The lights are on
UPDATE: Valve's Doug Lombardi responded to this rumor in about as clear a way as we could hope for: "This is fiction (aside from the fact that Mike D is a real person)." Well, back to the waiting game, everybody.
ORIGINAL STORY: Most true Half-Life fans such as myself have given up hopes of seeing the planned Half-Life 2: Episode Three at this point. Instead, I choose to assume that Valve has already moved onto work on a much bigger and more awesome Half-Life 3. Maybe I'm setting myself up for disappointment, but stories of a former Valve employee's resume suggest this could be exactly what is happening.
Valve fansite Lambda Generation has the fully story, which actually comes via a post on the Steam forums. The post was titled "Half-Life 3 is officially confirmed!" Here's the text of the since-deleted post from user ryuuk, which Lamda Generation also smartly screen-capped:
"Mike Dussault, a long time programmer at Valve, recently left the company. I didn’t know him until last week. Let me introduce myself. I’m a freelance artist. I do contract work for a studio in Seattle, through the internet. They have a client access system on their site. I came across Dussault’s resume, while browsing the files section. Now, I know you’re all curious about Valve’s in-house development, but I’m only going to talk about the Half-Life series.
"According to his resume, Episode Three was put on hold when Valve decided to move away from the episodic model in late 2007, right after Episode Two’s release. He was a techinal advisor on a cancelled Half-Life title, made outside of the company. Dussault’s work on Half-Life 3′s world programming, and the scripting system (between 2008 and 2010) is also mentioned in the resume."
Obviously any jerk on a forum could make this outrageous claims, but thankfully, Lambda Generation did some footwork on this. Not only was the thread suspiciously deleted and ryuuk permanently banned from the Steam forums, but the Mike Dussault mentioned in the post is actually a former Valve employee who left the developer last year.
Lambda Generation speculates that the "canceled Half-Life title, made outside the company" mentioned in the post is a mystery project known as "Half-Life 2: Episode Four" that was supposedly a spin-off from the main series being made by EA. Legit? No clue, but it's an interesting thought.
We've reached out to Valve for an official statement on this rumor, but let it be known that my official stance is, "PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE."