Prospero was Valve’s Cancelled First Game Before Half-Life
We get our first look at the debut game Valve was working on before focusing on "Quiver," the project that would eventually become the first-person shooter we all know as Half-Life.
RockPaperShotgun reports that Valve Time Database has provided pivotal information directly from Half-Life series writer Marc Laidlaw about Prospero, which was originally going to be Valve's debut title. Prospero was being developed alongside a project known as Quiver. Unfortunately, much of Prospero's assets and fundamental ideas were broken down and can be seen in various parts of Half-Life, the final name for the Quiver project. The latest episode of the Valve Time Database provides an excellent look into Prospero's history and development. We highly suggest fans of Valve and Half-Life to check out each episode of Valve Time.
It is interesting to know that the Half-Life series' iconic Lambda logo actually originated from Prospero's rudimentary concept art (provided below). It's rather hard to tell how far the project got in its development, but various pieces of Prospero's development was kept in Valve's library and used in later games, such as the Portal 2 level creator. The protagonist of Prospero, Aleph, also known as "the Librarian," has a look that trickles down to Valve's main females in other titles. Aleph was going to be able to use technology to boost her psychokinetic powers. This machine was likely an inspiration for the Combine Advisors of Half-Life 2. Also, the ability to freely manipulate items in the environment and use them as weapons like a psychic is very reminiscent of the fun we had with the Gravity Gun.
Episode 3 of Valve Time provides new screenshots and quotes directly from Marc Laidlaw about the cancelled project. What's interesting is that Laidlaw originally signed on as the writer for Prospero first before Quiver. Prospero was going to be a third-person fantasy title inspired by the likes of Myst and Borges where you could access player-made worlds, but the project was just too massive in scope. The game was also supposedly going to focus on exploration and combat. Its online aspects included friend lists, server browsers, multiplayer gameplay, user-made maps and various things that have been integrated into the Steam client over the past few years, mind you, this was 1996. Unfortunately, it would seem that Prospero was a bit too ambitious. Nevertheless, we're glad that Prospero came and went so that we could have the magnificent Half-Life series just the way it is. Now if only Valve could make that third game.