Valve is many things—lauded FPS developer, esports giant, owner of PC gaming's biggest storefront—but over the past decade, it hasn't been particularly prolific. With the announcement of Half-Life: Alyx last year, Valve opened up a bit about the past decade at the studio and alluded to some canceled titles, but now we've got a much better idea of what they put to rest. Amongst the many projects was even an RPG inspired by the likes of Monster Hunter and Dark Souls.
In The Final Hours of Half-Life: Alyx, a new reporting project from Geoff Keighley released as a paid app on Steam, Valve opens up about lots of abandoned game ideas. Yes, in 2013, there were teams working on projects called Half-Life 3 and Left 4 Dead 3, but both were abandoned a short while later. For their respective ambitions (procedural generation in Half-Life's case, an open world in Left 4 Dead's), Valve's early work on its Source 2 engine proved to be a limiting factor. As for that RPG, though, it's harder to tell why it went nowhere.
Tejeev Kohli, a Valve developer whose first project at the company was 2011's Portal 2, tells Keighley that a major idea behind "RPG" (the project never had a name beyond that) was to "make an RPG modularly in public," with plans to ship installments and add features over time. The team on the RPG project was planning to use Source 2 as well, but it's not clear if it was scrapped because of the engine's state. Either way, Keighley says the project "never really" progressed past concepts.
Curiously, at one point the team on the RPG project explored making it a single-player Dota experience starring the hero Axe. Considering that 2013 also saw the official launch of the already absurdly popular MOBA, this may not be all that surprising given the timing.
It's also worth noting that even though this RPG idea was scuttled along with at least five Half-Life projects (counting "Half-Life 3") and some other ideas, Valve did end up using Dota as both a springboard for its new engine and to explore new genres. In 2015, an update made Dota 2 Valve's first publicly available title to use Source 2, and Valve has used Dota as the basis for the autobattler Dota Underlords and for Artifact, its online collectible card game that's now undergoing a reboot.
Having just finished Half-Life: Alyx a few months ago, which ended up having the biggest team ever assembled for a game at Valve, it may be a while yet before we see another release from the company. Still, members at the company remain excited to work on more Half-Life, and Keighley mentions that there's a project underway at Valve since 2018 that's so secret even he wasn't allowed to see it.