Valve Turns To ‘Singleplayer-Plus,’ Not ‘No More Singleplayer,’ Says Chief

Valve Turns To ‘Singleplayer-Plus,’ Not ‘No More Singleplayer,’ Says Chief

Practically anything said institutionally by Valve, or especially by its co-founder, Gabe Newell, is parsed for any potential meaning to the unannounced, eternally awaited Half-Life 2: Episode 3. So when Newell, in an all-access feature charting the development of Portal 2, said the game was “probably” the last one with any isolated single-player experience, Half-Life fans got really jumpy, given how story-driven that game is.

Newell sat down for an interview with a high school student who asked him to clarify those remarks. You can listen to the entire interview in that video above. It touches on many interesting subjects, but regarding single- vs. multiplayer, here is what Newell said, verbatim:

I think what we’re trying to talk about is the fact is not that we’re not thinking about single-player games-Portal 2 I think is a pretty good example of what we’ve learned over the years in terms of how to create those [single-player]experiences.

It’s more that we think that we have to work harder in the future. That entertainment is inherently increased in value by having it be social, by letting you play with your friends, by recognising that you’re connected with other people.

Single-player is great, but we also have to recognise that you have friends and wanted to have that connected as well.

It’s not about giving up on single-player at all. It’s saying we actually think there are a bunch of features and capabilities that we need to add into our single-player games to recognise the socially connected gamer. Every gamer has instant messaging, every gamer has a Facebook account. If you pretend that that doesn’t exist, you’re ignoring the problems that you’re taking on.

It’s single-player plus, not ‘no more single-player.’

Later on, Newell is asked about the possibility of a direct crossover between Portal and Half-Life, as both games are set in the same continuity. Newell did not directly confirm such a crossover will take place, but he did say that setting both games in the same universe has a purpose.

“When you’re thinking about games, you sort of want to think about how characters collide. In their current forms, Chell and Gordon are very similar characters. in terms of the phenomenology of their experiences. … In terms of having these people coexist at same time and same place, that’s … part of the reason Portal and Half-Life are in the same universe.”

Gabe Newell Interview: 5/2/11 [by user theythatare, YouTube]


      • Every time someone Gabe Fat release date moves forward. By my projections were looking at the year 7654….7655…..7656.

        Also I am hear there changing the name to Half Life: Forever……

        But seriously playing games with a friend is “social” and “Fun” but Single player offers something that Multiplayer / Co-Op doesn’t. It can offer “immersion” and storyline driven game play. When you get emotionally involved and invested in a game you remember it. Suddenly you are the character and you forget your sitting at a desk or on a couch in front of a screen. Instead your wracking your brain on solving the content and watching a Story, characters and a world unfold and change in response to your actions. Valve has proven they can do this extremely well and there silent Protagonists actually adds to the immersion. It would be a shame if they lost focus on this to produce content that’s much more repayable with more Paid DLC Hats.

  • I have a facebook account (which is rarely used) but I don’t want it to have anything to do with my games.

  • I play games (especially valve games), for an isolated, immersive experience – introducing the social element really takes you out of the immersion. If I want to socialise, I’ll hang out with friends, or play something like mario party, not half life.

    • I agree entirely.

      As a Single Player gamer more-or-less exclusively, I dislike the massive shift towards “social” gaming.

  • Yes, gamers have friends. Yes, gamers have Facebook.

    But very few of my friends are gamers, and I think most of them would be as interested in me posting about my hobby as I would be if they posted about stamp collecting or trainspotting or whatever it is they do in their own spare time.

    Gaming is a personal thing for me, a chance to relax and play for an hour or two on a weekend. It’s not something I need to be sharing with everyone on Facebook.

    “Socially connected gaming” sounds to me to be another word for “Farmville spam”.

    • It’s a bit hard to tell with the quote out of context but what I think Gabe was saying is that things like Facebook exist and they have a lot of people playing them and that game designers need to think about what can be learned from their success and how those lessons could help them design better games.

    • It’s a bit hard to tell with the quote out of context but what I think Gabe was saying is that things like Facebook exist and they have a lot of people playing them and that game designers need to think about what can be learned from their success and how those lessons can help them design better games

  • I think the Idea of sp+ is something definitely a lot of developers are starting to incorporate to value add. Autolog in the recent nfs titles springs to mind.
    A socially integrated single player experience, I think it’s the natural course of things.

  • This just in Half Life 2: Episode 3 to be a Freemium title on Facebook, siting games such as FarmVille to be key inspirations

  • Games on my FB account O.O
    No thanks, I try hard to keep that out of my main social life (Aka non-net)

    It’s a lot easier to go into a conversation with a women when the subject of games aren’t on your mind.

    From a heavy Social gamer/programmer/hacker

  • I play games because I’m not exactly partial to large amounts of social interaction, stop increaing connectivity and exposing me to the world. I don;t like change, it gives me a rash.

  • Ahem. I do not have IM and I do not have bloody Facebook. This desire to integrate social crap into my every waking move is really starting to grind my gears!

  • I have no interest in a multi-play game, or multi-play components of games. I’ve played Call of Duty Modern Warfare online for all of 15 minutes, never again, I’ve finished Portal 2, but have no interest in co-op, I purchased Left 4 Dead, played through it single player, no interest in co-op or multi player. If Valve want’s to continue down this path of co-op games over single player fine, but I won’t be buying them.

  • Holy moly you people are over-reactive. This as an inspired move. Think outside the box and listen to what the man actually said. “Single Player Plus” is not getting rid of single player. It’s giving you the option of traditional single player, or more IF you want it.

    A good example of a current game that does this is Borderlands – in which the single player campaign can be played with 1-4 players. And if we look further back, the traditional 2-D side scrolling multi player player beat-em-up that can be played just the same single player (Double Dragon, TMNT Arcade, Golden Axe, Streets of Rage, Gunstar Heroes, Metal Slug etc)

    It sounds like some of the above posters are freaking out and thinking it’s all going to be Team Fortress style games from here on in. That’s not what Gabe was saying at all. Just imagine a massive Half-Life world where you can play by yourself of with a friend(s). Amazing.

    • You have no proof it’s adding the option for more. For all we know it could be mandatory.

      I like to isolate gamer me from real me because otherwise you have issues like the crazy CSS player that comes to your house and stabs you

      • …and you all have no proof it’ll be mandatory either. But considering the ending comment “It’s single-player plus, not ‘no more single-player.’” it actually seems that happycow’s comment is far more likely to be the direction they go in, rather than forcing traditional (or Facebook-esque) multiplayer on everyone.

        Everything about Newell’s comments suggest trying to create new experiences. It’s quite far from coming out and going “We’re gonna focus on a multiplayer-only experience” or “Farmville is making decent cash so we’re just gonna clone that, but with a Half Life/Portal theme!”

  • Yes I play mostly SP games, yes I have a Facebook account, no I do not want to blog about it.

    I do leave the house to talk to my friends about how awesome the game was and they tell me something similiar back, and we share ‘war’ stories over a beer. Can Facebook offer me a beer while I talk to people about games? No it can’t.

  • Not every gamer has a facebook account.

    I’m a huge fan of coop, but I’m strongly against linking “social media” to gaming. If people want to play games on their iPad or Facebook then good for them… but that’s got nothing to do with me on my console, nor should it.

  • Perhaps he is talking about something like Need For Speed: Hot Pursuit’s Autolog feature?

    While competing single player campaign may seem like a solitary experience, Autolog makes sure you know how your friends are doing in real time. If they beat your time for a race, it will tell you instantly.

    I could imagine something like this working for Portal’s challenge mode.

  • Yes, more games need features to allow narcissists to spam their Facebook or Twitter feeds with high scores or fastest lap times or whatever. Most useless feature ever. I’m yet to see a console game that has utilised social networking at all well.

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