Poll Question 143 – Delay Episode Three for a new Source engine?

18th October 2009

Single Player First Person Shooter Maps and Mods for Half-Life 1, 2 and Episodes 1, 2 and 3

Gabe Newell has said there is a good reason that they can’t talk about progress for Episode Three and I think it’s because they are working on a new Source engine, or at least a huge update for the current version.

There’s only so much tweaking you can do before you have to start afresh; it’s the same with hardware. Some changes can’t be incremental.

Now, obviously I could be completely wrong, but if I am not then waiting for a new engine is cool with me.

It seems to me that in many ways Source is behind CryEngine3 and Unreal Engine3, at least in the perception of some. There’s no doubt that the support Valve offers is fantastic but would the use of Source be so popular if it wasn’t tied to Steam?

The question is would you be happy to wait for Episode Three, simply because it could be on a new engine?

The Poll


  1. Aon

    Please, let not us wait for a large iteration of Source. There’s always going to be some upgrading of the beast, but I’d really like Episode 3 not to be vapourware and when designers have new engines with new capablities they write full length games around them.

    I’d like Source 2.0 to be heralded by the game they make after Half Life is finished. An experience designed from the ground up to work with this new engine.

    Also, I fear that a Source 2.0 would take the shine away from the current source modding community, which just now seems to be picking up it’s pace with fantastic releases such as Korsokovia, Radiator and even Sci Fi CSS.

    Keep up the blog, Aon 🙂

  2. Zanpa

    I would prefer that they use the best engine possible for Ep3. It will for sure contain epic scenes, and I want to see them with the best visual quality possible.

    My secret hope is that they are currently working on OpenGL for Source, and want to have Ep3 to run under GNU/Linux.

  3. Aon “I’d like Source 2.0 to be heralded by the game they make after Half Life is finished. An experience designed from the ground up to work with this new engine.’
    Second that.
    Also ‘source 2” must not replace or overwrite the current Source because many of us have mods that we want to replay and there are developers working on mods and maps now.
    Some upgrades to the Orange Box this year seem to have badly affected developing maps and mods
    EP3 ASAP, then a new engine with new games and hopefully new maps and mods.

    1. Hoyy

      Yeah, imagine Black Mesa Source, it got delayed twice when it started in the Half-Life 2 standard Source engine … Then it’s an entire rework in mapping and rebuilding everything, that surely gives a lot of work and costs time to the team behind a mod.

      1. vecima

        It’s not an “Entire Rework”. I’ve been building a mod since the original engine too. It’s now using the orange box engine. while there have been plenty of delays and setbacks due to update the mod to new engine versions (ep1 version was in there too), “rework” is not the correct term.

        brushes are still brushes. models are still models. I hope you see what I mean.

  4. I think the current engine (with the incremental upgrades like HDR or cinematic physics) should suffice for Episode 3. If not, what the hell are they doing that’s so amazing?! I’d like Ep3 to retain some consistency with current games and not feel like a whole new game. I think Valve should rework the engine for their next game (HL3?).

    If, however, they are making some massive changes for Ep3 then hopefully it is something that can be carried over easily and help speed up the production of HL3.

  5. Kasperg

    I have mixed feelings about this.
    I have answered with the second option, because I think even with Ep2 quality, this final episode will be worthy of the rest of HL2 in terms of graphics, engine effects etc. The episodes have to feel like a whole, and having one a drastic step above the others won’t do any good in that sense. Plus, it would undermine the effect of a new engine with a new game app if they have one planned. Brand new games with brand new engines are talked about more and end up selling more.

    On the other hand, I’m really looking forward to a newer version of Source much more eagerly than I’m waiting for Ep3.
    I find Hammer the most comfortable editor to work with out of all the ones I’ve tried, but there are several things where it’s stuck 12 years into the past (rules for creation of solids, the way lighting is precalculated, there’s a different lighting procedure for the world geometry and models etc).

    The good thing about the evolution of the Source engine is that Valve would find a way to make all the current HL1 and HL2 map files compatible with it.
    Imagine Black Mesa and other mods looking even better than they do now!

  6. SPY-maps

    i don’t think they will introduce there new source 2 with “just” another episode, therefore I too think like mentioned above
    that the game they make after Half Life will use the new source 2.0.
    maybe Gave Newell couldn’t say anything about ep3 because of the carakters that are used in it, maybe they leave someone out. I would LOVE to map with the new editor because its time for something new I think, although most people will probebly not agree with me.
    we have to wait and see what they will come up with next…


  7. Katana

    The only thing I’m worried of is the risk of more and more bloat in the engine as it does things it wasn’t ever meant to do. But if they can still manage DirectX 8 support, that’s a good thing for anyone with a bad computer.
    Maybe AFTER Episode 3, start working on something different, but only if it’ll be just as awesome.

  8. Berrie

    I doubt they’re introducing something entirely new. And I certainly don’t think that Episode 3 should be used for heralding it in.

    However mods like “City 17: Episode 1” show that there is still enough that can be done with the engine.

    Personally I think the wait is in part to do with a game larger in size and scope than Episode 1 & 2. In part with some nifty new additions to the source engine. And perhaps something to bundle it with (especially on the console market)

  9. demoneyeoffire

    It depends if my computer can handle a new source engine

  10. Kyouryuu

    If you’re going to roll out a new engine, you roll it out with a brand new game. You don’t decide to change course in between episodic content and potentially screw users with either a new engine they can’t run due to low system reqs, or subject other users to the bugs of an untested and unproven engine.

    Is Source outdated compared to more modern engines like Unreal Engine 3 and Crytek? Probably. But that’s where skilled art direction comes in. No amount of gigaflops can make up for slipshod art direction. Unreal Tournament 3 proves that time and time again.

  11. Hoyy

    I just wish that the engine be what it is already for the sake of not appearing new bugs and other problems, and a new implementation like what occured with ep1 and ep2 would be more than enough. Also, that wouldn’t cause the market to accelerate itself by selling more “up to date” hardware because of a entire engine rebuild.

    1. Hoyy

      Sorry if the answer was like Kyouryuu ones, its because I just posted without reading the other answers. Will read ’em now.

  12. feckineejit

    Episodes only need to be the next installment of the existing game with the current source engine. A new engine deserves a whole new game.

  13. KingDaniel

    I’m 100% conviced there’s a new engine being “built” for Episode Three.

    The delay also has a lot to do with the rescession: A lot of people arn’t gonna be able to afford a new computer just to play Episode Three on the new engine (at least not as many as upgraded “just” for HL2 in “04). IMO they’re waiting until more people have the odd £1000 of disposable money again.

    1. Kyouryuu

      I’m sure the “delay” has more to do with how Valve simply has its hands full with Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2 at the moment, to say nothing of Portal 2.

      My guess, actually, is that they are trying to align everything around a new Orange Box. Get Portal 2 done, get Episode 3 done – perhaps something else to round out the package – and release a second Orange Box.

      As far as a new engine goes, as I said above, if you roll out a new engine you will invariably have bugs with it. Source has had almost five years to evolve into a stable and reliable engine. On top of that, if you’re going to make a brand new engine, you’d have to consider aiming for a much higher visual bar, which would alienate users with lower-end systems who have been faithful to your product and want to know how the story ends. It also likely means remaking all your assets to fit this new visual bar, which is no small task.

      There’s also the issue of the consoles. I’m sure it was no small feat to port the Source Engine for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3 – and even the latter was less than spectacular. Nevertheless, that code base exists and therefore basing a new product on it would be much less expensive than having to deal with brand new tech.

      What’s more likely is a substantial but largely incremental upgrade to the existing engine, much like has been done for Left 4 Dead 2.

  14. Ade

    Well I voted for “I Want the best available”, but I agree with Kyouryuu. Though Ep 2 has graphic and maybe physics improvements, compared to Ep 1, I don’t think a new engine will come before Ep 3. But then again, I don’t even want Ep 3, I want HL3, and that of course can come with a brand new engine, fine by me, as long as Valve is up for bug fixin 😛

  15. AnonEntity

    Yes, HL2_Ep3 should wait for a new Source engine. There’s no way dancing around the issues.
    Being a FarCry diehard, and a dedicated HL/HL2 fan, the Source engine is antique…lol!

  16. vecima

    I don’t think it’s a whole new engine. I think It’s the L4D version of the engine, but with a weather system, and if we’re really lucky: global illumination.

    as a modder, there is nothing I find more frustrating than working with source’s lighting limitations. regular lights are not dynamic, and if you make them dynamic, they don’t “bounce” making them extremely ugly. subtleties of my mod’s story have changed to accommodate this.

    1. Kasperg

      I wholeheartedly agree with you. So much is conditioned by not having a global lighting system.
      Just a simple and realistic sequence with a breaking wall could look 10 times better with it.

  17. wayfare

    unfortunately, I can barely run Episode 2.. I have been running on the Intel 945! I am hoping I will be having some steady income by the time episode 3 arrives so I can take advantage of whatever it will be. I would rather see a new engine for something completely fresh.. preferably for Half-Life 3.

  18. Gypsy_Jim

    I sincerely hope that if there is to be a new engine, then it’s for a new game, not for Episode 3.

    I read everyone’s comments, and it did occur to me that such a “new game” might be HL3 rather than Ep3….

    Still, whatever, I’ve got a whole load more grey hair since HL2, and a lot less “disposable” income, the idea of having to shell out for an entirely new rig doesn’t fill me with joy….

  19. Robbo

    I think the engine is fine. Episode 2 still looks great 2 years later, it’s the game play mechanics that are really starting to show their age. I think games like halo and gears of war have shown that the 3 things I feel for a game to be fun and allow for better tactical combat are:

    * grenade toggle
    * melee combat for all weapons (im tired of bringing out the crowbar every time I want to bust open a crate)
    * cover system

    anyways, that’s just my opinion, and what I HOPE valve is implementing into the source engine and why it’s taking so long 🙂

  20. WizardExt

    I don’t think they are working on a complete new engine. They will iterate on what they have for a very long time. It’s easier, faster and they can keep working on new titles without a major halt.

    I hope that Episode3 takes time due to perfection. Episode1 was okey, but Episode2 was an awesome game. So hopefully they continue the quality of Episode2. And if Episode3 would be the end of Half-Life, which I don’t think, it has to be silly good. I feel there is much left to explore and do in this universe, with the story, characters and the connections to Portal. Anyway, we will see.

    As long as Half-Life is developed through episodes, I prefer the same look. And with this current engine Valve can produce games that will be accessible by everyone and not requiring some monster computer.

  21. New engine! To tell the truth I’m more curious about engine that will come with Episode 3 than Episode 3 itself (though I’m very curious about the game too). Maybe it’s because I like creating maps as much as playing them. So it’d be great to see a new engine with the EP3 but just updates would satisfy me too. Some good updates of course.

  22. Kasperg

    I don’t know when Ep3 will come out, but if it does around November 2010, it will be a full 6 years after HL2’s release.
    Hl2 came out around 6 years after Hl1. Yet the difference and evolution in those 6 years is so much greater than the HL2->Episodes evolution.
    Now I understand that creating content for Source is much harder than for Hl1. But hasn’t Valve as a company gotten bigger? Where does it show besides the new multiplayer apps and update support (which also existed with HL1, btw).
    Something doesn’t add up. I know it works in my favour as a level designer, but there’s something chronologically wrong about the half-life series as software.

    1. Kyouryuu

      You’re basically saying, “Where does it show aside from those three massively popular new games?”

      Left 4 Dead. Team Fortress 2. Portal.

      There’s your answer. I don’t see how anyone can just gloss those over as minor achievements. While Valve hasn’t been speedy about producing new Half-Life games, they are still releasing roughly one new game a year. That’s rather prolific in an industry where the average development cycle is somewhere around a couple years.

      1. Kasperg

        Yes, I guess it has something to do with not being interested at all in the first two of those three and finding the third one to be entertaining but not worth my level design time because of the limited theme.

        I guess I’m spoiled by the massive unit that Half-life, Opposing Force and Blue-Shift created in a span of 2 and a half years.
        I’d take any HL2 singeplayer addon featuring anyone like Barney, a metrocop, a Combine soldier etc over any multiplayer game or remake of one. And we amateur level designers have shown one time too many that there has been plenty of time to do so IMO.

        1. Kyouryuu

          Valve didn’t even make the HL1 expansion packs. They were all handled by Gearbox Software. Valve was busy juggling a number of multiplayer products at the time. Team Fortress, Counter-Strike, even Ricochet were developed in the intervening years prior to HL2.

          By some statistic, in a little over 10 years, Valve itself has developed just over 20 games, all of which were original IP and of remarkable quality. That’s nothing to scoff at.

          As far as the claim that amateur level designers have somehow shown that faster development is possible, that is obviously a subjective assessment. In my opinion, the only SP mod that reached the Valve bar was Minerva. This is not a comparison I throw around lightly.

          Even then, Minerva represents a single “chapter” at most. There has been no SP mod that has reached Valve quality that is the length of even an Episode, let alone an entire game.

          Not that I’m challenging designers to try. Especially if we’re talking about individuals or small teams, there’s an art to distilling the best ideas down to their core essence and eliminating all the fat and filler that plumps up the larger SP mods.

          1. Kasperg

            I’m well aware of who made the HL1 addons, and I’m well aware that Valve decided not to expand the HL2 universe in a similar way and instead opted for the misleading “episodic” approach. That doesn’t make my opinion any less valid. Of course here at PP I’m discussing singleplayer games and a company who makes them, so the counter-strikes, left4deads, HL2DMs, Team Fortresses, Day of Defeats etc are none of my concern.
            I don’t care if a car maker has made 10 brand new motorcycles. I’m interested in the cars and why they are making them below their possibilities.

            As for subjective assesments, I never said that all amateur level designers had reached “Valve quality” in their work. Even so, you’ll find parts of HL2 itself which look bland, underdetailed and certainly below the quality that fan-made singleplayers maps have reached (your own Powerstation 17 for example). It’s ok because in 2004 it still looked better than most of the stuff available.
            Minerva does probably reach the Valve bar (episodic, mind you) in terms of visual polish and sound ambience, but is certainly not the closest thing to Valve’s pacing or level layouts. Not to mention the absence of friendly NPCs (key to the HL2 formula) and the narration method chosen.
            Minerva is probably a very bad example of what I was trying to say, since it was in the making for an extremely long time compared to how long it lasts. You are right in that sense. It does feel like Valve! 😀

            Try to understand my reasoning. While I’ll never claim The Citizen to be “Valve quality” (even though some people say parts of it get close), the fact that Chris Fox and I made that in 7+3 months (of our spare time!! Not our fulltime jobs!!) makes me wonder how many people really work at Valve and what are they really doing for a living.
            If you have the luck of enjoying those multiplayer games they’ve been making, then your reasoning is perfectly valid. Unfortunately I’m not that satisfied and feel we could have so much more of the HL2 universe by now. I’m trying to add my grain of salt with what I can do. 🙂

  23. Ape

    It probably takes too much effort to achieve the kind of visual quality seen in HL2:E2 and Portal, using the Orange Box iteration of the Source Engine. The visual quality bar has been raised substantially since the release of HL2:E2, and let’s face it, everyone likes a good looking game. However, functionally, as a few poster’s have already pointed out, limitations in lighting and shadowing make for a laborious experience with respect to mapping and editing.

    I would love to see a new engine. Chances are it won’t be OpenGL based, but I’m right there with Zanpa on that one.

    1. Joseph Birkner

      I do not think they will make it OpenGL. They have Microsoft roots, and they wont “betray” theire own creation of good old DirectX, will they?

  24. Joseph Birkner

    I think the following improvements, yet partly already visible in L4D2 and the Episode 2, will be continued:

    – Improved look of certain particle systems
    – Increased budget of dynamic, shadow casting lights
    – Some good emulation of Subsurface Scattering for theire Ice Landscapes in Ep3, or at least an improved lightmapper
    – Again, Vastly improved animation system (listen to the commentary mode, thats what they are actually working on)
    – Highly improved AI
    – More specular shading stuff
    – Higher resoluted textures

    …to be continued…

    The actual problem is, that source engine uses FFP for compatibility, so.. there is not much space for revolutionary improvements.

    My personal hope is, that they do build in a photorealistic raytracing mode, so the Yerli broths. from Crytek getting a shock for life.. the programming quality of source is so waaay better than cryengine [imho]. Yerli broths did not deserve anything better.

  25. I don’t see the point. Orange Box feels great to me, and I don’t see any reason to go beyond that for the last chapter. Plus, if it changes the hardware requirements, then you can end up with people able to play HL2, Ep1, and Ep2 but then NOT be able to play the final episode. That’s ridiculous.

  26. tymaxbeta

    upgrade the engine, then ship. I, as a developer, and a gamer, want to make my mods look better, and make my games more realistic to play without switching engines. I love source, and it’s the only engine that actually supports a great story based game, there are moments when source looks like real life now, and if they get another update out there, then the engine may be up to par with unreal…

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