Half-Life 2: Episode Three is in pre-production and Valve doesn't anticipate gamers returning to City 17, according to marketing director Doug Lombardi.
We were in Valve's offices this week talking to them about Episode Two, and we couldn't resist checking in on the third. "Pre-production is definitely going, and it'll be ramping up rather quickly now that they're ramping down on Episode Two," Lombardi told us.
There's a "skeleton crew" doing the work, he added, although their attention is being split between that and ongoing development of Episode Two, which is nearing completion ahead of what Valve hopes will be an October release.
Lombardi and programmer David Speyrer also continued to fuel rumours kicked off in PC Gamer UK that Episode Three might climax with a battle at an Arctic research station. "We're not going to spoil it. No matter what Doug said," Speyrer joked.
Perhaps tellingly though, in a separate discussion about moving the player towards the team's "ultimate goal" over the course of the episodic trilogy, Speyrer mentioned that a lot of work had gone into "creating a natural progress of topography and climate". Our emphasis.
So will Episode Three change setting drastically, we asked? "I don't think you'll head back to City 17, for sure," Lombardi said.
"Not in Episode Three, anyway."