The Most Interesting Answers From Gabe Newell's AMA

Today was one of those occasions that comes once, maybe twice (but definitely not thrice) in a lifetime. Gabe Newell arose from his Scrooge McDuck-esque lake of knives and cash to conduct an AMA. Spoiler: He likes Portal 2 more than Half-Life, and despite appearances to the contrary, Valve still makes games.

Photo credit: Venture Beat.

Newell didn't stick around all that long, but he got a few fairly substantial answers in. Among other things, he pointed out that Portal 2 is his favourite single-player Valve game, and he explained why Half-Life makes him feel real human emotions like regret.

Q: What is your personal favourite Valve game/series?

A: I think Portal 2 is our best single-player game. I play Dota 2 the most of our multiplayer games.

Q: What do you regret about Half-Life then? That's an interesting thing to say, regarding that the HL series is one of the most critically acclaimed of all time.

A: 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.

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.

He also said that, yes, there will probably be a new game set in the shared Half-Life/Portal universe someday.

Q: Any chance of a new IP that takes place in the half-life/portal universe? I feel like there's a lot of story left to be explored there. Thanks!

A: Yep.

Newell was also asked about Valve's notoriously spartan approach to communication. He explained it while acknowledging that, yeah, it has some downsides.

Q: Hi GabeN, Why does Valve not talk to its community about the games/apps its developing as much as other companies?

A: Because our decision making is way more conditional than most other companies. The one thing we won't do is waste our customers time and money, which means we will cancel or change stuff much later in development. Tracking our choices would be annoying and frustrating.

Another way to think about this, and the way we talk about this internally, is that we prefer to communicate through our products. We are all pretty devoted to reading and listening to the community - everyone here believes it is an integral part of their job to do so. And when it comes time to respond, we generally use Steam - shipping updates that address issues or add functionality. Obviously this doesn't work for everything. Working this way imposes latency on our communication - it takes longer to ship and update than to do a blog post. This can lead to the feeling of an echo chamber, where it seems like Valve isn't listening. We're always listening. So sometimes the latency is rough for everyone, including us when we want to address issues quickly. On balance we think it's usually worth the trade-off.

As for what's currently in the works at Valve, Newell said Source Engine 2 is on track to become the backbone of all their games. Also, he's become very interested in machine learning.

Q: Does Valve plan on doing anything with Source 2 in the coming years? If so, what?

A: We are continuing to use Source 2 as our primary game development environment. Aside from moving Dota 2 to the engine recently, we are are using it as the foundation of some unannounced products. We would like to have everyone working on games here at Valve to eventually be using the same engine. We also intend to continue to make the Source 2 engine work available to the broad developer community as we go, and to make it available free of charge.

Q: Hey Gabe/other valve employees, Just a question out of curiosity really, but interested in seeing what your view is on the direction that valve as a company should take in the future?

A: 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.

Also, somebody tried to ask him about uncensored sex games on Steam. He chose to reply to, er, something of a broader issue.

Q: Would you ever consider allowing uncensored video games containing pornographic content to be sold on Steam? Also, where do you draw the line for content on Steam?

A: In principle, there are two problems to solve. The first is a completely uncurated distribution tool for developers. The second is a toolset for customers that allow them to find and filter content (and people are an instance of content most obviously in multiplayer) that is best for them.

And lastly, he got a question about the number three, which he replied to (!!!).

Q: What is the status of Half Life 3/Half Life 2 Episode 3? Is Valve still working on any fully-fledged single player games? An unidentified anonymous source at Valve has said that Half Life 3 has been cancelled. Is that source legitimate?

A: The number 3 must not be said. Yes. I personally believe all unidentified anonymous sources on the Internet.

So take that to mean, uh, something! I guess?


    The machines have begun creating their own hats.

    All I can say is.....

    Half-Life 3 CONFIRMED!!1!1

      Well confirmed does start with c, the 3rd letter in the alphabet.

      Edit: I'm supposed to make it more convoluted in getting the number 3. If you add all the letters up in 'confirmed' into numbers, you get 87, square root of 87 and round it down, makes 9, square root of 9 is 3 thus HALF LIFE 3 CONFIRMED!

      Last edited 18/01/17 3:06 pm

      CONFIRMED that its cancelled! If Gabe believes them it must be true, amirite?

    Vakve values customers time and money... well not enough to curate and control greenlight, early access, shovelware,or fraud/scams.

    Bit disappointed he didn't answer any of the SteamOS/Linux stuff. It was their big focus a while ago... and now... crickets.

    Last edited 18/01/17 2:38 pm

      Judging by some of the answers here, it sounds like Valve atm is basically just making shit up as they go. Try something, get it 90% done, "Hey look at that idea over there!" *scrap everything and start something else*, repeat.

      I guess they're somehow still making billions at the moment but surely it's not a very sustainable business model...

        Hats are a sustainable business model :D

          Can't argue with that. I mean if Bad Rats had a hat DLC, it'd probably become GotY material.

      Probably because they realised that nobody is really interested in it in practice. It's such a tiny market that there probably isn't any benefit in it anymore. When macOS has a larger share, you know you've got a problem. It probably isn't really worth the effort for them anymore.

        There are plenty of Linux gamers out there (remember that SteamOS is not counted in the Steam Survey as the survey wont run from Big Picture Mode). ~1% of over 125million users is still over a million users and then add however many Steam Machines are out there.

        The platform is maturing quickly since valve's effort has sparked many developers. Vulkan is going to spur it on further (valve is also embracing vulkan, VR/Vive Support for Linux will require it). Linux/SteamOS is essentially a new market and it takes time for it to grow and mature.

        It took Mozilla over a decade to pry the browser market out of the cold hands of Internet Explorer (Mozilla then was eroded by Chrome). Android took years to become the predominant Smartphone OS and it had to be advertised by dozens of carriers and handset makers. No one advertises SteamOS/Linux and it is already on over a million Steam users and on somewhere near 3% of Desktops world wide, imagine if someone actually made a push for it.

        Valve is playing a long game with Linux

        Full disclosure I am a 100% Linux user and yes a Linux Gamer

        Last edited 19/01/17 12:00 pm

          Yeah, I hear you. But I've also heard the same argument for th last 10 or so years, and nothing ever changes. I see zero indication that it's about to change now, and Valve not really talking about it anymore suggests they see the same thing.

            Gabe even admits in this AMA that they don't communicate and tend to let their releases speak for themselves. There has been no outward indication of Valve giving up on their Linux initiatives.

            if that were the case why have they recently employed Pierre-Loup A. Griffais, a former AMD GPU dev to work specifically on the Mesa RADV vulkan driver and are looking to pay more Mesa devs?

            They continue to fund LunarG (in collaboration with Google), who write SDK/Debugging tools for Vulkan as well as advance the vulkan drivers on both windows and linux.

            They demoed VR on the Vive on a Kubuntu box at steam dev days conference.

            They continue to update the Linux versions of all their games, including their most popular Dota2 and CSGO

            What you've been hearing for 10 years is Ubuntu (started in 2006). Ubuntu has done a lot, but never got the developer traction or driver dev resources that valve has. In the 3 years that Steam has been on Linux it has gone from very few games to over 2000. Yes there is some mobile ports etc in there, but there is a growing selection of triple A titles.

            So perhaps you could look harder

            Last edited 19/01/17 3:45 pm

              We've had this argument before, and nothing I can say will ever be enough for you. You're committed to the platform. That's great, enjoy.

              But it's still such a tiny portion of the Steam market share and the 'rise of Linux' has been foretold for ages with no result.

                It's glacial change not an instant migration. This is the first time since the late 90s (ie pre-directx) that Linux has had a chance to be relevant in a consumer space (discounting android). Except this time we have a more mature hardware environment and a host of companies invested in it (Valve, Canonical, Redhat - plus game devs like Feral, Aspyr, 2K etc). Not to mention how user friendly Linux has become in the last 10 years (yes it is, to say otherwise is FUD).

                Will it knock out Windows as the top spot? Probably not. But it could reach or exceed macOS levels. Does it have Adobe Suite or Microsoft Office, no. But it doesn't need them to be a great consumer/gaming platform

                  If you say so, but for my part I'm willing to bet that in another 5 or 10 years, nothing will have changed. Every time I hear this argument it's the same: "this time it'll be different." And nothing changes.

                  Agree to disagree.

    "The one thing we won't do is waste our customers time and money,"


    No, they just allow any other dipshit who can mash together an asset flip and sell it as a "game" to do it on their online distribution service FOR them as long as they get their cut.

      Agreed there are some pretty shit games on steam - but in all honesty.. read the reviews and don't get anything brand new/beta...

      I don't agree its ok that there is crap on steam - but people complaining about 'buying into' the crap need to be smarter with their purchases..

      I think steam is a little like e-bay at this point - read reviews of the seller!

    Good to see the man is still alive.
    If I had remembered about the AMA I would've asked what his position is in the company and how much input he actually has in projects.

    Why didn't any one ask why there isn't Au$ on the steam store

    Sad to see he didn't reply or speak about the ACCC investigation and ruling.

    He couldn't give anything but a politicians answer (no answer) to the question are you even making any games now?
    The HL situation is a joke really, it's valves 'duke nukem' anything that did come out now would most likely be too much of a let down; so why spend time on it if you follow the logic.

    Ahh, an AMA that is really just a PR exercise with no real info...

    I think at this point its hard for steam to be innovative/driven - given that they are living off the fat of their product...

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