It’s the talk of the internet: a big Steam “leak” just dropped, and people are saying it “confirms” things like PC ports of Everybody’s Gone To The Rapture and Journey. Oh, and some little game called Half-Life 3. There is, however, reason to be sceptical.
You might be starting to notice a trend here: every handful of months, people start freaking out about new Steam game confirmations. Sometimes, this involves Half-Life 3, sometimes it doesn’t. Sometimes there are lots, sometimes just one or two. Regardless, it’s like out-of-nowhere PC game Christmas. Case in point, the list making the rounds today includes (in addition to the aforementioned games) Final Fantasy X, Danganronpa 1 + 2, Earth Defense Force 4.1, Phantom Brave, Final Fantasy VI, and — most thrilling of all — a sequel to Bad Rats. Finally.
People are, of course, losing their shit. Half-Life 3 is trending on Facebook. President Obama is planning out possible sick days. Someone just re-named their dog “Dog”, and not just because they’re bad at naming things. All that fun stuff.
So, what’s going on here? Well, Steam maintains a vast database of game content. Using various methods over the years, unofficial sites like SteamDB have managed to X-Ray Steam’s innards. Sometimes that leads to leaks of what’s coming soon or even a ways down the line.
However, Steam isn’t an entirely open book, so even SteamDB doesn’t haven’t full knowledge of what’s going on behind the scenes. New tools and techniques, however, often result in sudden wellsprings of information. Most recently, an exploit involving Steam’s support site did the trick. SteamDB explained:
“Valve recently implemented functionality to automate some frequently asked Steam support questions such as permanently hiding a game from your Steam account and these package names being exposed are a result of them not hiding them when they added this. A similar issue occurred with app names as well. Due to the way Steam works, we are now also able to guess some app names that were previously unknown based on what packages they are in.”
Basically, they can skim Steam for even more games now. So, does that mean Half-Life 3 (or any of these games, for that matter) is finally, absolutely, incontrovertibly confirmed? Now there’s the part where you take your fragile hope balloon and let out all of that precious, precious air, because the answer is “nah, not necessarily”.
Let me preface this by saying that a lot of games leaked by sites like SteamDB do end up coming to Steam. Previous leaks were spot-on about games like Fez, Cut The Rope, and Dyad, for instance. But, most notoriously, one leak also included Halo 3, Second Life, and Quantum Conundrum 2, among others. So far, none of those have come to fruition.
On top of that, while this information definitely comes from Steam, it can be added to the service by third parties; that is to say, non-Valve developers using the service, of which there are more than there are grains of sand on the beach or stars in the sky. These developers can, theoretically, name their own package or file Half-Life 3, maybe to get people gawking and talking, or maybe just for laughs internally. There’s also an entry for Project M (yes, the long-running, recently cancelled Super Smash Bros Brawl mod), and that seems... unlikely.
So basically, take it all with a pinch of salt, remain sceptical, especially where Half-Life 3 is concerned. That said, it has been an unusually fruitful year for infinitesimally small scraps of Half-Life 3 “evidence”, some of which almost looks convincing (but could also be absolutely nothing). So, you know, anything could happen. I’m not holding my breath for Half-Life 3, though. There are plenty of people who enjoy self-asphyxiation, but I’m not one of them.