Eurogamer: You're always giving yourself these huge hurdles to jump.
Doug Lombardi: It's only interesting if the next challenge is more vicious than the previous, right? If we just churned out Half-Life 2 a year and a half after Half-Life 1 and used the same engine and you were still whatever, people wouldn't care any more.
Eurogamer: Since you've got DirectX 10 stuff in there, will you be supporting Microsoft's unhelpfully named "Games for Windows - LIVE"?
Doug Lombardi: It's Vista-compatible, it's not DX10, although there are features of DX10 cards we're taking such as the Team Fortress facial animations. As for Live, I don't know that we're really going to do any of the Achievement stuff on the PC. Steam is going to be compatible for folks who want to do Games for Windows stuff, but for the Orange Box stuff I don't think we'll be doing that.
Eurogamer: What do you make of the Achievement system?
Doug Lombardi: We haven't done it before, so we're going to support it on the Xbox 360 where it seems to have a great home. People are real enthusiastic about it, and we have some interesting ideas for what's going to go in there. I don't know that we've announced any final... You've seen a lot of what we're experimenting with.
Eurogamer: I read that you were splitting 1000 points across all the titles in The Orange Box.
Doug Lombardi: That's one idea we have.
David Spreyer: We have to use just one set of 1000 because it's just one SKU, so we have to figure out how to creatively apply that.
Doug Lombardi: You can imagine there's lots of internal debate between the teams about whether to do 333 points per game or something like that.
Eurogamer: Has Episode Three development begun?
Doug Lombardi: Pre-production is definitely going, and it'll be ramping up rather quickly now that they're ramping down on Episode Two. Some people are shared and there are separate groups that do R&D, like Dave was mostly R&D on EpTwo the whole time EpOne was in development. At the very end he got pulled over to help ship EpOne and then got sent back to continue. There's an EpThree team skeleton crew doing production, and I'm sure Dave's tapped half of them if not all of them at some point or will in the next couple of weeks.
Eurogamer: Anything else to add about Episode Two?
Doug Lombardi: This one's a bit longer, and very different. When you're doing a trilogy, the first one has to resolve what was up, so City 17 at the end of Half-Life 2, and this one really kicked off and we're well on the new adventure now.
Eurogamer: So will Episode Three change setting drastically?
Doug Lombardi: I don't think you'll head back to City 17, for sure. Not in Episode Three anyway.
Eurogamer: Are we going to see Judith Mossman in Episode Two?
David Spreyer: She's part of the plot.
Doug Lombardi: No comment [laughs].
Eurogamer: Episode Two seems to want to answer a lot of questions, whereas Episode One obviously didn't. Is that a reaction to criticism?
David Spreyer: It's a deliberate choice. We wanted to really get people into a meaty story, and it's just part of the story we're trying to tell.
Doug Lombardi: I think any trilogy you look at, the second one is always the one that's got all the big reveals that get things charged up a bit.
David Spreyer: They always kind of bridge.
Doug Lombardi: Certainly Lord of the Rings, the original three Star Wars are like that.
Eurogamer: So Gordon's Breen's son? Is he getting his hand chopped off?
Doug Lombardi: That would be too obvious.