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The website ValveTime has posted a gallery of concept art that their source claims are leaked pieces of concept art for Valve's much-anticipated (and super long-in-development) Half Life 2: Episode 3. (I should add that the art is from an anonymous visitor from an unnamed source. So, grains of salt in hand.)
The art is described as being from "circa 2008," meaning that if they're real, they are truly just concept drawings. However, a number of things about them—the fact that the helicopter from the end of Episode 2 turns up crashed, the arctic setting, which holds with past rumors of the game's setting, and the fact that a Combine advisor is shown, all indicate that these could well be legit.
And hey, even if they're fake, some of these are still quite lovely. To see the images at full resolution (along with a bunch more of 'em), head over to ValveTime's gallery.
It ain't news about Half Life 2: Episode 3 (much less Half Life 3), but it's something.
His finger-point introduction says "yes," but his fidgety shake of the crowbar says "yes, I will kill you now."
Henry The Worst [Tumblr]
The creators of Team Fortress 2 have hired their very own economist to help out with their various crazy hat-based projects.
Writing on his new blog over at Valve's website, newly-minted consultant Yanis Varoufakis discusses how he met with Valve chief Gabe Newell and put a deal together.
"Within hours, an agreement was reached: I would become, in some capacity (that was to be hammered out later), Valve's economist-in-residence," he writes.
"My intention at Valve, beyond performing a great deal of data mining, experimentation, and calibration of services provided to customers on the basis of such empirical findings, is to to go one step beyond; to forge narratives and empirical knowledge that (a) transcend the border separating the ‘real' from the digital economies, and (b) bring together lessons from the political economy of our gamers' economies and from studying Valve's very special (and fascinating) internal management structure."
And hats. Never forget hats.
In development for around eight years now, the fan-made remake of the original Half-Life, known as Black Mesa, is almost a punchline for the torment followers of the series as a whole are feeling at its lack of updates.
The developers of the project are still plugging away, though, and have this morning released a bunch of new screenshots for Black Mesa, reminding us all that it's still not out, and that it's still looking great.
Last we heard Black Mesa was going to be playable "soon-ish".
You may have seen this years ago, but since there's a good chance you haven't, here. See it now.
Last week's story on that awesome StarCraft statue outside Blizzard's French offices reminded us that the primary artist involved, Steve Wang, is no stranger to amazing video game craftsmanship.
Back in 2005, he made this stunning Half-Life headcrab, originally as a piece for his kid's Halloween costume, then later being adapted as a display piece.
I'm not sure what makes it so damn creepy. I think it's the veins. Urgh.
Steve Wang FX [MySpace]
It was almost four years ago that we first saw that incredible trailer for Black Mesa: Source, which looked like a full update of Valve's classic PC game Half-Life. It truly was incredible—hell, I rewatched that trailer just now and I still feel incredulous about it. It basically looks like the first game redone with the graphics, animations and visual effects of Half-Life 2.
I like Valve's official Half-Life: Source, but it sure doesn't look anything like what the folks behind Black Mesa: Source were showing.
That trailer, however, aired back in 2008. Since then, it's never quite been entirely clear the state of the project—and it certainly hasn't come out.
Talking with Montero at length, a picture begins to emerge: a picture of a talented team that perhaps bit off more than they could chew, overpromised early, and then realized that what they were attempting was much, much more difficult than they'd even guessed.
As Montero points out, Black Mesa: Source can't actually be a straight-up port, since that is illegal—instead, it's become a full-fledged remake, featuring over 2,000 custom models, 2,000 choreographed scenes and over 6,500 lines of dialogue, by Montero's reckoning.
"We have always wanted Black Mesa to be Valve-quality," Montero tells RPS. "Turns out that is very tough to do from every angle of development. Imagine that!"
I shudder to think of the challenges presented by doing this—it's like trying to recreate a symphony not just by transcribing and re-writing the parts, but by re-making every instrumental performance one by one. No, you know what? It's much, much harder than that. It's like doing a shot-for-shot remake of The Godfather, but first you have to build the cameras Coppola used from spare parts. Then, you have to build the actors in a lab.
Montero says that they made a mistake by overpromising early, by hyping people up with that incredible trailer. "If I could go back in time and prevent us from releasing the media and hyping up the public the way that we did," he says, "I would. In the end, all of that hurt us more than helped us."
He's quick to assure people, however, that they are still working on the project, and they haven't turned their back on anyone. They've just learned not to promise release dates or overhype their product. Here's Montero:
This hasn't been about polish for polish's sake; it's been about learning all there is to know about how to make great games, and using it to make a great game. There aren't any shortcuts there. We just had to learn by doing, by making mistakes, by screwing things up and starting them over again. Sometimes along the way we have learned things that fundamentally changed our way of thinking, and sometimes we have gone back and fundamentally changed parts of the game to reflect that.
So no, I don't think it is tempting to over-polish at all. We are all eager to get the game out. We are dying to get this game out and show everyone what we've been working on, but we aren't so eager that we would sacrifice our values and what we believe will make this game great. We aren't going to put out something that isn't good enough for us.
Hmm, that actually sounds a bit like another game developer I can think of… maybe Montero's team has more in common with Valve than even they know.
And when, pray, will this incredibly ambitious project finally come to some sort of playable fruition? Montero will only go so far as to say "soon-ish."
Hey, it's more than we've got to go on with Half-Life 3.
Black Mesa: Source [Official Page]
While other companies wouldn't own up to the amount of time they keep folks waiting, Valve is better than that. The developer of the Team Fortress, Half-Life and Portal games have cooked up a handy chart that compares the promised and actual delivery dates for various sorts of content. There's also a component that tracks when they've actually gotten stuff in ahead of their announced
To me, a grid like this shows that Valve has a sense of awareness and humor about the way that they're perceived. And for those keeping score at home, there's no mention of a certain sequel.
Jamie Russel's "Generation Xbox: How Video Games Invaded Hollywood" revealed why the Halo movie failed. But Microsoft isn't the only company interested in crossmedia platforms for one of their most beloved franchises.
Valve seems like an easy choice for a Hollywood spotlight. The fictional universe and its characters are intriguing, and the fanbase is already established. We love soaking up new information, pictures, comics, rumors, animated shorts, cosplay...basically anything related to the Half-Life franchise.
So why hasn't Valve taken the opportunity yet? It's not as easy as picking up the phone and saying, "Hey, Hollywood person. Make my movie. *click*" Obviously Valve doesn't want someone to trample over their property. Speaking with Russel, Valve's mastermind Gabe Newell explains what the company's history with Hollywood has been so far:
Mostly people were just trying to vampire off of the success and popularity of the property, without any real understanding of what made it an interesting or successful property in the first place. The sense that we had was that if we went down the traditional route of licensing a property to a Hollywood studio, we would be losing control at that point. The fans were going to be ill-served 90% of the time. (Russel, 288)
And then sometimes the software developers get pitched with ideas so far off the map of actual Half-Life lore that it baffles them:
"This writer was trying to convince us that it'd be cool to have this new modern cavalry with these Kevlar-armoured horses charging across this field. It had absolutely nothing to do with what made Half-Life and interesting entertainment experience for our customers. It was just bizarre." (Russel, 288-289)
So why not just avoid the realm of film altogether? It seems Valve has their hands already full with development on future iterations (hopefully with 3s in their titles). Newell says they don't have that choice anymore.
"It's pretty clear that our customers are cross-media consumers. If they like a game, they want to see a movie; if they like a movie they want to be able to run around and shoot rockets off in those spaces. They are telling us we don't have the luxury of just being a games company anymore." (Russel, 289)
Then what's the solution? Newell thinks it's to reach out to the fans. Fans who understand their games, and appreciate the context enough to not take creative liberties by adding wacky things like Kevlar-clad horses. Valve has always been open to their community playing with mods and inventing new features for their games. So why not for a movie?
Valve's dedication is to their gamers, says Newell. Building these pieces of entertainment isn't about creating huge blockbuster openings (like Hollywood's method seems to be), but rather to service their customers. He even brings up the infamous Star Wars films helmed by George Lucas as an example:
If Lucasfilm had taken all the assets they had created for Star Wars: Episodes 1, 2 and 3 and released them to the fan community and said ‘you guys go and make three 90-minute movies', in aggregate the community would have built better movies than George Lucas did. I'm not being hyperbolic at all. I mean literally they would have made better, higher quality entertainment than he did. The key is to connect the dots for the community in terms of giving them the tools that they need. If you can mod a game like Half-Life 2, there's no reason why you can't mod a movie like The Phantom Menace. (Russel, 290)
Eventually, enlisting in fans is going to be the norm in the future. Eventually Hollywood will come around to it. Wishful thinking? Maybe. But Newell is firm in his belief that it's at least the right way.
"What's going to happen is that the Hollywood guys will start to realise that the creation of entertainment isn't a one-way experience where they have all the professional tools and giant budgets and everything flows downhill from there to the consumers. If they're collaborating and co-operating with their fanbases to create these entertainment experiences, you will see the same kinds of things occurring - most of it will be terrible but some of it will be brilliant." (Russel, 290-291)