So here I am, a whole year later. My father died Oct. 24, 2017, just as I was in the midst of the “Epistle 3” game jam. It was running until Halloween 2017, inviting anybody with any gaming know-how whatsoever to do a fan game based on Marc Laidlaw’s cheeky blog post entitled “Epistle 3.” Laidlaw was one of the lead writers on the Half Life game series, which, it has largely been speculated in light of more than a decade without a sequel and the departure of the people most interested in making it, is pretty much dead. Laidlaw’s blog post essentially spells out, with gender-swapped characters and knockoff concepts, the next chapter in the series as he would have liked to have made it.

Even with his disclosure, it remains basically incomplete, ending on another cliffhanger. I incorporated the main story beats and decided to make a text adventure game, since that’s all I’m capable of making, really. I have a terrible habit of not following through on projects that I start, and there’s also a very real part of me that’s bitter about my father’s death throwing yet one more thing into chaos. So I buckled down this weekend and I just plowed through it, figuring out what the old, frayed ends of code meant that I’d left dormant for a year, finding them and repairing them, making them work.

I’ve written a bit about why I wanted to do this, but it boils down to an intense frustration with the way Valve has changed the face of the gaming industry – turning it into a place of exploitative loot boxes and skin gambling, where people in tech companies build massive online infrastructure and then simply shrug when the Frankenstein’s monster they’ve created goes about, unregulated and unaccountable, as it allows con artists and abusers to turn it into something toxic. There are many good examples of this, but Steam is absolutely a prototypical one. And all of this, I mean to say, comes to us at the expense of games like Half Life and Half Life 2, which pushed the envelope of what games could even do. There will never be another Valve game like either of them. I don’t even like the Half Life games all that much, but it was kind of the principle of the thing on this one.

Then my father died, and I haven’t written about it because it was a whole thing. I couldn’t keep working on it, and so I just dropped it and wrote it off as a failure. It was until the anniversary of the whole thing started coming by again that I decided I needed to not let it just fail. I’ve let too many creative projects just fail, and this one was tantalizingly close to being done. Now it is.

The end result is a parodic hour-or-so of a play experience that will work in your browser. I used colors and fonts associated with Half Life, and went with the framing device that you are hearing the story described to you by the Vortigaunts, the quirky aliens in Half Life 2 who are unabashedly rooting for the hero. There are in-jokes about other Valve properties, Steam bullshit, and the outmoded construct that is the silent protagonist. I really doubt anybody will ever appreciate it very much, but I made it, and it’s mine, and here it is.

You can download the necessary game files from Google Drive at a public link here. Make sure to open up README.txt so you know how to get it to run.