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Thread: Episode 3

  1. #1
    Member
    Registered: Jun 2009
    Location: The Spiraling Sea

    Episode 3

    Well, this is unfortunate...

    Half-Life 2: Episode 3's Story Released By Marc Laidlaw



    https://github.com/Jackathan/MarcLaidlaw-Epistle3/

    Episode 3

    Dearest Player,

    I hope this letter finds you well. I can hear your complaint already, "Gordon Freeman, we have not heard from you in ages!" Well, if you care to hear excuses, I have plenty, the greatest of them being I've been in other dimensions and whatnot, unable to reach you by the usual means. This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experienced a critical change in my circumstances, and was redeposited on these shores. In the time since, I have been able to think occasionally about how best to describe the intervening years, my years of silence. I do first apologize for the wait, and that done, hasten to finally explain (albeit briefly, quickly, and in very little detail) events following those described in my previous letter (referred to herewith as Episode 2).

    To begin with, as you may recall from the closing paragraphs of my previous missive, the death of Eli Vance shook us all. The Research & Rebellion team was traumatized, unable to be sure how much of our plan might be compromised, and whether it made any sense to go on at all as we had intended. And yet, once Eli had been buried, we found the strength and courage to regroup. It was the strong belief of his brave daughter, the feisty Alyx Vance, that we should continue on as her father had wished. We had the Arctic coordinates, transmitted by Eli's long-time assistant, Dr. Judith Mossman, which we believed to mark the location of the lost research vessel Borealis. Eli had felt strongly that the Borealis should be destroyed rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Combine. Others on our team disagreed, believing that the Borealis might hold the secret to the revolution's success. Either way, the arguments were moot until we found the vessel. Therefore, immediately after the service for Dr. Vance, Alyx and I boarded a helicopter and set off for the Arctic; a much larger support team, mainly militia, was to follow by separate transport.

    It is still unclear to me exactly what brought down our little aircraft. The following hours spent traversing the frigid waste in a blizzard are also a jumbled blur, ill-remembered and poorly defined. The next thing I clearly recall is our final approach to the coordinates Dr. Mossman has provided, and where we expected to find the Borealis. What we found instead was a complex fortified installation, showing all the hallmarks of sinister Combine technology. It surrounded a large open field of ice. Of the Hypnos itself there was no sign…or not at first. But as we stealthily infiltrated the Combine installation, we noticed a recurent, strangely coherent auroral effect–as of a vast hologram fading in and out of view. This bizarre phenomenon initially seemed an effect caused by an immense Combine lensing system, Alyx and I soon realized that what we were actually seeing was the research vessel Borealis itself, phasing in and out of existence at the focus of the Combine devices. The aliens had erected their compound to study and seize the ship whenever it materialized. What Dr. Mossman had provided were not coordinates for where the sub was located, but instead for where it was predicted to arrive. The vessel was oscillating in and out of our reality, its pulses were gradually steadying, but there was no guarantee it would settle into place for long–or at all. We determined that we must put ourselves into position to board it at the instant it became completely physical.

    At this point we were briefly detained–not captured by the Combine, as we feared at first, but by minions of our former nemesis, the conniving and duplicitous Wallace Breen. Dr. Breen was not as we had last seen him–which is to say, he was not dead. At some point, the Combine had saved out an earlier version of his consciousness, and upon his physical demise, they had imprinted the back-up personality into a biological blank resembling an enormous slug. The BreenGrub, despite occupying a position of relative power in the Combine hierarchy, seemed nervous and frightened of me in particular. Wallace did not know how his previous incarnation, the original Dr. Breen, had died. He knew only that I was responsible. Therefore the slug treated us with great caution. Still, he soon confessed (never able to keep quiet for long) that he was himself a prisoner of the Combine. He took no pleasure from his current grotesque existence, and pleaded with us to end his life. Alyx believed that a quick death was more than Wallace Breen deserved, but for my part, I felt a modicum of pity and compassion. Out of Alyx's sight, I might have done something to hasten the slug's demise before we proceeded.

    Not far from where we had been detained by Dr. Breen, we found Judith Mossman being held in a Combine interrogation cell. Things were tense between Judith and Alyx, as might be imagined. Alyx blamed Judith for her father's death…news of which, Judith was devastated to hear for the first time. Judith tried to convince Alyx that she had been a double agent serving the resistance all along, doing only what Eli had asked of her, even though she knew it meant she risked being seen by her peers–by all of us–as a traitor. I was convinced; Alyx less so. But from a pragmatic point of view, we depended on Dr. Mossman; for along with the Borealis coordinates, she possessed resonance keys which would be necessary to bring the vessel fully into our plane of existence.

    We skirmished with Combine soldiers protecting a Combine research post, then Dr. Mossman attuned the Borealis to precisely the frequencies needed to bring it into (brief) coherence. In the short time available to us, we scrambled aboard the ship, with an unknown number of Combine agents close behind. The ship cohered for only a short time, and then its oscillations resume. It was too late for our own military support, which arrived and joined the Combine forces in battle just as we rebounded between universes, once again unmoored.

    What happened next is even harder to explain. Alyx Vance, Dr. Mossman and myself sought control of the ship–its power source, its control room, its navigation center. The ships's history proved nonlinear. Years before, during the Combine invasion, various members of an earlier science team, working in the hull of a dry-docked vessel situated at the Aperture Science Research Facility in Michigan, had assembled what they called the Bootstrap Device. If it worked as intended, it would emit a field large enough to surround the ship. This field would then itself travel instantaneously to any chosen destination without having to cover the intervening space. There was no need for entry or exit portals, or any other devices; it was entirely self-contained. Unfortunately, the device had never been tested. As the Combine pushed Earth into the Seven Hour War, the aliens seized control of our most important research facilities. The staff of the Borealis, with no other wish than to keep the ship out of Combine hands, acted in desperation. The switched on the field and flung the Borealis toward the most distant destination they could target: Arctica. What they did not realize was that the Bootstrap Device travelled in time as well as space. Nor was it limited to one time or one location. The Borealis, and the moment of its activation, were stretched across space and time, between the nearly forgotten Lake Huron of the Seven Hour War and the present day Arctic; it was pulled taut as an elastic band, vibrating, except where at certain points along its length one could find still points, like the harmonic spots along a vibrating guitar string. One of these harmonics was where we boarded, but the string ran forward and back, in both time and space, and we were soon pulled in every direction ourselves.

    Time grew confused. Looking from the bridge, we could see the drydocks of Aperture Science at the moment of teleportation, just as the Combine forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Arctic wastelands, where our friends were fighting to make their way to the protean Borealis; and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past. Alyx grew convinced we were seeing one of the Combine's central staging areas for invading other worlds–such as our own. We meanwhile fought a running battle throughout the ship, pursued by Combine forces. We struggled to understand our stiuation, and to agree on our course of action. Could we alter the course of the Borealis? Should we run it aground in the Arctic, giving our peers the chance to study it? Should we destroy it with all hands aboard, our own included? It was impossible to hold a coherent thought, given the baffling and paradoxical timeloops, which passed through the ship like bubbles. I felt I was going mad, that we all were, confronting myriad versions of ourselves, in that ship that was half ghost-ship, half nightmare funhouse.

    What it came down to, at last, was a choice. Judith Mossman argued, reasonably, that we should save the Borealis and deliver it to the resistance, that our intelligent peers might study and harness its power. But Alyx reminded me had sworn she would honor she father's demand that we destroy the ship. She hatched a plan to set the Borealis to self-destruct, while riding it into the heart of the Combine's invasion nexus. Judith and Alyx argued. Judith overpowered Alyx and brought the Borealis area, preparing to shut off the Bootstrap Device and settle the ship on the ice. Then I heard a shot, and Judith fell. Alyx had decided for all of us, or her weapon had. With Dr. Mossman dead, we were committed to the suicide plunge. Grimly, Alyx and I armed the Borealis, creating a time-travelling missile, and steered it for the heart of the Combine's command center.

    At this point, as you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, a Certain Sinister Figure appeared, in the form of that sneering trickster, G-Man. For once he appeared not to me, but to Alyx Vance. Alyx had not seen the cryptical schoolmarm since childhood, but she recognized hi, instantly. "Come along with me now, we've places to be and things to do," said G-Man, and Alyx acquiesced. She followed the strange grey man out of the Borealis, out of our reality. For me, there was no convenient door held open; only a snicker and a sideways glance. I was left alone, riding the weaponized research vessel into the heart of a Combine world. An immense light blazed. I caught a cosmic view of a brilliantly glittering Dyson sphere. The vastness of the Combine's power, the futility of our struggle, blossomed briefly in my awareness. I saw everything. Mainly I saw how the Borealis, our most powerful weapon, would register as less than a fizzling matchhead as it blew itself apart. And what remained of me would be even less than that.

    Just then, as you have surely already foreseen, the Vortigaunts parted their own checkered curtains of reality, reached in as they have on prior occasions, plucked me out, and set me aside. I barely got to see the fireworks begin.

    And here we are. I spoke of my return to this shore. It has been a circuitous path to lands I once knew, and surprising to see how much the terrain has changed. Enough time has passed that few remember me, or what I was saying when last I spoke, or what precisely we hoped to accomplish. At this point, the resistance will have failed or succeeded, no thanks to me. Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final episode.

    Yours in infinite finality,

    Gordon Freeman, Ph.D.

  2. #2
    Moderator
    Registered: Jan 2003
    Location: NeoTokyo
    I don’t know if “unfortunate” is the right word. The way I see it, it’s like one of those cases where you know there was some crisis, but don’t know where things stand in the end, or even that it’s really the end. It’s like a family knows their son was fighting some war far away, and then then just never hear from him again, years and decades later. They’re just left wondering what happened to him, and what was his final fate. (There’s a story in the Japanese papers this week about a movement of US WWII vets letting family members of Japanese soldiers know the final fates of their loved ones, even 70 years later, and it’s a kind of healing process. So it's been on my mind.)

    I’m not saying this is as consequential as that. But I see this letter as that kind of chance for the fans of Halflife to have some closure, to feel ok with the knowledge that this is really it, we were never going to see that game, but now we at least get to know what it was going to be and the final fate of our hero.

    So this is it. Thanks for playing. And just remember third time is definitely not the charm when it comes to Valve.

  3. #3
    Chakat sex pillow
    Registered: Sep 2006
    Location: not here
    It's not so much the pain for a lack of Half Life 3 I feel, than sadness at the vacuum left in its place. The people who made the Half Lives and Portals are immensely talented, so between the writer exodus and the lack of news or creative endeavours from the rest, it's heavily dispiriting.

  4. #4
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2004
    Location: Netherlands
    Wow, so they were even planning for a non-resolution of the story for Ep3.

    I'm not sure what option I like less in these ultimate-suicide-bombing run conclusions: that it conveniently solves everything, or that it was entirely useless (as it is here).

    But yeah, it's mostly just a shame that they had a proven very competent team and just didn't use it. I hope they reform somewhere else.

  5. #5
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: flapping in the wind
    Quote Originally Posted by Jeshibu View Post
    Wow, so they were even planning for a non-resolution of the story for Ep3.
    Quote Originally Posted by Gordon Freeman
    And here we are. I spoke of my return to this shore. It has been a circuitous path to lands I once knew, and surprising to see how much the terrain has changed. Enough time has passed that few remember me, or what I was saying when last I spoke, or what precisely we hoped to accomplish. At this point, the resistance will have failed or succeeded, no thanks to me. Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Expect no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final episode.
    I think the anticlimax of the last paragraph is more about how Marc feels about Valve than the story of Half Life. That probably wasn't going to be the end end, but who knows.

    Anyway, it's nice to get some resolution even if it wasn't what I might have hoped. I just wish Valve/Gabe would've done this years ago instead of stringing fans along, although I guess most gave up on the series long ago (I didn't; I had and have such a huge amount of nostalgia for the series, I think it may even have been partially responsible for me originally starting to study physics at university (as good a reason as any!)).

  6. #6
    Member
    Registered: Jul 2014
    I wonder if Gabe will make any public statement? Can't imagine this helping Valve's image.

  7. #7
    Moderator and Priest
    Registered: Mar 2002
    Location: Dinosaur Ladies of the Night
    In a lot of ways, I bet you could blame the success of Steam for the death of Valve as a game developer. I mean why should they go through all the trouble of making awesome games when they make billions just by curating a storefront?

  8. #8
    Member
    Registered: May 2004
    Or, not curating a storefront.

  9. #9
    Moderator and Priest
    Registered: Mar 2002
    Location: Dinosaur Ladies of the Night
    Putting in the minimal effort required to run a storefront.

  10. #10
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    I suspect we will hear nothing from Gabe or Valve on this. Valve generally prefers the wall of silence style.

  11. #11
    Member
    Registered: Apr 2003
    Location: The Land of Make Believe
    Half-Life 2 was the most anticipated game in history when it came out. Of course, you needed Steam to run it, and that is where the platform's early userbase came from. Looking back, it's obvious that Half-Life 2 was the vehicle for launching Steam upon the world, and not vice versa. This was all planned; an iTunes for video games. I'm surprised Valve even went to the trouble of making Episodes One and Two, as they clearly find the actual work of developing games to be such a bother.

  12. #12
    Moderator
    Registered: Sep 2000
    Location: Australia
    Like it or not, they kind of saved pc gaming in their own way. They innovated a delivery platform that simultaneously made it easier to acquire games and reduce piracy; with all the complaints that people have with drm, they've made it fairly innocuous. Everything else is gravy.

  13. #13
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Have to say that I agree. PC was on a gradual downward trend. Then Steam came a long and slowly made a difference.

  14. #14
    Southquarter.com/fms
    Registered: Apr 2000
    Location: The Akkala Highlands
    I sense a lot of bitterness in this thread. I wanted HL3 too, but sometimes companies decide to switch gears and do something different, pretty common.

    But yeah, unresolved cliffhangers suck.

    Edit: I hadn't heard about this until just now:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/20...-life-universe
    Last edited by Brethren; 28th Aug 2017 at 11:42.

  15. #15
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    I do remember thinking I'd never see a Starcraft 2, and then many years later got that. So you never know.

    For a while Blizzard fell into the hole that many Developers fall into when they release a successful MMO. That hole being that it becomes their sole purpose and they stop focusing on anything else. Just as what happened to Origin after Ultima Online's release.

    In Blizzard's case that was only temporary.

  16. #16
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    Quote Originally Posted by Brethren View Post
    Edit: I hadn't heard about this until just now:

    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/20...-life-universe
    He also said, near the start of the year, that they're working on 3 full VR games. I'm looking forward to seeing those, but not holding my breath.

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