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Like most gamers, I love the first two Half Life games, I enjoyed Left 4 Dead, and still count Portal and Portal 2 as two of my favorite gaming experiences of all time. But that was the old Valve. Today, for no particular reason, I've determined that my chances of seeing Half Life 3 are about as good as a having my bones coated in adamantium and discovering I have retractable claws and an incredible mutant healing power.
Here's the thing. I don't think Valve is a game company anymore. Most of their revenue comes from their Steam service, which is an ingenious way for a game company to make money without actually making any games. And what's even more dubious, they make a substantial amount of money off the hard work of their diehard fans who busy themselves creating new content for DOTA 2 and Team Fortress 2, only to have Valve take a percentage of the sales.
It's all a bit nefarious for a company that many gamers put on a pedestal as paragons of the gaming industry, mostly for a game that was made a decade ago. I'm not even sure if gamers will even see Valve develop another stand alone title for a while, as a company they seem pretty determined to travel the free-to-play route of game development and subsequently bathe in the money of fans who have mistakenly placed far too much faith in a company more interested in competing in the distribution and console markets than making games. And with the SteamBox coming out, considering the huge investment if research and development as well as advertising, it seems even less likely that we'll see a new Half Life.
I can't say I blame Valve. They've made millions by not making games. It is, quite possibly, the greatest trick a game developer has ever pulled off. Why risk it making something so trivial as Half Life 3? After ten years in limbo, could Half Life 3 live up to the hype? And even if Valve does make Half Life 3... would I even care? Could it innovate the same way as its predecessors? Probably not. Many gamers know what happens when a title spends too long in development. Remember the disasters that were Too Human and Duke Nukem Forever? I do. Unfortunately.
Even if Valve held a press release tomorrow and said unequivocally that Half Life 3 would be hitting shelves early next year, I'd have reservations. You see, Valve wasn't really responsible for Left 4 Dead and Portal, they were some one else's intellectual properties. Valve purchased the Left 4 Dead franchise and its developer, Turtle Rock Studios, in 2008. Turtle Rock briefly became Valve South and then was later shut down by the kindhearted folks at Valve that same year. Classy. As for Portal, it was developed by two grad students and was originally called Narbacular Drop. What I'm saying is, Valve hasn't made a game of their own that doesn't involve micro-transactions (DOTA 2) since Half Life 2: Episode 2. Maybe Valve isn't making games because they've lost their touch.
And by lost their touch I mean lost key people who were responsible for making the Half Life series so great. Half Life 2's art director went to work for Arkane Studios because "Valve stopped making AAA games." The same risky games that made the developer beloved by gamers. That's a telling statement, when someone who worked on one of the best selling, long-lasting, and most respected franchises in gaming history says Valve doesn't give a damn about making games anymore. Valve, as far as I can tell, doesn't care about developing stand-alone games at all, much less Half-Life 3.
Every year millions of rage-boners erupt across the internet every time EA or Activision does anything even remotely designed to make money. And those rage-boners are softly laid to rest as gamers say, "Well at least Valve is here to show all these giant corporate development houses how gamers should be treated." Then, sated, they coo happily into their pillows before having wondrous dreams of Gabe Newell descending from his throne in nerd heaven, his wings and halo ablaze with holy and righteous luminescence. But the fact of the matter is, we've been had—bamboozled, hoodwinked, cheated. The only thing descending from Gabe Newell and the folks at Valve is a hateful cascade of turds composed of broken dreams and shattered promises.
As for me, I'm moving on. I've lived without a new Half-Life for ten years so I'm thinking I can probably do without it.
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