Half-Life 3 and The Future of VR

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What started as a game that changed the game industry, became a myth in the eyes of many. The possibility of the third sequel ever be released turned into a meme, symbolizing a product people desire but will never get. However, if the game were to be released, how can it impact the industry as its predecessors? The answer lies in the promise of virtual reality.

To understand how virtual reality ties in and embodies the very idea of the Half-Life series, we need to look back twenty-one years ago.

The year is 1998. To buy a video game, you had to purchase it physically. Once you’ve gone past the installation process of your new game, you were introduced with an avatar. The avatar would often complete objectives or shoot monsters trying to kill it. You were the center of the game, reacting to changes. If you were playing one of the more advanced games, you were met with loading screens whenever you moved between game levels. In the end, you were having fun, but you were still aware of your surroundings and the fact you are playing a video game. Games back then weren’t immersive enough.

Back then, an unknown company named Valve released a different game. Embodied in a first-person avatar, you were Gordon Freeman, a scientist taking a train to his shady work place – Black Mesa. You accidentally press your movement keys only to realize your character isn’t locked in some premade video clip recording. Amazingly, you can move freely throughout the scenes without damaging the experience. The game ends up being so immersive that you end up realizing an hour later that you haven’t seen a single loading screen.

Back then, what is the norm today in video games, was revolutionary.

Fast forward to 2004. You are eagerly opening up your newly purchased Half-Life 2 copy. You are greeted with another train ride, although short, still satisfying and reminiscent of Half-Life. Just a few paces after, strolling down the odd city 17, a combine soldier blocks your way, saying you have to throw the trash first. Amazingly, you can interact with the can on the floor and throw it in the trash.

Furthermore, you can smash crates and use different objects as a means to solve one of Half-Life’s synonymous brain teasers. In a time where a platform was out of reach in most video games, in Half-Life 2, it was only a few stacked crates away. Valve has built an entire game around a revolutionary physics game engine.

To this day, both games are a staple to the world of gaming. Most games nowadays do not feature any loading screens and an interactive world. Not only did Valve make money out of these games, but it has also pushed the game industry forward.

If the games were met with such excitement, lasting to this day, why didn’t Valve release a sequel?

Releasing a game is often a risk to a company since pouring so many resources into development and marketing can lead to a product nobody wants. However, a successful franchise such as Half-Life would in no doubt succeed, having many fan games like Black Mesa being released by fans. Undoubtedly, the possibility of a third game holds more profound value than money for Valve.

With a track record of industry-changing games, other than Half-Life, Valve’s approach to Half-Life 3 might hold the same values. However, instead of advancing the field of video games once again, it could reach a market still in its infancy – the virtual reality gaming industry.

Nowadays, virtual reality games, have you in the center of the game, reacting to changes or objectives of the game. In a way, it is similar to the difference Half-Life tried to make to the video game industry back then.

Virtual reality games, in reality, are vastly different. Hardware-wise you can move in a tiny space, usually dictated by the amount of room you have in your house. As a result, creating an immersive game which allows you to explore an entire environment, might not be available for mass-market just yet.

Luckily for us, although Valve isn’t in the hardware business, it did partner up with HTC in 2015 to introduce to the world the HTC Vive VR headset. Although not the game-changer we were waiting for, it was a step in the right direction.

Additionally, a few companies, such as KatVR, Cyberith, and Wizdish, filled the void of being able to explore the game more realistically by creating hardware such as a treadmill. Each step you take on the treadmill advances your avatar in its virtual reality space, making the experience more realistic. To demo the products, a few already existing games such as Skyrim, for example, were adapted for Virtual Reality but were not initially built around it.

How would Half-Life 3 look like a virtual reality game? It’s hard to say with the current virtual reality hardware. Still, we can imagine it would be unlike anything we’ve seen before. And it would surely excite newcomers and generations who grew up on the franchise, to hop on a train ride for the third time.

When the time comes, and the industry is ready, Valve must be there. It must raise the mantle once more to release yet another successful Half-Life sequel.

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