In 1998, a little known company named Valve released a first-person shooter named Half-Life and changed the face of gaming. Where other shooters struggled to provide even a semblance of a story, Half-Life had brains to match its brawn; a stirring tale featuring a realistic human cast and a protagonist that was more than a hand and a gun unfolded before the player’s eyes as they progressed through each level.
As Valve grew, so too did Half-Life’s reputation, with Half-Life 2 in 2004 once again revolutionizing the genre, and its episodic expansions, Half-life 2: Episode One and Episode Two, further raising the bar. The series didn’t release consistently, and occasionally suffered unexpected and painful setbacks; but when it did, it seemed as if Valve could do no wrong – until the series suddenly stopped. Shifting priorities, a lack of motivation, and other, more nebulous factors would lead Valve to put Half-Life on ice in the middle of its prime, leaving a generation of gamers adrift, and an opus unfinished.
And yet – Half-Life lives on. Be it in the innumerable games and series it inspired or provided the computative bedrock for, an undying stream of mods, or other media based on the franchise, Half-Life’s DNA is permanently embedded in the fabric of the video game industry, and will likely remain so for some time. As sad as it is that a Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or a Half-Life 3 will likely never happen, and as frustrating as it is that Valve remains belligerent as to precisely why, the series, for the most part, has only really fallen… out of Valve’s hands.
This is the rise and fall of Half-Life.