Video game writer Erik Wolpaw has returned to Valve. The Portal and Half-Life 2 co-writer left the company over a year ago to work on other projects, including DoubleFine's Psychonauts 2. Wolpaw's departure from Valve followed the departure of fellow Half-Life 2 writer Marc Laidlaw, who left the company in 2016. Writer Chet Faliszek also left the company in 2017.
Wolpaw has a series of impressive professional game writing credits under his belt. In addition to co-writing Half-Life 2 and the Portal games, he won a Game Developers Choice for best writing for his work on the first Psychonauts. He also co-wrote 2008's Left 4 Dead. Wolpaw officially joined Valve in 2005 and worked there until 2016.
Now, though, a leaked email posted on Twitter by Valve News Network's Tyler McVicker reports that Wolpaw has returned to Valve, a fact various sources have since confirmed. Wolpaw recently spoke to Polygon via email about his return to Valve, explaining that he is not working for the company in a full-time capacity:
“I’ve had a contractor agreement with Valve since the day I stormed out and then immediately timidly stormed back in to ask could I please have my old job back and they said no and I was like good because I’m too busy to work for you anyway and they said but you can be a contractor and I said oh thank god okay I’ll do that. I’ve been helping Pinkerton and Jaros and Vanaman whenever they need it. It’s been busier on that front lately, but I’m not currently a full time employee. My main gig is still delivering juice for my niece Jodi’s vegan juice shop plus an unpaid internship playing Slay the Spire three hours a day.”
So what exactly is Wolpaw working on? Reddit user Trenchman noticed Wolpaw's name on the credits of Valve's newly released digital collectible card game, Artifact. There is also a possibility that Wolpaw is working with the studio on a Half-Life prequel that is currently in development. Sources suggest the title will be a VR one, mostly thanks to rumors that Valve is working on some new virtual reality technology. It makes sense that Wolpaw would work on a new Half-Life title, given his experience with the franchise, but at this point, it's still only conjecture.
Earlier this year, Valve president Gabe Newell confirmed the company would finally recommit itself to developing games. This statement came after years of the company focusing its efforts almost exclusively on its Steam digital game distribution platform, which allows players access to PC titles. Although the company previously announced Artifact, Newell confirmed that it had plans to have several other projects in development soon.
More importantly, this gives many Half-Life fans the hope that Valve will finally begin developing Half-Life 3, a title fans have been clamoring for since 2004 after the release of Half-Life 2: Episode Two. It's a far-flung hope, but if anything, there is still a lot of interest in the franchise, and it's a shame that Valve has abandoned it for so long. Does Wolpaw's return suggest an future announcement from Valve about Half-Life 3? Players shouldn't hold their breath, but there's always hope.