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A call to communication: Valve Software and the Half-Life series

A call to communication: Valve Software and the Half-Life series

Valve and Half-Life 3

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.

Half-Life Lambda symbolIf 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”.

Cliffhanger

We've sat on this cliffhanger for nearly five years.

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.

HL2 graph

Message To Valve's organized playday of Half-Life 2

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.

Comments

  1. Thrax
    Thrax One could argue that they're showing respect by making Steam the best bargain gaming has ever known, followed thereafter by two new and excellent franchises (L4D/Portal), along with the revival of an old favorite: DOTA.

    I bemoan the lack of HL2EP3 as you do, but this article smacks of ragebait. Sorry.
  2. Winfrey
    Winfrey Yeah I only fall for master bait.
  3. trooster89
    trooster89 I agree with Thrax. It's not like Valve's been idle the last 5 years. Besides, what good is it if they rush out a crappy sequel just to appease the fans. Look at how much time there was between HL1 and HL2.
  4. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster I think the last official statement from Valve on Half Life 3 was that it was not in production as of last year because nobody at Valve was that interested in working on it, and the company culture dictates that the workers pick the projects. We all want to know what happens to Gordon Freeman.
  5. RWB
    RWB For me at least it's been so long that while, yes, I want to know what the hell happens next... I haven't a clue about what happened before! I simply cannot even remember the story much. But if they did announce the next game I would play through HL all over again for sure. How long was the wait between Star Craft and SCII, or even Diablo III from Blizzard? I think those were longer waits IIRC.
  6. MAGIC
  7. Gargoyle
    Gargoyle
    One could argue that they're showing respect by making Steam the best bargain gaming has ever known, followed thereafter by two new and excellent franchises (L4D/Portal), along with the revival of an old favorite: DOTA.
    Here a Dodge, we know that our fans are eagerly awaiting the next Viper. Our halo vehicle made a statement that American sportscars could compete among the very best in the world. Going forward, we thought we would respect its fans by keeping our company as profitable as possible and making the best damn trucks money can buy. We think you'll understand if the Viper stays on the back burner for now.*

    Point being there are different ways of "showing respect" to Valve fans and Half-Life fans.

    (* the new Viper is actually expected to be shown in April)
  8. Tushon
    Tushon
    I think the last official statement from Valve on Half Life 3 was that it was not in production as of last year because nobody at Valve was that interested in working on it, and the company culture dictates that the workers pick the projects.
    This is what I understand and don't have the demanding feeling of entitlement to the conclusion. You don't want a game that devs are forced to make, especially the way that Valve makes games.
  9. PirateNinja
    PirateNinja This is the only thing I don't get: There must be hundreds of extremely talented DEVs who want to work at Valve and who want to work on Half-life 3, and Valve must be aware of that. They know, no matter what basically, the project would be profitable.

    So the question is what are they waiting for? Saying nobody wants to work on the project and that they are just adhering to company culture screams of bs to me.

    Whatever is going on, I can wait. The man in the blue suit didn't get where he was by being impatient.
  10. ardichoke
    ardichoke Sure, I'd like to know what the status of this is... but not enough to be mad about it. There's plenty of other games out there to play. I'm comfortable with the fact that when it does come out, it will be awesome and give me a week long gameboner.
  11. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx What everyone in this thread is forgetting - especially with the Dodge analogy - is that Valve is not being up front about this. Dodge had the common courtesy to communicate to their customers. Valve dodges questions left and right.

    If Valve said "hey, we're making these five games irrelevant to Half-Life to build you a better Half-Life", I'd be happy. Fine, great. Do that. But they haven't. They've ignored the fans, they've ignored the press. How can you all think that OK?

    I don't want Episode 3 to be rushed. I'll wait another eight years for it if I need to. But Valve needs to say something about it. The secrecy is unwarranted and it's a crappy way to treat their fans who have sat at their table since 1998.
  12. MAGIC
    MAGIC What do you really want? A quarterly status update on the games developement? So they give you a date. That date comes and goes. Then everyone bitches. So long as they keep it hushed until they have a pretty solid release date the only people they have to deal with are the 13k that seem to be all up in arms about this. Not the millions that would be pissed if they gave a release date, and didnt hit it.
  13. PirateNinja
    PirateNinja I guess it is just a personal preference. I am as big a fan of the HL franchise as anyone else, but I don't feel the need to be updated. Some fans do. It's all good, I still appreciate the article homie :D If you can get their attention and even if on a small scale get them to update people to get the game out that much faster then you will have done mountains more than I have as a fan to try and get more content from them.

  14. Ilriyas
    Ilriyas
    What do you really want?
    I think what he wants is a straight answer from the company rather than getting responses along the lines of 'hey look at this other game we're making'

    Personally I've never been that invested in HL, nor have I beaten any of the games (Should do that though) but I can understand where he's coming from. (Personally I'm still waiting on an update on Thief 4, it's been a development idea since 04 but at least Eidos has bothered to say 'yes we're working on it')
  15. MiracleManS
    MiracleManS
    I think what he wants is a straight answer from the company rather than getting responses along the lines of 'hey look at this other game we're making'
    I'm pretty sure we got that when they said they weren't working on it.

    Their response is "We're not working on it."

  16. Tushon
    Tushon
    I think what he wants is a straight answer from the company rather than getting responses along the lines of 'hey look at this other game we're making'


    I'm pretty sure we got that when they said they weren't working on it.

    Their response is "We're not working on it."

    THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE! We want it!
  17. MiracleManS
    MiracleManS
    THAT'S UNACCEPTABLE! We want it!
    And that's exactly how it sounds. How have they been dodging things, as @UPSLynx says they have? Just last year they said it's not in development. That, to me, is pretty cut and dry. They're not working on it. They're working on something else.

    Do I wish some of my favorite games would finally get the sequels I've been waiting for? Sure, I'm all about that. I waited for StarCraft II for a long time. I'm still waiting for Diablo III. I waited a relatively long time for Skyrim after what I thought was a disappointing Oblivion. I'm waiting for an ACTUAL successor to System Shock 2 (which will never happen).

    That doesn't mean I feel entitled enough, despite my absolute love for those games, to demand that I be "in the loop" on the decision making process at the studio that's working on these games. They don't owe me anything. Would I appreciate a new game? Sure, but I certainly don't remember a contract signed in blood giving me their soul because I happened to like the last one.
  18. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx
    What do you really want?


    I think what he wants is a straight answer from the company rather than getting responses along the lines of 'hey look at this other game we're making'

    This. This is what we should all want. I want real talk from Valve, a company you has been proven historically to be very close to their fanbase, and very open about their going-ons. Anything Episode 3 related and the company has been nothing short of callous with their fans and the media. Blown off, ignored, no answers. It's a crappy way to treat everyone who cares about them.

    I haven't seen anything regarding an official statement from Valve saying that dev of Ep3 was halted (please link me if anyone can, I can't find it). If that's true, I think that's BS. Another slap in the face, if anything.

    Boy, I sure can't wait to play DOTA 2 :rolleyes:
  19. Gargoyle
    Gargoyle
    What do you really want? So they give you a date. That date comes and goes. Then everyone bitches.
    This is totally true, but on a shorter time scale. After four-plus years of misdirection, fans who were told there would be a third game are miffed. You can only hide-and-deliver without damaging customer trust if you deliver on a reasonable time scale.
    What everyone in this thread is forgetting - especially with the Dodge analogy - is that Valve is not being up front about this. Dodge had the common courtesy to communicate to their customers. Valve dodges questions left and right.
    Just to be clear, I made up the Dodge analogy. One point, which you covered, is that regardless of what fictional Dodge said, fictional Dodge communicated with customers, and is an improvement on real Valve. The other point is why I drew the analogy in the first place, which is to say that "serving fans" doesn't necessarily mean making just any game. I'm not a SquareEnix fan, for instance. I'm a Final Fantasy fan. I could care less if they make another Kingdom Hearts, and I think it's unlikely that making another would be critical to their business survival.

    Fans do not have to be a) rational actors or b) know about a company's bottom line. Companies know that about their fans, and ignore it at their peril.
  20. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx


    And that's exactly how it sounds. How have they been dodging things, as @UPSLynx says they have?
    Fans send emails, they get ignored. Press asks questions, they get no comment. Dude, I've been there. I've asked Doug Lombardi to his face. Just give us anything, I told him. He blew me off. They've all done this for years. Perspective changes when you're in the press.

    It's not just Icrontic. You don't have to look far. Valve holds pressers for the million unrelated titles they work on, or on updates on their software platform, and they don't touch on the subject of Half-Life at all. People want to know, what's going on over there? No answers. There are never answers.

    Don't insinuate that I expect them to give us a news feed of production updates. That's not necessary at all. Regular updates aren't even necessary. But you have to understand, we're at nearly five years without a single update whatsoever. The line crumbles at that amount of neglect. No, it's not about updates, it's about addressing it at all.
  21. Tushon
    Tushon
    I think the last official statement from Valve on Half Life 3 was that it was not in production as of last year because nobody at Valve was that interested in working on it, and the company culture dictates that the workers pick the projects. We all want to know what happens to Gordon Freeman.
    What am I missing?
  22. GHoosdum
    GHoosdum Are you kidding? Dude, Valve got too close to the truth with the HL series, and our Alien Overlords made them shut the project down. Careful when you poke that wound!
  23. Ilriyas
    Ilriyas
    I think what he wants is a straight answer from the company rather than getting responses along the lines of 'hey look at this other game we're making'


    I'm pretty sure we got that when they said they weren't working on it.

    Their response is "We're not working on it."

    I think if you bothered to read my comment you would have taken note that I said nothing about a release date, or if it was even in production.

    Allow me to clarify:

    Even if Valve said that they aren't working on it that doesn't make up for all the stonewalling that they've put everyone through, now I'm not a HL fan I couldn't care less if Episode 3 is released or not.

    From what I've seen and read Valve has only answered that way once. Every other time the question has been posed to them or their PR staff they have responded with exactly what I said

    That's not a straight answer that is by definition stonewalling.

    Now if you'll excuse me the air in here is becoming quite unpleasant I'll be taking my leave now.
  24. Snarkasm
    Snarkasm Hell, CB reported on it.
    This means that we finally have a hint as to why there has been no new content in the Half-life franchise: No one at Valve is excited enough by the project to work on it.
  25. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster @UPSLynx - I hear Lauren Faust plans to cease all development on future episodes of My Little Pony Friendship is Magic. Faust stating that she has become more interested in a new GI Joe series, GI Joe, Knowing is Half the Battle. When asked about the future of the Pony franchise she merely says, "I love all the Bronies, but I have nothing further to say about it."

    image
  26. MiracleManS
    MiracleManS

    Fans send emails, they get ignored. Press asks questions, they get no comment. Dude, I've been there. I've asked Doug Lombardi to his face. Just give us anything, I told him. He blew me off. They've all done this for years. Perspective changes when you're in the press.

    It's not just Icrontic. You don't have to look far. Valve holds pressers for the million unrelated titles they work on, or on updates on their software platform, and they don't touch on the subject of Half-Life at all. People want to know, what's going on over there? No answers. There are never answers.

    Don't insinuate that I expect them to give us a news feed of production updates. That's not necessary at all. Regular updates aren't even necessary. But you have to understand, we're at nearly five years without a single update whatsoever. The line crumbles at that amount of neglect. No, it's not about updates, it's about addressing it at all.
    I don't understand why they even have to address it beyond "We're not working on it right now." If they're not working on it, it's not coming out. What more do you want them to say?
  27. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx A quick, vague statement in 2011 makes up for nothing of the four prior years of silence.
  28. Tushon
    Tushon Well, this was fun and all, but the repeat is getting boring.
  29. Sledgehammer70
    Sledgehammer70 Maybe Valve has tried to make HLE3 and it failed in testing and hasn't lived up to their internal standards?
  30. MiracleManS
    MiracleManS
    A quick, vague statement in 2011 makes up for nothing of the four prior years of silence.
    I just don't grasp why they have to "make up" for something. They have nothing to show, they told people they have nothing to show.

    Do you want them to reassure you that they're still going to make the game? Do you want them to promise "No more games until a new Half-Life game."? That's all I'm curious about. What would be "enough"?

    What if they came back and said "We're not sure on a time table for the game. We can't make any promises about when it'll be available or even start being worked on. We're just waiting for the right time to put out an awesome follow-up." Would that be enough? I'm going to guess no.
  31. Canti
    Canti Not likely but here's an idea. Considering what they did with Portal 2 and the ARG. Could it be possible that releasing any information at all might somehow ruin some secret marketing idea they want to use for the next game in the Half-Life series? I think it's much more likely that they simply aren't working on it but rather than simply officially saying "Lol sorry guys we don't care, have more TF2 hats." They tend to pretend like they don't even hear the questions. This seems slightly suspicious coming from a company known to have their company leaders respond to small time emails from customers about nothing.
  32. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster My theory, HL3 will happen after Valve completely overhauls the Source engine.
  33. cola
  34. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx HAHAHAHA! Brilliant!
  35. Cliff_Forster
    Cliff_Forster First thing that popped into my head.

    image
  36. Thrax
  37. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx Best enemy in the best movie.
  38. Canti
    Canti Why is this Spartan's armor made from Lite Brite? What the hell is this?
  39. primesuspect
    primesuspect @canti please, please tell me you've seen the Running Man. It's one of Arnold's best movies.
  40. AlexDeGruven
    AlexDeGruven
    @canti please, please tell me you've seen the Running Man. It's one of Arnold's only good movies.
    FTFY.
  41. Canti
    Canti >9 months later

    Nope, haven't seen it. Maybe over winter break.
  42. UPSLynx
    UPSLynx Valve can eat a dick. You guys enjoying DOTA 2 and its hats? Yeah? Super fun times?

    Episode 3 is dead.
  43. RahnalH102
    RahnalH102 You saying that because of the recent news?
  44. Winfrey
    Winfrey well, dota2 is the most played game on steam...
  45. Snarkasm
  46. Jokke
    Jokke I don't think he's mad. Just very, very disappointed....
  47. Canti
    Canti
    Valve can eat a dick.
    [spoiler]image[/spoiler]

  48. RahnalH102
    RahnalH102 Well I was referring to what Gabe told 4Chan. But then again, it's Gabe telling 4Chan so I don't know how reliable that is.
    Ya never know with Valve, hence your irritation?
  49. RootWyrm
    RootWyrm Episode 3 is dead.
    All their fluff about 'blah blah we want to do fun stuff' is a load of shit. Gabe is the majority owner and it's a privately held company. That means 'fun' is 'separate people from their money in exchange for crap we can take away at any time if they displease us.'
    Same as how he's been screaming about Windows 8 being 'death for games' and that's why they're now doing Linux. Complete and utter bullshit. Microsoft has the potential to dent if not cripple Steam's market share by offering publishers a better deal (which ain't hard.)
  50. JBoogaloo
    JBoogaloo
    Episode 3 is dead.
    All their fluff about 'blah blah we want to do fun stuff' is a load of shit. Gabe is the majority owner and it's a privately held company. That means 'fun' is 'separate people from their money in exchange for crap we can take away at any time if they displease us.'
    Same as how he's been screaming about Windows 8 being 'death for games' and that's why they're now doing Linux. Complete and utter bullshit. Microsoft has the potential to dent if not cripple Steam's market share by offering publishers a better deal (which ain't hard.)
    This is all I see in this statement...

    Photobucket

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