We have, however, been teased this week by someone - apparently an unnamed Valve employee - who has cropped up on the Internet wearing a t-shirt sporting a Half-Life 3 logo. He could, of course, be any random wind-up merchant, but the Half-Life community loves nothing more than to dream about future Gordon Freeman adventures, so it's no surprise that it's sparked off furious debate across the 'net.
The picture, below, was apparently taken by Chandana Ekanayake, Art Director and Executive Producer at Uber Entertainment, who says he took the photo at an event for local developers in Kirkland, WA, then linked to it via his Twitter account.
Some people have immediately assumed that this is confirmation that Half-Life 3 is in development, but what immediately springs to my mind is: why would Valve, who is well-known for keeping cards clutched so tightly to its chest that it can hardly breathe, let a relatively unknown developer be the company to ignite debate on its popular franchise?
And, where are the pictures from all the other people at the event, who would most likely have snapped, or at least tweeted about, the existence of such an iconic t-shirt - if they really believed it to be a sign of a new installment.
"All I'm saying is I saw this at a local game developer event worn by a Valve employee," tweets Ekanayake.
There could, of course, be numerous reasons why the t-shirt has made an appearance online. Perhaps the Uber executive made the whole thing up to draw attention to the release of its new game, Super Monday Combat? Or maybe a low-level Valve employee without the permission of his seniors was just having a laugh and wanted to be centre of attention at this invite-only event?
What I don't buy, however, is the fact that this t-shirt is any real indication from Valve that Half-Life 3 is in development. Somehow, I think Valve would be more astute in the way that it lets such big news leak.
Nonetheless, this simple Half-Life 3 logo has now been the catalyst to spark fresh debate about Half-Life 3, which has extended past its mere existence into the full-blown rumour that it will be announced at the VGA Game Awards 2011, which takes place on December 10.
"From the rumblings that we've been hearing from industry contacts, there's an extremely big possibility that Half-Life 3 will be officially announced at this year's 2011," writes StickSkills.
Of course, the writer doesn't tell us who his industry contacts are, and it seems likely the only basis for this rumour is the fact that the VGA Awards have in the past been a platform for some developers to reveal their big titles.
"Last year had the enormous announcement and reveal of the release date for Skyrim, and the megaton announcement of Half-Life 3 and a release date could crash the internet," StickSkills wildly speculates.
On the back of these growing rumours that an announcement is imminent, speculation grows even wilder with the suggestion that Half-Life 3 may be a PS3-exclusive. Now, wouldn't that be a way to aggravate the loyal Half-Life 2 PC fan-base?
One site fuelling that speculation is 8bitfix, who rightly quotes Valve's Doug Lombardi's ever-increasing love for PlayStation over the years, which has peaked in 2011 with the Steam integration of Portal 2 on Sony's console.
"With Sony - and we've done it with Portal 2 - they've been great to work with on that stuff; they're really open to that idea. They think of it kind of like we do: we're gamers, we don't think platform," said Lombardi.
8bitfix puts two-and-two together and, more than likely, makes five, believing that Valve's desire to work closer with Sony may signal its intention to make one of its most popular PC franchises a PS3-exclusive.
"Gabe Newell praised Sony for their third-party online service integration with their online network. Because of this, Newell feels that Sony deserves valuable and lucrative PS3 content for doing so," writes the author.
Though the PS3-exclusive rumour might initially seem crazy, especially to PC gamers, it was also given further momentum this week, when Sony announced that it would showcase a console-exclusive at the VGA Awards that "you won't believe."
Though some sites are still reporting this game could be Half-Life 3, this title has in fact since been revealed as the "The Last Of Us" laying to bed those rumours immediately, but causing me to go totally off on a tangent and wonder if there is a link with Valve and the VGA Awards this year after all.
My turn to speculate wildly
The appearance of the Half-Life 3 t-shirt means nothing. It's just some guy, whether from Valve or not - probably not - who just thought he'd have a bit of fun. The fact that the photo has popped up prior to the VGA Awards this week is merely a coincidence. Valve is far too clever to reveal Half-Life 3 in this way.
The confirmation and release date of Half-Life 2: Episode 3 will land way before we hear about Half-Life 3. Valve will seek to launch this third episode near to the end of the life-cycle of current-gen consoles (either late 2012, early 2013.)
Though I do believe that Half-Life 3 exists, very early on in development, Valve will wait to see the plans that Microsoft and Sony have for their respective next-gen consoles, and the developer will seek to harness the power of the new hardware for the next main entry in the series, when they arrive in Q3 or Q4, 2013.
Meanwhile, Valve will concentrate on Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and the sequel to Defense of the Ancients and Half Life 2: Episode 3. One last game, however, will also be on the agenda for Valve before we herald in the arrival of the new consoles.
"The Last Of Us" may well be the Valve PS3-exclusive that we were expecting, not Half-Life 3 at all. Anyone else think that the trailer, shown above, which seems to suggest a survival story set after an apocalypse, could be a game perfectly suited to Valve's Half-Life and Left4Dead expertise?
Half-Life 3 will most definitely arrive, but we're way off yet. Fans will be catered for with Half-Life 2: Episode 3 in the next 12-18 months, while our attention, very possibly, will be diverted with the announcement of "The Last Of Us" this week, which could well turn out to be Valve's last big game on current-gen hardware.
How's that for a bit of speculation?
Do you think Half-Life 3 is in development? If so, do you think it will be a PS3-exclusive? Are you tired of waiting for Half-Life 2: Episode 3? Do you think Valve is behind The Last Of Us? Let us know your thoughts in the HEXUS.community forums.