Last year, Half-Life 2 celebrated its tenth birthday. No, really — and so will Halo 2 and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas. One will note that the latter franchises have been caught in public lately, with Halo 4 having been released in 2012 *, and Grand Theft Auto V in 2014. Half-Life though, while still fervently popular, has not seen a release of its own since 2007, where/when* Half-Life 2: Episode 2 came into the world. In the years since, fans have undergone a set of emotional phases: “A third episode would really be something,” we initially said, fantasizing. Then, a bit later, it became “Valve would do well to announce a third episode, or a full-fledged Half-Life 3.” Soon after, we hit the days of “Seriously, when’s Valve going to announce it? C’mon, now.” Our current state is “*Will they ever announce it?”. In the last few years, Valve has playfully, uh, played with us. Think back to the haiku email, the website domain registrations, the suggestive* imagery on Steam, the file leakage, the tour photo. Heck, Gabe Newell might have actually acknowledged Valve’s quiet development of the game, wherein a proposed* “Half-Life 3” was referred to as “Ricochet 2”, which many have perceived as its code name.
But one must sigh, as Valve still has yet to officially utter the words “Half-Life 3”. A day will (probably) come when the company must announce the project, and *how* is of equal mystery to *when* they announce it. It’s here that I will provide three possible scenarios Valve could pursue to announce the wretchedly wispy game.
THE THREE-STEP ANNOUNCEMENT
Valve holds an E3 press conference – a rare occurrence – where everyone is in the dark about what to expect. The hope, of course, whether rationality allows for it or not, is that Half-Life 3 will be announced. But who can say? The environment is familiar – a stage, a screen, audience seats, lights, teleprompter set-ups, pre-show music, etc. And the familiarity is maintained through the start of the press conference, but only for a few seconds. Gabe Newell makes his way on-stage, but slowly, taking one step, two step, and…his foot hovers in mid-air at the third step. Third. Three. Are we ready? Not knowing if he’ll commit to stepping a third time, the audience waits. A few laughs are audible. How much longer, Gabe?
The Valve co-founder fishes through his pockets and reveals a switchblade not unlike that of the Spy’s in Team Fortress 2. Newell then rolls up his jeans, raises his foot a little higher, and places the switchblade gently above his ankle. “I’ll do it,” Newell warns the crowd, “There doesn’t have to be a ‘three’. We don’t have to take the next step in the Half-Life franchise.” Newell scans the crowd. “Maybe we — Valve — think you’re all a bunch of spoiled brats.” Newell gently slides the blade back and forth on his own skin. “Or…maybe we’re flattered by your requests.” He takes the blade off his foot. “But…” he continues, placing the switchblade above his ankle again, “‘requests’ seems like the wrong word. If you asked me, you all demanded a third Half-Life. Demanded it.” The cold metal caresses Newell’s brittle skin in a viperous fashion. Some audience members are still chuckling, believing it all to be a joke. Others don’t really know what think. At last, Newell plants his foot firm and dramatically on the ground. A pause, then the lights go out. “Wake up, Mr. Freeman. Rise and shine…” the speakers boom. The crowd combusts into an opera of cheers and screams. It’s here. A Half-Life 3 logo blossoms on the screen. The lights come back up, and Newell throws the switchblade into the audience. The press-conference concludes, and that’s it.
THE RALPHIE WAY
Valve’s Steam service has opened its arms to alternative types of software that aren’t games, like art and design programs, video and audio editing, and even released Indie Game: The Movie — a movie — on their marketplace. So, if Valve wants to be extra-festive during the holiday season, then they ought to release festive content. And what better way to express holiday cheer than release Bob Clark’s classic “A Christmas Story” for free to all Steam users. Then, we’d all watch it and have a grand old Christmas time, relishing those familiar delights. We’ve seen it so much that we anticipate all the visual and audio cues, and eventually we come to that fateful* climax, where Ralphie has one more present to open. As we all know, Ralphie’s Christmas request is the Red Rider BB Gun, and every viewing of “A Christmas Story” has resulted in Ralphie having gotten such a gift. But not this time — instead of a Red Rider BB Gun hiding in the corner, it is a copy of Half-Life 3. It’s a convincing visual effect on Valve’s part, who may have used one of the video editing suites they released on the marketplace all that time ago. Of course, Ralphie is stricken with surprise and wonder, and then we cut to black. “Son of a bitch,” says Ralphie in the blackness. End credits.
THE JUST RELEASE IT WAY
Valve avoids announcing Half-Life 3 at all, and instead just releases it. The company’s development process resembles that of any other project — eventually, Half-Life 3 reaches the polishing phase, and a few months later, the game goes gold, ready to take on retail. Valve would have to seal every possible hole that could expose the existence of their game, and would go to great lengths to do so. They’d have to work closely with the ESRB so as to ensure that there never be any rating listing on its* website. Valve would need to have a little word with retailers too, of course. Amazon is famous/infamous for their regular exposé of unannounced products. But this won’t fly with Valve, no sir. The company will not have some dippity-dip who happens to work at GameStop take a photo of their Half-Life 3 shipment. The boxes that carry all of those sparkling, yet-to-be-released copies of the game can’t even bear the title Half-Life 3. It’s got to be something else, and not Ricochet 2, as some will suspect of Valve’s business/*observant associates will call Valve’s bluff.