Valve cofounder Gabe Newell has explained why the popular Seattle studio does not churn out Half-Life sequel after Half-Life sequel, even though it could have been successful doing so.
“When we started out, we were a single-player video game company that could have been really successful just doing Half-Life sequel after Half-Life sequel,” Newell told The Washington Post in a new interview.
He recalled that in retrospect, moving ahead with multiplayer games like Dota 2 and the Steam platform was a “great idea.” Indeed, the platform now has 65 million members and is a juggernaut in the PC gaming community.
Still, Half-Life fans are still left waiting for Half-Life 3, which Newell said previously has gone through numerous “twists and turns” and remains officially unannounced.
Newell’s interview largely addresses Valve’s unique organizational structure where there are no official titles or positions, and vacation and sick time is not tracked. Newell said this structure is beneficial because it means employees are never tied to one project forever.
“So, if somebody becomes the group manager of X, they’re going to really resist it when X is not what you want to do in the next round of games. You don’t want them to sort of burrow into that–you want them to recognize that being really good at Half-Life level design is not as nearly as valued as thinking of how to design social multiplayer experiences,” Newell said. “You’ve had them feel like they have an organization and title tied up to something when the key is to just continue to follow where the customers are leading.”
Finally, Newell said it is important that Valve’s employees be highly adaptable because game production methods and other industry trends are changing at such a rapid rate. Locking in to one specific specialization would be a disaster, he said.
“If you look at the requirements for just one piece, like art, from one generation of games to the next, it will change radically. You need people who are adaptable because the thing that makes you the best in the world in one generation of games is going to be totally useless in the next,” Newell said.” So specialization in gaming is sort of the enemy of the future. We had to think about if we’re going to be in a business that’s changing that quickly, how do we avoid institutionalizing one set of production methods in such a way that we can’t adapt to what’s going to be coming next.”
Valve state that they won’t make exclusive games for Steam OS while also releasing images for their Steam Machine prototypes, and Infinity Ward attempts to ease concerns over CoD: Ghosts being only 720p on Xbox One.
Nine years after the release of the critically acclaimed Half-Life 2, the first official signs of the existence of its elusive sequel, Half-Life 3, are beginning to appear, in the form of a patent filed by Valve, the series’ publishers, on 29th September.
Valve have remained silent about the game and its development, even through their recent announcements of the Steam Machine and its controller. However, after years of nothing but rumour, speculation and the odd unverified leak, this is the first hard evidence of the game’s existence.
Company files trademark application for long-awaited game; no comment from studio regarding what it may mean.
Valve has filed a trademark application for Half-Life 3.
The trademark application (via NeoGAF) was filed September 29 with the European Union’s Office of Harmonization for the Internal Market (OHIM).
It covers “computer game software; electronic game software, downloadable game software via a global computer network and wireless devices; and video game software,” among other things.
A Valve representative was not immediately available to comment regarding what this news may mean for the future of Half-Life. A trademark application does not necessarily indicate that Half-Life 3 is in development.
In August, Half-Life series voice actor John Patrick Lowrie said Half-Life 3 is not in development, though he admitted he has “no idea” what Valve may be planning in the future.
Last April, Valve boss Gabe Newell said the studio had gone through numerous “twists and turns” to bring Half-Life 3 to market. He explained that Valve’s silence is in the best interest of gamers because elaborating on the game’s development “would probably drive people more crazy.”
The most recent Half-Life game was 2007′s Half-Life 2: Episode Two. That game advances the story of previous entries Half-Life 2 and Half-Life 2: Episode One. A third episode was planned, but has not seen the light of day.
That’s according to Gearbox Software CEO Randy Pitchford, who told GamesIndustry International that as it stands, Valve has not provided a sufficient reason why its new products and services are must-haves.
Pitchford said Valve needs to announce a product or service that makes use of the three components (SteamOS, Steam Machines, and Steam Controller) that could not exist individually.
“That kind of announcement would really help us all understand the necessity of their invention here,” he said. “But we all know that product would probably have to start with an H and have a 3 at the end and it would sound like ‘Half-Life 3.’ But alas I would be very surprised indeed if we see any worthy movement on that front, as I do not expect another true successor Half-Life game from Valve for quite some time–possibly never.”
Without a “must-buy product” driving consumers towards Valve’s new endeavors, the industry overall will only have a passive interest in the announcements, Pitchford said.
“I expect that the industry at large will watch curiously, but remain largely unaffected by anything Steam does along this vector of OS, machines, and controllers over the next two or three years,” he said. “If the must-buy product appears driving us there or sufficient time goes on where an installed base starts to emerge, more and more folks will move from being curious to being investigative with the possibilities.”
Microsoft and Sony have said they are paying attention to Valve’s announcements, while analysts are divided about the potential for the company’s new products to impact the traditional console market.
UK managing director Fergal Gara says PlayStation maker not rattled by Valve’s recent announcements, but will keep an eye on goings-on at Half-Life studio.
Last week, Valve announced SteamOS, Steam Machines, and a Steam Controller. None of these announcements have rattled Sony, but that doesn’t mean the PlayStation maker isn’t keeping an eye on what the Half-Life studio is up to.
Speaking with Eurogamer, Sony United Kingdom managing director Fergal Gara labelled Valve’s announcements as potentially “disruptive technologies.” He said it is important for Sony not only to keep tabs on Valve, but also other companies as well.
“In this market you’ve always got to expect some broadside disruptive technologies to come along, and it seems like a potentially good example of that,” Gara said. “I haven’t had a chance to study it in much detail. What I would say is, I don’t think anything about it is significantly rattling our confidence at this point in time and what we’re doing as PlayStation. We have to keep an eye on Valve and many other competitors.”
“We can’t afford to ignore it. Steam is arguably the pre-eminent digital download service for gaming. So we’ll watch it,” he added.
Sony is not the only platform holder keeping an eye on Valve’s announcements. Microsoft corporate vice president Phil Harrison said last week that the Xbox maker is watching what Valve does “with great interest.”
“The Steam universe is expanding in 2014,” Portal and Half-Life developer says on new teaser page; first of three announcements coming Monday, September 23.
Portal and Half-Life studio Valve today launched a teaser website with a message that reads, “The Steam universe is expanding in 2014.” A countdown clock states the announcement will be made on Monday, September 23.
“Last year, we shipped a software feature called Big Picture, a user-interface tailored for televisions and gamepad,” Valve said. “This year we’ve been working on even more ways to connect the dots for customers who want Steam in the living-room.”
“Soon, we’ll be adding you to our design process, so that you can help us shape the future of Steam.”
A Valve representative confirmed that the company will make three announcements next week, the first of which will be on Monday morning.
“We will be talking next week about the steps we’re taking to make Steam more accessible on televisions and in the living room,” the representative said.
Earlier this week, Valve head Gabe Newell teased a hardware-related announcement for next week, saying, “we’re going to be rolling out more information about how we get there and what are the hardware opportunities we see for bringing Linux into the living room.”