Marc Laidlaw On The Cancelled Half-Life Spin-offs: Return To Ravenholm And “Episode Four”

Fans have always been curious about the scrapped, the cancelled, and the replaced. That’s why we have “communities within communities”, fan-followings that study and emulate the HL1 and HL2 ”betas”, as some choose to call them. But it’s when we get wind of mysterious projects we’d previously never heard of, that we really get excited.

We decided to e-mail Marc Laidlaw himself, to find out what’s the deal behind all these supposed, canned Half-Life spin-offs. And not only is he great at telling stories, he’s also great at… telling us stuff. So he actually did tell us some stuff – regarding the recent info we dug up on Return To Ravenholm, and the controversial possibility of an Episode Four.

Regarding the Ravenholm project, Marc told us:

Hi, Vic, there was indeed a project called Return to Ravenholm. We are big fans of Arkane and wanted to come up with a project we could work on together. We threw ideas around, they built some cool stuff, but we eventually decided that it didn’t make sense to pursue it at the time. As I recall, we felt like a lot of the staples of Ravenholm–headcrabs and zombies!–were pretty much played out, and the fact that it would have to take place sometime before the end of Episode 2 (so as not to advance beyond where Valve had pushed the story) was a creative constraint that would hamper the project…and Arkane.

We also asked him about Episode Four (since resumes belonging to former Arkane devs that had been leaked in the Eidos network intrusion did mention an Episode Four), and the little that Gabe and co. had spoken about in 2006-2007:

I’m pretty sure that Gabe was referring to Ravenholm. Makes no sense why there would be [an Episode 4].

Well, there you have it. This “Ravenholm” project was real after all. There may have never been an Episode Four at all, and this “Return To Ravenholm” seems to have been all Arkane got to work on. Of course, that didn’t harm Valve and Arkane’s relationship – they would later go on to work on The Crossing, which was inexplicably put on hold due to “financial difficulties” in mid-2009.

Unfortunately, at some point in 2010, Arkane was acquired (read: devoured) by ZeniMax/Bethsoft. Now they’re working on something else with Viktor Antonov – “Dishonored”, built on the Unreal engine and designed by Harvey Smith, which, much like “The Crossing”, takes place in an alternate universe, with a steampunk twist. Unfortunately, but predictably, The Crossing’s trademark “Crossplayer” system (which you can experience in some capacity in Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2) will not be present.

Still, if only Valve was this transparent regarding another Half-Life game all the fans want to hear about…

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