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Gabe Newell Interview

Gabe Newell on Valve on Develop concludes their series of Valve interviews by chatting with the company's managing director about its products and culture. Topics include the autonomy of the developers at Valve, its current pursuit of "entertainment as a service," their philosophy on hiring, social gaming, their obsession with staff wellbeing, his own level of happiness (and how unhappy he was during the Half-Life 2 crunch), and the Source engine, including an interesting outlook on the possibility of charging customers different amounts based on how fun they are to play with. Here's part of that:

An example is – and this is something as an industry we should be doing better – is charging customers based on how much fun they are to play with. Some people, when they join a server, a ton of people will run with them. Other people, when they join a server, will cause others to leave. We should have a way of capturing that. We should have a way of rewarding the people who are good for our community.

So, in practice, a really likable person in our community should get Dota 2 for free, because of past behaviour in Team Fortress 2. Now, a real jerk that annoys everyone, they can still play, but a game is full price and they have to pay an extra hundred dollars if they want voice.

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34. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 18, 2011, 07:54 Beamer
 
its not going to have what valve terms "an isolated single player experience"

And we still don't know what that means. Maybe it means that your top scores get uploaded to Facebook and nothing more, or maybe it means there's a leaderboard.



You're in a complete panic over a company that's never done anything painfully stupid.
 
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33. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 18, 2011, 07:35 Dev
 
Beamer wrote on May 17, 2011, 20:25:
But you've said you don't think they're currently working on a single AAA title.

That's beyond absurd.
I forgot TF2 and hats

If they are working on a title, its not going to have what valve terms "an isolated single player experience" such as what portal 2 had. Valve said they were done with that.

This comment was edited on May 18, 2011, 07:50.
 
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32. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 18, 2011, 07:21 Dades
 
Dev wrote on May 17, 2011, 20:22:
Thing is valve hires people who are good at a number of things. Thats why they are able to switch around from job to job, which is why gabe talks about his employees having wheels on desks aka switching from project to project.

I suggest reading the interview.

Valve employees are not super people who are able to do the jobs of everyone else in the studio. Gabe is talking about having people work on different projects, not different careers. Do you have a career? They are usually specialized for a reason.
 
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31. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 17, 2011, 20:25 Beamer
 
Thing is valve hires people who are good at a number of things. Thats why they are able to switch around from job to job, which is why gabe talks about his employees having wheels on desks aka switching from project to project.

Yes, but again, an artist good at making 3D models isn't necessarily good at making sprites used in Facebook games.


You're a lunatic if you think Valve has this kind of talent just idling around. Are they dabbling? Sure. But you've said you don't think they're currently working on a single AAA title.

That's beyond absurd.
 
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30. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 17, 2011, 20:22 Dev
 
Beamer wrote on May 17, 2011, 14:26:
You do realize that the skillset for AAA action games and the skillset for entertainment services, mobile games and "facebook stuff" doesn't overlap overly well and that teams built for one will likely fail at the other, right?
Thing is valve hires people who are good at a number of things. Thats why they are able to switch around from job to job, which is why gabe talks about his employees having wheels on desks aka switching from project to project.

I suggest reading the interview.
 
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29. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 17, 2011, 14:26 Beamer
 
I'm saying instead they likely aren't working on anything big at the moment (hl3, ep3, portal 3, whatever), instead they are working on things like entertainment services, mobile games, and facebook stuff. Kinda like Gabe is talking about.

You do realize that the skillset for AAA action games and the skillset for entertainment services, mobile games and "facebook stuff" doesn't overlap overly well and that teams built for one will likely fail at the other, right?
 
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28. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 17, 2011, 14:13 Verno
 
I'm saying instead they likely aren't working on anything big at the moment (hl3, ep3, portal 3, whatever)

I sincerely doubt they have all of the people responsible for non-business affairs working on sprites for Facebook games but whatever floats your boat man. He's talking more on a strategic company level type thing. Half-Life 3 is most definitely being worked on.
 
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27. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 17, 2011, 10:57 Dev
 
Sepharo wrote on May 17, 2011, 00:00:
How does what you quoted from Verno and what you responded with go together at all? What is it an alternative to?
The part where he says "You can pretty much take their silence as confirmation of Half-Life 3"

I'm saying instead they likely aren't working on anything big at the moment (hl3, ep3, portal 3, whatever), instead they are working on things like entertainment services, mobile games, and facebook stuff. Kinda like Gabe is talking about.
 
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26. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 17, 2011, 00:00 Sepharo
 
Dev wrote on May 16, 2011, 23:43:
Verno wrote on May 16, 2011, 08:50:
You act like they've been releasing huge quantities of games since Half-life 1. Valve is a studio like Blizzard, they take their time and do it right. They're also painfully aware they failed with episodic gaming, they've literally said as much. You can pretty much take their silence as confirmation of Half-Life 3, they have other internal resources working on bought IP like Portal and DotA 2 in the mean time.
Or, alternatively, maybe Gabe means what he says:
Question
Am I right in thinking there have been two attempts in changing the way Valve works since Half-Life 2? The first being the episodic model, the latest being the ‘entertainment as a service model’?
Gabe's answer:
Yeah we’re thinking of this all now as entertainment as a service. We’re now fully focused on asking how we can take advantage of being constantly and fully connected to our customers.

How does what you quoted from Verno and what you responded with go together at all? What is it an alternative to?
 
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25. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 23:43 Dev
 
Verno wrote on May 16, 2011, 08:50:
You act like they've been releasing huge quantities of games since Half-life 1. Valve is a studio like Blizzard, they take their time and do it right. They're also painfully aware they failed with episodic gaming, they've literally said as much. You can pretty much take their silence as confirmation of Half-Life 3, they have other internal resources working on bought IP like Portal and DotA 2 in the mean time.
Or, alternatively, maybe Gabe means what he says:
Question
Am I right in thinking there have been two attempts in changing the way Valve works since Half-Life 2? The first being the episodic model, the latest being the ‘entertainment as a service model’?
Gabe's answer:
Yeah we’re thinking of this all now as entertainment as a service. We’re now fully focused on asking how we can take advantage of being constantly and fully connected to our customers.
 
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24. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 08:50 Verno
 
Valve is succeeding financially, though how much of that is from quality game releases and not from controlling Steam or from DLC tchotchkes? Every now and then they seem more arrogant than hungry and that generally does not bode well for things in the long term.

You act like they've been releasing huge quantities of games since Half-life 1. Valve is a studio like Blizzard, they take their time and do it right. They're also painfully aware they failed with episodic gaming, they've literally said as much. You can pretty much take their silence as confirmation of Half-Life 3, they have other internal resources working on bought IP like Portal and DotA 2 in the mean time.
 
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23. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 07:59 Ray Marden
 
Valve is succeeding financially for now, but Newell's statements are cause for concern given their focus.

Excluding jokes, where does he stand on Half-Life? He has no problem bragging about the company, but what of speaking to their utter failure at maintaining episodic releases? What focus is placed on making product for the end user? Keeping the customer fed with a steady diet of great gaming as the primary focus? Lastly, though this is expected from a financial standpoint, he definitely comes off a bit as a "the grass is always greener on the other side..." type of person.

Valve is succeeding financially, though how much of that is from quality game releases and not from controlling Steam or from DLC tchotchkes? Every now and then they seem more arrogant than hungry and that generally does not bode well for things in the long term.
At some point, people need to stop talking and actually doing something.
Shrugging,
Ray

This comment was edited on May 16, 2011, 08:19.
 
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22. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 07:54 Parallax Abstraction
 
Dev wrote on May 15, 2011, 20:10:
Gabe,
There's other ways to help that along instead of trying to squeeze money out of it. Such as a reputation meter or something. Someway you can vote on someone's profile how fun they are to play with. Of course you'll have people gaming that system voting you are a jerk just because they can, it would need some tweaking. The thing is, with the kick system in L4D games, its fairly easy to get rid of 1 bad apple on a team.

Xbox Live has a system like this. you have a 5 star rating that it voted up or down based on whether players mark your gamertag as one they enjoyed playing with or one they want to avoid. You can also submit player "complaints" for things like sitting idle, unsporting conduct, foul language, griefing etc. And it doesn't work at all. tons of people will file complaints or negative reviews against you just because you were on the same team as them and lost a match or because you didn't play at the level they think they're at. And well, I've reported people who have said some extremely vile things even by Xbox Live standards and nothing happened to them. The complaints system does nothing and the ratings in theory allow you to avoid disliked players in matchmaking but that rarely works and even if it does, you have to go through like 3 painfully slow menus to report someone.

If anyone could do this model better, it's Valve to be sure. But yeah, the system is very easily open to abuse.
 
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21. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 05:33 Dev
 
Trainwreck wrote on May 16, 2011, 01:30:
It's not that we're trying to be alarmist, or trying to destroy Facebook games or McDonald's. We just don't want Valve or our local fine steakhouses to imitate the former.
Yeah exactly.

And its not as if valve is lacking for money. Gabe was just bragging how they have super high income per employee numbers, higher than even google. They rake in metric tons of cash with steam, they probably have at least 50% of the digital PC sales which are probably at least 50% of the PC game market now. I bet they make more in a year than WoW does already.

And yet, they want to enter 3 new markets to the detriment of the PC segment. MMO market, facebook game market, mobile market. They have only 250 employees and gabe is talking about how they'd love 50 more, they just can't find ones good enough. He also talks about how employees switch between projects whenever they like. So where are those employees going to come from? Well its going to be away from the PC section of valve. Thats just not "interesting" to them anymore.
 
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20. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 05:06 Numinar
 
The line between rambling Madman and Genius is blurred, the two not even mutually exclusive. But now I start to see that maybe my favourite developer really was capable of that crappy censored edition of LFD2. I was kinda praying that it was the evil influence of Robot Satan.  
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19. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 04:34 Hoop
 
Trainwreck wrote on May 16, 2011, 01:30:
To use an analogy: imagine if your favorite steakhouse started looking to the McDonald's


Pitchford is that you?
 
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Um .. Behind you...
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18. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 01:30 Trainwreck
 
Beamer wrote on May 15, 2011, 22:22:
Seriously, anyone still deny they are thinking about MMO's and facebook games? Gabe is "interested" in it as is obvious from this interview and many other recent things he's said, and they basically only work on stuff "interesting" now.


And you think this means they're selling out, I assume, by the panic in your tone. You don't think Valve is looking for a way to take these mediums and make a Valve game, you think they plan to make any old Facebook game or MMO and just cash in.

Because Valve has done something like that before, right?

I don't think that, exactly, is what worries those of us who are concerned about Gabe/Valve's most recent comments on the matter. To use an analogy: imagine if your favorite steakhouse started looking to the McDonald's model based solely on the number of customers flocking to the fast food giant. Your favorite steakhouse then makes public statements which, although vague, might imply they may soon copy the McDonald's model of preparing beef. See how that can become worrisome to connoisseurs of fine steakery?

It's not that we're trying to be alarmist, or trying to destroy Facebook games or McDonald's. We just don't want Valve or our local fine steakhouses to imitate the former.
 
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17. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 16, 2011, 01:27 Jerykk
 
I can see how businessmen would admire Zynga for being able to reach such a broad audience in such short a time. However, I don't think any developer would feel that same way. Zynga caters to the absolute bottom of the barrel. Their games' designs revolve entirely around operant conditioning. They rely on a constant reward schedule to motivate players to repeatedly perform otherwise mundane and tedious tasks. This has unfortunately become an increasingly popular trend these days (rankings, perks, unlockables, etc) but Zynga takes the cake, as the actual "gameplay" of their titles has no merits whatsoever.  
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16. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 15, 2011, 22:22 Beamer
 
Seriously, anyone still deny they are thinking about MMO's and facebook games? Gabe is "interested" in it as is obvious from this interview and many other recent things he's said, and they basically only work on stuff "interesting" now.


And you think this means they're selling out, I assume, by the panic in your tone. You don't think Valve is looking for a way to take these mediums and make a Valve game, you think they plan to make any old Facebook game or MMO and just cash in.

Because Valve has done something like that before, right?
 
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15. Re: Gabe Newell Interview May 15, 2011, 21:11 MoreLuckThanSkill
 
Read the whole interview; he comes across as mostly sane. Also as a somewhat large overlord having talented engineers fetch him coffee!

The excerpt in yellow above is taken somewhat out of context, but still it's a disturbing idea for any company to have, in my opinion.

Rewards might be fine in some way, but financially penalizing customers based on opinions/some weird metrics? That is just open to all sorts of abuse.

Side note, considering how apparently awesome it is to work at Valve, I wonder how people are getting along with the *supposedly* extremely OCD Icefrog of DoTA.
 
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