Half-Life 3 may never come, but we finally have a glimpse of how Valve could have ended it all

Half-Life 3 has become one of the internet’s biggest in-jokes. It’s been ten years since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and we’ve been waiting years for the third and final episodic instalment to come – let alone a fully-fledged sequel in the form of Half-Life 3.

As Valve has slowly been letting its writing team go, it’s clearly indicated its focus has shifted elsewhere. Unfortunately, that means Half-Life 3 will never see the light of day. But don’t despair too much as Half-Life’s lead writer Marc Laidlaw has dropped the biggest clue to how Half Life 2: Episode 3 could have played out – setting it up perfectly for the third, and final, sequel.

Over on his personal blog, Laidlaw has posted “Epistle 3”, a story that Laidlaw says is simply “fanfic” and is a “genderswapped snapshot of a dream I had many years ago.”

The post, fanfic or not, lays out a plotline for an Episode 3 that never came to fruition. His lead character, “Gertrude Freemont, Ph.D” writes in the first person, explaining the events that transpired at the end of “Epistle 2” (a blog post that Laidlaw never wrote). The cast of characters Gertrude deals with also have oddly familiar names, such as “Elly Vaunt” and “Alex Vaunt”, there’s even a “Dr. Wanda Bree” who was presumed dead, but wasn’t and a “Mrs. X”.

Clearly it’s a tongue-in-cheek change of names so Laidlaw doesn’t end up staring down the barrel of a lawsuit with Valve. But it offers a genuinely interesting take on what could have happened at the end of Half-Life 2’s complete story and suggests that if a Half-Life 3 were to be made, it would be set years after the closure of 2’s story.

For years Valve has talked about the possibility of a Half-Life 3, making plenty of jokes and odd nods to its existence in the past. However, with the company branching into other, more lucrative, areas of business, it’s likely we’ll never know what happened to Gordon Freeman and Alyx Vance, nor who G-Man really was and what his purpose in Freeman’s life was all about.

Aside from the loss of the Half-Life series, Valve’s shift in focus paints a darker picture for uber-successful creative studios. Valve has found its financial footing not in making excellent games, but in creating hats for Team Fortress 2 or providing tasty features to keep people sucked into DOTA 2. It’s a company where helping others publish games on its all-encompassing software distribution platform Steam is better for business than making them.

Valve does still take risks though – If it wasn’t for Valve’s efforts and research into VR and AR technologies, the HTC Vive wouldn’t exist. It’s also a company that doesn’t seem to get too held up on others playing with its IPs, you only have to look how it embraced the Black Mesa Source team rebuilding Half-Life in its entirety in the Half-Life 2 engine.

Perhaps then, this may mean we could see Half-Life 2: Episode 3 return at the hands of a trusted third-party developer. Valve could even entrust the whole series to an external team resulting in a long-awaited Half-Life 3 release.

But, seeing as Valve works on its own concept of time, it’s unlikely any of this will happen and instead we’ll just have to settle with Laidlaw’s take on Freemont’s tale.

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