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Steam Success Holding Up Half-Life Development? 235

donniebaseball23 writes "Steam is a huge success, and it's arguably the leading digital distribution platform for gamers on the PC. But has the growth of Steam's business led to a slowdown in Valve's own games development? Is the so-called 'Valve Time' actually a symptom of Steam's hogging Valve's resources? That's the argument that Stardock's Brad Wardell made this week. 'If you were to look at a timeline of games developed in-house by Valve – not developed externally and then acquired – and you look at before Steam and after Steam, it's definitely had an effect,' he said." It's probably also slowed by the imminent launch of Portal 2, which is due out next Tuesday in North America.
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Steam Success Holding Up Half-Life Development?

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  • Simple (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <oarigogirdor>> on Thursday April 14, 2011 @04:49AM (#35815634) Homepage

    If you can make bucketloads of money with very little effort, why try to do something hard?

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      I doubt running Steam is "very little effort". Sure to the usual idiot it may look like so, because they don't see or know what actually is required to be done behind the scenes.

      I'm actually happy Valve is concentrating on Steam. Half-Life would be passing fun, while Steam provides me great service all the time (and has done so since 2004). From the games front, I actually like Portal more than HL. It's something different and fun. Half-Life is kind of seen already.

      • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Stormwatch ( 703920 ) <<moc.liamtoh> <ta> <oarigogirdor>> on Thursday April 14, 2011 @04:57AM (#35815672) Homepage

        Steam? Sorry, I actually meant hats and crate keys.

        • Hey guys, let's complain about free updates.

          No seriously. Look at the very same game, Team Fortress 2, for the Xbox 360. It's abandoned now, no new maps or anything, just a few bug patches. It's dead.

          If Valve did the same thing to the PC version, guess what people would have done? They would complain about lack of updates (like the 360 users did) and/or just abandon the game.

          So in short, users are complaining about change. Different weapons (almost all of which suck in comparison to the stock), the hat

      • Re:Simple (Score:5, Insightful)

        by Jafafa Hots ( 580169 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @05:11AM (#35815740) Homepage Journal

        I have to agree.
        I had stopped buying games years ago. Not playing them entirely, but stopped buying them entirely.

        Steam, despite the misgivings I shared with many others, has turned out to be a great service. I have now bought a metric shitload of games (by jumping on the sales, the $2.99 deals, etc.)

        I'd sworn publishers would never get another cent of my money especially if there was DRM, but I have TONS of steam games because it's so easy, and CHEAP (provided you wait for sales... which, for top titles, can take a year or two. Year or two? Big deal. I'm middle aged now - two years is nothing. I've got t-shirts ten times that old.

        Shit, a 2 year old game is "new" to me.

        • Steam has managed to find a sweet spot in pricing (although I only buy deals, for new games Steam is less interesting because of localization ... mainland Europe gets screwed hardcore) and the level of intrusiveness of DRM I can live with. The DA:O business for instance would not have happened with pure Steam DRM ... a game which has been activated can be played offline (you do not have to be online to enter offline mode, that's a myth ... try it out, just "pull the cable" and restart Steam).

          Of course devel

        • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
          The best part about a 2 year old game is that if there is a tricky part you just can't get around, there have been enough creative people to show you exactly how to get around it - with video.

          (A couple of my Portal videos on Youtube have gotten a few recent comments. I find that a little strange. Has there been a recent upsurge in advertising; or, perhaps, pre-orders for Portal 2 is coming with a license for Portal?)
          • by geekoid ( 135745 )

            Portal 2 is coming out, Valve is giving away Portal with pre-order, and they changed the ending to portal.

            • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
              How recent is this change, is it a cut-scene change? I played it through last year when they announced Portal 2 and went for the eggs they left behind
          • I picked up the orange box about a year ago (yup, just like the XKCD cartoon), played through portal a few times and loved it and have recently returned to it to try my hand at the challenges. A couple of those views may well be from me :)

            Echoing the parent comment, the orange box I picked up for a fiver must have netted Vavle at least £100 by now, mostly on their awesome selection of indie games. First hit is almost free...!

      • by tnk1 ( 899206 )

        How could Steam really interfere with a going game project?

        Sure, it requires resources, but presumably the games and Steam would have their own teams, and even their own revenue steam. Before Steam, Valve was able to make games without Steam revenue, so its not like they have to share resources.

        With the engines of most of their games at a mature phase, the work on new games is likely to be gameplay, art and level design. All of those take a great deal of talent and effort, but they don't overlap much with

  • by the_raptor ( 652941 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @04:56AM (#35815668)

    The timelines for HL2: Episodes 1 and 2 slipped by more than a year each and that was before the main Valve dev team touched Portal (Portal was almost entirely done by the Narbucular drop team that Valve hired). The HL2 episodic content is one of the things that destroyed the idea of Episodic content for me. The whole point of it was to deliver content more frequently instead of a whole game every 2-3 years, but Valve can barely get out 1/3rd of an Episode every 2-3 years.

    I suspect they are either suffering from Dukeitis (a condition where developers keep iterating because they need to live up to their previous smash success) or the major designers have their fingers in every pie instead of working one or two projects at a time and are slowing everything up.

    • by gman003 ( 1693318 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @08:08AM (#35816312)
      The Episodes also destroyed the idea of episodic content for Valve. They said, when they first announced them, that the entire thing was an experiment. They've now said that "episodic content doesn't work for this type of game, we're scrapping the idea, episode 3 will basically be a full-length game".
    • by Syberz ( 1170343 )

      To be fair, episodes 1 and 2 of Half-Life 2 were longer and better made than most of the crap that passes as a triple-A title these days. These episodes could have easily been full games on their own, so to me they don't really represent what episodic gaming is all about.

    • by Machtyn ( 759119 )
      Considering it took them 6 years to release Half Life 2, having it take 2 years a piece for HL2:Ep1 and HL2:Ep2 does not seem like that big of a deal to me. They certainly left a huge cliff hanger for HL3... and we haven't even got any teasers (unless you call Portal a teaser, and the inclusion of Aperture Science in HL2:Ep2). It is getting a little long in the tooth for HL2:Ep3 to come out. I'm really going to have to replay HL2 and the episodes when Ep3 comes out (or, I guess, I could just read the wik []
  • Valve made the original half life, half-life 2 and the episodes. But all the expansions to the original half life (opposing force, blue shift and decay) were made by gearbox software.

  • Sounds stupid to me. A company of Valve's wealth and size could attract and support enough talent for doing both game dev and steam dev, surely?
    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      Valve is owned by Valve employees. They do what they love doing, there are no external shareholders to force them work faster. Everything Valve does makes sense when you replace greed as primary motivator with desire to make great products.

      The exact opposite to Valve would be Activision with it's leader Bob Kotick. You should read up on him.

      "Kotick doesn't play his games, and it shows" - Ben Kuchera, Ars Technica

    • The "division" of Valve responsible for Steam is about 5 people - a few programmers, an interface designer, and someone to add new games every so often. Compare that to the 15+ people still working on Team Fortress 2, or the huge number of people working on Portal 2.
  • No shit! (Score:4, Insightful)

    by mattbee ( 17533 ) <> on Thursday April 14, 2011 @05:17AM (#35815758) Homepage

    Yawn, another fine morning at Valve! Shall we slog on with another episode of our popular game franchise for the fanboys, or shall we work a bit harder at our store front that takes 30% of EVERY PC GAME SALE ON THE PLANET? It's not quite that dramatic, but if >50% of PC games sales were downloads last year for the first time, Steam must be taking the lion's share. And last I looked they were only 150-odd employees - still quite impressive.

    • Do you know if the ~150 employees just counts core developers, artists, etc. or does that include the receptionist and the guy who swaps drives on the steam servers and so on?

      Unless large parts of the backend are outsourced(which wouldn't be a complete surprise, trying to beat one of the dedicated CDNs at delivering large files to customers all over the place isn't obviously a sensible move when they'd be happy to deliver them for you for a modest fee...) , I have to imagine that steam's physical infrast
    • Forbes profiles Gabe a few months ago. He's apparently a billionaire now. I believe he's the first game developer to achieve that level of income. []

  • by anomnomnomymous ( 1321267 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @05:30AM (#35815806)
    This makes sense: All the leveldesigners, modelers, texture- and concept artists; They all work on Steam...

    I assume that the sarcasm is noticed.

    There's no need for Valve to work on Episode 3 in a hurry; Whenever it will be released, it will be sold by the millions.
    And to be honest; I rather wait some more (actually, I'm not missing it), and get yet another awesome game, whereas I don't get the feeling that something is incomplete because of rushing it out for a certain date.

    Other than that, I also have a theory in which I think that right now, they might be working on HL3, and just skip the whole Episode 3.
    Then again, pure speculation of course.
    • by Bogtha ( 906264 )

      This makes sense: All the leveldesigners, modelers, texture- and concept artists; They all work on Steam...

      Don't forget the programmers themselves. I'm sure Valve thought it made complete sense to take the developers working on a 3D game engine and put them to work on an Adobe AIR container for a lobotomised web browser. It's practically the same thing, right?

      • You say it as a joke but plenty of companies do that. Here programmer fix this; there can't be that much difference between GUI design and embedded systems or you would need a different degree to do one or the other.
    • If they were to release HL2 - episode 3, it would have been released after Portal 2 anyway. I believe Portal 2 contains some references that will get the worlds of Portal and Half-Life 2 closer together - Portal 1 already had references about Black Mesa.

      Also, from a marketing point of view, if you want to release a game, you want to release it just like big Hollywood movies are released - either when children come back from Summer holidays or towards the end of November - early December, when parents start

      • The PC Games Industry Alliance was crowing about wanting to have a PC presence at E3 this year. Possibly including a keynote or something. If there's a near complete build of Episode 3 / Source 2 waiting in the wings that seems like a fine time to demonstrate it.

      • by ifrag ( 984323 )

        Wasn't there also a reference to Aperture Science in HL2? Something to do with a boat disappearing I think... Maybe I'm remembering wrong.

        If they do add it in that would be totally awesome to have HL3 w/portal gun. The mod to make the portal gun appear in HL2 was nice but the environments for HL2 were not built around the "go anywhere" mechanic so you could get in some really odd places where the world is not actually constructed from certain angles.

    • Considering Episode 3 is the final installment of the story arc, I'm fine with waiting... as long as we get some feedback. I sincerely hope they do not stop making Half-Life games. It's very disappointing when someone owns the IP rights to a franchise but does nothing with it, or worse, doesn't treat it with the respect their fans desire.
    • by FSWKU ( 551325 )

      Other than that, I also have a theory in which I think that right now, they might be working on HL3, and just skip the whole Episode 3.
      Then again, pure speculation of course.

      I remember hearing a while back that Valve was referring to Episodes 1-3 as "Half-Life 3" internally. But wouldnt HL3 be 1.5-Life (or 1/8-Life)?

      *goes back to the cave*

  • Will it be released before, or after Duke Nukem ...

  • Valve has been releasing one awesome game after another for the last 12 years. Clearly something is wrong! Valve get your act together!

  • Say What? (Score:5, Informative)

    by Majikk ( 60247 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @07:46AM (#35816250)

    Here is the list of games published by Valve, according to Wikipedia. I have checked each description to make sure everything was done by whom I thought it was done by. Note that Steam gets released in 2002:

    1998 Half-Life
    1999 Team Fortress Classic
    1999 Half-Life: Opposing Force (Not valve!)
    2000 Deathmatch Classic
    2000 Ricochet
    2000 Counter-Strike (Not valve!)
    2001 Half-Life: Blue Shift (Not valve!)
    2002 Steam
    2003 Day of Defeat (Not Valve)
    2004 Counter-Strike: Condition Zero (Not Valve)
    2004 Counter-Strike: Source
    2004 Half-Life 2
    2004 Half-Life 2:Deathmatch
    2005 Half-Life Deathmatch: Source
    2005 Day of Defeat: Source
    2005 Half-Life 2: Lost Coast
    2006 Half-Life 2: Episode One
    2007 Half-Life 2: Episode Two
    2007 Portal
    2007 Team Fortress 2
    2008 Left 4 Dead
    2009 Left 4 Dead 2
    2010 Alien Swarm
    2011 Portal 2 (Coming out Tuesday)
    2011 Dota 2 (Not yet released)

    First of all, how the hell could you possibly know that game development has changed in any meaningful way since the introduction of Steam? The only thing Valve had really released was Half Life. Everything else was just a mod or a third party expansion they had nothing to do with. Secondly, if anything more games have come from Valve since Steam. They haven't pushed out Half Life 3 yet, but it would be hard to claim some logistical problem when they have released Team Fortress 2, Left 4 Dead, Left 4 Dead 2 and Portal.

    Please remember that Brad Wardell is a business man, and he just sold his own game distribution network to Gamestop. His next action was to badmouth his (former) competition for continuing to be in the business he just got out of. Stay classy.

    • Don't forget they were producing Arkane's The Crossing which ended up being cancelled back in 2009. []

    • by Jainith ( 153344 )

      Anyone else remember the Half-Life 1 demo...which had a bunch unique content...including alot of cool scripted scenes.

      It had great "Atmosphere" alot like "Opposing Forces".

    • Sometimes developers live in a bubble so long that they really have no way of comparing what they just did to what everyone else is doing, there's just a huge built-in bias. Brad Wardell seems pretty level-headed (then again, he did switch his games to DRM after denouncing its use for many years), maybe he just believes way too much in what he was working on. Maybe it's stupidity, not malice, but either way you're right in that his statements should be taken with a grain of salt.
  • Instead of blaming Steam, a more likely explanation on why the next set of games is taking longer is that Valve is embracing cross platform development including the trickier console platforms. I am not suggesting "Consoles are bad!" but that cross platform systems are inherently more complex and take more time and money to do.

  • Brad Wardell, as always, is full of shit. The vast majority of Valve developers do not work on Steam. If I understand it correctly, the Steam team is actually rather small, given it's impact. And please, Brad is telling us that a crew of, say, designers and level designers has not been working on HL2 dlc because ... they are working on Steam?! Yeah. Sure. Those poly-pushing level monkies are all hard at work coding up Steam transaction backend software.
  • by shoptroll ( 544006 ) * on Thursday April 14, 2011 @09:54AM (#35817312)

    Someone reeks of sour grapes and lame duck.

    Last time I checked, Valve hasn't rushed a game out the door and had to do the walk of shame once everyone realized the sad shape the game was in.

    Valve is one of those few developers who are in a position to say "When it's done" and take the time to polish/complete the game to the quality standards they set for themselves... and gamers expect. If there's a reason for Ep3/HL3's delay it's because they've been busy with improving the Source engine (or building a new one?), L4D, L4D2 (Brad conveniently disregards L4D2 was 100% Valve), Portal 2, and oh yes, continuing support for TF2.

    He also conveniently left out the fact that while they did acquire Turtle Rock (and later let them leave) and a couple of student teams from Digipen, there was still level of involvement from people already at Valve. In particular, Chet and Erik were writing for the Half-Life episodes and were moved onto the L4D and Portal projects.

  • by geekoid ( 135745 )

    If A happens and B happens it does not mean A caused B.

    I would suspect people are bored with half-life and out enjoying new things.

    I blame the hats. Too many hats. stupid hats. That reminds, I need to play tf2 again tonight and see if I can get a new hat.

  • by brit74 ( 831798 ) on Thursday April 14, 2011 @11:08AM (#35818096)
    Brad Wardell has had a huge chip on his shoulder about Steam for a long time. He never seemed to miss a chance to criticize it, and seemed on his blog to continually stress out about Steam and his own competing product, Impulse (which was recently sold to GameStop). So, yeah, Brad Wardell is a little bit biased on this issue. Based on his longstanding battle against them, I have a hard time believing that he's going to give an objective assessment of Steam, even after he sold-off Impulse.
  • People would bitch if they milked their titles. They put great care into them and release them when they're happy with them and people moan they take too long. Some people claim Steam is damaging PC gaming by making it Valve centric. Valve puts more effort into Steam and doesn't actually publish a lot of content to draw attention away from 3rd parties and people moan they put too much time into Steam.

    They should keep up with what they're doing. The fact people can't wait shows they're doing a fabulous jo

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