What's so great about Valve?

Looking back on Valve’s games, I can’t find any that were bad and most of them were outstanding. What does Valve do that makes its games so great?
An emphasis on gameplay seems part of it. TF2 is specifically designed to avoid frustrating gameplay like camping and grenade wars.

Half-life was the first FPS to have a decent, B-level story. The gameplay was smooth and the introduction of loading areas rather than levels was nice.

L4D2 is about as well balanced as can be. It is designed with (pretty much) the proper incentives to make players work together.

Portal has a new gameplay mechanic and a good story with a funny character. Valve succeed in making FPS puzzles fun.

More generally, what makes Valve great?

Do its games tend to have particular flaws?

They take all the time necessary to make a very good game.

They take forever to come out.

Uh, hasn’t Valve only released three games that they made themselves? If so, these games all have a very good quality level:


Half-life 2


Wikipedia says quite a bit more than that.

No it doesn’t unless I’m missing one somewhere.


Surely there have been other FPS games prior to Half-Life with an enjoyable story. I remember the Marathon series fondly.

Let me help, it says:

Half-Life series
Half-Life · Half-Life 2 (Episode One · Episode Two · Episode Three)
Counter-Strike series
Counter-Strike · Condition Zero · Counter-Strike: Source · Counter-Strike Neo · Counter-Strike Online
Day of Defeat series
Day of Defeat · Day of Defeat: Source
Team Fortress series
Team Fortress Classic · Team Fortress 2
Left 4 Dead series
Left 4 Dead · Left 4 Dead 2
Portal series
Portal (Still Alive) · Portal 2
Other games
Alien Swarm · Deathmatch Classic · Dota 2 · Ricochet · The Orange Box

Left 4 Dead was developed by Turtle Rock Studios. Minh Le and Jess Cliffe created Counterstrike before Valve picked them up. Team Fortress was originally a Quake mod.

Day of Defeat and TF2 appear to have been made in-house, though, as well as many of the other spinoffs. But it appears a large chunk of Valve’s success has been through recognizing and incorporating talent.

DoD is definitely a mod that they picked up in the same manner as CounterStrike. Ditto for Alien Swarm and arguably DotA 2.

If you want to get technical, Portal was originally an indie game called Narbonic Drop, but Valve bought the entire team on the spot and told them to make Portal. It’s sort of nebulous whether or not to count it as a “Valve game.”

Not really, since Portal was hardly complete when Valve got it and Valve brought together all of the elements that made it great like the Old Man Murray writers, the voice talent, and such. CS, DoD, Alien Swarm, and Dota were huge way before Valve got involved.

Whoah…there’s FOUR references on the entire interwebs on “Narbonic Drop”, one of them is this thread.

That wasn’t Valve. that was Bungie.

That’s cause it’s actually “Narbacular Drop”.

I know. He said Half-Life was the first FPS to have a decent story. I interpreted this to mean it was the first FPS of all FPSs to have a decent story, because otherwise this wouldn’t really be an example of Valve’s greatness.

And then I threw in my two cents. :smiley:

Oops, sorry, got the name mixed up.

Ah. Reading comprehension fail, then.

I’m still only seeing Half Life, Half Life 2, and Portal made by Valve. Everything else is a mod of Half Life, Half-Life 2, or made by a company that is under Valve(Left 4 Dead).


I guess it depends at what level you consider Valve to end, I personally consider the L4D series to be Valve, despite being made by a subsidiary. I also consider CS: Source to be Valve even if it’s based on a mod, and I’m fairly sure that Team Fortress 2 (not classic, just 2) is made by Valve’s main branch.

L4D was mostly done by turtle rock, but I’m under the impression that the main valve team did most of the work on l4d2. TF2 was pretty much all valve - sure, it’s based on a 10 year old mod, but only in concept - it plays quite a bit differently. CSS is a translation of cs 1.6 into a new engine so it isn’t a new property, but I’m pretty sure valve worked on it.

I like Valve as a game dev, although I think their games are probably a bit overrated (but still good), but I love them as a publisher, and as a retailer/distributor.

Basically, everyone in the publishing business are huge dicks. Activision? HUUUUUUGE dicks. EA? Big dicks. Ubisoft? Big dicks. THQ… not… the worst ever. 2K… hit or miss. The best you can generally hope for in video game publishers is that they’re not actively trying to be evil.

Valve, on the other hand, is just awesome. I have a friend who works at activision, so I know a little bit about how they run. Bobby Kotick actually set policies in the various dev and testing studios specifically to stifle any sort of positive attitude amongst the workers because he thought that work shouldn’t be fun. They skirt the labor laws as much as possible to crunch people for unpaid overtime before releases and let them go for the next quarter to improve the bottom line and then hire them back to crunch again, etc.

Valve, on the other hand, is one of those companies that actually treats their people really well, has all sorts of creative benefits, doesn’t try to rush everything out the door to hit optimistic deadlines, doesn’t release half-baked products, just in general is a really laid back company that treats people well and focuses on putting out good products rather than hitting quarterly stock price goals. I wish the rest of the economy worked like this because, like, say, Costco vs Walmart, you can somehow treat your people half decently and make/distribute good products without being absolutely cut throat and shitty about it.

Valve created Steam, which is the greatest thing that’s come to gaming in a long time. They dominate the market due to having a good business model and good prices and all that - but they haven’t tried to leverage that market dominance into raising prices or forcing exclusivity or anything like that. They go out of their way to try to ally with and promote indie developers with innovative ideas. They treat their customers well. They have crazy amounts of gaming value always available. Their DRM is about as unrestrictive as you can get. They’re generous about using their bandwidth to allow you to download/update games even if you didn’t buy it from them (if it’s steamworks and therefore they have the ability to authenticate it).

TF2 has had 300+ free updates since it was released years ago - constantly releasing new maps/modes/weapons/cosmetic stuff/balance tweaks/whatever. You pay $15 for 3 fucking new maps in a COD game.

Basically, they act like decent people, treating their employees and customers well, putting out quality products that aren’t rushed, supporting what they do put out. And they do it in an industry that’s full of dicks who would stomp their own fucking children to death if it meant they could squeeze out 2% more quarterly revenue. They are a shining beacon showing that you don’t have to be a fucking plague on humanity to run a business and turn a profit.