Half-Life 3's Original Pitch Was For A Procedurally-Generated Rogue-Lite

Through many iterations on the sequel, Valve took inspiration from Left 4 Dead for one idea that nearly stuck.

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Since the release of Half-Life 2: Episode 2 in 2007, Valve has gone through multiple iterations of a potential Half-Life 3. One such idea would've turned the game into a replayable rogue-lite of sorts, after the success of the Left 4 Dead franchise.

The idea, detailed in Geoff Keighley's Final Hours of Half-Life: Alyx, was in development during 2013 and would've added an element of proceduralism to Half-Life. Players would have to navigate a procedurally generated building to save a prisoner and engage in random enemy encounters. More traditional story elements would've been served in-between these runs, but the core principle would be replayability. It would have been a drastic change from the bespoke environments and extremely narrative-heavy gameplay of the previous two games and DLC.

The idea was ultimately canned, but not for straying away from the foundations of the series. Instead, this version of Half-Life 3 suffered from development issues with Valve's Source Engine 2, which made development challenging. Source 2 was missing features such as lighting, save functionality, and visibility options, which compounded with the difficulty of modelling outdoor areas in an engine more suited to blocky interior ones. These issues contributed to the cancelation of this Half-Life 3 iteration, as well as a proposed Left 4 Dead 3.

Valve also had an RPG in conceptual phases at the time, with inspirations from Monster Hunter, The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim, and even Dark Souls. One idea centered on Dota 2 character Axe, who would star in his own adventure. But by the end of 2014, Half-Life 3, Left 4 Dead 3, and this RPG concept were all shelved as work on Source 2 continued to potentially facilitate them better in the future.

Of course, Half-Life eventually did return, but not until 2020. Half-Life: Alyx isn't a structural departure from previous entries in the series, but the decision to make it a VR exclusive was a way for Valve to try something new with its gameplay. Alyx reportedly represents at least the sixth attempt at a Half-Life sequel since Episode 2. Considering its warm reception and the way it continues the central story, it might be the revival the series needed. You can purchase The Final Hours of Half-Life: Alyx on Steam now for $10 for more insights into its development, as well as other stories on other cancelled Valve projects.

Being playable on a range of VR headsets allowed as many people as possible to experience the next chapter of Half-Life, but it was the way in which it used the platform that made it stand out. GameSpot's 9/10 Half-Life: Alyx review breaks this down, with critic Michael Higham writing, "Even when familiarity starts to settle in, its gameplay systems still shine as a cohesive whole. And as it concludes, Half-Life: Alyx hits you with something unforgettable, transcending VR tropes for one of gaming's greatest moments."

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Fud_Sang

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Edited By Fud_Sang

Anyone else wonder why they talk about this game constantly even though it isn't made and won't ever be made? They can rebuild it...they have the technology....but they don't want to spend a lot of money.

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cheeseweasel24

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Saw the article's title, thought they finally learned to count to 3.

Really couldn't care less at this point, it would just be another Duke Nukem Forever.

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Barighm

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Wait a sec...the reason why they don't do "3" of anything is because their engine sucks? So...make a better engine?

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firedrakes

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still trying to milk a rotting cow i see.

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Ultramarinus

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Unfortunately after all that non-productivity for a decade, what they could finally come up with is just a promotion vehicle to sell gimmick hardware. They didn't dodge a bullet but ran into it.

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Poodger

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@Ultramarinus: Everything I have heard about the game is very good. Yeah, it's an odd choice to make it VR only, but there is also a charming sense of pushing the envelope and trying something new there. The game apparently couldn't work with traditional controls, so it is cool that they wanted to innovate.

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Pierce_Sparrow

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@Poodger: I wouldn't say it's odd at all. They have hardware they created, want to sell that hardware, and created a critically acclaimed game. I am sure they managed to sell a decent number of VR hardware specifically cause of the game.

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megagood2345

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@Ultramarinus: Alternate take: they saw a blank canvas in a new technology and decided to see what they could do with it. I don't own the game or VR hardware, but I can support their experimentation.

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Mogan

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Mogan  Moderator  Online

@Ultramarinus: They've got Steam money. Valve's pretty bulletproof; they don't have to make games for the mass market unless they want to.

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santinegrete

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And I'm still waiting for really afordable VR headsets. Well, at least I had Doom Eternal, far better than a consolation prize.

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uninspiredcup

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That would go against what the appeal is, thank gollys.

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JimmyFraska

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@uninspiredcup: Procedural generation in between set pieces would make Half-Life better, not worse. And it wouldn't ride against the ideas of the series. It's a good thing Valve designs the games and not you. They even say here, they didn't can the idea, just that it wasnt technically feasible currently.

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uninspiredcup

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Edited By uninspiredcup

@JimmyFraska: Half-Life is a tightly paced, linear game with hand crafted encounters, puzzles and resource management.

It directly contradicts it's design.

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asnakeneverdies

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Edited By asnakeneverdies

@uninspiredcup: There's no reason why you couldn't have that with procedural generation, Uninspired. You would just be working at a higher level. It's true that most examples associated with the approach produce uninspiring results, but that's a limitation of the implementation, not the concept. 🐍💭

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kobalobasileus

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Yikes. I'm very glad Valve trashed those bad ideas.

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JimmyFraska

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@kobalobasileus: Procedural generation would work great in Half Life, for the levels in between the set pieces.

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Pupchu

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Edited By Pupchu

The new DNF

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uninspiredcup

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@Pupchu: DNF was a disaster, Alyx was a genre pushing tour de force.

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BDRTFM

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Edited By BDRTFM

Anything would have been better than the game nobody can play without several hundred dollars investment in hardware that would likely be put on the shelf after playing the game. Everybody thought before the game came out and when Sony got into VR that VR was on the cusp of becoming mainstream. It didn't happen. After the announcement of the game, people said THIS is the game that will make VR mainstream. It didn't happen. Wonder what's the next sure fire thing to catapult VR into mainstream? Porn maybe?

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Poodger

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Edited By Poodger

@bdrtfm: VR wasn't ever going to become a sensation overnight. I suspect it will be a slow growth, taking many years to gain a firm foothold. But that can never happen if devs don't invest in it little by little.

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Jelster79

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@bdrtfm: They should've released Alyx on psvr. It's their own fault. VR on pc is gimmicky at best. Much more comfortable on playstation, except the graphics though. But meh, vr has failed this generation.

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DoubleM-K

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"3"... Don't make me laugh....

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