Silence has always been Valve’s approach to unannounced games. To demand anything else is disrespectful to this gaming institution, says Sean Knight
Recently some Half-Life fans banded together to form a group called A Call for Communication, in order to show their dissatisfaction with Valve at its silence regarding the development of Half-Life 3 (or Half-Life 2: Episode 3). In the hopes of urging the developer to talk about the highly anticipated sequel, the group has now taken to online demonstrations.
The first one took place on February 4 and saw 13,000 Steam members simultaneously playing Half-Life 2 on Valve’s digital platform. Yet the company has continued to remain silent on the subject. The question is: should Valve capitulate and inform its fans about its plans for HL3?
Given the developer’s penchant for keeping quiet regarding their projects, it seems unlikely that Valve will suddenly give in to a vocal minority (the protest group claims to have more than 53,000 members). In an industry where the norm is to flood the market with information about games, Valve is one of the very few companies that does not do so. Its lack of information may seem like a bad marketing move but it appears to work for.
People have quickly forgotten that in the years between the release of the original Half-Life in 1998 and the announcement of Half-Life 2 at 2003′s E3, there were only ever vague rumors about its development. Yet, the announcement, when it came, rocked the industry, seeing the game walk off with several awards for best in show. Of course, it wasn’t just Half-Life 2 that was being shown off at that show. Valve used the game to demonstrate its brand new Source graphics engine – a revolutionary development that still holds up today judging it by the huge success of Portal 2.
Valve’s silence in advance of the official Half-Life 2 reveal paid off. A lasting impression was made and the game went on to achieve a Metacritic score of 96, won a total of 39 Game of the Year 2004 awards, and has sold more than 12 million physical copies.
Developers’ and publishers’ constant jockeying to keep their products in the public eye has led some Half-Life fans to forget that this is not how Valve operates. Too much information about a game, in my opinion, can cause you to build up expectations and pre-conceived notions that can ruin the first-time experience of playing a newly released title.
Those fans who feel the need to be vocal and band together to try and get Valve to open up are doing a disservice to the developer they claim to adore. This sense of entitlement for being informed is rather childish. Trust in Valve that they are working on the title and will let us see the game when it is ready.
Just like they have always done.
We waited five years for Half-Life 2 and I am content to sit back and wait for Half-Life 3 as well. This doesn’t mean that I am indifferent to the franchise. On the contrary, I will be one of the first to purchase it when it comes out. However, the circumstances under which Half-life 2: Episode 2 ended in 2007 means Valve is going to be exceptionally careful with how it handles the next instalment.
Indeed, Valve is probably going to try to rock the gaming world again. If it follows the same path it did with Half-Life 2, then 2012’s E3 could be when we finally get to see something. Perhaps even a revamped Source engine, or even Source 2, to be shown off alongside the long-awaited instalment.
In the meantime, those who feel entitled to be informed about the game should stop. It is a poor way to treat a developer who has done so much for the gaming community. They may think they are avoiding being disrespectful but that is exactly what they are doing by forming this group and holding demonstrations. They don’t respect Valve’s policy on disseminating information about its projects even though it is a tried and true formula for the company.
Valve doesn’t need to be reminded that there are fans that are dying to play Half-Life 3. The sales figures and constant asking of “When is Half-Life 3 coming out?” are more than enough motivation for them to keep working on it.
So Valve, keep doing what you need to do. You have proven that it works and I’ll be there ready to purchase your game the second it is released.