Gabe Newell, co-founder and president of Valve, held an AMA on Tuesday. Amongst several answers about the future of Valve, improvements to Steam, quality control, the future of gaming, and his favourite non-Valve game (Plants vs Zombies), Newell dropped several bombshells about the company’s most beloved franchise - Half-Life.
Perhaps the most talked about answer provided by GabeN, as he is often nicknamed, was about his personal favourite Valve game/ series. Most of the Internet, or at least hardcore PC gamers born in the 20th century, would have expected Newell to say Half-Life. Instead, he said he thinks Portal 2 is the company’s best single-player game, and that he plays Dota 2 the most of the company’s multiplayer games.
Redditors were understandably shocked, however, Newell clarified his stance - saying that perhaps he was too close to the development of Half-Life to see it as anything other than a string of regrets.
“The issue with Half-Life for me is that I was involved in a much higher percentage of the decisions about the games, so it's hard for me to look at them as anything other than a series of things I regret. There's no information in my response about what we'll do in the future. It's simply easier for me to be a fan of things that in which I was less directive.”
He also referred to Xen, the ‘borderworld’ that was seen originally in Half-Life and then its expansion packs, “If you are involved in a game, everything ends up being a set of trade-offs. Anything in a game is a sacrifice of things not in the game. I just feel those more personally about Half-Life for a bunch of reasons… And Xen.”
Staying on the topic, Newell cryptically dismissed Half-Life 3 and Half-Life 2: Episode 3 rumours, added that the company was working on a single-player game, and then went on to say Valve was working on a new IP related to Half-Life/ Portal. This of course is not a confirmation that the much awaited HL3 game is in the offing, or even a new HL experience. He confirmed however that movies set in the Half-Life/ Portal universe were coming up.
As we mentioned, Newell had a lot to say about the future of Valve and Steam, stressing that improvements to support are in the works - “We still need to further improve response times and we are continually working to improve the quality of our responses. We're also working on adding more support staff in regions around the world to offer better native language support and improve response times in various regions.”
Newell also emphasised that virtual reality (VR) was a direction Valve was actively working on, adding that it was a “pretty important as a tool for interesting games”. He also spoke about AI and brain-computer interfaces, “The big thing right now is broadening the range of options we have in creating experiences. We think investing in hardware will give us those options. The knuckles controller is being designed at the same time as we're designing our own VR games…Much more narrowly, some of us are thinking about some of the AI work that is being hyped right now. Simplistically we have lots of data and compute capability that looks like the kinds of areas where machine learning should work well… Personally I'm looking at research in brain-computer interfaces.”
He also gave some great advice on game development, the reason why Valve sometimes feels like an echo chamber, the motivation of doing away with flash sales, the company’s plan to keep the Source 2 engine available to developers free of charge, how he likes his steaks, and an ambiguous response on the future of the Left4Dead franchise. For Newell’s many responses, head over to Reddit.