Gabe Newell's FAQ

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These are answers to questions I've recently received in email and at the bottom of this page.

By popular request, the line "plush headcrabs are backordered and will make a return!" has been added.

Contents

Answers

Sep 2006

  1. Do you plan to add the portal technology from Portal to the SDK along with the Episode 2 SDK updates?
    Yes.
  2. Can I get a tour of Valve/Will you autograph something for me?
    Yes and yes. In either case, send e-mail to Front Desk and CC: me.

Jun 2006

  1. Are you in contact with ArenaNet, developer of Guild Wars?
    Yes. They are really really smart.
  2. Is the glass of water half full or half empty?
    Half full.
  3. Would you still like to do Prospero?
    Yes. Right after TF-2. (Team Fortress 2 has since been released.)
  4. Recalling the old rumor that Quentin Tarantino was interested in making a Half-Life movie, would you sign-off on a Half-Life movie? If so, would you attempt to convince Quentin Tarantino to direct it?
    The first step isn't a director, it's having a script that is worth directing. (Valve has since said that they would like to make a Half-Life movie themselves.)
  5. Would Valve ever consider releasing unused content, which they cut from their games during development, for use by community developers?
    The criteria we use is whether or not it would be useful. If something were useful, yes, we would release it.
  6. Can I use the upcoming snow shader for DOD:S in my MOD?
    Yes. The snow shading makes use of two new material parameters (plus art) that will be usable in any source engine game when released.

Jan 2006

  1. Is it true Uwe Boll has the rights to make a Half-Life movie?
    Uh, no. And whoever is winding people up with this rumor, please stop giving out my home phone number.
  2. Are you giving out any information about Team Fortress?
    No. (TF2 media has since been released.)
  3. Will there be any new content for HL2:DM?
    Yes. It's gated on a team finishing up work on an unannounced project.
  4. Will the riot shield come back for CS:S?
    I doubt it.
  5. Will Friends ever work again?
    John Cook is finishing this up now. (Friends has since gone live.)

Oct 2005

  1. How many hours a day do you play videogames?
    Typically about two hours a day. Mainly PC games.
  2. And how many hours a day do you play valve´s games?
    It depends upon where we are in the dev cycle.
  3. When will DoD Source content be added to the SDK?
    End of month, in theory. This week we are planning on adding the DoD FGD. (DOD content in the Source SDK has since gone live.)
  4. What kind of car do you drive?
    I have a BMW 745i. It was the first of the new generation 700 series sold in the state of Washington. It's the only car I've ever owned that reboots as you drive. The i-drive is one of the most ill-conceived and poorly executed pieces of software I've owned.
  5. What kind of music do you like?
    I have very eclectic tastes. Today I'm listening to Steel Pole Bath Tub.
  6. What kind of beer do you like??
    Singha.
  7. Do you have a hobby?
    Knife collecting.

Sep 2005

  1. How long is Episode 1?
    We're aiming for around five hours. The last time I played through it took me six hours, so your mileage may vary.
  2. What do you think of the Apple Cinema HD Display?
    I've been using Apple Cinema Displays for several years now with both nVIDIA and ATI display adapters, starting with the original 22" Cinema Display. I was tempted for a while by the Samsung 24" display, but it wasn't a big enough step forward and had problems running at its native resolution with DVI inputs. The 30" version is great, and I would recommend it as a significant improvement over the 22" or 23" versions. It works fine for games or movies. I run 2560 by 1600 for my desktop and for games that support that resolution (e.g. Source games, WoW, ...). I made a half-hearted attempt to get two Apple Cinema HD Displays working simultaneously, but the connectors interfered with each other. Most of the machines at Valve have Dell 24" LCD monitors, and a number of people have those set up in dual monitor configurations.
  3. Do you get playable framerates at 2560 by 1600?
    I get 150 to 170 FPS out of the Counter-Strike: Source VST depending upon what set of tweaks I'm running that day. That's with vsynch disabled, 16X aniso, and 6X AA.
  4. What kind of PC do you have?
    Gabe Newell's PC
  5. Gee, you have a lot of NVIDIA stuff in your PC.
    Yep.
  6. How can I get a job in the games business?
    The best thing you can do to both develop the skills you will need and also come to the attention of game developers is to work on a MOD. About half of Valve comes out of the MOD community, and more and more game companies are recruiting out of MOD teams.
  7. What about the game schools like DigiPen, the Guildhall, Full Sail, ...?
    DigiPen is here in the Seattle area so we have the most experience with them. I think there are 8 former DigiPen students working at Valve right now, and we haven't fired any of them, so... Joking aside, DigiPen seems to have prepared them quite well for working here.
    I gave a commencement address at the Guildhall, but we haven't hired anyone from there. The program is different from DigiPen's (just look at the curriculum at both schools), and a lot of Dallas game developers (e.g. Graeme Divine, Richard Gray, ...) are part of the faculty.
    I have no experience or direct knowledge of Full Sail.
    Overall I think these are fine choices, especially if you are simultaneously part of a MOD team, as that will go a long way towards focusing your studies.

Yahn Bernier's FAQ

Yahn Bernier answered some questions in email that I thought people would be interested in.

  1. Why did you choose to code your game with C++?
    We are constantly evaluating all available tool options and language choice is just one of these tool choices. C++ was used because the team had experience with C and C++ in previous projects, because we could control the performance characteristics of the compiled code (a problem you run into with managed code like C# or other schemes like Java), and because it facilitated the Source engine’s (COM-like) component requirements. Of course, we might change to other tools/languages in the future as we evaluate what will make us most efficient at producing the kinds of experiences we are trying to deliver.
  2. What makes a good game developer?
    This is a tough one, since we have developers who are really good in hard to quantify ways and developers who are good in ways that other developers on the team are not. I can tell you what we look for, generally, when hiring programmers. We tend to hire generalists rather than those with domain-specific knowledge, we look for strong problem solvers, we look for people who get things done, we look for people who are self-managers, we look for people who have worked on collaborative projects in the past, rather than always preferring to work by themselves. We don’t have hard rules about number of years experience, computer science degrees, etc. We try to get a sense for where we think people will peak in their career trajectories. We like to hire people from our MOD community because they have shown an ability to create something new and ship it to the world.
  3. What was the most important part of creating the Source engine?
    There were a few important things, the most important, in my opinion, came down to building the right team. Other significant decisions included knowing what we wanted the products (HL2, CS:S, DoD, etc.) to be rather than just building up technology for the sake of technology. Other than that, allowing sufficient time for the good ideas to percolate throughout the game and the bad/unimportant ideas to fall away.
  4. When you were still in the planning and concept phase of the Source engine project, what did you envision it to be?
    I think we described it as the highest quality engine in existence that would allow us to create the “Best Game Ever”.
  5. Has it become what you envisioned?
    That’s up to our fans. Inside the company, we’re pretty happy with where we ended up and where it’s heading as we continue to extend the functionality of the engine and improve it.
  6. Would you consider your engine to be a success or a failure?
    I think we would definitely consider it a huge success, not just from a business and financial point of view, but in specific ways which we considered requirements, such as support for multiplayer gaming, support for MODs, integration with the Steam platform.
  7. If you think it is a success, what made it one? If you think it is a failure, how could you improve it?
    There is a huge list of improvements that we are working our way through. I don’t think there is any large aspect of the engine that we would consider having failed. We had some tribulations the first few hours after launch where we hadn’t prepared Steam for the incredible demand for Half-Life 2. That’s probably not the worst problem to have, but we are always trying to improve the things that need improvement. Internally, we’ve never satisfied and we hope that translates into extremely high quality technology and games for our customers.
  8. Which part of the engine are you most proud of?
    There are a bunch of really amazing advances in the engine such as the physics, AI, acting support, improvements to the multiplayer networking layer, and amazing visuals from the renderer. The less visible thing is that the code for the Source engine is so extensible. We have a lot of internal work going on adding new features to the engine. This would have been a lot tougher with our previous technology. The other thing that I’m proud of is the sheer power we provide to MOD teams. We give out a significant portion of the interesting source code to MOD teams for them to tinker with. I think the area where we didn’t get as much done as we would have liked is on the tools side. We had great tools, but we got to a point where we had to table a bunch of tool work just to get Half-Life 2 done. We’re now going back and investing a bunch of time improving our tools. This will pay dividends not just to our projects, but to our MOD teams and to our licensees in the future.
  9. Which programs/tools did your team use to create Half-Life 2 once you had the engine set up? Would you recommend these programs to mod teams?
    The compilation tool we used at the time we shipped Half-Life 2 was MS Visual C++ 6.0 but we recently transitioned the team to MS Visual Studio .NET 7.1. A few years ago we moved our asset/code control from MS Visual Source Safe over to Perforce that was both painful and liberating at the same time. We continue to use IncrediBuild (a plugin for MSVC which allows for distributed compilation of C++ code). We have a bevy of internal tools we wrote including map compilation tools and a set of utilities for doing distributed processing to speed up compilation times for maps. We wrote our own facial animation tool, FacePoser, and our own world-building tool, Hammer. We mainly use XSI for modeling and animation, but some of the artists use other tools in their day-to-day work in the art pipeline.

Questions for Gabe

Steam

  1. Has Valve checked out the Vapour Project which allows distribution of third party mods?

Source engine

  1. Will Half-Life: Source and Half-Life Deathmatch: Source content ever be added to the Source SDK like DOD:S?
  2. Are there any plans to port the Source games to another OS? (Source games such as Team Fortress 2 have since been ported to Mac OS X.)
  3. Do you have any advice for the people who cannot afford the recommended tools needed to create a MOD for Source?
  4. Why are some features such as the MP3 Player not being revealed to the public?
  5. Why you don't use parallax mapping in your games, e.g. for effects like in F.E.A.R.?
  6. Would you make engine compatible with NVidia Stereo Drivers (Stereo Guide)?
  7. Would you ever consider adding support for raster image compression schemes (Namely, those which would not require the payment of additional licensing fees, like JPEG, PNG, or MNG formats, and excluding GIF), even if said images are simply localized to Source standards upon loading? If so, would you enable this functionality for spraytags? How much (if at all) would you expect such a system to reduce download sizes for Mods and such?
  8. Have you considered adding vector image support?
  9. Any plans related with shader model 4.0 and DirectX 10?
  10. Do you use DirectX Asm or HLSL in HL2?
  11. Why did you change used graphic API to DirectX in Source (instead OpenGL in GoldSrc)?
  12. Is using Hungarian notation really useful?
  13. Will you ever include the demo editor from the TF2 Beta into the rest of the source games? As I hear it, it was better than the demo editors in the currently released engines.

Valve games

  1. Any plans to include the old assault rifle that could be seen in the Condition Zero Demo Disk in Episode 3 or further games?
  2. Any plans to include Hydra in Episode Three?
  3. What are your plans for the game VALVe wants to develop for Nintendo's Wii? Since the Wii is said to be a console for children because there are no really good action games, why not develop a "hardcore game" similar to HL2 or even port HL2 to the Wii to fill this market gap?
  4. Any plans to port Opposing Force, Blue Shift, or Decay to Source? (Fan conversion of Decay announced)
  5. What's the word so far on bots for DOD:S, HL2:DM, & HLDM:S?
  6. Will the Half-Life HD Pack ever be ported to HL:S and HLDM:S?
  7. Will the issues brought up by the community in the Blue Shift section of the Steam forums ever be addressed?
  8. What are the odds of a Counter-Strike 1.7 release?
  9. Are there plans to improve the hostage AI in CS:S (a good example would be the Condition Zero hostage AI)?
  10. Will you ever fix the various errors found in the Half-Life HD Pack?
  11. Are Blue-Shift and Opposing Force considered canon?
  12. Who actually wrote the story to the Half-Life games? Is it a mix of results and ideas during development or is there a whole script existing with dialogues, scene explanation and the plot? If so, was it the creation of one person like the case of Metal Gear Solid (Hideo Kojima) or Max Payne (Sam Lake)? Max Payne 2 is probably the better example since it contained every single thing in detail. (Marc Laidlaw is credited as the writer for the Half-Life series.)
  13. What will Portal 2 use? VPK or GCF?
  14. Are you going to make another game after Portal 2 and before Episode 3, and if so, are you prepared for the angry rioters that will storm your building?
  15. Is there going to be another Half-Life series after EP3? If not are you prepared to have many angry VALVe enthusiasts protest for as long as it takes for you to decide to make it?

Misc

  1. What is the best way to learn C++?
  2. Can we expect Gabe to start posting in the Steam Powered Forums every once in a while?
  3. How did your time at Microsoft alter your perceptions of IT and the world? How do you view Microsoft now?
  4. I'm curious as to your take on Linux. Although Valve provides dedicated server software for Linux, it does not provide Linux versions of the games themselves. From the point of view of a developer (and independent of any possibility of Valve supporting Linux), what's wrong with it and what would need to happen for it to become a viable platform?
  5. Since Valve uses their own in-house Steam system, that makes you the closest to a disinterested expert when it comes to third-party copy protection. Have you been keeping up on the more traditional copy prevention schemes? What do you think of the major players on the field (SafeDisc, SecuROM, StarForce, etc.) in terms of their effectiveness, their impact on the end user, and the behavior of both the product and those who made it? Aside from your own product, which of these would you favor for other developers?
  6. What are the chances of Valve releasing the GoldSrc engine under GPL?
  7. When not hiring from the MOD community, what kinds of commercial experience looks good for a programmer looking for hire at Valve or in the game developer community in general?
  8. Do you answer these anymore?
  9. Do you prefer white meat or dark meat?
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