Shortly before the release of Episode One, Valve said that the trilogy “will conclude by Christmas of 2007″ [Gamespot]. Right after the release of EP1, in an interview with Eurogamer, Gabe Newell said:
The original Half-Life took us two years to develop. With a considerably larger team Half-Life 2 took us six years to develop, so we thought if we were going to continue our trend with Half-Life 3 we would basically ship after we had all retired.
We’re trying to come up with a better way of getting more timely updates…
They proposed that moving to an episodic release schedule would get games out faster but below is a breakdown of the acutal timeline, along with other Valve releases for scale:
1998/11/19 – Half-Life
2004/11/16 – Half-Life 2
2006/06/01 – Half-Life 2: Episode One
2007/10/10 – Half-Life 2: Episode Two (in the Orange Box, with Portal and Team Fortress 2)
2008/11/17 – Left 4 Dead
2009/11/17 – Left 4 Dead 2
2010/08/13 – date of this post
2010/??/?? – Portal 2
A year and seven months passed from the release of Half-Life 2 to the release of EP1, then a year and four months to EP2. With an ever shortening time frame, we should have expected EP3 a little over a year later. But here we are two years and ten months later and not only are we not playing EP3, we haven’t even heard anything about it.
In January of this year, a rumor coming from Game Informer magazine (via Kotaku) stated the following:
[There] won’t be any game from the [Half-Life] franchise in 2010, and what will finally come out is still unknown.
So if we aren’t to expect a Half-Life game this year, what is Valve planning? Some of the speculation out of that rumor is that they may just ditch EP3 and go straight to Half-Life 3, which seems possible given the long duration of nothingness and that the Orange Box Source engine is graphically far behind today’s standards.
Another possibility is that Valve is trying setup another Orange Box-like scenario with multiple games in one release. Part of what feeds that particular idea is that Portal 2, which was planned for a release later this year, was delayed until sometime next year. If that’s the plan, there are other games which could be packaged alongside those two, the first of being Defense of the Ancients (DotA). Valve recently hired the current developer of the mod who is now leading a team at Valve. Also, earlier this week, Valve trademarked DotA.
My purely speculative guess of another 2011 release would be Black Mesa, the total Half-Life conversion mod which has been in development for six years. Valve has a habit of buying up-and-coming mod and game developers, especially those with the professional quality of Black Mesa.
No one really knows what Valve is doing next and they have traditionally been very good at shutting down leaks. We’ll just have to wait and see.