The ‘Half Life’ Series Isn’t Dead Yet, But Valve Won’t be the Ones to Finish It

Matthew Loffhagen
Valve
(Photo: Valve)

In case you haven’t heard, Half Life 2: Episode 3’s basic script outline has leaked online, and fans aren’t happy about it.

Nobody’s really complaining about the story itself, but the fact that this synopsis, shared by former Valve employee Mark Laidlaw, doesn’t actually exist as a game feels like a punch to the gut for all Half Life fans around the world.

It’s been ten years now since Half Life 2: Episode 2 was released. The aim behind these miniature episodes was to get the lengthy process of making a Half Life game a little more organized, allowing for shorter bursts between gameplay fun for fans of the series. Clearly things haven’t worked out that way.

Valve has always been about getting a game right, even if it means taking forever, as the development of all Half Life games up to this point prove. The company famously scrapped the majority of their work on the original Half Life part-way through development because they weren’t entirely happy with it, even when it meant annoying and upsetting potential fans.

After all, a delayed game is late once, but a bad game is bad forever.

That said, after ten years of waiting, and as Valve continues to grow richer and richer from operating as a games store rather than game production company (thanks, Steam), fans are beginning to lose hope.

If Half Life 2: Episode 3 is still so far from completion that all we have is a year-old vague storyline for the game, what hope is there that we’ll ever actually see anything from Valve that will provide an official completion of the game.

But it’s not too soon to give up hope. Not yet.

The fun thing about the internet, Valve, and the modern era of game making, is that we don’t always have to wait for an official source to produce the game we’re hoping for.

Take a look, for example, at Counter Strike – the team shooter originally started life as a fan-made mod for the first Half Life. Valve very kindly shared their game’s source code on the internet after launch, allowing fans and modders to take the game in a lot of fun new directions by building their own expansions.

Counter Strike was the best of these fan hacks, gaining widespread popularity until Valve brought its creators on-staff and made the game an official part of the company’s library.

Then there was Garry’s Mod, a sandbox “game” that allows users to play with props and models from Half Life 2 to create fun and wacky puppet scenes. This, again, was created by a fan, built out of what Valve had given the world to create a whole new fun experience.

This is to say nothing of Portal Stories: Mel, a community-made mod for Portal 2 that builds an entire new world of puzzles and challenges for fans of the original two games to enjoy, created out of modified Valve game art assets (with plenty of original stuff thrown in for good measure).

So when the loose script for Half Life 2: Episode 3 gets shared online, and Valve themselves don’t seem to want anything to do with it, you can bet that the fans are going to be all over finishing the game on their own steam.

This has already started – one enterprising Half Life enthusiast who goes by the alias of Trebla Freeman has built a prototype of Half Life 2: Episode 3 in Unreal Engine 4, and this is likely to be one of many fan projects that’ll pop up over the coming months and years in an effort to do what Valve seems reluctant to do themselves.

Perhaps this was the plan all along – maybe Valve is just waiting to see what kind of inventive original ideas their fans can come up with in mods and hacks. Or, maybe that’s giving this gaming juggernaut too much credit.

Either way, it’s not time to give up hope on the future of Half Life just yet. With a strong fan community still waiting desperately for more news on this game, and considering the long history of modders creating wonderful things out of the Valve games’ initial frameworks, it’ll only be a matter of time before we get a fully realized Half Life 3 built by amateurs.

To paraphrase a Sega marketing slogan from the Nineties, modders do what Valve don’t.

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