As we rapidly approach the ever-busy Christmas buying season, there's always lots to talk about. And that's a good thing because Valve's chief marketeer, Doug Lombardi, is always happy to talk - whatever time of year it is.
We recently caught up with Lombardi who spoke of Valve's philosophy behind episodic gaming, modern games development, the future of PC gaming, the next-gen and why PS3 is starting to look like a more attractive platform.
He was saying bugger all about Episode 3 though. Look, we tried....
Each episode of Half Life 2 has been different - Ep. 1 was closed in, Ep 2 featured far more of the open outdoors. How will Ep. 3 move things along in terms of overall gameplay focus?
Doug Lombardi: We're really not talking about specifics of stuff on what's going to happen next with Mr Freeman. We definitely feel like things have been wrapping up with each instalment and as you get to a conclusion that gets magnified. Other than that, we're really not talking about it.
So is it all coming to a huge end after Episode III?
Lombardi: We're gonna wrap it all up, put a bow on it - the G-Man is Gordon's father... it's all good.
How has episodic content worked for you guys over the years?
Lombardi: I think it's been really good in terms of us changing our development approach. It took us six years to make Half Life 2. It's been less than four years since HL2 came out and we've put out Episode 1 and 2, Portal, Day of Defeat Source and you've now got Left 4 Dead.
We obviously figured out a way to be more productive and more prolific with out development cycle.
The notion of the word 'episode' conjures up this idea of television where you get something new every week. And people say "we thought that episodic meant we were going to get something new every six months or every year."
We probably said we were going to do that right away, but we're always terrible at predicting our dates. But we're pretty good at putting out something that's quality when it does eventually come out.
At the end of the day we got something out a lot quicker, and we were trying to identify with people through the word 'episode' that we were going to get something out a lot quicker than with Half Life 2. It would be a bit shorter than Half Life 2, but because of that it would be priced accordingly.
It's an interesting way of doing things - smaller packages that are cheaper and more regular...
Lombardi: I think a lot of folks in the games industry saw the same problem that we did with Half Life 2 in that making a 20-hour game with rich graphics, story etc. is a really expensive proposition both in time and money.
And some have started making games about the same length as Episode II, but they haven't changed what they call it, and they haven't change the price.
So I think we tried to be a bit more honest about it, and maybe we chose the wrong word in 'episode' in that it conjured up this TV analogy.
Do you see this becoming a major trend in future - developers releasing smaller chunks of games, as was done with Ratchet & Clank: Quest for Booty?
Lombardi: I hope so, that's what I like. Most people just don't have the time to spend 15 or 20 hours on a game. I think stats say that something like only 30 percent of gamers have time for that.
In a way you're charging people $50 but they're only getting $18 worth out of it - that's not necessarily the best way to go. But if you look at something like Portal, it's a five hour game and although I haven't done a qualified study, the number of people I've spoken to that finished the game feels like a much higher percent.