So Valve has been busy updating some games recently to include support for their “Big Picture” mode that will allow Steam to be used on TV. It’s a welcome update for those with the capabilities and, for most games, is taking nothing more than a 70 MB update to help incorporate.
Except for one game though. For some reason “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” is requiring a 400 MB update. This being the internet, suddenly everyone started having a theory of how this would lead to “Half-Life 2: Episode 3” or even “Half-Life 3”. Nobody has any real idea about how this works, but hey, since 400 is a way bigger number than 70, it can only mean the release of one of the most anticipated games of all time right? The madness surrounding the update is so consuming, that a completely unrelated video from Machinima featuring a series of binary code, and vaguely “Half-Life” music playing throughout, was thought to be part of the conspiracy, and players are now feverishly scouring “Half-Life 2: Episode 2” to find any changes.
The “Magic Bullet” Of the “Half-Life 3” Conspiracy
Of course, the whole thing is nonsense to the sane mind, but it does bring up a very real problem for Valve, in that the next “Half-Life” (in whatever form it may take) is slowly reaching some pretty unrealistic expectations. Whenever an extra 330 MB of unspecified, probably insignificant data can bring the entire PC gaming community to a furor, the hype meter has definitely spiked, and that’s not necessarily a good thing.
Valve’s exhibited an uncommon level of craftsmanship over the years, but even they are setting themselves up for a scenario where gamers are having years to craft their own game in their minds that even Valve might not be able to match. While this doesn’t mean they should rush the development of a game, it may be time to give gamers something (anything) regarding the next title in the beloved series before the hype machine claims another victim ala “Diablo III”.
At this year’s GDC, Gabe Newell was honored for being a pioneer in the field of gaming. That’s an indisputable title for a guy at the helm of one of the most successful development houses of all time. Valve is responsible for classics like Half-Life and modern marvels Portal and Team Fortress 2. Kotaku caught up with Gabe after his presentation to find out what he thought about Pokémon, what it means to be a pioneer, and how he sees the future of gaming.
“One of the things we’ve found is we’ve been doing some research into biometrics. We have a criminal psychologist on staff now. We’re finding that the impact of what we do – the emotional component of it – can be improved pretty dramatically by measuring people’s arousal states. By looking at how their pupils are dilated, by tracking where their gaze is, you know, doing skin galvanic response. Rather than having an experience that’s supposed to work for everybody, you can design, you can react to how the player is feeling, which is what’s driving those biometric measures.”
While it’s a little weird to think of a criminal psychologist as the appropriate individual to study us gamers, it’s also kinda cool to think of these tailored experiences coming soon. He goes on to talk about the changes to CPU architecture and how that will affect games, but the really interesting stuff was in the biometrics. I am curious, though, if Newell means we’ll see tools for measuring biometrics at the player level, giving developers the chance to custom tailor each individual experience, not just tailored to the gaming demographic. Maybe there is a point to the Wii Vitality Sensor after all.
According to a Steam press release yesterday, Valve is dumping a pile of money on L4D2 in hopes of winning big sales. It’s probably going to work, too. The sequel to everyone’s favorite zombie splatterfest is already performing at 300% in pre-orders of the original. Gabe Newell is calling the game the fastest selling title in Valve history.
The first Left 4 Dead got a similar treatment, though only at $10 million. That game was the top selling new IP for both 360 and PC for the year. Valve more than doubling the ad money is probably due in part to the success of the original, but also to fight skepticism that the game was being released too close to the original which would mean a loss of support for the older title.
It started off as a simple joke. A modder from Brisbane sent an email to Gabe Newell defaming the Valve boss for not inviting the modder to play L4D2, something Newell had done for the organizers behind the L4D2 boycott. Newell and the modder, named Joe, are friends, and through a series of responses got to the point that Joe started flygabenewell.blogspot.com, a site where you could donate for Joe to purchase a ticket for Newell to Brisbane to see Joe’s latest mod.
Confused yet? Well, there were a lot of commas in there. My apologies. As it turns out, though, Joe has actually accrued enough cash to fly Newell and L4D producer Erik Johnson down to Brisbane. All we’re waiting for is Newell’s acceptance.
No matter the outcome, it’s absolutely hilarious that Joe could raise enough money to do this. If Newell declines, Joe has decided to give the money to Child’s Play, a local charity, so everybody wins in the end. For Joe’s sake, I hope Gabe goes.