Gabe Newell is a difficult man to find and given his deification by a good chunk of Valve's fanbase, that's probably in his best interest. We're talking about someone who's considered a man of integrity by even the most skeptical portions of the gaming community. Seeing that his company, Valve, is not only responsible for some of the best games of all time but also, much more importantly, the highly anticipated sequels to those games, pretty much anyone who cares hangs on his every word.
So he's reclusive, or more accurately, elusive. According to him he doesn't hate interviews, he just hates hearing himself talk and so he figures everyone else does too.
But that didn't stop Polygon's Colin Campbell from eeking out an hour with him at a group press event for Valve's VR division, which, as you might find from reading the ersatz interview, is kinda their thing right now.
And while it's great to see one of the most exciting new technologies, literally fantasized about from the moment man has had technology, handled by arguably the most innovative and for lack of a better word, virtuous, developers out there, it's a very, very good sign that those waiting with bated breath are going to get brain damage before they can play Half-Life 3.
Therein lies the problem: Valve's not really doing traditional games anymore. Even with complex and sort of beautiful technologies like the HTC Vive and Oculus Rift on the market (if we can count their prohibitively expensive price points as "on the market"), VR is still a fledgling technology. Most of the games on Steam for VR are glorified tech demos or parodies of demos. While Newell revealed to Polygon that Valve would be releasing three full length VR titles in the near-ish future, that doesn't really solve the problem of so few people having access to the proper high-end rigs and accessories to actually participate in VR-gaming-proper.
All that intense focus on a far-down-the-road technology isn't enough though for us to conclude that we won't be seeing the third installments we've been waiting for. We also need to look at Valve's recent restructuring.
Valve announced last week that they would be discontinuing their "Greenlight" service, which allowed fans and indie devs to pay into a crowd-directed development stream so that smaller games could make their way into the Steam marketplace. Despite the service being weighed down by garbage content ranging from the absurd to the offensive, some great titles like 2016's Superhot and The Secret of Tremendous Corporation came from Valve's indie-centric content-funnel. The service that will be replacing it, while ultimately solving some of Greenlight's biggest issues, will ultimately result in far less content and betrays a waning commitment to participating in the game development business on the part of Valve.
Fans were also struck with the major blow of Portal lead-writer Erik Wolpaw's departure from Valve late last week. Wolpaw was essential in crafting the equal parts witty, heart-wrenching, and intriguing narrative arcs of the Portal and Half-Life franchises. He was the story-man for the story-games company. Whether his departure is due to Valve's shrinking focus on the development of these story heavy games or just a natural progression for him as an artist, no one can really say.
Look, I'm not trying to sound the alarm. Valve is still an excellent company that has managed not only to perform well in the market but also consistently create lasting content for the last two decades. What I am saying, however, is that when we do finally get to swing that next crowbar as Gordon Freeman, we're gonna be doing with our own aging joints.