Gabe Newell

January 17, 2017

Hi. I'm Gabe Newell. AMA.

There are a bunch of other Valve people here so ask them, too.

[No question]

I'm in a conference room with VR, Dota, Steam, and other people happy to answer your questions.

Are there any TF2 team members present?

Driller is on the phone with us.

Hi mr Newell, thanks for doing this AMA

Few questions,

Have you've ever been in Amsterdam? (if so, what do you think)

What do you think steam needs to improve? (my personal opinion, An active community manager)

And how are you today?

Yes. Miele. 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. Good, thanks.

Hi mr Newell, thanks for doing this AMA

Few questions,

Have you've ever been in Amsterdam? (if so, what do you think)

What do you think steam needs to improve? (my personal opinion, An active community manager)

And how are you today?

Yes. Nice. Support. Good.

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

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

Hi Gabe! Big fan of valve and your work.

My questions:

1) What inspired you to study and go along with the trail you did in what I assume to be computing/science of some form?

2) What would you say is your proudest achievement overall?

2 episode 2) Favourite non-valve game of 2016?

When I started programming, it wasn't really an established career path. I did it because it was fun.

I don't really think about things like that.

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

What sparked your interest in video games?

Playing Trek on a mainframe using punch cards.

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

Biggest issue has been how we structured support.

Are you planning to be at the CSGO major? It would be awesome to see you there and show that valve really pays attention to CSGO

I'm sure I'll be at one in the future. Just scheduling.

Hey Gabe and others - I'm planning on heading over to Washington for future college work, and I've always wanted to see you guys in person. Will the new office you're all moving to still be accessible by the public? Thanks!

Yes. We move into the new offices on July 22nd.

Hello Mr. Newell!

I am a college student who intends to work in the game industry after graduation. 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.

Do people recognize you in public often?


Do they often ask "When is HL3 coming?" or similar things?


Hi Gabe. I've been playing the Portal and Half-Life games recently (both series are absolutely amazing, by the way).

My question is as follows: What is your personal favourite Valve game/series?

Thanks for your time!

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

the entire half life community just collectivley died

edit: thanks for the gold kind sir! my first!

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.

What do you regret about Half-Life then? That's an interesting thing to say, regarding that the HL series is one of the most critically acclaimed of all time

If you are involved in a game, everything ends up being a set of trade-offs. Anything in a game is a sacrifice of things not in the game. I just feel those more personally about Half-Life for a bunch of reasons.

And Xen.

Mr. Newell, I'm a big fan of your games and have played them for years, but I have a few questions about Valve itself.

Question 1) Is the Valve HQ Snackbar still good?

Question 2) If yes, what is your favorite thing to get at the snackbar?

Question 2 Episode 1) If no, why do you think the quality has declined?

Question 2 Episode 2) Also if no, do you have any plans to try and increase the quality of the food?

The Valve snack bar is much ... healthier. It's ... healthier. YMMV. People can always ask for whatever they want.

GabeN, how do you like your steaks?

Medium rare.

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.

Hey Gabe, thanks for this AMA! My Question is, how is the employee ratio at valve? For example how many work for dota 2, compared to csgo and other steam related stuff? I would really appreciate an answer :)

It changes all the time. There's no fixed ratio, and people move to the project where they think they can create the most value.

As someone who is legitimately a fan of the game Ricochet, can you tell us if we will see more of this hidden gem of a franchise in Valve's future, especially with the popularization of VR?

Robin, we found the Ricochet fan.

Hey Gabe/other valve employees, 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? Cheers, Chandler

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.

Heyyyy, Gabe! Hope you're having a fiiiineee day!

So, I've had a question (well, a few questions) that I've been waiting for agessss to ask, to the point that I was actually planning to E-mail you about it before this AMA came up. Steam trading is obviously HUGE nowerdays, maybe not at the peak it reached a while ago, but undoubtably still a huge market/economy. Unfourtunatly, with a system this big, a problem arises... Lots of people want to take advantage of it and scam people. Now, I've been fourtunate enough to never lose out from this type of conduct, but I do know people who have, people who are steam-smart and just got caught out by mistake. This has obviously been a topic of great debate over the years, but overrall there are a few specific questions about it I'd like to ask you.

Oh, and just for fun

Yes. No. No. Yes. Possibly. 6 Treants!

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.

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.

Dear Mr. Newell,

Many users, including me, would love to see a very simple feature coming to Steam. It has been requested for years now, but for unknown reasons ignored or unnoticed. The feature I am speaking off is an option to disable steam (event) notification popups, like this one.

But why, you may ask? After all, it is a good way to get the attention of a steam user. Well, it actually gets so much attention it becomes annoying to the user. After leaving Steam open for a while, you desktop will get cluttered with these notification popups. There are even reports of games being minimized or interrupted by these very popups. Steam is there to enhance one's gaming experience and not to ruin it, isn't it?

I hope you could consider this request and thank you so much for your attention.

Kind regards,

Royalgamer06 and the steam community

EDIT: Thank you GabeN for answering! I feel honored and appreciate it a lot! Reading the user responses, leads to another feature request similar to this one: More options to disable other notifications (like achievements, family sharing, friend requests, comments, new items in inventory, etc). We already have them for chat messages. Offline mode also doesn't offer a real solution, as family sharing notifications are still displayed for example. This will be extremely useful for streamers, content creators and gamers that don't want to be disturbed at all.


Yes, we'll consider this.

Hi Gabe, what was the proudest moment of your career?

I don't think most of us think retrospectively like that. I think we are mainly thinking about what we need to do in the future. It still seems like we are just at the beginning of what is going to be possible, and the lure of that future is way more powerful than self-congratulation.

Would you ever consider allowing uncensored video games containing pornographic content to be sold on Steam? Also, where do you draw the line for content on Steam?

As it stands, games like Gahkthun of the Golden Lightning and Ladykiller in a Bind are being sold on Steam already, and they could easily be argued as being games containing pornographic content, so at the very least the line right now is a little fuzzy on what you'd consider okay and not okay for Steam as a platform. It'd be much appreciated if you could explain how you decide what content should and should not be sold on Steam.

.....Additionally, I ask this as I'm getting tired of porn games getting releases on Steam censored without any content patch to put the content that the original developers of the game intended back into the game. This happens a lot with Japanese visual novels especially (though they aren't the only titles that do this), and as a result, it pretty much makes it impossible for such games to be played in English as they were originally meant to be played. Steam at this point is synonymous with PC gaming; games that might not otherwise be released in the West or on PC are getting such releases solely because Steam is such a major platform in the West. Many games likely wouldn't get releases on PC/in the West were it not for Steam, and as long as Steam restricts this kind of content, it prevents consumers, the people you are catering to, from experiencing these game works as the original developers and artists meant it, thus hurting the artistic integrity of the games.

In principle, there are two problems to solve. The first is a completely uncurated distribution tool for developers. The second is a toolset for customers that allow them to find and filter content (and people are an instance of content most obviously in multiplayer) that is best for them.

Hey Mr. Newell, I was just wondering if you were aware of, or even watch, the youtube channel Valve News Network?

First time I've heard of it.

Hi GabeN, Why does Valve not talk to its community about the games/apps its developing as much as other companies?

Because our decision making is way more conditional than most other companies. The one thing we won't do is waste our customers time and money, which means we will cancel or change stuff much later in development. Tracking our choices would be annoying and frustrating.

They have spoken about this in the past before and the short answer is their general design practice is constantly changing. Saying we are working on X might radically change in some capacity. For example Team fortress 2 was originally a very realistic game with radically different mechanics and multiplayer interactivity. If they kept a dev log every change would lead to at best confusion, at worst backlash. You can in many ways compare to how nintendo keeps things tight lipped and doors closed.


You replied and I wasn't expecting it, awesome. Also just wanted to tell you that one time I met you at the raceway was great. My Mom is doing great and beat the odds with her second big fight with cancer. That mug you signed went to /r/pcmasterrace for a giveaway to help raise money for a children's hospital.

One last thing. That thing you told me after I pitched that zip line crowbar thing along with other ideas for the crowbar. You asked me "so what's stopping you from making a game or a mod?" I want you to know after we talked those several words "what stopping me" have turned into my mantra whenever I'm worried about failure or something being too hard. The subreddit I created is still going strong and wish you and everyone at valve the best.

Shoutout to /r/Gaming4Gamers

Thank you for the gold. Always appreciate it when I'm gilded.

That’s right. Another way to think about this, and the way we talk about this internally, is that 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.

Wasn't there a movie (or a set of 2 movies) coming in that universe by Valve and JJ Abrams?

Yep. They're coming.

Any chance of a new IP that takes place in the half-life/portal universe? I feel like there's a lot of story left to be explored there. Thanks!

EDIT: Holy shit senpai noticed me! Thanks lord gaben! Hype train moving out of the station!


What is your view on Steam's quality control? A statistic that nearly 40% of all Steam games were released in 2016 was recently released. In an ideal world, all of them would be top-notch - but they are clearly not.

The flood of new releases has made it tough for gamers to wade through to find good ones - and the curator system, while a step in the right direction, has not helped this issue. A fair few games released are never up to the quality one expects from PC gaming's biggest storefront.

Prominent YouTuber TotalBiscuit has highlighted this apparent lack of quality control in this portion of his video. Most gamers agree with him - the platform needs more strict policing when it comes to quality.

What is Valve's take on this? Does it feel the current state of affairs is good? Even if the flood of games is not stemmed, will the curator and tag system become more robust?

I thank you for your patience.

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.

  1. In the last AMA, Source 2 was a topic that had answers to it. You said, "The biggest improvements will be in increasing productivity of content creation. That focus is driven by the importance we see UGC having going forward. A professional developer at Valve will put up with a lot of pain that won't work if users themselves have to create content." However it seems that an engine is the least of the companies concerns. The VR team is moving to Unity, and I'm sure there are some who wish to move to Unreal due to the large amount of work it may save. According to those asked at Dev Days this year, we were told "Not to hold our breath", so it doesn't seem to be nearing licensability. Does Valve still see value in the communities fostered by first party engines? How likely would a complete move to Unreal or Unity be?

  2. It has been about six years since the release of the last "traditional linear game". Would the idea of the flat management structure take on different meaning when not many large form, multi-year projects reach completion? Would the attitude of the average employee change based on the lack of pressure to create "the best games ever"? Would Valve ever consider hiring from the community under a probationary system? Such that, possibly under qualified individuals would be assigned a project that should be completed to test their ability to work in a professional environment, before being made a full flat level employee? This could direct labor to greatly under staffed areas, such as creating better Steam Support, curating Greenlight, helping with the Big Three (TF2, CS:GO & DOTA 2) or Community Interaction and Communication?

  3. Under what circumstances would I be given the opportunity to interview you?

-Tyler McVicker Valve News Network

I'd be happy to do an interview with you. Send me an email.

Hello Mr. Newell,

I asked other users what they wanted to hear most from you (other countries included),and I compiled this list. We are going to sticky them here to prevent spam. Please answer at your own discretion.

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

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

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

How many people are now working on CS:GO? The community is frustrated at the lack of updates and the fact that most of the bugs haven't been fixed.

How long will it be until Valve adds CS:GO servers in other parts of the world (such as Russia)?

The number 3 must not be said. Yes. I personally believe all unidentified anonymous sources on the Internet. 20-30. Same as always. We're adding servers all the time.

If Mr Newell replies to this without evading answering, we all will witness a miracle I swear.

See how I threaded that needle. Pretty slick.

Hi Gaben we love u


The question I want to ask: Why Steam Flash Sales is not part of the Steam store anymore? Is there a possibility that it's coming back any time soon since it's one of the most lovable things about Steam and it makes the experience of buying games much more enjoyable with the community.

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.

Hey Gaben, I'm the author of the original Lord Gaben photoshop. I would like to know if I could send an high-res print to Valve's office and have it signed by you. It's my dream to have an autograph of a billionaire so I can make my friends jealous. Here's proof: Thanks!


[No question]

Thanks everyone. Our time's up. I hope our answers were helpful. Talk to you later.

This interview was transcribed from an "ask me anything" question and answer session with Gabe Newell conducted on Reddit on 2017-01-17. The Reddit AMA can be found here.