Former Half-Life writer Marc Laidlaw revealed why Valve cancelled the Borealis VR game in a new interview.
This isn’t the first time we’ve heard about Valve’s pre-Half-Life: Alyx plans in VR. Geoff Keighley’s Half-Life: Alyx – Final Hours detailed how Laidlaw looked into a new Half-Life VR game in 2015, codenamed Borealis. Named after the Aperture Science Research ship, Laidlaw’s outline would have seen players exploring the vessel as it travelled through time, showing events like the Seven Hour War. However, according to the former Valve employee in a new Rock Paper Shotgun interview, this idea came too soon:
It was too early to be building anything in VR. When people are struggling with the basic tools they need to rough out a concept, it’s hard to convey any sort of vision, and it all evaporated pretty quickly.
Continuing on, Laidlaw says Borealis would have tied together Half-Life and Portal but claims this wasn’t his idea. Stating “I didn’t want it to go there at all,” Laidlaw says he had to react “as gracefully as I could to the fact that it was going there without me” and elaborates on the consequences such a crossover would bring.
I felt like doing this made both universes smaller, but from a franchise branding perspective, that’s a good thing. I eventually did come up with a scenario in which we could connect Aperture and Black Mesa, and we had Borealis lying around from the earliest days of Half-Life 2, so I thought maybe we’d end up with some cool lore and backstory in the long run.
This isn’t the only interesting news to emerge from this interview. Regarding Half-Life’s future storyline, he calls his plan during Borealis’ development “vague and diffuse” before addressing the now infamous ‘Epistle 3,’ which detailed one potential storyline for the cancelled Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Claiming it was “deranged” and he had “nobody to talk me out of it,” Laidlaw evidently regrets releasing it and offers an explanation:
Eventually my mind would have calmed and I’d have come out the other side a lot less embarrassed. I think it caused trouble for my friends [at Valve], and made their lives harder. It also created the impression that if there had been an Episode 3, it would have been anything like my outline, whereas in fact all the real story development can only happen in the crucible of developing the game. So what people got wasn’t Episode 3 at all.
We’ll never see what Borealis could have offered, but if you’re after more Half-Life, the upcoming Episode 1 VR mod arrives on March 17 for free to all existing owners.