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Valve employee handbook released

Valve employee handbook released

The Valve Employee Handbook offers a rare insight into daily operations at the company.

Gamers have been afforded a rare insight into how gaming giant Valve operates, with the publication of the Valve Handbook for New Employees.

Subtitled "A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one's there telling you what to do," the handbook - first published this year - is provided to all new Valve employees as a means of indoctrinating them in the attitudes and approaches of one of gaming's biggest names.

'So you've gone through the interview process, you've signed the contracts, and you're finally here at Valve,' the handbook - illustrated in the manner of a classic children's book - begins. 'Congratulations, and welcome. Valve has an incredibly unique way of doing things that will make this the greatest professional experience of your life, but it can take some getting used to.'

The book starts by offering up some facts which are public knowledge, but perhaps not as well known as they could be: the fact that Valve is entirely self-funded, for example, and that it owns all its own intellectual property following an agreement with Half-Life's original publisher.

The book also claims that Valve operates an entirely flat hierarchical structure, with no official chain of management. 'We do have a founder/president,' the handbook explains, 'but even he isn't your manager. The company is yours to steer - towards opportunities, and away from risks. You have the power to green-light projects. You have the power to ship products.'

Other sections of the book give further hints about the flexibility of working at Valve: desks are given wheels, both as a symbolic reminder of the freedom an employee has and also as a means of actually moving the thing - something which happens incredibly often, and at very short notice as employees seek to position themselves wherever they can offer the most value.

'We've heard that other companies have people allocate a percentage of their time to self-directed projects,' the handbook continues in clear reference to Google's famous '20 per cent time.' 'At Valve, that percentage is 100.'

For a video games company, in an industry where 'crunch' - the period weeks or months before shipping where developers are asked to work insane hours to fix last-minute bugs in the code - is distressingly common, Valve's approach to overtime is refreshing. 'While people occasionally choose to push themselves to work some extra hours at times when something big is going out the door, for the most part working overtime for extended periods indicates a fundamental failure in planning or communications. If this happens at Valve, it's a sign that something needs to be reevaluated and corrected.'

Other revelations indicate that getting a job at Valve is something to which every coder, artist and gamer should aspire. 'Sometimes things around the office can seem a little too good to be true. If you find yourself walking down the hall one morning with a bowl of fresh fruit and Stump- town-roasted espresso, dropping off your laundry to be washed, and heading into one of the massage rooms, don’t freak out. All these things are here for you to actually use. And don’t worry that somebody’s going to judge you for taking advantage of it—relax! And if you stop on the way back from your massage to play darts or work out in the Valve gym or whatever, it’s not a sign that this place is going to come crumbling down like some 1999-era dot-com start- up. If we ever institute caviar-catered lunches, though, then maybe something’s wrong. Definitely panic if there’s caviar.'

The full handbook can be downloaded in PDF format, if you're curious.

35 Comments

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Deders 23rd April 2012, 11:31 Quote
for the most prat working overtime?
Snips 23rd April 2012, 11:42 Quote
Why was I reading the quotes from the handbook and "Cave Johnson" was the voice I heard in my head?
Deders 23rd April 2012, 11:43 Quote
Ha ha yes, question is, why wasn't I?
Parge 23rd April 2012, 12:03 Quote
Ah, so this is why Episode 3 is taking so long. I say bring on forced overtime!
Tomhyde1986 23rd April 2012, 12:07 Quote
I have finally worked out what I want to do in life...

Work for Valve. Even if it is partically exaggerated it still sounds like my kind of place to be.
Krikkit 23rd April 2012, 12:10 Quote
Am I alone in thinking this sounds like an awesome place to work? Probably impossible to get there though, I bet the interviews are hell.

[edit] Obviously not ^^
Vo0Ds 23rd April 2012, 12:15 Quote
@Snips I could also hear his voice, but it wasn't until I read your comment that I realised who it was! :-D
Bauul 23rd April 2012, 12:24 Quote
The thing to remember when comparing this to us mere mortals is that Valve attracts the very best of the best.

The company is so small and their employees are so likely to be effortlessly brilliant in everything they do they don't need things like a hierarchy, chain or command or line-management.

For every other developer, and probably every other company in the world, this simply wouldn't work. All power to them for doing it differently, but it's a management style that would very much only work for them.
cjmUK 23rd April 2012, 12:50 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Parge
Ah, so this is why Episode 3 is taking so long. I say bring on forced overtime!

I'm with Parge... this explains a lot...
stonedsurd 23rd April 2012, 12:59 Quote
Quote:
Definitely panic if there's caviar.

:)
mars-bar-man 23rd April 2012, 13:43 Quote
Valve actually sounds like an epic business to work for!

Sent from my Galaxy Nexus using Tapatalk 2
Almightyrastus 23rd April 2012, 14:22 Quote
I was reading all those bits with the Vault Tec voice in my head...

Day 1 - Induction then straight to G.O.A.T.
Tomhyde1986 23rd April 2012, 14:36 Quote
"We're just throwing management at the wall and seeing what sticks!"
fallenphoenix 23rd April 2012, 16:23 Quote
This mentality is one of the reasons I left my old career and went back to school. At Valve, and many of the best studios, people aren't there because it's a job that satisfies their financial needs, but because they are passionate and driven about their work. I dream of a place where management doesn't concern themselves with whether people are doing their job, because internal motivation does so much more than they ever could to promote success. When I've been working on a project for class (PHP yuck!) for hours, I don't watch TV to unwind, I grab a book on whatever topic has grabbed me recently (currently reading Game Physics Pearls; recommended!) and work on my own projects. If I can find a place full of and run by people who feel the same way, I'd work there until they wheeled me out under a sheet.
josephlck 23rd April 2012, 16:26 Quote
Doesn't anyone else think this is a bit scary? Basically, you have to figure out what to do with your time all the time. If something goes wrong, you literally have no one to blame but yourself!

That said, sounds like an epic place to work and I assume they only hire people who know what they are doing :) Love their outlook on overtime though!
mucgoo 23rd April 2012, 17:42 Quote
So this explains why Half Life 3 is 8 years and counting.
stonedsurd 23rd April 2012, 17:53 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by mucgoo
So this explains why Half Life 3 is 8 years and counting.

Yes. Gabe (or someone else high up at Valve) addressed this sometime last year, saying that the folks at Valve were just having more fun messing around with Portal 2, TF2 hats, CS:GO and all that to give two goat turds about HL3.

The optimist in me thinks that might be to flesh out some sort of meaningful integration between the Portal and HL worlds, now that the Borealis and Aperture Labs are a plot point in the HL universe.

But I could be wrong and they're just having fun at us fanboys' expense.
Ending Credits 23rd April 2012, 19:21 Quote
This reeks of a propaganda PR exercise.

That said, the things they talk about aren't exactly unheard of, my friend's brother did some work experience at google HQ in Zurich and experienced pretty similar stuff to what they describe.
javaman 23rd April 2012, 20:44 Quote
Sounds like most software companies only taken to the next level. A lot of the ones that advertise placements here are always comparing their work environment to google like playing consoles at lunch, poker tournaments, work from any location dressed as a banana if you so desire. My biggest concern is the company structure. From experience in projects it doesn't work. I know horses for courses but its actually enough to put me off working for the company
Aracos 23rd April 2012, 21:07 Quote
Sounds like they've been spending the money they're making from Steam very well indeed!
Beasteh 23rd April 2012, 21:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by stonedsurd
Yes. Gabe (or someone else high up at Valve) addressed this sometime last year, saying that the folks at Valve were just having more fun messing around with Portal 2, TF2 hats, CS:GO and all that to give two goat turds about HL3.

When the place is organised so that people work on what they want to, it's no surprise that something gets left behind. In this case, HL3?
K404 23rd April 2012, 21:55 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by josephlck
Doesn't anyone else think this is a bit scary? Basically, you have to figure out what to do with your time all the time. If something goes wrong, you literally have no one to blame but yourself!

Oh noes! Employees encouraged/ expected to take responsibility for their actions!

In a previous job, if I wanted to get out of trouble, I just admitted and described what i'd done wrong. Management couldn't handle that.
SexyHyde 24th April 2012, 01:24 Quote
out of carrot and stick - carrot looks more tasty. interesting. this way of doing business is epic but there isn't much room for companies that do business like this in a capitalist society. shareholders want profit, not for you to wash your laundry at work, while getting a rub down and eating fruit.
stonedsurd 24th April 2012, 08:21 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SexyHyde
out of carrot and stick - carrot looks more tasty. interesting. this way of doing business is epic but there isn't much room for companies that do business like this in a capitalist society. shareholders want profit, not for you to wash your laundry at work, while getting a rub down and eating fruit.

At least there's no caviar
hyperion 24th April 2012, 08:24 Quote
They should send this handbook to foxconn. Actually, better not. Might cause more suicides.
fluxtatic 24th April 2012, 09:15 Quote
Damnit - and I just got back to thinking today that my job is all right. Now I want to work for Valve. Unlike most of you lot, they're only about 15 miles away from me, too :/
fluxtatic 24th April 2012, 09:16 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SexyHyde
out of carrot and stick - carrot looks more tasty. interesting. this way of doing business is epic but there isn't much room for companies that do business like this in a capitalist society. shareholders want profit, not for you to wash your laundry at work, while getting a rub down and eating fruit.

That's why it's better not to have shareholders ;)
ppinc2 24th April 2012, 09:44 Quote
great company, where I can apply?
Riffler 24th April 2012, 09:53 Quote
Most employees spend at least half their time on office politics. If Valve can manage to eliminate that then they can afford to screw around getting massages and playng darts.
r3loaded 24th April 2012, 10:30 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by SexyHyde
out of carrot and stick - carrot looks more tasty. interesting. this way of doing business is epic but there isn't much room for companies that do business like this in a capitalist society. shareholders want profit, not for you to wash your laundry at work, while getting a rub down and eating fruit.
And that is exactly why Valve will never go public..
Dave Lister 24th April 2012, 10:45 Quote
I hope valve employees are reading these comments and finally pop their fingers out and start working on the next half life !
SexyHyde 25th April 2012, 00:36 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by r3loaded
Quote:
Originally Posted by SexyHyde
out of carrot and stick - carrot looks more tasty. interesting. this way of doing business is epic but there isn't much room for companies that do business like this in a capitalist society. shareholders want profit, not for you to wash your laundry at work, while getting a rub down and eating fruit.
And that is exactly why Valve will never go public..

If this was your company, would you want to go public?
Work that is not really work, fun, money, giving fun and money to others (employees). Why sell out? i dont get the big desire to sell out, and ride the corporate wave of greed.
SexyHyde 25th April 2012, 00:48 Quote
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Lister
I hope valve employees are reading these comments and finally pop their fingers out and start working on the next half life !

I want HL3 as much as the next man. I do. But i can wait. Hell i would be ok if it never came out. Why? Well they gave us HL / HL2 / TF2 / Portal / Portal 2 / CS 1.6 / CS:S [these are just the games i have from them that i like and rate as 5*] HL3 has sooooo much hype that it might end up being anti climactic. They never made a third series of Fawlty Towers despite the demand. I just want valve to keep doing what they are doing hopefully it will be HL3 if its something else, i'm ok with that.
Voyen 26th April 2012, 02:41 Quote
Fair enough they work on whatever they want, but you'd think they'd still listen to what people want and even if they take 15 years to do it, they could at least give us some form of progress report. You know. Just let us know that HL3 is at least started. You can't just end HL2Ep2 the way it did and not even let us know if a sequel is in progress. It's so painful!
Bogomip 1st May 2012, 22:08 Quote
Sounds awesome, I wish I was good enough to work there :)

What I especially like is they say the structure is like that, because why would they hire these people to do jobs if they didnt let them do their jobs! Hire a programmer as they are awesome and raise them to management and they dont get to code, which is why you hired them - let everybody co manage and do what they do best, and you have an entire team doing what they do best :)

And to ALL OF YOU complaining about half-life 3 being "late"... ITS DONE WHEN ITS DONE. You would complain if they rushed it and it sucked, so let them get it right in their own time :) Three companies I know of have this philosophy: Blizzard, Valve and Popcap - notice anything about their games? All very good (though I havent played all popcap games! :)).
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