Marc Laidlaw has released his Half-Life Episode 3 plot

The dream is dead.

If that link doesn’t work, here’s the text:

Epistle 3
08-25-2017 2:05 AM

Dearest Playa,

I hope this letter finds you well. I can hear your complaint already, “Gertie Fremont, we have not heard from you in ages!” Well, if you care to hear excuses, I have plenty, the greatest of them being I’ve been in other dimensions and whatnot, unable to reach you by the usual means. This was the case until eighteen months ago, when I experienced a critical change in my circumstances, and was redeposited on these shores. In the time since, I have been able to think occasionally about how best to describe the intervening years, my years of silence. I do first apologize for the wait, and that done, hasten to finally explain (albeit briefly, quickly, and in very little detail) events following those described in my previous letter (referred to herewith as Epistle 2).

To begin with, as you may recall from the closing paragraphs of my previous missive, the death of Elly Vaunt shook us all. The Research & Rebellion team was traumatized, unable to be sure how much of our plan might be compromised, and whether it made any sense to go on at all as we had intended. And yet, once Elly had been buried, we found the strength and courage to regroup. It was the strong belief of her brave son, the feisty Alex Vaunt, that we should continue on as his mother had wished. We had the Antarctic coordinates, transmitted by Elly’s long-time assistant, Dr. Jerry Maas, which we believed to mark the location of the lost luxury liner Hyperborea. Elly had felt strongly that the Hyperborea should be destroyed rather than allow it to fall into the hands of the Disparate. Others on our team disagreed, believing that the Hyperborea 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. Vaunt, Alex and I boarded a seaplane and set off for the Antarctic; a much larger support team, mainly militia, was to follow by separate transport.

It is still unclear to me exactly what brought down our little aircraft. The following hours spent traversing the frigid waste in a blizzard are also a jumbled blur, ill-remembered and poorly defined. The next thing I clearly recall is our final approach to the coordinates Dr. Maas has provided, and where we expected to find the Hyperborea. What we found instead was a complex fortified installation, showing all the hallmarks of sinister Disparate technology. It surrounded a large open field of ice. Of the Hypnos itself there was no sign…or not at first. But as we stealthily infiltrated the Disparate installation, we noticed a recurent, strangely coherent auroral effect–as of a vast hologram fading in and out of view. This bizarre phenomenon initially seemed an effect caused by an immense Disparate lensing system, Alex and I soon realized that what we were actually seeing was the luxury liner Hyperborea itself, phasing in and out of existence at the focus of the Disparate devices. The aliens had erected their compound to study and seize the ship whenever it materialized. What Dr. Maas had provided were not coordinates for where the sub was located, but instead for where it was predicted to arrive. The liner was oscillating in and out of our reality, its pulses were gradually steadying, but there was no guarantee it would settle into place for long–or at all. We determined that we must put ourselves into position to board it at the instant it became completely physical.

At this point we were briefly detained–not captured by the Disparate, as we feared at first, but by minions of our former nemesis, the conniving and duplicitous Wanda Bree. Dr. Bree was not as we had last seen her–which is to say, she was not dead. At some point, the Disparate had saved out an earlier version of her consciousness, and upon her physical demise, they had imprinted the back-up personality into a biological blank resembling an enormous slug. The Bree-Slug, despite occupying a position of relative power in the Disparate hierarchy, seemed nervous and frightened of me in particular. Wanda did not know how her previous incarnation, the original Dr. Bree, had died. She knew only that I was responsible. Therefore the slug treated us with great caution. Still, she soon confessed (never able to keep quiet for long) that she was herself a prisoner of the Disparate. She took no pleasure from her current grotesque existence, and pleaded with us to end her life. Alex believed that a quick death was more than Wanda Bree deserved, but for my part, I felt a modicum of pity and compassion. Out of Alex’s sight, I might have done something to hasten the slug’s demise before we proceeded.

Not far from where we had been detained by Dr. Bree, we found Jerry Maas being held in a Disparate interrogation cell. Things were tense between Jerry and Alex, as might be imagined. Alex blamed Jerry for his mother’s death…news of which, Jerry was devastated to hear for the first time. Jerry tried to convince Alex that he had been a double agent serving the resistance all along, doing only what Elly had asked of him, even though he knew it meant he risked being seen by his peers–by all of us–as a traitor. I was convinced; Alex less so. But from a pragmatic point of view, we depended on Dr. Maas; for along with the Hyperborea coordinates, he possessed resonance keys which would be necessary to bring the liner fully into our plane of existence.

We skirmished with Disparate soldiers protecting a Dispar research post, then Dr. Maas attuned the Hyperborea to precisely the frequencies needed to bring it into (brief) coherence. In the short time available to us, we scrambled aboard the ship, with an unknown number of Disparate agents close behind. The ship cohered for only a short time, and then its oscillations resume. It was too late for our own military support, which arrived and joined the Disparate forces in battle just as we rebounded between universes, once again unmoored.

What happened next is even harder to explain. Alex Vaunt, Dr. Maas and myself sought control of the ship–its power source, its control room, its navigation center. The liner’s history proved nonlinear. Years before, during the Disparate invasion, various members of an earlier science team, working in the hull of a dry-docked liner situated at the Tocsin Island Research Base in Lake Huron, had assembled what they called the Bootstrap Device. If it worked as intended, it would emit a field large enough to surround the ship. This field would then itself travel instantaneously to any chosen destination without having to cover the intervening space. There was no need for entry or exit portals, or any other devices; it was entirely self-contained. Unfortunately, the device had never been tested. As the Disparate pushed Earth into the Nine Hour Armageddon, the aliens seized control of our most important research facilities. The staff of the Hyperborea, with no other wish than to keep the ship out of Disparate hands, acted in desperation. The switched on the field and flung the Hyperborea toward the most distant destination they could target: Antarctica. What they did not realize was that the Bootstrap Device travelled in time as well as space. Nor was it limited to one time or one location. The Hyperborea, and the moment of its activation, were stretched across space and time, between the nearly forgotten Lake Huron of the Nine Hour Armageddon and the present day Antarctic; it was pulled taut as an elastic band, vibrating, except where at certain points along its length one could find still points, like the harmonic spots along a vibrating guitar string. One of these harmonics was where we boarded, but the string ran forward and back, in both time and space, and we were soon pulled in every direction ourselves.

Time grew confused. Looking from the bridge, we could see the drydocks of Tocsin Island at the moment of teleportation, just as the Disparate forces closed in from land, sea and air. At the same time, we could see the Antarctic wastelands, where our friends were fighting to make their way to the protean Hyperborea; and in addition, glimpses of other worlds, somewhere in the future perhaps, or even in the past. Alex grew convinced we were seeing one of the Disparate’s central staging areas for invading other worlds–such as our own. We meanwhile fought a running battle throughout the ship, pursued by Disparate forces. We struggled to understand our stiuation, and to agree on our course of action. Could we alter the course of the Hyperborea? Should we run it aground in the Antarctic, giving our peers the chance to study it? Should we destroy it with all hands aboard, our own included? It was impossible to hold a coherent thought, given the baffling and paradoxical timeloops, which passed through the ship like bubbles. I felt I was going mad, that we all were, confronting myriad versions of ourselves, in that ship that was half ghost-ship, half nightmare funhouse.

What it came down to, at last, was a choice. Jerry Maas argued, reasonably, that we should save the Hyperborea and deliver it to the resistance, that our intelligent peers might study and harness its power. But Alex reminded me had sworn he would honor his mother’s demand that we destroy the ship. He hatched a plan to set the Hyperborea to self-destruct, while riding it into the heart of the Disparate’s invasion nexus. Jerry and Alex argued. Jerry overpowered Alex and brought the Hyperborea area, preparing to shut off the Bootstrap Device and settle the ship on the ice. Then I heard a shot, and Jerry fell. Alex had decided for all of us, or his weapon had. With Dr. Maas dead, we were committed to the suicide plunge. Grimly, Alex and I armed the Hyperborea, creating a time-travelling missile, and steered it for the heart of the Disparate’s command center.

At this point, as you will no doubt be unsurprised to hear, a Certain Sinister Figure appeared, in the form of that sneering trickster, Mrs. X. For once she appeared not to me, but to Alex Vaunt. Alex had not seen the cryptical schoolmarm since childhood, but he recognized her instantly. “Come along with me now, we’ve places to do and things to be,” said Mrs. X, and Alex acquiesced. He followed the strange grey lady out of the Hyperborea, out of our reality. For me, there was no convenient door held open; only a snicker and a sideways glance. I was left alone, riding the weaponized luxury liner into the heart of a Disparate world. An immense light blazed. I caught a cosmic view of a brilliantly glittering Dyson sphere. The vastness of the Disparate’s power, the futility of our struggle, blossomed briefly in my awareness. I saw everything. Mainly I saw how the Hyperborea, our most powerful weapon, would register as less than a fizzling matchhead as it blew itself apart. And what remained of me would be even less than that.

Just then, as you have surely already foreseen, the Ghastlyhaunts parted their own checkered curtains of reality, reached in as they have on prior occasions, plucked me out, and set me aside. I barely got to see the fireworks begin.

And here we are. I spoke of my return to this shore. It has been a circuitous path to lands I once knew, and 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.

Yours in infinite finality,

Gertrude Fremont, Ph.D.

Half-Life 2 was a shadow of the game Half-Life 1 was, and is.

That last paragraph is some hot fire at Valve.

Amazing to think what might’ve been.

Did he reverse everyone’s sex for shits and giggles?

Oh my god this is literally the most annoying thing I have ever tried to read. Yeah yeah clever fuckin’ Finnegans Wake sci-fi allegory about the stunted internal Valve development process for Half Life 3. Just… fuck you, Marc Laidlaw, for making us read this contorted horsecrap.

I am a playa-hata.

Confirmed, Mark Laidlaw was Damon Lindelof before Damon Lindelof was Damon Lindelof.

Someone on the Internet edited in proper names, etc…

They’d better wheel their desks down to the burn ward.

I couldn’t even make it a quarter of the way through that. Just like Halflife 2, actually!

You guys are hilarious. All you have to do is mentally substitute the names from Half-Life 2 into the text while you’re reading it.

  • The Resistance buries Eli Vance
  • Gordon and Alyx go to Antarctica to secure The Borealis, a ship containing tech from Aperture Science
  • Gordon and Alyx crash their helicopter near a Combine base that’s been built around The Borealis
  • It turns out that the Aperture tech has gone nutty and The Borealis is shifting back and forth through time
  • Gordon and Alyx get captured by a Combine grub that’s had Dr. Breen’s consciousness placed into it.
  • Dr. Breengrub helps them out and then asks to be put out of his misery.
  • Gordon and Alyx find Dr. Mossman, who claims to be a double-agent working for the Resistance all along.
  • Dr. Mossman wants to claim The Borealis for the Resistance while Alyx wants to use it as a suicide bomb against Combine HQ
  • Alyx kills Mossman during a fight
  • Gordon and Alyx ride The Borealis into Combine HQ
  • The G-Man pops up, grabs Alyx and leaves Gordon to die on the suicide bomb Borealis.
  • The Resistance Vortigaunts rescue Gordon by phasing him away just as the bomb ship crashes ineffectively against the Combine HQ which is a huge Dyson Sphere
  • On to the next Half-Life game!

There’s a bunch of leaked concept art that confirmed a lot of The Borealis stuff. Plus, the Dr. Breen as a Combine grub thing was sorta revealed back in 2014.

Here’s a translation

Thanks for the translation link.

Reading that, the story definitely feels like a shorter entry, as in Half Life 2 Episode 3, not Half Life 3.

If they had ever made this game, I think this would be my favorite part:

The ending is pretty badass too, setting up future installments where humanity is a huge underdog compared to the Combine.

That part is really interesting because although there were rumors (and concept art) of The Borealis in the next Half-Life installment, most people assumed it would result in Portal-like gameplay with Gordon using the physics and portals to fight Combine troops. This seems much more complex with time-loops and alternate dimension versions of Gordon and Alyx running around a ship that’s shifting through time.


Man, what a level that would’ve made!

The story is atrocious but the level design, gameplay possibilities synthesizing HL and Portal styles, and character writing (if Wolpaw had been onboard) could’ve been great fun.

Did any of the Valve team end up at Respawn? The Borealis parts sound… familiar.

So now we all hate Half Life 2? I liked it. It was no Half Life 1, but what is?

I hated Half Life 2 before it was cool.

Honestly though I never cared much for it. I don’t remember a whole lot since I never replayed it, but I do recall:

  • the way they handled the whole “silent protagonist” thing was beyond silly. I always imagined that you do converse with other people, just not “on camera”, but nope, apparently you’re an actual, literal mute. Took me out of immersion instead of contributing.
  • The whole G-man thing stank of not actually knowing where the story was going.
  • This is probably the part I remember best - when you go to the tower near the end of the game, you have no choice but to step in those little claw/elevator? things to progress. You had no idea where those things are going, or what it’s going to do to you. Why would I step into that, except to see the ending? I always felt like Portal was the rebuttal to HL2 - that was an overlong, pointless, silly game guys. This is how it’s done.

While many parts of HL2 were forgettable - something about beaches, and buggies, and ants - there are many others that are unforgetable. “Pick up that can,” still gives me goosebumps, and the upgraded gravity gun at the end is incredibly overpowered and fun.

HL2 was great, it Ep2 that was pretty meh.

Half Life was amazing. But I feel like Half Life 2 and ep. 1 and 2 had better set pieces and tech, so I tend to like HL2 more. I certainly played HL2 many more times over, especially some of the more memorable levels like the opening escape from the city and then later Ravenholm and Nova Prospekt. The combat was just so much fun.

If you didn’t play it when it first came out, and you experienced it after you’d already played narrative shooters that came later? Okay. Then I can totally understand why you might think the game was long-winded, a bit obtuse, and had kind of a janky plot. In hindsight, there’s a lot of goofball in Half-Life 2.

But at launch? Man, Half-Life 2 was amazing. It’s chock full of concepts and gameplay that influenced the industry for years. It was crazy good. The game even took stuff from the first game and turned it on its ear like the opening tram bit. I remember playing it and being blown away by that train station opening.