A Third Of Valve Is Now Working On VR

A Third Of Valve Is Now Working On VR

Valve? More like VRlve. Hm, that doesn't really work.

Valve isn't super big into dishing on whether they still make games these days, but they will talk your ear off about VR. Despite an overt effort to usher in The VR Age, it's still kinda shocking to hear just how much of a concerted push Valve is putting into their slightly clunky gizmo.

While discussing the past and present of VR on Reddit, Valve's Alan Yates dropped in this tidbit:

"I was super fortunate to start at Valve right around the time Michael Abrash had begun the AR/VR research team. It was a much smaller team then than it is now, it has since grown to encompass about a third of the company, but the key individuals that solved most of the really hard technological problems and facilitated this generation of consumer headsets are still here working on the next generation."

Estimates have placed Valve's employee count between 300-350. That would mean upwards of 100 people are behind Valve's VR effort.

Elsewhere in the thread, Yates shared other interesting insights into what it's like working on VR at Valve and how it's got employees stretching their skillsets to slowly improve the experience:

"It is really exciting solving these very fundamental deeply-technical problems every day. VR is by far the most interesting and challenging field I have ever worked in. The team is very multidisciplinary, you never really do stuff that is officially in your wheelhouse, and that is fricking awesome!"

"For example for the majority of my professional life I was a web developer, but here I do mostly analogue and digital circuit design, firmware programming and realtime control systems, plus I get to do stuff I am even more utterly unqualified to do, but simultaneously get the opportunity to learn from the elite in their fields, like mechanical engineering, geometrical and Fourier optics, state estimation, 3D graphics, UX, physiology and human factors."

So far, Valve's VR effort has produced everything from The Vive (in conjunction with HTC), to a proof-of-concept minigame collection, The Lab, to numerous tools to aid in the creation of VR experiences.

They are probably also working on something that's more of a video game. It is probably not Half-Life 3.

Regardless, Valve is clearly putting a lot of eggs in the VR basket. Hopefully it's not like the VR basket I tried to put my Vive controller in the other night -- which is to say non-existent, causing my controllers to clatter to unceremoniously to the ground. Right now, VR is only just beginning to become A Thing. People with a lot of money have headsets (most other people do not), and the game selection is slim at best. There are social tools, too. I tried bridging the gap of a long-distance relationship in it. It sorta worked? I guess?

There's also an exclusivity controversy brewing. Oculus reportedly is in the business of locking down big games for a limited time, while Valve seems content to fund development sans exclusivity agreements in an effort to keep the VR ecosystem open.

All that is to say, things are only just beginning to heat up. It will be a while yet before we know if the VR experiment -- and Valve's investment in it -- paid off. It's certainly a gamble, though. I'll confess that I don't use my Vive all that often these days. After launch, there haven't been many compelling reasons to break it out. Here's hoping Valve is busting its arse to do something about that.


Comments

    JUST MAKE HALF LIFE 3 ALREADY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      HL1 - First in class for story telling and FPS gameplay

      HL2 - First in class for refined gameplay, graphics and physics engine.

      HL3 - First in class for VR?

        Then they make a Biker Mice from Mars VR game and you shit your dacks in excitement... We can both dream right? ;)

    Guessing the other 2/3rds are working entirely on Steam and DotA 2/CSGo updates.

    The Steam store is full of so much VR shovelware I've trained myself to ignore any game that has VR tags. Hopefully that will change once the hype settles down a bit.

    The ACCC case against Valve is still going on for a penalty hearing.
    Did you:
    - purchase a game or software from Steam between January 2011 and August 2014 in Australia?
    - did this game or software work at all right after you bought it (couldn't start, freeze screen, jagged frame rate, grey screen of death, etc)
    - did you try to get a refund from Steam but was refused?

    If so, the ACCC would like to hear your story! You can find out more by emailing a friendly hello to [email protected]

    You can also contact the ACCC infocentre on 1300 302 502 or fill out a complaint form on https://www.accc.gov.au/contact-us/contact-the-accc/consumer-complaint-form.

      Interesting. I'd never thought the ACCC would reach out in this way. Are you a gamer too Mark Holden?

    I currently own 3 VR Headsets

    1) Samsung GearVR on an S7Edge - Phone from an Optus Plan and Headset from JBHi for $156
    Great introduction to the concept of VR, comfortable to spend an hour at most on. Was disappointed with the simplicity of the Games and then disappointed at the requirement for a Controller in any of the more indepth games.
    Also found that to gain most from the Gear Headset, I had to trick it to be a Cardboard and get all the Apps for that.

    2) Vive with GTX 1080 - $1200 for the headset, $200 Customs bringing it here, $1200 for video card, running on my 2yr old computer.
    This is my best experience so far, not because of the headset, not because of the video card... but because of the Controllers!
    I was surprised to realise that I enjoyed my experience more with a simple game like Space Pirate Trainer or AudioShield, than I did with the Elite Dangerous.
    Simply because I felt 10x more immersed when I could see and feel the tiny movements of my hands in the game whilst using the controllers (oddly I wished my feet also were in there too).

    3) Rift with GTX 1080 - $900 for the headset, no Customs because shipping was free due to delays and thus it was under the $1000 GST limit (p.s. shipping updated were a joke!)
    Honestly, I have not even unboxed this, because based on my enjoyment with the Vive, I feel the Rift experience will be seriously lacking without the Touch Controllers.

    Sure I could go through and compare the visuals, or the comfortability between the headsets... but to me that just does not feel as important as the impact the Controllers made on me for the Vive.

    Games - I have purchased 12 games for the Vive and also 12 for the GearVR - plus a few freebies on both. [Interesting footnote... I paid full price for every one of those games, because I had no choice. Normally I will not buy a game unless it is 40% off or more. Additionally, Reviews of VR games seem a lot more forgiving and thus positive compared to normal games. It's like peoples expectations have massively dropped simply because it is VR.]

    So out of all the games I have bought... 90% are disappointing, and the ones that start to be good, are just too short or repetitive!

    When I bought VR, I was excited to have that alternate reality, virtual existence type experience... I did not expect it to be as an 8-bit character...
    I know everything is still just at the beginning, however graphics massively suck at the moment.
    And this is probably why the Simple games with the Vive Controllers really win, because without the Amazing Graphics... Realworld movements is the closest immersion I can get.

    At this point, I am strongly agreeing that PS4VR will be the make or break for this generation of technology. Not for the Manufacturers of the Hardware, but for the Game Industry and their confidence in Wildly Burning Cash to push the experience to the next level.
    (I do not own a PS4, and have not owned a console since my N64... but as soon as PS4VR is released, I will be buying the complete kit).

    Can guarantee when a VR Portal hits (assuming 1 and 2 are not already compatible), it will be breaking human brains everywhere.

    I just laughed at "Valve working"

      They seem to work a lot honestly, they just don't produce much. But when they do it is of the finest quality and hence the fervour around their games. Much better to work this way then shovel out a shit franchise sequal every year.

    Pfffffft a third? Something with a 3 in it? We all know Valve can't use THREES!

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