In a recent email conversation, the former writer of the Half-Life series Marc Laidlaw confirmed that the cancelled Junction Point Studios' Half-Life 2 episode and Arkane Studios' Return to Ravenholm were the same project. According to Laidlaw, Gabe Newell offered the idea to Warren Spector first. When they couldn't do it, it was passed along to Arkane Studios who started again from scratch. Neither of these attempts got far enough to develop a story.
In Half-Life 2, Ravenholm is depicted as a dark and dreary zombie-infested town with a series of claustrophobic streets, teetering buildings, and an oppressive sky. Before the events of the game, it was an old mining settlement inhabited by refugees from City 17 until the Combine discovered and bombarded it with Headcrab Shells. The only survivor of the attack is the pastor of the town's church, Father Grigori, who helps the player throughout the chapter.
In the May 2006 issue of PC Gamer (US) magazine, there is an interview with Gabe Newell in which he talks about the future of the Half-Life series and episodic gaming. In this interview, Newell revealed that there was going to be a fourth Half-Life 2 episode with its own standalone plot developed outside of the company. Much later, in an email conversation from September of 2008, Newell declared that this specific project was no longer going to happen.
Junction Point Studios
In November of 2004, game industry veterans Warren Spector and Art Min left Ion Storm to form Junction Point Studios, an independent video game development company. During this era, they spent much of their time on conceptualizing ideas and trying to find funding partners until the company was acquired by Disney in July of 2007.
In December of 2005, the company announced they were working with Valve on a new game using the Source Engine to be delivered via Valve's digital distribution platform, Steam. This was later revealed to be a cancelled Half-Life 2 episode. The company had a previous project that was cancelled, leaving them with no remaining funds. Valve stepped in and saved them by offering them the opportunity to work on a Half-Life spin off.
The game was to introduce a new weapon called the Magnet Gun which went through several iterations. In one version, the player was able to fire a sticky magnetic ball at a remote surface that would attract metal objects, a twist on the Gravity Gun's mechanics. It had both combat and puzzle solving applications.
On March 24, 2017, a Facepunch Forums member leaked map files created for the Half-Life 2 episodes. This pack also included "styleguide_ravenholm_01", a snow-themed Ravenholm level with references to Spector's Half-Life work. In this map, the Combine attacks a group of rebels residing in the town. The player would wake up in a room with two unique characters named Duncan and Scooter. It is implied that the player crashes into a warehouse in a gondola lift. You can check out the attached text file below for further information.
In the November 2017 issue of PC Gamer (UK) magazine, Spector confirmed that the game was to take place in Ravenholm to tell the story of how the town became as it was in Half-Life 2, an aspect that he believed was underdeveloped and that fans would really enjoy. In addition to fleshing out the setting, they wanted to see more of Father Grigori and the origins behind his character.
According to Spector, the company had just figured out how to use the Source engine and get the most out of it when Valve cancelled the project. Spector stated that he believed Valve was rethinking their episodic plan at the time and had decided to move in another direction. Valve passed along the development opportunity of a new Ravenholm-themed Half-Life 2 episode to Arkane.
In May of 2011, a group of hackers gained access to Eidos' websites and leaked numerous resumes of job applicants. This included a resume of a developer who worked at Arkane Studios, a French video game development company. According to this resume, Valve approached Arkane to help develop a sequel to the Half-Life 2 episodes. Starting in 2006, they worked on the project for a full year before Valve decided to put their episodic efforts on hold.
In January of 2012, Laidlaw revealed the story behind the project. He remarked that Valve were big fans of Arkane and wanted to come up with a project that they could work on together. Based on Valve's ideas, Arkane built some early game material, but they eventually decided that it didn't make sense to pursue it at the time as they felt many of the staples of Ravenholm, including Headcrabs and Zombies, had already been heavily played out by that point. In addition, the game would have to take place sometime before the end of Episode Two, which was a creative constraint for the project and the company.
Over the years, more information and media has surfaced. Described as a very interesting character, the game was to introduce a new protagonist, as well as many more experimental gameplay ideas. In one of the demo reels, there is a footage of a Citizen who acts like one of the infected zombies from Valve's Left 4 Dead series. Some of the screenshots show a HUD element for something called Absorption. It is unknown what this refers to.
According to Arkane's former president Raphael Colantonio, their first game Arx Fatalis had not sold well but was a favorite amongst game developers, including Valve employees Marc Laidlaw and Robin Walker. This led them to Valve.
In addition to Return to Ravenholm, the company released Dark Messiah, an action game with role-playing elements, powered by Valve's Source Engine. They also worked with Valve on The Crossing, another Source Engine project, which was covered in one of our videos by our former content creator Nick.
Hayri "Barnz" Yurdakul and Rikki "Marphy Black" D'Angelo
Jonathan Ewald for his email conversation with Marc Laidlaw
Maarten Frooninckx for the screenshots
 Gamers at Work: Stories Behind the Games People Play by Morgan Ramsay (2012)
 PC Gamer (UK), November 2017 issue
Earlier today, Valve added eight new private videos to the taunts playlist on Team Fortress 2's official YouTube channel. Shortly after this discovery, one of our contacts, who wishes to remain anonymous, managed to extract the thumbnails of these videos and sent them to us.
October 9, 2017 -- Valve, creator of Steam and SteamVR, a leading platform for games and virtual reality (VR) applications, today announced the availability of new core components needed by VR hardware manufacturers to deliver best in class VR systems.
Complementing the existing free license for sub-millimeter room-scale tracking and input technology, today's news marks the addition of other critical pieces for developing state-of-the-art VR hardware: an advanced optical system, manufacturing and calibration tools, and the supporting software stack to unify the hardware into an optimal user experience.
"World class VR requires highly precise tracking, matched optics and display technologies, and a software stack that weaves together the interactions between these components," said Jeremy Selan of Valve. "For the first time, we're making all of these technologies available to anyone who wants to build a best in class VR system for the millions of Steam customers accessing over 2,000 SteamVR compatible titles."
About the Display and Optics Technology
Valve has spent years working closely with display manufacturers to adapt their technologies to the unique challenges of VR. Recent advancements in Liquid Crystal Display (LCD) technology combined with VR specific calibration now make it a viable technology choice for high end VR systems. LCD manufacturers have demonstrated fast-switching liquid crystals, low persistence backlights, and high PPI displays that, when calibrated and paired with the right software, are well matched to the highest quality VR experiences. Of course, organic light-emitting diode (OLED) display technology was critical to the first generation of VR (being first to demonstrate fast transition times and low-persistence illumination), and it remains an excellent option for new head mounted displays (HMDs). While both display technologies have inherent artifacts unique to head-mounted usage, Valve provides custom hardware and software manufacturing solutions as part of the SteamVR technology suite to enable high quality visual VR experiences.
In addition, Valve has developed custom lenses that work with both LCD and OLED display technologies and is making these lenses available to purchase for use in SteamVR compatible HMDs. These lenses and Valve's unique calibration and correction software are designed specifically to be paired with several off-the-shelf VR displays to enable the highest quality VR visual experiences. These optical solutions currently support a field of view between 85 and 120 degrees (depending on the display). The lenses, which are designed to support the next generation of room-scale virtual reality, optimize the user's perceived tracking experience and image sharpness while reducing stray light. Valve is including the custom lens calibration and correction software within the SteamVR technology suite.
Finally, Valve continues to offer full room-scale, sub-millimeter tracking technology by providing a reference design for the "Watchman" tracking module and by offering Valve manufactured base stations with SteamVR Tracking 2.0 technology for sale to licensees.
For more information about VR technology licensing, please see http://partner.steamgames.com/vrlicensing
The Adventures of Dank and Scud was a fan comic series based around the game Quake created by Michael Houston. The sixth and the final issue, "It's a Wonderful Half-Life", featured Valve's Half-Life and was released on November 13, 1998. In the comic, the protagonist duo, Dank and Scud, find themselves back on Earth only to be caught in the middle of an experiment gone terribly wrong. Before the release of Half-Life, Houston was invited to Valve to create an issue based on the game. To commemorate the 20th anniversary, Houston created a new website and added audio commentary to his comics. In the commentary, Houston talks about how he was invited to Valve to work on the comic.
Valve artist Drew Wolf's new website reveals Team Fortress 2's female cast, a Dota 2 cartoon, and concept art for multiple projects. For more information and images, you can click on associated links under project names.
• Team Fortress 2 - Alternate Characters
• Dota 2 - Cartoon
• Dota 2 - The Last Castle (Comic)
• Dota 2 - Heroes
• Dota 2 - Hero Illustrations
• Dota 2 - Items
• Dota 2 - Aegis of Champions
• The Lab - Xortex
• Valve - Character Designs (Artifact)
• Valve - Graphic Illustrations
• Valve - Update Pages
• Untitled Fantasy Game - Characters (may or may not be a Valve project)
• Untitled Fantasy Game - Creatures (same as above)
Team Fortress 2 - Alternate Characters
An internal pitch project aimed to bring female characters to the cast of Team Fortress 2.
I was responsible for story, character development and visual design. With the exception of their class function, It was important that each design presented an entirely new character. I wanted to these characters to live on their own and add dimension to the current roster of in-game characters. The goal of the project was to dive deep into possibilities and facilitate creative discussion.
Dota 2 - Cartoon
Character designs from a Dota related cartoon.
The goal of this work was to develop a streamlined visual style that would translate well into a 2D animated feature or series. This work was a crucial in between step from in-game assets to final 2D model sheets. I also used the character art to develop lighting and direction for shot locations.
Dota 2 - The Last Castle (Comic)
Dota 2 - Heroes
Dota 2 - Hero Illustrations
Dota 2 - Items
Dota 2 - Aegis of Champions
The Lab - Xortex
Valve - Character Designs (Artifact)
Valve developer Jeep Barnett confirmed that these images were created for Valve's Artifact.
Early designs for characters that were intended to to expand the Dota universe. Each piece was intended to serve as both concept art and promotional art.
Valve - Graphic Illustrations
Valve - Update Pages
Untitled Fantasy Game - Characters
Warning: We don't know if these images were created for a possible Valve project or not. We'll contact Drew Wolf and update the thread.
Character development for an internal R&D project. The project was a fantasy adventure game centered around cooperative combat and driven by story.
Development of these characters started with a round of loose sketches. The goal was to present as many groups of four adventures as possible in order to establish a diverse cast of archetypal characters. After discussion and feedback the group was paired down to ten characters. They would become the projects main characters.
During the development I created a mood sketch for each character. They were done in a classic sci-fi/fantasy book cover. Each sketch represents a slice of the world each character came from as well as a hint at who they are and what they do. This collateral art helped convey the direction quickly and facilitate creative discussion for each character.
Untitled Fantasy Game - Creatures
Warning: We don't know if these images were created for a possible Valve project or not. We'll contact Drew Wolf and update the thread.
Creature development for an internal R&D project. The project was a fantasy adventure game centered around cooperative combat and driven by story.
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