More of a question of “when” rather than “if”, really.
Valve’s Half Life 3 is a lot like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow – except you’re Bad Luck Brian and the gold turns out to be a conductor for lightning which strikes you as soon as you touch it. That is to say, Half Life 3 is only as good as it is true; it’s only as true as if gamers can touch it; and right now, both scenarios just seem too good to be anything right now. But the question on everyone’s lips and fingertips: Is it going to happen? Will Valve pull the trigger on the game and just announce it?
From a marketing standpoint, Valve is in a rather precarious place than they were back in 1997 when the first Half Life was announced at E3. At that point, the company was struggling in a way that now seems laughable today – no one wanted to publish the game because it was deemed “too ambitious”. But then, this was a time where everyone was looking for the next Quake or Doom. Heck, Quake 2 was still making waves at this point.
Valve was able to deliver the game in November 1998. This means that a full year and a half later – and keep in mind, this was the late 90’s, where internet usage was far less than now – people still cared about the game despite knowing little about it. And it became a monster hit. However, at the time, Valve had the benefit of anonymity. Back then, you’d be hard-pressed to know the name Valve before Half Life was revealed or even when it was first announced.
While at times that anonymity can hurt developers as they struggle endlessly for recognition, it can also prove less stressful. Remember when Infinity Ward and Treyarch delivered their respective first Call of Duty titles, without any pressure of a yearly cycle of sequels? How about Assassin’s Creed 2, which followed up the first one after a period of a couple of years?
Different times, for sure, but even nowadays, some of the greatest games are being made by developers who aren’t under the greatest pressure to enunciate a schedule and stick to it for financial gain and year-to-year sales.
Though Valve is struggling to remain like one of those developers, where anyone can work on any project that they like, it’s fully aware of the pressure on it these days to deliver. And unlike the developers doing yearly sequels, when Valve has to deliver, it has to be something big.
Half Life 2 came out roughly 8 years after its predecessor. It wasn’t like Valve announced it immediately after the first game was wrapped up. Heck, seeing it at E3 2005 was as big a shock a veterans as it was to fans. But the pressure was always on to deliver, to offer something to fans who loved the first game so much.
It’s not like that pressure still isn’t there, but Valve head honcho Gabe Newell has made it clear on several occasions that they want to release Half Life 3 when it’s good and ready. Valve may tease fans from time to time, but when honestly pressed for answers – as they have been, especially in 2012 – they give answers in earnest. Valve is giving us great games, interesting surprises, trying to innovate the way we look at PC gaming in living rooms, revolutionizing indie development with Steam Greenlight, developing the next Source Engine and even finding time in between to reign in The War Z developers for duping consumers.
So while Half Life 3 is out there (and it would be foolish to assume it doesn’t exist in some shape or form – how many movies do you think are currently undergoing stereoscopic 3D post production that haven’t been officially revealed to the world till now?), it’s going to have to wait.
Because the only thing worse than the promise of a great game that probably won’t live up to expectations is a game the developer hypes up to be great when it knows, deep down, that it could be far better.