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Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers

A new blog on the Valve Website is penned by Michael Abrash, the former Microsoft programmer that helped create QUAKE during his time at id Software (thanks Shok). Reviving the "Ramblings in Realtime" title used for his postmortem of his work on the QUAKE engine, he explains: "Valve: How I Got Here, What Its Like, and What Im Doing." He talks about his prior relationship with the Valve bosses from their Microsoft days that allowed Valve a foot in the door to discuss licensing the QUAKE engine, and the long view Valve took over the years when it came to recruiting him. He outlines the company's structure-free style of management (or lack thereof), its culture of pervasive trust, and offers other insights into what makes Valve unusual. He then proceeds to discuss what he's working on right now, which is exploring the ramifications of wearable computing, which recalls the confirmation that Valve has plans to create its own hardware. It's an interesting read, but to avoid giving the wrong impression about the state of this project, here are the caveats he lays out:

To be clear, this is R&D it doesnt in any way involve a product at this point, and wont for a long while, if ever so please, no rumors about Steam glasses being announced at E3. Its an initial investigation into a very interesting and promising space, and falls more under the heading of research than development. The Valve approach is to do experiments and see what we learn failure is fine, just so long as we can identify failure quickly, learn from it, and move on and then apply it to the next experiment. The process is very fast-moving and iterative, and were just at the start. How far and where the investigation goes depends on what we learn.

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43 Replies. 3 pages. Viewing page 1.
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43. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 16, 2012, 22:51 Beamer
 
Sepharo wrote on Apr 16, 2012, 19:33:
Beamer wrote on Apr 16, 2012, 14:02:
Where did all the HL boo-birds come from?

Is this just people being miffed because HL3 isn't announced yet?

Just seems to be the usual "I wasn't presented with a wall of text and my character didn't talk, therefore HL had no story" crowd.

Fine, SS did it first, but that's not the same point as denying that HL has a story or that the player has to "make it up".

http://www.members.shaw.ca/halflifestory/timeline.htm

I can't imagine anyone that played HL when HL launched not thinking HL was the bestest thing in a time full of bestest things.

Even the multiplayer was awesome. Push the button and watch everyone drown!
 
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42. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 16, 2012, 19:33 Sepharo
 
Beamer wrote on Apr 16, 2012, 14:02:
Where did all the HL boo-birds come from?

Is this just people being miffed because HL3 isn't announced yet?

Just seems to be the usual "I wasn't presented with a wall of text and my character didn't talk, therefore HL had no story" crowd.

Fine, SS did it first, but that's not the same point as denying that HL has a story or that the player has to "make it up".

http://www.members.shaw.ca/halflifestory/timeline.htm
 
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41. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 16, 2012, 14:02 Beamer
 
Where did all the HL boo-birds come from?


Is this just people being miffed because HL3 isn't announced yet?
 
-------------
Music for the discerning:
http://www.deathwishinc.com
http://www.hydrahead.com
http://www.painkillerrecords.com
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40. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 16, 2012, 09:16 nin
 
panbient wrote on Apr 16, 2012, 09:11:
theyarecomingforyou wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 14:22:
The reality is that Half-Life completely redefined the genre. It had an intro, it started you without weapons, it introduced other characters that had meaningful dialogue, it had platforming, puzzles more complicated than just "find the red key" and it completely redefined what could be achieved through scripted events. For the time there was nothing like it.

Except for the fact that System Shock had -all- of that, and more, years earlier.

This is just a case of fanboys revising pop culture for the sake of their favourite.

If system shock had performed as well as half life, people might have remembered it. But I'm pretty sure it didn't. I think a lot more people would define HL as genre changing than SS, because they actually played it.

 
http://www.nin.com/pub/tension/
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39. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 16, 2012, 09:11 panbient
 
theyarecomingforyou wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 14:22:
The reality is that Half-Life completely redefined the genre. It had an intro, it started you without weapons, it introduced other characters that had meaningful dialogue, it had platforming, puzzles more complicated than just "find the red key" and it completely redefined what could be achieved through scripted events. For the time there was nothing like it.

Except for the fact that System Shock had -all- of that, and more, years earlier.

This is just a case of fanboys revising pop culture for the sake of their favourite.
 
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38. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 16, 2012, 03:02 Nucas
 
theyarecomingforyou wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 14:22:
Wow, the trolls are out in full force today. They're not even very subtle.

The reality is that Half-Life completely redefined the genre. It had an intro, it started you without weapons, it introduced other characters that had meaningful dialogue, it had platforming, puzzles more complicated than just "find the red key" and it completely redefined what could be achieved through scripted events. For the time there was nothing like it. Half-Life 2 further cemented Valve's position as the leader of storytelling and immersion in FPS games.

This is just a classic case of people rebelling against popular culture for the sake of it.

i was going to type a reply but you saved me the time.
 
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37. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 21:43 ChaosEngine
 
panbient wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 13:05:
Blackhawk wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 12:29:
There were exceptions, of course. System Shock comes to mind,

...and was infinitely better in just about every way possible.

Can you lean in a Valve game yet?

Any minute now, I'll start to give a fuck about leaning.
 
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36. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 17:03 Smellfinger
 
Half-Life was a product of its time. If you didn't like it, then you didn't like single player FPSes in the late '90s because none of them had Doom's monster swarms and maze-like level design. The technology didn't allow for that style of FPS after the genre made the jump to 3D so it was only natural that the focus shifted to heavily scripted on-rails gameplay.  
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35. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 16:44 Dev
 
Beelzebud wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 02:12:
The lead is being buried here. The real story is that Valve has so much on hand cash that they can afford to hire hardware people for R&D.
Yes, and I wish I could invest in them.
RollinThundr wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 12:53:
you're never told who the Gman is or why anything happens over the entire course of HL2.
Thats probably what the story of HL3 is about.
 
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34. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 14:22 theyarecomingforyou
 
Wow, the trolls are out in full force today. They're not even very subtle.

The reality is that Half-Life completely redefined the genre. It had an intro, it started you without weapons, it introduced other characters that had meaningful dialogue, it had platforming, puzzles more complicated than just "find the red key" and it completely redefined what could be achieved through scripted events. For the time there was nothing like it. Half-Life 2 further cemented Valve's position as the leader of storytelling and immersion in FPS games.

This is just a classic case of people rebelling against popular culture for the sake of it.
 
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SteamID: theyarecomingforyou
Star Citizen: Blue's News
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33. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 13:32 Dmitri_M
 
panbient wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 13:02:
Dmitri_M wrote on Apr 14, 2012, 22:11:
It had the best kind of video game story telling. No not walls of text talking about Knights and swords followed by predictable "choices" leading to predictable "consequences" that an 8 year old could see coming - no, it's story telling was achieved through visceral well structured set pieces the player actually took part in, well connected by a great theme, which by the end made you feel like you'd experienced a journey yourself - that's about the best "story telling" a game can manage - not hand holding a bunch of NPCs through THEIR story while you passively sat watching out in the real world behind your keyboard.
I went off on a tangent. Deal with it.

So basically forcing the player to make up the narrative rather than writing it is the best way to tell a story? Do you prefer your books without words?
What have books got to do with an interactive game.
 
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32. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 13:05 panbient
 
Blackhawk wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 12:29:
There were exceptions, of course. System Shock comes to mind,

...and was infinitely better in just about every way possible.

Can you lean in a Valve game yet?
 
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31. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 13:02 panbient
 
Dmitri_M wrote on Apr 14, 2012, 22:11:
It had the best kind of video game story telling. No not walls of text talking about Knights and swords followed by predictable "choices" leading to predictable "consequences" that an 8 year old could see coming - no, it's story telling was achieved through visceral well structured set pieces the player actually took part in, well connected by a great theme, which by the end made you feel like you'd experienced a journey yourself - that's about the best "story telling" a game can manage - not hand holding a bunch of NPCs through THEIR story while you passively sat watching out in the real world behind your keyboard.
I went off on a tangent. Deal with it.

So basically forcing the player to make up the narrative rather than writing it is the best way to tell a story? Do you prefer your books without words?
 
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30. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 12:53 RollinThundr
 
Beelzebud wrote on Apr 15, 2012, 02:13:
RollinThundr wrote on Apr 14, 2012, 20:17:
Halflife had story telling? Could have fooled me.

Fools fool easily.

Cute sweetheart. Freemans a mute, you're never told who the Gman is or why anything happens over the entire course of HL2. But hey if having the player make it up as he goes along is "innovation in story telling" keep drinking that Valve is awesome kool aid.
 
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29. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 12:29 Blackhawk
 
I get the feeling that nobody remembers what the typical shooter was like before Half-Life. It may not have had story telling by today's standards, but before that the best you could hope for was 'Aliens are attacking! Kill them all!' followed by hallways and rooms full of aliens.

There were exceptions, of course. System Shock comes to mind, but Half-Life was the first to take a mainstream shooter and actually have things happen to the player instead of just throwing enemies at him and, maybe, giving him a briefing screen.. It may not sound like much now, but then it was significant.
 
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28. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 10:56 space captain
 
Dmitri_M wrote on Apr 14, 2012, 22:11:
It had the best kind of video game story telling. No not walls of text talking about Knights and swords followed by predictable "choices" leading to predictable "consequences" that an 8 year old could see coming - no, it's story telling was achieved through visceral well structured set pieces the player actually took part in, well connected by a great theme, which by the end made you feel like you'd experienced a journey yourself - that's about the best "story telling" a game can manage - not hand holding a bunch of NPCs through THEIR story while you passively sat watching out in the real world behind your keyboard.
I went off on a tangent. Deal with it.


thats the worst kind of video game story telling.. you have it backwards
 
Go forth, and kill!
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27. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 02:14 Beelzebud
 
double post  
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26. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 02:13 Beelzebud
 
RollinThundr wrote on Apr 14, 2012, 20:17:
Halflife had story telling? Could have fooled me.

Fools fool easily.
 
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25. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 02:12 Beelzebud
 
The lead is being buried here. The real story is that Valve has so much on hand cash that they can afford to hire hardware people for R&D.  
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24. Re: Abrash on Valve, Snow Crash, and Wearable Computers Apr 15, 2012, 02:02 Jerykk
 
"revolutionized storytelling in first-person game" - Ah yes valve did indeed invent the corridor crawler with half life although others have taken the concept and refined it. I think possibly it's ultimate perfected form is manifested in the latest Call of Duty games.

I'm pretty sure there were corridor shooters before HL. You know, games like Wolfenstein 3D, Doom, Duke 3D, Quake, etc. No, HL revolutionized storytelling in that they told a story without the use of cutscenes and without taking control away from the player. Hell, they did it without the protagonist even saying a single word.

"revolutionized digital distribution for the better" - by digitally shackling their games to an application which is designed to take away a gamers control over their own software. Of course this has also been further refined by others and now has become the wonderful "always on" DRM used by Ubisoft and others. Whether this is "better" depends on who you are.

While Steam is indeed DRM, it also offers numerous benefits. The ability to download and play your games on any PC, automatic updates, cloud saves, achievements, multiboot compatibility, etc. In addition, Steam has almost single-handedly been responsible for the huge growth of digital distribution, which has been a tremendous boon to PC gaming. Publishers who had begun to or already abandoned the PC market started regaining interest in it once they realized the greater profit margins that digital distribution offered. Developers were given the ability to market and sell their games directly to a huge audience without the need of a publisher or elaborate marketing campaign.

It's pretty simple, really. Without Steam, the PC market would be considerably smaller these days. The fact that many people will only buy games on Steam is a testament to the benefits it offers. Can you say the same for any other DRM scheme? I don't recall anyone ever saying "I'M NOT BUYING THIS GAME UNLESS IT USES STARFORCE!!"
 
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