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Gabe Newell Talks Left 4 Dead, Steam Support Improvements, Future of Valve and Much More

Valve Co-Founder and President Gabe Newell is currently hosting his latest AMA (Ask Me Anything) over on Reddit right now.

Regarded as a juggernaut of the video games industry, Gabe Newell or GabeN as his more affectionately known to his loyal fans created some of the industry’s best-loved franchises with Half-Life, Portal and Left 4 Dead all developed by Newell’s studio – Valve Corporation, in addition to Valve developing the hugely popular digital distribution platform Steam.

A former Producer with Microsoft, Newell has never been one to shy away from the spotlight and was happy to answer questions from fans on Reddit along with fellow members of Valve, but made it clear ahead of time that he would not announce any future game during the AMA session.

We’ve filtered out some of the best questions so far to bring you Gabe and his fellow Valve employee’s views on Steam support improvements, VR, favourite single-player created games, the future of Left 4 Dead and much much more.

What do you think Steam needs to improve on?

Gabe Newell:I’m thinking about how machine learning applies to connecting users and content (and users in optimal ways). Support has been a big focus for the last while.”

If you could go back in time, what would you change about Steam?

“Biggest issue has been how we structured support.”

Does Valve have any plans on making customer support better? And did you ever think of making it into live support?

Yes! We are continuing to work on improving support.

Since the last AMA, we’ve introduced refunds on Steam, we’ve grown our Support staff by roughly 5x, and we’ve shipped a new help site and ticketing system that makes it easier to get help. We’ve also greatly reduced response times on most types of support tickets and we think we’ve improved the quality of responses.

We definitely don’t think we’re done though. We still need to further improve response times and we are continually working to improve the quality of our responses. We’re also working on adding more support staff in regions around the world to offer better native language support and improve response times in various regions.”

Is Valve interested in making a full game experience for the Vive? The Lab was great but we would all love to get a full Valve game.

Yes. We think VR is pretty important as a tool for interesting games.”

Do you have any tips for people like myself who want to design games, both independently and with established teams in the industry?

The most important thing you can do is to get into an iteration cycle where you can measure the impact of your work, have a hypothesis about how making changes will affect those variables, and ship changes regularly. It doesn’t even matter that much what the content is – it’s the iteration of hypothesis, changes, and measurement that will make you better at a faster rate than anything else we have seen.”

What is your personal favourite Valve game/series?

I think Portal 2 is our best single-player game. I play Dota 2 the most of our multiplayer games.”

What sparked your interest in video games?

Playing Trek on a mainframe using punch cards.”

I’m interested in seeing what your view is on the direction that Valve as a company should take in the future? 

The big thing right now is broadening the range of options we have in creating experiences. We think investing in hardware will give us those options. The knuckles controller is being designed at the same time as we’re designing our own VR games.

Much more narrowly, some of us are thinking about some of the AI work that is being hyped right now. Simplistically we have lots of data and compute capability that looks like the kinds of areas where machine learning should work well.

Personally, I’m looking at research in brain-computer interfaces.”

Does Valve plan on doing anything with Source 2 in the coming years? If so, what?

We are continuing to use Source 2 as our primary game development environment. Aside from moving Dota 2 to the engine recently, we are are using it as the foundation of some unannounced products. We would like to have everyone working on games here at Valve to eventually be using the same engine. We also intend to continue to make the Source 2 engine work available to the broad developer community as we go, and to make it available free of charge.”

What is Team Fortress 2 in Valve’s eyes? Do you plan to improve the state of the game in 2017? Will there be more focus on the game by Valve?

Valve Employee: TF2 has millions of unique players per month, and the team is staffed by a group of people that love and play the game. We’re committed to supporting and growing TF2 with new features, content, and player experiences.

We’re currently working on our next major update, which features a new campaign, the Pyro class pack, matchmaking improvements/features, and lots of game balancing improvements.”

Are you planning on continuing the Left 4 Dead series?

Products are usually the result of an intersection of technology that we think has traction, a group of people who want to work on that, and one of the game properties that feels like a natural playground for that set of technology and design challenges.

When we decided we needed to work on markets, free to play, and user generated content, Team Fortress seemed like the right place to do that. That work ended up informing everything we did in the multiplayer space.

Left 4 Dead is a good place for creating shared narratives.”

Gabe Newell’s AMA continues right now over on Reddit, be sure to check it out by following this link.

Dan has been gaming for nearly 30 years and has survived everything from Nuclear Fallouts to Zombie Outbreaks but his main love is Survival Horror and don't we all know it. Favourite games include Resident Evil and Grand Theft Auto, he can be regularly found cruising the streets of Vice City listening to the classics.


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