5 Things We Learned During The Reddit AMA with Gabe Newell

Gabe Newell provides more insight into the actions and goals of Valve.

Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve and one of the largest figures in the gaming industry, has just finished a Q&A session called the Reddit AMA (Ask Me Anything). In this Q&A, Gabe has shed further light on Valve development, future goals, and much more. Here are Five Things We Learned During The Reddit AMA with Gabe Newell.

Gabe Shows Aspiring Developer Important Techniques for Game Design

Passing knowledge to the next generation, Gabe Newell stresses the need of iteration cycles and constant changes. He states:

"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."

This advice shares not only experience, but practical applications as well. Creating an actual method gives young designers guidance in the chaotic world of game design.

Valve Justifies Their Lack of Communication as Part of Their Design Structure

Valve has one of the most unique development structures, with developers self assigning to projects and creating freedom unheard of in the AAA space. Team sizes are fluid, increasing and decreasing in response to what needs to get done. This constant changing is one of the major reasons Valve is less open about its content than other developers. According to Gabe:

"Another way to think about this, and the way we talk about this internally, is that we prefer to communicate through our products. We are all pretty devoted to reading and listening to the community -- everyone here believes it is an integral part of their job to do so. And when it comes time to respond, we generally use Steam -- shipping updates that address issues or add functionality. Obviously this doesn't work for everything. 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. So sometimes the latency is rough for everyone, including us when we want to address issues quickly. On balance we think it's usually worth the trade-off."

The idea of showing the consumers updates and products rather than telling is a noble idea. As Gabe said however, the lack of response makes users feel ignored and can have larger backlashes if these updates don't go as planned. Counter-Strike: Global Offensive updates for example, frequently divide the fanbase with balancing changes and additional content that make fans feel Valve isn't listening to user feedback. Acknowledging Valve fans with programs like these do remedy the lack of communication somewhat.

Showing You the Games You Want Is Valve's Next Goal for Steam

In this Q&A, Gabe Newell constantly spoke about improving Steam's navigation and filtering systems so users can find the games they need. In response to games containing sexual content, Gabe Newell states:

"In principle, there are two problems to solve. The first is a completely uncurated distribution tool for developers. The second is a toolset for customers that allow them to find and filter content (and people are an instance of content most obviously in multiplayer) that is best for them."

This response is also similar to one involving quality control and the flood of games on the Steam storefront. Gabe Newell believes that there is "not a singular definition of quality" and instead Valve is focusing on making the storefront able to show the right games to customers.

New Valve Movie In the Works

Gabe also re-confirms that a movie in the Half Life/Portal universe made by Valve and JJ Abrams is still in the works, and that Steam's support is a primary focus. The movie was first announced in 2013 but no confirmation that it was still in development existed until now. JJ Abrams was the director of Star Wars: The Force Awakens and is considered a premier director/film writer. Hopefully it becomes the first truly great video game movie.

Valve is Working on VR and Source Engine 2 Titles

Currently, Valve has been working on unannounced titles using the Source 2 engine and plans on releasing the engine to other developers. They are also focusing on other VR games using their own VR controller. Not much is known about these endeavors, only that they're happening and to expect further announcements.

Counter-Strike: Global Offense has New Plans for 2017

Gabe Newell was not the only Valve employee answering questions in this event. Developer Ido Magal addressing the future of CS:GO in 2017 with this response: 

"As far as a roadmap is concerned, our priorities for 2017 are to replace the UI with Panorama, to make CS:GO available in more territories where a lot of Counter-Strike fans don't have easy access to it (like China), and anti-cheat. Of course, we're also planning on continuing to ship bug fixes and new features throughout the year, as in the past.

We plan to continue updating every week or two. As for Operations, there's no set schedule. We weigh that work relative to other work we could choose to focus on and other recent work seemed better for the product. For example, at the end of 2016 we chose to focus on shipping Inferno, improving spatial audio via HRTF, joinable public lobbies, and some long-term work that hasn't shipped yet."

CS:GO Operations are considered some of the best additions to the game and have been high on fan demand. Hopefully these updates satisfy their hunger for new content. He also addressed the use of the Source 2 engine with CS:GO, stating that the hitboxes would not be fixed with Source 2 and that they are unsure if the engine would be a good fit.

What did you learn in the AMA? Let us know in the comments below.

Published Jan. 19th 2017

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