Six years ago, former Valve and Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw posted a fictional letter on his website that sure read a lot like an outline for the never-likely-to-be-released Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Now, looking back years later, he regrets the decision, and says he was “deranged” when he chose to publish the scintillating peek at the Half-Life 2 follow-up we never got.
For those who might have missed it, back in 2017, longtime Valve Corporation game writer Marc Laidlaw was done with writing Half-Life, having left his longtime gig nearly a year prior. It had also been almost a decade since the 2007 release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Most people online had entirely given up on ever getting the third installment in Valve’s planned trilogy of episodic Half-Life 2 expansions. So when in August 2017 the writer suddenly dropped a blog post (now removed, and titled “Epistle 3”) that appeared to be a narrative summary of the events of a possible Half-Life 2: Episode Three, people collectively lost their shit. Folks quickly began dissecting Laidlaw’s summary and even held a game jam trying to flip the new info into playable games, effectively creating the closest thing to an actual Episode Three we will likely ever get. Now, after all of that, Laidlaw told RockPaperShotgun in a new interview that he should never have released “Epistle 3” publicly.
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“I was deranged,” said Laidlaw, “I was living on an island, totally cut off from my friends and creative community of the last couple of decades, I was completely out of touch and had nobody to talk me out of it. It just seemed like a fun thing to do…until I did it.”
Laidlaw told RPS that he thinks that, in the long run, it would have been best for him to have kept the outline to himself and handled his isolation and retirement in different ways that didn’t involve Valve, Gordon Freeman, or Half-Life.
“Eventually my mind would have calmed and I’d have come out the other side a lot less embarrassed,” he said. “I think it caused trouble for my friends [at Valve], and made their lives harder.”
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The former Half-Life writer also explained that the summary created an “impression” that if Valve had ever actually finished and shipped Episode Three, it “would have been anything like” that outline. Laidlaw explained that this isn’t the case at all, suggesting that this summary was just one possible idea he had come up with.
“In fact, all the real story development can only happen in the crucible of developing the game. So what people got [in “Epistle 3”] wasn’t Episode Three at all.”
I highly recommend reading the rest of the RPS interview with Laidlaw, as the writer also talks about how they used the corridors of the first Half-Life’s Black Mesa Research Facility to tell its narrative without cutscenes, and also revealed that he never really liked the idea of mixing Portal and Half-Life together.