We had been waiting for an official announcement from Valve, but with E3 over and still no sign of a press release it looks like we will have to make do with a decidely unofficial message board post from Valve CEO Gabe Newell, in which he has revealed some new details about Counter-Strike : Condition Zero. We first reported on this semi-sequel to Counter-Strike last week, and now we know that it will in fact be a collection of single-player missions rather than another multiplayer game.
Valve have also confirmed that, as we reported last week, Condition Zero will be based on the three year old Half-Life engine, despite being brought in-house after initial design work by Rogue. According to Gabe, "Condition Zero will be fun to play, but will not be cutting edge graphics - it's a cool set of single-player missions for people who like realistic tactical combat". This is not a full sequel to Counter-Strike then; we'll have to wait a while longer for that, as Minh Le is apparently already working on Counter-Strike 2 using the as-yet unreleased Team Fortress 2 engine.
Work on Valve's own team-based shooter is continuing, and although we had feared that Condition Zero would further delay the long overdue project, Gabe insists that most of the company's resources are still behind TF2, while a much smaller team works on the single player Counter-Strike spin-off. Ironically though, it seems almost certain that Valve's first new retail release in three years will effectively be yet another stand-alone mission pack for Half-Life. Gabe admits that "TF2 has taken and will take a long time to get done" and that "there is still a ton of work to do" on the game, which hasn't been seen in public for two years now and has been radically overhauled at least twice since its inception in 1998 in terms of both gameplay and engine technology. "TF2 has to be something really innovative, or there's no point to it", Gabe believes, adding that "if TF2 doesn't add dramatically to the genre .. then nobody's going to give a rat's ass about it."
Meanwhile Bobby Pavlock from Rogue continues to cause controversy, claiming that (despite Gabe Newell's insistence that Rogue had effectively come begging to them for work) it was Valve who had made the call, asking Rogue to develop a single-player version of Counter-Strike for them. With Rogue still in limbo following EA's unexpected cancellation of a PlayStation 2 version of Alice, they accepted the offer. "About a month after we started on the project, Jim Molinets informed us that he had decided to leave the company to take a Senior Producer role at Sony HQ in San Diego", according to Bobby. "We thought, no big deal really. Jim was the Producer on the title, but we knew full well the team could develop this title just fine without Jim being there."
"When we inform Valve of Jim's unexpected decision to leave, they panic. We try to assure them that Jim's leaving would not really affect the project at all, as most of his duties (sheduling milestones, design doc etc) were already done prior to his leaving. But, Valve felt that we had 'betrayed' them. They thought we knew the whole time that Jim was planning on leaving, which we didn't, and that we purposely didn't tell them until the contract was secured. So they yanked the project from us, once again leaving Rogue in an unexpected financial hole."
It seems unlikely that we will ever know the whole truth behind this story, but whatever the reasons were for Valve taking the project back in-house and leaving Rogue in the lurch, it looks like the company may be about to close. Rogue have worked on some great titles over the years, from the innovative Doom-engined first person role-playing action game Strife back in 1996 through to last year's third person shooter Alice, not to mention popular mission packs for both Quake and Quake 2 and a fairly successful N64 port of Quake 2. They've never reached the kind of level of success that Valve had with Half-Life, but they have produced a string of solid titles over the last five years.