Various talks and conference calls took place yesterday, not least a round-table discussion with Valve’s Gabe Newell and Erik Johnson. Two particular highlights came from talk over how the US travel ban is affecting the company and possible new titles from the studio.
Now, don’t get too excited; while Valve does have various teams working on three entirely new games, they are all Virtual Reality titles. Newell also clarifies that these are “three full games, not experiments.” When on the subject of VR, Newell describes how he believes it isn’t just a gimmick but, to succeed, it needs to offer experiences that aren’t available elsewhere.
“It feels like we’ve been stuck with mouse and keyboard for a reeeaaally long time and that the opportunities to build much more interesting kinds of experiences for gamers were there, we just need to sort of expand what we can do. But it’s not about being in hardware, it’s about building better games. It’s about taking bigger leaps forward with the kinds of games that we can do.”
“VR is not going to be a success at all if people are just taking existing content and putting it into a VR space, one of the first things we did is we got Half-Life 2 and Team Fortress running in VR, and it was kind of a novelty. That was purely a developer milestone, but there was absolutely nothing compelling about it, the same way nobody’s going to buy a VR system so they can watch movies.”
On the subject of hardware, Newell insists he’s focusing on all aspects of development. Referencing Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, he proclaims his admiration towards his focus when designing kit, “He’s had the ability to think about what the input device is and design a system while he designs games.”
However, he does state his focus is largely on the higher-end section of VR. He states his belief that even if you took all existing hardware, made it 80% cheaper, it still wouldn’t have much of a market. First, you need to create something worth playing on the system – before you can convince people to buy the hardware itself. This is Valve’s focus.
Other talks in the discussion took a more serious note; particularly on President Trump’s recent travel ban. While it is curently overturned in the courts, Johnson and Newell took time out to describe how it could affect the company – notably in hiring and eSports.
Even though the ban is only just in its newest stages – and currently held-up – Newell describes how many of his employers have already faced worries. “We have people who work at Valve who can’t go home, they’ve been here for years. They pay taxes. They cheer for New England in the Super Bowl and we try to not hold that against them. But you know, they can’t leave the country. So there’s some event outside the country, and for the first time we say ‘Wait, they can’t go because they can’t get back.’ So that’s a problem, not just these hypothetical future employees but actual Valve employees. So yeah, that’s a concern for us.”
In regards to eSports, Johnson laid particular notice to DOTA 2’s ‘The International’, “Any pressure on visas getting into the United States is worrisome for us.” He goes on to describe how it exacerbates problems already present in the, relatively new, industry. Many international teams have already faced problems entering the US before – mainly due to a combination of the infantile nature of the business and the younger nature of many professionals.
Johnson even went as far as to say The International may need to move outside the US. “We’re gonna run the event no matter what. Ideally we’d run it here [Seattle] because it has a bunch of advantages being close to our office. But the event’s going to happen. So yes, if it became too difficult, we’d find a way.”
Valve didn’t discuss any of the titles further, but is there something you’re hoping they’re working on?