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Valve is Done With Episodic Content

News; May. 17, 2011; Channels: Video Games; By Jenner David Cauton
Subtypes: News
FPS might not be the genre suited for the model.

Half-Life 2: Episode 1 came out in 2006, two years after the original and was followed by Episode 2 a year later, introducing the concept of episodic gaming. Vavle's idea was to release shorter and smaller games -- but more frequently. Unfortunately, it's been nearly four years since Episode 2's release, and it seems Episode 3 may never see the light of day.

Half Life 2

Gabe Newell, president of Valve, has told Develop that they are dropping their episodic content model, now seeing "games as a service." Specifically, Newell is pointing at Team Fortress 2.

"If you look at Team Fortress 2, that's what we now think is the best model for what we've been doing," Newell said. "Our updates and release model on [Team Fortress 2] keeps on getting shorter and shorter."

Unlike Half-Life 2, other Valve games have received DLC, free or otherwise, at a much higher frequency, with Team Fortress 2 probably yielding the most -- and not just your typical new map pack. The game has received new content such as extra class abilities, an item store, and even unlockable content if you pre-order other Steam games.

“We sort of amortize the risk by working on different frequencies for different projects. Team Fortress 2 is the fastest frequency we work on with comparatively fast updates. Er, Half-Life is apparently the slowest!” he said with a laugh. “Although, from the outside world, we have no evidence that Half-Life is working on any frequency at all. Left 4 Dead is starting to approach the Team Fortress 2 cycle.”

SiN Episodes: Emergence

Half-Life 2 isn't the only series that hasn't seen the better side of episodic gaming. SiN Episodes: Emergence, an FPS game created by Ritual and released in 2006, was made as an episodic series to begin with (unlike Half-Life 2), although it was a continuation of the 1998 game, SiN. The game received slightly higher-than-average reviews, but the sales it received were never enough to fund a sequel. Add that to the issues Ritual was having, and the rest of the nine planned episodes were canceled.

This isn't to say that episodic content in general is a failed experiment. The FPS genre just may not be right for such a business model. The point-and-click adventures series Sam and Max by Telltale Games, however, is currently succeeding in this development format.

Half-Life 2: Episode 3 may or may not be coming, but this doesn't mean that the adventures of the crowbar-wielding scientist is over.

"You will ever see [more Half-Life], yes," said Doug Lombardi, Valve's marketing and PR chief talking to AusGamers (via Escapist Magazine), "We are not done with Gordon Freeman's adventures. I have nothing other than that to tell you today, but hang in there with us."


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