A group of modders and game enthusiasts suspect that Valve has quietly soft-launched Source 2, the long-awaited game engine that could be the building blocks for future games such as Left4Dead 3 and Half-Life 3.
In the early hours on Thursday, Valve announced it had released Workshop Tools for Dota 2, allowing modders to create and distribute custom game modes. Notably, the new tools have relatively high system requirements, such a 64-bit version of Windows and a DirectX 11 compatible graphics card.
In a message posted on Steam, Valve acknowledged that "this is a developer focused release and currently has high system requirements" but did not suggest this was tied to its Source 2 engine.
However, hours after its release, a modder who posts on Reddit as 'RoyAwesome' has gathered evidence to suggest, as is his belief, that Valve has "soft-launched Source 2".
At the centre of his theory is that, while Dota 2's assets are the same in the new Workshop update, the code is meaningfully different.
"Everything in this package is a new game," he writes.
"It's all the Dota assets and code ported over to Source 2. That's why Hammer [a game editor] is different. That's why the console is different. Guys. Valve just soft launched the entire Source 2 engine."
That suggestion in itself has triggered a debate on the Reddit thread, where users are cross-examining this claim. It could be the case that Workshop is related to Valve's new tech, but is not outright the engine itself.
The thread author points out that "everything that would share a name with Source is named '...2'. That's engine2.dll, vconsole2.exe, vphysics2.dll."
Newell's USG focus
Valve has not commented on the matter and was unavailable for comment at the time of going to press. The corporation is known for continually upgrading its technologies, which could mean its Workshop update is not related to Source 2.
In March, Valve managing director Gabe Newell said that Source 2 will allow for enhanced user-generated content.
"The biggest improvements will be in increasing productivity of content creation," he said at the time.
"That focus is driven by the importance we see user-generated content having going forward. A professional developer at Valve will put up with a lot of pain that won't work if users themselves have to create content."
Yet it is a matter of debate whether Valve has soft-launched Source 2 as part of that user-focus philosophy.
On Reddit, RoyAwesome also claims that: "The Workshop also allows for different dlls to load and render different assets (vmaps are rendered by worldrenderer.dll, etc). This is a completely new architecture from Valves previous system.
"This bit alone would indicate a significant amount of engine work has been done to split these bits out of the engine and into their own libraries. That means the engine is also completely plug-and-play with new engine level components if valve creates them for different games. This is pretty freaking huge."