Portal 3, Valve, Pixar and Cliffhangers

Having recently finished Portal2 I found myself in the uncomfortable position where everything seemed to have been wrapped up but I wanted another sequel, a Portal 3 for more of Glados, more of Aperture Science and more fun portal based puzzles. Sadly that doesn't seem likely but then a comparison struck me and I couldn't help but run with it to the end.

Probably the most comparable studio to Valve in terms of emphasis on quality over quantity is Pixar. Now Valve has always developed in its own time and refused to release before they were ready - if that meant tacking months onto the release date then so be it. I think their greatest mistake was the decisions for the massive cliffhangers at the end of every one the Half Life series. The thing is with a cliffhanger the point is to keep the audience hooked and interested, the longer you wait the less effective it is.

A cliffhanger ties you to the audiences expectation of a continuation and their expectation for a timely one to satiate their thirst, their need for more. Odd for a company which publishes in their own time to use this. This is where the Pixar analogy comes in, another company which releases sequels when they're ready. Recently Toy Story 3 in fact. The wait between 1 and 2 was 4 years. Between 2 and 3 was 11 years. Yes the wait was worth it, but only because you didn't expect it. Nothing other than a complete ending could possibly have satisfied the audience and left an audience for the next sequel with that sort of time lag. You want them to remember the greatness of the previous installment as opposed to the endless unfulfilling wait.

Which I suppose might be partly driving the majority of big name game studios including Valve from single player to multi. The simple fact is that in terms of development time mutliplayer content is far more efficient as a player time sink then single. Imagine the development time for each level from HL2 from concept, design, scripting and testing vs say...how long did you spend on each section? A couple of minutes tops? A single multiplayer map will probably give the majority of players hours of satisfaction. Games like Halo prove it and games like Crysis 2 and Bad Company are perfect examples: multiplayer is no longer tacked on as an additional feature, now the singleplayer is.

Not to say it can't be good singleplayer. Nor the emphasis will be totally one way or the other. I could be wrong. Hopefully I am. I'm not competitive enough to enjoy multiplayer much these days.

This is particularly important for Valve because they're not a huge company and so they can't just throw an army of developers around. Less time spent developing individual games means they can make more games. Make more money. Repeat but with more employees. Cliffhangers aren't such an issue because development time is (theoretically) shorter. They're here to make money, making great games is just their method and you don't make great games by not being critical and working out the most efficient way of doing things.

I got a bit off topic there, I suppose what I'm saying is I reckon Valve is too good a developer to allow an IP such as their Portal series to die in obscurity after 2 just performances firmly in the limelight. Just...don't expect another for a decade.

A decade is only like 2-4 valve years.

I have to admit, when I finished Episode 2 I was so taken aback by the finale that I was like 'AAAA NEED EP 3 NOW!'

But now that's worn off and it's just been replaced with knowing when I finally do get the next part it'll be just be a feeling of 'about bloody time'.

Having not played Half Life (and with no intention to, flame shield activate!) I can't comment on the cliff hanger of Half Life 2 ep 2 specifically but surely it makes sense to leave a little room between releases to allow the gamers who don't pick up on release date a chance to be informed and to allow the anticipation to build.

It's like watching box sets, you have the cliff hanger, and then after the credits you get "Last time on show you're watching". There's no time to build up the wonder and curiosity or anticipation which makes the next episode so damn gratifying.

But I agree with your overall point, Ep 3 has been way to long coming, I've only been an outside viewing the frustration of my friends but it even feels excessive to me.

But really, I don't think Portal will go much further than, say, 3 installations. That was part of Portal's appeal, it's not about milking a cash cow for the sake of it. It's about being long enough to give justice to the idea, but not too long that the idea stagnates.

(which is part of the reason I'm not a fan of word limits in assignments but that's another topic)

StBishop:

But I agree with your overall point, Ep 3 has been way to long coming, I've only been an outside viewing the frustration of my friends but it even feels excessive to me.

But really, I don't think Portal will go much further than, say, 3 installations. That was part of Portal's appeal, it's not about milking a cash cow for the sake of it. It's about being long enough to give justice to the idea, but not too long that the idea stagnates.

(which is part of the reason I'm not a fan of word limits in assignments but that's another topic)

The wait time for EP3 is now like 4 years. For comparison the break between HL1 and 2 was 6 and EP1 and 2 was 1 year. My personal opinion is that they're building a new engine and developing HL3 for it at the same time like I think they did with the Source engine and HL2.

I said the Toy Story franchise couldn't got past 2....and then Pixar made me eat those words. There's still plenty of room to mix up the Portal franchise especially with 10 years worth of ideas, maybe not purely as a puzzle game but then again, who knows what goes though the minds of valve employees. Possibly a crossover with the HL franchise. That'd be cool. Chell replacing Gordan except she gets the portal gun instead of the gravity gun.

While word limits should only be guidelines they do exist for a reason. Example: my AS technology class you basically spend 1/2 to 3/4s of the year working on a project and writing it up. Some people tried to write PHDs equivalents and needed DIY grade staples to go through their work.

meece:

The wait time for EP3 is now like 4 years. For comparison the break between HL1 and 2 was 6 and EP1 and 2 was 1 year. My personal opinion is that they're building a new engine and developing HL3 for it at the same time like I think they did with the Source engine and HL2.

I said the Toy Story franchise couldn't got past 2....and then Pixar made me eat those words. There's still plenty of room to mix up the Portal franchise especially with 10 years worth of ideas, maybe not purely as a puzzle game but then again, who knows what goes though the minds of valve employees. Possibly a crossover with the HL franchise. That'd be cool. Chell replacing Gordan except she gets the portal gun instead of the gravity gun.

While word limits should only be guidelines they do exist for a reason. Example: my AS technology class you basically spend 1/2 to 3/4s of the year working on a project and writing it up. Some people tried to write PHDs equivalents and needed DIY grade staples to go through their work.

I agree that they could go further with portal, I'm just not sure they should. I don't know that they'd be able to maintain the level of polish that I got from Portal and that other seem to be getting from Portal 2 (can't afford it right now).

With the word limit thing, I understand fully why they're in place, especially at university level, because to be honest, most of us will waffle for a week about most topics we're studying.
I was more referring to High School, and am in the unfortunate habit of not clarifying that when talking to people outside of university.
I'm use to talking about this kind of stuff with my partner, or with other Education students so I assume people know that I'm on about.
Sorry about that.

But back on topic of word limits; I think that, in high school, the majority of students will add in bullshit and extend sentences needlessly (changing because to "due to the fact that", which isn't a bad thing but can lead to bad habits of using verbose language in slightly jarring ways) or just waffling, where they repeat them selves 5 times in a single paragraph on purpose.

I strongly believe that, with a word limit guide, but no academic penalty for someone who doesn't fit within the guide, students are more likely to be able to answer the question/s or meet the task well. Some students may be able to meet all criteria in 500 words while others might take 2000 because they want to make sure they haven't missed anything and I think that many teachers simply use the word count as an arbitrary and messy way to standardise the work they receive to make marking easier on them.

Pixar and Valve are indeed similar for their uncompromising desire and standards for quality, and their respective perspectives on what their products mean to themselves and others. (Specifically, Valve's philosophy is that Games are a service, and Pixar's is that "Story is King")
Like Disney's Heyday in the 1940s and the Animation Renaissance of the early 90s, we are currently enjoying the fruits of a blessed era.

 

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