Today marks the release of the first game in the Half-Life series in 13 years. That means it has been 13 years since the massive cliffhanger ending of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, an ending that sent the gaming world into a frenzy in seeking a resolution, and spawned countless memes about a possible third entry.
While this new game that is coming out is not a sequel to that game, instead serving as a prequel taking place five years before Half-Life 2, its existence has spawned some hope in the fanbase that a resolution is coming in the future. This has extended into a recent interview that IGN U.K. had with level designer Dario Casali, who has been with Valve since 1996, in which more information was given about why the world never got a Half-Life 3 or an Episode Three.
The answer was that there were many factors that caused the sequel to never be made, including the studio’s fear of something they referred to as “scope creep,” the desire to develop the Source 2 engine, and lack of any creative inspiration for the game.
After the release of Half-Life 2, the studio wanted to avoid the long gap that took place between the first and second game (which is rather ironic, given the time before Alyx released today), and it decided to move into releasing episodic installments to further the story and satisfy the players.
“We think players are going to prefer that from waiting 6 years and going through however many delays we went through,” Galasi said, mentioning how having the technology available made it easier to do. But that plan got out of hand when the studio kept trying to add more and more, especially into Episode 2. Soon, they realized they were just making entire sequels that weren’t viable to put out quickly enough. So Episode Three was never made, as they couldn’t meet that short timeframe.
But what about an entirely new game? A whole third entry into the series? That’s where the Source 2 engine and lack of a creative spark came into play.
After Episode Two, Valve was wanting to develop its next engine after the success of the original Source engine. With the development of Half-Life 2, they were also developing the engine alongside it, which led to many issues and problems for them. They wanted to avoid that same mistake and do one at a time.
The Source 2 engine was made available in 2014 in Dota 2‘s Workshop Tools before the entire game was ported into the engine in 2015. Development for Alyx began in 2016 when the engine was near-complete and made the development process easier for the developers. That’s not to say, however, that ideas and work weren’t being done.
Valve has always been explicit in how it views Half-Life as a way to push the industry forward. They have never wanted to make a game for the sake of making a game, but have always wanted to use the series as a way to show how new technology can be utilized. Since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two, there have been plenty of projects that never saw the light of day, and Casali confirmed that many of them were related to Half-Life, explaining, “We were never really that happy with what we came up with.”
“Our judge and jury is always the playtesting,” Dasali said in the interview. “It never comes from us. It always comes from somebody outside.” If Valve didn’t want to work on it, we were never going to see the game.
With these new details in how Valve wants to operate, its no wonder that Alyx is coming out when it is. Especially given Valve’s belief and investment in VR, this seems like the only time that a new game could be coming out. And while this new game isn’t the sequel some are still hoping for, it could be the next step towards getting that game. Casali expressed his belief that the company has “turned a corner,” and this could lead to that fabled game finally being made in some capacity.
If nothing else, this shows that the developer is still dedicated to the series, and they want to keep making high-quality games. If the reviews coming out for Half-Life: Alyx are any indication, Valve is still capable of doing just that.
Half-Life: Alyx is available now on Steam.