“Half-Life 3 confirmed!” …is what I would like to be screaming at the top of my lungs around this time next year. Or the year after that. Actually, anytime before I die. In fact, I’m certain that these are the same words that many Half-Life fans would say if they were asked about their thoughts on a future Half-Life 3 release.
Unfortunately, this article isn’t a theory on why Half-Life 3 is coming out, or what the game will be like.
Instead, today we will be taking a look at why Half-Life 3 will never come out, a harsh slap of reality that we – as gamers – must accept. This isn’t just about Half-Life 3, either. This goes for just about every game sequel that we’ve ever wanted. The worst part? A lot of this is our fault.
Rumours From Alleged Ex-Valve Employees
Reddit, and all of the internet, is a well-known breeding ground for fake accounts claiming to be ex-FBI agents who claim to be releasing footage of UFOs, and other such rabble. The same goes for employees of major companies, and Valve is of no exception.
One such Reddit post includes a rant from a self-identifying ex-Valve game tester. According to his/her post, testers have not seen anything remotely resembling a Half-Life 3 build. In fact, the game “rarely gets mentioned inside the HQ.” The Reddit user – who has since deleted their account – then went on to claim that Half-Life 3 has had a deadline for release for late 2017, or early 2018. Supposedly Left 4 Dead will be getting a third sequel earlier than that, and the characters have already been decided upon.
The source’s legitimacy comes into question since they did not release their name, ID card, or even a time-stamp from the company. Furthermore, I have come to question the legitimacy of the user’s claims due to the descriptions of L4D3’s campaigns sounding too familiar to past maps, and user-generated content.
However, a much more reliable source came to YouTube channel The Know. According to their video found here, a current Valve employee claimed that the reason the game won’t be released is due to the fact that Valve:
- Earns far too much money from Steam sales and micro-transactions to warrant development of Half-Life 3
- Only has 10 employees working on the game
- Fears Half-Life 3 would suffer from the hype and expectations in a similar fashion as EA’s Mass Effect 3
With the claims from two separate sources in mind, I decided to do some theorizing of my own, and came to the following conclusions based on The Know’s research on the subject…
Claim #1: Valve earns too much money to warrant a Half-Life 3 release
Image courtesy of VGCats.com
According to The Know‘s research, Valve has a revenue estimate of about $730 million a year. They also estimated that if Valve sold 12 million units of Half-Life 3 – an estimate based upon past Half-Life series sales – they would earn about $720 million. While I agree with their calculations, I disagree with their earnings estimate for Half-Life 3. The reason is that in their video they failed to account for development costs.
According to Valve’s own press release, Left 4 Dead 2 had a $25 million advertising campaign. Supposing that Left 4 Dead 2’s development costs were on the lower end of the scale, I used a list compiled by Kotaku journalist superannuation to estimate the game’s development budget to be around $10 million dollars based on similar games. Supposing that Half-Life 3 had a similar budget, it would cost about $35 million to release the game.
If The Know’s calculations – as well as my own estimates – are correct, Half-Life 3 would still earn around $685 million in sales. As such, I can only conclude that there are two reasons why Valve would not release Half-LIfe 3 based on earnings alone:
- They are perfectly comfortable with their current earnings, especially since Valve is a private company
- Unknown production, marketing, or distribution costs subtract a significant portion of the remaining earnings
Claim #2: Valve only has about 10 employees working on Half-Life 3
Both the Reddit user, and the anonymous Valve employee interviewed by The Know share one thing in common: they claim that Valve has few resources poured into Half-Life 3’s development.
In my opinion, this claim holds the least amount of water out of the 3 major claims. The reason for this is that I cannot fathom any company putting any number of employees on a project that they do not intend on releasing in the near or distant future. Valve supposedly has around 330 employees, 28 of which work exclusively on DotA2. While 10 employees only amounts to about 3% of Valve’s workforce, it is equal to a third of DotA2‘s team.
With that in mind, it would seem that Valve is interested in developing the game at a steady pace, putting some credit in favor of the Reddit poster’s statement of a 2017-2018 release. However, I find the claim to be unlikely.
Half-Life 2 had a team of 84 people – and that’s excluding face models and voice actors. As such, I would assume that Valve would need at least half of that team before considering designing anything remotely resembling a game as complex as a Half-Life 2 sequel. I may not be in game design, but as far as I understand you wouldn’t want to have a team of 10 working on a game, and then suddenly pour on a bunch of extra hands once that team’s about a fourth of the way through development. The chaos in management that would come as a result of such a move is uncharacteristic of a well-operating company.
As such, I believe that the claims of an abysmal amount of workers on Half-Life 3 are unrealistic for the development of a game of its magnitude. Instead, Valve is likely keeping these extra workers on hand for any projects they already have going – assuming these 10 workers exist.
Claim #3: Valve fears the potential backlash
Of all the claims you can find on the internet, I believe this one holds the most water.
Why? Because the internet is a horrible place. It may not be as terrible as a destructive riot, but it can get pretty darn close.
In my shared opinion with The Know, the results of a Half-Life 3 release would be astonishingly negative. Comparing the game to Mass Effect 3, The Know claimed that Valve fears releasing Half-Life 3 since employees who worked on Mass Effect 3 were harassed and doxxed to the point of ruining careers and lives. Developers and employees were literally told to “kill themselves” by fans of the series, and this is quite likely the fate of any Half-LIfe game that could ever be released in the future by Valve.
Doxxers represent some of the worst people the more toxic side of internet gaming culture has cultivated
While I would like to imagine that people would not be so toxic toward Valve if they ever released Half-Life 3, I cannot for the life of me believe that it wouldn’t happen. Gaming culture has become extremely toxic ever since online gaming became the norm.
Gamers and non-gamers alike know that the internet is a breeding ground for hate and general delinquent behavior. With hacking, DDOSing, and doxxing being so simple that even a teenager can do it, who can say that Valve wouldn’t be afraid of releasing a game as hyped up as Half-Life 3?
Like it or not, the most compelling argument against Half-LIfe 3 ever being released is the fan base itself.
While I am not point fingers at anyone in particular, we know – as gamers – that anonymity on the internet can be a very dangerous thing. People’s lives can hang on the balance of something as simple as their Facebook page getting doxxed. SWAT teams have broken into the homes of innocent Twitch streamers, so what’s stopping some overzealous gamers from SWATing someone as impersonal as a game company employee?
With this information at our disposal, if Valve employees are happy with making millions on Steam and micro-transaction sales alone, then who are we to judge? I wouldn’t risk making an extra million if it meant putting my family’s life in jeopardy. Until the government finds a way to protect people from these sort of attacks or people learn to just grow up, we may never see Half-Life 3.
Claim #4: What can Half-Life 3 really do?
This claim is one of my design. As I understand it, each Half-Life title was used to display the innovations of each Source engine Valve released. Back in the era of Half-Life and Half-Life 2, game engines were mostly designed to create new gameplay mechanics such as gravity, breakable objects, and so on. However, Half-Life 3 would be running in Source 2.0, an engine that… makes things prettier?
The truth is that modern game engines are designed to make games look good as opposed to making them more diverse mechanically. As a result, Half-Life 3 would need a new gameplay mechanic that would forever change the gaming landscape, just like the Gravity Gun in Half-Life 3. But can Valve do this?
While I imagine Valve had plans to use the portal gun in the Half-Life series, I believe that the popularity of Portal actually ruined the prospects of making a Half-Life 3. I theorize that Half-Life 3 was originally intending on releasing sometime between Portal and Portal 2. The game would have used the portal gun to create new gameplay mechanics while aboard the Borealis, as well as interesting new ways to fight in later stages in the game.
However, after the release of Portal 2, the creators were running out of ways to use the portal gun in a game. Furthermore, the creators of Half-Life realized that the quirky world they wrote for the Portal universe no longer fit into the apocalyptic mode of Half-Life. With Eli and Gordon out of commission as well, the developers accidentally wrote themselves into a hole that no amount of storytelling could repair.
But that’s just a theory.
So will Half-Life 3 never happen?
Never say never, but for now it is certainly does not seem in the realm of possibility. One day Valve will release a Half-Life 3, likely to put their flagship series to rest or when their current microtransaction games slow down. Until then, Half-Life should be remembered as what it was, and what it still is for the gaming industry: a beacon light of innovative gameplay and storytelling that still burns in the hearts of gamers to this day.