The Game Over column over at CNN examines episodic content and has revealed that Valve plans to kill off one of the main "players" in the next Half-Life 2 episode.
While discussing the merits of episodic content, Chris Morris mentions that because content is delivered more frequently, players have a chance to connect with the game's protagonists. This in turn allows the developer more room for risks. The column also discusses the use of Steam for data collection and this is what Gabe Newell had to say on the issue: Steam gives us a real time connection with our customers. Rather than guessing how people are playing our game, we can watch and see them navigate through the game. We can see them get stuck at various points and say 'oh, that's not what we designed' and work to correct that (in our next installment).
It seems that Valve have examined their data and decided that players want one of the main characters to be killed off. The article reveals that in the next installment, due in Q1, 2007, Valve will take the risk and get rid of one of the protagonists. It is not, of course, revealed who will die but we doubt it will be Gordon. It is more likely that Alyx, Eli, Barney or Dr. Kleiner will be pushing up the City 17 daisies. It would seem however, that the term protagonist really refers to Gordon, Alyx and, possibly, Eli and not the
Newell tries to explain the reasoning behind this decision, I think we want them to care about these characters and want them to trust that we're doing something smart with these stories. We want them to be genuinely worried about the characters, so you won't think 'Well they won't do something to these characters, because they're too important.' If nothing matters, then nothing you do matters - and you're moving away from being in a world and back to being in a shooting gallery.
Following such a revelation we would have to demand that Valve kill off one of the Big Three anything else would be cowardly especially if it turns out that Dog bites the dust.