Clint Hocking Leaves Valve, Newell Discusses Sequels

By Adam Smith on January 7th, 2014 at 8:00 am.

Clint Hocking, he of Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and Far Cry 2, has departed from Valve after eighteen months working as a something or other designer and level designer. Meanwhile, Gabe Newell has been talking to noted videogame blog The Washington Post about the company’s structure and strategy. Observant readers will notice that this post contains two pieces of Valve news but not a shred of concrete information about any games in development. I reckon that’s why Hocking left – he designed a couple of levels every week but couldn’t find any games to put them in. After trying to drop a few into DOTA 2 when nobody was looking, he eventually left the building with a bag full of digital architecture.

The rumour mill suggested that Hocking was working on Left 4 Dead 3, a game that may or may not exist in any form. Hocking hasn’t spoken about his decision yet, although his personal website does confirm the news.

As for Mr Newell, he was quizzed about the nature of Valve and its success. It’s all about people.

There are a bunch of things, like the people who are really talented often don’t fit into rigid boxes. It’s part of why they’re good. For example, Ken Birdwell was one of the first people here and he has a bachelors in Fine Arts — he’s an artist — and he also happens to be able to program really well. At any other company he would be sort of forced to fit within an existing structure but if you look at the class of problems he’s able to solve since he can animate, model, and program he’s able to invent solutions that other people can’t.

Gabe also talked about how Valve attempts to create an environment that supports employees.

We’re always looking for ways to make this a better place and just be cognizant of people who have families. My wife, who worked here at the beginning when she was pregnant, is super annoyed about how most companies make it really difficult for their female employees to deal with raising kids so we’re sort of hyper vigilant about making that as easy as possible. She feels like a lot of women get forced out of the workforce because of the trade offs they have to make and it tends to be this fairly large gap. She now runs this organization dedicated to helping from birth to around three years, so she sees how hard it is for most families to keep the mother engaged with her career during that period. A lot of times, after three years they’ve just sort of fallen out. And that’s just another instance of a class of difficulties that we all have.

I’m sure we’ll have new ones as our workforce ages and we go through different sort of demographic challenges. And we’ll also have people who come in and say, as we’ve had, “I”m a member of the US national ultimate frisbee league team and we’re going to nationals and I’m going to be gone for six weeks.” That’s awesome — let’s figure out how you can go do that. And I don’t think that will be a problem that happens frequently.

And then there are games. As Hocking may have discovered, Valve doesn’t create what people expect it to create and the risk-taking is admirable.

When we started out we were a single-player video game company that could have been really successful just doing Half-Life sequel after Half-Life sequel, but we collectively said let’s try to make multi-player games even though there’s never been a commercial successful multi-player game.

Then we tried to do Steam. There were a bunch of people internally who thought Steam was a really bad idea, but what they didn’t think was that they would tell the people who were working on Steam what to do with their time. They were like “that’s what you want to do wit your time, that’s fine, but we’re going to spend our time working on Half-Life 2. We think you’re kind of wasting your time, but it’s your time to waste.”

In retrospect, it was a great idea, right? So the key thing was that people bear the consequences of their own choices, so if I spend my time on it the only persons time I’m wasting is mine. Over time, I think people sort of recognize how useful it is for people to vote with their time. There is a huge amount of wisdom in people’s decisions about what they personally want to work on next.

There is a corporutopian vibe to many of Valve’s statements about their corporate structure and it’s easy to sneer. It’s always easy to sneer – just pretend the clouds have planted a fish hook in our lip and roll your eyes in agony. Whether another Half Life sequel is important to you or not, it’s good to know the company gives their employees freedom to work on the projects they’re interested in. But, personally, I’d like to know that some of those employees want to work on a game, whether it has specs and crowbar in it or not. Valve can afford to take risks and I’d love to have seen what somebody like Hocking did when given the chance to throw the dice.

That’s not to say that the structure wasn’t compatible with Hocking’s ideas. We don’t know. But there’s something appealing to me about the idea of Valve as a creative refuge for imaginative thinkers.

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93 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    Big Murray says:

    The problem with that kind of “free reign” structure is that you can be an awesome creative person and have great ideas, but if you don’t fit in with the cliques which already exist then you’ll get absolutely no support to develop them. We don’t know why Hocking left, but I doubt it was because of a lack of talent. My hunch is he just didn’t gel with any one particular group and found himself in the weird position of working there but having nothing to work on.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bradamantium says:

      I don’t know, he spent eighteen months there and that seems like an awful long amount of time to have his mobile desk floating between a few clouds of them, dejected by the lack of acceptance from his peers. I’d be surprised if Valve’s not fully cognizant of the sort of issue you cite here and people live or die in the company based on playing well with others.

      • Corb says:

        Getting along with others is a life skill, not just work. Your success at living is dictated by how well you get along with people in social and work settings. You will be fired/forced out of almost any white collar job if you can’t play nice with the others.

    • S Jay says:

      I have no clue how it is working at Valve, with Newell or Clint, but one thing is fact: what is good for someone, might not be good to someone else. Maybe he didn’t enjoy the company culture and prefer something else. Maybe he wants to become an indie dev. Maybe he received an offer he can’t refuse from someone else.

    • trjp says:

      There’s some truth in the concept that ‘the freer the level of control – the more people will clique together’ and that means you either make your own clique or join one or leave.

      I spent a few years as a ‘gun for hire’ development project fixer for a ‘large IT and business consultancy’. The main skill I learned from that was how to read what an office/team was like just from talking to people by email or over the phone (it’s an essential life skill if you want to ever LEAVE the project you agree to fix!!)

      It wasn’t my job to fix “people problems” – I was there to fix technical issues BUT knowing what the team is like and how people work is a key part of anything.

      I say all of that because I’ve emailed/chatted to a couple of people from Valve and I recognised the ‘free structure/clique mentality’ instantly – they all used the same (slightly odd/arcane) terminology which is a classic sign of a project/team who have followed a single person’s vision of design/implementation and are shackled to it (for the record, if it had been a fix job I’d have rejected it instantly – you cannot work with people like that).

      It can be incredibly effective when the vision was solid and the team is talented/balanced and have the funds to get to the end (often a VERY long trip) but it’s a hard thing to get involved with and if often ends in a fiery death (all IME)

    • GunnerMcCaffrey says:

      “The problem with that kind of “free reign”hierarchical structure is that you can be an awesome creative person and have great ideas, but if you don’t fit in with the cliquesmanagement goals which already exist or change suddenly then you’ll get absolutely no support to develop them.”

      Any large organization can burn people, and different models are more or less likely to burn different people. I doubt Valve’s as egalitarian in practice as they make it sound in interviews, but I know which model I’d rather take a chance on.

  2. Rhodokasaurus says:

    Valve seems like a development utopia the same way that the cities of Bioshock seem like utopias. Everybody working on whatever they want sounds great until the reality sets in that you just wasted two years of your life and have nothing to show for it, like this guy. I could see how it might be incredibly frustrating if you’re not into DotA or hardware.

    • Thorontur says:

      When I think about these utopian workplaces, I’m always concerned about the people who actually do work on the ‘useless’ projects, the ones that don’t make it. Or people that don’t produce results quick enough. The corporations never talk about their policy towards these people. I’m afraid that it’s just this typical American dream nonsense: you have the right to pursue happiness but if you can’t make us money happy, you’re out. And in that, the Bioshock reference is pretty apt.

    • Premium User Badge

      Bradamantium says:

      I don’t know if “wasted” is the right word for it, especially since it seems Valve so seldom lets people go that it made headlines when they did it in any significant way. I think it might appear wasted considering current industry corporate culture, but then there’s a case to be made that people’s two years are wasted all the time by 60 hour workweeks that stretch to a 100 in crunch time just to put out something like Battlefield 4 because there’s a deadline, by gum, and we can fix it later!

      Plus, seems they’re the sort of company that would call any amount of significant effort a source of growth and therefore not a waste, and I’d be inclined to agree with that at least.

      • jalf says:

        Not “wasted” as in “I worked for two years and then I got laid off”, but “I worked for two years on a project that was never turned into a product”.

        People generally want to have something to show for their hard work, whether or not they’re getting a monthly paycheck for it.

        • Simes says:

          There’s no shortage of cancelled projects in the games industry. If it’s going to happen anyway, better to be working somewhere which is a pleasant place to work.

    • S Jay says:

      I believe there is an underlying vision, some sort of loose direction. If people understand company goals and where it should be heading, it is easier to spend less time on useless projects and more on things that matter.

      Of course, some people are mavericks and want to do their own thing regardless, but probably those end up without so much support and quit or are fired.

  3. N'Al says:

    Far Cry 2 was great.

    • Fenix says:

      Except for the respawning enemy camps. And the extremely repetitive missions, which involved triggering said respawning enemy camps multiple times. But yeah, it was a good game.

      • InternetBatman says:

        And the enemies who would chase you for 30 years.

      • Arglebargle says:

        Many of these problems they admitted they knew about via their beta, but they just couldn’t manage to fix them. Terribly flawed game that blew its chance to be special.

      • Premium User Badge

        Nogo says:

        I never really understood this complaint.

        Killing those guys was frequently fun, (like the outposts in 3) and by the time it got repetitive you could just drive straight through them like they were kids with rocks (that one got away from me a bit…)

    • jroger says:

      To me, Far Cry 2 was a very flawed game with some very cool design ideas. Fortunately, Far Cry 3 basically was what Far Cry 2 should have been from the beginning.

    • Nim says:

      Yes, it was so good that I uninstalled it after two hours.

  4. 2helix4u says:

    Just… please get one of your teams to make some games please. Do you remember Orange Box? Like, all the games you could want. Just release lots of games and learn from them. Annual Orange Box, who cares if they’re finished did you -see- the state of mainstream games this year?

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      The Valve of Orange Box fame is gone now. Just accept it and move on.

    • InternetBatman says:

      They’ve released a game every year since 2002.

      • Lemming says:

        This. I’ve long since translated comments that say ‘please make some games’ or ‘they don’t make games any more’ to ‘they won’t make the game I want them to make’

  5. mattevansc3 says:

    I personally don’t buy the utopia spin or its benefits. There’s always a structure, that structure may be flexible but its still there, if there wasn’t a structure we wouldn’t have the firing of the 3D techies or the closure of TurtleRock.

    Also this utopia isn’t developing new ideas. If you look at the last few big games from Valve one’s a remake and three were born outside of Valve. DOTA2 was the sequel to a Warcraft3 mod where Valve hired the Modder.
    Left4Dead was created by a 3rd party who were bought by Valve then disbanded shortly after the game’s release.
    The mechanics behind Portal were part of a proof of concept game and Valve once again hired the creators.
    Counter Strike was just a reboot/update of the original.

    There’s no doubting the quality of the games but you get that same level of quality from other publishers to. We’ve yet to see Valve’s “utopia” structure produce a non-FPS, original game that did not require the idea or concept to be bought in.

    • Premium User Badge

      Big Murray says:

      You make it sound like they just bought the ideas. They actually hired the people who made Vernacular Drop and Counterstrike. They became Valve.

      You might as well have a go at companies for hiring people who then come up with great ideas for not coming up with ideas from the existing team.

      • mattevansc3 says:

        In the case of Left4Dead they did. They hired the dev, made them a part of Valve, gave the sequel to another team and closed the studio keeping the game/idea all in under two years.

        • Acorino says:

          Yes, though Turtle Rock Studios was essentially re-formed with the same personnel in 2009.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            But they reformed themselves, that had nothing to do with Valve. Let’s also not forget Valve’s reason for closing them down, after buying the dev, rebranding them and setting up an office where they were based, which was the other side of America, Valve turned around and said they didn’t want employees not in their headquarters and staff would have to relocate or be made redundant…a few months after L4D shipped.

      • WrenBoy says:

        I dont think mattevansc3 is saying there is anything wrong with buying talent, he is just saying that since these ideas were created before Valve bought them you cant credit Valves organisational structure with them.

        • lordfrikk says:

          Idea is nothing without a proper execution. If you ever “played” Narbacular Drop, you can immediately see it’s just a 3D tech demo of a gun being able to shoot the portals. That’s it. Everything else is Valve, and yes, those are also people from Nuclear Monkey Software who were hired to work for Valve.

          • WrenBoy says:

            Its certainly true that execution is as important as ideas. Are you saying that Valves organisational structure helps produce tight, highly polished games or just that Valve happens to make such games?

          • lordfrikk says:

            I would like to say that but I have nothing to support that claim. I think it certainly helps that they’re not publicly traded and the leadership prefers quality before rushed release which is something they can afford due to a steady stream of money from other venues. Large factor of polish is time, certainly, which helps getting those nasty bugs squashed, but we must not forget about other elements such as writing, UI, level design etc. I think their organizational structure enables creativity which in the end also affects these areas resulting in a more polished product.

          • WrenBoy says:

            In all honesty I think they just hire good people and that the alleged workplace utopia aspects main benefit is as a recruitment tool.

            Its a shame that actual game development seems to take a back seat to their distribution / DRM business.

          • mattevansc3 says:

            But Activision Blizzard produce equally high quality games and up until they bought themselves out they were a stockholder driven company. There’s plenty of companies that produce amazing games, its rare for RockStar to make a dud for example, and they operate within the standard structures.

          • Frank says:

            Yeah, I love Valve and hate Blizzard, but really they are quite similar: they make good games (many of which are sequels) for broad appeal among a relatively hardcore audience.

            I guess I just hate Blizzard for being run by Activision and for squandering the Starcraft universe.

        • stupid_mcgee says:

          “since these ideas were created before Valve bought them you cant credit Valves organisational structure with them.”

          The problem is that the premise is profusely obtuse and completely disingenuous. In a more blunt manner, it’s the idiotic driveling of a stupid child.

          Valve had nothing to do with those games! Except pick up the idea and fully develop it. But that’s it! I mean, it’s not like Portal and L4D wouldn’t have been made if Valve hadn’t stepped in. I’m sure Activision or EA would have gladly stepped in to fill Valve’s shoes.

          The fact is that it was Valve’s organizational structure that allowed this to happen. It was a chance, and Valve took it. They let their passions guide them and they produce a better product for it.

          But, yeah, fuck facts because it ruins this idiotic lie narrative that Valve doesn’t develop games. Even though they do. They’re just not making Half Life 3 fast enough. And, really, who cares about quality? It would be so much better if Valve just cranked titles out and annualized the shit out of their games, just like EA and Activision. Now those are good companies that provide quality products that really care about and ensure the quality of their games.

    • jalf says:

      Also this utopia isn’t developing new ideas.

      Yes, this, a thousand times. For all the (largely well-deserved) praise Valve gets, and as high quality as their games are, they’re a polish studio. they don’t make new games, they polish existing ideas (typically based on something they bought)

      • lordfrikk says:

        Depends where you draw a line between the idea and polish. If you said that all that Valve did with Portal was that they polished an idea they bought, then there’s something wrong, because the whole idea is literally portal-shooting gun. The rest of the game, which is virtually 99%, is Valve’s doing. The same way you could say that companies developing FPSs are just polishing existing ideas. Partly, you would be right, but for most people such pedantry would seem like taking it too far.

        • gwathdring says:

          My thoughts, as well. It’s one thing to complain that gaming (or even Valve) doesn’t have enough novelty for your taste. It’s downright silly to suggest that Valve has produced less or less original work than most of the companies it would be worthwhile to compare them to. Or to pretend Valve is unique in buying up ideas, IPs, studios, and talent. Valve, at least, tends to buy ones intends to use immediately rather than buy them only to sit on them for years and years.

    • Jenks says:

      Might as well add TF2 to that list.

  6. Billy Idol says:

    It’s always easy to sneer

    Plus you’ll look awesome doing it. There’s no down-side.

  7. IanWharton says:

    The corporate utopia thing is either a lie, or one of those half-truths people invest in because it is convenient to do so. It might be true that people can work on what they are interested in, but there’s a good chance that such a system will be wholly incompatible with some people’s work, or simply be a horrible environment for certain mindsets. It seems a little hivemind/doublespeaky to me. It can only work if you believe it, etc, but does that make it real?

    Having seen Mr Hocking speak on a number of occasions, I wonder whether he’s someone who needs a particular regime to get going. There’s good reason to believe a lot of people who have departed Valve have done so because it’s just a bit weird.

  8. Dinger says:

    Yes, I too love Valve’s work, admire their corporate structure and am in awe at how much money that company rakes in. But I don’t buy the utopia claims. You can get rid of a lot of the formal company structure, but you’re still going to have an informal social order, and such an order is going to be resistant to disruptions. Looking from the outside, the aspect of Valve that bothers me is that, while on the one hand, it has this great mechanism to form cabals, on the other, there’s nothing in place to break them up and reorganize them. Certainly, a successful product has behind it a team with an effective social system AND the ability to execute a great idea. But social systems have their own preservation as a first priority, and, over time, will sacrifice everything else to maintain the hierarchy. People “not fitting in” can be for many reasons, but they can be the first sign of trouble.
    Oh yeah, and then there was that whole GDC fiasco some years ago.

    • Ergates_Antius says:

      It amuses me how many people in this thread are declaring that Valve’s “corporate utopia” doesn’t work, can’t work and is a lie, without presenting a single piece of evidence to support their argument. Just because you don’t understand how something can work, doesn’t mean it cant. None of you have ever worked at Valve, and I’ve not read anything by a current or former Valve employee about how their structure doesn’t work.

      Of course, you could be right. Maybe it is all smoke and mirrors, but until someone comes up with some actual evidence for this, I’m calling bullshit.

      • Dinger says:

        I find your assertion that their corporate utopia works fundamentally wrong. You have no evidence whatsoever that it works, and yet here you claim exactly that.

        Well, you claim exactly that as much as I claim that is “doesn’t work, can’t work, and is a lie”.
        Valve never claimed that their workplace was a utopia, or that their approach to doing things was flawless. Employees and Mr. Newell have claimed that it has several advantages for creative work, and I would agree with that. I was just trying to point out that the informal hierarchy — which exists everywhere, and whose existence Valve is careful not to deny (“there is no formal hierarchy here”) — can have negative effects, and those negative effects do correlate with what those both working with Valve and who have left have said. They just don’t emphasize it. You will always have workplace cliques, and the first job of a clique is to be exclusionary. A formal hierarchy is a crude mechanism for breaking up cliques. Valve has an economist on-team. If they don’t already have someone who specializes in social psychogy/sociology, they should get one: the rewards both in terms of managing online communities and in managing their own community are too big to ignore.

        • derbefrier says:

          actually Valve’s past success and continued success pretty much proves their managing style works. now if they havent put out a game in 5 years, and steam didnt exist, and if they had a revolving door of employees you naysayers might have some ground to stand on. Right now you are all really just full of shit and just being contrary for the sake of it, because its the internet and it makes for interesting conversation.

        • Ergates_Antius says:

          I was aggregating a number of similar claims made by multiple people:
          mattevansc3 said “I personally don’t buy the utopia spin or its benefits. There’s always a structure, that structure may be flexible but its still there”
          IanWharton said “The corporate utopia thing is either a lie, or one of those half-truths people invest in because it is convenient to do so”
          You said: “But I don’t buy the utopia claims. You can get rid of a lot of the formal company structure, but you’re still going to have an informal social order, and such an order is going to be resistant to disruptions”

          My point is that all of you are just wildly speculating based on your own preconceptions about how a workplace has to work.
          Sure, maybe there are cliques, maybe they’re a problem. But you don’t and can’t know that. You have no idea what it’s like to work at Valve, none of us do. Maybe they *do* have a way of preventing them being a problem. Maybe their whole ethos means it just doesn’t happen. Maybe they put something in the coffee. Who knows?

          Why does there have to be a structure? Just because that’s the way it’s always been done before doesn’t mean it’s the only way to do it.

          • Dinger says:

            That aggregate opinion doesn’t exist. I said nothing about how Valve actually works, nor did I speculate. Well, okay, I did say they didn’t have a mechanism to break up cliques and groupthink, and you’re right, maybe they do (“It’s called ‘what the hell were you guys thinking skipping Diretide?!’ “).
            So I’ll repeat: they’re very good, have some of the best talent in the industry, put out really great games and updates, and are raking in the cash. But they can’t be perfect. And I can see one potentially huge problem with their system, namely that just as formal structures can get in the way of getting things done, so informal structures can be toxic, and one that I haven’t seen addressed. And, it’s probably unbased speculation, except of course, for the part where it’s based on the only public statements given by an employee to get fired there (and these are statements that that person no doubt regrets). Feel free to search “valve utopian cliques”.

  9. BooleanBob says:

    I think a lot of that sneering might be eased by news outlets being prepared to bandy about words like utopia, even half-seriously. Correct me if I’m wrong, but nobody at Valve has ever claimed the structure is perfect, or doesn’t have any downsides or never results in people wanting (or having) to leave. It’s just considered by a (presumable) majority there that the benefits of the system outweigh the flaws.

  10. Low Life says:

    To anyone interested in Clint’s work, Steve Gaynor did an interview with him for his Tone Control podcast series: https://www.idlethumbs.net/tonecontrol/episodes/clint-hocking

    Maybe he’ll join the growing group of veteran developers going indie.

  11. Ross Angus says:

    I’d imagine the frustration of working for Valve would be how infrequently they ship games. It doesn’t matter how exciting a project you’re working on, if it never comes out, the time was wasted. I’d like to see what Hocking does next. He’s done some interesting work in the past.

    • Low Life says:

      In what world is one game per year from a single studio infrequent?

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        Alien Swarm absolutely doesn’t count, and the position of CS:GO as a Valve game is highly debatable. Which makes it one title every two years. And a person of Mr Hocking’s talents probably has very little to contribute to Dota 2 (as pointed out in the article), which means another one off the list in this context.

        (Also, he’s been at Valve from July 2012, so he didn’t contribute to Portal 2 (2011), either. This makes precisely zero releases with him in any significant role.)

        • Low Life says:

          I doubt a veteran like Hocking would expect to have a game released one year after he started working at the company. A two-year release cycle is the norm for developers of this size, and the actual development time for a title is even longer than that.

          Maybe they decided they’re not going to make L4D3 anyway and he didn’t see a reason to stay?

          • Premium User Badge

            basilisk says:

            Or, you know, that other game with 3 in the title.

            Of course there may be a myriad of reasons, and we might never know which of them led to it. I’m just pointing out that from the outside perspective, I don’t know what someone (presumably) primarily interested in making singleplayer experiences could possibly be doing at Valve right now. Because Valve releases very few games as it is, and virtually none in this particular category.

          • Ross Angus says:

            What basilisk said, basically. I’m single-player focused, but I take your point that Valve releases games I don’t play.

    • JeepBarnett says:

      After Portal 2 I shipped the Peer Review. On TF2 I shipped a Halloween update, Pyromania, Sleeping Dogs, and Mann vs Machine. Then Payback and Arms Deal for CS. That’s just my personal work. Portal 2 also had the Perpetual Testing Initiative. TF2 did 2 other massive Halloween events and Two Cities. Dota has Diretide and Frostivus for major releases. L4D did the Workshop and advanced SDK. Nearly all of these games have also had a few dozen medium sized releases between these major events.

      My point is that one thing I love about Valve is how frequently I’m able to ship my work and see reactions from players. It’s a satisfying and addictive feedback loop that drives how we spend most of our time. The only frustrations are the perception that we “don’t make games”, ship infrequently, or bullshit like “Alien Swarm doesn’t count” (I spent a lovely year on it so, fuck yeah it counts).

      Early morning grumble grumble, I hope this was enlightening. Enjoy your day! :)

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        I didn’t mean to belittle Alien Swarm, but it’s always been presented as basically this little side project by a few people at the company (at least that’s the impression I get). So using it to support the argument that “Valve releases one game every year” feels really silly. Yeah, it technically belongs in the list of Valve games as the sole entry for 2010, but it looks odd sandwiched there between the rather more weighty L4D2 (2009) and Portal 2 (2011).

        But yeah, I can see that the rolling model changes what “shipping a product” actually means.

        • Lemming says:

          ‘little side project’ is how everything at Valve comes to fruition. Alien Swarm is just an example of a little side project that became a little game. You’ve got to know when something is ‘done’.

      • Lemming says:

        Ha! Nice one :D

      • Natima says:

        I absolutely LOVED Alien Swarm, I really wish it had been given updates in the forms of more items to unlock, more campaigns etc… I feel it might have developed a bigger steady player base with the above.
        Every now and then I try to get some people to play it with me, but nobody can be bothered to DL it.

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        I have no idea where people get this idea that you folks at Valve aren’t doing anything. I don’t think many people realize that Valve has less employees than Treyarch.

  12. Shadowcat says:

    In retrospect, it was a great idea, right?

    I see Gabe is being interviewed by his bank account.

  13. honuk says:

    “let’s try to make multi-player games even though there’s never been a commercial successful multi-player game.”

    wat

    I’ll tell you what this world didn’t need: yet another article on how amazing it is to work at valve while making nothing

  14. Heliocentric says:

    I’ll likely buy whatever Clint Hocking makes next, but I haven’t been interested in a Valve game for a while.

    I have no idea what it’s like to work there and anyone that hasn’t already shouldn’t pretend to understand because of work place philosophy statements.

    I wish I could get one of these ex valve employees drunk and find out what the reason they left was. I choose to believe the ex employees are simply valve sleeper agents who will be activated when steam achieves sentience.

  15. mukuste says:

    I’ll just leave this here, which I thought was an interesting account on the inner workings of Valve:

    http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/valve-how-i-got-here-what-its-like-and-what-im-doing-2/

  16. Harold Finch says:

    Bored of Valve now, as far as I can see this “amazing” structure they have in place results in nothing being done. Corporate structures exist for a reason.

    • Acorino says:

      Oh no, they do a lot, but in terms of games little of interest for me. :(

  17. xaphoo says:

    Valve has transformed from PC gaming’s most energetic innovator into a really boring company over the last few years. They’re now a hardware developer and game publisher. And when they do create games, they’re hyper-polished corporate-middlebrow baubles, from Portal 2 to CS:GO to DOTA 2. There’s absolutely no experimentation or envelope-pushing on the agenda. Valve’s got a great history, but it’s just plain boring now. If, out of this “innovative” corporate structure an innovative game ever gets produced, then I’ll change my mind. But it’s been a long dry run. They’re turning into the Steve Ballmer Microsoft of the PC gaming scene.

  18. Pliqu3011 says:

    I don’t get it why so many people (also in this comment section) apparently believe nothing gets done at Valve anymore. In the last few years they’ve released one game each year, which is a perfectly normal output tempo for any studio. On top of that, there are constant updates to existing games like TF2 and Dota2. TF2 is more than 6 years old ffs, how many other studios do you know that provide support for such a long time?
    At the same time. they’re also working on SteamOS and cooperating with different manufacturers and AMD and nVidia. They’re updating Steam all the time, they’re busy patching in support for the Oculus Rift in all their games, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc.

    Valve doesn’t do anything anymore? Bullshit. They release games quite regularly and do a ton of other stuff on top of that. I’d say their company structure (“utopian” or not) is working out pretty well for them.

    • Harold Finch says:

      It’s fiddling at the edges. The fact they are messing around with a 6 year old game rather than innovating with new products says a lot. If you don’t have pressure from senior management then its easy to sit in the comfy chair and not do very much.

      • Acorino says:

        In which world is working on an OS, a controller, a kind of console, a new game every year and updates for an online store and older games doing not “very much”?
        Maybe they’re doing not very much that fits you interests, but they’re doing a lot nevertheless, especially a lot of stuff we never know about. Like all their experiments with input devices.

        • Harold Finch says:

          They are working on lots of things (apparently), very little end product. And very little end product that is of any interest to gamers.

          • Pliqu3011 says:

            Name one thing out of the list of things that I named in my OP, that _isn’t_ of interest to gamers.

            Seriously, what do you consider “of interest to gamers”?
            Isn’t releasing new game every year of interest to gamers?
            Isn’t updating their current games even years after release of interest to gamers?
            Isn’t creating a whole new freakin platform for gaming of interest to gamers?
            Isn’t getting graphics card manufacturers to put more effort into Linux drivers of interest to gamers?
            Isn’t patching their older games to work with revolutionary new technology like the Rift of interest to gamers?

      • BooleanBob says:

        Meanwhile, lifetime TF2 revenues are the envy of senior managers at every other leading publisher and developer in the world.

        • Harold Finch says:

          EA make lots of money as well, and yet you can’t move for the gaming community lambasting them every 5 minutes. Double standards.

          • KevinLew says:

            I wouldn’t exactly use EA as an example of an overly successful company. There’s an article published a week ago on Forbes that mentions that EA could have irreversibly damaged the Battlefield brand by releasing Battlefield 4 in such a broken, terrible state. They are losing their complete monopoly on all sports games as well. Like most corporations, EA makes money, but they aren’t anywhere close to making the profit margins that Valve has.

          • Pliqu3011 says:

            Ah, so because Valve has a lot of money and EA has a lot of money, they are the same and should be judged the same?

      • lordfrikk says:

        Now you’re just picking arguments; I can understand not caring about anything they do if it’s not innovative but just not liking it doesn’t make it pointless. I don’t think anyone at Valve said that their structure is supposed to make them some kind of godly innovator shelling out games like nobody’s business.

        I find it kind of sad that people are argumenting with their hyper-polished games as some kind of negative. What, now? If some other games got the polish Valve gives their games there would be so many amazing things to play I don’t even know.

    • xaphoo says:

      The fact is that they were once a studio that made innovative, great games. Now they are in the business of slowly adding content to old games (as in TF2), technically updating and enhancing games developed elsewhere (CS:GO, DOTA2), or adding sequels to games whose core innovations were developed at other studios (Portal 2, L4D). They’re not really an exciting game company any more, although they clearly have the talent, money, and manpower to be one.

      They are clearly thinking about hardware a lot, and about Steam. These are not things I am terribly interested in, however. I like the games themselves.

      • gwathdring says:

        My patience for this argument as pertains to Valve varies inversely to the extent at which this describes other major studios. Ubisoft doesn’t even look that great in terms of new IPs and innovation, especially not when you take into account how many damn studios they own. EA produces Battlefield, Dead Space, The Sims, Mass Effect, and Fifa which are all pretty different, but they come from different studios within the EA corporate group-hug, and you might notice a tendency to make DLC and/or Sequels/expansions that you have to pay for somewhere in there. You might also note that EA does fair bit of, I dunno, buying studios.

        It’s frustrating that this conversation keeps coming up. Why can’t we leave Valve alone and criticize them for the crap they do wrong rather than for … what, being popular? This whole “Valve isn’t god!” campaign smacks of the attitude Hipsters have towards Coldplay. I rather like Coldplay. They aren’t perfect, they aren’t God, X&Y wasn’t very good and was very repetitive, but they make damn fine music a lot of people enjoy and they’ve got a fairly tight and varied discography compared to some of the indie bands those self-same hipsters push and certainly compared to what most people consider “pop” music during the years of Coldplay’s operation.

        So, too, with Valve. Name a major developer that doesn’t indulge overmuch in sequels and DLC and expansions and retreads and remakes! I’m sure you can think of a few, but hopefully you’ll recognize that those studios are *outliers.* Wonderful, beautiful outliers. Criticizing Valve for not being that kind of innovative ideal is like criticizing a band for not being as insanely talented, innovative, and versatile as Muse or Queen. It’s not exactly very useful as criticism goes.

  19. Lone Gunman says:

    On then bit about it being hard for women to have a job and look after kids, it is even harder if a man wants to do that.

  20. araczynski says:

    meh, only bought two things valve ever made, HL1 & HL2, everything else has been some other shop’s work. they’ve been leaching for years (decade?). i don’t consider their 2 zombie games really anything special, since they’re really just multiplayer games.

  21. Phoibos Delphi says:

    What is wrong with people these days? All that hate against a company that is trying to do things different. I understand that some of you want a “conventional” career, in fact you can´t even imagine working without being told what to do next or without clear definitions of failure and success. That´s fine for accountants.

    But artists work different. I don´t think that David Hockney published every single sheet of paper he scribbled or painted on. I bet he threw away a lot of stuff he did not like during his career. But did it make him depressive that not every attempt on painting he did was “great art”? Did he ask for somebody telling him what to paint next? No. He grew on every abandoned project, maybe taking part of the inspiration over to his next body of work.

    Or a personal example. For the first two years of my school career I went to a “Montessori” school in Germany. The major difference to regular schools was that every day in the first 2 hours we could decide for ourselves what we wanted to do with the books and other materials in the classroom. It´s there that I layed the foundation for a lot of different fields of interest that affected me in the rest of my life. And it did not frustrate me, it made me courious.

    Freedom at your place of work or learning is a great gift for the one who can use it. But it also seems to be a threat to all those who don´t understand it, that is the only way I can explain the bitter words of some forumites on this article.

    I wish Valve all the best and hope more creative companys will follow their example. It´s free spirit that breeds arts greatest works, not corporate numbershifting.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      “I understand that some of you want a “conventional” career, in fact you can´t even imagine working without being told what to do next or without clear definitions of failure and success.”

      I see they taught you mindreading as well.

      • Phoibos Delphi says:

        I only read minds as much as the people above read the minds of the poor Valve employess that have to work on products that are never published ;-)

    • WrenBoy says:

      For the first two years of my school career I went to a “Montessori” school in Germany.

      Certainly not what came to mind when us squares heard the word career.

      • Phoibos Delphi says:

        What can I say, I intentionally left spaces between my separate thoughts on how a “free” enviroment can have positive influence on people. But there are always some squares out there that don´t get it.

  22. WebFusion says:

    I don’t hate Valve, and in fact consider them the “last” true PC gaming company.

    It DOES, however (from the outside looking in) appear as if they have lost their will to “take chances” anymore. Think about it – when was the last time they produced a game that wasn’t a sequel? Hell – Left4Dead wasn’t even an original Valve creation….which means the last original IP from Valve was in the orange box in the form of TF2 & Portal.

    In an age where all these AAA game studios live or die by the success of a single game or two, Valve is uniquely positioned to actually take some chances. They are a debt-free, privately held company with an enormous, reliable, and growing cash flow. Couple that with all the talent they have, and the best idea they could come up with is “Let’s make a DOTA sequel”?

    DOTA is a beautiful and well constructed game, no question…..but again, it’s simply the refinement of an existing idea.

    Why not take some of that cash their sitting on, and trot out some new ideas? How about a Valve MMO? How about a truly epic FPS using a new 64-bit, multithreaded engine that encompasses enormous maps and 128+ players? How about an RTS, or an RPG, or ANYTHING actually, you know…..new?

    Again – I love Valve…but they really need to get the “eye of the tiger” back. They are in the unique position of being able to do any kind of game they want – so they need to stop playing it safe, and come up with a new idea.

  23. shawk says:

    I have read over most of the comments in this thread. From what I gather a lot of expectations from gamers for new products are voiced,which are in turn attacked by defenders of a successful company model. Those are two are possibly related, but still different things in my opinion.

    I feel its great that they are having the success that they do. It also means that any list of “they don’t do this, they grew stale etc” could possible be true but still they have a happy workforce, ship products (see posts above) and earn themselves money. What more could any employee want in a company.

    And everyone saying they are not the bleeding edge of gaming anymore: Maybe they never had this goal. Maybe the talent working there follows the goal of “great polished games that a lot of players enjoy tremendously”? Gamers having fun, employees having fun, families getting fed. Sounds good to me.