slow development.

Also, this definitely feels more like Episode 3 than Half-Life 3. There have been tiny leaks about Half-Life 3 here and there as Valve updates their games and their engines, and there are project files that reference something that’s at least called Half-Life 3 regarding like, RPG-style quest systems and stuff that doesn’t really look like it slots in to this.

I mean, this Episode 3 “summary” ends on what is presumably the set up to the solo Alyx episodes Valve teased something like 13 years ago. Marc Laidlaw could have been sitting on this narrative (not this specific document, but the specific way this story played out) for almost a decade for all we know. I mean, when Valve said they wanted to go “episodic” they had hard enough plans for the first three episodes that they were hiring for episode 4 as far back as the release of episode 1, probably even before then. Episode 4 is what Arkane was working on before they started Dishonored.

Valve had a very big, very long plan for all of this before they got mired in swamps of ValveTime™

As I think we’re discovering with Kickstarters, developers who are beholden to no-one but themselves and their own creative urges are wasteful and sluggish at best.


#6

Episode 3 or Half-Life 3, or is that the same thing?

They’re separate things. Half-Life 2 had a mini-series of Episodes attached to it, although only 1 and 2 were released (and now we know what Laidlaw was thinking about Episode 3), which, theoretically, would bridge the gap between Half-Life 2 and 3. Half-Life 3 would be, in theory, be the game that either finished the series or, at least, went beyond Half-Life 2.


#7

Man, it sounded like a really dense story, all the time travelling and nods back to Aperture would have been cool. How terrible that it’ll never see the light of day… UNLESS GEARBOX PICK IT UP!!!


#8

This is really something for a different thread, but I had to pause on this one. Wasteful and sluggish at best? I know that the worst Kickstarters usually manage to be louder and bigger than the ones who take their money, go into the lab and come out with a product but this seems like a really harsh and generalized view on game dev work ethic.


#9

The plot here would have been good back in 2008-2009 but there’s no way this would have lived up to hype if it was released tomorrow.

At this point I would be way more happy if Valve announced they were making another game in the same style as Half-Life. I want more cool sci-fi games that let me mess with the environment and have weird science in them like Prey. It’s been much too long and the speculation surrounding it would just be ruined by the release of more Half-Life games.

When I think about the things that I like about the Half-Life series it’s the first game and the unknown and cut content. The combine assassin and npc_surface for example will forever be some of my favorite enemies despite the fact that I should never have known about their existence. JJ Abrams mystery box talk at TED sums up just how I think I feel about it all.


#10

Oh, no, I was fine with that.

It was just the weird decision to describe Alyx as fiesty, while doing no other descriptions in the whole thing.


#11

This particular passage at the end sounds like he is talking about the shift of culture at Valve itself more than a Half Life ending


#12

Ha, I didn’t pick up on that but you’re totally right. The writers that left Valve both described it as a company that had become unrecognizable to them compared to when they had been doing story work. It’s so sad…


#13

somehow this was the bullet in the back of the head for whatever hope I still had for ever seeing another Half Life.


#14

I dunno, I’m not buying this. I’m not super familiar with the guy’s prose, and the plot certainly sounds on-par with a Half-Life game…but the writing doesn’t seem to be of the caliber I’d expect. Plus the whole conceit of a letter seems a bit off since Gordon is typical kept pretty blank to encourage projection, and the narrative sketching I’ve seen from Valve has tended towards the third person.

Is there confirmation that the man himself actually put this out there?


#15

It was posted as a blog entry on his website, which he has used before (it’s not a website someone just made for him to post this). It almost immediately went down due to all the traffic; here’s a Wayback Machine link to view the original, coded post.

I’m not sure who took it upon themselves to decode it and make it an easier read, and store it in this repository, but it appears to be the same text.

My opinion of the caliber of Half-Life’s writing has glided softly down over the years, and this is about exactly what I’d expect. It just feels right.


#16

I think there’s a genuine benefit to having a publisher (or someone) there to keep everyone focused. There’s a balance to be maintained, and Valve having essentially infinite money and full control over everything they do has undoubtedly left a lot of really great stuff to shrivel up and die on the vine simply because the person heading up that project “got bored.”

And by bored I mean they could have worked too hard and burnt out, they could have been pulled away to crunch on a TF2 or DOTA update and forgot where they left off, and by the very nature of Valve’s “nobody has any roles, do anything you want as long as it’s cool” ethic, that thing they were working on, whatever it was, vanishes in a puff of smoke.

I’m blanking on the video that pointed it out to me, but there’s a scene in the making of Pixar’s The Incredibles where Brad Bird is arguing with, like, the Producer or somebody in charge of finances, and Brad gets this amazing idea in the 11th hour for a big impressive finale scene and the Producer is telling him he can’t do that, because it would cost too much and they’d be over budget and late on their deadlines and this and that and the other thing, and Brad’s defense is “Yes, but this will be the coolest thing and make for the best movie.” In the end, they meet in the middle, and it’s that back and forth between “it’ll be cool” “but deadlines tho” that’s the industry’s real fuel.

Valve doesn’t have anyone saying “but deadlines tho” or probably even “but budgets tho.” They built a whole manufacturing plant for the Steam controller even though I think it was probably obvious early on that response to it was going to be lukewarm (they did years of R&D, some of it very public). They have extremely deep pockets and their whole corporate culture is based on the idea of taking their time.

Yes, that does mean that most (not all, but most) of what comes out of Valve is of exceptional quality, but we’re also in this situation right now, where Valve is bleeding guys like Marc Laidlaw, Chet Faliszek, and Eric Wolpaw because the only thing that company has done in the last six years is crank the money printing machine on CSGO and DOTA to burn in the VR furnace.

Remember when they had an idea “too cool” to put in Portal 2, called F-STOP? How they wanted to take the F-STOP idea and turn it in to its own separate thing? And it’s not like this was just something that looked good on paper, Valve reportedly worked on F-STOP for roughly a year. Portal 2 came out in 2011. We’ve still never seen what F-STOP is.

How many more really great ideas are laying on their cutting room floor because that free-money-and-no-consequence corporate structure accidentally smothered them to death?


#17

Ah, I totally agree that this occurs within Valve. When you get hired there, you just decide what you want to work on, and recently it seems they just haven’t gotten many people holding up projects more interesting than your CSGOs and DOTAs.

The thing I took issue with is saying that dev teams who use Kickstarter and try to make something creative without organization are wasteful and sluggish. I think Kickstarter teams that just plain get unfocused or get caught up in creative highs (like the Brad Bird example) are the exception rather than the rule.

If something runs out of money or takes too long to get out, it’s usually not because everyone wasn’t working and keeping their heads in the game, but because game development is volatile, always harder than you think it’s going to be. So many unpredictable things happen to waste all your money, and planning for the amount you really need to be completely safe is hard to do, too. You’re constantly worried that people will complain your goal is too much, since people have developed wishful, preconceived ideas of indie game budgets vs. the budgets of any other game.

A lot of times, even that project manager or producer making sure people only do what is necessary to get the product out within the window isn’t enough.


#18

Right, yeah. I mean, I’ve had friends who Kickstarted games and I know they’re still struggling. I guess I should have clarified that I don’t mean that’s a universal thing

What I meant with the Kickstarter jab is more about games like Yooka-Laylee, Mighty No. 9, Broken Age, etc. where the freedom granted by the crowd funding campaign leads to these guys dropping the ball – almost as if the restrictions and pressure placed on them by the traditional publisher structure encourages creative, elegant solutions rather than just grinding past every obstacle until you run out of money.

Smaller Kickstarters obviously don’t get that luxury because, at least with regards to the two friends I spoke about, they still have to work day jobs in addition to developing their games, and their Kickstarters were either for highly specific things or they didn’t get tons of money and still have to fund most of the game themselves.


#19

recently it seems they just haven’t gotten many people holding up projects more interesting than your CSGOs and DOTAs.

It’s been a long time since I’ve checked but the number of core members on these teams is actually not very large when you consider how many people are working at Valve now. CSGO for example has always had between 5-9 people since they took a hold of development from HPE.

I think most of them are working on those supposed 3 VR games that are in full development.


#20

On the latest Waypoint Radio, the Waypoint crew talked about the potential upside of a post like this, which is the potential for a fan-developed ‘Episode 3’ to be created based on what Laidlaw has laid out. While it might not be quite the same thing as what this game could have been, Epistle 3 would be a fun project to see and be able to play.

That said, on further reflection, it is a bummer that this is how this news came out. It’s good to have seen this kind of closure for the story elements, but the fact that Laidlaw, essentially, became a free agent and leaked it out rather than Valve confirming it is just kinda gross.