Editorial

Is Valve waiting for next-gen consoles to release Half-Life 3?

Earlier this month, Valve confirmed that it wouldn't be showing any new titles at E3. Instead, the company will be showcasing already-revealed titles and updates, including Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2 and Steam's upcoming "big picture mode" update for using Steam on televisions. In other words, no Half-Life 3 reveal will take place next month, much to the dismay of gamers all over the world.

It's been close to five years since Valve released Half-Life 2: Episode Two, which included hints about Half-Life 3: Episode Three involving Aperture Science's ship, the Borealis. While it's still possible another Half-Life 2 episode could come out, at this point it seems highly unlikely. Gamers would be disappointed, and it would be questionable for Valve to spend five years developing an episodic title. By all accounts, the only logical next step in the Half-Life franchise is a full sequel, Half-Life 3.

So why don't we have any information about Half-Life 3? Gabe Newell gave a clue about the company's progress in a recent interview. When Newell was asked when Ricochet 2 would be released, he responded clearly talking about Half-Life 3.

"In terms of 'Ricochet 2,' we always have this problem that when we talk about things too far in advance," Newell said. "We end up changing our minds as we're going through and developing stuff, so as we're thinking through the giant story arc which is 'Ricochet 2,' you might get to a point where you're saying something is surprising us in a positive way and something is surprising us in a negative way, and, you know, we'd like to be super transparent about the future of 'Ricochet 2.'"

If the next installment in the Half-Life franchise is a "giant story arc," it's almost certainly a full game, not an episodic release. 

The original Half-Life was released in 1998; expansions and stand-alone story arcs were released until a full sequel, Half-Life 2, was released six years later, although it was announced a year prior to its release. With that timeline in mind, it'd seem logical to assume a Half-Life 3-related announcement would take place relatively soon. So why not E3, the biggest gaming event of the year? Two possibilities come to mind.

First, Valve may want to hold its own event to announce the title. But even if it Valve were interested in announcing the title on its own terms, it'd likely want to do so before E3, so it could gain the publicity the gaming expo provides. Valve took a similar approach with both Half-Life 2 and Portal 2, announcing both titles before E3 but still having them in the company's E3 showcase. 

The second and more likely possibility is that Valve's waiting for something to announce Half-Life 3. Namely, the next round of gaming consoles.

While the Nintendo Wii U launches later this year, it's not exactly a giant leap over the current generation's technical capabilities. Most developers have said it's more powerful than the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, but not by a substantial margin typical of the next generation of consoles. Given that Nintendo has never been known for focusing on technical specifications, as well as the fact that its consoles don't cater to more mature gamers, the next Microsoft and Sony consoles would likely provide a better option for Valve's prolific sequel. And given that neither Microsoft or Sony has any plans to reveal the next generation of console gaming at E3, Valve would be announcing the title a significant amount of time before release.

Slowly but surely, Valve's made its foray into console gaming. The company's first project for consoles was a port of Half-Life 2 to the original Xbox in 2005 (Gearbox Software handled the original Half-Life's port to the PlayStation 2). It wasn't a big release for the company, but it did prove to be a catalyst for the developer's future. In 2007, it released The Orange Box simultaneously on PC, Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 (although EA handled the game's port to the Sony console). A year later, the company released Left 4 Dead on the PC and Xbox 360, accompanied by a large advertising campaign that most PC-exclusive titles would never see.

After that, Valve got serious about console development. Left 4 Dead 2 was released on the PC and Xbox 360 in 2009, but in 2011 the company made its biggest push into console territory: Portal 2.

The puzzle game was developed simultaneously for all three platforms by Valve. Though Newell had previously made disparaging remarks about programming games for Sony's latest console, the Valve CEO quickly changed his stance and Valve embraced the PlayStation 3, allowing PlayStation 3 users to play the game cross-platform with PC users. Since that time, Valve has announced Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, a title that will clearly cater to console gamers. The game features a simplified interface and emphasizes quick matches, and will be released as a downloadable title on XBLA and PSN.

Valve's proprietary Source engine has aged far more gracefully than other engines since its release, but it's starting to show its years. With Unreal Engine 3, CryENGINE 3 and Frostbite 2 all pushing the boundaries of the current generation, it'd be logical to assume Valve's working on its own engine upgrade. The easiest way to ensure consoles will be able to run a game as well as a PC is to have more powerful consoles.

The Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 only have a year or two left, tops. It's improbable Valve would want to release a game so late in a console's lifecycle if Microsoft and Sony are going to announce new consoles within a year.

Valve's bread-and-butter has always been the PC. That's not going to change given the company runs one of the most successful digital distribution platforms in any industry. But not showing Half-Life 3 at E3 this year means it won't be released until 2013 at the earliest. And 2013 just so happens to be the year Sony and Microsoft are expected to release their next consoles. Valve won't delay Half-Life 3 by a year just to make a console launch date, but if it's a matter of a few months, it's quite possible Valve would use that additional time to polish the game and release it simultaneously, just as it has its last few titles.

So when will we see Half-Life 3? Probably not until Microsoft and Sony announce their new consoles. So get your stasis chamber ready and hope Wheatley wakes you before GLaDOS has taken over, because we've probably got a good wait ahead of us.

Report a problem with article
Previous Story

Zynga sues PyramidVille developer

Next Story

Weekend Poll: What is Microsoft's best product?

9 Comments

Commenting is disabled on this article.

At least there is still talk of a new Half Life, that alone makes me excited. I thought they scrapped the project.

No, no they aren't.

Valve are a PC developer, console ports are an afterthought to them. Something they have demonstrated time and time again, most recently with the PS3 not having gotten the PeTI update for Portal 2 - breaking the ability for cross-platform co-op.

If Valve are waiting for anything, it's until they're satisfied that EP3 or whatever they wish to call it lives up to their standards of quality.

Not to mention that if people want to work on Project X rather than EP3/whatever, it's not going to get made all that fast.

Edited by Athernar, May 13 2012, 4:32pm :

Athernar said,
No, no they aren't.

Valve are a PC developer, console ports are an afterthought to them. Something they have demonstrated time and time again, most recently with the PS3 not having gotten the PeTI update for Portal 2 - breaking the ability for cross-platform co-op.

If Valve are waiting for anything, it's until they're satisfied that EP3 or whatever they wish to call it lives up to their standards of quality.

Not to mention that if people want to work on Project X rather than EP3/whatever, it's not going to get made all that fast.


Console ports clearly haven't been "an afterthought to them" for quite some time. Portal 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the Left 4 Dead games have all been made with consoles obviously in mind. They were developed simultaneously and saw a large marketing push that an "afterthought" would never get. When Portal 2 was released, the PC version even said "please don't shut off your console" when saving.

As far as updates, there's no arguments that Valve is very reticent of the fact that the PC market is different than the console market. It's nearly impossible for them to push out the amount of updates Team Fortress 2 gets to the 360, for example.

My point wasn't that they're going to release a sub-standard game. My point was that their standards may be high and that the next console generation will allow them to meet those standards on consoles, especially if they upgrade the Source engine significantly.

Anthony Tosie said,

Console ports clearly haven't been "an afterthought to them" for quite some time. Portal 2, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive and the Left 4 Dead games have all been made with consoles obviously in mind. They were developed simultaneously and saw a large marketing push that an "afterthought" would never get. When Portal 2 was released, the PC version even said "please don't shut off your console" when saving.

As far as updates, there's no arguments that Valve is very reticent of the fact that the PC market is different than the console market. It's nearly impossible for them to push out the amount of updates Team Fortress 2 gets to the 360, for example.

My point wasn't that they're going to release a sub-standard game. My point was that their standards may be high and that the next console generation will allow them to meet those standards on consoles, especially if they upgrade the Source engine significantly.

This simply isn't the case. Portal 2 only exists on the PS3 because Sony handed over the keys to the platform to Valve - not because Gabe had a change of heart. And despite that, here we are with a PS3 version left out in the cold - with no update and broken cross-platform co-op.

Localisation strings aren't really a compelling argument either.

So yes, console versions are very much an afterthought - they might not half-ass the ports, but they're most definitely a secondary priority. As such, they're not going to gimp over the PC waiting for consoles to move into this century - they'll just not bother releasing console versions or release a port later on.

Not sure I agree with you in any regard. Portal 2 exists on the PlayStation 3 because Valve worked on creating Source for OpenGL, which allowed them to easily create PS3 and Mac games. I'm not sure where you're getting the "handing over the keys to the platform" part from -- Source on the PlayStation 3 doesn't exactly do anything that was previously not allowed.

The fact that the game was developed simultaneously was the argument, not the argument that there was a bug. They clearly spent a great deal of time trying to make sure the game worked well on all platforms, and the fact that such an error came through on the PC version indicates very much that it wasn't an afterthought.

I'm not sure if you read the article, but that wasn't what I was saying.

Anthony Tosie said,
Not sure I agree with you in any regard. Portal 2 exists on the PlayStation 3 because Valve worked on creating Source for OpenGL, which allowed them to easily create PS3 and Mac games. I'm not sure where you're getting the "handing over the keys to the platform" part from -- Source on the PlayStation 3 doesn't exactly do anything that was previously not allowed.

You're wrong here, Source has no OpenGL codepath - it's still a DirectX based engine. They implemented a API call translation layer rather than do a rewrite.

Not to mention that simply supporting OpenGL grossly oversimplifies the matter, the PS3 requires significant architechtural changes in regards to threading. It's not a matter of "slapping on" OpenGL.

Portal 2 is on the PS3 because Sony gave Valve the ability to be closer to their customers, simple as that. The architechture still sucks as much as it did the day Gabe trashed it in a interview.

Anthony Tosie said,

The fact that the game was developed simultaneously was the argument, not the argument that there was a bug. They clearly spent a great deal of time trying to make sure the game worked well on all platforms, and the fact that such an error came through on the PC version indicates very much that it wasn't an afterthought.

I'm not sure if you read the article, but that wasn't what I was saying.

Simultaneous development doesn't mean anything. If you re-read my response you'll see I clearly stated that while they don't half-ass their ports, they're still not top priority.

Valve would not arbitrarily delay a project simply to accomodate consoles. That's not how they work.

We're having a simple conversation here and you're trying to overcomplicate things. I'm referring to Valve's decisions as Valve itself has referred to them: http://www.opengl.org/news/com...overhauled-to-carry-opengl/

It's easier to say Valve is supporting OpenGL than write a paragraph about how their OpenGL support works. I'm not even sure why you think the omission adds anything to the conversation.

Again, not sure if you read the article, but you're addressing a lot of things I already covered; I never said the PC wasn't the company's priority, for instance. I said it was. And, as I already said, Steam on the PlayStation 3 isn't doing anything developers were prohibited from doing before.

Anthony Tosie said,
We're having a simple conversation here and you're trying to overcomplicate things. I'm referring to Valve's decisions as Valve itself has referred to them: http://www.opengl.org/news/com...overhauled-to-carry-opengl/

It's easier to say Valve is supporting OpenGL than write a paragraph about how their OpenGL support works. I'm not even sure why you think the omission adds anything to the conversation.

Again, not sure if you read the article, but you're addressing a lot of things I already covered; I never said the PC wasn't the company's priority, for instance. I said it was. And, as I already said, Steam on the PlayStation 3 isn't doing anything developers were prohibited from doing before.

I'm sorry that you find this complicated, but there is a significant distinction between having actual support for OpenGL, and implementing a translation layer. One of performance most notably.

Not only that, but there is zero connection between the existance of such a layer and presence on the PS3. There is far more to PS3 development (Dealing with Cell's threading issues) then simply having a method of rendering with OpenGL.

Valve is customer-centric, the Portal 2 deal allowed them to get around issues like certification and have a closer relationship to their customers on consoles. Considering Gabe has called the PS3 a "total waste of everyone's time" in the past, do you honestly think that a OpenGL-based theory has any weight to it?