With the release of Half-Life: Alyx, Valve has opened up about why fans never saw Half-Life: 2: Episode 3. Level designer Dario Casali spoke with IGN about the behind-the-scenes mindset Valve had when developing the last Half-Life game 13 years ago.
As expected, there were a lot of factors at play that led to the lack of a third episode for Half-Life 2, but Casali says developing the game’s Source Engine provided plenty of challenges on its own:
“When we put Half-Life 2 out, of course it was a really long time. That’s six years, and we were developing the Source Engine alongside the game design.”
This paired development cycle saw Valve doing a lot of experimenting and, as a consequence, resulted in what seems to be quite a bit of cut content. The road to Half-Life 2 sounds to have been pretty grueling, and the studio “didn’t want to go dark for so long” again. While we all know how that turned out, this led to the decision to release the episodic expansions:
“That’s why we started doing the episodes where we thought, ‘well, we have the stable technology now. We understand the characters, we understand the story, we have most of the mechanics. Let’s just bite off little chunks and then release more often. We think players are going to prefer that from waiting six years and going through however many delays we went through.’”
However, releasing episodes proved to have the opposite effect on development. Valve found itself packing more effort and time into the episodic releases, with Casali saying the team eventually “realized these episodes are turning more into sequels.”
Where Episode 1 took one year to make, Episode 2 took two. After it clicked that Valve had been pouring too much time into Half-Life 2, the team decided to rethink work on Episode 3.
Casali also explained that Valve has never wanted to just churn out Half-Life games, saying that it uses the series to help “make that next big impact.”
The light at the end of the tunnel here is that Casali says Valve has always been working on Half-Life games. He says the reason we never see any results is simple: “we were never really happy with what we came up with.”
Valve’s words ring true looking now at the release of Half-Life: Alyx, which seems to fully utilize the VR space for interesting new gameplay mechanics. Escapist’s Nick Calandra sang the game’s praises, saying, “there hasn’t really been a game yet that made me just go “wow” on multiple occasions like Alyx has.”