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Valve on Episode Three: 'A More Ambitious Project'

Following up on recent comments regarding Half-Life 2: Episode Three, Shacknews caught up with Valve marketing VP Doug Lombardi to briefly discuss the anticipated sequel.

What's the deal with the longer development period this time around? And is Freeman going back to the future? Read on to find out.

Warning: Episode Two spoiler ahead.

Shack: There have been a few recent interviews quoting you about the development period between Half-Life 2: Episode Two and Three.

Doug Lombardi: What I was saying before was that we weren't going to make any announcements until Left 4 Dead ships as to what's next.

We're definitely not done with Freeman yet, and I think the quote that set the internet a little bit crazy the other day was that, I was mentioning that the gap between the releases will be longer. Obviously, they almost already have been. Because the delta from HL2 to Episode One was 14 months, and the delta from Episode One to Episode Two was 16 months. And we're at 12 months since Episode Two was released and we haven't even announced what's next yet.

So clearly we're taking more time with what's next, but I wasn't trying to make a statement about the setting of the game and where you'll pick up things as Freeman the next time. I think some people took that quote and thought that Freeman, similar to how you made a jump between when Half-Life 1 and Half-Life 2 took place, I think a lot of people thought that I was referencing--that we're going to pick up Freeman four years in the future. And that wasn't the intention of what I was saying in that interview.

Shack: Is the long development period a result of all the projects in development at Valve right now, or the scale of Episode Three?

Doug Lombardi: Both. Both really. I mean we want the next installment of Half-Life 2 to be really big.

What you saw through the episodes was that Half-Life 2 and Episode One were really tightly coupled in terms of when they took place and the gameplay. A lot of Episode One was about you going back through the city with Alyx, and Alyx had a lot more abilities, and we were trying to create this single-player co-op experience, and I thought we were really successful with that.

Episode Two was a little more innovative, where we continued to evolve Alyx as the single-player co-op character, but then we introduced the Hunter, and we took you to new locations, and I think we gave you more story in that one than we did in any of the other Half-Life games. Eli at the end was giving you some real stuff--before we offed him. [laughs]

But it was getting pretty intense there, where you were like, "Wow, I'm getting some juice here about the story." And I thought we did a better job of telling the story. Some of those moments there with Eli at the end were pretty dramatic I would say, in terms of what you can do within a game. And we're pretty proud of that. But each of the episodes you saw becoming a more ambitious project as you ramped up towards where the finale's gonna be of this chapter.

So I mean, we're taking more time because it's a more ambitious project. We also sort of had Left 4 Dead become this big thing in the middle of it that we wanted to spend more time on, and you've just got a lot of stuff that we spent this year doing with Team Fortress 2 updates and what have you. So there's just a lot going on, and then an ambitious project on top of it caused the schedule to move out a little bit from the delta of the last three releases in the franchise.

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