Update: It's no longer a joke. Valve hasn't exactly announced Half-Life 3 but it will release a VR prequel, Half-Life: Alyx in 2020.
Today is the day the first batch of Valve Index VR headsets is scheduled to start shipping to those who were able to pick one up during the extraordinarily brief period that they were available. To mark the moment, Valve boss Gabe Newell gave a brief speech to employees and press in which he compared the Index to other Valve milestones like the Source Engine and Steam, and also managed to squeeze in a Half-Life 3 joke.
The video, via Finn Sinclair (opens in new tab), actually begins with an unnamed engineer talking about "the modern renaissance of VR" and Valve's early efforts in helping to bring it about. It's primarily behind-the-scenes stuff—first-name-only callouts, a nod to the old, obscure Viper controller, that sort of thing—but the enthusiasm seems genuine and it ends quickly, which is the hallmark of all great speeches.
At that point Newell steps up and begins his remarks, and also pointedly refuses to use the microphone for some reason: Even when people in the the crowd start saying that they can't hear him, several of them saying "Mic!" Newell responds by shouting, "I will speak louder!" It gets a laugh, but he still doesn't go for the mic.
(Newell's bit starts at about 2:30 if you want to skip straight to it.)
"In the history of Valve, we've had a lot of significant milestones. We had Half-Life, which was our first single-player game. We had Source, that was our first engine. We had Counter-Strike, which was our first multiplayer game. Then we had Steam and the Workshop … And Index is another one of those critical milestones for our company," Newell said.
The Index headset is a "breakthrough," he continued, while the Knuckles controller, which tracks movements of individual fingers rather than simple hand location, "is hugely important, not only for how it's going to help ourselves and our dance partners make games better, but how it enables entirely new kinds of games."
Newell said that the launch of the Index represents a beginning, not an end, and someday down the road everyone involved in the process will "look back and realize the consequences of what you've built with your creativity and your hard work." He also talked about Valve's plans for the future of the headset, which range from practical short-term goals like lowered cost and improved international distribution (the Index still isn't available in Canada, for instance) to more "speculative" aspirations such as ideas for an untethered Index (the current setup has lots of wires), "revolutionary things" for the display and optical technology, and improved tracking.
And in the midst of all that, the obligatory wisecrack: "Half-Life led to Half-Life 2, Source led to Source 2, the experiments with did with Team Fortress 2 are what enabled us to build Dota. Artifact is the reason we're able to do Underlords," he said. "Maybe someday, the number two will lead us to that shiny integer glowing on the mountain someplace."
Not exactly confirmed, I guess, but credit to Newell for at least acknowledging the humor of the Half-Life 3 situation, rather than pretending that none of it ever happened. Back to the matter at hand—the Index—it's out today, and so is our full review.