For those who don’t know, Valve is a video game developer and digital distributor of content. Valve is known for the Half-Life series, the Steam platform and their unique interpretation of time. The company was founded by “Microsoft Millionaire” Gabe Newell, who left the company to set up Valve with Mike Harrington. The two would then use their own money to fund Half-Life 1, which is considered to be a decent game. Since making Half-Life in 1998, the company has continued to produce unique, creative games such as Portal and Team Fortress as well as the game engines they run on.
Despite the company’s creativity, they have always stuck to the same products and services. Steam hasn’t changed much over the years and games were pretty much the only software produced. It’s a formula that has served them well, Valve has grown and Gabe Newell entered the Forbes Billionaire’s List. Sticking with the tried and tested method has (in my humble opinion) helped the creative aspect of Valve do so well. There’s no fiddling with new platforms every year and no shock changes to game engines. The developers are allowed to put their time into ideas and games development. Not having any bosses probably helps too
So why have Valve, over the past few weeks, announced more changes than Duke Nukem forever? I’ve seen a lot of articles reporting on the announcements but I might be the first person in the world to try to cram it all into a thousand word article. And I’ve used 250 of them up already… shit.
First there’s Greenlight, from the mouth of Valve itself “Greenlight is a new system that enlists the community’s help in picking some of the next games to be released on Steam. Developers post information, screenshots, and videos for their game and seek a critical mass of community support in order to get selected for distribution.” Sounds great doesn’t it? When I first heard the announcement I was sceptical; can you really trust gamers to choose the best games for greenlighting? Would Portal have survived the Greenlight process? Needless to say I was worried that the more experimental games were going to suffer.
Valve also added that “Greenlight also helps developers get feedback from potential customers and start creating an active community around their game as early in the development process as they like.” My problem with this statement is that it puts the onus on the consumer to dictate the media, rather than the creator. Maybe I’m just a purist, but shouldn’t the artist be the one who decides what to create? If sci-fi exploration shooters are getting hits on Greenlight, won’t that make some developers abandon ideas and take up the trendy genre?
After doing some research and watching Greenlight for a few days, I’m tempted to say I’m wrong. There is actually a very healthy mix of genres on offer and games developers seem happy (and a little intimidated) by it. Valve is still tweaking Greenlight and they’ve been rather coy about the transition between an up-voted game to a game in the store. Greenlight could turn out to be a success, but I’ll keep looking at it with a critical eye. I do hope it does well though.
Time to get crazy? Yes, let’s get crazy. Pick up your mouse and keyboard, smash the keyboard over your knee and give your mouse to the cat. Valve want to redefine controllers. Ok, that might have been a bit dramatic, but they do feel that the input devices need to change. We’ve been using a mouse and keyboard setup for 20 years now. Valve has started recruiting hardware engineers to fuel creativity on the peripherals front. The craziest thing released so far has to be a set of gaming goggles. Physically looking around to change your in game perspective is an interesting idea, though stepping outside of the FPS world might be a challenge. In addition to the goggles Valve also have a sneaky patent on a game controller with swappable components. There’s not much more information released at this stage, but keep an eye out. Valve can take their time with projects, but when they get stuck into a concept, not much gets in their way.
Valve is changing and probably in more ways than they’ve revealed so far. It is certainly clear that we have allowed a certain amount of stagnation regarding peripherals and those that have been created were gimmicky and didn’t last long. The Greenlight process is definitely in its early stages right now but if developers are comfortable then I may yet be proven wrong. The biggest concern would be Valve trying to overextend their ambitions and put themselves in a precarious financial position. I guess that wouldn’t be so bad, they’d have to make Half-Life 3 then.