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"The process itself had the pretty immediate effect of us saying ‘yeesh, let’s not try and do that again!’ But overall I think it ended up furthering our belief that we needed to get to a place where we could do whatever we wanted with our games, without having to worry about factors other than what players would think."
- Valve's Robin Walker, reminiscing with RPS about the development of The Orange Box.
Valve's three-in-one game compilation The Orange Box was released ten years ago this month, and to mark the occasion Rock, Paper, Shotgun has published a nice chat with Valve's Robin Walker about why it happened and what it meant to Valve.
The big takeaway, for devs looking to glean some insight into how Valve operates, is that The Orange Box happened because three games happened to near ship-shape in tandem (Half-Life: Episode 2, Portal, and Team Fortress 2) and lumping them all together into one retail package helped encourage enough Valve staffers to pitch in and ship them.
"As a project started to head for the finish line, it created such a gravitational pull that it would pull people from other projects to help," Walker said. "It worked as a method of getting us all to think of ourselves as part of a single large team."
But in the process of trying to figure out how to name, ship, and sell these new games, Valve reportedly came to grips with a lot of the ways in which its way of doing business didn't fit with the traditional ways of marketing and selling games.
Walker recalls that it was near-impossible to cut an effective 30-second TV ad for a package of three very different games, for example, and that once the Box was out, Valve saw that a lot of the pushback it had gotten from publishers and distributors about the diluted value of a compilation pack didn't bear out.
"They felt we should target specific products to specific demographics, and that combining them into one was going to torpedo the whole affair,” recalled Walker. “After we shipped, we saw people of all kinds playing everything in the Orange Box, and they didn’t break down along those kinds of simplistic lines. Portal players spent a lot of their other gaming time in Counter-Strike, and TF2 attracted players from all across the gaming spectrum. Both attracted many new players in the process.”
Walker goes on to elaborate how the experience influenced Valve's growth into a company in the full article, which you can read over on RPS.