Gabe Newell Valve Interview - Orange Box
We sit down for a lengthy discussion with Valve Corp's MD and co-founder, Gabe Newell, ahead of the release of The Orange Box for PC and console.
Kikizo: You said that the plot is already complete. I'm presuming you do the voice recording episode by episode, with the actors?
Gabe: Sometimes we record ahead if it's convenient on some pieces. But we actually do pick up lines pretty late as you're looking at the performance, and just optimising. You'll see something in a scene and you'll want to change it to read differently and say to the voice actor, make her sound more sarcastic. And we have the luxury if going back and doing that stuff.
Kikizo: Because I was curious, if you were to record the actors well in advance of something that's going to be released, that, and from an internal perspective all of your staff, how do you keep things secure in terms of things not getting leaked?
Gabe: Well, we did have all of the Half-Life 2 source code end up on the Internet at one point! But hopefully we've learned from that to be a little more secure.
Kikizo: What have you done since then to be more secure?
Gabe: None of your business! [laughs]
Kikizo: Very good answer. You've got a guy at the door with a gun basically? LOL. So, Team Fortress 2, your animated short sequences with the soldiers, look really outstanding I think, because they are really well characterised, the voices were good and it was kind of Pixar style level of CG animation quality, which straight away got me thinking, this could be a short film. Could you do something beyond a game with what you have there?
Gabe: We are planning on doing nine of those shorts, one for each of the character classes. We think that the fans really like to see these characters because it's such a class based game that they like to get a clear sense of who they are and that's what we're doing right now.
Kikizo: Cool, and I have to be honest, out of the three new games that are in Orange Box, Team Fortress 2 is the one I am least well educated about; if you were to educate me as a player of Half-Life 2, with one selling point maybe, what is it?
Gabe: It's the class based multiplayer. I think there are very significant differences between playing as a scout and playing as a heavy or a medic. So it tends to accommodate a wider variety of play styles than say Counter-Strike. I mean Counter-Strike is very clear; there's not a lot of variety in that, whereas there's a huge difference between the tactical thinking that an engineer does managing resources versus say the approach that the sniper has playing in that game. So really it's much more accommodating to a wider range of play styles than any game out there.
Kikizo: And one final thing about Steam, is there a minimum requirement for someone to put a game out on there? I mean say I made a game and I wanted it on Steam?
Gabe: Send us an email.
Kikizo: What if it was crap?
Gabe: Well, if it's crap then we're going to tell you to go away! [laughter] You know, you've already told us it's crap so... we believe you! [laughter] We tend to think of what we're doing as providing tools more than anything else; we're not in a 'gate keeping' function; we're not going to make editorial decisions for you. Our way of thinking is in the same way that the Source SDK is a set of tools and we want people to do different kinds of things; if you ask us, the same way for Steam, we see it as tools for developers; we treat them the same way we would want to be treated, which is in a helpful way, not in a judgemental or gate keeping way.
Kikizo: What would you say has been the biggest change in the games industry over the last ten years and what will be the biggest over the next ten years? Industry trends; something that will define the next ten years.
Gabe: Well I think the biggest thing that people should have been paying attention to is the shift in marketing and distribution away from traditional forms to digital forms. Because I think that's going to be a huge benefit to the creative types as the pie shifts towards content creation and not distribution and marketing. And then the next ten years, I think we're going to see the sort of disappearance of games as an independent medium, and instead everybody's going to have to figure out how to be an entertainment company not just a games company. The flipside is that you can't be in the movie business and the TV business, you have to be in the entertainment business as well. I think customers have really tried to indicate that through things like Pokemon, or the sales of the Harry Potter games. And we're still stuck in the mentality of the production, the accidents in production, and that's not the way that customers really want us to be building entertainment.
Kikizo: Interesting. You've got confirmed release dates for Orange Box now?
Doug: PC and 360 dates are October 10th in the States at retail, and October 12th in Europe at retail. PC Steam date is 12.01am Pacific on 10th October. And then PS3 date is still to be determined.
Kikizo: Thanks so much for your time, we appreciate it.