There is not a single company out there that shares equally my greatest love and my utmost hatred more than Valve Software. They have created some of the most revered titles in gaming history. They changed the industry by ushering in interactive real-time physics. They pioneered and revolutionized digital distribution on the PC platform. Some of the brightest minds of the industry work under their roof in Bellevue. They have done more for the gaming industry than a simple paragraph can recant. Valve Software is a giant, and even though they’re enjoying a golden age, they are in the process of making one of the biggest mistakes since their inception.
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the Valve’s Half-Life series. They are my favorite games of all time. I love the intrigue, the characters, the action. I adore them in every way. I was the first in line to pick up Half-Life 2 on release date, and I beat it with a marathon 15 hour-straight play session at my PC. I completed all of the episodes as soon as they were released. I love Half-Life so much.
Half-Life. It’s kind of a big deal.
If you told me at Half-Life 2’s release, back in November of 2004, that the story would yet to be completed in 2012, I would have told you that you were out of your mind. There was no way that Valve could neglect their key franchise for that long. Half-Life put Valve on the map back in 1998. It revolutionized first person shooters, and it is considered by many to be the greatest video game of all time. They cite it specifically on their website as being among “the games we’re most proud of.” When they released Half-Life 2 in 2004, they revolutionized first person shooters again like it was no big deal. They practically invented episodic content when they promised to usher out the next three chapters of Half-Life canon in small installments. They would have to show respect to the series that got them to where they are today, right?
I look down at my clock. 1:05PM, the 7th of February, 2012. 2012! It has been eight years since the release of Half-Life 2. It has been over four years since Episode 2 was released. That is a lot of time. I am a completely different man now than I was when I bought Half-Life 2 so many years ago. Since that day, we’ve watched Valve announce and launch game after game: Left 4 Dead. Left 4 Dead 2. Alien Swarm. Portal 2. Defense of the Ancients 2. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive. All the while, not a single sentence of information has been released about Half-Life 2: Episode 3. All we got were rumors and denial, year after year.
It is because of this gratuitous neglect that I find my hatred toward Valve. It is impressive to see a company dodge question after question about their key franchise for so many years. They have presented at E3, GDC, and other high level conferences for years, and they’ve managed to talk about everything but Episode 3. When the press inevitably asks for a simple status update on the game, they are ignored, brushed aside with words of “no comment”.
Now Valve are not the type of company to rush the release of a game. After all, Half-Life 2 took six years of constant “when it’s ready” development before it was released. The results of such efforts are a lineup of products all received to great critical acclaim. We don’t have a problem with waiting—we’d prefer to wait to have a stellar experience as opposed to a mediocre experience today. That being said, Valve have a responsibility to update us on progress of Episode 3. Even if they went on record to say that Episode 3 was on the back burner, it would be better than keeping the world in the dark. It’s about respecting the fans. We are not entitled to the game, but we deserve to be told.
Shut up and take our money
Respect is the key issue with how Valve is handling this situation. As long-time fans wait patiently for their favorite story to be given a proper ending, they’ve given their time, money and support to Valve. In return, Valve have used their profits to create copious games, a massive software platform, and moved operations to a new headquarters. They’ve disrespected those of us that have helped build their empire by ignoring the main reason why most of us are here. It is a proverbial slap to the face; Valve takes it to the bank.
I’m not alone in these feelings. Trouble is brewing on Steam. Thousands of fans just like me are becoming overly anxious, and they’re beginning to feel betrayed that they’ve been ignored for so long. A Steam group was recently formed to unite Half-Life fans in an attempt to get noticed from Valve and to incite communication from the company. The group, titled Message to Valve: A Call for Communication, currently has over 52,000 members, all hoping to get Valve to show a little respect.
Last weekend, Message to Valve organized a Half-Life 2 play-a-thon in hopes to push the eight year old game to the top 10 of Steam’s top 100 most played games. They managed to push the game from a meager 1,000 players up to 13,200 players, clocking in at 11th place on the Steam Stats page. An impressive effort, for sure. Whether or not Valve noticed this surge remains to be seen, but the group does have further creative ideas to keep the ball rolling. It is this kind of thoughtful, non-abrasive approach that has the best chance of being noticed by Valve, and furthering hopes of opening up communication from the company.
This entire ordeal may seem pedantic, but when you see those 52,000 names on the Message to Valve member list, you begin to get a small bit of perspective on just how many people care about this franchise. Half-Life is important because it is one of the most influential game series of all time, and its creators have gone on to completely redefine the PC gaming experience with Steam. Like the games or not, you cannot deny the influence they have had on our hobby—yet for all the great things the company has accomplished, they’ve spent years disrespecting their greatest fans. I can’t think of a single industry in which such behavior would be acceptable, yet here we are.
It is difficult to fathom how much longer we will have to wait on Half-Life 2: Episode 3. After all this time, anything is possible. We haven’t even seen so much as a screenshot to prove any kind of progress has been made. But for all our expectations and hopes, we’ll continue to wait because the only kind of certainty we have is that Valve will eventually release a fantastic product. The fans cry out to you, Valve: show us a little respect and remember those of us that helped to lay the foundation of your kingdom.