Community Spotlight: Half-Life 3: Awaiting Assignment

Discussion & Analysis Half-Life

Whilst many of us have been waiting very patiently (or not so patiently) for news on the next Half-Life sequel, web designer Tom Bennet has been busy putting together a rather stunningly designed retrospective in celebration of Half-Life 2’s 10th anniversary.

Community Spotlight: Half-Life 3: Awaiting Assignment

The 2500 word article explores Half-Life 2’s legacy, impact and possible future and also analyses the game’s storytelling, narrative and design. Tom also discusses Valve’s Episodic model and highlights it’s potential problems and limitations in relation to the continuation of the series.

In addition to the extensive writing, which you could almost call a University dissertation, the webpage itself is a visual masterpiece.

Tom kindly answered a few questions about his work:

What was your inspiration/drive for creating Half-Life 3: “Awaiting Assignment”?

Two reasons, both of which I’m sure other Valve fans can sympathise with! Firstly, despite the enormous shifts the industry has seen over the last decade, I think that Half-Life 2 still stands as a benchmark. It’s a frighteningly atmospheric story, and one of the most memorable dystopias ever made. With the game now approaching its 10th birthday, I wanted to give back something small to the community, and also show my appreciation for Valve’s work. Secondly, where’s Ricochet 2?


How long did it take to write, code and publish?

I wrote the article itself over a weekend. Designing and coding the page took a little longer! I wanted a minimalist design that played nicely on mobiles and tablets, but that did justice to Half-Life 2’s stunning art direction on larger screens. The video and a couple of the images I captured myself in-game, but most of them are courtesy of Emanuele, of Electric Blue Skies, a talented videogame photographer.


Have you any more plans for updating it or creating a similar page related to Valve?

I probably won’t update ‘Awaiting Assignment’, but I do hope to write more long-form articles on Valve – I’m fascinated by their company culture. I’d love to create a piece on the art of Portal 2, hopefully with contributions from the development team, or perhaps a ‘Final Hours’-style profile of a forthcoming project.


When did you first play Half-Life 1 & 2, do you replay them often?

I discovered the original Half-Life a couple of years after its release, when I was about 12 years old. I played it through with a friend, and we became obsessed with the mod community (especially Counter-Strike). I eagerly anticipated the sequel, and have since replayed each game more times than I would care to admit! My initial inspiration for this project came when I was replaying the original – in the game’s final scene, when we accept the G-Man’s offer and step off the train into the portal, our new employer offers his assurances that he will see us up ahead. The words ‘Status: Hired. Awaiting Assignment’ appear on screen. It seemed like a neat parallel between Gordon and the fanbase.


Do you have a copy of Raising the Bar, if so did you use it for creating the article?

Yes I do. I know that copies have become quite rare, but if you ever get the chance to buy one, don’t hesitate – the early concept art sketches alone are well-worth the price tag. It also features some fascinating interviews with current and ex-Valve employees. All of the quotes that appear throughout my article are taken from Raising The Bar.

The article was also apparently shared with some of Valve’s employees by Marc Laidlaw, the writer of the Half-Life seres.

It is a must-read for anyone interested in Half-Life 2’s legacy.

Check it out for yourself:

Also, if you enjoyed Tom’s retrospective, check out our own analysis of Valve’s Episodic model, written by Mimaz, the co-host of the Steamchat podcast.

Previous Community Spotlight: City Numbered Seventeen by KoreRat

1 Comment

  1. A most interesting read, thank you for sharing!

    I still hope they release episode 3 (it hasn’t been officially cancelled, has it?) and i don’t care if it’s just as short as episode 1 or 2.

    I imagine it like this: Episode 3 starts immediately where we left off at the end of Episode 2 and we’ll work our way up to the Borealis. We finish the Arctic Chapter(s) with a peek in a whole new alien world, which would be the start to Half-Life 3.

    A man can hope!