Valve marketing guy Doug Lombardi says the developer may have chosen the wrong word when it described the follow-ups to Half-Life 2 as “episodes.”

Ever get annoyed by the fact that Valve seems to take longer to make an “episode” than most developers take to make an entire game? Lombardi says it’s because they’re not really episodes at all, they’re just shorter games. “The notion of the word ‘episode’ conjures up this idea of television where you get something new every week,” he said in an interview with CVG. “And people say, ‘We thought that episodic meant we were going to get something new every six months or every year.'”

Though they may not be episodes in the strictest sense, Lombardi believes that Valve is on the right path with shorter games. “I think a lot of folks in the industry saw the same problem that we did with Half-Life 2 in that making a 20-hour game with rich graphics, story, etc., is a really expensive proposition both in time and money,” he said. “And some have started making games about the same length as Episode 2, but they haven’t changed what they call it, and they haven’t changed the price.”

“In a way you’re charging people $50 but they’re only getting $18 worth out of it – that’s not necessarily the best way to go,” he added. “So I think we tried to be a bit more honest about it, and maybe we chose the wrong word in ‘episode’ in that it conjured up this TV analogy.”

I give credit to Valve for charging a reduced price for shorter gameplay, but his comment about gamers misunderstanding his use of “episode” smells like a little bit of retconning: In early 2006 he told GameSpot that Half-Life 2 was going episodic, and when asked if that meant there would be a “regular flow of content,” he said, “Yes.”

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