Ever wonder what the term "half-life" actually means? I've just spent about half-an-hour researching it, with a view to constructing some kind of clever introductory analogy for Valve's long silence on the subject of Half-Life 3's release - something about never being able to accurately predict an outcome, thanks to varying rates of nuclear decay and Gabe Newell being all coy about stuff, that heinous bearded monster. Before that, I was trying to make a decent headline out of this story about a T-shirt. Also, did you know that GLaDOS is going to be in a Guillermo del Toro film (only not really)? Yep, it's a rock-and-roll world when you're covering Valve and Half-Life.
Half-Life 3 - or if you prefer, Half-Life 2: Episode 3 - has been in development since shortly before the birth of King Richard III. During the intervening years, we've been treated to two pieces of concept art (a number of others have also been leaked), a smattering of "announcement soon?" reports based on suspect file-names, a whimsical haiku (no really), and many, many interviews in which Uncle Gabe chuckles ruefully and says he can't talk about that right now, but if it's a spot of PS3-bashing you're after, brace for impact. I have literally no idea what keeps the men and women of Half-Life fansites ValveTime and Lambda Generation going, unless it's a wanton capacity for self-harm.
In Valve's defence, the company has a multitude of additional fish to fry, shipping two Left 4 Dead titles, the enormously wonderful Portal 2 and DOTA 2 whilst expanding Steam to include a new, crowd-sourced Greenlight section and (if rumour speak true) polishing off the "Steam Box", aka PC gaming's assault on the living room. The latter is of some interest here. It's said to be a simplified PC that leans heavily on Steam's "Big Picture" mode, is apparently designed to attract those who don't like building their own hardware (much like consoles, then), and may see daylight in 2013.
That's the same year Microsoft and Sony's new consoles are rumoured to appear, yes. The strength of the existing Steam catalogue notwithstanding, Valve will need a sturdy line-up of palpably new, palpably "next gen" exclusives to compete. Industry history has yet, after all, to disprove the concept of the "killer app" - a nugget of software that sets a machine apart as essential. If Gabe and so are serious about conquering the slot under your telly, they'll want to do more than simply rejig the pick of PC gaming for living room consumption - they'll need to pitch new experiences of their own against the Destinys, Halos and Uncharteds of this world.
Half-Life 3, then. It's hard to imagine a game that would make a bigger splash, regardless of host platform, and it's hard to imagine a more appropriate showcase for the successor to Valve's Source engine - Half-Life 2, after all, was the first game to run on Source. In a rare moment of candour, Gabe Newell has said that the new engine will appear on next generation platforms. Does Steam Box rank among those platforms? And assuming it does, will the long-in-stasis adventures of Gordon Freeman resume in 2013?