Posts Tagged ‘valve-talk’

Valve on Steamworks (And Magick Obscura)

Because I’m an internationally awesome globe-trotting journalist of excellent repute, I was able to sit down with Valve’s Doug Lombardi and have a chat about Steamworks within a few minutes of yesterday’s announcement being made. Because I forgot my laptop and was really tired, I didn’t get round to posting the conversation until now. Head clickwards for enlightenment.
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RPS Exclusive: Gabe Newell Interview

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.

gabe newell

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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RPS Interview: Episode Two’s David Speyrer

Coming up in December’s PC Gamer is my interview with Half-Life 2 Episode 2’s project lead, David Speyrer. And as is often the case with interviews, there was a lot more said than could fit in the magazine. As a teaser for next month’s Gamer content, here’s some bonus discussion about what it’s like working for Valve, how play-testing impacts on the games development, DX9 vs DX10, and the role of consoles. Spoilers a-go-go.


RPS: Could you talk about your role in the Half-Life universe?

David Speyrer: I interviewed on the day that HL1 went Gold, and started early in the year in ’99, at the very beginning of HL2. I was on the project for the whole duration. Towards the middle of the project, we formed into four cabals – mini design teams – for design and production, and each team was responsible for building a section of the game. I ended up as the cabal leader of the team which made Canals and the Citadel. I was a programmer. I worked on the air-boat, the poisoned zombie and a bunch of other things. Then on Episode Two I’ve been on it from the start as the project lead and programmer. I did specific work on the Hunter AI and some of the car stuff.

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RPS Interview: Portal’s Kim Swift and Jeep Barnett

While visiting Valve a couple of weeks back, and shortly after completing Portal, I had the opportunity to natter with two of the leads on the game, Kim Swift and Jeep Barnett. We discussed the story – and the glee – of their arrival at Valve, how it was fitting in and creating their first professional game, and, as you might expect, Weighted Companion Cubes. (We’re assuming you’ve already finished Portal here, spoiler chums).

Jeep Barnett and Kim Swift

RPS: Tell us about that day when Valve visited the Digipen expo.

Kim Swift: Every year Digipen holds an expo for graduating seniors, and all of us on the Portal team were all going to school together. And we made a game called Narbacular Drop for our senior project. During the expo, Digipen grabs a whole bunch of developers from across the country to come in and take a look at student’s projects. A couple of people from Valve came by and took a look at our game, and first they told us everything that we did wrong with it. But then at the end they said, “This is an interesting concept,” and gave us some business cards. We called them back, and they invited us in to show the game to a bunch of employees here at Valve, as well as Gabe Newell, and after about fifteen minutes through our presentation Gabe stopped everyone in the room from talking and asked us what we were going to do after we graduate. And offered us a job to come in and make Portal. So we immediately said, “Oh my God, are you kidding? Yes!” We went outside and stared at each other for about twenty, thirty minutes, just not believing our luck.

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RPS Interview: Valve’s Erik Wolpaw

Erik Wolpaw is fated to only ever be refered to as “one half of Old Man Murray“, rather than “co-writer of Psychonauts and writer of Portal”. So today we bring you our interview with one half of Old Man Murray, Erik Wolpaw. We discuss what it’s like to work for Valve, how GLaDOS came about, the role of cake in games, and, of course, why all plays suck.

We miss you so.

Can you explain the path you took from Old Man Murray to Valve?

While I was working on Old Man Murray, I wrote my first game, Alien vs. Child Predator. It remains one of just a handful of games to mix addictive Pokemon-style creature collecting with North Carolina’s sex offender registry. It was self-published and not widely distributed or played or, honestly, even really that enjoyable if you think about it. It did, however, catch the attention of some lawyers who work for Twentieth Century Fox and Tim Schafer, who hired me to help him write Psychonauts. After Psychonauts went on to be very, very popular in Europe, I got busy with my next big project: being unemployed. One day, while I was wondering where I was going to live when I couldn’t pay the rent next month, I got email from Gabe Newell asking if I’d like to be a staff writer at Valve, famous creators of Half-Life. I figured Gabe was a fan of Psychonauts, but it turned out he had absolutely no idea what Psychonauts was. I guess he just really, really liked Alien vs. Child Predator. That’s honestly pretty much how it happened.

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RPS Team Fortress 2 Interview – Part 2

Welcome back to Rock, Paper, Shotgun’s exclusive interview with Team Fortress 2 developers, Robin Walker and Charlie Brown. (Here’s Part One if you missed it.) This time we get down to the finer details of the classes on offer, and talk about their evolution, as well as discussing Valve’s other great obsession, PopCap’s Peggle. But first we talked about the remarkable part humour had to play in TF2’s development.

Sasha light up pretty.

RPS: I want to ask about the role of humour in the game. You watch the promo movies, and they’re really hilarious, but you think: how can those possibly carry over into a multiplayer game where there’s people playing everyone? And yet somehow it has.

Robin Walker: It actually came about the other way.

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RPS Exclusive: Team Fortress 2 Interview

In this first part of our two-part interview with Team Fortress 2 developers Robin Walker and Charlie Brown, we talk about the pathways from the modding community to working at Valve, the long development of TF2 and the changes it went through, Valve’s thoughts on parallel mod Fortress Forever, and how the art design plays such a major role in how we play the game. In Part Two we get into specifics over the nine classes, how it was only by being funny that they were able to finish the game, and, inevitably, talk about Peggle.

TF2 developers Robin Walker and Charlie Brown are an excellent double act. Robin Walker talks, lots. Charlie Brown talks rarely. But despite this disparity, they gel neatly together, finishing each other’s sentences (it’s just that Charlie finishes with a word, and Robin with another couple of paragraphs). Both represent an aspect of the ways Valve is different from any other gaming company I know of. Robin Walker, an original member of the Australian Team Fortress development team, still talks about himself as if he were a modder. He seems almost oblivious to his elevated position. Charlie Brown discusses coding in the way a quietly modest father might mention his pride for his son. Both talk about game development in terms of the player’s needs and desires. They still sound like gamers, perhaps in a large part because they, like every developer at Valve is required to, stay in constant communication with the people who play their games. And they seem to be enjoying themselves.


I began by asking Robin Walker how it was that the Team Fortress guys came to be working at Valve back in 1997. They were in demand at the time, their Quake-based mod attracting a lot of attention, with interest from Activision amongst others. But then Valve got in touch.

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