In our exclusive conversation with Gabe Newell, we discuss the nature of Valve as a company – its ethos and potential, the real reason Gabe hired the Portal team, the vision for Steam, and indeed all online distribution, have every game ever available to download, Gabe’s beginnings with id, and how Valve was very nearly called Rhino Scar.
At any other games developer, Gabe Newell would be the big boss man. Technically, he is at Valve too, but due to the unique structure of their business, Gabe appears as just another name in the alphabetical list at the end of their games. Having graduated Microsoft with financial security for life, he could have gone on to do anything. What he chose to do was make Half-Life – one of the most signficant PC games of all time. The business Valve has grown into is a remarkable one. Developers are not at the behest of evil money men, driving them to rush releases through to meet financial targets. Teams work in relaxed, open environments, interchanging who works where, who is responsible for what. Anyone is able to bring ideas to the table, and the company is constantly looking out for potential amongst modding communities and indie developers. The man who lets all this happen is Gabe Newell.
RPS: Do you think of Valve as a philanthropic company?
Gabe: I don’t usually think of it that way. We think of ourselves as very much grounded in the community, and as part of the community. We’ve got our role; everyone has their role, whether it be the press or people who build levels, and so forth. We feel like we’re in there as part of the community, rather than benevolently standing above it.
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