It might be time to retire the meme that Valve doesn't make games anymore. The company announced (opens in new tab) this week a new virtual reality (VR) game called Half-Life: Alyx. It also released a major update to Counter-Strike: Global Offensive (CS:GO) called Operation Shattered Web, which means at least two of its franchises haven't been abandoned.
We know precious little about Half-Life: Alyx. Valve said in the announcement that it considers the title its "flagship VR game" and that it would reveal more information on November 21.
Additionally, we know the game is named after a character from Half-Life 2, Alyx Vance, who also played a major role in that console/PC game's Episode One and Episode Two expansions.
That's all we know--and it's also enough to get people excited. Valve's hasn't paid the Half-Life series much attention since it released the expansions to Half-Life 2, which debuted in 2004, well over a decade ago. Episode One came out in 2006, and Episode Two followed in 2007. News that a new game's in development should be welcome. Although, it also means fans will need a VR headset (opens in new tab) in order to enjoy the next chapter of the Half-Life series.
CS:GO Operation Shattered Web Update
Valve shared more about Operation Shattered Web (opens in new tab) for CS:GO. The competitive first-person shooter now has selectable in-game agents, and it appears that the series will have female avatars for the first time, too. That extra layer of personalization joins new weapon skins, graffiti and stickers players can use to express themselves.
Operation Shattered Web also features new end-of-match accolades that highlight a player's performance, with Valve saying that "sometimes it is nice to know you threw the most effective nades." These accolades should help show a player's contribution to a match beyond the kills, deaths and assists currently shown by its scoreboard.
The expansion includes new maps, missions and other updates, as well as new cooperative campaigns that players can partner up to complete. Combine that with CS:GO's move from a paid title (opens in new tab) to a free-to-play game and the introduction of the Danger Zone battle royale mode in 2018, and it's clear that it's CS:GO-ing steady.
There's more information about the free Operation Shattered Web available via Steam (opens in new tab). Valve is also offering the Operated Shattered Web Premium Pass, which features "a commemorative upgradeable Operation Shattered Web Coin, bonus Rank XP and exclusive mission completion rewards" for $15.
It makes sense that VALVe would bring this out as a way to show off how far they have come with VR. However if I were to take a guess, this is a VR experience from Alyx perspective and I doubt its going to further tha main game narrative beyond the end of EP2. They cannot do that. Fans would be very unhappy. We want to play as Gordon and get our revenge for Eli dammit.
It's been nearly 9 years since they released Portal 2, their last single-player focused game, and around 8 years since their last multiplayer esports titles DOTA2 and CS:GO came out. Since then, it's mostly just been content updates for their esports games, a brief VR tech demo, and a much-disliked pay-to-win lootbox card battle game that lost 95% of its player-base within two months and is now down to fewer than 100 concurrent players less than a year after it came out.
I can't say I have complete confidence that Valve will produce a great game at this point. For most of the last decade, they seem to have been primarily focused on maximizing profits through Steam and little else. They haven't been interested in anything that they don't think will rake in easy profit through Steam marketplace trading and microtransactions.
Aside from in the Asian markets, where the Counter-Strike Neo and Counter-Strike Online games have all had selectable agents including females. And really, the only reason they are doing these updates for CS:GO is to push a paid battle pass for the game, much like you see in games like Fortnite.
Right because they haven't made Steam better in any way or improved anything in gaming in the last 10 years.
Except they have. Cloud saves, the ability to use any controller on a Steam game, Big Picture. Hell they have pushed harder on VR than a lot of companies have.
Steam will profit no matter what they do but they have made some great advancements for gaming. Hell most other launchers can't even match Steam feature for feature.
Also, cloud saves are not a particularly good example, seeing as that feature was added more than 10 years ago. : P
And I would argue that their games were not tech demos. They didn't design the games to show off new features of their game engine so much as they updated the engine to incorporate unique features that they wanted to include in the games.
Until Epic offers a feature for feature product I don't see any pressure on VALVe. Even EA, one of the largest game developers in the world who have multiple AAA games that even though people curse them do extremely well, is back on Steam. Still I wouldn't put making a game past them. While they have mainly been doing updates for games they still know how to keep their main games very attractive.
And yes their games have mainly been about showing off new features. Half Life was the Source Engine itself Lost Coast was a big HDR demo, back in 2005 when HDR wasn't even a big thing. EP1 was mostly engine enhancements but EP2 was big on physics, the bridge collapsing in the beginning is massive.
You can listen to their commentary in each game and they talk heavily about being able to bring something new to the table. Most every game has and while they don't say it blatantly look at what is being shown off now. The latest in Half Life is a VR game. After 12 years of waiting we don't get EP3 or just Half Life 3. We get a VR game. Because VALVe wants to use Half Life to show off what they can do in VR. I personally think Portal would be the better full VR game.
As for Portal in VR, something tells me that would be pretty nausea-inducing, or at least the classic portal gameplay would be. They could make a game in the Portal series, but I don't think they would have it focus on the player flinging themself around at high speeds.
Thats why they had The Lab. Based in Portal but not quite classic gameplay.
But every Half Life has had some engine advancement. As has L4D or even Portal.
Its interesting. Half Life Alyx seems to have come from VALVe wanting to do a big VR game.