Gabe Newell: “being really good at Half-Life level design is not as nearly as valued as thinking of how to design social multi-player experiences”


Where’s Half-Life 3? Eh, Valve? Well, it’s hardly new discussion and Newell’s not gone and said anything about it to the Washington Post. Instead, their recently published interview looks into the structure of the developer. It makes for a fascinating read, too.

What the interview does give us a little of is why Valve weren’t initially, at least, keen to crowbar a sequel out of the design team. It would have them too set in their ways.

“If somebody becomes the group manager of X,” Newell told the Washington Post, “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 multi-player experiences. 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.”

Later in the interview, Newell expands “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, but we collectively said let’s try to make multi-player games even though there’s never been a commercial successful multi-player game.

“Then we tried to do Steam. There were a bunch of people internally who thought Steam was a really bad idea, but what they didn’t think was that they would tell the people who were working on Steam what to do with their time. They were like ‘that’s what you want to do with your time, that’s fine, but we’re going to spend our time working on Half-Life 2. We think you’re kind of wasting your time, but it’s your time to waste.’

“In retrospect, it was a great idea, right? So the key thing was that people bear the consequences of their own choices, so if I spend my time on it the only persons time I’m wasting is mine.”

We knew this was how Valve worked. There’s been talk about employees being free to decide where they focus their time. For instance, we know that Valve are working on a load of different projects: Source 2, virtual reality headsets, augmented reality glasses, Dota 2, and Steam enhancements are just some of the things on the table. As well as this though Newell’s hinting, and this is the first time I’ve read this, that delaying the development of another Half-Life was encouraged so as to avoid having staff entrenched on the idea of being focused on that one franchise.

You should really go and read the full interview.