Valve Talks SteamOS And Diretide, Defends Communication

By Nathan Grayson on January 10th, 2014 at 9:00 pm.

Valve is a strange company. The mega-dev has always paddled against the inundating current of conventional wisdom, but it gets especially odd when it defies its own internal logic. Oh yeah, also infuriating. As we’ve observed on multiple occasions, the house that Newell built is often extremely open, responsive, and communicative… except when it’s really, really not. Half-Life 3, a recent bout of (still-unexplained) layoffs, Diretide, etc. These lapses don’t make Valve a Bad Guy or anything, but they do strain the developer’s relationship with its 65-million-strong audience. It’s an odd dichotomy that’s more relevant than ever with the evolution of Steam Machines and SteamOS apparently in the community’s hands. So I decided to ask Valve a simple question: What gives?

RPS: So the general plan for the future of SteamOS and Steam Machines is to listen to community feedback and evolve them from there. How hands-on is that process for you? How often are you in direct communication with users?

I think the right response around SteamOS or anything we do will be what we did with Diretide.

Jan-Peter Ewert, business development: We don’t really ask. It’s more that they tell us. Literally, I’ve seen [Valve] people pick up a magazine article with pros and cons and go, “OK, we have to address those cons.” More often than that, it’s our customers. We read our own forums. They complain to each other, and we try to fix that.

RPS: And it does often seem like Valve is listening – at least, from a distance. But it doesn’t feel like a two-way street. Even if you’re always listening, you don’t respond much, and in some cases the lack of direct communication leaves your community in the dark. DOTA 2′s Diretide event is the most recent example. While you ultimately gave fans another Diretide, they spent days angry when Valve opted not to respond initially, assuming you just didn’t care. Valve could’ve informed fans that there wouldn’t be a Diretide event when the decision to forgo it was originally made, too. I mean, I appreciate good surprises and all, but only when they’re not, you know, bad. Why not let fans see what’s going on behind-the-scenes just a little more?   

Jan-Peter Ewert: I don’t think there is a lot of improvement to be made there. The thing is, if you feel something is wrong and your customers tell you something should be fixed, the right response is to fix it – not to tell them, “Yeah, at some point in time we’ll fix it.” Because that’s expectation. And if you’re ultimately not able to fix it, then that only makes people even more angry.

So I think the right response around SteamOS or anything we do will be what we did with Diretide, which is to bring out the thing people want [if it works out behind-the-scenes], not just tell them we’ll fix it.

Jeff Cain, business development: Reactions start even if people don’t hear anything. We’re listening. Things happen.

RPS: But especially in those cases, is it really so difficult to say, “Hey, we’re working on this. It might not end up being super successful, and we might not release it, but we’re trying”? I think gamers are warming to that mentality, especially now that crowdfunding has made open development so popular. Not that Valve should go fully open, but maybe just keep people in the loop a bit better. 

Louis Barinaga, hardware engineer: So hardware-wise, at least in the hardware betas, there’s a lot of that going back-and-forth. That’s all I can speak to, though.

Jeff Cain: I just think people would rather see action. They don’t necessarily care if we tell them we’re working on something so much as they see the results.

RPS: Again, though, what about reactions to things like Half-Life – a third episode of which you told them to expect years ago – and Diretide and even your recent round of lay-offs? People clearly care, and they get upset when they’re rewarded with total silence. It gives a general impression that Valve is listening except when you’re really not. It makes the proposition of offering feedback less appealing.

Jan-Peter Ewert: Well, I think those are different things. When it comes to people, we will not discuss them. We will not stand in their way or [air their dirty laundry]. When it comes to hardware or software, I think we do talk to our community. We read our forums and we post in our forums.

So should there be a big PR announcement around everything? We don’t have a huge PR department. Everyone at Valve deals with issues [individually] as they come up. Whether it’s one of us reading a blog post, knowing he’s working on that, and answering a forum post or people just doubling down on finishing something [in reaction to said blog post], it’s obvious we’ll always try to make the right choice.  

[Event staff motions that time's up.]

RPS: Thank you for your time.

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168 Comments »

  1. Premium User Badge

    daphne says:

    “defends communication”

    How can you defend… that which does not exist?

    I was about to post this comment, then read the article, but the entry is so short that I’ve finished reading and will conclude by saying you probably could have incorporated these into yesterday’s post…

    • soldant says:

      Bingo. I had to laugh at this. Valve more or less said nothing about why they say nothing. They oscillate between being great at interacting with their community when they have good news (or more stuff to sell), but whenever things aren’t working out they retreat into Gabe’s Infinite Fortress of Money and don’t come out until there’s good news again.

      What’s disturbing is that they seem to be saying that if there’s a problem they’re not going to acknowledge it, but instead just push out a fix at some point. That’s a pretty crappy attitude to have if it’s a major problem – I’d rather Valve announce that they’re aware of it, and that they will fix it, rather than just waiting patiently for an unannounced fix to a problem which they may or may not be aware of.

      • Marik Bentusi says:

        He did say why. He said both Valve and customers would prefer to let actions speak and that Valve’s always in the loop about common issues. So while many would prefer a “yes, we know”, Valve likes to think this notion is clear without words.

        It’s kinda frustrating you don’t know whether they actually plan on fixing X or just acknowledge it and move on, but
        a) releasing such a statement has no direct impact on the product or gaming experience – fix for X is (not) going to come out anyway
        b) it sets up hopes and expectations, and Valve’s pretty bad at keeping promises (like deadlines). In order to avoid crushing more hope/expectations than necessary, they don’t say anything that would lead to these things. All other hope/expectations come from fans, not much they can do about that.

        I can only assume Valve’s lack of rigid internal orders only adds to the difficulty of pinning down when/whether they’ll get something done. But if they do get something done it’s generally well received. So there’s that trade-off.

        • Mildoze says:

          You nailed the… nail, right smack dab on the head. People need to learn to relax a little. First and foremost, all of these said,”issues” are really non issues. “where’s my diretide?! /rage” when really you should just be a little more grateful that you get to play this amazing game completely free of charge. Vavle is a unique snowflake that doesn’t bow to industry norms and expectations. It’s a major reason why they are such a great company and partly the reason they are so successful. They don’t have a big PR department because there is no solid ground from which to stand and deliver. For anyone still in the dark about how Valve actually operates as a company, I highly recommend reading this (as it might shine a light to clear some of the confusion about why they don’t respond very often): http://assets.sbnation.com/assets/1074301/Valve_Handbook_LowRes.pdf

          • The Random One says:

            While I agree that being angry that your fake holiday in the fake world of the game you’re playing is silly, Valve isn’t letting you play the game free out of the kindness of their hearts. They’re letting you play the game free because they hope you’ll pay for the things that are not free. This means a considerable amount of those people are paying customers and should be treated as such, and if the fans care more about the fake holiday than the people in change of creating and implementing the fake holiday then something is wrong.

          • Kadayi says:

            Kool-Aid drunk apparently.

    • James Liu says:

      FOR GOD’S SAKE WE CARE!!!!!
      how pale are you to “defend” the communication
      maybe it’s time to change, for one tiny little bit

  2. jarowdowsky says:

    Well I think the legal term for those responses is ‘besuited’

  3. Tuor says:

    So, what, we should start a petition on the Steam forums that we want to know the status of HL3? And then, they’ll “listen” and “act” by… not telling us the status of HL3.

    Yeah, somehow this logical structure appears… unsound.

    • iainl says:

      It seems rather heavily implied that it was basically promising a third episode of HL2, then failing to deliver one because the project was canned for not being good enough, that’s behind this whole “we don’t want to say we’re working on a solution until we know we will deliver it, so pretty much not far before it’s done” attitude he describes.

      • Toyoka says:

        It’s more like Valve doesn’t want to announce anything they don’t think will come through. They haven’t canned anything, they just don’t want to announce “the Borealis scene you will briefly see in HL3″ or something of the like if it doesn’t happen to make it into the final game. They’ve learned from their past. That’s why there’s no news on L4D3, HL3, or any other projects.

        • Mildoze says:

          This is true. They don’t have any Hierarchy in their company. No one has to report up and every employee is their own boss. Hell, I’ve heard they don’t have a single desk in the place that doesn’t have wheels on it. Supposedly people just shuffle around their desks according to what they are working on. I want to work there :)

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            I have no idea where you get the this notion that Valve is some egalitarian utopia. Yes, people have a lot of free rein on what they want to work on, but there are most certainly bosses to satisfy. Otherwise, no one would ever be fired.

  4. Doomsayer says:

    “Valve, you’re doing communication wrong.” – Valve fans.

    • TWChristine says:

      Wrong AND dangerous.

    • Urthman says:

      I think Valve is convinced they have nothing substantial to gain by talking more about what they’re working on. And I think they’re probably right. No amount of information is going to ever satisfy the fans’ cries for more.

  5. reggiep says:

    You guys sound like my wife. If she asks me to do something, I don’t necessarily acknowledge the request, but I do usually do it.

    I can see both sides. How hard is it really to simply acknowledge that you’re doing something? And, well, ya, sometimes I just don’t feel like expending the energy to acknowledge when I’m already in the middle of doing the thing that was asked.

    • Press X to Gary Busey says:

      And instead of getting people to shut up you get an annoyed bunch asking over and over and over for something you are in the process of actually doing.

      • Lemming says:

        Except in this case, if we’re honest we know there’s no limit to the annoying asking. Once you open that flood gate, it’s not going to stop. it’s nothing like having a wife, it’s everything like having a small child asking “why?” infinitely.

      • Mildoze says:

        Here’s the thing though, if they responded, then you would keep complaining and they would likely know less about peoples issues because of it. Just saying, it’s pretty interesting logic if you think about it.

    • khomotso says:

      Your marriage seems to muddle through with poor communication. That’s cool, I guess. But companies with customer bases sometimes try to professionalize their public relations precisely so that the schlubbiness they may exhibit in their marriages won’t get in the way of their business success.

      Valve doesn’t seem to have professionalized this part of their operation. It’s just engineers going with their gut. Tone deaf, a little obtuse, like a surly husband on his way to do the dishes without saying a word. We’ll probably let them get away with it.

      • Jenks says:

        If his marriage is doing as well as Valve, I think he’s doing quite alright.

        • mattevansc3 says:

          But the Valve marriage is one where you signed a pre-nup that means if you divorce Valve gets to keep the kids, house, cars, dogs, etc. so it doesn’t matter how shit Valve treats you leaving them isn’t an option and they know it.

    • hamburger_cheesedoodle says:

      I think it makes a fair amount of sense when you’re, say, doing the dishes or taking out the garbage, to refrain from engaging in conversation that will last as long as the task itself. That’s fine. Making HL2:Ep3/HL3 is not a five-minute task, however, it’s a five-year task, and to that end, a little communication would not go amiss.

      • Toyoka says:

        With the amount of overlap the Valve staff has with all their projects (indeed, several people at Valve can and do work on multiple projects), going on at once, I’d say it’s a little bit more difficult to announce anything because:

        - There is no one to report to. Which means everyone is responsible for their contribution to their projects and anyone who leaks or teases something at Valve behind closed doors would regret it because;
        - Things are in constant motion at Valve; projects are continuously revised and being worked on due to QA, engine restructuring (a la “Source 2″), constant feedback (community and internal), and other internal stuff at Valve. Changes done today could potentially be defunct or redone by next week, leaving any announcements concerning these changes deprecated or out-of-date. I don’t think they’d have time for that.

        • Ich Will says:

          “There is no one to report to. ”

          It makes me smile that people actually believe this!

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            I heard that, at Valve headquarters, they don’t have vending machines. Instead, they have leprechauns that grant wishes and unicorns that, when ridden, will keep you forever young.

          • Kadayi says:

            Yeah. Those 30 plus people that got fired last year or so? They just fired themselves. Just because there’s no official structure, doesn’t mean one isn’t in place in terms of who gets listened to and who dictates things. I am perpetually amused by people citing the ‘Valve handbook’ as if the fiction and the reality are somehow one and the same. It is the nature of any collective for hierarchies to evolve. That is human nature.

    • Baines says:

      Valve stays silent on too many things.

      It is one thing to silently take out the trash when your wife asks about it (though even that kind of silence is arguably justification for your wife to get annoyed). It is another to remain silent when your wife asks if you got the broken brake line on the car fixed. Or to remain silent when you know that you just broke the brake line, right before your wife is about to drive to the store.

      • machineageproductions says:

        Except if he doesn’t tell his wife about the brakes, she could get hurt or die. If Valve doesn’t tell you about some pretendy fun time game they’re making, you don’t get to hear about a pretendy fun time game until it releases.

        In one scenario, there’s an actual, meaningful consequence.

        • Baines says:

          Non-communication, at least in regards to issues with Steam, can cost people money. There are consequences for consumers.

          And there are consequences for Valve. Valve has spent the last several years damaging its reputation with this policy of silence. No, it hasn’t cost them their fortune. EA is still pretty rich as well.

        • tetracycloide says:

          This is such a bullshit cop out. ‘Oh it’s just entertainment so nothing really matters.’ Fuck that noise. Real money changing hands means there are meaningful consequences. Broken brake lines was hyperbolic but so is ‘there are no meaningful consequences.’

          • Kadayi says:

            Agreed. I dislike the dismissal of an issue because it’s somehow not a matter of life and death. Most things in life aren’t a matter of life and death, but that doesn’t somehow invalidate discussion.

        • HadToLogin says:

          Every time I see Episodes on sale I think “hey, it’s cheap, maybe buy it?”. And then I remind “it’s not finished yet”.

    • narcogen says:

      If you took as long as Valve does to do anything, I think your wife would be more than justified in complaining. While there is a certain logic to Valve’s response– that actions speak louder than words– it breaks down where the audience cannot tell if they are not hearing anything because Valve is acting rather than speaking, or because they are not listening. They are trying to give the impression that they listen to everything and respond selectively and on their own schedule. Probably the best thing you can say about that approach is that it is… asymmetrical :)

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        Exactly. And only someone who is completely clueless about PR would make the kind of statement Valve made.

        Sure, Valve can make their excuse stick for a lot of things, like the development of Half Life 3, but it doesn’t address short-term issues. For example, the final 12-hours of the Steam Winter Sale were completely inaccessible to a lot of people in the USA due to DDOS attacks. EA acknowledged the situation and said they were working on it. Valve? Nothing. Cards disappear after thousands weren’t able to access them for over 15 hours, including well after the sale had ended, and Valve says nothing. People were in the middle of crafting badges and buying cards, having money literally vanish because they were DDOSed out from the service for over 12 straight hours. Valve was and still has been completely mum on the issue.

        And this is one of many areas where Valve has repeatedly fallen on their face because they don’t say anything. When you have people saying, “hey, where’s Diretide?” the proper response would have been, “things came up, but we’re working on something special. Stay tuned!” Instead, we get the sound of crickets while we wonder if anything will or will not happen, if Valve even cares, or if they even acknowledge the issue. Telling customers that they should simply wait in information-limbo because you don’t want to get their hopes up is not a proper communication response.

        It’s like if someone calls asking if you’re coming for the Holidays. If you don’t ever respond, what are they supposed to think? Sure, it’s fucking awesome when you show up a month later, sometime in the middle of the week in January, with a bunch of great presents, but it would have been nice if you could have said something. That’s what Valve doesn’t seem to grasp. No one is asking for deadlines and dedicated feature-sets. We just want some fucking feedback. You don’t have to say, “we’re working on time-travel scenes for Half Life 3 and Diretide is coming in two weeks.” Just say, “sorry we missed the event, we’re trying something out. if everything goes according to plans, you’ll hear about it soon.” I mean, for fucking fuck’s sake, this is why we have an entire category of words called “qualifiers.” So you can properly and easily communicate your uncertainty.

        • Kadayi says:

          I think the word your looking for is courtesy. A concept that does seem to elude them.

    • unusec says:

      You have a point here … I can relate to that :) but the problem is that our wifes will eventually leave us if we don’t give them any attention, especially for the small things …

    • tetracycloide says:

      I know when I hear my wife and don’t respond it drives her crazy and when she does the same it drives me crazy too. I’d honestly rather hear a ‘no I an not doing that’ only to be surprised later.

  6. derbefrier says:

    Yeah its none of our buisness why people got laid off. I respect that stance, as for the rest I don’t really care. I am don’t really get into that celebrity worship crap. I don’t need to know or care about knowing every little day to day detail. If half life 3 comes out great, if not I don’t care there’s plenty of other games to play.

    • AngoraFish says:

      The problem is that not addressing the issue leaves one with the impression that layoffs might be related in some way to underperformance, or something worse, which potentially reflects poorly on the people who were laid off, even if they were made redundant entirely due to a strategic refocus.

      • Wedge says:

        I’m not sure how that isn’t still the business between Valve and the people they laid off, and nobody else. I’m pretty sure any other prospective employers of those they let go could contact Valve privately if necessary instead of having to read news about why they were let go.

      • Baines says:

        The problem is that it isn’t just layoffs. Valve is just as silent about lots of things, of varying degrees of importance and relevance.

        It frustrates customers and fans. It projects an aura of indifference, or even arrogance or greed when it comes to some Steam-related issues.

        And now we have an interview asking about that silence, that tries to tell Valve directly how their communication issues are producing negative effects. And Valve’s responses come off like Valve isn’t listening.

        Reading closer, it sounds like Valve has written off the idea of talking to their community, with the logic that because some are going to get upset over any announcement that don’t show results, Valve shouldn’t make any announcements that don’t include immediate results. And that kind of logic is just broken, the kind of logic that leads to communication issues.

  7. Premium User Badge

    wyrm4701 says:

    It’s really disappointing that they wouldn’t address the issue of Half-Life at all. Thanks for asking, RPS.

  8. gwathdring says:

    You guys did a good job pushing, it’s just clear they either don’t have anything to say on the matter, or have something to specifically not say about it. :\

    They explained why they would rather do than talk with respect to things like Diretide. They didn’t really explain why, when they end up *not doing* they wouldn’t talk.

    Oh well.

  9. Premium User Badge

    PeopleLikeFrank says:

    “Valve Defends Communication”

    There, FTFY

    • LionsPhil says:

      I think the title of this article went wrong when it started “Valve Talks”.

      (And, seriously, big SteamOS banner image for no actual SteamOS information?)

  10. aiusepsi says:

    I think the metaphor I would use if I was talking to Valve is that of a progress bar in a UI. Rendering that UI does, strictly speaking, make whatever process it’s tracking slower. But, if you see something taking a long time and it doesn’t have a progress bar, you can’t see that it’s progressing, and it takes about 5 seconds before you start to freak out that it might not be doing anything at all.

    On the other hand, I’m kinda sensitive to their concerns about creating expectation and just making people more angry. You see it happen even when the fans are deluding themselves into creating the expectation, and in many cases, trying to engage with people on forums just makes them more angry than they were to start with. I get the feeling more than one Valve employee has had that experience in the past.

    • TWChristine says:

      I always preferred the old version of Windows de-frag because watching the little blocks made me feel like stuff was actually happening.

      • Ross Angus says:

        I sort of miss defrag. We’re not meant to use it, in these SSD days (for reasons I can’t fathom, it makes the hard drive slower). But Windows 9X was my favourite version. I have a conspiracy theory that Microsoft made it more boring, so that people would spend less time staring at it. Productivity boom.

        • LionsPhil says:

          SSDs don’t gain much from it because their fast seek times means fragmentation doesn’t hurt them as much, and someone made the call (given modern-day MS, probably backed by lots of telemetry and testing evidence) that it wasn’t worth it, presumably vs. either the wear involved, or even just the time and the I/O load.

          I’m afraid the reduction in prettyness from 9X to XP was probably due to a more boring reason: that they bought in some third-party defrag tool for NT, bizzare as that may sound. Possibly by Vista/7 it’s been rewritten once again.

          (I miss watching the cubes move around, too. PC DOS had one that did it in the console. MyDefrag shows it too, but frankly I reserve that for XP boxes where the default one is moody and refuses to do a decent job of it.)

        • Sharlie Shaplin says:

          An SSD doesn’t actually store data where Windows tells it to. They are designed to write data evenly across the drive, and don’t need everything consolidated as they can access all parts of the drive instantly. Defragging just causes the SSD to do lots of unescessary writes, which shortens it’s lifespan and gives no extra performance.

    • xaphoo says:

      They may face a blowback from raising expectations, but they are a big, experienced company – they can handle it. At this point a bigger problem is their horrible aversion to communication, which is becoming the story itself.

      • Urthman says:

        How, exactly is this a problem? What’s the downside, for Valve, of not talking about what they’re working on?

        If Valve said, “Yes, we’ve got a team working on Half Life 3, we’ll say more when they’re further along,” do you really believe that would satisfy the internet? That it would reduce the number of people pestering them for more information?

        I think the Internet is a ravenous beast that will keep asking for more information no matter how much you give it. Whether you give it a little bit, a lot, or nothing, the reaction is going to be about the same: GIVE US MORE!

        • xaphoo says:

          The downside is that it sours their relationship with the public whose goodwill they rely on. This is enough to ruin a company’s longevity.

          • Urthman says:

            I think they figure (rightly) that the people who feel put out by lack of communication are a vocal minority who wouldn’t actually be pleased by more communication (there’s never enough to satisfy you people) and who are going to buy their games no matter what they do anyway.

            The set of people who care so little about games that they’d refuse to buy Half-Life 3 just because they’re mad at Valve yet who care so much about games that they get upset at the lack of news from Valve is probably too tiny for it to make any sense caring about their irrational demands anyway.

        • Baines says:

          The downside is that they also don’t talk about broken things that they are fixing.

          Instead, you get silence. That leaves you to wonder if Valve is working on it at all. Given how slow Valve can be, they could be working on something for months or even years. Or you could have months or years of silence because for whatever reason they *aren’t* working on it and perhaps aren’t going to work on it. If it is some promised game, that is one thing. It is another when it is a promised feature or improvement that they mention and then go silent about. And yet another when it is a problem that they don’t even acknowledge exists.

          It looks even worse when it involves third party rule breaking or deception on Steam. Was War Z incompetence on Valve’s part, exacerbated by a corporate structure not suited for rapid authoritative response to problems? Or was it greed? War Z was making a bunch of money for Valve, and the longer they delayed, the more money they made. Valve’s eventual response made it look like a combination of greed, incompetence, and lazy indifference to any responsibility that they might have. And what of the abuse by the moderator on the forum at the same time? Steam’s mods said that they didn’t have the authority, that they could only report and wait for Valve to step it. Valve never publicly stepped in. If any punishment happened for what was a clear public abuse of authority, it happened behind closed doors. Valve’s silence looked like a cover up, or trying to sweep things under the rug. Considering War Z hasn’t been the only example of abuse by companies, again Valve’s silence smacks of indifference and denial of responsibility.

          Valve built its reputation in part on not being like the other guys. For the last several years, they’ve been the other guys. At times they’ve been *worse* than the other guys.

        • The Random One says:

          I think there’s a difference between “Valve will not say what projects they are working on” (which is understandable, and, in my opinion, commendable, as I don’t care a lot about any games until I can choose to buy them or not) and “Valve will not say what things they are working on regarding games that people are playing and have a lot invested, including money, and stands to change their experience playing their games” (which is just poor consumer relations).

  11. Nenjin says:

    Working as Customer Support in tech, I can say that telling people you’re doing something IS important. Without a statement of intent customers will assume you just don’t care. And even if you later do it they’ll still say something to the effect of “Took you long enough.” Or “Would have been nice to know we could expect this….6 months ago.”

    I think Valve is a little too comfortable in their assumption of people want. Or they’re just too comfortable and are willing to say “Nah. You’ll either sit there and wait for it or you’ll leave.”

  12. mattevansc3 says:

    Valve actually sounded quite stand-offish and arrogant in those responses.

    Valve seem to want their cake and eat it. They are happy to “leak” staff handbooks, talk about the positives of working there, how different they are and how wonderful it is to work for them and that nobody gets sacked when redundancies happen that would seem to contradict this Valve goes quiet.

    They say they don’t have a huge PR department but there’s definitely PR at work here. If its about bigging themselves up or attacking other companies there’s press releases and interviews galore, if its anything that they think would tarnish the ivory tower they’ve built around themselves they go into communication lockdown.

    • aiusepsi says:

      I don’t think they’ve ever said people can’t get sacked. Every business has to have a procedure for that, after all. From what I gather, it mostly seems to happen when people just don’t adjust to the culture; I don’t know if you’ve ever experienced it, but not having a boss is really, really hard, and it’s better for some people to be in a more structured environment. I’m one of them, I think! Those sorts of people wouldn’t last at Valve.

      On the other hand, they do have some very awesome people working for them who seem very happy indeed about being there, e.g. Quake optimisation legend Mike Abrash: http://blogs.valvesoftware.com/abrash/valve-how-i-got-here-what-its-like-and-what-im-doing-2/

      • mattevansc3 says:

        But their staff handbook does state nobody has been fired for making a mistake and that staff are free to and even encouraged to work on projects outside of their technical expertise which gained them a lot of praise…and then people started noticing employees being made redundant in the middle of projects. The staff handbook even says communication with customers is important which doesn’t seem apparent in the interview.

    • rockman29 says:

      I think it’s because they actually are arrogant.

      Their success is their own, and credit is due to them. But to completely write off a suggestion to communicate to fans better is another entirely different thing imo.

      They obviously feel it doesn’t matter though, and that unbridled success probably opens up that avenue for them… the ability to not care about the customers’ feelings, and still profit.

      I’m not saying it happens to every company which has success, or that it is inevitable, but “sly ignorance” seems synonymous with Valve.

      I mean hey, the cash is coming in, why bother to address customer concerns? That’s just an extra bother.

      I don’t know what Valve has done in particular to make PC gamers treat them like demi-gods and worship them. They don’t communicate. Most of their games were originally developed and conceived out of house. And Half-Life is appreciated for so many different reasons other than why people actually bought it (CounterStrike, anyone?)… not to mention completely overrated… more and more every year…

      Their crowning achievement is simply the Steam online store, and being a publisher. What’s so godlike about that, that they should enjoy so much of a free pass? They are exceptionally good at publishing games made by others? OK… that’s good in itself, but not enough to treat Valve as the saints which they are clearly not.

      I’m glad RPS wrote this article and asked the direct questions. Kudos to RPS to show Valve’s true colours. Valve doesn’t need to care, so they don’t.

      • Slaadfax says:

        I quite imagine this sort of attitude is a considerable amount of the reason why Valve does not communicate with great frequency.

  13. Cytrom says:

    What a fruitful interview, so much info!
    Not that I expected anything from them…

  14. Premium User Badge

    SuddenSight says:

    The “We don’t have a big PR department” comment confuses me the most.

    Why not? The experience of dozens of other companies have shown that PR people or community managers or whatever fancy title you want helps enormously with communication and image.

    And Valve isn’t a small company by any means. I would think they could afford it. Why not hire a couple people?

    • Vinraith says:

      Why waste any money on community relations when they’re widely loved and unbelievably profitable without it?

      • xaphoo says:

        I really don’t think they’re widely loved any more. Or at least they’ve jumped five or six sharks.

        • Premium User Badge

          basilisk says:

          Yep. I feel there’s been a growing undercurrent of disappointment with Valve lately. Maybe that’s just confirmation bias on my part though.

        • Vinraith says:

          Even if that were true (and I’m not at all sure it is) it doesn’t really matter. At this point, they’ve got control of basically every PC gamer’s game library. In short, they’ve got us all by the nuts.

      • Premium User Badge

        Thurgret says:

        I don’t love Valve. I don’t like most of the games they make. I don’t like the way they operate. But their digital distribution service is unfortunately one of the only ones going at the moment, so I’m often stuck with them regardless.

        • LionsPhil says:

          Wow, Gabe really did want to create another Microsoft.

          • Premium User Badge

            Thurgret says:

            Hah.

            I actually really enjoyed a number of Microsoft games, back before they forgot how to make nice things. I just can’t say the same for Valve’s line-up, and I’ve tried a number of their games.

        • Vinraith says:

          Indeed, short of abandoning whole genres and publishers, it’s rapidly becoming impossible to be a non-Steam gamer. Who needs PR when you have total dominance in the industry and complete control of everyone’s game library?

          • The Random One says:

            It’s important if they want to continue to be that.

          • Baines says:

            Valve can coast off of Steam for years more, even if they become a completely terrible company. It might be ten more years down the line when they finally start to wonder where it all went wrong.

            Google is still Google, an insanely popular search service and source for various other major online services, even though they pretty much abandoned some of the ideas that helped them achieve that status a while back.

    • Nenjin says:

      Actually Valve is a significantly small company for the volume of business they do.

      And the benefit to not having a full-time PR person is you’re not obligated to give anyone answers to anything. Having a PR person implies you have answers of a sort and there’s someone there to give them to you on demand. Not having a PR department means they don’t create that expectation in customers. It has benefits for Valve, as well as costs. Clearly though they value the ability to say nothing over the value of being communicative with their users. And I’m sure it’s not like you CANT talk to someone at Valve. There’s just no one whose job title is specifically to talk to you.

    • Lone Gunman says:

      To be honest I wo9uld rather hear nothing than the standard PR crap most companies give out.

      • Premium User Badge

        jezcentral says:

        Hear, hear. I mean, I joined the Half Life 3 Communication Stream group, because it was a reasonable request for a single bit of info, but I’m not going to sulk if they don’t feel the need to make us play BS bingo with a press release that manages to say nothing for several paragraphs.

        • Premium User Badge

          FriendlyFire says:

          Looking at this article, they don’t seem to need PR people to be able to say nothing for many paragraphs. They can do that all by themselves.

      • Sharlie Shaplin says:

        Me too, I don’t need to be told everything is all right every two minutes. Internal staff situations are none of our business. HL3 will come when it comes, and if it doesn’t it’s not the end of the world. Just forget about it until/if they announce it.

    • Kageru says:

      If you track down their employee handbook on the web it’s because they have a very flat organization structure. People are encouraged to work on the projects that they see as most interesting or most required by the community.

      I would imagine relatively few of them *want* to be a PR person, fully undertstand everything the company is involved in and there’s no managers drawing up big project plans with lots of delivery dates locked in. So what you get is some developer maybe making a post but mostly focused on getting stuff implemented because that’s what they do.

  15. Premium User Badge

    optimus_hippo says:

    This might sound deliciously ironic (in the colloqial sense)… but the problem I have with their approach is I don’t want spend my time whinging on forums about things I woud like to see changed in the off chance a Valve employee (and one who works in that particular project/game) will see it.

    I think there’s a case of too much generialisation going on too. It’s obvious companies are made up of individual people, so to say the whole of Valve are poor communicators is unlikely to be accurate.

    • Premium User Badge

      optimus_hippo says:

      Dear RPS and the rest of the Internet.

      I am inventing a new word. Ironiquial (i-ron-ik-u-al). It means ironic in the amusing colloqial sense, and not in the far less amusing strict definition sense. We need a new word – it has been decreed.

      With love, OptimusHippo.

      • The Random One says:

        I think that word already exists. It’s ironic.

        What we need is a new word that means what ironic used to mean. I suggest classironic.

  16. Megakoresh says:

    They listen to feedback? Well, this is feedback: communicate better. I always felt a strong belief that the moment when feedback is being listened to selectively, it’s no longer honest to say that “we listen”. You either listen to all the feedback or you don’t. Community-centered development doesn’t work in other ways. I am not saying that complete transparency is somehow an ultimately better strategy, it’s just that you can’t mix the two. It’s clear, majority of spoken fans are dissatisfied with silence. If you claim you listen to feedback, you must address that problem. If you choose not to, then you don’t listen to feedback.

    It’s the same shit with Red5 studios, only in a much more frustrating and dishonest way: they claim to be community-centric, yet for the last 8-9 months the way they “listened” to feedback was decide that “Ok this is a problem”, come up with a solution, go to the forums, find some fanboy who came up with a similar idea, say that it’s a good idea (even though it conflicts with 90% of the game, the original design, economy, fun factors and a bunch of other shit) and implement it. And despite hordes of people crying that issues lie elsewhere, they just pretend this feedback doesn’t exist and ban those people who get too many likes or who give this “wrong” feedback too much exposure that they can’t be ignored. That’s not “listening to feedback”. That’s just confirmation of personal opinion. I hope Valve won’t fall into that pit.

    • xaphoo says:

      This is well said. But I think they’ve fallen into that pit.

    • feedorfeed says:

      I disagree with you saying that they don’t listen.
      I may listen to my partner complain that she doesn’t like that I leave the toilet seat up, but just because I listen doesn’t mean that I need to remedy her concerns

      • Megakoresh says:

        Oh, you don’t have to. Just don’t claim you “address her concerns”. You can set an expectation that you do as you see fit, and that’s fine, as long as you doing as you see fit doesn’t harm others. But if you set an expectation or try to claim that you adapt and behave according to what others tell you, not following through with that expectation is harmful to others by itself.

  17. Snargelfargen says:

    What was Diretide and why was it a problem

    • Premium User Badge

      SuddenSight says:

      Diretide was a halloween themed Dota2 event first run in 2012.

      In 2013 it was run on November 14th. I didn’t pay enough attention to know why there was a delay/if it wass initially intended to be run at all.

      From halloween (October 31st) through November 14th, people on the internet complained profusely about the lack of an event (the internet is silly like that). Valve remained silent throughout until announcing there would be an event as they launched it on the 14th.

      • HidingCat says:

        That’s hilarious. Let’s have Christmas on the 10th of January and New Year’s on the 1st of February.

      • Malk_Content says:

        They didn’t intend to run it all as it was (they actually put out a blog post explaining all of the communication and production reasoning around diretide already but hey-ho) because last year everyone complained, correctly, that it was a shitty shitty game mode. Despite it being so universally unliked scores of people got uppity when it didn’t come out this year and continued being uppity for many weeks until Valve finally caved and said “Fine, have it, its not good enough but its what you want.”

        It came out, it was still shit, nobody played it and everyone kept on complaining.

        Link to their reasons behind Diretide: http://steamcommunity.com/games/dota2/announcements/detail/1837761428200827886

        • Kaira- says:

          They didn’t intend to run it, but the thing is, they told no one. There was the expectation that since it was announced as annual event, it would be happening again. And then, well, nothing.

          • Malk_Content says:

            They never announced it as an annual event, they only ever declared it their “First Seasonal Event.” Everything valve has done concerning Dota2 and events has always had at least a week of build up. People assumed it would be back without any provocation. It and the previous Christmas event were known to be experimental failures.

            People will hype themselves up without any outside provocation, then bitch that those expectations aren’t met. Do I think Valve should’ve just said, “we aren’t doing it, go away” possibly. Then again thats an answer that would placate me, someone who never demanded an answer in the first place, and I doubt it would have done anything to placate the rampart hoards of “gg volvo” spamming forum idiots.

          • Standards says:

            Diretide was never intended or announced as an “annual event”. It was announced as Valve’s first event. EVERYONE hated it, complained about it, and told Valve it was shit. Hardly anyone played it, so why would people hold some expectation of it coming the next year? If you bought your wife an amulet that she hated one year for your anniversary, surely you wouldn’t buy her the same thing next year, right? It’s not Valve’s fault that some people in the community were misinformed and vocal. It’s better of them to just not say anything and fix the problem than to try and put more expectations in the hands of that very, very small and vocal minority that will whine and complain about anything.

            That’s the thing about Valve. Maybe some of you guys like to be spoonfed information every few weeks, or maybe you like your hand to be held. Maybe you like expectations. Valve is smart. They don’t like expectations. Expectations lead to hype, and that is the big thing killing popular games these days. Look at the Mass Effect series. Bioware never really said it was going to be an amazing game, but since they constantly revealed information, people were able to hype it to the highest extreme and take words out of context to make the game seem a lot more awful on release. If the game had no hype or if people had less information, it would’ve been enjoyed as the good game it was. Even then, people would’ve found things to complain about. You can NEVER please everyone, and Valve knows that. Instead of spending a huge amount of time trying to please everyone, or even that vocal minority that is, in all honesty, VERY stupid sometimes (see: Diretide), they’d rather walk the walk. Anyone can talk the talk.

  18. Viroso says:

    I think it’s okay if Valve doesn’t want to say anything about Half Life 3. Saying anything about it wouldn’t change much. The game is taking so long, it’s not like they could show development updates.

    Only wo things Valve could say, we’re working on it, we’re not working on it at the moment. It’s almost a certainty that there WILL be a half life 3, so anything say wouldn’t shed any light about a release date.

    As for Diretide, Valve could definitely have said they’d postpone it but at the same time not doing so doesn’t make me think they don’t communicate. The reaction was too big for the cause, probably just from the sheer number of players Dota has.

    Then we have some somewhat irrelevant things coming together to make us all think Valve doesn’t talk to anyone about anything. Could it be better, yes, everything could be better. But is it really the case?

    Know what I’d love to see in this interview, questions about how friggin long it takes for customer support to answer replies, why the hell is offline mode still so damn sluggish, and best of all, why Steam insists on no refunds, etc.

  19. Monkeh says:

    Half-Life 3 mentioned by interviewer; time’s up.

  20. xaphoo says:

    This is a company that is roaringly drunk on its own kool-aid.

  21. psuedonymous says:

    Valve: “We listen to people and try and fix it”
    Everyone: “We’d really like some more communication please. Updates on what’s going on, which might be in the pipeline but may never come to fruition, even simple acknowledgement of issues before work even starts on solving them”
    Valve: “…”

    • C0llic says:

      I’d just like to say, while Valves almost total silence can be a little frustrating they do have a point. While you might not ever get a release date, or even confirmation of a game that’s in developemnt, when those things do arrive, their support is pretty stellar. As someone who played lots of TF2, and DOTA 2 more recently, you get used to the fact they never acknowledge an issue except in patch notes that say that issue is now fixed.

      The thing is, while this isn’t ideal, it’s still much better than most companies. Indie devs typically conmunicate constantly (I’m also reminded of CA who talk a hell of a lot after each broken release and take an age to actually fix anything, if in fact they ever do), and you can feel a little spolied when it comes to companies like Valve who say nothing, but if you’ve ever played a Valve game you have to admit they do get it done, and get it done fast. They listen, and clearly do care about the people who play their games.

      EDIT: this was meant as just a straight reply to the article.. oops.

    • DanMan says:

      Exactly. It seems their “it’s all about listening to our customers” ends where these consumers ask them to be more communicative.

      What they really mean is: “let us harvest our costumers some more so we can wring more money of them without them ever realizing”.

  22. araczynski says:

    ah yes, the age old symbiotic relationship of consumer and provider: like two leeches sucking each others’ tails.

  23. Enkinan says:

    If customer support for their paid products is unresponsive or lacking, then yeah, I can see people getting upset.

    Otherwise, they don’t owe anyone any information. Period.

    They don’t have to do anything but deliver what they offer for sale. Way too many people act like because they whine on a message board they should be compensated or addressed for some reason. I’m actually glad Valve mainly ignores this garbage and focuses on what they are working on, not PR bullshit.

    • Lemming says:

      I agree completely with this. So they aren’t big talkers, so what? The ones that are big talkers are the same ones that string you along for months/years on end and end up disappointing you. The only thing stringing you along if you are mad at Valve’s communication is your own far too self-important expectations. Valve weren’t Kickstarted. They don’t owe you a damn thing except to supply what you pay for, and they over deliver in that regard, IMO.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      I don’t think I could agree with you more. Absolutely spot on.

      I wish more companies, particularly game publishers, would follow Valve’s lead in this regard. We’re constantly bombarded with information on games that are years away from being released, and frankly 99% of the time I completely ignore it. And, really, the only results you ever get from a flood of pre-release info are a.) tons of people from an established fanbase whining incessantly because a game they haven’t played doesn’t replicate their earlier experiences exactly and b.) tons of people being disappointed when the game is released and doesn’t actually provide you with a fully customizable harem.

      I’d rather the years spent leading up to a release be spent with people whining about how there’s no information than the usual whining about everything else.

    • hilltop says:

      I agree with you but I think they have dropped the ball on communication with customers about existing products too. Which isn’t a big deal until they say that they will be following this model in the future.

      It is presumptuous of them to assume we would rather have silence followed by a fix rather than knowing they are working on a fix. That is my only issue. Otherwise, I agree totally. No need for PR nonsense at all.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      If it were really happening the way your post implies, then I would agree. But I think you’re mischaracterizing the situation a bit.

      Valve are insisting that they listen to the community. They heavily encourage feedback. They say they’re proud of their excellent communication with their fans. But the reality is that almost everyone who isn’t on their payroll completely disagrees with them.

      If Valve were saying “we don’t like to talk about our internal projects,” THEN you would be correct. But they aren’t. They’re trying to have it both ways by claiming to be the patron saints of transparency while actually being almost completely uncommunicative when it comes to the issues their fans care about.

      I don’t think it’s intentional for the most part (aside from the bizarre disappearance of the promise third act of the HL episodes, which they are definitely aware of).

      I think the flat management structure is causing some signal loss between what information Valve thinks is making its way to their fans and what we’re actually hearing. Like, people might just be assuming that someone handled the PR bit, but no one did, and since they don’t have a PR department, customers were just left in the dark.

  24. Premium User Badge

    wyrm4701 says:

    As an aside, I’m enjoying the pattern of these interviews, where questions are politely asked and answered until the interviewee is cut off by nebulous marketing staff, invariably after evading the most concise and intriguing query.

  25. meepmeep says:

    Makes sense to me as a classic business tactic: underpromise, overdeliver.

  26. nightcabbage says:

    I love almost everything about Valve and agree with almost every decision they make, but over the past few years I’ve really loathed their lack of communication. They didn’t use to be this way as a company, and I think events in the past left a bad taste in their mouth and eventually they just decided to shut up to avoid the cons with communicating about their projects earlier on in interviews and articles. The problem is I think they went too far the other way and now they don’t even mention something until it’s a couple weeks away from release and they have a nice polished content based advertising campaign to drip to us over a week (another annoyance). There will be pros/cons to either approach, but I truly believe the best path lies somewhere in the middle.

  27. zachforrest says:

    Is this really worse than the glib charm oozed by most studios?

    • zeroskill says:

      Yeah, it is. Can’t you see the Orange-White Banners on this site? RPS is literally taking promotion money from the company that wanted to overtake Valve some 2 years ago.

      Suddenly, this obnoxious Anti-Valve stance and blowing every little thing out of proportion for the sake of making bad mood against Valve makes sense, right?

      • SkittleDiddler says:

        That “stance”, as you call it, has been building up for years now. People are just being more vocal about it lately due to the fact that consumers are increasingly getting tired of Valve’s everlasting and exhausting dog-and-pony show.

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        So RPS is accused of being anti-Valve now? Funny. Used to be the exact opposite not so long ago.

      • Premium User Badge

        Surlywombat says:

        Hows that tinfoil hat working out for you?

      • DrLeoWollman says:

        All advertising on RPS is co-ordinated through Eurogamer, so they don’t have any direct contact with advertisers. They would have conducted the interview before the Origin banners appeared, and they don’t know in advance who’ll be advertising.

        Besides, how naïvely cynical do you have to be to assume that any stance taken by a writer or interviewer is purely for the purpose of gratifying whoever bought their banner ads that week?

  28. Pundabaya says:

    All I want with respect to Half-Life: Are they working on Half Life 3? If yes, great.If not, no biggy. But the whole ‘we have a really special announcement about the third iteration of one of our games!’ *internet gets excited!* It’s ‘Left 4 Dead 3!’ *Internet deflates* thing has to stop.

    • Jason Moyer says:

      Until they give a release date, does it matter if they’re working on Half-Life 3? Is it normal for consumers to be neurotic about what a company’s employees are working on?

      • DanMan says:

        Indeed. I mean, you wouldn’t want to know, if you had cancer unless the Dr. gave you the exact date of your death now, would you?

        • Jason Moyer says:

          Oh, so waiting for Half-Life 3 is like having cancer? I guess that would at least shut a few people up.

          If you wanted to make an analogy that made more sense, but not really, you could compare it to a doctor telling a patient about what he does all day, including going into detail about the conditions of all of his other patients.

      • Baines says:

        It is a bit annoying when they knowingly tease the community.

        It reminds me of Atlus during the PS1 era. Persona 2 Innocent Sin didn’t see a US release. (There was a US school shooting, and the Persona series has school kids with guns.) Atlus knew that fans wanted the game. There had been stories that it would see release either after Eternal Punishment, or even potentially as a bonus with Eternal Punishment. People kept asking Atlus about the game. After a while, Atlus teases that they are going to reveal important news about a US Megaten (the overall series that Persona is part of) game. Everyone waits for Innocent Sin’s confirmation, only for Atlus to then reveal one of the Gameboy games was getting a US release.

  29. orshick says:

    That’s crazy hearing this guy talk about how people would rather see action than them talking about a project, as though one gets in the way of the other. If there was more action, maybe; if you announce plans to make shorter episodes that are way faster to release and then refuse to comment on the missing end of a trilogy, you’re fucking up. If you announce a release date for a highly publicized project (HL2) and don’t acknowledge it is delayed until after the bitter end, you’re fucking up.

    Imagine this happening in any other industry. Imagine Peter Jackson making the first two LotR films and then not releasing the third film for years and refusing to even speak to what’s going on with it. I don’t think you could.

    And yet Valve is so big now, they are probably going to get away with it. But my connection with Valve as an entity is definitely tarnished as a result.

    • PopeRatzo says:

      It happens all the time in other industries. It is not part of the corporate charter to be “open with customers” or good citizens. In fact, I’d say that the kind of negative behavior is rule, not the exception.

      • orshick says:

        On this scale? Name some other case of something like this happening in the entertainment industry.

    • ResonanceCascade says:

      “…if you announce plans to make shorter episodes that are way faster to release and then refuse to comment on the missing end of a trilogy, you’re fucking up. If you announce a release date for a highly publicized project (HL2) and don’t acknowledge it is delayed until after the bitter end, you’re fucking up.”

      You said it perfectly. Once you’ve made the announcement, you need to either follow through or simply say “we aren’t going to make it, but we think the delay is well worth it, and we’re sure you’ll agree.”

      Valve did exactly that with Portal 2 and were met with nothing but praise and understanding for waiting until it was ready for release. Why won’t they do this with Half-Life? (the immediate and unfortunate thought is because they know it isn’t coming out, perhaps ever)

  30. Ladygrace says:

    Wait they say there is nothing to fix with the communication, as the example about diretide? a simple sorry we are working on a bigger update would have been a great response and reason yet they decided to leave fans in the dark.

  31. Jenks says:

    Phew, they ended it before you could say problematic.

  32. SkittleDiddler says:

    Valve need more competent and proactive communication reps. That’s all I’m going to say about this shit.

  33. PopeRatzo says:

    [Event staff motions that time's up.]

    The act of a politician. As soon as the question comes up that I don’t want to answer, pull the plug on the interview.

    Nobody with the last name of “Inc” should ever be trusted, under any circumstances. It’s just the reality. Corporations are golems that do not have human attributes like shame, moral accountability, or desire to communicate. Given the opportunity, they will obfuscate, misdirect and dodge. It’s not even the fault of the people who work for them. Part of the employment contract is giving up all personal agency.

    • Greggh says:

      And yet, we see everyday, the giant corporations walking amongst us and giving interviews that are abruptly cancelled. THE HUMAN-LESS MONSTERS THAT THEY ARE!!!

      • Dances to Podcasts says:

        Please. The US supreme court has clearly stated that corporations are people.

        (Of course that also means that slavery still exists since people can own corporations…)

        • Baines says:

          From what I recall, corporations are pretty much only legally considered people in situations that benefit corporations. They get legal benefits, but avoid some of the legal risks and responsibilities.

  34. racccoon says:

    STEAM just bugger off from the PC and stop trying to use PC players for your new future system client base!.
    Know one one the PC needs a tool that does nothing but never gives you a refund and constantly makes you update crap for its daft tool every five seconds you log in, along with set advertisements planted in your face and library every time you log into it.
    BAhHH! we’ve all gone stupid letting this happen to our PC world.
    Bugger off STEAM!!
    Let us PC players install our games after buying them freely and openly. we don’t need a PARASITE called STEAM!.

  35. yazman says:

    I don’t like the attitude of pushing them to reveal what games or projects they have in development. They screwed up with Diretide communication, sure, but the Half Life 3 thing and “WE SHOULD KNOW JUST TELL US ALREADY” is stupid and entitled.

    @racccoon You don’t have to use Steam if you don’t want to. Use GOG.com or Gamersgate or something.

    • HadToLogin says:

      Oh, enlighten me, o great one, how to legally play Skyrim on PC without Steam.

      Looking forward to yours “crack it” or “don’t play it” – as that’s the only answers you can give.

      • Premium User Badge

        basilisk says:

        It is highly debatable whether applying a crack to a piece of software that you have a valid licence for is illegal or not. And I believe it’s never been tested in front of a court, anywhere. I’m inclined to think it’s legal, but if it’s not, it’s definitely not a very serious offence.

    • Kadayi says:

      If the desserts not turned up after a couple of hours do you not feel that waiter owes you some explanation as to the reason for the delay as well as an ETA? Or is that being entitled?

      They sold the idea of the HL2 episodes on the basis of shorter titles, forming a trilogy to wrap up the events post HL2 within 18 months of each other. Lots of people bought into that idea and purchased the first two parts. The concluding act is still AWOL seven years later (to put that into perspective in terms of time.consider that the entire AC franchise has been released during that period), without Valve saying a word about whether they ever intend to wrap the whole affair up. I can’t think of one other business arena or company for that matter where in you can blow your own estimate and then feel saying absolutely zero to the very people who represent your products customer base is the either the best course of action or professionally acceptable.

  36. mr.ioes says:

    Diretide was a promised annual feature and Valve apologized for the lack of communication afterwards. It was a unique occurance. Because it was promised, people got (rightfully) really mad. It’s basically proof for the “we don’t announce a thing unless we’re really sure we’ll ship it”-mentality.

  37. 2helix4u says:

    I’m all for knocking Valve just cause we’ve seen what happens to game companies that get too much wind in their sails. Also I didn’t like L4D2 that much (as in only as much as the top 5% of games) and Portal 2 was the best comedy game ever but not as good a puzzler as 1.
    I do find myself a little annoyed/concerned at their radio silence on their games, but I have a vested interest in this since they seem to have (wittingly or unwittingly) muzzled Erik Wolpaw and Jay Pinkerton, without whom the internet seems big and empty. I reckon they are maybe a little worried because they’re in the spotlight so much, but people will forgive a lengthy and interesting series of dev articles that don’t turn into a game; just look at Introversion after Subversion collapsed.

    So yeah, fuck you Valve, release some games ya rascals! (At which point I will be barfing rainbows spelling out VALVE)

  38. Jakkar says:

    Ah. Morons.

  39. rustybroomhandle says:

    Over at Eurogamer, Tom Bramwell has written a very sensible piece about Valve’s Steam Machines. In fact, so far it’s probably the most (only) sane coverage about it I have seen, since TomB seems to actually get what the point of it all is.

    Anyhoo, it’s here:
    http://www.eurogamer.net/articles/2014-01-11-valve-plays-the-long-game-again

    • Premium User Badge

      basilisk says:

      It’s a good article, certainly, but one of its core assumptions is wrong.

      SteamOS has 300 games, including Valve’s own, and they will still work in 10 years’ time when PS4 and Xbox One have been consigned to the attic.

      This is simply not guaranteed in any way. Backwards compatibility can be a very tricky thing, and as far as I know, it’s never been a big priority in Linux development (compared to Windows). In fact, it may very well be easier to dust off that Xbone in 2024 to play a 2014 game than try to wrestle the latest SteamOS into running it without major problems.

      • rustybroomhandle says:

        Agreed that this can not be garaunteed. However – games on Steam favour the “Steam runtime” set of libs over that of the native system. So in theory, those could be massaged to ensure games remain compatible. Compatablity for all eternity without actually maintaining all the source code is not possible.

      • waltC says:

        I don’t know what Bramwell’s point might be…! I’ve got 25+-year-old games that run great under Win8.1 x64. How is that a selling point for SteamOS, especially considering that right now the ratio of Windows Steamworks titles to SteamOS-compatible titles is 10 to 1 in favor of Windows; and the ratio of AAA Windows titles to AAA SteamOS titles is more like 40 to 1…;)

        Very odd statement for Bramwell to make–sounds suspiciously like grasping at straws.

        • dE says:

          Odd time to live in, where we can play very old games but not somewhat old games. Anything DOS is easily emulated by the trustworthy DosBox. But once you get to the early windows stuff you’re looking at some funny issues. Early 3D when 3D chips were still sold on a seperate card is funny business as well, although slightly less difficult (since better emulated).
          I don’t see how the Steambox can remedy that though.

          • waltC says:

            Interesting, as I decided to do a little experiment last night…I loved the old NOLF games, but it was either with Vista or Win7 that I started having a great deal of trouble with them and I had basically written them off as I had figured that if they presented such problems with earlier versions of Windows they couldn’t possibly work with 8.1 x64…! Surprise, surprise! Both Nolf1& 2 installed effortlessly and run under 8.1 with no compatibility mode selected at all! What’s interesting in light of your certainly on-the-point comments, is that I’ve noticed over the course of this year that 8/8.1×64 is better at supporting these old Windows games than Windows 7×64–which I had thought pretty good in that regard! Good for Microsoft! I’m a very happy camper at the moment–I thought those games were lost to me for the duration. Many of my older Windows games are now running again!

          • Cockie says:

            I don’t know about other games, but Starcraft Brood War ran better in Wine on Ubuntu than it did on Windows 7; on Windows it had some strange color glitches and in Wine it ran perfectly fine ( which has something to do with the fact that you can simply tell Wine to mimick a specific windows version, like 2000 or xp or whatever.)

    • Josh W says:

      I think Tom’s exactly right. Right now Steam are dependent on microsoft, who are doing some quite daft things, so steambox is a way to get out from their shadow, and probably eventually create a general os independent platform for games. This is great because their efforts to disconnect from microsoft can help us to do the same.

  40. unusec says:

    It’s not the people working for valve fault, it’s the fault of the one who organize them, but there is no such thing there … the anarchic mode that they’re organized reflects a lot into their products and services …

    I had a lot of trouble with steam support and still have … after they were attacked by hackers/scammers and the products that I sold on valve marketplace were bought by them with scammed credit cards, they banned me and all my other accounts and family members accounts even though I had nothing to do with it, or if you receive scammed items(steam does not help you make a difference between scammed and good items) you also get banned without appeal …

    I sill have to accounts banned and that’s because the guys from the support are probably no more than 10 ppl who have to provide support for millions of players and they can’t simply give a f*k for all of us …

    I hope that this company will be bought by someone in their right mind OR hire 1 person for PR/game/product distributed and 1000 for support, it’s so fkn simple … wtf you do with all that cash that we give you ??!!!?!!?! fund US army ??? :))

  41. S Jay says:

    Really weird. It is clearly some sort of company culture, “to do stuff and not to talk about them”. I think that is not ideal, as the questions made tried to point out.

    It is really not that hard to say “we acknowledge there is a problem with X and we are working on a fix, but we still don’t know if it will work out, so we can’t talk so much about it. Keep tuned.”

  42. tetracycloide says:

    It sounds like valve thinks they can just not play the PR game by refusing to engage. The reality us that they can’t not okay the PR game and refusing to engage is just playing it rely really poorly.

  43. Dances to Podcasts says:

    As someone with a degree in corporate communication and experience in the gaming industry… Gabe, call me. :)

  44. Premium User Badge

    cpt_freakout says:

    As long as they don’t bring this attitude to the resolution of support problems, it’s just an annoying characteristic. SteamOS (…nice info on that, btw! :P), like any OS, will probably have multiple issues at the beginning. Since the OS is pretty fundamental, Valve cannot afford to remain silent about broken things with their OS and just push fixes like crazy, week after week, without giving the users the sense of stability and certainty offered by a simple acknowledgement of problems. Sure, people are dicks and will whine endlessly, but at least they won’t be thinking about going back to Windows or whatever because there’s just no way of knowing whether the problem they’re facing is going to be addressed. With a statement of “we know”, the issue, for the user, becomes primarily one of waiting for a fix, instead of being one of full uncertainty, where waiting for a fix is usually one of the very last options of what to do about it.

    • hilltop says:

      Pretty much agree with the sentiment that this doesn’t matter so long as their support for existing games does not suffer from this attitude.

    • Kadayi says:

      This is the concern I have as well. Given their penchant for just dropping things when the going gets tough, or they get distracted by some other idea how much effort are they honestly going to put into supporting SteamOS in the long term, especially if it under performs in the market place. I think it’s all very well for Gabe to stand there and trumpet about 65 million users, but in reality how many of them are going to buy a Steam machines? Without a substantial audience base it’s hard see AAA devs on board with SteamOS purely from a cost perspective, and without big name titles the incentive to buy a Steam machine isn’t really there.

  45. waltC says:

    I think the only one allowed to run his mouth at Valve is Gabe, more or less. He seems so mercurial that I doubt anyone else in the company wants to speak up about anything much–also, Gabe is probably the only one there who has anything close to an “overview” of all the disparate stuff going on. I don’t want a mere “Episode 3,” btw. I think the episodic stuff has run out of steam (pun intended.) I want HL3, and nothing less. Either that, or I want to hear an announcement from Valve that they’re out of the game developing business. The Half-Life series, and their Half-Life customers, put Valve on the map, and it would be nice if Gabe would start doing some lip service to that reality, at least. How does the silence around HL3 help Valve’s future prospects? It doesn’t, unless Valve isn’t doing any more with HL. Even so, if Valve isn’t careful, by the time it actually does something with HL it could well be that no one will care.

    I could care less about Valve’s internal “experiments,” either. Valve can either talk to me about actual products of some worth or say nothing at all. After SteamOS fails and Valve realizes belatedly that Gabe has once again bitten off more than he can chew–expect to hear a lot more about how the whole thing was never anything more than an experiment in the first place. Gabe is particularly good at BS, but there’s only so much traction Valve will be able to get from it before people will start demanding actual products in lieu of the BS.

    And I like Valve, believe it or not!…;)

  46. scottrstrauss says:

    my buddy’s step-aunt makes $82/hr on the computer. She has been out of work for 10 months but last month her paycheck was $18010 just working on the computer for a few hours. read this….
    http://www.dub30.com

  47. Waregs says:

    my roomate’s mom makes $69 an hour on the internet. She has been fired for 7 months but last month her check was $20772 just working on the internet for a few hours. find more information,,,,,, http://www.Bay95.com

  48. johnnyan says:

    I doubt anyone from Valve is reading this but let me communicate something to them:

    From some dude with almost 700 games using your service Gabe:

    Right now Steam is one shitty platform for games, your client is really shitty (at least make some light version that just starts in 5 seconds and lets me play my games), your db is really shitty (I cant access my tf2 inventory most of the time), Greenlight is really shitty (it was from the start and you did nothing about it), your support is really shitty (telling me you are aware of my problems does not really help), many games are just broken shit and should not be accepted at all (even early access its just a dirty way to get people to pay for alpha/beta testing for many games).

    WTF are you doing with all the money I gave you?

    More and more often I feel so so sorry I didnt use those money on gog…

  49. HisDivineOrder says:

    I get Valve’s argument, but I can’t help feeling like they’re being obtuse about the very real danger of people growing tired of not being heard. Sure, Valve does what it does and it doesn’t really seem to follow what people want. I think they’re rather successful at it, really. In some ways, it reminds me of Apple’s mentality of, “People don’t really know what they actually want, so we’ll give them what they want and then they’ll want it after we’ve given it to them.” It’s just that Valve wants you to want things that are in many ways very different from what Apple wants you to want. One company seems to land closer to where the things I want are and the other does not.

    That said, I think Valve is being obtuse not to have some better forms of communication with its users because something like the Diretide debacle, the back and forth of it, was so refreshing it made users actually back off once they knew something was happening.

    I think if you ignore users altogether and don’t respond, you threaten to have users who increasingly rely upon Valve to be doing things that will smooth out the rough edges–especially when Valve is the main company developing an OS’s UI–of their platform not feeling like they are being heard. If you want the advanced form of this, look at Microsoft. They spent many years not responding to users and they’ve ended up in a place where now they DO respond a lot to users, but often Microsoft responds to only the users they like and more often now even when they ARE saying things people want to hear, no one cares anymore.

    All that said, I can’t believe Valve doesn’t AT LEAST see the inefficiency of relying upon users screaming about broken things getting enough people screaming to get to the top of the pile by sheer quantity of screwed users. It seems disturbingly inefficient to let so many users be complaining before you notice it, too.

    Sometimes, the biggest problems are detected by one or two people, but they need to take priority over something the masses are screaming about, but users have no way to know if Valve is recognizing a problem is a problem, if the problem is NOT a problem to Valve at all, and what their mindset is.

    It feels like Valve needs a “State of the Union” blog post or something every quarter, half a year, or year. Just something to tell people their general direction. They can layer it in, “These are all provisional” and “They’ll be done when they’re done if they’re ever done” and whatever, but just giving users a sense of the overall direction of where they’re going would be so much better.

    I mean, hell, I can’t figure out if SteamOS is envisioned as ONLY a console replacement forever or if they’re thinking of branching out into full PC OS’s in due course. I can’t tell if they’re pursuing XBMC or if that’s even on their radar. They should be, but should I constantly harrass them to add XBMC to their roster if they’ve already done it? How ridiculous is it that I’d be screaming and having others scream and let’s say I get thousands upon thousands of people to scream, “XBMC!” on their forums.

    And yet they don’t respond. Maybe they can’t do it. Maybe they have a better option. Maybe they’ve already done it. Yet there I am, screaming about something that’s not worth screaming about because of whatever reasons they aren’t telling me so I can know to focus on other goals that maybe would be more viable.

    That’s the problem, Valve. It’s not that you aren’t giving specifics of which island you’re sailing to that’s the problem. It’s that you’re not even really talking about which way the ship’s pointed or if it’s in water or the air. You won’t say how many people are on board and you won’t even indicate if I can board. Even the most general of answers to direction would satisfy a LOT of people.

    And as people becoming increasingly reliant upon devices driven by your OS, you’re going to owe more to users than ever before in terms of communication.

  50. MattM says:

    If Half-Life 3/Ep.3 were a sequel to the Half-Life 2 games instead of the ending of long running story that stopped on a cliffhanger, then I would be a lot less annoyed by the 5 year delay and communications blackout.