Half-Life’s writer maybe just revealed the plot of HL2: Episode 3

So this happened, and half the internet is in a frenzy. Now, admittedly, it doesn’t take much to frenzy the internet, but this is truly a doozy:

The lesson here is “never go to sleep”. All sorts of things happen while people sleep. Cats go on adventures, presidents threaten nuclear war and, well, ex-Valve writers post thinly-disguised plot summaries of the unreleased and, so far as best guesses go, long-cancelled Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Long time Half-Life scribe, the excellent Marc Laidlaw (who left Valve last year), casually tossed out a link to his website last night, which led to a short story about Gertie Fremont, Alex Vaunt and their climactic battle against evil alien invaders the Disparate (the site’s having a wobble, but the page is archived right here).

While that might sound like satirical tomfoolery, the actual story very much sounds like how the final chapter of Half-Life 3 could have played out. It involves time-travelling cruise liners, resurrected overlords, the heart of the Combine and the fate of one Doctor Gordon Freeman.

This is really happening.

Everything points to this being a thinly-veiled act of rebellion against Half-Life’s creators never getting the chance to finish the story they were telling. Half-Life 2: Episode 2 ended on probably the biggest unfulfilled cliffhanger in gaming history, and for almost ten years now, we’ve been waiting for a continuation or a conclusion. This must be incredibly frustrating for the original creators of the Half-Life series, and honestly, I’m surprised it’s taken them this long to start breaking rank.

From everything we’ve heard over the years, we can conclude that there will never be a Half-Life 3 or even an Episode 3. Many – if not most – of the original creators of Half-Life 1 and 2 have left Valve, and the company has little to no incentive to create a game that, like Duke Nukem Forever, will never live up to the hype they themselves created.

The established theory regarding why there’s no Half-Life 3 or Episode 3 is that Valve wanted the game to be as defining and revolutionary as Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2, but I think that’s the wrong mindset to have. Gaming has come a long, long way since the late 90s and early 2000s, and over roughly the past decade or so there simply haven’t been any games that rebooted or revolutionised entire genres, or established new ones. The only game I can think of in the past ten years that created a new genre of games and had an everlasting impact on the industry is Minecraft, and that was a fluke.

The industry is more mature, more settled now, and it’s much harder to be revolutionary today than it was 20 years ago. The great games of today aren’t revolutionary; they are evolutionary, perfecting and polishing established genres, taking them to new heights. Games like The Witcher 3 and Horizon: Zero Dawn aren’t loved because they changed the industry; they’re loved because they took existing genres and executed them in the very best ways the current generation of technologies allows us to do.

I see no reason why Half-Life 3 or Episode 3 should change the world or revolutionise what we think of as games. Just let it tell a great story with the characters we love, polish its chosen genre to perfection, and people will love it just as much 20 years from now as we love Half-Life 1 and 2 today.


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