(This is another edition of , a weekly opinion piece column on GameFront. Check back every week for more. The opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not reflect those of GameFront.)
I have a lot of love for Valve. In fact, I’ve defended the company more often than not, since I enjoy its games, respect it as a company that does right by its fans, and admire how it generally manages to be a successful corporation without becoming the world’s biggest metaphorical prick. It’s a company with a rabid fanbase, and rabid fanbases often carry with them a high level of emotion and personal attachment, which can lead to a huge amount of conflict. Like BioWare, Valve’s fanbase can often be mistaken for a veritable hatedom, given the amount of vitriol and rage that occurs as a natural result of pure passion.
I have rarely agreed with the backlash. I couldn’t believe how angry people got when Left 4 Dead 2 was announced, and despite the appearance of highly optional (and pointless) downloadable content, I still fail to understand what made Portal 2 so horrible as to deserve a slew of 0/10 Metacritic user reviews. Nevertheless, the customer can be right just as much as it can be wrong, and if there’s one thing Valve’s furious funbase is correct about, it’s this:
Valve, you need to fucking announce Half-Life 3.
While I understand a company not wanting to announce something before it’s ready, and I totally respect Half-Life’s lengthy development cycle and commitment to getting everything done right, the customers are long overdue a bone tossed their way. Even if there’s barely enough gameplay in existence to justify an announcement trailer, some acknowledgement that the game is definitely in production needs to come, and it needed to happen ages ago. Fact of the matter is … I’m sick of hearing about it. So sick, in fact, that I fear the final confirmation will no longer excite me. I am worried I’ll just roll my eyes, mutter, “about damn time,” and expect to see nothing else for at least two years. That’s not the attitude I want to have about Half-Life, but right now, thinking about the series makes me want to fall asleep.
We recently “enjoyed” April Fools Day, and Valve was up to its usual trolling self with a cute little joke — a teaser site for Half-Life 3. Unfortunately, I didn’t actually find it cute. It wasn’t funny. The whole, “Valve won’t announce Half-Life 3″ gag is overplayed and trite now, and I don’t think Valve can get away with it anymore. It’s dipped into that particular honeypot one too many times, to the point where it can’t even get a trace taste by licking the glass. Every cautious nod toward the game, every subtle wink at the camera, I’m just tired of it. Many fans are as well, and I think that’s what’s annoying them more than anything. Valve’s been playing coy for years, and there comes a time when you have to either put up or shut up. Valve has arrived at that moment.
Half-Life 3, I feel, needs to be announced this year, and sooner rather than later. By now, the hype is so ridiculous that I worry not even the Half-Life series can pull enough tricks out of the bag to justify it. Hype can be a great thing, but it can also destroy even the most precious and sacred of franchises. Just look at what happened when Mass Effect 3 failed to deliver on its promises. Now imagine what’ll happen if Half-Life 3 is considered a let-down, after all this build. Gamers have rioted over a lot less. The equation of “Valve Fans + Huge Build + Years Of Trolling” leads me to think that Valve’s strategy is a powder keg in the making. I’m not looking forward to the fallout if something goes wrong.
Of course, I could be wrong, and Half-Life 3 might be everything the world dreamed of and more, managing to appeal to everybody who’s excited for it and escaping the wrath of the scorned audience. I’d hope so. But I think it would be better for everyone if we just dropped all this silly pretense and finally got the word from the horse’s mouth. No games, no teases, and no making us jump through hoops to “unlock” the news. Just tell us straight — is Half-Life 3 happening or not?
Valve is a master manipulator of its audience, and has successfully exploited the passion of its fans in a variety of ways over the years. You can only dance around a beehive for so long before getting stung, however, and in an era where gamers are more and more likely to rebel against their favorite games, Valve might be a bit too close to the nest this time around. At the very least, it needs to relieve the pressure and finally give the fans what they’ve asked for over the course of so many years. Next time it promises a big game announcement, it has to be Half-Life 3. If it’s Portal 3 or Left 4 Dead 3, I think it might be one misdirection too many and it could backfire stupendously. People were already bitter at the idea of new Portal and Left 4 Dead games getting precedence over Half-Life. If we see a threequel for either of those games before we get more Gordon Freeman? Well … it won’t be pretty. You know it won’t be.
One sentence can alleviate all that pressure. Just fucking do it, guys.
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