When Valve purchased Firewatch developer Campo Santo in the spring of last year, a resounding chorus of “oh no!” echoed across much of the internet. While many in the independent games scene congratulated Campo Santo on its resource-rich future, fans of the studio’s beloved debut adventure game Firewatch expressed concern that Campo Santo’s next game, In the Valley of Gods, would be lost to the abyssal depths of Valve’s oblique machinations.
After an extended period of radio silence following the acquisition, Campo Santo co-founder Jake Rodkin today confirmed that In the Valley of Gods has indeed been subsumed by the great machine. The original 12 members of Campo Santo have scattered within Valve to work on a variety of different projects, including Half-Life: Alyx and DOTA Underlords, leaving In the Valley of Gods “on hold” until someone feels like working on it again. Rodkin’s complete statement to Polygon follows:
To fans looking forward to In the Valley of Gods, it’s probably clear that the optimistic “2019” at the end of the announcement trailer isn’t going to be accurate. In the end, Valve Time makes fools of us all. But yes, developers from the former Campo Santo team have joined other projects at Valve, including Half-Life: Alyx. As you can imagine, our experience in the first-person adventure genre is pretty relevant. You hear a lot about how at Valve you can work on what you want. It turns out that’s true, and there’s a lot of work available. As we integrated ourselves into Valve it became clear there was a lot of valuable work to be done on Half-Life: Alyx. Some of us starting lending a hand, and have since become full-time on the project as it approaches launch. Similarly, some ex-Campos are working on Dota Underlords, some are on Steam, and so on. So to answer your question as of today, In the Valley of Gods development is on hold — but it certainly feels like a project people can and may return to. And when that happens, we’ll find an exciting way to let fans know.
“Certainly feels like a project people can and may return to” strikes a markedly different tone from Campo Santo’s original announcement of the acquisition, where it said “the twelve of us at Campo Santo have agreed to join Valve, where we will maintain our jobs as video game developers and continue production on our current project, In the Valley of Gods.”
A lot can happen in a little over a year, apparently! It’s seems that Campo Santo wasn’t acquired as a whole studio, so much as Valve just hired everyone that worked there individually, and those new employees were then incorporated into the greater whole, like fresh evolutionary materials assimilated into the Borg. While this must sting for everyone that believed in Campo Santo’s initial pledge to continue work on its next game, it does bode well for the potential quality of Half-Life: Alyx, as Firewatch was met with wide critical acclaim for its narrative acumen and storytelling chops.