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Stardock: Steam may be holding Valve back

Stardock: Steam may be holding Valve back

The success of Steam may be holding Valve back, says Impulse's Brad Wardell.

The phenomenal success of Steam may be holding Valve back, according to Stardock's Brad Wardell, who recently drew parralells between Stardock and Valve.

Stardock's own digital distribution platform, Impulse, was recently sold to US retail chain GameStop.

In an interview with IndustryGamers, Wardell said that he thought the growth of Steam, which has over 30 million active accounts, may well be holding Valve back from creating its own games.

'Even though Valve is in Seattle, where you can get developers everywhere, [Steam's] had an effect on their own development schedule. There's not been a new Half-Life in a long time; a lot of people have complained about that,' said Wardell.

'[Valve has] had their own challenges getting new titles out the door, and a big part of that I'm sure is the same problems we've had. When one of your groups is so ridiculously profitable, every business instinct you have is to throw all your best people at it, because that's what's making the money. That's just sound business. At the end of the day, again you have decide if that's what you want to do.'

'Steam and Valve - of the companies out there I would say we're the most similar. Obviously they're bigger and far more successful than our games unit is, but culturally they're pretty similar. If you were to look at a time-line 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 added.

'I don't argue that that's a good thing or bad thing, but I do know the effect that's had on us, where I've had to put some of my top developers over the years onto Impulse to make sure it was getting better and better.'

Valve's next game, Portal 2, is out next week, however. Check out the Portal 2 trailer below, then let us know your thoughts in the forums.

38 Comments

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impar 13th April 2011, 11:31 Quote
Greetings!

Valve was waiting for DNF before developing Episode 3\HL3.
Besides, we had from Valve, 200+ patches for TF2, L4D and L4D2.
Mentai 13th April 2011, 11:33 Quote
How many years did they reiterate on TF2? 7, 8? Because that's the way I see Ep 3. As far as I know Valve has a dedicated steam team, a dedicated HL team, a dedicated TF2 team etc. Sure members get swapped around when something major is about to get launched to finish it up on time/final polish, but I think their output has been fine. If portal 2 as good and as long as I expect it to be then that could easily make up for the lack of HL. That's 3.5 years for a full length single player and coop, it took them 5 years to do HL2, and since it's the same universe it could have been most of the HL team working on this.
Unknownsock 13th April 2011, 11:41 Quote
Personally i think they've been waiting for a Portal 2 release before Episode 3 considering they look like there going to be strongly linked together.
NethLyn 13th April 2011, 11:45 Quote
The only way Steam holds Valve back is if the whole network has a heart attack for one game's updates or initial sales, and since TF2 it's only been third party titles that have had this problem. (Cheap UT3, GTA4, etc).

I'm happy to wait for games to be right from Valve, Stardock might as well make the same points about EA or any other publisher with an online arm.

Plus, a lot of people remarked that getting Left 4 Dead 2 out of the door too quickly after the first was an equal hassle to the long waits for other games. Ironically I haven't finished Portal yet (6 to go) so I'll be waiting even longer before I pick it up.
feedayeen 13th April 2011, 11:59 Quote
Another way to look at Steam is this.

Valve takes a small cut off of every game sold on Steam, with hundreds of developers using the system and millions of games being purchased daily, they have a set minimum revenue steam to operate under to remain solvent. This enables them to take their time to design their games since unlike some developers like EA titles, there is no push to go from one product to the same repackaged product in the next year just so that everyone doesn't get fired. This extra time has the added benefit that Valve is more willing than most companies to continue expansions to their existing titles as seen in TF2 where I imagine that the majority of the development time has now been spent creating free DLCs for the game rather than the original game itself.



BTW Stardock, what is your product listing?

http://www.stardock.com/downloads/mygames.asp

Oh yeah. 3 Galactic Civilizations, 2 Sins of a Solar Empire, Demigod, and a competing project to Steam.... totally unbiased.
DrTiCool 13th April 2011, 11:59 Quote
Steam rulez
Javerh 13th April 2011, 12:05 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by feedayeen
Another way to look at Steam is this.
Valve takes a small cut off of every game sold on Steam, with hundreds of developers using the system and millions of games being purchased daily, they have a set minimum revenue steam to operate under to remain solvent. This enables them to take their time to design their games since unlike some developers like EA titles, there is no push to go from one product to the same repackaged product in the next year just so that everyone doesn't get fired. This extra time has the added benefit that Valve is more willing than most companies to continue expansions to their existing titles as seen in TF2 where I imagine that the majority of the development time has now been spent creating free DLCs for the game rather than the original game itself.

My thoughts exactly! +rep
HyBry 13th April 2011, 12:14 Quote
Sound like a sound logic at first, but I belive there are many other reasons for this. In addition, except for last year, there has been a release of I would say a major game every year since HL2:ep1. Not to mention all the updates. I really hope that end of this year/early next year will bring the new HL and it will be as long as ep1 + ep2 :)
mpr 13th April 2011, 12:17 Quote
Stardock WAS an amazing company, I withdraw my judgement on them though as of the Gamestop aqcuisition. Looks like other than SoaSE's next installment I'll be buying my "classics" via GoG.com and Steam.

It's not that I haven anything against Steam, they make a few hundred off me every year... I just prefered to support systems like GoG and Impulse that have little to no DRM and don't require me to be online to register a new title.
Lenderz 13th April 2011, 12:20 Quote
I have to say I disagree with the guy, everything that Valve have said about their working practices suggest he is inaccurate. I remember reading an interview around Orange Box time that their developers get put on a project, but can also work on what they want within the business, and can spend time working on different projects, so those who are creating a game are truly passionate about it.

I think what is holding back Valve if anything is their perfectionist streak and tendency to iterate multiple times on what they are working on, as well as people working on different projects, be that TF2 DLC (HATSFTW), L4D (which as I understand it when Valve took in the company producing it needed a lot of work) L4D2, Portal 2 and various other games.

Remember the HL2 hack/leak? I seem to remember a lot of what that game was they threw away and started from scratch. There were screenshots I saw of the hacked HL2 which contained enemies which never made the final cut (blue tentacle monster).
Also remember the early TF2 information and screenshots, where it was a more “hardcore” military style game, then they went silent for a few years and hit us with something we totally didn't expect with a fresh new look and style.

I wouldn't be surprised that they started HL2 episode 3, weren't happy with it, scrapped it a few times or decided Source couldn't do what they wanted, so they are re-engineering it or developing their second generation engine. I desperately want Episode 3, or HL3, but I'm happy waiting because I know when it comes it'll be :awesome: and with Valves track record something we're not expecting.

Although Stardock is substantially smaller so what he is saying makes sense for them I really doubt that with Valves resources they're using game designers and engine coders to work on community & store projects, especially at the expense of their biggest property.

I wish companies would stick to talking about their own stuff instead of pointless speculation about other peoples.
BRAWL 13th April 2011, 12:26 Quote
The guy needs to QQ harder.

I'd rather wait ten years for HL3 then Ten months for Call of Duty: Bland Warfare.

2pence.
Volund 13th April 2011, 12:28 Quote
Sounds to me like Stardock is trying to justify selling out to a company that "hates" PC gamers (because we don't bring in enough money to cater to in their stores )

Just went into a gamestop the other day, not a single PC game in the entire store, and even the Pre-order posters for Portal 2 and DNF didn't even have a PC logo on the front :( It's like they don't think we exist.....
Zurechial 13th April 2011, 13:05 Quote
So Brad Wardell is bitching and whining from his soapbox again? Surprise, surprise.
I used to think Stardock was a cool company, then Brad Wardell started opening his mouth.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Wardell
When one of your groups is so ridiculously profitable, every business instinct you have is to throw all your best people at it, because that's what's making the money. That's just sound business. At the end of the day, again you have decide if that's what you want to do.

I don't see how this part of his claim makes any sense. The majority of staff working on HL2 Ep3 are not going to be shifted from game development to development of the Steam application or its backend services, as Wardell seems to be claiming here.
As others have said, it's more likely that the profitability of Steam is what allows Valve to stay afloat while working at their own valve-time pace.

My own stance on the Ep3 delay is one of annoyance though. I was sold on the episodic approach when they first announced it, mainly because HL2 had ended on such a vicious cliffhanger that I wanted to know what was coming next.
As things stand currently, I'd prefer if they had just worked for 3-5 years on HL3 instead; something that would be as groundbreaking as HL2 was. Right now, my anticipation of Ep3 is waning and maintained only by my interest in the plot and a vague hope that they're going to do something really special with it after all this time.
will_123 13th April 2011, 13:10 Quote
@Volund hit the nail on the head.
[USRF]Obiwan 13th April 2011, 13:14 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Lenderz
I wouldn't be surprised that they started HL2 episode 3, weren't happy with it, scrapped it a few times or decided Source couldn't do what they wanted, so they are re-engineering it or developing their second generation engine. I desperately want Episode 3, or HL3, but I'm happy waiting because I know when it comes it'll be :awesome: and with Valves track record something we're not expecting.

The above is just wishful thinking, Half life 2 was released in 2004. That is almost seven years ago! The HL2 engine or source engine is extremely outdated by now. Episode 2 came in 2007, in the meantime four years have past since that release without any episode3 or HL3 related news from Valve.

Saying that Episode 3 or HL3 is going to be 'awesome' is heavily overrated. Not even counting the fact that most Half life players are now in their late 20's or 30's. I am almost 40, and last time I played any valve game was 4 years ago. Just like you i'm waiting for 7 years now, but by now I there is a bigger chance that Gabe would die of a heart attack first. Or that we are to old for this ****...
Kiytan 13th April 2011, 13:46 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Zurechial


I don't see how this part of his claim makes any sense. The majority of staff working on HL2 Ep3 are not going to be shifted from game development to development of the Steam application or its backend services, as Wardell seems to be claiming here.

That's exactly what I was thinking
leveller 13th April 2011, 14:12 Quote
Look at what Valve pumps out:

Half-Life series
Portal series
Left 4 Dead series
Team Fortress 2
Counter Strike Source
Day of Defeat Source

DoTA ...

and Steam. Which is due another over-haul very soon ...

That sub game keeps getting mentioned, I'd be surprised if that didn't make an appearance at some point in the future. Ricochet might be back as well ...

The ARGs over the past years ...

Their relationship with indie developers ...

Their outlook on the future of gaming ...

Valve and Stardock are in two entirely different leagues.
Paradigm Shifter 13th April 2011, 14:45 Quote
You spelt parallels wrong in the article. :) First paragraph.
Lazy_Amp 13th April 2011, 15:54 Quote
This would only be true if Valve was a publically held company. As long as they are privately held, they don't have stock owners breathing down their necks to maximize Steam profits above all else.

Valve isn't that big of a company, and like was said earlier some of their staff moves between projects in order to meet deadlines. You can't say they've sat on their ass when you have had 2 L4D games and Portal 2 since the Orange Box, along with a ton of free updates.
Lenderz 13th April 2011, 16:04 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by [USRF]Obiwan
The above is just wishful thinking, Half life 2 was released in 2004. That is almost seven years ago! The HL2 engine or source engine is extremely outdated by now. Episode 2 came in 2007, in the meantime four years have past since that release without any episode3 or HL3 related news from Valve.

Saying that Episode 3 or HL3 is going to be 'awesome' is heavily overrated. Not even counting the fact that most Half life players are now in their late 20's or 30's. I am almost 40, and last time I played any valve game was 4 years ago. Just like you i'm waiting for 7 years now, but by now I there is a bigger chance that Gabe would die of a heart attack first. Or that we are to old for this ****...

Please note I was drawing a comparison to TF2 and how it's development cycle involved it being scrapped, it was initially announced in 98, along with screenshots of a realistic looking military shooter and released in 07 completely differently. A whole 9 years in development if you only count from release of the initial information, more realistically 10 years + of development.

If anyone has a track record of long drawn out development cycles bringing results it's valve. I was simply applying the credit they've earned.

I'm 29 now, and played the original when I was 16 or so, it's still along with deus ex one of the games I remember most and remember most fondly. As for other valve games, I still play L4D 1&2, TF2 and CS:S with friends. Very few other games have that kind of life span.


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
Da_Rude_Baboon 13th April 2011, 16:14 Quote
Portal, L4D and DOTA where all initially in development by third party developers before valve bought them. TF2 and Episode 2 are the last games fully developed and released by valve.
HourBeforeDawn 13th April 2011, 16:25 Quote
lol they have separate teams and divisions, its not like they have a handful of people for EVERYTHING lol.
Lenderz 13th April 2011, 17:40 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Da_Rude_Baboon
Portal, L4D and DOTA where all initially in development by third party developers before valve bought them. TF2 and Episode 2 are the last games fully developed and released by valve.

Actually Portal was built entirely in house, Narbacular Drop was the inspiration which was also the project by some students that prompted Valve to pick up the guys who made it and said. "Make a game" and gave them the resources to do so, it doesn't get much more in house.

Depending on how you define "completely developed" you could argue that Alien Swarm was also completely in house, although it was a port of a UT mod.

You're right about L4D though that was originally at development Turtle Rock Studios.
Eiffie 13th April 2011, 23:21 Quote
I'm happy to wait as long as Valve continues to make games worth the money. At least it's not the call of duty series where every 9 months or so your tripping over a new entry into the series and the standard 3 DLC packs to round out the game experience, whatever the -H- -E- -Double Hockey Stick- that means.
Cthippo 14th April 2011, 03:59 Quote
As much as I want it to be otherwise, I don't think HL2E3 or HL3 are coming. Multi-player is where the interest is and the universe of Gordon Freeman just isn't as well set up for that.
HourBeforeDawn 14th April 2011, 04:03 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cthippo
As much as I want it to be otherwise, I don't think HL2E3 or HL3 are coming. Multi-player is where the interest is and the universe of Gordon Freeman just isn't as well set up for that.

fixed that for you and yes they are coming because Valves bread and butter will always be Half Life :)
Toploaded 14th April 2011, 06:07 Quote
I love valve. Love that they are soon making my dream come true and that I will be able to play a game (Portal 2) on either PS3 at my GF's place, or PC at home, and still be able to play with the same friends in co-op online.

I also love that due to my courtesy steam account I don't have to pay for any Value games, past or present :)

So I forgive them for making me wait many years for EP3.
PingCrosby 14th April 2011, 06:47 Quote
Never under estimate the power of steam, I once badly blistered my thumb on a dodgy kettle, it stung like hell I can tell yer.
feathers 14th April 2011, 09:23 Quote
I was talking to a friend some day ago about the lack of new HL episodes. He jokingly said EP 3 was coming, I asked "when?" and he said he was kidding. I agree with Stardock's Brad Wardell, Steam has become so big as a digital publisher that they are no longer concerned with developing their own games. Half Life 2 was revolutionary because of it's physics but now of course the source engine is very dated.

They have failed to keep the engine up to date or develop a better engine. If you remember, the purpose of releasing HL in episodic format was to reduce development time so fans wouldn't have to wait many years between new releases. The episodes are released so far apart now that people will lose interest.

I no longer care to see another HL episode based on the same outdated source engine. I would like to see valve create a new and revolutionary game engine again.
feathers 14th April 2011, 09:24 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by PingCrosby
Never under estimate the power of steam, I once badly blistered my thumb on a dodgy kettle, it stung like hell I can tell yer.

:)
leveller 14th April 2011, 09:43 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by feathers
I was talking to a friend some day ago about the lack of new HL episodes. He jokingly said EP 3 was coming, I asked "when?" and he said he was kidding. I agree with Stardock's Brad Wardell, Steam has become so big as a digital publisher that they are no longer concerned with developing their own games. Half Life 2 was revolutionary because of it's physics but now of course the source engine is very dated.

They have failed to keep the engine up to date or develop a better engine. If you remember, the purpose of releasing HL in episodic format was to reduce development time so fans wouldn't have to wait many years between new releases. The episodes are released so far apart now that people will lose interest.

I no longer care to see another HL episode based on the same outdated source engine. I would like to see valve create a new and revolutionary game engine again.

I don't think you'll be disappointed.
rhiridflaidd 14th April 2011, 11:38 Quote
I predict that Valve's profits are second only to Microsoft and Google
Xir 14th April 2011, 12:47 Quote
I don't get it,
why would a game developing company use it game development specialists to do something entirely else? (run Steam)
They'd just get poeple who are specialists in digital distribution (but that don't design games) to do this, no?

If that's what his company did, it's no wonder they're a lot smaller :D
scousechris 14th April 2011, 13:30 Quote
If StarDock has been acquired by GameStop does this mean they will now distribute Battletoads for the Wii?
Tangster 14th April 2011, 13:36 Quote
I'd rather they perfect Steam, but that's only because I haven't actually liked any of the Valve games.
Sloth 14th April 2011, 21:51 Quote
Correct me if I'm wrong, but last I heard Steam was run by a dozen or so people on a dedicated team. The key there being "dedicated", a.k.a. no effecting the game development teams.
Rezident 14th April 2011, 23:11 Quote
I've always been happy to wait for Valve's 'done when it's done' because it's worth it and it's always better to wait for quality rather than some of the rushed buggy messes that other dev s churn out jus to meet the Christmas sales period or watver, but I do wonder if there is some truth in this article.

It would make some sense, successful as they are Valve is still relatively small (around 250 staff) although apparently they're more profitable per employee than Apple and Google.

I still think HL3, I mean Ep 3, will be well worth waiting for. And there's always loads of other games (Steam weekend sales) to play in the meantime.
impar 15th April 2011, 09:52 Quote
Greetings!
Quote:
No Game Suffered From "Valve Time" More Than Team Fortress 2

You think you've been waiting a long time for a new Half-Life game? You haven't, really. It's "only" been three and a half years. Now, Team Fortress 2, that was a game long in the making.
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