Phillip Marlowe, Creator of Lets Off Steam About Valve’s Silence

Discussion & Analysis Valve

Phillip Marlowe is the founder of the Half-Life singleplayer modding website, formerly known as Phillip has been running his site for 13 years, and within that time he has become a well-known individual in the Half-Life modding community.

Phillip got in touch with us recently to voice his opinion regarding Valve’s customer care in relation to the lack of communication about the future state of the Half-Life series, and we thought we’d share it with you. You can discuss your own thoughts on this in the comments after the article. All views expressed in this article are his own.

Phillip Marlowe, Creator of Lets Off Steam About Valve’s Silence

I hope you would agree that I am a HUGE Valve fan. I have devoted the majority of my free time over the last 15 years to promoting maps and mods made for their games.

I love the games themselves and think Valve do incredible work.


I also feel that how they have treated their fans since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two is wrong. Of course, I’m not the first to say it and no doubt won’t be the last, but that doesn’t make it less true.

Now, this opinion piece is not complaining that Valve are taking years to finish a game – I can live with that, it’s about Customer Service.

It’s been often quoted that Gabe Newell said something like “nobody remembers late but they never forget bad”. I can’t find the real quote but if that is what he thinks, he is wrong. Not about the “bad” but about people not remembering late.

We all remember the fiasco with the 2003 Half-Life 2 leak and the delay that caused. I’m not blaming or complaining, just reminding.

I fully respect Valve’s right to take as long as they want to make their games, what I am complaining about is the fact they won’t even say if they are or are not making a game.

All we have are years of silence!

Speculation: Will there ever be another Half-Life game? Image by Ivan Bakula

Speculation: Will there ever be another Half-Life game? Image by Ivan Bakula

Ignoring your users is terrible customer service. I don’t care about the marketing and promotional arguments involved regarding acknowledging the game, I just want a fair and honest answer.

For an organization that prides itself on being in touch with its users, this is the worst thing they can do.

This all got me thinking about consumer choice.

Back in the 1980’s, British Caledonian (a UK regional airline) had a tagline that said “We never forget you have a choice”. I think that is a fantastic tagline. Recognizing that users/players/customers etc. have choices and can choose other services or products is very important.

It’s part of why competition can be good for the consumer.

But we don’t have that with creative products. I can buy a toaster in any number of retail outlets and from any number of manufacturers. Same for hundreds of other products and services.

I can’t with games, movies etc. If I want to watch a new Star Trek movie I have to wait for Paramount to make one.

Sure I can watch other movies made by other studios, but that’s missing the point.

There’s nobody at fault here, it’s just the way things are.

I accept that there is a lot of fan created content, especially for games but also for books and movies, but that is not the same.

By not being able to get something from anywhere else that puts more pressure on the company or person developing it.

I’m not saying that Valve HAVE to make a new game, I’m saying that they have a duty to understand the emotional connection people have to these creations and treat us fairly.

I am sure people will “forgive” them once the game is released, but why should we have to. We shouldn’t have to forgive anything.

How hard is it to say “Yes, we are working on Half-Life 3 and no, we won’t be talking about it until we are ready.” or “No, we have no plans to continue the series, sorry.”

Waiting for a sequel: Half-Life 2: Episode Two Ending

Waiting for a sequel: Half-Life 2: Episode Two Ending

Of course, there will always be fans complaining about some aspect of their favourite IP and no doubt I will get some hate mail calling me a “fanboi”, but this is about common decency.

My strong feelings might have something to do with the fact that I hate it when somebody ignores me.

In general, I feel any form of protest is both futile and immature, but how else can fans express their dissatisfaction? Let’s do what they do to us: ignore them.

This piece is not about starting a protest, it’s about venting my anger at being treated badly.

Customer Service used to be called Customer Care, but that second word seems inappropriate in this case.

If you cared, would you say nothing?


  1. My response from /r/halflife:

    My largest frustration is that we don’t have anywhere near the hardware ubiquity for the things Valve is working on, VR is a boutique item for the super rich super hardcore type gamer. If they aren’t working on L4D3 (which I don’t care about in the slightest) or HL3 then they are straight up working on technology that won’t even begin to be relevant for many many years. The majority of CS:GO players can’t get 60 fps in that game – for reference my 5 year old laptop gets a locked 160 fps in CS:GO with all low settings and locked 60 fps with all high – so we are talking about the average CS:GO player having a very very bad computer by all standards. But this also touches on another problem: those same people can’t play a hypothetical Half-life 3 above 15 fps (assuming this game features similar graphics to UE4). I really don’t know what the solution is here, but clearly other developers aren’t worried about the majority of their PC playerbase having a shitty rig so whatever. But I really do think that assuming that VR is the “future” is extremely naive and for Valve indicative of their elitist way of doing business. Gaming is propped up by casual players who invest a disproportionate ratio of money to time as compared to the more hardcore and consistent players. The former are not going to spend an additional 300-600 dollars on a device that is basically a glorified monitor or television. VR inherently increases the barrier for entry into a game at 5 to 10 times more than it is currently and this is to say nothing about the PC performance requirements that we’ve already mentioned.

    But this article touches on the realest of all problems and that is that the playerbase mentioned above doesn’t ignore Valve. They buy into the extremely lucrative fashion-driven shitshow that is TF2/CS:GO/Dota 2’s skin markets and constantly reify its value through memes, skin gambling, and whatever other stupid superficial shit I don’t know enough about. Unlike some I doubt that this reality will be the deciding factor for whether or not Valve makes HL3, but it’s not unreasonable to think that they have no real reason to do it.

    • Considering their main money makers are dota 2 then csgo and then Tf2 all selling cosmetics, i think they understand the importance of the casual player. The fact that one of the biggest updates for source 2 is improved performance on low end machines shows they understand the importance of the common user.

  2. Valve’s descent into mediocrity has been a gradual process that started with the announcement of the Episodes in 2005. It seems clear to me, from an outsider’s point of view, that the struggles they endured in making Half-Life 2 turned them off that kind of development process. The Episodes were an attempt to circumvent that, but the relatively casual way Valve went about their production shows quite clearly in that they noticeably lack the same craftsmanship.

    The trend continued with the Left-4-Dead series, the TF2 micro-transaction updates, and the out-sourcing of CS:GO. The last remotely great thing Valve has done was Portal 2. Perhaps they disagree, but they certainly aren’t attempting to convince us otherwise with their increasingly market-driven priorities and their patently *horrific* standards of communication.

  3. Apart from the annual TF2-Halloween events, I shifted my focus away from Valve’s products for years already – my passion for the classic Half-Life universe and expansions is pretty much spent, there’s nothing more of interest in that segment. So is my anticipation for new Half-Life titles, although I still see a slight gleam of hope in the development of the Source2-Engine.

    I do respect and admire those who still keep that passion like Phillip and visit their sites and places from time to time aswell still watching over a bunch of mods over at moddb where dedicated folks keeping their developments alive. But I caught myself looking at all this with some kind of nostalgia, or maybe I just grew older.

    And to refer on the main topic: Yes, of course, the communication of Valve concerning HL is pretty much the worst they could do to the loyal fans.

  4. “it’s about venting my anger at being treated badly…”

    Want a hug, Phillip?

  5. Valve has ceased being a game creator, and has become nothing more than a content provider, a glorified cable channel. They haven’t created a truly captivating game since Portal, and they basically have abandoned that.

    Their money is in Steam. And that’s all they care about now. They have no creativity anymore.

  6. Yes, the article I was looking for. Your article gives me another approach on the subject. I hope to read more articles from you.