After 13 years, there's a new Half-Life game. Half-Life: Alyx is great (opens in new tab), but it's also a prequel, set five years before the cliffhanger events of 2007's Half-Life 2: Episode 2. We don't know how Gordon Freeman's story ends yet, but last week I did have a chance to ask Valve what it's doing next with Half-Life, after such a long break.
They did not, unfortunately, decide to casually confirm Half-Life 3 (opens in new tab). But I did learn that the form of the next Half-Life game is very much up in the air based on how Half-Life: Alyx is received.
"At this point, we don't really know what [another Half-Life game] would be—we don't know if it's going to be another VR title. We don't know if it's going to be a non VR title," said Valve level designer Dario Casali, who worked on both the original Half-Life games.
"The best thing we can do at this point is to gauge the response to this product. How are people able to enjoy it? How many people can we get into the VR platform? [Are] people saying that VR is now this essential part of Half-Life? We really don't know those answers until we put the game out and we start listening."
Alyx has been met with universal critical acclaim, and shortages of Valve's Index headset (opens in new tab) have shown that a game as big as Half-Life can definitely drive sales of VR hardware. Even then, it may still only sell a fraction of the copies of Half-Life 2—but that might not matter to Valve, given how much money Steam makes.
Writer Eric Wolpaw, who worked on the Half-Life 2 episodes and Portal games, summed up why it took so long for Valve to return to Half-Life again. As you could guess, the longer the gap, the more pressure there was on the sequel to be great.
"I think as time went on, it started to feel like more and more of a daunting task to go back to the Half-Life universe and release a Half-Life game," said Wolpaw. But the good news: Alyx is out. They did it. "I feel like we pulled that back."
"Everybody's feeling confident and positive about this," Wolpaw said. "Like, here's some breaking news for Dario. I'm ready to sign up for the next one, if we do something. I'm on board. I'm ready. I'm ready to go! I know I had a good time. I mean, it could be a week from now this thing comes out and all my enthusiasm will be crushed, but I feel pretty good. I feel good. Feeling good about this."