This is the first of many upcoming "IMO" (In My Opinion) articles here on MG. Tell us what you think!
Valve Corporation is the video game developer and publisher founded in 1996 Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington. They're headquartered in Bellevue, Washington. The company is probably best known for being the brains behind the Steam content delivery system we all know and love (or loathe, depending on who you are).
First, Valve's history:
In 1998, Valve brought us Half-Life, which used the "GoldSrc" engine (a version of the Quake engine, modified by Valve). The game was ahead of its time, bringing aspects of psychological thrillers in a science-fiction setting to the first person shooter genre (I still have dreams of head crabs). Half-Life was an instant hit, winning over 50 Game of the Year awards and finding praise from critics worldwide. The game spawned two others, following the same storyline:
Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999) where the player sees the Half-Life story unfold from the perspective of a one of the U.S. Marines found in the original game.
Half-Life: Blue Shift (2001), another game following the original storyline, but from the eyes of "Barney Calhoun," one of the Black Mesa Research Facility security guards.
In 1999 and 2000 respectively, Valve released Counter-Strike and Team Fortress Classic. Both games were not original to Valve, but instead, modifications of Half-Life made by independent groups of "modders" that were compensated for their work when Valve acquired exclusive rights to the licenses. Also worthy of mention were the releases of Deathmatch Classic and Ricochet in 2000, both much smaller-scale games focusing on multiplayer online gameplay.
Valve took a 3-year break from releasing titles and focused on their content delivery system, Steam and their up-and-coming game engine, Source. Steam was originally Valve's answer to the problem with getting game updates into the hands of the player in a timely manner, reportedly due to the number of patches released for Counter-Strike. This dry-spell was quenched with the release of Day of Defeat, still based on the original Half-Life engine (GoldSrc).
In 2004, six years after the Valve's first title and flagship game was released, Gordan Freeman returned in Half-Life 2, sporting Valve's brand-new game engine, Source. Players were back in the world some time after the events of Black Mesa, and Gordon was again called for duty. Half-Life 2, like the original Half-Life, received numerous awards. Valve's Source Engine was praised and awed over. Counter-Strike: Condition Zero & Counter-Strike: Source, both using the Source Engine were released later that year, with Day of Defeat: Source following in 2005.
2006 & 2007 earmarked exciting times for fans of the Half-Life universe. Valve announced the release of shorter "episodic" releases that were (supposed) to be released yearly instead of taking 2-3 years between titles. Half-Life 2: Episode 1 & Half-Life 2: Episode 2 were the first two installments using this release format. Portal and Team Fortress 2 were also released. Valve bundled these games in 2007 in a package called The Orange Box.
In 2008 & 2009, Valve's releases became even smaller, and it was beginning to feel as though the story writers that were so successful with the Half-Life series were no longer with the company. Left 4 Dead and its sequel, Left 4 Dead 2 became available on Steam. These games focused on cooperative play, allowing up to four players (human or computer controlled) to advance through a multi-part scenario while escaping from hordes of infected "creatures" (presumably formerly human). During this time, several rumors about Half-Life: Episode 3 surfaced, and "leaks" (which later were confirmed as untrue) of the Source2 Engine.
In 2011, the sequel to Portal, Portal 2 was released, bringing in the cooperative play that was successful with the Left 4 Dead series. Portal 2 offered a limited storyline, again linking some aspects of the Half-Life universe, but void of any gripping narrative that everyone was yearning for since the original Half-Life.
Also in 2011, Valve updated Team Fortress 2 by offering the game at no charge, but filled with micro-transactions, further showing gamers that they were losing touch with what it meant to be a "gaming company."
In 2013, Valve released Dota 2, a "sequel" to the arena-style game, Defense of the Ancients after the game sat in various stages of beta since 2011. Although, technically, this is a Valve release, the game was actually designed by IceFrog. This is another example of Valve focusing on their business and not their creative.
This brings us to present-day. It's been 16 years (!) since the original release of Half-Life, and 10 years since the most recent installment in the series. With the slow decline of story-based titles coming out of Valve's game developers (if there are any anymore), and their ever-growing collection of publishers, developers, and indie teams joining the Steam publishing system, the future looks bleak for any sort of Half-Life: Episode 3 or Half-Life 3 release, or any blockbuster title to be produced by Valve. In 16 years, Valve Software has gone from being a superstar game development company to a game publishing and distribution company. Has Valve given up completely on the creative part of their organization?
Moreover - is there any hope for Gordan Freeman?
Don't get me wrong. I am a huge supporter of Valve, and I still believe Steam is the best thing to come to game distribution. I miss Valve, the game development company, that "wow'ed" me back in 1998, and I've wanted more and more since. Are you listening out there, Gabe?
What are your thoughts? Share them in the comments below.