Author Topic: Mark Laidlaw Makes Passing Mention Of A Certain Game's Episode 3  (Read 577 times)

Offline Silver Sorrow

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Gamespot article.

Laidlaw, who apparently retired from Valve due to extreme old age -- at least as far as the gaming indsutry is concerned -- posted something called "Epistle 3" on his blog, which is obviously the plot of the vaporware HL2 episode 3...or what people NEED to be ep3. Closure, or something. Anyway, I'll quote it here. It's a lot to read, so I upped the font size slightly.

Also...as you can tell, he's done some name and gender-swapping in the details, but I'm pretty sure everyone can figure it out.

Quote
Epistle 3
08-25-2017 2:05 AM

Dearest Playa,

I hope this letter finds you well. I can hear your complaint already, “Gertie Fremont, 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 Epistle 2).

To begin with, as you may recall from the closing paragraphs of my previous missive, the death of Elly Vaunt 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 Elly had been buried, we found the strength and courage to regroup. It was the strong belief of her brave son, the feisty Alex Vaunt, that we should continue on as his mother had wished. We had the Antarctic coordinates, transmitted by Elly’s long-time assistant, Dr. Jerry Maas, which we believed to mark the location of the lost luxury liner Hyperborea. Elly had felt strongly that the Hyperborea should be destroyed rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Disparate. Others on our team disagreed, believing that the Hyperborea 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. Vaunt, Alex and I boarded a seaplane and set off for the Antarctic; 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. Maas has provided, and where we expected to find the Hyperborea. What we found instead was a complex fortified installation, showing all the hallmarks of sinister Disparate 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 Disparate 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 Disparate lensing system, Alex and I soon realized that what we were actually seeing was the luxury liner Hyperborea itself, phasing in and out of existence at the focus of the Disparate devices. The aliens had erected their compound to study and seize the ship whenever it materialized. What Dr. Maas had provided were not coordinates for where the sub was located, but instead for where it was predicted to arrive. The liner 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 Disparate, as we feared at first, but by minions of our former nemesis, the conniving and duplicitous Wanda Bree. Dr. Bree was not as we had last seen her–which is to say, she was not dead. At some point, the Disparate had saved out an earlier version of her consciousness, and upon her physical demise, they had imprinted the back-up personality into a biological blank resembling an enormous slug. The Bree-Slug, despite occupying a position of relative power in the Disparate hierarchy, seemed nervous and frightened of me in particular. Wanda did not know how her previous incarnation, the original Dr. Bree, had died. She knew only that I was responsible. Therefore the slug treated us with great caution. Still, she soon confessed (never able to keep quiet for long) that she was herself a prisoner of the Disparate. She took no pleasure from her current grotesque existence, and pleaded with us to end her life. Alex believed that a quick death was more than Wanda Bree deserved, but for my part, I felt a modicum of pity and compassion. Out of Alex’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. Bree, we found Jerry Maas being held in a Disparate interrogation cell. Things were tense between Jerry and Alex, as might be imagined. Alex blamed Jerry for his mother’s death…news of which, Jerry was devastated to hear for the first time. Jerry tried to convince Alex that he had been a double agent serving the resistance all along, doing only what Elly had asked of him, even though he knew it meant he risked being seen by his peers–by all of us–as a traitor. I was convinced; Alex less so. But from a pragmatic point of view, we depended on Dr. Maas; for along with the Hyperborea coordinates, he possessed resonance keys which would be necessary to bring the liner fully into our plane of existence.

We skirmished with Disparate soldiers protecting a Dispar research post, then Dr. Maas attuned the Hyperborea 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 Disparate 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 Disparate forces in battle just as we rebounded between universes, once again unmoored.

What happened next is even harder to explain. Alex Vaunt, Dr. Maas and myself sought control of the ship–its power source, its control room, its navigation center. The liner’s history proved nonlinear. Years before, during the Disparate invasion, various members of an earlier science team, working in the hull of a dry-docked liner situated at the Tocsin Island Research Base in Lake Huron, 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 Disparate pushed Earth into the Nine Hour Armageddon, the aliens seized control of our most important research facilities. The staff of the Hyperborea, with no other wish than to keep the ship out of Disparate hands, acted in desperation. The switched on the field and flung the Hyperborea toward the most distant destination they could target: Antarctica. 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 Hyperborea, and the moment of its activation, were stretched across space and time, between the nearly forgotten Lake Huron of the Nine Hour Armageddon and the present day Antarctic; 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 Tocsin Island at the moment of teleportation, just as the Disparate forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Antarctic wastelands, where our friends were fighting to make their way to the protean Hyperborea; and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past. Alex grew convinced we were seeing one of the Disparate’s central staging areas for invading other worlds–such as our own. We meanwhile fought a running battle throughout the ship, pursued by Disparate forces. We struggled to understand our stiuation, and to agree on our course of action. Could we alter the course of the Hyperborea? Should we run it aground in the Antarctic, 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. Jerry Maas argued, reasonably, that we should save the Hyperborea and deliver it to the resistance, that our intelligent peers might study and harness its power. But Alex reminded me had sworn he would honor his mother’s demand that we destroy the ship. He hatched a plan to set the Hyperborea to self-destruct, while riding it into the heart of the Disparate’s invasion nexus. Jerry and Alex argued. Jerry overpowered Alex and brought the Hyperborea area, preparing to shut off the Bootstrap Device and settle the ship on the ice. Then I heard a shot, and Jerry fell. Alex had decided for all of us, or his weapon had. With Dr. Maas dead, we were committed to the suicide plunge. Grimly, Alex and I armed the Hyperborea, creating a time-travelling missile, and steered it for the heart of the Disparate’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, Mrs. X.  For once she appeared not to me, but to Alex Vaunt. Alex had not seen the cryptical schoolmarm since childhood, but he recognized her instantly. “Come along with me now, we’ve places to do and things to be,” said Mrs. X, and Alex acquiesced. He followed the strange grey lady out of the Hyperborea, 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 luxury liner into the heart of a Disparate world. An immense light blazed. I caught a cosmic view of a brilliantly glittering Dyson sphere. The vastness of the Disparate’s power, the futility of our struggle, blossomed briefly in my awareness. I saw everything. Mainly I saw how the Hyperborea, 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 Ghastlyhaunts 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. Except no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final epistle.

Yours in infinite finality,

Gertrude Fremont, Ph.D.
An interview with Kim Kardashian? Who wants to see that? I'd rather see an interview with the mortician's assistant who had to piece her head back together so they could have an open-casket funeral.

Offline Doc_Brown

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Re: Mark Laidlaw Makes Passing Mention Of A Certain Game's Episode 3
« Reply #1 on: August 25, 2017, 09:26:30 AM »
Well, at least it's some kind of closure.  I'd always held out hope Valve would surprise us one day, but this really does feel like the final nail in the coffin. 

As someone on Reddit said, Valve's experiment with a flat management structure seems to have completely failed, at least in terms of them being a game developer.  If it weren't for Steam, the company likely would have folded by now.
Roads?  Where we're going we don't need roads.

Offline bobdog

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Re: Mark Laidlaw Makes Passing Mention Of A Certain Game's Episode 3
« Reply #2 on: August 25, 2017, 11:20:05 AM »
Good to know that some of my thoughts were on track, wherein you somehow aim a threat to the Combine home world; a la Battlefield Earth. But as written, this Combine world would not be taken out by Gordon's Gertrude's efforts, so maybe that's why Alex is needed elsewhere?

I know that various Valve "teams" have gathered together to try and pull HL3 to some semblance of order, but they all fell by the wayside without a larger guiding hand at work. Valve only have 2 actual games to their name -- Half-Life 1 and 2 -- all the other games in their stable, they bought out from another company and folded under their label; i.e. Portal, Left 4 Dead. And they've shown in the past decade that they are not game developers any more -- they may publish a game here and there, but they're now a tech company with the largest online gaming portfolio (and revenue stream) in the world.

There would only be negatives associated with releasing HL3, especially if it weren't absolutely amazing. I think Valve has seen that vaporware like Duke Nukem Forever was an embarrassment, and highly regarded series like Mass Effect tanked in the third iteration. Valve captured lightning in a bottle -- TWICE!! -- so the odds of them creating something on the same level are improbable.

I think we will see an L4D 3 game, as the onus is not so strong on that brand to develop "the greatest game of all time." But no HL3. And probably no Portal 3 either because there's really nowhere to go with it.

Offline Doc_Brown

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Re: Mark Laidlaw Makes Passing Mention Of A Certain Game's Episode 3
« Reply #3 on: August 25, 2017, 03:22:50 PM »
The idea that Valve won't make any more Half-Life because it's "risky" has always infuriated me.  Firstly, because their reputation as a game developer is already in the tank, so the only way to change that perception is to release something great.  Secondly, Steam prints money.  They could invest Star Citizen levels of financing into a project that bombs on release and it wouldn't affect their financial stability in the slightest. 
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Offline Starfox

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Re: Mark Laidlaw Makes Passing Mention Of A Certain Game's Episode 3
« Reply #4 on: August 28, 2017, 11:23:46 AM »
I guess the question will be definitely answered next year. Because really, 2018... 20th anniversary of Half-Life?

But then again, I said that when it was the 10th anniversary and instead they released Left 4 Dead sooo...

Time will tell but frankly I stopped holding my breath a long time ago. What may piss me off is that the whole thing ended up on a cliffhanger and it's not a piece of paper that will change that. But then I've known cliffhangers longer than that.


Imagination is more important than knowledge. Knowledge is limited. Imagination encircles the world. -- A. Einstein

Offline Doc_Brown

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Re: Mark Laidlaw Makes Passing Mention Of A Certain Game's Episode 3
« Reply #5 on: August 28, 2017, 11:42:37 AM »
Two observations on the text Laidlaw posted:

First, people have been pointing out that the first and last paragraphs are Laidlaw himself speaking to us.  He left Valve 18 months ago ("This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experienced a critical change in my circumstances..."), and his opinion on the current state of affairs there is pretty clear ("Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team...").

Second, it looks like Alyx would have taken a surprisingly unlikable turn as a character.  I know her father died and all, but she murders Dr. Mossman to get her way, abandons Gordon to his (assumed) death without so much as a backwards glance, and in the end accomplishes nothing more than keeping the Borealis out of the Combine's hands.  Who's to say researching Aperture's technology wouldn't have been more useful to the resistance in the long run?
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Offline bobdog

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Re: Mark Laidlaw Makes Passing Mention Of A Certain Game's Episode 3
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2017, 12:01:00 PM »
Ooooohh -- nice catch on Laidlaw! And so true about all the changes at Valve.

In all honesty, we never knew what motivated Alyx. Yeah, she was sweet and nice to Gordon, but maybe she was also harboring some deep hatred toward the Combine, and if she saw a chance to fulfill her dad's dying wish to destroy (or attempt to destroy) them, I bet she would. And she may not have had a choice w/G-Man; also, he could have lied to her and said Gordon was also coming, and then denied him at the gate because he was unable to manipulate him further.

In all honesty, Gabe N may have realized that Valve got extremely lucky with both HL and HL2 and after the challenges of creating Eps. 1 and 2, knew he couldn't replicate it again based on his team. Remember that he was a programmer, not a game designer. And based on the lack of any true structure to the company (e.g. everyone is an equal other than Gabe), and without any impetus to push toward an end goal (i.e. a producer's mandate), he probably couldn't motivate his team properly. It is a true shame, but I've stopped looking for any closure to the story.

 

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