It’s been over a decade since Valve first promised Half-Life 2: Episode 3
Well what do you know? We were so busy playing and talking about Overwatch this week that we failed to note an important vaporware milestone on Tuesday. Just over ten years ago, on May 24, 2006, Valve first announced it was working on Half-Life 2: Episode 3, the final part “in a trilogy… that will conclude by Christmas 2007.”
Back then, Valve even hinted at a standalone Episode 4, developed outside of Valve, which could be ready six to eight months after Episode 3. Pretty ambitious, eh?
Ten years… where does the time go? If you’re Valve, it goes into a litany of broken timeline promises and continual stonewalling, as noted in this memorable video of quotes from Valve cofounder and Managing Director Gabe Newell regarding Episode 3 and the mythical Half-Life 3 (which was sort of first announced in 2007 but might as well be considered equally nonexistent at this point).
“We tend to view ourselves as subject to valid criticism on our ability to manage our schedules,” Newell said in 2009, in what might be the largest understatement of all time.
The last solid release expectation for Episode 3 to come out of Valve was a 2008 suggestion that the game would be out by 2010. A few years after blowing past that deadline, Newell explained the company’s continued silence by obliquely suggesting that “we think that the twists and turns that we’re going through would probably drive people more crazy than just being silent about it, until we can be very crisp about what’s happening next.”
But people have gone pretty crazy for any hint of a new Half-Life game or episode despite the silence. Remember that mysterious European trademark that surfaced in 2013? How about the voice actor who said Half Life 3 definitively wasn’t in the works? And what of those “hl3” references buried in a recent Dota 2 update?
The Half-Life Wiki has what seems to be a comprehensive list of all the minor developments and hints of a new Half-Life that have dropped in the last ten years, including concept art that’s now pushing eight years old. The most damning reminder of how long the wait has been probably came earlier this year, when long-time Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw left the company (followed shortly thereafter by the departure of Half-Life animator Doug Wood). At this point, with some new talent at the helm, any new Half-Life may look quite different from the games that came before.
While we could mention that a major worldwide financial crisis and recovery (not to mention an entire two-term presidential administration) will have come and gone during the official wait for the next Half-Life, it might be more relevant to note that famous vaporware measuring stick Duke Nukem Forever was actually released during that time. With Sony seemingly prepared to release long-delayed The Last Guardian this year,Episode 3 (and/or Half-Life 3) may cement its status as the new standard by which all other vaporware is measured.