This is a really strange development that requires some pondering and discussion. An expansion for Half-Life 2 has been in development for a while (previously named Aftermath). Reportedly, it follows Alyx (and, some reports say, Gordon) escaping from the devastation immediately following the end of Half-Life 2.

But last week, things got weird. Valve renamed Aftermath to Half-Life 2: Episode One. Doug Lombardi is being terse at the moment, but this appears to indicate intent to release regular episodic content. In general, this is a good thing, but I have a number of concerns.

The first concern is with naming. What is the “original” Half-Life 2, chopped liver? Episode Zero? Does anyone remember the naming scheme of the series that started with Dark Forces? First, there was Dark Forces. Then, there was Dark Forces 2: Jedi Knight. Then there was Jedi Knight 2: Jedi Outcast. Then, well, they decided to stick with Jedi Knight, which I think was a good idea. I predict that it won’t be long until there are sub-subtitles (Half-Life 2: Episode Three: Return of the Snarks) or they abandon the episode number altogether. (As a side note, for the nerd subculture, the “Episode Foo” scheme invokes too much Star Wars Prequelism to be anything but unsettling.)

But the bigger problem I see is Valve’s rampant perfectionism, and thus their inability to deliver a game on time since, well, the first Half-Life. Sure, this is inarguably a Good Thing™ when it comes to game quality. But when you make a promise to release regular content (especially if you charge per-“episode”), you need to do it. And that means cutting corners. It’s taken them a year and a half to release Aftermath. How long will Episode Two take?