Questionable Ethics: The Problems With Demanding Half-Life 3

Discussion & Analysis Half-Life

This is an editorial by Lilgreenman which analyses the recent development of the “We Want Half-Life 3” fan campaign from a retrospective standpoint. All views expressed in this article are his own.

Questionable Ethics: The Problems With Demanding Half-Life 3

Earlier today, we broke the story of “We Want Half-Life 3”, an Indiegogo campaign started by New Mexico-based advertising interns Kyle Mazzei and Chris Salem, and dedicated to “getting Valve to finish the game we’ve dreamed about all these years”.

These two are professionals – they obviously know what they’re doing. They’ve taken the time to make a cool logo, a slick promotional video and some decent Photoshop mockups of their plans. But those plans haven’t been subjected to the same rigorous quality control process that, purely for example, Valve gives to their games:

“The idea for the campaign was really created super organically. Kyle and I were simply discussing our love for Valve, and the Half-Life series with our bosses, and five minutes later it turned into what we have now.”

It’s obvious that they’re as passionate about Half-Life as any of us here at the site, and that we all would love some real news regarding Half-Life 3. But no matter how many goals this campaign reaches, I just can’t see how it would be good for the developers we love, or the game we want.

One goal of the "We Want Half-Life 3" campaign  is to hire a mobile billboard truck to circle Valve’s HQ for an entire day

One goal of the “We Want Half-Life 3” campaign is to hire a mobile billboard truck to circle Valve’s HQ for an entire day

The campaign, if funded to its full goal of $150,000, will have four ways of showing the Half-Life community’s ardent wish for more of Gordon Freeman’s adventures, including a targeted ad campaign both on and offline, and hiring several Gabe Newell lookalikes to visit the Valve offices.

See Also: New Crowdfunding Campaign ‘We Want Half-Life 3′ Launched

I’ll admit that these all sound like cathartic fun for us long suffering fans (who still need a name), and that I’d like to see that proposed brood of Gabe’s purely out of academic curiosity, but I don’t really think it’s the best thing to do.

For a start, it should be said that this sort of thing has been done before. After Hal Jordan, DC Comics’ Green Lantern, was killed off in 1994, comic fans assembled one of the first-ever internet protest groups, called “Hal’s Emerald Action Team”, to condemn this. The full story is outlined by the Escapist’s Bob Chipman here and here, but the upshot is that the fans got their way after a decade, and soon began to regret the absurd lengths to which they went as the internet was brought more into the eye of the general public.

We don’t even have to leave the Half-Life 3 fandom for examples of this: Around New Year’s 2012, Steam Forum user “Slendy” created “Operation Crowbar“, an initiative to send Valve’s fan mail address as many crowbars as possible. “We shall not stop until Valve is up to their nipples in crowbars“, the initial manifesto read. “Or when the cease and desist orders come.” Those orders came within a few days, saying that the crowbars qualified as hate mail – a crime.

Operation Crowbar

Operation Crowbar

Just one month later, though, a much more popular – and welcome – movement was staged: “A Call For Communication’s” “Red Letter Day“, when over 13,000 people, including Minecraft sellout Markus Persson and Steam administrator BurtonJ, played Half-Life 2 concurrently on February 4th.


Surprisingly, few remember that this protest succeeded: In the wake of Red Letter Day, Gabe himself was quite open about the dilemma Valve has created for themselves, speaking to Seven Day Cooldown and Penny Arcade:

“We’re acutely aware of how much we annoy our fans and it’s pretty frustrating to us when we put them into that situation […] so we’re trying to be careful not to get people too excited and then have to go and disappoint them. We’re sort of reacting in the other direction and saying ‘Okay, well let’s have things a little more baked before we start getting people all excited about it.”

Later that year, Gabe outright confirmed the development on a next-gen Source engine, saying that they were working on games for the engine.

See Also: Gabe Newell Confirms That A Next-Gen Valve Game Engine Is In Development

Which brings us to this latest attempt to get them to say more. Again, it sounds great – fun, community-building and productive. But think about it, folks: What do you really want to happen?
Valve has made it clear that they’re hard at work on Source 2 and Half-Life 3, and though signs point to Left 4 Dead 3 being released first to test the engine, their flagship franchise won’t be far behind.

An allegedly leaked screenshot of Source 2 showing Left 4 Dead's plantation from Swamp Fever

An allegedly leaked screenshot of Source 2 showing Left 4 Dead’s plantation from Swamp Fever

If, somehow, this gets enough popularity and revenue to actually happen, it won’t get them to say anything more, and nothing on the face of the Earth will get the game out faster. Like I said earlier, the strenuous playtesting process that make Valve games the classics they are takes time – the money would be better suited going into temporal mechanics research, to solve the problem the hard way.

While it’s admirable to see Half-Life fans showing all their love and support, this just isn’t the smartest or most effective way to do it.


What are your own thoughts on this? Let us know in the comments below!

Article Sources

Feature image created by Ivan Bakula.

Around the International Community

de flag Steamgamer – “Crowdfunding-Kampagne für Half-Life 3 gestartet”

gb flag Steam Users’ Forums – “A new crowdfunding campaign called “We Want Half-Life 3″ has begun”

gb flag Half-Life SubReddit – “Two advertising interns create a crowdfunding campaign to get Valve to…”


  1. I agree that no matter how hard people pester about this, they won’t get any results until Valve has decided to do it themselves. But can you really blame people? I remember when the Half-Life 2 Episode 1-2 wwas released they were awesome, I mean I loved everything about it. THEY SAID… that they would released episodes every few months, and I’cant remember if it was before or after release of episode 2, they said that they would release episode 3 in few months…………………..! O_o That was over 7 years ago.

    Then they went silent… and are still continuing their silent on the Half-Life subject. I am one of billions who got seriously pissed off that day, and am still very much pissed of and you said “But no matter how many goals this campaign reaches, I just can’t see how it would be good for the developers we love, or the game we want.”?

    That is because we don’t love the developers. We don’t love Gabe Newell, not at least until he gives us what we were promised. Sure we love the games they made, but they lied.

    I just want them to tell the truth, nothing more. Just admit that they were “for example” waiting for the next gen of games to make it even more epic. Or trouble in the office with staff members on the project etc etc.

    Until then, no we won’t stay silent. We won’t wait patiently. Because we waited 7 years.

    • They did that – I said they did that! It’s obvious, they said pretty much exactly what you’re asking them!

      Sometimes, I know how Paul “Boff” Dixon feels.

      • Commenter Avatar[λG] ThePerson51 November 2014 at 3:41pm

        Yeah, seriously, Boff put it harshly but I think he had it right. Valve have talked to us in the past. Continuing to start these campaigns to demand that they cater to us just makes the Half-Life community look like a bunch of entitled brats, and won’t make the game come faster. Valve don’t OWE us anything – morally or legally.

    • You say all that like they’ve been sitting on their asses for 7 years. Is the Half-Life series the only game you can bring yourself to play?

  2. ‘Ello,

    One of the major problems I see is the pressure build-up. Though I doubt Valve would yield to it, such campaigns add stress to developers – and fans – alike. To me, It looks possible that such build-up of pressure, of demands, could impact the development of any game negatively. It may manifest in choosing to ship the game earlier, in order to appease the masses, but without polishing it as much as it would deserve, or revealing too much information, unintentionally overhyping the product, which may lead to a nasty backlash once it is released. History remembers such cases.

    Also, given that no contract was ever signed obliging them to release anything, such demands are a bit unfounded. You can bake the best muffins in the world, and then sell them to people on the street, but no matter how much those people want to buy more muffins, you are not obliged to make any more. Being harassed about it would not make it more likely that you will go to the oven and bake another masterpiece.

    Call me cynical, but to me a what is essentially an advertisement campaign, started by people who plan to do that for a living is ringing too much of a publicity stunt/ portfolio expansion.

  3. I hope that this campaign doesn’t pick up too much support or I fear it will cast us Half-Lifers (yeah, that sounds terrible) in a bad light. I too take the cynical view that this campaign is entirely for its creators’ benefit. Nice article, by the way!

  4. “Minecraft sellout Markus Persson”

    I know this is an editorial and all, but calling him a sellout doesn’t mesh with the rest of the statement. You’re clearly presenting “Red Letter Day” as a good thing, but using that word to describe one of only two given examples of people who participated would be better off in a piece saying it wasn’t.

    • I’m using “sellout” as an objective term. He sold Minecraft so it’s out of his control, thus he is the Minecraft sellout.

      I didn’t really have a problem with him for doing it – I never enjoyed Minecraft, and there isn’t a whole lot of completely horrible stuff that Sony would do to it anyway.

      • Sony?

      • My point being that the term is by and large entirely negative as far as public perception goes, even if the technical definition is more neutral.

        And yeah, he sold it to Microsoft, not Sony.

  5. Commenter Avatar[λG] ThePerson51 November 2014 at 3:15pm

    I think the community needs to stop complaining and accept that Valve will finish it when they finish it. The Call for Communication petition was more than enough, and Valve has talked to us multiple times. Continuing to demand that they finish the game faster, and using obnoxious tactics like circling Valve HQ with a truck, will just make Half-Life fans look bad.

  6. As a great man once said, “A delayed game is eventually good; a bad game is bad forever.”

  7. Man.. I check the internet religiously from time to time looking for the slightest return of Gordan getting into bad situations fast and whipping out my crowbar to handle things if need be. I just want the green light, you guys at Valve are up to your teets about this and angry fans across the universe have been waiting since the first completion of HL2. Believe me I was one of the nuts. At this point I would sell my goddamn sole to just get an official date. (I’m not trying to make shits and giggles here, I’m dead ass.) but all the hoop-la goin on. All we can do is; bitch, pray, and check the internet every wakening hour. Yeah, it’s that serious. Shit, wake me up when it’s done. Hell, I’ll wait. Who wouldn’t?