Gabe Newell Talks Half-Life 3...Kinda
Half-Life 3 is a phenomenon. A mysterious, ethereal phantom, bordering on an enigmatic. Wrapped in a cipher, and smothered in secret sauce. The game stands alone as having a fan-base and legacy, despite the fact that no one is sure if it even exists in this dimension of time and space. Hell, it hasn't even been formally announced. At this point, it'll be difficult for the product to ever match the anticipation, let alone the chance that it might see the light of day before the sun goes supernova and kills us all. While the fans want the game already, Valve and company big cheese Gabe Newell have other plans, moving forward with their Steam distribution service, and the upcoming Steam Box console.
It's not often that Gabe Newell actually speaks out, but when the Washington Post decides to do a feature story on his company, it's kind of heart to stay silent. The inner workings of Valve were covered more than anything else, and along with it, some disappointing news was unearthed. Valve is going full "steam" (sorry, I couldn't resist) ahead in emphasizing a shift away from the game that helped put the company on the map in the first place: Half-Life.
Newell cited the game in the company's humble beginnings, saying, "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." While that may be exactly what gamers want now (as well as a few developers), it wasn't where Newell wanted Valve to go. He was thinking bigger, and wanted a staff with the same attitude, and non-specialized skills: "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 multi-player experiences."
"We collectively said let's try to make multi-player games even though there's never been a commercial successful multi-player game." The team nailed that with Team Fortress. Next?
"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 wit 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.'"
Ultimately, it was anything but a waste of time. There service counts over 65 million users, a library a over 3,000 games, and is the default service for gamers to get their games digitally, with estimations that close to 75% of the PC audience use Steam to get their games. "In retrospect, it was a great idea, right?" says Newell. For the company, sure, and for gamers? Absolutely.
But what about Half-Life 3? Good question. Unfortunately, that wasn't addressed, and much like what seems to happen anytime Half-Life is brought up, all we get is non-specifics and gorilla dust. With the Steam Box on the way, it's understandable why Valve and Newell would choose to make that a priority. While the sickeningly sweet Half-Life franchise seems to be but a speck in the company's rear view mirror, that doesn't mean it's been abandoned. Still, Newell's line about "being really good at Half-Life level design is not as nearly as valued as thinking of how to design social multi-player experiences" is discouraging to say the least.
This portion with The Post was only one part of a two-part series. We'll keep you posted once part two comes out, and if Newell ever gets into the nitty gritty.