On a recent trip to Germany to see Left 4 Dead, of which more soon, we sat down with Valve's VP of marketing Doug Lombardi to talk about things. Things like Portal, and whether we'll see an Orange Box 2. Like everyone at Valve, Doug's job title is a bit misleading; he does a broad range of things across the company, and has even - as he points out here - dabbled in development to some extent. He also plays Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead with us when we fly over to see Valve, which is nice of him (it's nice of him to let us win all the time, too). Anyway, enough being nice about Doug - here are a few selected excerpts from our discussion, with more to come when we're allowed to talk about what the developer was actually in Germany to show off...
Eurogamer: What's happening with Portal? Everyone's been wondering if this is the precursor to something bigger.
Doug Lombardi: There'll be more Portal for sure. We wanted to run it as a test to see if it was going to be a hit with gamers. We thought that it was really cool and that the humour was a good break, for us, from all the serious Counter-Strike and Half-Life oppression days, and six years of making Half-Life 2. It was fun to lighten up a bit and let Erik Wolpaw go do his thing, and bring all that great humour and let Jonathan Coulton to bring the song in. The test worked.
Thank you for the [Game of the Year] award and that great acknowledgement there. Right now we're trying to figure out how we make Portal a bigger experience. What does Portal multiplayer look like, perhaps? And what do we do besides what we made you do last time? We just don't want to pump out a bunch of new puzzles and say...you know they're just new maps, it's the same s*** you did last time. That wouldn't be us.
But, definitely, we've heard the feedback from yourselves and others: take this thing further, do more with it, teach me new tricks with the Portal gun. So we're working on that now.
Eurogamer: Obviously Half-Life 2: Episode Three is another big issue, so we need your 'official' answer to what the hell's going on with that right now.
Doug Lombardi: [Laughs] Gordon's our number one guy. The HEV suit put us on the map. In Episode One, I think we left people with some big question marks as to what the hell we were up to. After Episode Two, people said, "oh, it's going somewhere now". So we want to live up to the promise of where we're taking folks - where's the finale, or where's the next thing for Gordon - and there's a lot of work that's being done to make sure that we deliver on that promise and keep that franchise in its place, hopefully in the gaming hall of fame.
But exact details and stuff on Episode Three or what's next for Gordon are...a little way off. Probably months not weeks. We've never been the guys to say, "Oh, we've got to pump it out next year." We want to do it more frequently than we did between Half-Life 1 or Half-Life 2, but that doesn't mean that the schedules going to predict what we do versus what's right for the series.
Eurogamer: You obviously can't do The Orange Box 2...
Doug Lombardi: [Laughs]
Eurogamer: Presumably you'll just release Episode Three as a single standalone product this time?
Doug Lombardi: We'll see, we'll see. The idea of doing The Orange Box 2 seems kind of contrived. It happened the first time because the three [games] were on a collision course and a bunch of us were sitting around going "this could be a nightmare", and somebody kicked around the idea of putting them together.
We all punched it around a bit until we realised, wait, that's going to work. It's done really, really well for us. It's the biggest thing we've done since Half-Life 2. It was a new thing so we had no idea how to predict where it would end up. But the fact is, it's sort of in Half-Life 2's league in terms of the sales and the awards, and what-have-you. So, it was the right decision at the time, but that doesn't mean it's what we have to do every time. We don't have to do Orange Box 2 and Orange Box 3. Should projects line up again and they're of the same sort of size and weight...
I don't think Orange Box would've worked as a USD 99 product, right. I think that it would have been too much for people. Portal at four hours, TF2 as multiplayer-only, Episode Two at six, eight, ten hours or however long it took you. That felt right at fifty bucks, and throwing the other games in there pushed you over the edge with the value if you hadn't played those yet. Obviously a lot more people had played Half-Life 2 than Episode One, and on the consoles barely anybody played Half-Life 2 and nobody played Episode One, so that just made sense, you know?