Gabe Newell Talks Half-Life, Valve's Silence In Reddit Q&A
Valve head honcho Gabe Newell took to Reddit today to answer questions from the community. Before you burst in anticipation, no – he did not offer any concrete details about Half-Life 3. When asked about the status of it and Half-Life 2: Episode 3, he responded with "The number 3 must not be said."
That doesn't mean there weren't a number of interesting topics on Newell's mind, however. When asked about the studio's chronic silence about its games (chiefly, the sparse announcements for updates to its games and the lack commentary on said updates), Newell reiterated the company line: they prefer to let the products speak. "We are all pretty devoted to reading and listening to the community, " said Newell. "And when it comes time to respond, we generally use Steam - shipping updates that address issues or add functionality."
They also avoid communicating too far in advance because the products they produce regularly change on the fly. "The one thing we won't do is waste our customers [sic] time and money, which means we will cancel or change stuff much later in development," said Newell. "Tracking our choices would be annoying and frustrating."
Though this makes it unlikely that Valve will change their approach to communication in the future, Newell did admit the approach has its downsides. "Working this way imposes latency on our communication - it takes longer to ship and update than to do a blog post. This can lead to the feeling of an echo chamber, where it seems like Valve isn't listening. We’re always listening." Overall, he believes the method works well. "On balance we think it's usually worth the trade-off."
Speaking about the Half-Life series as a whole, the says it's difficult for him to love it as much as he loves some of the company's other single-player games (he named Portal 2 as his all-time favorite). This is chiefly because he worked on the Half-Life games himself, which leads to him seeing the games for their flaws instead of their virtues. "It's hard for me to look at them as anything other than a series of things I regret," he said. "It's simply easier for me to be a fan of things that in which I was less directive."
Other notable tidbits from the Reddit Ask-Me-Anything thread include:
- Of Valve's multiplayer games, he plays Dota 2 the most.
- Steam did away with the concept of flash sales during their holiday sales events because "We found that really short discounts made it difficult for many people to participate."
- Regarding the status of the Portal and Half-Life films: "Yep. They're coming."
- On the topic of Steam's quality control and the number of games added to the service every year: "There's really not a singular definition of quality, and what we've seen is that many different games appeal to different people . . . We know we still have more work to do in filtering those games so the right games show up to the right customers."
- When asked what the proudest moment of his career has been: "I don't think most of us think retrospectively like that. I think we are mainly thinking about what we need to do in the future. It still seems like we are just at the beginning of what is going to be possible, and the lure of that future is way more powerful than self-congratulation."
- On the topic of Valve's relative staff sizes for each of its regularly-updated games: "It changes all the time. There's no fixed ratio, and people move to the project where they think they can create the most value."
- When asked to give advice to young game designers: "The most important thing you can do is to get into an iteration cycle where you can measure the impact of your work, have a hypothesis about how making changes will affect those variables, and ship changes regularly. It doesn't even matter that much what the content is - it's the iteration of hypothesis, changes, and measurement that will make you better at a faster rate than anything else we have seen."
- Asked about what Valve is working on right now: "Some of us are thinking about some of the AI work that is being hyped right now."
- On what he's working on right now: "Personally I'm looking at research in brain-computer interfaces."
- Asked what his favorite change in Dota 2's recent 7.00 patch is: "6 Treants!"
Gabe is a Nature's Prophet picker? For shame (he's actually not that bad in this current patch, but still. For shame). At least he doesn't pick Treant Protector, who is for real the worst.