Posted on June 28, 2013, Mark Burnham Are we This Desperate for Half-Life 3? Yes, Apparently We Are
For Half-Life 3 Believers everywhere, this week had a couple good scares. By “scares,” I mean that through very complicated, honestly brilliant leaps of logic and cryptological handiwork, the Internet tried to believe that Half-Life 3 was coming.
“Believe,” as one poster on a related NeoGAF thread put it this week. That’s the frenzy Valve has everyone worked up into. Kind of amazing.
So here’s what happened.
The Half-Life 2 Update Error, That Is (Isn’t) Related to Half-Life 3
It’s true that prior to the announcement of Portal 2, a Portal 1 update started teasing a sequel. So when a Half-Life 2 update this week made NPCs randomly speak in Korean, it was cause To Believe. Valve even tweeted about it, seemingly pouring a little kerosene on the fire. They’re messed up in the head like that:
WARNING: The most recent HL2 update has some issues. We're working to fix this, you can pause the update for now. ???? ?? ??? ????…
— Steam Support (@Steam_Support) June 25, 2013
The update was apparently just an error, though, one Valve fixed speedily. But can’t we still Believe? Yes, until a Valve developer noted this in the comments for the patch update: “No ARG sorry, just me mucking up.” Belief shattered.
Close though, right? I was kind of Believing for a few minutes there.
Surgeon Simulator TF2 Update = Half-Life 3
This one is a little goofier. Earlier this week, Surgeon Simulator 2013 received an update allowing players to operate on a Heavy from Team Fortress 2. As part of the update, you obtain the item shown below.
This is where the Believing got REALLY wide-eyed, and kind of awesome. Read through the Reddit thread about it. There’s some serious work being done in there. People are talking about planets, Morse code, all kinds of decoding work. Theories were varied. Half-Life 3 was a top contender for what this code was supposed to hint at, though too was the launch date of the Steam Summer Sale.
Again, though, it all ended in disappointment. A spokesperson for Surgeon Simulator developer Bossa Studios issued Kotaku the following statement:
“Indeed it’s an ARG, but I’m afraid it doesn’t have anything to do with a Valve game. It’s a key piece of an upcoming update to Surgeon Simulator, and the info found there is relevant to the puzzle — we just had no idea it could have been read in such a broad way to fit so many theories! Hope this helps, and sorry for the trouble.”
So what have we learned? For one thing, Valve is perhaps the greatest video game marketing entity of all time. They don’t create PR/marketing programs; they create disciples, who evangelize the mere idea of their product at the smallest sign of hope.
As Jim Sterling noted in an editorial on Game Front quite a while ago, Half-Life 3 needs to shit or get of the pot. Personally, I agree. I’d like to see all of this come to an end. I’d like to stop Believing, and start playing. It’s exhausting.
But here’s a theory. Maybe this IS Half-Life 3. Maybe we’re actually playing it, right now, by merely living our lives in rabid anticipation of it. It’s out, and has been for years now. This is the game. We’re all Freeman. Valve is just waiting for us to wake up and realize it.
UPDATE 07/01/2013: As a commenter pointed out, I neglected to include the detail that the Surgeon Simulator item included Korean writing, which logically invited a connection to the earlier botched Half-Life 2 update that changed in-game dialog to Korean. My mistake, consider this noted now.
Couple that with Valve’s tweet about the issue, which included Korean text that translated to “Prepare for unexpected results…” and you can sympathize with HL3 Believers.
It does make a wicked kind of sense. Shame.
Follow Mark Burnham on Twitter @MarkBurnham