We think it's official people: we're not getting Half-Life 3, Half-Life 2 Episode 3, or any other Half-Life project from Valve anytime soon. Apart from any other reason, such as Valve not being in the games development business anymore and all their writers having left, one of those writers Marc Laidlaw has just posted the entire story of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 on his blog. Since the traffic from literally the entire internet rushing to his blog has sent it crashing down, here's a copy.
The original version is gender-swapped and lightly disguised, featuring such characters as "Gertrude Freemont" and "Alex Vaunt", although the linked Pastebin version has all been corrected so it's just literally the synopsis for Half-Life 2: Episode 3. It's definitely not long enough to be Half-Life 3, and we're pretty sure Valve never truly planned that game whereas Episode 3 was always on the cards and should've been fairly easy to do (for a talented company like Valve).
Here's an extract from the corrected version, which if you notice Laidlaw has written in the form of a correspondence from Gordon Freeman/Gertie Freemont. This would've have been the beginning of Episode 3 following the cliffhanger ending of Episode 2:
"We had the Antarctic coordinates, transmitted by Eli's long-time assistant, Dr. Judith Mossman, which we believed to mark the location of the lost luxury liner Borealis. Eli had felt strongly that the Borealis should be destroyed rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Combine. Others on our team disagreed, believing that the Borealis might hold the secret to the revolution’s success. Either way, the arguments were moot until we found the vessel. Therefore, immediately after the service for Dr. Vance, Alyx and I boarded a seaplane and set off for the Antarctic; a much larger support team, mainly militia, was to follow by separate transport."
The Borealis was an experiment in space and time conducted by Black Mesa rivals Aperture Science, who the Portal games are based around. It was introduced in Half-Life 2: Episode 2 and was referenced in Portal 2. Reading the synopsis it was clear Valve and Laidlaw intended the hunt for the Borealis to be the driving force behind the game. The story would have concluded with a vision of the Combine in the form of a huge Dyson Sphere, the G-Man taking Alyx rather than Gordon, and Gordon Freeman being returned to Earth many years later by the Vortigaunts - similar to the time gap between Half-Life 1 and 2. This would've been how Half-Life 3 began, although the "Epistle 3" as Laidlaw calls it suggests that Valve may have already considered stopping the Half-Life series there.
We will never truly know why Half-Life 2: Episode 3 was cancelled. The slightly underwhelming Episodes 1 and 2, both of which took way too long to make, may have been a cause, along with all the other exciting projects Valve had in store such as Left 4 Dead, Portal 2, and building the Steam platform. By the time Portal 2 was completed it was too late to just do another mission pack, the standards would have been stratospherically high for another Half-Life, and Valve were already making far too much money just from Steam to worry about game development.
But with the synopsis out there, it's on the fan community. Go on modders, we're challenging you: make Half-Life 2: Episode 3, as Marc Laidlaw described, and make it good. Bonus points for keeping the gender swaps.
Here's the final words of the "epistle", which may or may not introduce Half-Life 3, but certainly seems to be meta commentary on
Valve from Marc Laidlaw:
"It's surprising to see how much the terrain has changed. Enough time has passed that few remember me, or what I was saying when last I spoke, or what precisely we hoped to accomplish. At this point, the resistance will have failed or succeeded, no thanks to me. Old friends have been silenced, or fallen by the wayside. I no longer know or recognize most members of the research team, though I believe the spirit of rebellion still persists. I expect you know better than I the appropriate course of action, and I leave you to it. Except no further correspondence from me regarding these matters; this is my final epistle."