Oh, how the mighty have fallen. This is a bittersweet week for Half-Life fans. The once revolutionary series has been quiet for a long time, but now we should be able to consider it dead. Put a fork in it; Half-Life is done. What we witnessed this week was a low-key admittance of that fact by one of the people who may have considered Half-Life their baby. The silver lining, is that fans finally have some degree of closure. But it’s a very tragic sort of closure, and still one without a true ending or experience to go along with it. But now we know, and the fanbase can finally take the steps to move forward and let it go.
Here's what happened. Marc Laidlaw, one of the top writers at Valve during the Half-Life era, recently posted what was interpreted as being a plot synopsis of Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Episode 3 has been missing in action for almost ten years, with Episode 2 having been released in October of 2007. It was written in the form of a letter, with names and locations changed to protect the innocent, so to speak. It was likely a move to respect Valve, despite an NDA no longer being an issue at the ten year mark.
I won’t go over the content here. You can check out the synopsis yourself and decide how you feel about it in the grand scheme of Half-Life and whether or not it’s a satisfying conclusion to Half-Life 2. I will say it ends on a cliffhanger, as whenever this thing was originally conceived, Half-Life 3 was no doubt a project intended by Valve. This is not a conclusion to Half-Life, but it is a conclusion to the long journey that fans unwittingly signed up for all those years ago.
From my perspective, the important thing here is this posting feels like the end cap on a long and sad story. It’s a resignation that, as things are now, this game and anything connected to it is not going to happen. It’s not a surprise at all. The writing has been on the wall for years. Steam generates a boatload of money every day, rendering Valve one of the most effortless money-making machines in video games. Other venues like DOTA 2 are also doing well, and Valve’s next project, a card game, is telling enough. Meanwhile, writers have either been just hanging out or leaving Valve at the same time.
So this isn’t surprising, but it’s a confirmation. If there was any hope of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 ever happening, it would have by now. This is the final nail in the coffin, as it were. It’s time to read the last rights, prepare a eulogy, and give Half-Life a proper sendoff. The conversation needs to shift from “when” or “if” to “what” and “why.” Especially if the NDA truly has expired.
This is now a great opportunity for getting under the hood of Half-Life as a whole, getting a hold of the people involved and really diving into the history of such a groundbreaking series. It may be done before it was truly able to end, but now we can look back and appreciate what was in place in full.