They’re Waiting For You Gordon, In The Hello Chamber

By Alec Meer on April 23rd, 2012 at 11:30 am.

Today's fun fact - I managed to save this as vavle.jpg rather than valve.jpg. Oh, what fun we have

Jim has already linked to the fascinating Valve new employee handbook in yesterday’s Sunday Papers, but the wisdom of the massed Hivemind is that it deserves its own post due to being possibly the most interesting thing on the internet today. In equal parts inspiring and a bit culty, it’s a long, cheerful document that aims to explain Valve’s unusual non-hierarchical structure to nervous new starters. No-one is necessarily anyone’s boss there – even Gabe Newell is just another link in the chain, apparently.

Want to work on a particular project? Then go work on a particular project, if you honestly believe that’s where you can be the most use. Want to move desks? Simply unplug your PC and move your desk. Want to use the sauna? That’s what it’s there for. It also posits that crunch and overtime are a sign that a project isn’t going as well as it should, and thus these dark periods are avoided in favour of a healthy work-life balance. That’s Valve Time explained, really.

It all sounds rather blissful but, I can’t help but feel, comes across a little like all those in-game marketing materials in Fallout and BioShock. The powers that be enthusiastically describing the wonderful safe haven they’d made. And then the fall… Hopefully, in Valve’s case, the fall only means ‘occasionally suffering huge fan protests because Half-Life 3 hasn’t been announced’ and not an apocalypse scenario. Though I can picture Chet Faliszek sitting on a chair of bones and wearing a suit made of programmers’ hair.

The utopian setup described could, any tinfoil hat-wearer may well feel, be a public attempt to convince staff at other developers to apply for work at this superflat happy family as much as it is an internal document. Have a read, anyway. It’s a remarkable artifact from a remarkable company.

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111 Comments »

  1. RC-1290'Dreadnought' says:

    One of the images seemed to imply: “Everyone stands below Gabe, and everyone stands above Chet”. What a wonderful read that book was ^^

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      I guess Erik must have written the handbook then.

    • Donjo says:

      Yeah, that’s what it looked like.. could have been the dots were pulled out from the line to illustrate certain individuals.. if you know what I mean…

      • opmnxb says:

        Where do Valve fall short? Their developer relations is gnomic, loads of indies would love to get on there, but they can’t because Valve don’t have guys that spend their lives reviewing content like Apple have. http://777.sk/1764

        • Slinky MCPunchfist says:

          Valve review everything sent to them that goes through the proper channels, they just deem a lot of stuff too low quality for steam, The apple store is filled with so much crap it’s hard to find the good games, I’d never want steam like that…

          also I think you replied to the wrong comment…this seems to have no context with regards to what the person you replied to was saying…

        • Antonius says:

          @ opmnxb: Well, really, mis-replying like that is a terrible way to shill your terrible site…

  2. mckertis says:

    “It’s a remarkable artifact ”

    Well, its not that unique, really. Its just a piece of text.
    For instance, Pixar has all of the same qualities and claims, and you can find extensive videos of it all actually existing, and people doing actual work. What really goes on in Valve offices – nobody knows for sure.

    • Ninja Dodo says:

      To my knowledge, while ostensibly a very nice place to work Pixar does not have a flat structure. There’s leads, supervisors, directors, etc and you don’t self-assign work… not quite the same thing.

      • mckertis says:

        “There’s leads, supervisors, directors, etc and you don’t self-assign work… not quite the same thing.”

        What you’re saying is that Valve is actually a communism-infused hivemind, with no single person in charge. And no one person gets the biggest chunk of profits (cough*gabe*cough). Sorry, thats simply delusional.

        • eks says:

          You quoted what he said yet you put completely new words into his mouth. Way to go.

        • Lenderz says:

          I’m not sure you know what Communism means.

        • Ninja Dodo says:

          So I take it you didn’t actually read the document then.

        • lijenstina says:

          *Straw Man nodes in agreement*

        • MikoSquiz says:

          Anarcho-collectivism, surely.

          • Donjo says:

            Well, apparently there are methods to figure out who gets what, but you’d know that, if you’d read the thing.

        • Reefpirate says:

          Don’t worry, Valve is definitely capitalist. It has yet to make it’s own army and police, etc. Corporations are NOT states, people. Geeze.

        • El_Emmental says:

          RTFM (Read The Fabulous Manual) please =|

          “chunk of profits”
          => “compensation” (= how much you’re paid) is described in the .pdf file, it’s based on “stack ranking” (by some members of the project you’re currently working on – they make sub-groups rating other sub-groups).

          Stack ranking is based on :
          1) Skill Level/Technical Ability
          2) Productivity/Output
          3) Group Contribution
          4) Product Contribution

          Then that ranking goes to a company-wide process. And then there’s possible adjustments.

          Then, if you’re talking about the profits after paying the employees, Valve is a privately held company, so (of course) the people owning the damn company do whatever they want with the extra money.

          From the few informations available online, it seems Gabe is happily providing good incomes for Valve’s employees, cool vacation trip for everyone each year, big expensive offices, funding various projects (like the ones regarding data gathering on human response to a stimulus, to how each humans react when playing their games or using their services), and keeping a lot of money for the future.

          Keep in mind that Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington funded Valve with their own money (that they got from their jobs at Microsoft), and personally paid the extra-cash needed so Half-Life 1 could be started again almost from scratch when the initial result was perceived as not good enough. That’s not something you would expect from ordinary company owners.

          Mike basically retired from the game industry now, while Gabe is still here and doesn’t seem to be a money-grabbin’ executive like other CEOs making as much sequels/DLCs as possible, he rather seems to enjoy money as something paying his employees and funding his gaming-related projects.

          ps:
          1) European prices (in euros) being 140% of US prices were part of the deal with the publishers like EA (and later Activision), they didn’t decided it themselves. They even tried a tier-based system for their games, to reduce the difference to approximately 112% in poorer european countries.

          2) Prices are set by the publisher, it’s only regarding smaller developers/publishers that Steam (Valve) suggest a price.

        • S Jay says:

          No one said anything about money. If Valve was hierarchical as any company, Gabe still would get the profits. It is about work environment – anyone that worked in a large company knows the value of a flat structure and how horrible is to depend on idiots to make stuff happen.

    • Craig Pearson says:

      The people who have left know, and I’ve yet to hear much of anything demonising the culture there.

    • Lemming says:

      “What really goes on in Valve offices – nobody knows for sure.”

      Apart from the photo and video tours of those offices along with journalist articles that corroborate exactly what we’ve read, you mean?

      • RakeShark says:

        Just like going up into an alien spaceship, you NEVER really remember what happened there.

  3. Triangulon says:

    I think my favourite quote was along the lines of, “Of all the people who are not your boss, Gabe is MOST not your boss”.

    • jezcentral says:

      That struck me as a little bit “all animals are equal”. Not the effect they were going for, I assume.

      • Apples says:

        I think that’s the exact reference they were going for. It’s usually called “a joke”. Although in this case I think it (light-heartedly) really does mean that, i.e. Gabe is “not your boss” and you can say no to him but he is everyone’s boss and you’d better be careful what you say no to him about!

        • jezcentral says:

          Oh, I agree. (And I did get that it was a joke).

          And well done for getting the reference. I was worried no-one would, and I would have to hate humanity. And Valve would never employ me, then.

  4. KikiJiki says:

    Of course the document designed to be attractive to developers, Valve want good developers to make good games and make a lot of money.

    Having said that, if they want to keep good developers then the practices outlined here aren’t actually outlandish at all. As a developer myself I’d love to work in a place like this Valve.

  5. Mr. Mister says:

    Poor Chet.
    I demand a Calabi-Yau manifold-like graph.

    Yep, reason Episode 3 is still in the dark seems to be that either noone feels like working on it (I wouldn’t either), or that it keeps getting major revamps and changing core ideas (like what happened with Portal 2′s portal-free prototype, the core concept of which is yet to be known of outside of Valve).

    The only I’ve ever heard of Episode 3′s core concepts (apart from anything to be expected by Episode 2′s ending and what is very likely to be a major area in the game) is that the Source feature to be shown off will be the weather, but I read that like years ago.

    • Terragot says:

      They ended up showcasing the weather in L4D2 anyway. But seriously, if I was working there I’d want to see some serious work put into source’s pipeline. As the public tools are now it is painfully slow in creating anything. a live game window wouldn’t go amiss, and scaling meshes would be nice, maybe a flowgraph scripting language (heck even straight to script would be better than the check box solution they use now), and possibly some per pixel lighting? oh, and could they create some tools for working with nav meshes – a posed to using commands on the developer console).

      As great as it sounds to work at valve, I can imagine the speed of development would drive me nuts.

  6. Hazzard65 says:

    I can believe it. There are issues with this set up that won’t apply successfully to most developers though, and one of the solutions to this issue is covered in the manual when it explains how the most important role for every single person in the company is hiring others.

    The advantages and purpose behind this system is made clear – it encourages maximum creativity, flexibility and innovation. The freedom they guarantee their “family” also means that everyone has an immense amount of responsibility. The United States of America is a good example. In it’s prime the US was the most innovative nation on Earth, people – for the most part – took responsibility for their own lives and actions and the freedom this afforded people produced some inventions that changed the world.

    Responsibility is the key word throughout all this. As long as Valve employees take responsibility – taking on jobs that are required to be done regardless of how fun or entertaining they might be the system will work. This is why hiring is the most important job in the company for everyone. You want to make sure the people you have under you are going to not only be the best at what they do, but also will be responsible for taking care of the company. They seem to have a pretty novel way of regulating this through a simple peer review system but I can’t imagine it’s full proof.

    I can see Valve continuing with this system, successfully for the foreseeable future but I can also imagine there may be times when loose links in the chain inevitably slip through the net, and the firing process behind that whole situation could be very emotional.

    Good luck to them. I hope they succeed!

  7. philbot says:

    Valve time: They don’t need to rush their games out. They don’t need to crunch, considering they are printing money from steam all the time anyway.

    Maybe if we all stop buying from steam, they will get strapped for cash, and will release HL:EP3. It’s a crazy plan that JUST MIGHT WORK

    • Mr. Mister says:

      That… is genius. Mad genius, but genius nontheless.
      Now let’s turn this plan viral!

      • Monchberter says:

        Because all of those other Valve boycotts have turned out so well?

        *Remembers Left 4 Dead 2 boycott, dies laughing*

        • El_Emmental says:

          hopefully almost no one ever understood what happened back then, so everyone can have a laugh at it :)

      • Jackablade says:

        Mr Newell had bazillions of dollars before Valve was even founded, so you’d need to find a way to take that out of the equation. Maybe send in a sexy lady to seduce him, marry him and then divorce him, making off with his millions in the process.

        • Thermal Ions says:

          He’s already married, and even if his wife took half, he’d still have plenty to not need to release Episode 3 in our lifetimes.

          • Dozer says:

            That’s not an obstacle. It just requires an extra step:
            1) Convert Gabe and Mrs Newell to Mormonism
            2) Seduce Gabe with future Mrs(2) Newell
            3) Mrs(2) Newell divorces Gabe and makes off with his millions
            4) Valve makes HL2:Ep3 out of desparation

    • LTK says:

      No one buying anything from steam. Yeah, I can definitely see that happening. Definitely.

    • Triangulon says:

      I’m in. Oh wait, a sale!

      • Antonius says:

        BAAAAAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAAAA!!!!
        This is so gonna be what Valve will do… :D

    • Steven Hutton says:

      I’ve often wondered if Valve’s flat structure would work if they didn’t have one sector of their operation just hosing down the entire company with hot, sticky cash twenty four hours a day.

      Could they operate this way if they only made games? Could they make enough money to function as a developer only? Could they maintain their commitment to work/life balance, still produce the best games in the world and work around the balance sheet torturing eccentricities of Valve Time?

      What I’m saying is that this stuff is all well and good when you have infinite money but would it work for an actual BUSINESS?

      Gabe Newell recently said that hierarchical structures are great for repetition but what creates value is innovation for which you need worker autonomy (and hence, flat management). But some games companies have to release a new game every year. Not every Valve year, but every earth year. Or two years. They have deadlines because they have to finish their games before they run out of money. That means that they have to know where they’re going and when they’re going to get there. They have to know what 50% of the game looks like so that they know when they’ve used 50% of their time if they’re ahead or behind. They have to have an actual plan, that means they have to have management.

      And then they need to repeat that process for the next game. Repetition and predictability are important when you’ve got less than unlimited resources.

      Then again Valve made steam with this flat structure too. So maybe it totally would work. Although the more I think about it the more I feel the presence of the spectre of crunch.

      • beekay says:

        I’m pretty sure it would work as a normal business, yeah. Steam is undoubtedly a huge boost, but the fact is that Valve games sell well, and they sell for a long time. L4D2 and Portal 2 are still in the top sellers on Steam – they haven’t dropped out since they were released. L4D2 was released in 2009. And that’s not even mentioning TF2.

        Yes, I’m thinking they’d be secure either way.

      • mendel says:

        This is a R&D setup, basically. R&D works by giving people “unlimited” cash and freedom to get creative, with the assumption this will lead to something they can ship eventually (or knowledge about what not to ship). I’m sure there must be some people who see themselves as “being teh most useful” by watching where the money goes, and giving feedback to devs whether some investment would be worth the return, but penny-pinching in R&D is really not productive at all.

        Successful games are R&D-driven – if you want to be the game that the “mee too” games aspire to be, you need to adopt this sort of approach in some way.

      • psaldorn says:

        The handbook makes a note of Valve being free of external influence, no part-owners, publishers, etc. So when they make games predictibility and repeatability are only important if the company decides it is.

        Let’s say they were games-only. No distribution channel. Irregular but predictable money income (large amount after release, dropping off over time). Seems to me they could still work in the manner they do now, just with a cut-off point for when money reaches X we need to release *something* before X date in future.

        If you had everyone working on one game and have to force it to release early you get a crappy game and loss of consumer trust.

        If you have everyoe working on numerous, creative products. You can release (or, in this case, *they* release, as ad-hoc teams have release authority) one of the minor projects, generating more income.

        Everyone was waiting for the next half-life, then Portal came along and kept us all happy and spending money.

        I doubt the Valve model is sustainable for smaller companies. 12 devs can’t sustain more than 2-3 projects meaningfully, one freeloader would ruin it all. But once the numbers are up and smaller projects can get cycled out the door, it’s intriguing.

        My thruppn’ybit.

      • Thermal Ions says:

        The thing is if the culture truly does promote everyone working for the betterment of the company, then they’d recognise the constraints and work within them, ensuring that there was a balance between the R&D and the revenue generating releases – obviously more critical if they get it wrong of course without the big bag of reserve cash.

      • Jimbo says:

        I suspect the reality is a little different to what is being portrayed in this handbook, but for sure having a reliable cash cow gives them the luxury to operate in a way which would be too risky otherwise. It’s obviously easier to take this approach if the price of failure is a slightly less massive stack of money, as opposed to the company going bust and everybody being out of work.

        It’s no coincidence that the two studios still taking the “It’ll be done when it’s done” approach are the most consistent in producing extremely successful games, but it’s Steam and WoW which give them the confidence and safety net to take that approach. Can you imagine trying to get any kind of external financing with that business plan? “We’re thinking about making a game, or we might just push our desks around the office for five years and then cancel the game because we aren’t quite happy with how it’s turning out… money please?”

  8. Monchberter says:

    It really is a great read, and outwardly at least demonstrates that Valve know that value and worth exist not in the number of hours you sqeeze out of employees, but that workplace structure has a huge impact on the quality of the work your employees do.

    It makes all the difference when you hear the horror stories of working at Activision, Crytek, Zygna to name but a few bitter accounts from former employees that have surfaced over the years.

    There’s a clause binding this all together though, and it’s made clear at the start:

    Valve are completely independently funded – no shareholders etc
    Valve own all the intellectual property they produce – no other parties to placate.

    In the absence of the above, it’s no wonder they’re so free to work so joyously.

    Now, where’s my CV…

  9. RagingLion says:

    I can’t help but feel inspired when I read about Valve like this and wonder how this kind of culture and thinking could be spread abroad more widely into society and other companies and surely have a positive impact in doing so.

    My optimism about Valve working ways is only slightly tempered by coming across someone tweeting:
    “I have not had a meal with a Valve employee in years that doesn’t involve them complaining about Valve the ENTIRE TIME. ” @jeffatrad (5:02 AM – 28 Mar 12)

    • Bluerps says:

      Does that Twitter say about what they complain? Maybe it’s along the lines of “Damn, playing TF2 there is no fun, because they’re all so good.” or “There was no Dr. Pepper in the vending machine again!”

      • mendel says:

        Haven’t heard anyone complain, but all that “you can insert yourself anywhere you like” also means “I need to listen to anyone who comes asking”, and that can probably be a pain, too. Especially when they do it in the bathroom

      • HothMonster says:

        This sauna is too steamy! There is too much expensive champagne in my mimosa!

      • JackShandy says:

        Our Caribbean slave boys have dried up, and it’ll take weeks to ship in new ones!

  10. Loopy says:

    I suggest you all check out the picture on page 22 of that handbook, and look in particular at the t-shirt the guy is wearing on the right hand side of the picture. I think Valve are trolling us again. ;)

    • Monchberter says:

      See also any picture of a typical Valve workstation – one button mouse, two button keyboard.

  11. CaLe says:

    The interview process sounds extremely intimidating.

  12. Bluerps says:

    I wish people would stop talking about that. The combination of the description of this awesome working environment and the fact that see no way I could work there (at least not in the next 3-5 years) just depresses me.

  13. kwyjibo says:

    Sounds like an awesome place to work, but what’s gotten them so far could limit further growth.

    Where do Valve fall short? Their developer relations is gnomic, loads of indies would love to get on there, but they can’t because Valve don’t have guys that spend their lives reviewing content like Apple have.

    Because when you choose what you want to do, you do interesting things. There is a place for stupid people.

    • RagingLion says:

      But it does also say int here that there prepared to contract people for less interesting work that doesn’t need the creativity from their staff, so maybe they could just do that.

      • kwyjibo says:

        I know they bring in guys for testing, and that’s understandable because you want outside opinions. Could also understand easily outsourcable jobs like support going to contracts.

        Think developer relations should be in house though. You really need ownership of that.

  14. sneetch says:

    The Valve described by that manual seems like an anarchic wonderland where you do what you want but I have to wonder if they’d benefit from a little more structure and a bit more discipline.

    They’re hardly the most prolific studio because it’s a playground, not a company and while I’d love to get in there and in many ways it does sound like a dream job I think that I would become very frustrated at the lack of progress being made.

    If there are no bosses and people work on what they feel like working on is it any wonder it takes so long for them to get anything done? Given the way they work it’s a miracle that they deliver anything, the Orange Box could have been a herald of the end days!

    I’ve been working on software for almost 20 years and I know that Parkinson’s law defintely applies to software development: “work expands so as to fill the time available for its completion”. Now if the time is infinite then “completion” is almost accidental.

    • Monchberter says:

      Proved time and time again. But then given the Valve ethos, would they ever want to ship a game they hate?

      • sneetch says:

        Oh no, and nor should they, there’re are very few companies whose games I will buy sight unseen (and that list is getting shorter) and Valve is one of them, when they release I know it’s going to be special and will have be finely tuned, feature rich and well supported. I feel very few companies offer that.

        Edit: hang on, didn’t you die laughing remembering the L4D2 boycott? Are you a ghost?

    • Dominic White says:

      “The Valve described by that manual seems like an anarchic wonderland where you do what you want but I have to wonder if they’d benefit from a little more structure and a bit more discipline.”

      They’d probably be a little more successful as a company, but they’d also be less happy as people. I’d pick being happy over being efficient any day of the week, unless I was actually working on projects vital to the survival of the human race.

      • sneetch says:

        I’m not proposing daily beatings and the introduction of grey uniforms here. :)

        There isn’t necessarily a straight trade off between structure and discipline and happiness, a lot of people are happier if they have a bit more structure in their jobs (including some of their current employees, I would say) which is something Valve themselves acknowledge on page 52.

        “We miss out on hiring talented people who prefer to work within a more traditional structure. Again, this comes with the territory and isn’t something we should change, but it’s worth recognizing as a self-imposed limitation.”

      • TsunamiWombat says:

        “They’d probably be a little more successful as a company, but they’d also be less happy as people.”

        QFT. They’de be MUCH more successful as a company, but that doesn’t seem to be the point. Success is genuinely not the point with Valve, it seems. It is confusing and terrifying.

        It’s like Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory.

        • mouton says:

          Lol, why is it terrifying? I guess it would be for firm believers of a rat-race “success” – All of sudden, their promised happiness after 40 years of burning themselves out would not seem as certain ;)

        • Mman says:

          “They’de be MUCH more successful as a company”

          How could Valve be more than a little bit more successful than the absurd degree they already are? Happy people is generally a big contributor to (continued) success in the first place.

    • Dinger says:

      The one thing unstated there also strikes me as the major motivator behind their “group hires”. When Valve brings a team onboard, it’s one that manages not only to have a fun and innovative creative vision, but that manages to get it done.
      You can manage an anarchic structure as long as the people in that structure get things done. TF2 can wait ten years, if the people involved contribute to other projects that make money. Of course, when, five years after TF2′s ten-year-late relase, we see that the game’s characters have become iconic, the artwork a major reference point in game design, and even that Valve is still making cash off of it, we figure it was worth the wait.

      But you still need to be swimming in cash to begin with. Good on em’.

      By the way, those desks are awesome.

    • JackShandy says:

      Given more structure and discipline they would release more games, and release them faster. Valve have decided to prize making good games over both these things.

      They still do as much work as other companies, from what I can tell- they just don’t release anything that’s mediocre. There’s a bunch of games they could have released at a whole lot of different times, but didn’t.

      • sneetch says:

        That’s a false dilemma. You’re assuming that having more structure and discipline means they have to rush mediocre products out. It doesn’t, you can still take the time it takes to make excellent games.

        • JackShandy says:

          Classic game-making structures are devoted to making sure a product ships on time. That’s what they’re for. Making a game good is up to the people you put through the machine.

          I don’t believe more structure and discipline would result in the same level of quality. Creativity is messy.

          But who knows, right? I don’t even have a graph to back me up.

        • Lemming says:

          It’s not an entirely false dilemma. That structure and organisation exists in most companies because you are dealing with finite resources. Valve, because of Steam, do not have finite resources. They have a constant stream of revenue which means they can have this idealistic structure.

          Most companies would die on their arse with in a year if they tried this approach. Reversely, If Valve had kept a more traditional company structure, they’d probably be more like or Blizzard or worse, EA at this point. They’d be ‘bigger’ but that would only be a very good thing for those at the top with the big salaries.

    • cederic says:

      They do have structure and discipline. The manual itself highlights that temporary structures form around popular initiatives; there’s almost certainly someone impatient to release asking, “What do we need to do to get this out to our customers?” and encouraging colleagues to do those things.

      As for discipline.. they do deliver working, playable, entertaining games. They have a proven track record. Maybe not as swiftly as customers would like, but the manual itself notes that revenue per employee keeps rising. That’s not all Steam profits.

      Also note the compensation criteria includes delivery. That’s a decent incentive all by itself.

  15. Oof says:

    Could we all stop giving Valve blowjobs already? JC. It’s like Valve is the Apple of video game companies. And its supporters are just as blind.

    • Dominic White says:

      Yes, PC gaming blogs should stop talking about one of the most influential PC developers of the past decade. How dare we acknowledge them!

      If you’ve got some dirt – some evidence that Valve are actually a sinister organization intent on bringing the common man down – then share it, but until then, I think I’ll assume that it’s just a games studio that’s run humanely, which seems like a strange concept, but not implausible.

    • dog says:

      i was wondering that too… exactly what are all us sheeple being blind to?
      i like valve.
      why?
      because the most fun i’ve had, possibly in the 35 years i’ve been gaming, was playing co-op left4dead and left4dead 2…
      ok, you might not like their games (and what, theres only maybe half dozen games they’ve made) but calling everyone else ‘fanboys’ is just a bit stupid…

      i know its really cool to hate whats popular, but once you grow up a bit you’ll realise that raging against companies like valve and for everyone else who likes them just makes you look like a bit of a tit. no offence.

      • LennyLeonardo says:

        “raging against companies like valve and for everyone else who likes them just makes you look like a bit of a tit”

        I fully endorse this statement.

    • Mman says:

      So, do you actually have a bunch of good reasons why Valve is Bad or did you just have to fill out your passive-aggressiveness quota for today?

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        I think he’s moved on. Possibly to rail against World of Warcraft.

    • Oof says:

      Oh, look, ^ all of these people proving me right. ^ That was “unexpected”.

      Did I say Valve is “bad” or “dirty”?

      Also, I wasn’t referring to RPS. They’re doing their job. I’m referring to a large part of the commentors.

      • Mman says:

        You never said it, but it’s the only logical way to take your comment; if you don’t think Valve are bad/dirty/whatever (especially when you call people with different opinions “blind”, implying that there’s something they’re not seeing) in some way then why do you care so much that people are praising them for doing something that’s both different to most other businesses and seems to also be working for them?

      • JackShandy says:

        “Stop praising valve!”

        “Why do you think valve is bad?”

        “Did I ever say Valve was bad?”

        I dunno, dude, maybe you think valve is amazing and you want us to stop praising amazing things? I’m just throwing ideas out here. Maybe you’re experimenting with sentence structures.

        • El_Emmental says:

          Sentence structure experimentations !

          that kicker really made my day :]

      • Phasma Felis says:

        Did I say Valve is “bad” or “dirty”?

        You did.

        I love how internet trolls all seem to think that normal people don’t understand concepts like “inference” and “implication”.

        • Lemming says:

          “Also, I wasn’t referring to RPS. They’re doing their job. I’m referring to a large part of the commentors.”

          This is what had me. Troll back-pedalling into nonsense. What else should commenters do on a Valve article, I wonder? Talk about model trains, perhaps?

    • Gary W says:

      Get with the program, Oof — we’re all indie hipsters now. Bland, verbose comments containing words like “ludonarrative” are the order of the day here. Moreover, never ever criticize Valve Corporation. Their magnum opus ‘Half Life’ single-handedly advanced scripted sequences at least twenty years into the future.

      • Mman says:

        So apparently the only reason anyone’s given for disliking Valve (wrapped in heaps of passive-aggressiveness of course, because apparently just stating why you take issue with Valve is somehow impossible) so far is not personally liking Half-Life… That’s a start I guess?

      • Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

        I prefer crypto-metaludology, myself. But I can see why someone like you might be amused by your little concept, too.

        Did that have the right amount of hipsterish disdain?

    • Sithis says:

      Valve is the exact opposite of Apple.

  16. InsideOutBoy says:

    I wonder if they had this company structure when they were making the original Half Life, the game that made their name. It seems doubtful as they were working with a publisher at the time.

    It’d be interesting to know how Blizzard operates too. They’re the only other developer I can think of who seems happy to let the years tick by tinkering on certain projects.

  17. noclip says:

    That sound you hear is tens of thousands of people submitting ill-fated applications, delaying release dates further as Valve works to weed through them.

    • Donjo says:

      And making extremely embarrassing video applications. Yep. Like this one.

  18. DeathRow says:

    A very good read. Wish I could know more of the details though.

    If all of this is true, this is definitely a company for the passionate. I am very very curious on how this works in reality.

  19. Dare_Wreck says:

    Having worked in a managerial capacity in a past job, and helping with our hiring process in my current job, I can’t stress highly enough how important the questions Valve uses to evaluate prospective hires are. Not every company can afford or will attract the top talent, of course, but if you can answer their three questions about a candidate in the affirmative, then you are in really good shape.

    If nothing else, there are great tips in their document on how you too can improve your workplace without going so far as to eliminate your entire reporting/managerial structure like Valve’s.

  20. Setheran says:

    Parts of it sound awesome for fostering creativity, and parts of it sound sort of intimidating to me. The emphasis on socialising and the need to constantly be chatting with co-workers just to keep up with what’s going on seems like it favours extroverts and would leave more introverted types feeling excluded. Personally, I tend to work most creatively when I’m left in peace for the most part.

    • SpinalJack says:

      Which is why some people choose not to work for valve. As great as it might be to work there it’s not the best for everyone which is fine.

      Although man, I’d move to america in a heart beat if I landed a job there lol

    • Soon says:

      Alternatively, it would be the best place for them to overcome it.

    • katinkabot says:

      With the evaluation structure being the way it is, you would not be quiet for long. You may not even see it as socialising but more like trying to feel out what everybody is doing/how they’re doing/and getting improtu feedback. That’s how you guage your performance. They’s how you improve and that’s how you get the amazing raise every year. Those environments are sink or swim. It’s a software company. You know it or you don’t. You’re performing or you’re not. There’s no gold star for trying. So pro-life tip: Never balk at opportunities like that. I work best alone as well – I tend to talk to myself when working out a programming problem – but I’m ‘BEST TEAMMATE EVER’ if it means the difference of a 10-15k raise in pay or a small cost of living increase.

      Note: I’m not trying to be rude. Just trying to say never discount anything especially when it comes to work. Also, be an engineer because it gives you a great excuse to have really crap social skills and still be rewarded for awesome technical work.

    • avp77 says:

      Yeah, I totally agree with that. Working at Valve sounded very good until I got the picture that a whole lot of the day was spent doing group work. If my desk was on wheels there, I’d probably wheel it off into a corner to be by myself…ideally, in a separate room with a door on it. And act (act??) crazy when people asked me what I was up to, so they’d leave me alone.

  21. Radiant says:

    Well the down side to all this happy joy joy is that how many wonderful tiny curio sized game ideas have been thrown away in favor of a l4d or tf3 hat cash bonanza?

    You cultivate something that makes your heart sing for a year, then it ultimately dies and ends up on the pile of games marked ‘not Valve worthy’ and your soul gets crushed and you’ve wasted a year of your life.

    Work your heart out for a year and all you have to show for it is this stupid fucking hat.

  22. Jupiah says:

    Valve runs their company in an incredible, revolutionary manner, but this kind of flat “no management” business structure does have some seriously major weaknesses that the document does acknowledge.

    For example, probably the greatest weakness, and the main reason no one else does this, is that literally every single employee must highly skilled in a great number of fields, hugely self motivated, very creative and great at working with other people. Without managers they don’t have many checks or balances in place to keep their employees productive, and a single lazy, unambitious, inflexible or uncooperative employee could cause a lot of damage to their bottom line before being weeded out. More than a few of them could bring the whole operation crashing down. It must be really hard to find a lot of people that can pass that high of a bar.

  23. Dances to Podcasts says:

    Now I’m imagining Valve HQ like this: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Superflat

  24. PiiSmith says:

    How does this text fit with the highly specialized job offer that can be found here ?: http://www.valvesoftware.com/jobs/job_postings.html
    What good is it get someone with a specific skill set into your company if he might end up doing something completely different?

    • sinister agent says:

      I’d imagine because if you’re skilled and experienced enough to fit those entry criteria, you’re overwhelmingly likely to want to work mostly on those things anyway. Take the really specialist people, but let them dabble outside their speciality, too. Sure, anyone can do anything, but they’re probably aware of where they need more expertise, too.

      It makes more sense than saying “are you quite good at stuff? Please apply here”.

  25. sinister agent says:

    This handbook is the most depressing thing I have read for a long time. I am nowhere near skillo enough to work there, but I would be so happy if I could. Wandering round looking for things that need doing and helping out wherever necessary is exactly how I work, but you can never get away with doing that for more than a few hours a week at most places.

    I love that they openly admit where they fall short, too. Too often, a job advert and interview are where everyone present spends all their time quietly hiding their problems and second-guessing what the situation is on the other side, hoping that you’ll be a match and not knowing until you start whether the candidate or the people working there have any idea what they’re talking about. And my god, just thinking about how much good work could finally be rewarded, and how much incompetence and malice cut out were the stacking thing and peer reviews the norm elsewhere….

    Sigh. And I don’t even like half-life. Bastards.

  26. Tom46 says:

    Many good comments and much to think about. There really are different management styles and work environments. For some reason, perhaps thinking of the much more “in your face” style, I remembered hearing of an incident involving Clarence “Kelly” Johnson (Lockheed “Skunk Works” fame) and one of his project engineers. He told him (and I paraphrase): “I trust you, I have faith in you and I’ll give you all the resources you need. If you can’t get the job done, I’ll get someone else.” The man did get results.

    If you know the specifics of this story, please post. My feeling is that it might have happened during WWII when time was of the essence.