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Several out of work as Valve makes 'large decisions' about its future
Several out of work as Valve makes 'large decisions' about its future Exclusive
February 13, 2013 | By Frank Cifaldi




Several employees were let go from Steam and Half-Life maker Valve on Tuesday, Gamasutra can confirm.

We've been unable to determine an exact headcount, but phrases we've heard from affected employees describing the incident include "great cleansing" and "large decisions." We've seen the number "25" tossed around, but are unable to confirm this.

Affected employees were asked not to speak about specifics, but the impression we get is that these cuts were driven more by company challenges than by individual performance issues.

Valve has not responded to our requests for clarification. This story will be updated as we learn more about what happened.

Update: After reports started circulating that Valve's director of business development Jason Holtman was no longer at the company, we thought we'd take a look at the company's employee directory (no longer accessible at the time of this writing) and compare it to a version scraped by The Internet Archive from last month.

This is by no means an accurate indicator of who was let go yesterday -- some employees we know were never on this list to begin with, and it's possible that some left the company for other reasons in the interim -- but for the sake of trying to find a pattern to who is no longer at the company, we pulled together a roster of those who were no longer appearing as of our last check this afternoon.
Moby Francke
At Valve, Moby has been a character designer on Half Life 2 and the art lead on Team Fortress 2. Both titles benefited from his fine art training (with an emphasis on illustration). After graduating from the Academy of Art University in San Francisco, he worked at Lucas Arts as a conceptual designer, and taught figure painting at his alma mater.

Jason Holtman
As Valve's Director of Business Development, Jason focuses on Steam distribution, Steamworks integration, and game development on the Source engine. Prior to joining Valve, Jason practiced law, specializing on intellectual property and technology issues. Having travelled all over world to meet with current and potential partners, Jason can tell you the best place to park at SeaTac Airport and exactly where you should buy coffee in more than 15 major airports. He has also perfected the art of the "airport gift."

Keith Huggins
Keith came to Valve from the world of feature film special effects. Two and half years at Weta, five and a half years at Digital Domain in Los Angeles, and a brief stint at Industrial Light and Magic. His handiwork can be seen in King Kong, the last two installments of The Lord of the Rings trilogy, Star Wars: Episode III, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Fifth Element, and several commercials and music videos. Keith is the only person in the world who has animated dialogue for both Gollum and Yoda. When he’s not working on projects at Valve, he can often be found in a casino, making a moderate effort to remain fit, or spending time with his wife.

Tom Leonard
Before joining Valve, Tom was the CTO of Buzzpad, Inc. Before that, he spent five years at Looking Glass Studios where, as Lead Programmer, he wrote the AI and core architecture for Thief: The Dark Project. Tom also spent seven years working on C++ development tools at Zortech and Symantec. He's been at Valve since 2002, working on design and technology for Half-Life 2, Episodes One and Two, and Left 4 Dead.

Realm Lovejoy
Realm’s father is a Japanese ex-monk. Her mom is an English teacher from Rhode Island. Realm grew up in snowy Nagano, Japan, and later moved to Washington State. She attended DigiPen Institute of Technology, got an AAA in 3D Computer Animation, and was part of the DigiPen team that made Narbacular Drop for its senior project. She interned at Nintendo Software Technology before joining Valve’s Portal team. Now she works on videogames full-time and spends her free time writing and illustrating.

Marc Nagel
At age 19, Marc was a Game Counselor at Nintendo of America. After years of helping people play games, he decided he wanted to help create some. He wound up at Sierra Entertainment - as a test lead for six years. The highlight, of course, was working on Half-Life - and also on Opposing Forces, Counter-Strike, Blue Shift, and many patches. When Sierra shut down, Marc headed to Microsoft. Then Valve snagged him. Now he’s back in the land of the living making sure that the zombie you kill blows up real good.

Bay Raitt
Before joining Valve, Bay led the creation of Gollum's facial system for The Lord of the Rings trilogy. He has worked as a concept artist and sculptor at the Weta workshop and helped setup the creature pipeline at Weta Digital in New Zealand. Prior to moving Down Under, Bay was the product manager for the 3D modeling and animation tools Mirai and Nendo. Bay started his career working for Olyoptics as a colorist on early issues of Spawn, The Pitt and The Maxx for Image Comics.

Elan Ruskin
Elan has worked in the game industry since 2003. Since joining Valve in 2006, he’s been an invaluable engine programmer, gameplay developer, and generalist curmudgeon. Elan is a graduate of the University of Pennsylvania and Carnegie Mellon University.

Matthew Russell
Before coming to Valve, Matthew spent seven years as an animator with DNA Productions in Dallas, Texas. His first DNA assignment was the Emmy-nominated Olive the Other Reindeer. He went on to be a character and supervising animator for the Oscar-nominated feature Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius; a supervising animator on The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, Boy Genius; and Lead Animator for The Ant Bully (from DNA and Warner Bros.). Since joining Valve, Matthew has worked on Alien Swarm, Team Fortress 2, and Portal 2. He is an instructor for AnimationMentor. He also likes balloons, pony rides, and fruity drinks, the ones with the little umbrellas on top.
Additionally, Jeri Ellsworth -- who was, we understand, designing game controller prototypes, has publicly stated that she's seen her last day at the company.

Update 2: While Valve still hasn't replied to our requests, co-founder Gabe Newell just released a statement to Engadget, expressing that the company has not canceled any projects.

"No, we aren't canceling any projects. No, we aren't changing any priorities or projects we've been discussing. No, this isn't about Steam or Linux or hardware or [insert game name here]. We're not going to discuss why anyone in particular is or isn't working here," he said.


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Comments


Jack Everitt
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Such as Jeri Ellsworth: http://www.slashgear.com/valve-fires-hardware-hacker-jeri-ellswor
th-13269060/

Jeanne Burch
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And, predictably, many of the article's comments focus on her looks rather than her abilities or what's happening at Valve or even that she just lost her job. :P

Ian Morrison
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@Jeanne:

Yeah, that was both unsurprising and disheartening.

Vincent Hyne
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But not unexpected, as I went into that article and a whole bunch of others expecting it.

The gaming industry is a juvenile one, and we've known that for quite some time. Everything about it is, really.

Absolutely disgusting, but it is what it is.

[User Banned]
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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

Kaitlyn Kincaid
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I wonder how many of the "lol bewbs" comments are from actual industry people or "armchair developers" posting from the outside.

Harlan Sumgui
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@KK, more than there should be.

Jimmy Albright
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I cannot help but feel that this won't bode well for the steambox. Valve has a relatively small team (in the 300's, last I heard) and I'm not sure if they've ever had a layoff like this. I'll be interested to hear more..

Rob Bergstrom
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But, wait, it's a utopia where everyone works on what they want and is self-motivated and there aren't titles and hierarchies and blah, blah, blah, fired.

[User Banned]
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Kenneth Blaney
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From the handbook: Gabe Newell is not your boss. No one is your boss. But of all the people who are not your boss Gabe is the most not your boss.

If this strikes you Orwellian, I doubt you are the only one.

Ian Morrison
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Doesn't mean you can't get fired. If I remember from the handbook correctly, it just makes the responsibility and decision for firing more diffuse (ie, the entire team is involved in the decision), just like their hiring process.

Jimmy Albright
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Kenneth: I think it was the head guy on Portal who did a talk about that. He said there IS a structure, even if it is a bit loose. No one can honestly believe things function exactly like Valve's employee book says it does. It would be anarchy.

If company provided handbooks were the honest factual truth, I'd have the best job in the world. :D

Adam Bishop
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Actually if things operated exactly like Valve's handbook says the do it would be democracy.

[User Banned]
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Jimmy Albright
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If people can work on whatever they feel interested in I'd argue that it would be more of anarchy in the business sense of things. I read that one of their guys was interested in technology similar to google glasses and basically got told he just needed to pick up a few people and begin researching. It wasn't really discussed by the team or anything, at least from what I was reading.

David Marcum
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He got told? Who was the teller? I think that might be a clue that it's not really anarchy.

Jimmy Albright
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Right, that's my point. Anarchy was in reference to the strange perceived notion that they can work on whatever projects they want at their own will at any point in time without approval. My post was meant as a reply to Adam Bishop, but I failed.

Mark Yantek
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Maybe they were a bunch of contract jobs?

Katie Chironis
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... Director of Business Development is a contract position these days?

Christopher Thigpen
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All the best to those who were let go.

Damien Foletto
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Condolences to all affected. Valve is the last studio I thought this would happen.

Ian Morrison
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I don't think this is a standard industry layoff. It not like Valve isn't rolling in dough right now...

Denys Medianyk
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Meybe those guys want to create a small independent company and make their own projects?

[User Banned]
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Steven An
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Yeah that is my guess...

Denys Medianyk
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Looking at layoffs list. Hm... A bunch of expirienced animators and designers and head of busines. Looks like new SFX team was born.
Jeri Ellsworth is somehow out of that list. But meybe she was fired for some specific reason?

Andrew Grapsas
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I could see it going like this, "Okay. That was fun. We're a software company. What will these hardware people do here? Uhh... how good is their code? Yeah... Sorry, guys. Was a cool experiment. More T shaped, please."

Edit: Kotaku has stated that engineers and animators left... Who knows what's up.

Alan Rimkeit
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Are they never making Half-Life 3? I mean what the heck is going on over there? Are they a gamer maker anymore? WTF?

Tyler Martin
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Maybe it's just my traditional difficulty picking up on sarcasm over the internet, or maybe it's just that I've read too many comments sections to Valve related articles on other sites, but I honestly am not sure if you're serious or not. I'd bet it's the latter, but I can't be sure.

Alan Rimkeit
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@Tyler Martin - All I ever heard from Valve is all about Steam. We never hear news about their actual games. Care to share any news on HL3 if there is any to be had?

Tyler Martin
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@Alan Rimkeit: "All I ever heard from Valve is all about Steam. We never hear news about their actual games."

Right, we never hear about any of their games. Except TF2, Portal 2, Left 4 Dead, CS: Global Offensive, DOTA2, etc.

Honestly, I expect to see people complaining about Valve not developing games and asking where HL3 is on IGN or Kotaku, not on Gamasutra considering the notion that they never make games is so easily demonstrated to be false. Hell, they've released at least one title, whether a full game or a smaller project, every year since 2003. In fact, the only year since 1998 that absolutely nothing got released by Valve, if we count retail releases of mods they picked up between the release of HL and HL2, is 2002.

That's quite a steady stream of releases from any company. Which makes your question of whether they're even a game maker anymore make absolutely no sense, and your accusation that we never hear news about their actual games makes even less sense since they seem to always have some new title coming.

What you actually meant to say was are they even working on HL3 anymore? To which I have to ask: who cares? It'll come when Valve feels they have a game worth releasing rather than just being made for the sake of making HL3. I'm perfectly fine with that to be honest because that's how Valve seems to do their best work.

Alan Rimkeit
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@Tyler Martin - Wow, sorry. Seems I hit a nerve. I am leaving it at this. Have a good one.

Tyler Martin
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@Alan Rimkeit: Not sure why you think you hit a nerve. I guess you could say that I have something of a compulsive need to challenge statements which are blatantly false, but there was no malice or anger intended in any of that.

That said, people constantly wondering where HL3 is does tend to get a bit old after a while. Valve has been releasing lot's of stellar stuff since Episode 2, but to hear some people speak, you'd swear they hadn't done anything at all since 2007.

Jacek Wesolowski
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Judging by the tone of the article and the comments, I'm getting the impression that Valve employs ca. 300 thousand people and is a major private nuclear arms vendor.

Ahmad Jadallah
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They are the game industry's equivalent of that :)

Jacek Wesolowski
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Yes, it seems that we've all sort of come to expect Valve to nuke the industry from the orbit at some point. In fact, the industry as a whole is in such state that some equivalent of nuclear exchange (and the resulting nuclear winter) would seem most fitting.

There wasn't this much fuss back when Kim Swift left. Valve itself doesn't seem to have changed that much since then - but everything around them does.

GameViewPoint Developer
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It's impossible to say what the outcome will be from this. Maybe this is being done to concentrate solely on the steambox.

James Maloney
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Personally I feel including the list of the prospectively unemployed was in poor taste. Everyone involved is probably stressed enough as it is without the whole world knowing exact names.

Eric Greenlief
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Actually, if I were laid off, I would love to have Gamasutra run an article with my name listed as potentially looking for a job. Awesome job hunting advertising that a large segment of the industry reads, right when you need it most.

Chris Dickerson
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Next on Gamasutra, why EA is buying their cleaning supplies for their bathrooms... at a discount.

Kevin Fishburne
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Valve is a company. They try to make money doing stuff. They laid off some employees. Yawn. The entire industry is doing this. What makes this seem special is that people have pinned a lot of hope on Valve for changing the system for the betterment of the consumer (gamers). The good news is that none of that has changed. Sad to see anyone lose their job, but what else is new?

Alex Nichiporchik
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Gabe was heavily discussing the idea of an open Steam platform. Perhaps not all people shared that vision, fearing that Steam would turn into the polluted with crap AppStore?

Eric S
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Moby Francke seems to have been a pivotal figure on the look of some of their games, namely TF2. I'm excited to see what he goes on to do since I enjoyed TF2's art direction so much.

[User Banned]
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Greg Findlay
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From this list at least, they just happened to let go of the range of people required to start a new studio (1 business guy, 2 artists, 3 animators, 2 programmers, one QA). Interesting. My bet is that this was a team working on a specific project and they 'fired' them to start their own studio and continue working on that project as an independent entity.

Cale Bradbury
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Given the fact that info on what happened wasn't secretly leaked by one of these guys I would have to agree with you.

Eric Robertson
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Steambox... why?

Cant the future consoles be surface tablets/smartphones running Console apps?

I have 3 old smart phones in a drawer today. In 2 years, i wont be alone. Lets design around that!

Beau Radoicich
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I don't see what all the fuss is about. Yes yes, Valve is the Great Game Company Upon The Mountain. It can do no wrong, and therefore any perceived "wrong" done shall be bleated and magnified ten fold.

But you had to see this coming. It's :EFFORT: to pull up interview transcripts and videos, but I do recall him mentioning that they needed to do a better job at firing people. Not just that last video at that University of Texas either.

I'm sure we'll hear more about this in a few more months, after Gabe has been relentlessly pursued on the issue (Granted, Valve is the Circus Freak in the industry, we can't help but relentlessly pursue it).

Simon Lepine
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Yup sounds like they just cleaned house a little, maybe they closed a project down and took the opportunity to add a few extra people they wanted to let go.

Tristan Pilepich
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Interesting. Surely Valve have fired people before and I haven't seen such a big deal being made about it. I wonder what's different now, I hope how open Gabe has been with news outlets in more traditional channels lately isn't causing people to put an unnecessary magnifying glass over every decision Valve makes.

I hope everyone can just understand that despite having a different management style/structure Valve is still a company. People have to be let go from jobs for a variety of reasons all the time, and it's not necessarily a bad thing for their career / life either.

Valve has no requirement to share how/why they make the decisions they do with anyone. They're not public for a reason, and this is just one. If you want to know more details, speak to the person who made the tweet, they're the ones who obviously are happy to share. Don't expect Valve to give you answers to questions you have no right to ask.


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