It’s been thirteen years since Valve released Half-Life 2: Episode Two, but frustratingly, Dr. Gordon Freeman’s story remains incomplete. Thanks to a new interview with level designer Dario Casali, we have a better idea of what went wrong and why there hasn’t been an Episode Three.
Speaking to IGN, Casali said that Valve had opted for episodic releases so it could deliver new content to Half-Life fans more quickly (ironic…), but things backfired due to a lack of planning and “scope creep,” which increased development times. While Half-Life: Episode One took one year to create – as intended – Half-Life: Episode Two took twice as long, undermining the entire project and putting future episodes in jeopardy.
“We found ourselves creeping ever forward towards, ‘Well, let’s just keeping putting more and more, and more, and more stuff in this game because we want to make it as good as we can,’” Casali explained. “And then we realized these episodes are turning more into sequels.”
“I think at that point we realized, ‘Okay, maybe this episodes thing, it was a good concept, but we’re not executing terribly well as far as getting things out quickly enough,’” added Casali, which ultimately resulted in the franchise’s long-time hiatus.
Casali also suggested that the development of the Source 2 engine was a factor, but that doesn’t add up, since Half-Life 2: Episode Two came out in 2007 and Valve didn’t announce Source 2 until 2011. You’d think that three or four years would be enough to create something.
“We [didn’t] want to make that same Half-Life 2 mistake again,” Casali said, “of working on Source 2 and the next Half-Life game at the same time, because that created a lot of pain the first time we tried to do that.”
In a separate take, Valve designer Robin Walker and artist Tristan Reidford told Kotaku that while multiple attempts at an Episode Three were made, the company couldn’t find anything that was groundbreaking enough to justify its development, as it did with Half-Life (scripted storytelling) and Half-Life 2 (physics).
“There were multiple things that people worked on that, at the time, thought of themselves as the next piece of Half-Life,” Walker said over a Skype video call. “One of the problems that they all ran into is, at its core, Half-Life has always been an IP where I think we were interested in solving some interesting collision of technology and art that had reared itself.”
“At that point, we felt like the Episode Three scope couldn’t just be an episode,” said Walker. “It had to be much bigger than that.”