Valve: No more episodic content, Half Life 3 instead?

More than three years have passed since our last installment in the Half Life universe. Episode Two was released alongside with the original Portal and Team Fortress 2 in The Orange Box back in September of 2007. The idea of episodes, at the time, was to keep fans from waiting years for new content. For Valve, they thought episodes were the way to go for the Half Life franchise following the first two.

What they did not anticipate was the unexpected success of the other two games in The Orange Box. Portal was, as Valve admitted, an experiment whose multiple Game of the Year awards caught them by surprise, so much so they went ahead with the sequel which had met almost universal acclaim from critics. Team Fortress 2 continues to receive hundreds of small and large content updates since its release, an amazing achievement for a three-year-old game as Valve moves towards the "games as a service" model by leveraging the power of their content delivery platform, Steam. Valve also started a new IP in that timeframe, Left 4 Dead.

So what about Episode Three for Half Life 2? As an episode, it probably won't happen, as Valve's Gabe Newell explains in an interview with Develop-Online. As Newell explains, the "games as a service" model is distilled from the episodic model, but in shorter time cycles. The entertainment aspect moves games away from being sold solely as a product, and more towards a small 'ecosystem' where content can emerge from it. The game itself is the largest portion, with small comics, trailers, fan-made content, and official updates with small marketing runs making up the void.

Newell isn't completely ruling out "large scale" projects such as the inevitable sequel in the Half Life series. As he explains:

You want to distribute your choices. Right now there’s a bunch of pressures to have shorter and shorter development cycles. But that could change. I’d have to find a reason for it to change, but it could. I don’t want to be caught completely off-guard and overly invested in one area.

I think you’ll still see projects from us that are huge in scale, simply because we have the ability to do that.

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22 Comments

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I'm starting to get a bit ****ed off with Valve and they way they're treating the Half Life franchise. It's quickly gone from one of their flagship games to something that they wouldn't appear to be interested in anymore.

Portal was superb, but I felt Portal 2 lost part of its appeal when they pushed it from a niche into the mainstream; subsequently Half Life has suffered.

I never really had much faith in the episodic model: Episode 1 was incredibly disappointing and I felt Episode 2 was constrained just so it fitted into it. Ultimately I wasn't satisfied with either, and now that model has been dropped I've almost completely lost interest.

Examinus said,
I'm starting to get a bit ****ed off with Valve and they way they're treating the Half Life franchise. It's quickly gone from one of their flagship games to something that they wouldn't appear to be interested in anymore.

Portal was superb, but I felt Portal 2 lost part of its appeal when they pushed it from a niche into the mainstream; subsequently Half Life has suffered.

I never really had much faith in the episodic model: Episode 1 was incredibly disappointing and I felt Episode 2 was constrained just so it fitted into it. Ultimately I wasn't satisfied with either, and now that model has been dropped I've almost completely lost interest.

Just like Blizzard and Warcraft?

Single-player doesn't sell well now. Multiplayer, replayability with DLCs rack up the most dollars.

resol612 said,

Just like Blizzard and Warcraft?

Single-player doesn't sell well now. Multiplayer, replayability with DLCs rack up the most dollars.

Single player does sell.

resol612 said,

Just like Blizzard and Warcraft?

Single-player doesn't sell well now. Multiplayer, replayability with DLCs rack up the most dollars.

Of course single player sells well. Look at games like Mass Effect 2; it's sold well and the sequel won't have multiplayer.

I would expect Half Life 3 to have a new source engine, I mean just from playing Portal 2 it seems like there have alot of advances in the source engine and I'm sure that will shine through in HL3.

On a side note, I'm sure this will never happen, but I would actually like to see Nintendo work with Valve to make a new Metroid game. The source engine would be perfect for it. I know about project Valkyrie, but I think it would better to see something official. I know its not just me, I've completed Other M and Portal 2 rather quickly. I need to see something that actually keeps me playing for weeks or months on end.

Ugh, what is it with people being utterly dense in regards to Valve news lately.

Yes, Gabe says Valve has moved on from Episodic development. If you hadn't of already realised this from the past few years then I'm surprised you're capable of even playing a video game in the first place.

This article by no means indicate that EP3 has somehow been canceled or replaced, only that Episodic development at Valve is a failed concept.

Not sure if you noticed, but there was a '?' in the title. I don't think the article is meant to define anything, but rather push the speculation that Valve may likely not release an Episode 3, but rather HL3 instead. Gabe's announcement certainly helps put to rest a lot of the doubt people had about seeing HL3 instead of an Episode.

Besides, if you really think we'll be seeing Episode 3 this late in the game, well...

Abvex said,
Anyone suspects Half Life 3 will debut with a brand new source engine? Like they did with Half Life 2?

This is a VERY good question, I can't wait to see the comments and what's really going to happen.
I have a shared feeling regarding that, the Source engine is starting to get old, but it's still an actual engine, in the sense that the graphics look really up-to-date in 2011. I would rather hope they make an Episode Three with the current engine, and in 5 years make a new Half Life 3 with a brand new engine that they will be able to sell to even more companies than Source

Abvex said,
Anyone suspects Half Life 3 will debut with a brand new source engine? Like they did with Half Life 2?

Could very well do, but I suspect its more likely to come with some stupid DRM.

Abvex said,
Anyone suspects Half Life 3 will debut with a brand new source engine? Like they did with Half Life 2?

I been thinking for the longest time that Valve just might release Source 2 with HL3 being it's first game.

sagum said,

Could very well do, but I suspect its more likely to come with some stupid DRM.

What's wrong with piggybacking off Steam?

Abvex said,
Anyone suspects Half Life 3 will debut with a brand new source engine? Like they did with Half Life 2?

Nope. To do so is utterly pointless; and Gabe has stated in a recent interview that there is significant technical work going on as part of Dota 2.

You can have a super flashy engine with the latest and greatest shaders and renderers, but that doesn't mean the end result will look any good. *cough*crysis2*cough*

Abvex said,
Anyone suspects Half Life 3 will debut with a brand new source engine? Like they did with Half Life 2?

Source doesn't need to be rebuilt. Portal 2 showed that the engine is still very graphically up-to-date. It only previously looked bad because they had used lower resolution textures and DX8 shaders. Check out http://www.littlelostpoly.co.uk/devblog/?p=628 if you want proof that source is still plenty capable of looking good.

Athernar said,

You can have a super flashy engine with the latest and greatest shaders and renderers, but that doesn't mean the end result will look any good. *cough*crysis2*cough*

Because DX 10/11 support isn't out yet ? DX 9 version of Crysis beats portal 2's any time. have u even touch that game with a recent graphics card at all?

source engine simply sucks compare to any new multilayer fps games out there. good example would be Frostbite engine 1.5.

Abvex said,
Anyone suspects Half Life 3 will debut with a brand new source engine? Like they did with Half Life 2?
It had better. In terms of image quality, I personally don't think it's as good as CryENGINE 2/3, Unreal Engine 3, or even Frostbite 1/1.5/2 in terms of image quality. It's close but not close enough because it lacks a lot of the "new" features that are available in the aforementioned game engines.

P4in said,

Because DX 10/11 support isn't out yet ? DX 9 version of Crysis beats portal 2's any time. have u even touch that game with a recent graphics card at all?

source engine simply sucks compare to any new multilayer fps games out there. good example would be Frostbite engine 1.5.

Hahahah, that's hilarious.

Crysis 2 looks like a blurry, smeared and poorly lit mess attempting to rely on it's code to cover up the terrible art.

But sure, you continue waiting on that patch. Crytek are obviously capable of dragging you around with a carrot on a stick.