Oh, to imagine what could’ve been. On one side, there’s Warren Spector, the legendary producer and game designer who contributed to Wing Commander, Thief: The Dark Project, and a murderer’s row of popular tabletop RPGs, before going on to create the action-RPG hybrid, Deus Ex. On the other, there’s Valve, the studio responsible for Steam, Portal, and Left 4 Dead. And they would’ve worked together, if Mickey Mouse hadn’t gotten in the way.
In fact, not only were Spector and Valve going to team up, but they were collaborating on Valve’s crown jewel, Half-Life 2. According to a new interview with Game Informer, Spector and his now-defunct studio Junction Point were working on a new “episode of Half-Life 2″ before Disney ruined everything. Given that the last entry in the Half-Life series, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, ended on a massive cliffhanger, and that Half-Life 3 is arguably the most desired game of all time, it’s easy to understand why that’s heartbreaking news.
The collaboration between Valve and Junction Point began when the latter was brand new and struggling to find its place in the game industry. “Valve actually stepped in and saved us,” Spector says. “[Valve] was really into episodic content at that point. We were working on an episode that would fill in one of the gaps in the Half-Life story.” That implies that development began in 2005 or 2006, roughly the same time that Spector opened Junction Point. Valve released Half-Life 2: Episode One in 2006, and Half-Life 2: Episode Two in 2007.
It’s not clear if Junction Point’s Half-Life episode would’ve been Half-Life 2: Episode 3 or another project set in Half-Life continuity; either way, it sounds like it would’ve been pretty cool. Spector sounds particularly proud of a new tool that Junction Point dubbed the Magnet Gun. Spector says, “We came up with so many cool ways to use a magnet gun that were completely different from anything [Valve] had done and was really freeform in its use… I still wish they would do something with [it].”
Junction Point worked on their Half-Life episode “for a year, maybe even two,” before Disney approved the game that ultimately became Epic Mickey. With a new studio and a small development team, Spector had to choose between the two projects. The choice was easy. “I just couldn’t say no to Disney,” Spector says, “I’d always wanted to work there, so we never completed the work with Valve.”
As fans know, Half-Life 2: Episode Two marks the unofficial end of the series – for now, at any rate – and Spector seems skeptical that any more episodes would’ve come out even if Junction Point remained involved. Near the end of their time together, Spector says that “Valve was rethinking their episodic plan, anyway.” Epic Mickey went on to sell about 2 million copies, and spawned a poorly received sequel. Junction Point closed in 2013; Spector now teaches game design at the University of Texas.
Source: Game Informer