April 2012 – P-powered
Proving that simple is sometimes best, an April Fool joker caused millions of fans to momentarily go nuts when he posted a Half-Life 3: Now Available image at store.steamppowered.com. Some legitimate news sites fell for it, so excited were they by the prospect of Half-Life 3 being honest-to-God real that they failed to notice the extra "p" in the URL. The site remains up to this very day, although it's now tagged with a notice that it is in fact an April Fool's joke.
April 2012 - Ricochet, too?
Valve honcho Gabe Newell confused everyone when he discussed the development of Episode 3 in the context of Ricochet 2, the hypothetical sequel to the Valve-developed battle frisbee game.
"We'd like to be super-transparent about the future of Ricochet 2," he said, "but the problem is that the twists and turns that we're going through would probably drive people more crazy than being silent about it until we can be very crisp about what's happening." I can't say that I'm really with you on that one, Gabe, at least not here in the year 2016. The good news, Newell added, is that "everyone who's working on Ricochet 2 continues to work on Ricochet 2."
And so now we sometimes refer to Half-Life 3 as Ricochet 2, and may forever.
June 2012 - Concept art slips out
This leak came to us through the bad luck of artist Andrea Wicklund, whose Picasa portfolio ended up spilling all over the net. Images included Alyx in various get-ups, a crashed helicopter in the Arctic, and pictures of the alien world Xen. Interestingly, while the art was dated from 2008, it didn't slip out until mid-2012.
August 2012 – No responsibility is taken
The 2012 edition of Gamescom promised to be an exciting one: Games scheduled for exhibit that year included Dragon Age 3 and Half-Life 3! Before we could line up for plane tickets to Germany, though, a correction was issued. Eurogamer asked three separate times why the titles had been listed, but Gamescom would only say that it was "a mistake."
June 2013 – Jira leak, stage one
Data from Valve's project tracking tool (Jira) leaked to the public, revealing that 42 people are attached to a Half-Life 3 mailing list. Obviously, there was no way to verify that the leak was real, and even if it was, determining the age or status of the mailing list in question was impossible too. Maybe 42 people were working on Half-Life 3, or maybe 42 people are just too damn lazy to unsubscribe from the list. (I don't judge. I have two Felix the Fish plushies, because it was easier to let Big Fish Games sock my credit card for 7 bucks a month than to figure out how to make it stop.)
June 2013 – It was just a joke, we swear
A motley crew of yuksters manages to "accidentally" convince people that Half-Life 3 is in development in a segregated section of Valve's studios, and that a reveal of the project was finally imminent—in the pages of their own magazine, no less! Which gang of comedy doofuses cooked this one up, you wonder? I cannot tell a lie: It was us (but it was meant to be an obvious joke, not a hoax).
August 2013 - The pen is mightier
A Steam dev posted an announcement of the beginning of a Half-Life 3 internal beta on the community announcements page. Real developer, real community post—but fake announcement, as a close look at the list of updates makes clear. The dev in question quickly copped to it, saying he didn't "expect it to show up everywhere." Because when has that ever happened before, right?
@DanStapleton It's fake. I posted it testing stuff, didn't really expect it to show up everywhere.August 19, 2013
August 2013 – Mr. Overwatch causes a stir
John Patrick Lowrie, voice of Odessa Cubbage and husband of Combine Overwatch and GlaDOS voice actor Ellen McLain, caused a stir when he explained that Half-Life 3 wasn't moving forward because of challenges with motion capture—which of course implied that he had some insight into the situation. He even said that overcoming mo-cap limitations was "one of the things they're working on," meaning that it was—gasp!—being worked on. Progress! Except, four days later he took it all back, saying that he doesn't know nothin' about nothin', and nobody can prove otherwise.
September 2013 – Jira, part deux
Jira leaks again! This time there was a new "Half-Life 3 Core" group listed, and the number of people on the project had grown, too. That's practically an official announcement, right?
October 2013 – European trademark
A trademark filing for Half-Life 3, owned by Valve, appeared in Europe. Trademark filings are a great way to get an early heads-up on new game projects: Deus Ex: Mankind Divided and Gwent are two high-profile examples of games that came to light first as a result of a trademark filing. Half-Life 3 trademarked? Half-Life 3 confirmed!
October 2013, one week later – European disappointment
Half-Life 3 de-confirmed. Fake filing. Why does this keep happening?