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Valve co-founder chose to produce multiplayer gaming over Half-Life sequels

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Posted by: Tate Steinlage

Valve co-founder Gabe Newell recently explained to The Washington Post that his company pursued multiplayer gaming rather than churning out Half-Life sequels.

"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 multiplayer games even though there's never been a commercial successful multiplayer game," Newell said.

"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."

The rest of the interview, which can be viewed in its entirety here, talks about how the company works from the inside, including information on incentives, productivity, and retaining talent. Below are a few of the most interesting pieces:

On productivity: “…we don’t track vacation time or sick time – we just tell people we trust you to make all of these other decisions, of course we are going to trust you to manage your own time. It’s actually a pretty minor issue in terms of how much time people actually spend on vacation or sick leave. But it’s a really important issue for someone who is say, coming out of Hollywood. When you tell them that -- and it’s really true -- it seems to be useful in getting them to start to realize that there is a rationale behind how the company works. There’s sort of the flashy public things like desks on wheels, but it really is intended to create a better environment for a highly technical set of tasks that vary fairly quickly over time.”

On incentives: "Another thing that also turns out to be super valuable is that we have a company trip every year. And it turns out that you actually get a huge amount of work done. It's supposedly a vacation, but all anybody talks about is work in a different environment where they're interacting with a bunch of other people right? So you have the usual group of people you are hanging out and working with, but now you get to hang out with a bunch of other people -- and it tuns out we all like each other a lot.

But one of the most valuable things about the trip is that people take their parents. And it's amazing the number of times parents have come up to me and said "I'm telling my daughter, I'm telling my son how lucky they are to work here and how proud of them I am." I'm like "Yes, that person is going to work here for another five years!"

On keeping employees at Valve: “We spend a lot of time trying to help people understand how the company does compensation -- to make it transparent. They don't want to spend all of their time trying to figure out how to game the system, they just want to trust that if they're creating value there's a reasonable, fair, and transparent way that turns into dollars for them and for their family.”

Source: [The Washington Post] 

Tags: Valve, gaming, video games, Steam, Gabe Newell, Half-Life

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