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Gabe Newell's AMA Round-Up

Posted By: GamerDating - January 18, 2017

Gabe Newell nicknamed Gaben, is master and founder of Valve Corporation. We all know him and we all love the products he gave, Steam, Half-Life, Portal, L4D and DoTA2. Throughout the years Gaben has retained an odd legendary status, becoming a meme with the popularity of Steam and has his own fan made website where he offers sales in the guise of a saint.

Gaben, the voice of valve, came to Reddit and offered to do an AMA after a certain amount of money was raised in a charity he supported.

Here are some of the best questions he addressed, including Portal love, HL3 news, and changes in Steam.

Q: What do you think steam needs to improve?

A: 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.

Q: What is your favourite non-valve game of 2016?

A: My co-workers just told me it's Plants vs Zombies, and then they laughed at me.

Q: What sparked your interest in video games?

A: Playing Trek on a mainframe using punch cards.

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

A: Biggest issue has been how we structured support.

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

A: 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.

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

A: 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.

Q: What is your personal favourite Valve game/series?

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

The issue with Half-Life for me is that I was involved in a much higher percentage of the decisions about the games, so it's hard for me to look at them as anything other than a series of things I regret. There's no information in my response about what we'll do in the future. It's simply easier for me to be a fan of things that in which I was less directive.

Q: GabeN, how do you like your steaks?

A: Medium rare

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

A: 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.

Q: Just a question out of curiosity really, but interested in seeing what your view is on the direction that valve as a company should take in the future? Such as what would you like to see the company achieve/what improvements would you like to see valve undergo/what role would you like to see valve serve/undertake in the industry as it evolves etc. and if any, have you made any past decisions that you look back on now that you regret/could've handled differently? 

A: 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.

Q: Are you planning on continuing the Left 4 Dead series?

A: 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.

Q: What is Valve's take on quality control? Does it feel the current state of affairs is good?

A: There's really not a singular definition of quality, and what we've seen is that many different games appeal to different people. So we're trying to support the variety of games that people are interested in playing. We know we still have more work to do in filtering those games so the right games show up to the right customers.

Q: What is the status of Half Life 3/Half Life 2 Episode 3?

A: The number 3 must not be said.

Q: Is Valve still working on any fully-fledged single player games?

A: Yes

Q: An unidentified anonymous source at Valve has said that Half Life 3 has been cancelled. Is that source legitimate?

A: I personally believe all unidentified anonymous sources on the Internet.

Q: Why does Valve not talk to its community about the games/apps its developing as much as other companies?

A: We prefer to communicate through our products. We are all pretty devoted to reading and listening to the community - everyone here believes it is an integral part of their job to do so. And when it comes time to respond, we generally use Steam - shipping updates that address issues or add functionality. Obviously this doesn't work for everything. Working this way imposes latency on our communication - it takes longer to ship and update than to do a blog post. This can lead to the feeling of an echo chamber, where it seems like Valve isn't listening. We’re always listening. So sometimes the latency is rough for everyone, including us when we want to address issues quickly. On balance we think it's usually worth the trade-off.

Q: Any chance of a new IP that takes place in the half-life/portal universe?

A: Yep

Q: The question I want to ask: Why Steam Flash Sales is not part of the Steam store anymore?

A: We found that really short discounts made it difficult for many people to participate. By removing the flash sales, users can count on finding the best deals whenever they are able to visit the store during the sale.

So in round up, new IP coming based in the Half-Life/Portal universe, Steam support improvements, fantastic answers how to approach development and VR coming.

You can read the entire AMA over at Reddit.