The revival of Family Guy was a truly fascinating moment in the history of television. Originally canceled after just three seasons, Family Guy didn’t begin to tap into its ratings potential until Adult Swim picked up the show and began airing reruns. The show was a hit among the Adult Swim’s audience, and Family Guy eventually returned to Fox. What does this have to do with games, let alone what I want to talk about today: Half-Life 3 ? The fans.
We heard two interesting pieces of news regarding the Half-Life series last week: first, the series’ lead writer quit Valve for personal reasons. Second, Valve gave its blessing to a group of modders to develop and sell – for profit – a sequel to the Half-Life: Opposing Force , which they’re calling Half-Life: Prospekt . You might be reading this with a confused expression, wondering why an expansion to Opposing Force was released before Half-Life 3 . Well, Valve seems about as interested in making a sequel to the trilogy of expansions, which they themselves never worked on (Gearbox Software takes the credit), as they are in the long-awaited sequel. Might as well let the fans have it; they’re the ones who are still passionate.
I don’t think Fox, or any network, would give similar blessings to their properties. Perhaps Family Guy ’s most ardent fans could have banded together – probably a couple of animation students in college – and uploaded an unlicensed spinoff series, much like the surprisingly decent Dragon Ball Universe , to YouTube. Whether or not Fox lets it live ad-free, or orders a takedown, I couldn’t guess. Fox certainly wouldn’t allow them to profit off of it, however, which is unlike Valve’s mindset. Kudos to you, Gabe Newell!
Gaming is different from television. Gaming is an art form that is driven by programming. PC gamers tend to be a savvy bunch, so they’ll mod the games to their liking – just look at any Bethesda game or Counterstrike . Counterstrike in particular is an interesting example, as that began as a mod of Half-Life , and was eventually given Valve’s stamp of approval, much like Half-Life: Prospekt . Television isn’t as open to the fans, however. As mentioned, some could upload parodies or homages to the show on YouTube, but it doesn’t have a community like the “PC master race” to influence how people watch a show.
But a mod allowing players to fight dragon-sized Macho Man Randy Savages isn’t the same scale as Half-Life Prospekt ; Valve actually allowed fans to continue the story of its franchise, which ended on a cliffhanger. These players did what Valve or Gearbox could have done. They took a chance, and they were rewarded. Which leads me to my question: Does the fate of Half-Life 3 also rest in the hands of the fans? Half-Life ’s lead writer has left. He could have written the script already – or maybe he didn’t. Only Valve knows.
If Valve were to stop fans from creating Half-Life 3 themselves, then I suspect it would be because of the new Source engine. Valve debuted its impressive (at the time) Source engine via Half-Life 2 . Valve isn’t necessarily bound to tradition. If it were, then it would continue being primarily a game developer, rather than a game distributor. I personally don’t think Valve would allow this to happen (despite greenlighting Prospekt ); however, because it’s been approximately a decade since Half-Life 2 , the thought of the fans taking the reins is a tantalizing idea.