By: Eddie Makuch
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.”