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The Valve Way: Gabe Newell And Erik Johnson Speak
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The Valve Way: Gabe Newell And Erik Johnson Speak

August 29, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 3 of 4 Next
 

The purpose of this tournament, is it community-focused, or is it for you to get a sense of how the game is functioning, or both?

GN: Every one of our decisions tends to be multiply-determined. It was a great milestone for the team. I think it's a useful way of showing people where we're at with the project. It was like, "Okay, we haven't done this before. It's actually interesting. We're going to learn stuff that'll impact what we do with Counter-Strike Go. It'll probably affect some of the things we do in the future with Team Fortress." Somebody floated the idea, and the speed with which everybody said "That's a really good idea" was what convinced us to do that.

It also seems that e-sports is riding higher right now than before.

GN: We're not big followers of the e-sports scene, so we don't have super informed opinions about e-sports.

Does it interest you as a company?

GN: I think putting on The International interests us a lot. I think building the technology that you need to run a tournament like this interests us a lot, especially as we move that into Steamworks. So there are clearly some really valuable things.

Suddenly MOBA is a genre, right? Though I don't know if you guys consider Dota 2 MOBA -- that's what [League of Legends developer] Riot calls it.

GN: We usually call it an "action RTS", just because that seems to make a lot of sense to customers. If you say that, they have a pretty good idea what you're talking about. I don't even know what MOBA stands for.

Multiplayer Online Battle Arena.

EJ: I knew that!

GN: I didn't.

EK But yeah, naming your genre, especially a young one, is just tool to kind of help explain to customers what kind of game you have.

GN: I also like the acronym for ARTS -- Action RTS.

That's more charming, I think.

GN: I don't think the name of the genre matters -- as long as customers know what you're talking about.

No it doesn't, but the rise of the genre matters, I think.

GN: Yeah, and I think it's great. I mean, I personally am a fan of these kinds of games, so it's great, as more people are trying out different ideas to move it forward.

Whether or not you do decide to go free-to-play with this, you've been pretty public about the positive side of free-to-play. Do you see that as the way forward, or is it just going to be a project-to-project kind of decision?

GN: I think for each project and for each community you need to do what's right, and I don't believe that there's a one-size-fits-all strategy. All of this stuff changes -- what makes sense today, what makes sense five years from now... There are too many times over the years where everybody in the industry says, "Well, that's it -- we're all going to be doing this."

EJ: We've figured it out; it's over.

GN: I'm still trying to recover from the "everything is going to be an MMORPG, and everybody else will die", or "everything is going to be a Facebook game." So I just think the key thing is to think about your customers, think about how they're going to participate in the community, what are the different ways they create value, and make sure those pieces are all linked together.

Do you think that certain things are going to be squeezed out of relevance? Single player retail games, anything like that?

GN: You always end up looking so stupid any time you make those predictions, right? Because all you're doing is guaranteeing that you're going to be embarrassed two years later when you have that quote read back to you. So I'm pretty sure that we're not doing a lot of 2D games. Although you have FarmVille! They'd probably argue that it's not a 2D game.

Speaking of having your quotes read back to you...

EJ: Uh oh, here it comes!

You were pretty adamantly, initially...

GN: I blame Erik!

...not into the PlayStation 3, but then you came in and ended up putting Steam on Portal 2 to an extent. Were you happy with how that went, in the end?

GN: Yeah! Well, and more in particular, I'm happy with what the customers are telling us, and our Portal 2 customers on the PlayStation 3 are really happy. So I feel good about that.

Do you think they're happier than your Portal 2 customers on the Xbox 360?

GN: I think that they're going to be more happy in the future as we take advantage of the capabilities that we have on the PlayStation 3 that we don't have on the 360.

It definitely seems that Sony is more willing to allow those things.

GN: I think that Sony's made a really smart set of decisions about their approach, and that they'll continue to garner more and more benefits from that approach going forward.


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Comments


mark cocjin
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I think that Gabe Newell is the only games industry leader I know that's of the same level as Steve Jobs and Bill Gates. Unfortunately, of the three, only Gabe gets gaming. While Steve Jobs' charisma relies heavily on the magic of his products' presentation, Gabe's works are more of an industry changer behind the curtains. You never see him reach rockstar status since he credits everyone else for his success.



I call it a silent respect the industry and community has of him. The rest would prefer calling it being part of the Hammer Legionnaries.



It's really unfortunate that Valve is content to doing Valve stuff. The gigantic games corporations spend a lot of money puffing themselves up to overshadow the real heroes of gaming. The developers. We have great developers being swallowed up by these corporations who take advantage of them due to their hunger and lack of self management. Valve was right with seeing some games only existing due to the magic of a certain team being together. A lot of these magical teams have died throughout gaming's history. Their DNA spread across several other development teams are really never the same.



Good job Gamasutra. A lot of your articles have always been like lectures or college thesis for me but this is really fun to read. I'm surprised there hasn't been an interview with GabeN and company yet that followed a BBC Hard Talk format on camera.

manou manou
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"The gigantic games corporations spend a lot of money puffing themselves up to overshadow the real heroes of gaming. The developers." - You sir are my hero :) Businesses must be shaped from the people behind them not the other way around, as it is now. 95% of the value is created by the programmers and artists and yet most of the rewards go to the... you know, the parasites with the suits. If I make a game some day the big publishers will not get one cent! I will give the game for free and die of hunger instead of let those leeches just stand there consume what I've created.

Matt Hackett
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> Valve doesn't have job titles



Huh? http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/people.html

mark cocjin
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Those are specializations. When they're working, they can choose to work on anything. Nobody is somebody's boss in a team. There's a Cabal leader but that job is just to oversee everything.



People there just pick what they want to do. You can't do that if you have a job description that limits you.

Joe McGinn
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It's inspiring stuff, but you also have to be realistic. Most companies do not have the financial freedom to operate this way. Keeping in mind that Valve had that freedom, from day 1, with money earned in another business.

Samuel Batista
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I think looking at publicly traded publishers and Valve as "good vs evil" is a gross simplification of the situation. Fact is, Valve has one of the best (if not the best) work environment in the entire industry, because they hire the best, and have a very lax attitude towards product development. But they can do this because they have the most talented and motivated employees, as well as a good development structure, that leads them to create a stream of amazing game after amazing game. It's a self realizing prophecy, and I really wish I could work for them.



But fact of the matter is that I'm nowhere near as talented or experienced as most people working at Valve, but I'm extremely thankful and fortunate to work for a publicly traded company that is owned and funded by a publisher. I don't care that investors will ultimately reap the fruits of my hard work, I have a great job, I work with awesome people, and I get paid enough to live a comfortable life and buy loads of games.



Ultimately, it doesn't matter if you work for a publisher that will suck all the profits. It only really matters that you work for a publisher that sees employees and development studios as indispensable (and precious) resources for their business.

Anner Bonilla
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Completely true at the end the most important thing is that you have fun and you do what you love.

Neeraj Kumar
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Great interview :)

DotA is the most SuperbAwesomeFantasticAddictiveSatisfyingCompetitiveComplexTeam game i ever played :D



My dream is to work with them :)

Mathieu MarquisBolduc
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"Instead of having some person review all the products that are going on at Valve, you can tell how a product's doing based on how willing people are to go and work on it. We know a product's pretty likely to be successful, or fun, or at least fun to work on, if lots of people are going to working on it. It's a good method."



Working in a large studio, Ive often thought about that. Some recent projects proved me wrong thought, with a popular project going to hell, and an unpopular one getting an unexpected good vibe. Things can turn around so fast. At the very least, it tells the management which projects are in need of more scrutiny.



One thing I do with my friends is betting on the metacritic of our project, during beta. The median of the bets is never far from the truth.

Casey Labine
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This feel-good blather is pure stealth marketing on Valve's part. DotA 2 is a carbon copy of DotA, roughly analogous to Halo: Combat Evolved Anniversary. They know full well it's going to be F2P. As for IceFrog, anyone involved with the Warcraft 3 modding scene is aware of how sketchy he is.

Shekhar Gyanwali
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@mark cocjin

I'll buy that.


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