Sitting down with Valve's Gabe Newell and Doug Lombardi at the Games Convention today, the 11-year anniversary of their company, Mark Wilson and I talked a bit with the two about their expectations for Orange Box, the sustainability of the PC gaming market, Microsoft's failure to deliver on their Vista gaming promises and, inevitably, developing for the Playstation 3, or rather, trying to develop for the Playstation 3. Sorry, no, he didn't really talk about your mum.
Newell called The Orange Box, due out for the PC, PS3 and Xbox 360 in October, an experiment of sorts.
"It's an interesting experiment, is this a good way to attract new customers," Newell said. Valve plans to keep an eye on the sell-through rate to see how the console versions of the game sell and try to figure out if new customers are grabbing it up, or if they buyers are mostly the PC customers that Valve has already won over. While Newell is a strong supporter of the PC market, one who still would rather make games for that platform than any console, he did express a little disappointment in Microsoft's continued neglect of PC as a gaming platform. Despite the promises made when the company was heralding Vista, not much has changed for PC game developers, Newell said.
"There was no real meat in any of them," he said. Adding that Microsoft has essentially dropped their push for Games for Windows Live. "I don't even know what it is," he said, when I asked him if he viewed it as competition for Steam.
"I can understand why they're not spending a lot of time (on the PC platform), they have enough problems with the Red Ring of Death and price drops," he said.
But despite the lack of marketing for the PC platform, Newell said it still, by far, his favourite platform to work on.
"I love the PC," he said. "It's a great platform. The Internet capabilities are much more mature and the graphics you find on consoles are essentially derivative of the PC and sales on the PC are great."
Newell wasn't nearly as happy with developing for the Playstation 3, saying that the console was much harder to develop for than the Xbox 360.
"I don't think they spent nearly enough time talking to developers when they were developing the PS3," he said. "It's less friendly for developers."
And Newell said he believes the issues are hardware, not software ones.
"It's a hardware architectural problem. I don't think they thought through the Cell architecture. The hardware is only as good as the software it enables."
Newell said Sony should have followed the path Intel took in developing multicore chips.
"They ran a huge amount of software in simulation before they finalised it," he said. "That's why Core 2 architecture is unbelievably fast running existing code."