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Tom Senior: Recently Game Informer disclosed the insights of a supposed Valve insider who insists that Half-Life 3 doesn’t exist in any meaningful form. RTS and FMV prototypes have apparently been toyed with, but the magical genre-shattering FPS sequel that the internet has been craving for nearly a decade isn’t real. Earlier this week Valve’s on Reddit and suggested that Valve is still interested in revisiting the Half-Life universe, though “the number three must not be said.” Don’t hold your breath, basically.
Valve’s failure to release Half-Life 3 is not surprising because Valve has never announced Half-Life 3. The studio wanted to move from huge boxed releases to shorter development cycles and an episodic format, culminating with Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Episode Two ended on a savage cliffhanger, but that alone doesn’t fully explain why we want more Half-Life 10 years later. Half-Life 3 has taken on additional meaning. "HL3 confirmed!??" is a running gag, but a hopeful one. We want to believe.
For me Half-Life 3's absence feels like a symbol of Valve’s retreat from game development. I know this is ridiculous, because Valve is running Dota 2 and Counter-Strike: Global Offensive—two of the biggest games in the world. But I can’t enjoy Dota 2, because a) it demands massive time investment and b) in my experience as a new player in that community has been dreadful. I don't think I'm alone. I loved Left 4 Dead and Portal, and I had a great time with Alien Swarm, which Valve put out for free in 2010. I miss Valve’s humour and innovation, but if I’m honest I’m pining for Half-Life because Valve stopped making games for me. That’s a pretty petulant position, but there we are.
Samuel Roberts: I've always speculated that an unspoken reason behind Half-Life 3's continued non-existence is the burden to reinvent the first-person shooter again, just as Valve had done on two previous occasions. Is it enough for Valve to just make a super refined sequel, even if it doesn't have the impact of either of the previous Half-Life games? Well, yes—Portal 2 is exactly that model of follow-up. It wasn't a reinvention, it was a welcome extension of the first game's existing ideas. If the level and narrative design is strong enough, it doesn't feel like diminishing returns.
We need Half-Life 3 to complete the story of the series, but more than that, it's a better world for having more of Valve's single-player games in it.
Tom S: It is unfortunate that Half-Life 3 (or Half-Life 3: Episode Three) has become this mythical entity. We don't know what it looks like but it's everything we have ever dreamed a first-person game could be. That impossible expectation is good enough reason never to touch that series again. We've been banging on about it for so long that the stakes are crazy high now (and we are not going to stop, apparently).
Also shooters are in a good place right now. Last year brought us Doom, Titanfall 2, Battlefield 1’s Operations mode, Overwatch, and Rainbow Six Siege is ticking along nicely. If the rumours are true we could be looking at Destiny 2 on PC in the future. I’m hoping for another shooter from the Wolfenstein: The New Order team. I miss the jokes and the characters of the Half-Life universe, but the FPS hardly needs to be rescued.
Phil Savage: The thing with Portal 2, Sam, is that it did reinvent—just not the campaign. Through its level editor, It made Steam Workshop creation accessible to everyone, and not just people who are really good at making virtual hats. It worked! Portal 2's Workshop page contains over 557,000 items, and, while most of those will have never been played, it definitely extended the life of an otherwise unsurprising—albeit hilarious and with a better ending song—sequel.
I think that's what Gabe Newell meant when he said, in his recent AMA, that Valve's products are, "usually the result of an intersection of technology that we think has traction, a group of people who want to work on that, and one of the game properties that feels like a natural playground for that set of technology and design challenges." If Portal 2 was the Workshop, and Team Fortress 2 the ability to sell a fuckload of hats, what would Half-Life 3 bring to Valve's ecosystem? Maybe it's Source 2. Half-Life 2 was a great showcase for the original Source engine. Perhaps Half-Life 3 will be how Valve demonstrates the power of its successor.
Joe Donnelly: Sam and Tom's points about reinvention and the rude health of modern shooters are bang on the money, and while the FPS genre isn't in need of the same revolution brought by Half-Life 2 12 years ago, Half-Life 2 itself still one of the best first-person shooters on the market today. I revisited the Orange Box last year on a whim to see how Gordon Freeman's second outing fared against today's standards—a whim which had me rooting around Nova Prospekt a full week later, delighting in the how much of the game's wit, humour and expert design I'd forgotten since my first playthroughs.
We've missed this, and it was only by returning after such a long absence that I realised quite how much I miss this. To this end while seeing Half-Life 3—or HL2: Episode 3—powered by Source 2 or something newer would be lovely; I'd just as easy take a concluding chapter powered by the original 2004 engine. And, judging by some of the responses to Gabe Newell's mid-week AMA, I seem to be far from alone. This covers the want element, but do we need Half-Life 3? I reckon yes: evolution and nostalgia aside, denying players the chance to tie up Freeman's loose ends while treating themselves to another helping of what made number two so enjoyable is not only a disservice to players, but an injustice to videogames in general.
Tom S: Some fans have wondered if Valve could do a comic, or another similarly light-touch release, to tie up the end of the story. This seems like a good idea, and I enjoy Valve’s comics a lot.
I do wonder why Half-Life 2’s story still carries weight all this time later though. Half-Life opened with a B-movie premise—experiments gone wrong, the military sweeping in to cover things up. It gained a lot of detail with Half-Life 2, but it’s still pulp sci-fi to me. I mean, there’s a whole zombie movie pastiche in there.
Chris Thursten: Half-Life has always had revolutionary storytelling, but never a revolutionary story. The groundbreaking implementation of elaborate scripted sequences in the first game is why people remember it so vividly. The game never took control away from you: you were there, in Black Mesa, watching that otherwise-familiar B-movie premise explode to life around you.
Half-Life 2 took that further, and grounded a more sophisticated (but still familiar) story of near-future resistance in a believable dystopia. It has been widely imitated, and for good reason. It was a compellingly presented world populated by well-performed characters. Again, you felt like you were in a real place to an extent that you hadn't necessarily been in previous games.
In addition to advancing the FPS as a whole, then, Half-Life 3 would presumably need to advance our understanding of what a gameworld can be. This is where it gets much more complicated, I suspect. The advance of game engine technology has slowed. We're not blown away by see-saw physics any more. I wouldn't be surprised if Valve had experimented with VR with this in mind. Because what else could they do?
Aside from some staggering advance in graphics tech—that would still need to run on regular PCs—the best they could do is kidnap you, stick you in a helicopter, fly you to antarctica and force you to live the conclusion of Gordon's journey in real life. I mean, they could probably afford to do that. But should they? I've seen Westworld. The answer: probably not. (But please do it anyway, Gabe.)
Tom S: That’s settled, then. We do need Half-Life 3, and it needs to be an experiential future-tech extravaganza with deadly IRL headcrabs and reality-shattering see-saw puzzles. Get on it then, Valve.
The World Electronic Sports Games wrapped up in China this week, with Team EnVyUs taking home the $800,000 prize by defeating Team Kinguin in the CS:GO final. We even got to see TNC Pro Team defeat Cloud9 in the Dota 2 finals. It’s certainly been a busy start to 2017 and we’re not slowing down yet. There’s plenty to watch, from top-tier League of Legends to the CS:GO: ELEAGUE Major. We even have some top quality action from Heroes of the Storm. All the details on this weekend’s events can be found below.
League of Legends: 2017 EU LCS Spring Split
League of Legends fans can tune into the European Spring Split today as the 10 teams from France, Spain, Germany and the UK, as well as Fnatic Academy, battle it out for their chance to represent Europe in the Mid-Season Invitational. We will find out if anyone has what it takes to challenge G2 for the crown. Misfits and GIANTS! Gaming kick things off today at 08:00 PST / 17:00 CET. The full schedule and stream can be found by heading over to .
League of Legends: 2017 NA LCS Spring Split
The NA LCS Spring Split also returns today and this season might be one of the most exciting to date. Top teams from the last split have all become a little bit weaker, especially TSM who lost their star player Doublelift and replaced him with Wildturtle. Cloud 9 have also acquired new coaching and player talent from South Korea and replaced Meteos with the talented player Contractz. Both these teams will be kicking things off today at 15:00 PST / 00:00 CET, while the full schedule and stream can be found over on .
Dota 2: Pit League Season 5
Eight teams will compete for the season five title and with a minimum prize pool of $125 000 on the line, plus the portion spent on chests and in-game tickets, it is sure to be a fiercely contested event. The tournament is scheduled for this weekend and the top teams are set to clash right from the beginning. Quarterfinals begin today at 01:00 / 10:00 CET and resume tomorrow at the same time. The event can be streamed over on .
CS:GO: ELEAGUE Major 2017
Sixteen of the best CS:GO teams will battle it out at the FOX Theatre in Atlanta, USA. The group stage will take place from January 22nd to the 26th, while the playoffs begin on the 27th and end on the 29th. SK Gaming is set to be the favourites after they dominated last year’s headlines. However, the competition will be extremely fierce as everyone will want a piece of the $1,000,000 pie. The schedule can , while the event will be streamed live via the ELEAGUE channel on .
Overwatch: OGN APEX Season 2
The star studded lineups have been battling since Tuesday in order to grab their share of the $180,000 prize pool. OGN APEX Season 2 has invited to compete with the best Korea has to offer. So far the group B bracket has been the group that has received the most attention as it features Asia’s highest ranked team, Lunatic-Hai. However, Europe’s second highest ranked team, Misfits, will also be looking to reign supreme. It’s likely the winner of this group may go on to win the tournament. Group C will be starting their matches today at 02:00 PST / 11:00 CET, while Group D start at 03:30 PST / 12:30 CET. The event can be watched over on .
Heroes of the Storm: Global Championship stage
Heroes of the Storm’s HGC will see top teams battle for supremacy in regional professional leagues around the world. The best of the best will be tested in international clashes and a mid-season brawl as they fight their way to the finish at the HGC finals. The Heroes Global Champions will take home the crown and the winner's share of the cash prize. Europe’s first match between Team Dignitas and Misfits begins at 09:00 PST / 18:00 CET, while the North American match between Tempo Storm and Team Naventic starts at 14:00 PST / 11:00 CET. The full schedule and stream can .
Come out to the Esports Arena in Santa Ana, California this weekend to experience some of the most competitive PC and Console shooters of the last decade. Esports Arena Rewind will showcase TF2, Halo: Combat Evolved and Shadowrun, with teams from all over the world including, Se7en, Jasmine Tea, Froyotech, EVL Gaming, Meat Market, and Street Hoops Esports. Click here to check out the tournament schedule.
Bouts start at 10am PST on Saturday with grand finals at 4pm on Sunday, so get out to Santa Ana or watch it streamed here.
Cor blimey, it’s only the weekly Steam Charts! As always, these are based on the accumulated sales on Steam over the previous week, not what’s doing best for itself at this exact moment in time.
A nice number one this week, but a rather old-fashioned top ten otherwise – with one unexpected aberration.
N.B. there is NO VENGABUS this week. Repeat NO VENGA BUS. It’ll return when it is most needed. … [visit site to read more]