How long have we all been waiting for a continuation in the Half-Life story. It’s been more than three years since Half-Life 2: Episode 2 came out. It was first shown at E3 in 2007. And we all played it towards the end of that year, when it came out in November – which is customary with Valve titles.
Episode 1 came out two years after Half-Life 2, in 2006. The entire point of episodic content was to see that new content was released periodically and within a few months of each release. But after seeing how Valve has handled it, I maintain that episodic content is a failed idea – as far as big titles with high production values, such as the Half-Life series, are involved.
Anyway, everyone knows that everyone likes a good conspiracy theory. And there have probably been many suggestions as to why Episode 3 isn’t out yet. The last I read anything of it must have been last year.
Well, something struck me as I lay in bed one night, thinking on the subject, as one does. And I came up with an idea. Something that might well explain why we haven’t got Episode 3, or Half-Life 3.
It has to do with Valve’s games; the number of Valve games. Let me explain:
Valve’s first ever game was the epic, revolutionary sci-fi FPS, Half-Life. It came out in late 1998, and nowadays is considered one of the greatest PC games of all time. Half-Life went on to spawn two expansions or addons, developed by Gearbox Software, in Opposing Force, and Blue Shift. Decay doesn’t count as it was for the PS2 version only.
The next think to come along was Counter-Strike. While not strictly a Valve title to begin with – it used the Half-Life engine, and was eventually adopted by Valve, and released commercially. It became one of the greatest multiplayer-focused games of all time; still played to this day, more than ten years on. Counter-Strike had a sequel of sorts in Condition Zero. Years later Counter-Strike: Source came out, which was CS, but using the Source engine that Half-Life 2 used. It wasn’t a sequel.
Another game that started out as a mod for Half-Life was Day of Defeat. It was the obligatory WWII game that was kind of similar to CS or Team Fortress, but featured class systems that were more akin to those from olden days.
DoD’s developers were eventually picked up by Valve (which is primarily made up of former modders), and Day of Defeat was adopted by the company, and later released as a standalone retail product, requiring Steam to play. Since then it has also had a remake done, using the Source engine rather than the Half-Life or Gold Source engine. This is probably the one game in Valve’s history that has yet to even receive a first sequel, let alone a second sequel (or threequel).
Speaking of said game: Half-Life 2 was released in 2004, and again went on to further revolutionize the FPS genre, and storytelling in games as a whole. The game had planned addons in the form of the Episodes. Initially it was meant to be one big expansion called Aftermath, but Valve opted for the episodic content approach, and decided to release standalone episodes separately. To date, six years later, two of those episodes have been released.
Fast-forward a few years and we get to The Orange Box – one of the greatest packages ever bestowed upon gamers. This contained not only Episode 2, Episode 1, and Half-Life 2 – but also introduced Team Fortress 2 and Portal.
Team Fortress 2 obviously had a prequel released years earlier alongside Half-Life, called Team Fortress Classic. The series’ roots lay in a mod, originally for Quake. TF 2 was notoriously delayed for almost a decade, but eventually emerged with a completely different art style to that of its predecessor, which some didn’t like.
Portal was completely different from most Valve titles, if not most FPS games ever made. You don’t have guns. You’ve just got a portal gun which aids you in traversing through several puzzles. It was inspired by a game made by some college kids, called Narbacular Drop. Portal has an upcoming sequel, named Portal 2, which should be out next year.
In 2008, Valve produced Left 4 Dead – a multiplayer shooter set in a zombie apocalypse. It turned out to be very popular, and a year later a sequel was released in Left 4 Dead 2. This angered the community seeing as they thought Valve had cheated them out of all the promised extra content for the original. Eventually two DLC packs made it out. Two for Left 4 Dead, and one for Left 4 Dead 2. Another one compatible with both games is due out this month. So that would make it three DLCs for L4D - but DLC isn’t a full game or a sequel anyway, and The Survival Pack which contains The Last Stand isn’t even considered canon.
So you don’t really see a three anywhere there do you? Plenty of other franchises out there have threequels, but Valve doesn’t. This doesn’t necessarily make a franchise any better just because it has more games. It can have the opposite effect (see Tomb Raider).
But like I said, it’s something that I noticed, and it looks like Valve has yet to get over the big 3 hump, even 15 years on. This curse will continue until someday, miraculously, Half-Life 2: Episode 3, or Half-Life 3, is finally released. That or else one of their other franchises produces a sequel.