The full interview is here, as is a video interview they filmed while at Valve. Let’s go through this anyway.
AG: For you [Doug Lombardi], coming into the company when it was still quite small, to this now — and we talked and joked about this before, that it’s somewhat corporate even — has there been much of a change in philosophy, despite the growth in the company?
Doug: Yeah it’s really surprising that it hasn’t. I mean, there’s more people now, but it really is kind of the same place. When I came over, like you said, there was about 20 or 25 of us, and it was a one-game team. We were basically working on Half-Life 2; there was a small group of people working on TF2 [Team Fortress 2] that sort of got bigger and smaller as time went by. Then after Half-life 2, the company had grown by that point to about 60 people and since Half-life 2, it’s now up to about 260.
But our hiring policy is all about trying to find people that are the best at their craft, in their field. Always having people that can manage themselves and teams that manage themselves. We don’t have producers; we don’t have a top-down hierarchy. Nobody writes a design doc and hands it to somebody and says “you go build this”. It’s the teams that are coming up with the ideas and pushing in the directions that they want to take the product.
So it’s pretty remarkable, but it still has that small company feel and I often joke with Gabe [Newell, Valve Software CEO] that almost like a family business because it’s been the same group of guys just growing and growing and growing as time has gone by.
I suspect even more people now want to go to work at Valve.
AG: Could you attribute some of that to the manifestation of Valve Time?
Doug: [laughs] I don’t know if it’s so much that, as much as it is that we’ve been really, really fortunate that we’ve been able to work on things that we truly are interested at working on. We haven’t ever flipped the bit and said “well let’s just make fancier versions of Half-Life for the rest of our lives and collect all the money”. We’ve actually done the opposite, sometimes to our fan’s chagrin.
But going off and doing things like Portal and Left 4 Dead, sort of pushing in different directions — and now DoTA 2 — rather than just doing the flat obvious thing that you know is going to make money, but maybe isn’t always the most interesting thing. And taking time between those sequels to let them build fresh ideas, so that when the sequel does come out, it’s truly exciting as an event.
I think those are the things that have kept so many people here — I mean, I certainly didn’t think I would be here for eleven years when I took the job, and it feels like it’s gone by in a heart beat.
Well, you know what they say. One year is like 10 years in Internet time. So then it’s a good thing that Doug… isn’t an internet program?
AG: Now let’s move on to the fact that Steamworks is now on PS3. Obviously it’s in a pretty raw form at the moment, but you’ve also just launched a bunch of new games on Mac and it seems like you’re kind of opening up the idea of division between platforms a little bit more — well the first time that anyone’s ever been able to boast that they have a game that people can play from Mac to PS3, PS3 to PC, PC to Mac.
Doug: And they get access to all three with one purchase.
AG: Exactly, so what’s the future for that? And I guess at the other side of that question I had was: you obviously approached Microsoft about it, surely, so why haven’t they jumped on board because it seems like there’s a lot of people [Xbox owners] that are going to miss out because of that.
Doug: Yeah, I defer you to Microsoft to find out what their thoughts on it are. We offered it to everybody; our goal is to have folks be able to access their games on whatever platform they’re on and as much as we can deliver that through Steam, the better. It’s worked really, really well on the Mac; we’re going to deploy our first experiment with Portal 2 on the PS3 and folks seem really, really excited about it. We’ve put a lot of time and detail into that so that the experience is highly satisfactory, right out of the gate.
So we’ll see where it takes us. I mean, again, our goal ultimately is that folks pay for a game and then whatever platform they sit down in front of, it’s there for them. That just seems right. That’s the way your music is, right? It doesn’t matter; you don’t have to pay for it on your car stereo and on your home stereo, it’s just your music. So for us, that’s kind of a philosophical goal to get to and we’re taking baby-steps towards it.
I think we made a really nice move last year with the Mac and hopefully this year, we’re able to move things forward on the PS3 a little bit and we’ll see where the future takes us.
So you’ll get access to the PS3 version as well? That’s pretty damn impressive!
AG: Now I’ve got the all-important question; you probably already know what it is.
Hell, even we know.
Doug: [laughs] And I already know my answer. [laughs harder] Or my non-answer I should say!
AG: For the sake of everybody back home, that’s been desperate to know. Will we ever see it [more Half-Life]?
Doug: You will ever see it, yes. We are not done with Gordon Freeman’s adventures. I have nothing other than that to tell you today, but hang in there with us.
Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh! Boogie time.
For the full interview, and the video interview, head over to http://www.ausgamers.com/features/read/3037280