When Half Life: Episode 3 concept art surfaced on the facebook page of fansite ValveTime yesterday we were sceptical, but it's increasingly appearing that they really could be from the long awaited sequel.
Most of the artwork depicts a snowy wilderness with characters clad in winter clothing. This tallies with location the Borealis, the Aperture science ship that was revealed to be stranded in the Arctic in Episode Two. More intriguingly several of the stranger pieces of artwork contain the word 'Xen' in the file names, the Alien world visited in the original Half Life's final act.
OXM have been on top of the story and note that moderators on the Steam forums are claiming the pictures are genuine. Meanwhile fansite Lambda Generation traced the images back to a (since deleted) Picasa gallery belonging to Valve artist Andrea Wicklund.
Now here's the bad news. Although they were only recently discovered these images were all uploaded to Picasa in March 2008, only a few months after the release of Episode Two. This means that even if they are genuine, they aren't necessarily indicative of the direction Valve are taking now, four years later.
You can see the full gallery of images over at Valve Time.
It's alive! A bunch of new screenshots have gone online for Black Mesa: Source. In case you'd missed it, or forgotten it in these years of silence, BM:S is a fan project that aims to recreate the entirety of Half-Life 1 in the Half-Life 2 Source engine. The devs promised to releaser more details if their Facebook page hit 20,000 likes. It did, and they have. So without further ado, here are eight new screenshots for Black Mesa: Source.
It's been quiet for so long, I never thought I'd get to write that. It's worth keeping an eye on the Black Mesa site for more updates soon. "This is just the beginning. We have more in store for you in the near future! Hold on to your lab coats!" say the team on Facebook.
Gabe Newell been talking about the Valve sequel everyone wants, Half Life 2: Episode 3, in terms of the Valve sequel no-one wants, Ricochet 2. With almost audible air quotes around each mention of a possible follow up to Valve's year 2000 disk-lobbing multiplayer arena title, Newell told Seven Day Cooldown that the silence surrounding the next Half-Life is intended to spare fans from the unpredictable "twists and turns" of Valve's iterative development style.
"We'd like to be super transparent about the future of Ricochet 2," said Newell, "but the problem is that the twists and turns that we're going through would probably drive people more crazy than being silent about it until we can be very crisp about what's happening."
Earlier he also said "we always have this problem, when we talk about things too far in advance we end up changing our minds as we're developing stuff. We're thinking through the giant story arc (which is Ricochet 2) you might get to a point where you're saying "something is surprising us in a positive way" and "something is surprising us in a negative way."
SDC asked Gabe if Valve's fluid "work on what you want" approach to management style (captured nicely by the Valve employee handbook that surfaced over the weekend) has caused people to move away from the project to work on other things.
"No," he said. "Everyone who's working on Ricochet 2 continues to work on Ricochet 2."
The Internet is often a place for things that don't belong on it. Things like a 56-page internal manual written for the people that work at the most private gaming company in the world.
Yep, you can read that now. What appears to be Valve's 2012 Employee Handbook has crept onto the web, and it's just as insightful to read as that incredible blog by Michael Abrash from last week.
It's a rare, detailed self-description of the company that includes mantras like "We are all stewards of our long-term relationship with our customers," policies like "Nobody has ever been fired at Valve for making a mistake. It wouldn't make sense for us to operate that way," and expressions of Valve's independence that include "Fortunately, we don’t have to make growth decisions based on any external pressures—only our own business goals."
Click inside to see the handbook.
The document is also filled with custom illustrations. And at least one Half-Life 3 logo. Sections of special interest include the entries: "What is Valve not good at?" (p. 52) "How does Valve decide what to work on?" (p. 13) "But what if we ALL screw up?" (p. 23)
The handbook (PDF) was originally found here. A bottom-page watermark claims "handbook courtesy Valve." Well, duh. I've uploaded a copy to our server that you can read here.
We've seen some impressive fan-made Portal guns in the past, but they've been rare, costly one-off projects. Valve are giving us the chance to get hold of our own Aperture Science Handheld Portal Devices without having to burn ourselves horribly putting together an injection mould. Joystiq mention that, at Valve's request, toy manufacturers, NECA have put together a life-sized Portal gun. It'll hit the shops this summer with a $130 price tag attached.
There will be lights and those lights will change colour, but will it make the "pwung" noise? There's only one way to find out, and that's to buy at least five. Perhaps ten. Maybe more. More. MORE.
NECA will also be releasing a line of Left 4 Dead, Team Fortress 2 and Half-Life action figures, a few of which were shown off at the NYC Toy Fair. The Team Fortress 2 wiki has a snap of the new figures, you'll find that below along with a few shots of that Portal gun. Baggsy the Heavy.
This Saturday the 28,000 members of this Steam group are planning to play Half-Life 2 together. It's single player, of course, but there's nothing stopping fans from getting together to stroke their chins and nod slowly in mass mutual appreciation for one of the best shooters ever made.
The group hopes that the massive play session will shoot Half-Life 2 up the Steam most-played list and let Valve know how many people are still waiting for Half-Life 2: Episode 3. Valve certainly know this already, and probably receive dozens of emails every day asking "WHERE AM HL3?" but the group hopes to deliver the message in a more appreciative way.
"Instead of focusing efforts in a negative and disrespectful way, we have decided to gain Valve's attention by delivering a basic message: Your oldest and longest running fanbase would like better communication," they say on the Steam group page.
Even if you're not interested in sending Valve a message, any excuse is a good excuse to dip into Half Life 2 again, so why not join in? You can join the Call for Communication to add your weight to their message, or you can boot up and play a little for old times' sake and spend some time with Eli, Alyx and the crew. It's set to kick off at 7PM GMT / 11AM PST this Saturday. Thanks to Brett and Smash for the heads up.
Even though Lego Lord of the Rings has been announced, we reckon they’re fast running out of franchises to render in acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Lego James Bond is the one we always mention when we see the Traveller’s Tales guys, but so far we’ve had no luck convincing them that squashing a plastic version of Sean Bean with a giant satellite array would be a very good thing.
Flickr user Catsy has completely inspired us to believe that a Lego version of Half-Life would be the way for Lego to go. As Kotaku reported, he/she has created a Lego version of Gordon Freeman using stock Lego bits and bobs, equipped with a customised Overwatch Standard Issue Pulse Rifle made from a Lego tommy gun.
As Catsy notes, Freeman needs a little more smoothing and painting. But between his/her and Orrange Stahl’s attempts at Lego Half-Life, we think there’s more than enough to convince the Danish toy giants to create Lego versions of Freeman, Alyx Vance, The G-Man et al. Who knows, maybe they could even make a game of it.
It's just a man in a T-shirt of course, but there's a Half-Life 3 logo on the front of it and a Valve employee inside it.
Art director and executive producer at UberEnt (the team behind Super Monday Night Combat) posted the photo above on Twitter with the message "All I'm saying is I saw this at a local game developer event worn by a Valve employee," sensibly attaching a #ValveTrolling hashtag. He couldn't get any more info out of Valve's man but he confirms that "I did try to smother my face in his chest on the HL3 logo." This did not help.
A long time ago, when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Valve announced that they'd release three follow up episodes for Half-Life 2, allowing them to put out shorter stories at a faster clip. The episodes so far have taken longer and longer to develop, and Episode 2 ended up being longer than most modern shooter campaigns. Years on from Episode 2's release, it would make sense for the next game to ditch the episode format and become Half Life 3. Recently, the Cambridge Student asked Gabe Newell whether he considers releasing Half-Life 2 sequels in an episodic form a mistake. "Not yet," he said.
Valve have repeatedly said that they're still committed to the Half Life series. We'll surely see another one one day. WE JUST WANT TO KNOW HOW IT ENDS.
Half-Life: Origins comes from the same team behind the excellent Beyond Black Mesa short film released earlier this year. It's a short but evocative take on those famous first moments of the original Half-Life, the peaceful train journey before all that nastiness with the interdimensional portal, and the aliens, and the crowbar. It captures the workmanlike atmosphere of Black Mesa quite nicely, though the chap playing Gordon keeps reminding me how perfect Hugh Laurie would be for the role. Infectious Designer should ask him to do their next film, I'm sure he's not busy.
Super Meat Boy completely won us over with its slightly icky take on the good ol’ platform genre. To celebrate its first anniversary, the game has been released as part of a huge bundle on Steam, which includes the original game, Aquaria, Bit.Trip Beat, Bit.Trip Runner, Braid, Gish, Machinarium, VVVVV and World of Goo. You’ll also get the music tracks from Super Meat Boy, Braid, Machinarium, Bit.Trip Beat and Bit.Trip Runner. That’s a whole bunch of indie gaming right there, and it’ll only set you back £17.89 ($28) - or £1.78 per game. Oh yeah, it also includes Half-Life 2, for some reason.