Why Valve Loves Making PC Games

"We get really frustrated working in walled gardens," said Valve's Gabe Newell.

Photo: Ethan Miller/Getty Images

During the last gen, Valve released some big hits on consoles (and PC, of course!), such as the Left 4 Dead titles and the Portal games. But this gen, Valve appears to be concentrating on PC.

"We love the PC right now," said Newell. "A lot." In a roundtable attended by Eurogamer, he explained why.

"So you try to talk to someone who's doing product planning on a console about free-to-play games and they say 'Oh, we're not sure free-to-play is a good idea' and you're like 'the ship has left.'"

As Eurogamer notes, free-to-play Team Fortress 2 has been a massive PC success for Valve.

It isn't just the walled-in ecosystems of consoles that Valve isn't hot on, but also iOS.

"There have been cases where we've updated products 5-6 times in a day," Newell said. "When we did the original iOS of Steam App, right, we shipped it, we got a whole bunch of feedback and like the next day we're ready to do an update." That update didn't come out for six months.

"And we couldn't find out why they wouldn't release it! They wouldn't tell us. This is the life that you have in these environments. And finally they shipped it! And they wouldn't tell us why they finally shipped it.

"So for us, while we're spending all of our time trying to be as tunnel-vision in this loop with our customers, to all of a sudden have this complete uncertainty about doing updates... Like we don't know how to operate.

"We're just too stupid to know how to be a successful iOS developer," he said.

Newell conceded that there are others who are "wildly successful" working under those conditions. But for him, "Our DNA tend[s] to not work well when someone is trying to insert a lot of process between us and our customers."


Comments

    This generation?? As in PS4/Xbox One right? Because PS3 and 360 are well and truly the previous generation at this point....

    In that case this whole thing is arguably wrong, Valve haven't released any games this generation, PC or otherwise unless you count "The Lab" as a game. Dota 2 was June 2013, before the Xbox One (and PS4) released.

    Last edited 11/02/17 10:05 pm

      You would most dedinitely count The Lab as a game. Or even a colection of games. While not all games or all replayable, Xortex archery and slingshot are all great. The archery and Xortex still two of the most enjayable things in VR

      Current-gen consoles are just as much a walled garden as last gen, so it's still applicable.

        It's a little disingenuous though.
        Steam is a walled garden itself, albeit it has its own way of doing things.

        All he's saying is he doesn't like having to go through a service provider when he is one already.
        It almost seems he doesn't like being treated like any other developer when it comes to releasing on another platform.

        Really, it has nothing to do with games or releasing on consoles, he's running your average PR slant where he promotes his platform while taking a swing at competitors.
        That's cool, it's how they all play.

          Steam may be a walled garden, but PC isn't, and I think that's a big difference in and of itself

            But you literally can't play a single Valve game released in the last decade without said walled garden.

              No, you can't, but if they (or someone else) wants to have a different release cycle, or a different way of releasing, if they wanted to go no DRM or have their own store, they can. Proven by games that are distrobuted standalone, or other store fronts like GoG for Origin.

              They speak of their frustration of developing for someone else's walled garden, and even if it wasn't a bad experience many developers care about the opennes of a platform in general. The fact that you don't have to have licence to develop for PC, or get a dev kit for PC or go through rigorous processes if you want to release a PC game is a great thing. And aside from that, some developers just care about the principle of the matter.

              But no, platforms and store fronts are two different things. Just because Valve only releases on steam, doesn't mean they don't like the openness of PC as a platform

                I feel like if Valve supported the openness of the PC as a platform then they would release their games on it as an open platform, or if they didn't believe in rigorous processes then there wouldn't be said processes for other developers who wanted to release on Steam.

                GoG are fantastic.

          @namiwakiru

          No, that is not it at all.

          What he means is that when it comes to xBox, iOS, etc. they have strict rules which cause huge restrictions in what a developer can do to their apps and games.

          For example Microsoft/Sony have (or had, I'm not really up to date these days) rules that stopped Valve from pushing TF2 content updates to consoles, etc. because of size restrictions.

          There were also issues like extended delays between when Valve would release an update, to when MS would get around to approving it for release; and if it was rejected the whole process would start again - so meanwhile on PC they would already be 2 major updates, and countless bug fix and tweak updates, etc. ahead.

          Not only that, but much of the time they pass no information on to developers as to why they denied, or delayed patches and updates. Meaning the dev can't resolve the issue and is left guessing, then has to wait for weeks to find out if they were correct or not.

          Last edited 12/02/17 9:29 pm

            Not walling your garden leads to Steam Greenlight. Which was cancelled. Because pests got in. And released shovelware. They got in the garden because it had no walls.

            On the flipside of that, you have console ecosystems, where Sony and Microsoft need to ensure the new patches don't fundamentally break their product (the operating system / hardware) while fixing someone else's. They don't want someone else patching their game and in turn creating problems for them, so they need to certify it, which takes time, because their team will never be as big as the number of developers pushing patches.

            Not letting a developer release patches whenever they want also ensures a smoother experience for the customers. Console audiences aren't like PC audiences. They don't like to tinker, they don't like to update, they want to turn their console on and have it work and play their game. Not letting a developer patch on the fly is a good deterrent for bad bug-fixing practices. Measure twice, cut once.

            I'm not saying that the console way is perfect, but people need to understand that there's pros and cons to both ways and each platform is trying to serve a different core audience and solve different problems.

          Is it really the same scenario though? Imagine being a developer of a game (on Steam) without the ability to update your game frequently; instead Valve has to randomly approve of the update whenever they decide it's okay to. Developers have that freedom on Steam, so I don't really see what you're getting at.

            They don't update at random or when they want, they update after a submitted update has been tested and checked to maintain the integrity of the service an platform.
            It's dishonest and dismissive to pretend it's some arbitrary annoyance with no point or purpose.

      Dota 2 has had a lot of updates, including being moved to an entire new Engine. The last patch (7.00) was basically a whole new game too.

    We love making games... unless they have a 3 involved, we don't do 3

    The f*** are they talking about? As others have pointed out, Valve haven't made a game for years. Their last proper (by which I mean predominantly story-based Single-Player) release was Portal 2 nearly 6 years ago.

    Last edited 11/02/17 9:48 pm

      You have a pretty narrow definition of "proper" game.

        I don't know what you mean. Completely rebuilding one of the most popular games in the world from the ground up in a totally new engine with the developer of the original...

        ... nah mate, that ain't no proper game.

      Lmao 'proper' games are only 'story-based Single-Player'. You heard it here first folks!

    The proof is in the pudding.
    Pudding is a type of cake.
    The cake is a lie!

    FFS ... just stick a Steam App on one of the consoles and let me play both of my libraries. Sony need to get back to letting Linux dual-boot on their hardware and put a nice cut of Steam OS on that baby.

    Perhaps UWP will be our next great hope...?

      What possible incentive does Sony have for doing either of those things?

        Sales. But you're right - I think it's Microsofts way to take back the market here. The change of Xbox to a service offers the perfect way to fill the shortcomings of Steam.

    I'm sorry is this article supposed to be a joke?

      No, it's actually quite true.

      Valve is a platform, with some restrictions (all platforms do); but it is not a 'walled garden' like xBox/PS/iOS, where there are 'walls' that stop devs from making changes to their product.

      An example (this may have changed, been a while since I looked into it): on the xBox, MS throws up a wall if a developers content/patch/update/etc. is over a certain size. Meaning developers can't give larger content updates, patches, etc. for free. I also seem to recall there being fees involved for every update.

      Another is iOS (or who ever) delaying, or denying updates - sometimes for quite a long time. So on PC, if a huge glitch is found it can be patched within a short period of time, while on console it could take weeks or months before it is approved to go live. So the same game on console can be months and months behind the PC version, despite the updates being ready to go.

      Last edited 12/02/17 9:55 pm

    Steam doesn't force developers into sell ONLY on steam store contracts, other companies most definitely do that!

    So I think some people need to stop and think about what a Walled Garden is, is it just a store that sells software only and has integrated DRM to protect said software? if so then pretty much all stores are guilty, except for perhaps GOG, but we know that software has had DRM before on their platform also...

    Last time I checked Steam/Valve don't offer exclusive incentives for software to ONLY sell on their store, something that others have done, especially the case with VR titles!
    (Yes steam offered money up for developers, but wasn't contractual to their store exclusively I believe, not 100% sure)

    Last edited 12/02/17 4:41 pm

      I think the salient point in Gabe's discussion was also about releasing updates on the developer's schedule, not the platform-holder's schedule.

    Valve may get sick of walled gardens, but we consumers get sick of having to upgrade or turn down options just to play something the way it wasn't truly intended. As well as being more casual and kicking back on the couch as opposed to hunched over a desk to game.

    Door swings both ways Gabe. At least with console games, I'm playing it EXACTLY the way the developer made it.....but then day one patches and new iterations of consoles are gonna fuck all that up.

    Last edited 13/02/17 10:57 am

      As well as being more casual and kicking back on the couch as opposed to hunched over a desk to game.

      Steam link is a thing that happened.

        I always find this argument about how much more comfortable it is to play console games really weird. My computer chair is super comfortable. I can kick back and relax in it equally as hard as I can on a couch. And do!

          Oh I totally agree - my last console was a 360, and it is gathering dust in a cupboard because I moved exclusively to PC gaming. I find extended sessions on the couch holding a controller can get quite uncomfortable, whereas I can happily play for hours on end on my desktop.

          I think the only thing that console gaming really offers over PC is the social element - being able to fire up Mario Kart or Smash over beers with a few mates is rarely an option on PC... but for basically everything else, #pcmasterrace4lyf

            I play on a 120" screen on a Lay-Z-Boy. Your argument is invalid :P :P

            Projector Master Race

            Last edited 13/02/17 2:59 pm

              We can't all be Bill Gates rich, brother.

                It's actually pretty cheap. About $5000 Cheaper than an 80" TV in fact. $2500AU got me the projector, screen and full surround sound setup. Best thing I ever did entertainment wise. (I did it mainly for film watching as I'm a film nerd but gaming on it is astounding) - I can make the screen up to 200 inches but then I'd start blocking off the entry door to my lounge.

                People always think of the shitty school projector whenever I talk about my setup and think it wont look that great....till they see it. Blows people away. The wife was a skeptic and thought I was mad. Now she even admits she won't go back.

                It is a 1080p projector. Next time I upgrade in a few years I suppose they'll have 4k ones that are affordable (right now they're insane) though you have to ensure you have one that has an excellent refresh rate for gaming. Mine is 11ms. A lot of them are a noticeable 100ms.

                Last edited 13/02/17 5:56 pm

                  I would have to contend with the price of Sydney real estate - I don't even think I have a 110" wall in my house, let alone a room big enough to sit far enough back to appreciate it!

                  That being said, you're still talking serious coin. $2500 could get you a brand new gaming PC plus peripherals, so it's still a different ball game. But I'm sure it's great for all you Richard Branson types.

    well that figures

    "And we couldn't find out why they wouldn't release it! They wouldn't tell us. This is the life that you have in these environments. And finally they shipped it! And they wouldn't tell us why they finally shipped it.

    Sure is frustrating when someone won't tell you about the shit they've said they're working on, huh Gabe?

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