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PC Games (Games)

Valve Reevaluates Episodic Gaming 142

Dr. Eggman writes "CVG has a recent article on Valve's future plans for episodic gaming. After the third episode of Half-Life 2 is out, Valve plans to sit down with the community and figure out what is working and what's not. Gabe Newell also wants to spend time with Telltale Games and Blizzard, both developers of episodic and episodic-like game content. It it worth it to try to release content on an episodic basis? 'We just want to sit down with three examples in front of us and talk it over with gamers to find out what they would like us to do next.'"
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Valve Reevaluates Episodic Gaming

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  • by nojjynb ( 1003593 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:19AM (#20766205)
    ... isn't that we aren't getting a full game, or that they're spreading out the story over 3 or 4 games. No, the problem is when they say they'll release them between 9 and 12 months apart, and they don't release the second episode for 2 years.

    I'm a fan of the quick, 8 hour episodes, released yearly. I'm not a fan of having to wait 2 years for that type of content when many games put out full blown sequels. Honestly, either work on upgrading the engine, or work on the episodic content, not both at the same time. Besides, why should what is essentially an overgrown expansion pack run on a different engine than the original? Bang out the new content while you have another team working on upgrading the engine, then you could go back and make the old content run on the new engine, or not, as you please.
    • It gets particularly annoying when an 8 hour episode can cost as much as a 20 hour expansion pack, more than half as much as a 40 hour game. I'm not just looking at Valve here, although their bundling plans do frustrate me.
      • by GeckoX ( 259575 )
        Why do the bundles frustrate you? You can buy the episodes without the bundle, or get a great deal on the bundled content. I fail to see the problem. $45 for an 8 hr episode, TF, and Portal is a very good deal.
        • The pack also contains HL2 and episode 1, don't forget those. Honestly, I think TF2 alone is worth $45, it's the most fun I've ever had gaming.
        • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

          by SpryGuy ( 206254 )
          Let's see... I only want Episode 2. I don't want Team Fortress 2, and I already have Half-Life 2 and Episode 1.

          "Portal" is a nice bonus, but still, I'm having to buy this huge bundle, half of which is redundant, and a big part of which I don't want and won't play (TF2).

          Having to wait 2 years for them to put all this together, and pay more for it, when I could have/should have gotten just Episode 2 a year ago, at a much cheaper cost, is frustrating.

          You don't think that's frustrating?
          • but still, I'm having to buy this huge bundle, "?!?

            you can buy them all separately? when i pre-ordered they showed a stand alone price for episode 2.. I bought ep1 in the store for 10 bucks on sale?

            I agree having to wait sucks, but wouldn't that be more indicative of not having enough resources to work on all the projects they have instead of blaming them for developing other games than the ones "you" want?
    • by *weasel ( 174362 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @08:16AM (#20766775)

      Valve re-evaluating episodic gaming is like me re-evaluating my relationship with Salma Hayek.
    • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

      That's pretty much the same problem I've had with the episodic gaming. They promised new content every 6 months, which was nice since I got to play new parts to the franchise every 6 months instead of every two years. I always considered the perk being that I never really forgot about the series and kept wanting to play.

      Like you, I always saw episodic content in the sense of we release episodes on release A. Keep working on release B and integrate it for a major release (like HL3). I think Valve lost foc
      • by happyemoticon ( 543015 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @10:32AM (#20768427) Homepage

        I am really skeptical of any engine improvements for one big reason: HDR/Bloom slows my computer down to a crawl. Yeah, it looks awesome, but I can't justify spending the money to get a system that handle that level of graphical glitz.

        You bring up an important point, though: do engine improvements make a game better? No more than special effects improve a movie's plot. In fact, if I had a dime for every time showing off some CGI bullshit actually made a movie's cinematography worse, I'd have about ten bucks thanks to the Star Wars prequel trilogy alone. I'd say that graphical glamor should never be so grandiose that it slows down a game's user interface (if it has one as such), and that, in many cases, cartoonish graphics and fewer frills actually make a game more playable, and thus a better game. Other elements of a "blockbuster" game, such as extensive plot development and cutscenage, are also anti-game in the sense that they distract you from the actual point of the game which is to, uh, play the game. I was playing FFX for the first time earlier this week, and I just couldn't stand it. You take away all the atrocious yammering and soulful gazes, and all you're left with is too little of a fairly banal game.

        Of course, the caveat to this is that, in many cases, engine improvements can contribute to sales, and a game can't really sell itself on its gaming merits. And, as Ken Levine pointed out on that talk show he was on recently, politics can lead to business decisions being made for purely b2b-related reasons, and I'm sure it only gets worse when you're a titan of a company like Valve. This isn't too hard for me to imagine:

        Valve Exec: ... Yeah, so we're not too hot on the whole "Bloom" thing. I mean, it's cool and all, but implementing it properly presents a challenge, and it adds another variable for the level designers and artists to think about, and it's just going to slow down production.
        Nvidia Rep: Oh? Really? Gee, that's really disappointing...
        Valve Exec: What do you mean?
        Nvidia Rep: Oh, I don't know. I mean, you know, if all of the game companies in the world stopped pushing technology, we'd basically be out of business.
        Valve Exec: We're not talking about bloom never, just not for this quick episodic release business plan we're having. When we come out with our next major title, it's definitely got bloom.
        Nvidia Rep: Yeah, and when's that gonna be? 2010 or 2011 if we take into account your last hit. Look, you're one of the big developers. One of the only big developers. Who's going to do it if you don't? Bethesda? Shit, come on. And we do a lot of nice things for you in terms of features and API support. I mean, I guess we might just have to stop doing those if you're not going to play ball. Valve Exec: Okay, hang on. *picks up phone* Yeah, hey, you know, I'd really like you to try to get that bloom stuff into Episode 2. What? Yeah, I know it'll delay it, that's fine. But we're just talking a few months, right?

    • by Xian97 ( 714198 )
      is the same problem I had with episodic novels. A prime example was Stephen King's "The Green Mile". You ended up paying more for 6 paperback novellas than the hardcover containing the full story would have cost you up front. I didn't like getting involved in the story then having to put it on hold waiting for the next episode to come out either.
      • by GeckoX ( 259575 )
        Don't think it has to be that way, but Stephen King is a particularly good example of the wrong way to do it. The Green Mile was definitely a milk job. The other was the gunslinger series. OK, not exactly episodic, but similar...started off ok, but he clearly had NO idea where it was going, just a hook to get through the first few 'episodes' knowing fans would want closure to the story and would basically buy anything. The rest was complete and utter crap.

        I haven't read a single thing from SK since he royal
        • by zoggins ( 17967 )
          Ummm, just cause you didn't like the way the Dark Tower books unfolded doesn't mean SK didn't have a plan. If you read anything about the "development" of the Dark Tower you will know that he had the entire series outlined on the same pastal colored paper he started writing the Gunslinger on in the late '70s.
          • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

            by GeckoX ( 259575 )
            Sorry, you're right:

            Step 1: Come up with general idea for grand magnum opus.
            Step 2: Decide it'll be in 7 parts.
            Step 3: Plan out first 3 parts.
            Step 4: Write and sell first 3 parts.
            Step 5: ?
            Step 6: Profit!

            I DO know quite a bit about it. I was a HUGE SK fan thank you very much. It is well know that other than a very loose idea of the 7 books, there was almost no initial planning beyond the first 3 other than an overarching idea.

            Reading the entire series, it's all but impossible to miss this. There's the first
    • by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @09:31AM (#20767547) Homepage
      Not to mention that episodic gaming as a whole has been one thinly veiled attempt at milking more money out of consumers "per episode" than it would normally cost for the game. Remember way back in the day when companies used to release free content patches? Yeah, that'll never happen again. Episodic content will ensure you get nickle and dimed for everything you've got.

      • by Guspaz ( 556486 )
        The episodes cost $20 each. There are three of them. Together they constitute what, ~18 hours of FPS gameplay? That's about the length of a full game. Three episodic games, $60 total. That's also about the cost of a full game.

        So, all told, you're getting about the same amount of gameplay as a full game for about the same cost. How is that "milking more money out of consumers"?

        Besides, Valve tends to also release episodes with other content bundled in. Episode two, for example, will also be available in a pa
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by ShadowsHawk ( 916454 )
          Except their NOT $20 each. Ep1 was $20 and Ep2 will be $30. We're already at $50, so unless Ep3 is $10, we're not getting what was promised. As for the 'Orange box'; I already own Half-Life 2 and Ep1. They should be rewarding loyal fans rather than punishing them.
          • You will be able to give away (sell?) the duplicate games you already have.
            • Everyone that I know that would be interested in HL2 already owns it. I would prefer that they charge a reasonable amount instead of screwing their existing customers. It's simply bad customer service.
      • by ahoehn ( 301327 )
        I agree in some cases I agree: I feel like if I'm paying $18/mo to subscribe to WOW, than my addons should be free.

        But, in the case of the Half Life 2 episodes, I didn't feel at all like Half Life 2 was shorter than it should have been. And I just got Episode 2 nearly free bundled with "The Orange Box".

        Which brings me to my next point: That Team Fortress 2 is awesome. Completely awesome.

        Wait, did I just go completely off topic? Bugger.
      • Remember way back in the day when companies used to release free content patches?

        Actually, no, I don't. Could you provide some examples?
      • by ukyoCE ( 106879 )
        Maybe I'm in the minority, but I disagree. Episodic gaming could hypothetically work a lot like Agile Programming. Shorter development cycles means quicker feedback means better products. As a gamer, you get to pay less to play better games, and potentially play a bigger breadth of games rather than being stuck with 2 or 3 $60 games. Sort of like how you can go buy singles on iTunes instead of buying entire albums when you only care for the first couple songs.

        Episodic gaming could put control firmly in
        • "Maybe I'm in the minority, but I disagree. Episodic gaming could hypothetically work a lot like Agile Programming. Shorter development cycles means quicker feedback means better products. As a gamer, you get to pay less to play better games, and potentially play a bigger breadth of games rather than being stuck with 2 or 3 $60 games. Sort of like how you can go buy singles on iTunes instead of buying entire albums when you only care for the first couple songs."

          I totally agree!! I think they should take it
    • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

      I for one will not chastise a company that pushes a release date back, even this far, in order to make a quality product. I've played far too many games that are bugged, crash, some won't even install correctly. I've played several that are easier to pirate because piracy removed a lot of the problems I was having (I still own a copy however). I've said it before and I'll say it again. If the product is worth it (as half-life 2 certainly is), I'm willing to wait the time it takes to make it perfect. Do I w
    • Re: (Score:2, Informative)

      by JayDot ( 920899 )
      So far my favorite "episodic" release has been Guild Wars. They've released three major, stand-alone titles in 18 months, plus a high-level "expansion pack". All have been top-quality.
    • Yep. Even before, Valve as good as admitted before that episodes aren't working as they expected. They wanted to put release them at 6-9 month intervals. Ep2 now comes at about 15 months after Ep1, which was itself delayed twice.

      I don't mind the slow development. Episode One featured improved graphics and top-notch gameplay, was well worth it. I'd much rather have that than a mediocre episode after 6 months. But then again, maybe it'd be better to delay even further and create a full sequel. There's a trilo
      • by Kelbear ( 870538 )
        I don't think 15 months is required to generate the content for 6-odd hours of gameplay on a completed engine. I think the extra time stems from the technology updates they've been incorporating and in the case of Ep2, bundling it with two ofter software products that have all-new implementations, so the the timing here is all wrong.

        If they had just made content, I suspect they would have met their original timeline, but trying to cram in additional engine work on this product and bundled products has bogge
    • either work on upgrading the engine, or work on the episodic content, not both at the same time

      You're right on the money here. The story mentions Valve meeting with Telltale and Blizzard like there's some secret weapon to releasing episodic content on time. There is no secret weapon, Valve, there's just common sense and effective time management. In both cases, the companies stuck with an established engine and concentrated only on content between episode releases. This obviates the need for numerous, ti

    • I think Valve's main problem is that they were working on OTHER projects too (Portal, TF2).

      I mean, I PREFER having more games from Valve, but I think the proper way to do episodic content is to channel as much energy (ie staff working on it) as possible to shorten the development time. But like I said, I'm really looking forward to Portal and TF2 is a lot of fun. Quite frankly, it's harder to do episodic with a FPS rather than something like Sam and Max. Sam and Max reuses some of its main locations, w

      • by Guspaz ( 556486 )
        Valve isn't a small company. They have multiple teams, and they work on different projects. TF2 was ready before Episode 2, and it would seem that Portal was finished quite some time ago. Episode 2 is what has been holding everything back, so it would seem that not having TF2/Portal probably wouldn't have sped up the release.
    • by akypoon ( 258201 )
      Agree. I still remember I bought HL2 + CS Source a year ago for $29.99. I was anticipating a bundled release of both Ep.1 and Ep.2, so I didn't bother to buy Ep.1 from store or get it from Steam. But another year passed and still no sign of Ep.2. (What gives?)

      I liked Valve's release model at the beginning since $19.99 per year for a renewable experience of HL2 is a reasonable deal to me. But now that Valve fails to deliver, I wonder if I should even bother with Ep.1 now.
    • by Chabo ( 880571 )
      I think you don't realize that they have different employees doing different jobs already. The engine coders aren't going to be doing any map design in the near future, or vice versa.
  • by DarrenBaker ( 322210 ) <darren@f[ ].net ['lim' in gap]> on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:27AM (#20766265) Homepage

    Valve plans to sit down with the community and figure out what is working and what's not.
    Are... Are you breaking up with me?
  • by Trevelyan ( 535381 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:27AM (#20766269)

    All I can say that the Orange Box promotion is a slap in the face for those of us that already have Half-Life 2 and Episode 1.

    I see no sign of a Episode 2+Portal+Team Fortress (ie no HL2+E1) promotion (and pre-order discount), and who wants to pay for the same content twice?

    I maybe wrong, but if so, then Steam has done a poor job of advertising any alternative promotions. Especially considering it already knows what games I own.

    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by W2k ( 540424 )
      When you buy the OB, you get gift certificates for HL2 and HL2:Ep1 if you already own those games. I would probably have bought it even if it meant paying for those games twice; the $45 it cost are easily worth it for HL2:Ep2, Portal and TF2 alone.
    • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:34AM (#20766335)
      It's only an insult if you let it be. You -knew- that the price would come down if you waited. If you wait long enough, the price comes to down almost nothing. In this case, it came down to exactly nothing, if you purchase the Orange Box. (Orange Box is $50, the price of a new game, and includes 3 new games, even if one is just an episode.)

      You paid to play it when it came out, and all the time up until Orange Box is released. If you feel like you were cheated, DON'T BUY NEW GAMES. This will happen every single time. The price ALWAYS comes down eventually. You will, of course, miss the best years of the product's life, especially online. That's up to you.

      So buy it or don't, but don't claim you've been cheated. No, the truth is, the people that waited have a small bonus.
      • You were aware of the black box and what happened to that BEFORE you wrote your post defending the Orange Box, weren't you?
        • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
          No, but I don't really see that it matters. At the time Black Box was cancelled, Orange Box was scheduled for $60. Now it's $50. (For PC, which is the only place Black Box was going to exist anyhow.)

          The fact that you can't buy just Ep2 does show that either Valve has given up on episodic content, or they really have no bloody idea what it means. Since this article is about them begging customers and competitors for information on what they're doing wrong, I'm going to guess it's the latter.

          I don't like
          • by Guspaz ( 556486 )
            You can buy just Episode 2, or at least you will once it's out. Steam lists the price as $30. That would seem to invalidate your main point.
            • The fact that they're charging $30 for an EPISODE shows that they have no clue as to what they should charge or how often new content should be released.

              Count me a disappointed former valve fan.
      • by Cius ( 918707 )
        Yea, good idea man! Let's all wait till the price comes down to buy new games! If we all wait, then the best years of that game's online life will be when it costs us next to nothing and we can *all* get in on the pwnage! And we'll also show these greedy corporations what for, because they'll get no sales on that 5+ development years, multi-billion dollar project they're pushing! Next time they'll *know* not to price it so high at launch and pretty soon *all* games will come out at bargain basement pric
        • by Aladrin ( 926209 )
          Go ahead, but don't bitch when nobody follows you. The rest of us find the prices acceptable and will continue to pay them. That's how the free market works.

          I was tempted to find your post to be sarcastic, but that would mean you hadn't bothered to actually read more than a few words of mine... So I had to choose ignorant and sarcastic, or just plain stupid. I chose the latter.
      • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

        by SpryGuy ( 206254 )
        We were promised at the time EP1 came out (and was purchased) that a separate, individual EP2 would come out in 6-9 months for the same cost (under $20).

        So yes, it is an insult. We were lied to. They failed to keep their promises. And if we had known that our choice would be limited to just this "orange box" back then, I woudln't have bothered buying EP1 at the time.

        They're out to screw their loyal customers, pure and simple. There's no other explaination for it. Why the hell did they cancel the "black
      • And to build on this point, if $50 for Episode 2 and HL2 and whateverelse feels like too much, wait a couple months and get it for $20.
    • by Kelz ( 611260 )
      Meh, I've pre-ordered it and I can say I'd personally pay $50 for just TF2 (being a broke college student, that does kinda have some weight). Its fun, and its a lot of fucking content for $50. Can't wait for portal.
      • I was thinking the same thing, that TF2 is worth the $50. It is weird that everyone is bitching so much. TF2 will cost $60 by itself on the consoles, so would Portal if released for consoles. I may not like the way they bundled the games, but the fact is, the price is cheap for everything you are getting. Damn cheap, AND you can give away two games and yes, so they can drum up new biz.

        Still: What you pay vs. what you get, it is a very good deal. Perhaps their marketing of the price is bad, but the dea
      • by Nos. ( 179609 )

        It was a bit of a slap in the face. From one point of view, people without HL2 are getting more benefit. That being said, I did purchase the Orange Box and am loving the beta of TF2. I'm anxiously awaiting Portal as well, but $45 for TF2 is not an outrageous price, and bundled with two other games (okay, one is an episode), just makes it that much better.

        For some, that may be too steep for what's included. That's fine. Heck, even some people who've paid are having issues with lockups, though last nigh

    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      People keep saying this, and it keeps not making sense.

      If you want 2 or more of the things bundled in the Orange Box, it's a good deal. Any 2. Look at the individual prices, and the bundle price... there are 3 new products there, for the price of 2. There are also two older products bundled in as well, which you may already own. They're not going to hurt you in any way -- they're free.

      Imagine you're buying a car. It's a car you like, and it's on sale for 30% off, and they give you a free hat with it. But yo
    • by adagioforstrings ( 192285 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @08:11AM (#20766731)
      Well, unlike the other folks here, I agree with you. The "Black Box" was the set that contained only the three games you mentioned. Valve eliminated it because stores apparently didn't want two SKUs for basically the same thing. The list price for the three we don't have is $80, but consider that Episode 2 is priced $10 (50%!) higher than Episode 1, and the other two games are arguably $5-$10 higher than similar products in the past. I probably won't play TF2 much just because I don't have time for multiplayer anymore. Who knows how much of a game Portal is. I've prepurchased all the new Valve games in the past, but this time it's just a little hard for me to swallow. I may actually wait for reviews this time before purchasing. If someone else feels like they get the value out of it, then fine, but I'm not sure I will.
    • Honestly, there is the "Black Box" on Steam. Though, I don't care. Steam is horrible. Not being able to play a game because I don't have internet that is Single Player is evil. Also, what if they go out of business? (I hope not, but it happens) Will they send us all a CD/DVD version of every game I bought from them? What if my machine then crashes and I don't have the content anymore? I would much rather buy a CD/DVD version of a game than download it. I don't know if I'm going to get EP2 when it comes out
      • Not being able to play a game because I don't have internet that is Single Player is evil.

        Apparently they have this offline [steampowered.com] mode which allows you to do just that...
    • by Rhaban ( 987410 )
      I felt exactly the same way ten years ago, when I bought Duke Nukem 3D and there was duke nukem I & II included in the box, and I already had both. I wanted to buy only one game for a third of the box price, but it was not possible. Greedy bastards. More recently, I wanted a refund for a cd I bought, because almost every single note had already been used by the same group on they previous album. They said I could not buy only the new notes.
    • by antdude ( 79039 )
      I posted a newgroup thread about this recently. You can see the conversation on Google Groups [google.com]. I am going to hold off my purchase unless I see it for really cheap. I am also upset with this bundle.
    • by SpryGuy ( 206254 )
      Even worse, there's no "Half-Life 2: Episode 2" ONLY packaging, for those of us who don't give a flying fig about Team Fortress 2, will never play it, and don't want to pay for it.

  • As long as there's a full no-Steam way to get/use it, frequently updated (or just less than the TF to sequel) content is fine.
  • by PJ1216 ( 1063738 ) * on Thursday September 27, 2007 @07:53AM (#20766547)
    In my opinion, fewer original games are coming out. Episodic content for great games is fine. Half-Life is an example of this. However, I think thats an exception in an ongoing trend in video games. I think fewer and fewer games are coming out that are even worthwhile purchasing as opposed to renting. There just aren't that many games that are coming out that are newsworthy. Bio-shock and Halo 3 are some examples of games worth buying. PS3 hasn't had any yet in my opinion (and if they don't real soon, they might as well go the way of sega). Even Wii doesn't have that many (It's doing so well just because of the gameplay, but when it comes down to it, it just has a bunch of games that are fun, but not that many that are as engrossing as Bio-shock or to name a classic, Final Fantasy VII.)

    It just seems like gaming has gone the same route as movies. Yea, some sequels are decent, but a majority of the ones that come out are never as great as the original. Then on top of that, there are fewer and fewer movies being made that are worth seeing more than once. yea, they're entertaining the first time, but no replay value.

    Unfortunately, I think we've hit a downward slope in terms of games as an art.

    I think they need to get to more original content. yea, some people might be upset because some of these continuing stories are really great, but I can't see anyone ever keeping that up. Eventually they'll start making bad ones because only so much can happen in a storyline that is exciting. Writers eventually run out of ideas. Then the franchise is ruined and everybody will complain. Its better leaving on a high note, then dragging it out until no one wants it.

    Hopefully I got my point across. Kind of tired and I may have rambled a bit. =P
    • As a casual gamer, I don't necessarily mind that gameplay isn't progressing that fast. The problem in my mind is the price. There are many "non-blockbuster" games on Steam that I've come close to purchasing but decided not to at the last minute. Around $20 would be get me to complete the transaction. $40-$50 always seems to break the deal. There would probably be 15 games in my online account instead of two if the price was lower.

      The decision isn't due to factors like the delivery method; whether the o
    • by hocrap ( 167178 )

      The Game industry is mature now and the players are known. The game industry, just like the movie and the music industry, tries to lower their risks or at least controls it because they are run by technocrats. The passionates or the craftsmans are not in control anymore, it's the technocrats' turn and they are trying to improve the bottom line by tuning the processes and sticking to things they know work (duplicating the same recipes).

      Over time, new players will arrive to grab some p
  • Six month release cycle. Three hours of content. $10 / episode. Stand-alone (no package deals).
  • by spyrochaete ( 707033 ) on Thursday September 27, 2007 @09:18AM (#20767393) Homepage Journal
    I much prefer the way Telltale did their episodic series to Valve's. If I recall, the second Sam and Max episode came out a little late, but all the rest were either on time or early. A month between episodes was the perfect length - my excitement from the last episode hadn't cooled by the time the next one came out. Having the option to buy all episodes in advance for a greatly reduced price was a much better idea than Orange box, which would have been a great deal 3 years ago. Telltale even made a gorgeous retail DVD box available to season subscribers for merely the cost of shipping, and it was packed with tons of content not included in the digital downloads. Very timely, classy, and professional.

    I love Half Life and I really love Episode One. I hate how long it was in development and would rather have played it a year sooner with no HDR. The again, Valve's releases are near-immaculate and the developer commentary hints at how much painstaking care they put into their games, so I've learned not to wish too hard that they rush their releases. Still, it's been YEARS since the last episode and if for some reason Episode Two never came out I'd hardly miss it at this point.
    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Bieeanda ( 961632 )
      I imagine that Telltale is also a smaller outfit and coming up with jokes and storylines aside, the S&M engine is easier to bolt things onto and script for. Scene-based adventure games are doubtlessly easier to develop on a technical level, since there are far fewer places for the player to sneak under the world or exploit AI.

      That said, something like S&M, or the CSI games that Telltale puts out too, are [i]perfect[/i] for episodic gaming. Shooters have gone so far beyond the days of Wolf3D and Do

      • Very good points. Some genres lend themselves better to episodic serials than others, and I'd much rather play a good shooter than a merely recent one. It's really the label "episode" that frustrates me when it comes to Half Life. I wish they'd developed episodes one through three as Half Life 3 or as an expansion pack. Instead I'll have ended up spending about $80 on expansions that combined are shorter than the $50 original.
        • by Chabo ( 880571 )
          Then you would've ended up with HL2 coming out in 2004, and HL3 coming out in 2008 or 2009. Personally, I'm happier with Ep1 in 2006 and Ep2 in 2007.
    • Uh, it's been only a little over 1 year since Episode 1 came out, and Episode 2 comes out in under 2 weeks.

      Episode 2 was promised to us on a much more aggressive schedule, but if you've played TF2 you can see the amount of care they've put into it. Well worth the wait IMO, even if the TF2 wait was agonizing.
      • You're right - it's only been a bit more than a year. I had my dates confused since Episode 2 was due to come out before Episode 1 ended up being released. I was incredibly impressed with Ep1 and vowed to never wish that Valve would hurry up and release after thoroughly enjoying the fine polish on that expansion and all their games. Still, even a year is a hell of a long time to wait for the continuation of the story which will, I'm sure, pose more new questions than it answers.

        And I'm with you 100% o
    • by Chabo ( 880571 )
      I doubt that the release date could've been moved up simply with the non-inclusion of HDR.
      • I'm oversimplifying, of course, but HDR did take a heck of a long time to implement. Valve says in the Episode One commentary that they're not planning to implement HDR in the original Half Life 2 because it took so very, very long to assign luminosity levels to objects and shadows and light sources.
        • Valve says in the Episode One commentary that they're not planning to implement HDR in the original Half Life 2 because it took so very, very long to assign luminosity levels to objects and shadows and light sources.

          I played a bit of an HDR-ified Half-Life 2 at Valve back in June. I think it's what will be used for the Xbox 360 and Playstation 3 versions of the game included with the Orange Box - they had no idea what would be done with it regarding the PC.

          But quietly from me, you're not really missing anyt

          • I can think of a few areas in HL2 that would benefit nicely from HDR, like some long dark tunnels you drive through with the car. Episode One really did benefit from HDR as a game mechanic, though. The reactor room you have to restabilize is so incredibly bright that you really have to sit a minute and let your "eyes" adjust before you walk across various narrow beams and moving platforms. I'm no level designer but I stopped and marvelled much longer than I needed to in that area. The first time I saw t
  • 1st problem: Developer and/or Publisher fail to commit to the series over the long haul, for example Ritual entertainment was sold off before a second episode of SIN could be made, its a shame to because the first episode was pretty good in my opinion. I basically feel ripped off that I paid for SIN: Emergence, and will never get to complete the full game. 2nd problem: Episodic games are not being delivered in a timely manner. If I am going to pay a premium for continous episodes... I want one every 6
  • I reinstalled Half-Life 2 the other day and fired up Steam, and I'm finding that I really like the way it's set up, some small issues notwithstanding. I bought Episode One, and played through it while waiting for Bioshock, and I have to say I like the idea of episodic releases. The only problem is the cost. Half-Life 2 was about $60. Episode One ended up being around $20 or so. I would gladly pay $20 per 8-hour episode if the entry cost wasn't so high.

    So here's an idea. Rather than sell a game like HL2 as-i
    • by Chabo ( 880571 )
      It just occurs to me that it seems a little strange as a consumer to pay $60 for one game, and then pay $60 for another game that is using the exact same technology and is essentially a modification of existing software.

      Map-making isn't trivial, that's why.
  • Now don't get me wrong. Valve is great, HL and HL2 are my all-time favorite games, and I don't even mind the "orange box" package. That said, given the long wait for ep1 and ep2 (shorter, I admit, than the wait for hl2), and the bundling with ep2, I think it's a stretch for Valve to claim they have much experience with episodic releases. Maybe the discussion should be more centered around whether Value can even do episodic releases.
  • I love episodic gaming, and am very much looking forward to Bioware's release of Witch's Wake episode 2 [bioware.com].

    It's perhaps instructive to think about some of the things that happened in the world since episode 1 was released in Dec. 2004:

    • W. Mark Felt was confirmed to be Watergate's "Deep Throat"
    • Michael Jackson was found not guilty of child molestation charges
    • Lance Armstrong retired after winning his seventh Tour de France
    • The Xbox 360, PS 3 and Wii were released

    And for those Bioware boys in Edmonton:

  • I think the problems Valve is having with episodic gaming are fairly obvious.

    First, build a robust graphics engine and don't touch it at all over the course of the series. I don't really understand why people at Valve felt the need to start tinkering with the graphics engine for each episode. In essence what they've done is build a new game each time.

    Secondly, I think they should be working off templates. From what I've seen it looks like the Half-Life episodes feature distinct environments from the origina
    • by Chabo ( 880571 )
      I think you're a little mistaken on the game-design process, on a few different points.

      -Programmers do not make maps. If they're making a new episode with the same engine, the programmers would basically not have anything to do, except minor bug fixes.
      -Maps designed using templates would all look the same, and would therefore be boring.
      -"Not touching" the engine would lead to stagnation, where the game would not be using current hardware to its fullest extent. Do you want Valve to continue using the Half-li
  • Is that what it means on the box?! Every time I see it I looked at it and said "only episode one? where is two?" I would see different box art. I really didn't know what to think, and I never looked into it. Seems like a confusing model from anyone but those following the gaming industry, specifically these titles. On a related note: It almost sounds like Blizzard. "We are going to charge you an arm and a leg for the first half of the game, and if you want to see how it "sort of ends" you will need to buy t

They are called computers simply because computation is the only significant job that has so far been given to them.