To be fair, they didn’t “promise” anything. There was a tentative release date for a product. When Valve started HL2, they were experimenting with episodic releases, and after two episodes, it became obvious that it simply wasn’t a workable model for them. The longer development of HL2: Episode 3 went on, the more the expectation became that it would be HL3. At some point, evidence indicates they put it on a back burner, a slow-simmering development that every indication is that it is still being worked on, just not by a full development team all this time. That is, no one works on it until they feel like they actually have something to add to it that would be significant. The expectations are high, and they’re clearly not going to just release another linear shooter that continues HL2 - they need the kind of innovations they brought to their previous games. So they could polish up what they have and release it - and everyone would be angry and disappointed - or they can wait until they have something they think is worth releasing.
From the outside it may appear the same, but from the inside, from what I’ve heard from people who worked there, it was a whole different situation, as discussed in the article. The decision to throw out work on Duke Nukem was entirely (dysfunctional-) management-driven, motivated by an early '90s shooter mentality where “more features” got mistaken for “innovation.” So every time a shooter came out with features they didn’t have, it screwed them up, because they didn’t have any actual innovations of their own to add. HL3 is entirely worker-driven and is actually seeking to actually add to the innovation of their previous games. And, of course, when Duke Nukem was finally released, expectations were so high that the critical response was hugely negative, which becomes a reason not to release a game under those conditions.
The truth is you beg, plead, threaten, cajole, guilt, and bribe others to do the things your bosses say your group needs to do in order to stay relevant (and employed) while your team consistently mocks and ignores you and does what they want to do instead.
You forgot about the part where you do your darndest to keep the crap from said bosses raining down on your group! Running interference was a good 75% of my job when I was a manager. 25% was doing coding no one else on the team had the bandwidth to do. The remaining 50% was all the administrative stuff - HIPAA, SOX, etc.
I don’t agree. I’ve seen no indications they’re still working on it, and “a linear shooter that continues HL2” is exactly what I’m expecting (and it’s what I think they should release because it’s what they’re good at). Surely some people will be angry and disappointed no matter what, but I think there’s more anger and disappointment at the incredibly long silence and failure to deliver a game than I think there would be at delivering a game that was merely great instead of mind-blowing.
What I hear from people who have been in there is that while they don’t exactly have a full dev team working on it, they haven’t completely abandoned it, either. What they’ve said publicly is essentially that they’re willing to work on it when they feel they have something new to contribute to linear FPSes, and right now, that’s not really the case. Being employee-driven, they’re obviously not finding anything particularly exciting or inspired about it at the moment - and if you really are dying to play an uninspired, linear FPS made by unexcited developers, there are plenty of other options on the market currently.
Because it makes for better games. Developers always have a struggle with publishers, fighting against deadlines, trying to get that little bit of extra time to add a few features and polish. There’s a game that developers and publishers play, where developers low-ball time estimates (because time is money), and then try to get extensions from the publisher. Some of the most successful developers are the ones that aren’t beholden to publishers and have enough financial security that they can have more relaxed release schedules and put out games “when they’re done.” (E.g. Blizzard)