Create, if You Want to Work at Valve

Create, if You Want to Work at Valve

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Valve's Chet Faliszek sheds some light on the company's culture.

"We are all still trying to figure out exactly what it is that Chet does," says Chet Faliszek's company biography, but in a recent interview Faliszek shed some light on what it takes to work at Valve. You be creative by having freedom, he says, but you need to be able to focus and create something if you want the job.

Faliszek joined soon after Half Life 2 and didn't get the bossless culture at first. It took him a few days to understand that, at Valve, people really could just go off and work on whatever they chose. "But the thing is," says Faliszek, "we hire people who understand that they can work on they want, but that thing is always going to be what is most valuable to the company, or what you think should be the most valuable thing to the company."

Faliszek advised people who wanted their Valve dream job to make something, anything. Creativity is what Valve needs, and people who can't demonstrate an ability to create are just "another resume to throw in the trash," according to Faliszek.

"There's a bunch of things you could do," Faliszek said, "as long as you're excited by your work." Prototyping is one way of going about it, as is making a mod or a small game. Even making hats for Team Fortress 2 is a foot in the door. The point Faliszek makes is that creating something shows Valve much more than a four-year degree on its own will do; Valve needs people who can make things by themselves.

"Once you're excited about your work," Faliszek said, "you will want to succeed. That's how you get noticed now. It's silly not to be doing something."

Source: VG24/7

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This is a reflect of work culture

Do you always wait for a boss or manager or project lead to tell you what to do?

Or do you take initiative and solve problems or make things that you can see - right now - are needed to done?

Where I'm from (denmark) the latter is actually the norm...

And it looks like that the mentality that Valve wants to get.

Then again, I have a lot family that've worked with various american companies - and they all tell the same story: In the US you sit on your hands unless your boss tells you to work.

I think most of us knew this already.

Ah, it's the good old, "Valve is awesome guys!!!1" article. Not really worth 'reporting on' IMO.

It does make you wonder what the enviroment is like at other studios. Do people at CDProjekt and Eidos Montreal, the developers of two of the best damn games we have seen recently, have simular freedoms, or are they much more limited? Would or does Valves recipe to success work at other studios?

SmashLovesTitanQuest:
It does make you wonder what the enviroment is like at other studios. Do people at CDProjekt and Eidos Montreal, the developers of two of the best damn games we have seen recently, have simular freedoms, or are they much more limited? Would or does Valves recipe to success work at other studios?

This, really. Even when you strip the whole "boss-less culture" stuff of all the fancy words, those people still feel like it's something special to the very core.
The extent to which Valve took this is surely special, but the idea of people being responsible for working on what the hell is needed should really be ... normal. If it isn't, and that's what it sounds like more and more, there are definitely some studios out there that have really weird ethics.

... I make Cartoons, so can I work at Valve? Like, maybe I could make Valve go into the Animation Business or something?

SmashLovesTitanQuest:
It does make you wonder what the enviroment is like at other studios. Do people at CDProjekt and Eidos Montreal, the developers of two of the best damn games we have seen recently, have simular freedoms, or are they much more limited? Would or does Valves recipe to success work at other studios?

I can't speak from personal experience, but a friend of mine works at Ubisoft Montreal. The structure is a lot more present there, there's a clear sense of hierarchy and of when and how things need to be done - and by whom.

At the same time, there's enough space left for personal expression, in that there seems to be a general sense of availability from the bosses and supervisors. They don't loom over the animators' floor or the coding department; they're on the same floor and routinely perform check-up walks in-between cubicles. Not so much to check on who's actually wasting time, but to see if anyone's struggling over something.

There's more hand-holding, but also a pretty strong willingness to help from those doing the hand-holding. It's the kind of structure that's perfect if you're looking for a chance to create, but don't really appreciate the thought of being put front-and-center based on your ability to deliver.

It's no better or worse than Valve's system, at least based on what my animator buddy tells me. It just fits a different type of personality and a different corporate mentality.

You see the thing is I don't actually believe it works like that in practice, regardless of what is the company line, not even for a second.

That's kinda the mentality that a university has here for it's videogames/animation carrers, it matters shit if you have the most perfect grades if you don't have something already done. At first sight, it sounds horribly elitist, but they kinda have a point.

Alandoril:
You see the thing is I don't actually believe it works like that in practice, regardless of what is the company line, not even for a second.

thing a little bit more. in most companies there is a set of projects, or one project that the entire team is working on, and that has an overarching project manager (sometimes this is just called the "producer"), and then everyone is given fixed time frames to have their portion done.

then if there are multiple projects running then each project is given a different priority (this is assuming that those project share resources otherwise its that same as only really having one project), and those priorities are measured against deadlines, and completeness. while factoring in lead, and lag times. you know classic project management.

then what it seems Valve does is it has a priority list that everyone knows of (this is gleaned from "most beneficial for the company"), and then each person that can work on a section that needs work that is higher on that priority should do so. the thing is with a boss-less structure there is not one person that is responsible for the individual project, and therefore everyone is responsible (the whole survive, or fail as a team, and not as individuals), so yes it can work with the understanding that if those priorities are not resolved, or worked on that the team fails as a whole, and similar to other projects if one person consistently does not contribute then they are gone line any other company. its not so much that no one has no responsibilities, but that those responsibilities are not delegated by a highly detailed Gant-chart, or enforced by a project manager/coordinator.

this is a high reason why Valve does not put out finite release dates for their work until they are "near" completion, and why they don't put tittles/responsibilities on their credit roles.

to anyone who has been brought up with traditional project management structures then yes it is easy to see why it would seem that this does not work.

SmashLovesTitanQuest:
It does make you wonder what the enviroment is like at other studios. Do people at CDProjekt and Eidos Montreal, the developers of two of the best damn games we have seen recently, have simular freedoms, or are they much more limited? Would or does Valves recipe to success work at other studios?

I've known people at one particular (big) studio who have to put in a bug just to get a floating mesh in the editor moved, because they're not trusted to take the initiative themselves. Heard similar stories of management hell at other large-ish studios, as well. There are few other places I'd ever even consider working at.

can i use my horrible hl2 dm and css maps as resume???

SupahGamuh:
At first sight, it sounds horribly elitist, but they kinda have a point.

It is elitist but in the completely right way, a project of your own will prove you have skill, resourcefulness and determination, the most important traits if you are to bring something to your field.

And honestly kids Valve is not the only one with this mindset, if you just come in with a degree then you are one of a thousand graduates who just did the same, but if you have a something to show then they have some insight into what you can really do, then you are one of a kind.

Mr.K.:

SupahGamuh:
At first sight, it sounds horribly elitist, but they kinda have a point.

It is elitist but in the completely right way, a project of your own will prove you have skill, resourcefulness and determination, the most important traits if you are to bring something to your field.

And honestly kids Valve is not the only one with this mindset, if you just come in with a degree then you are one of a thousand graduates who just did the same, but if you have a something to show then they have some insight into what you can really do, then you are one of a kind.

I don't think it sounds elitist at all. If anything, I find the reverse to be more so and I have two degrees, myself. I think that if you come out of an educational program and you truly love what you do, the work will be there. It may take some time to catch up and finish building a solid portfolio, but if you're really passionate about the job you're trying to get into, you'll naturally want to be making stuff all the time anyway.

This should come as no surprise. Something like half of their staff came on board because Valve wanted to buy the game they were working on, or (in the case of Portal) publish one similar to it.

Yeah I like the idea but to be honest for all the supposed creativity they are supposed to possess they dont put out much stuff and most of what they do is fps stuff anyway (HL2 and its mods) albeit with interesting(ish) twists and Portal ofc. Come on Valve lets see some new IP and ideas.

I think I'd feel a bit weird on my first few days at Valve too. "Do whatever you want" is just so unheard of in my work place/ company.

The great thing though is being extremely pedantic about things, so when my manager tells me to do something (something I do all the time) I'll just do exactly what he tells me to point of simply following him around waiting to be told what to do, he gets so fed up he leaves me alone most of the time now. It has helped give me a bit of freedom lately.

Mr Cwtchy:
Ah, it's the good old, "Valve is awesome guys!!!1" article. Not really worth 'reporting on' IMO.

Ah, it's the good old "Valve are not as great as everyone thinks" *Puts on hipster glasses* comment that always crops up in Valve related articles. Seriously your 'comment' is just taking up space IMO.

I was at the seminar when he gave this talk at Eurogamer. He gave some really great examples of how good creative work can get you paid work.

I made a slightly misshaped brown mug in pottery class once ...

>_>

the handle is still.. 'mostly' intact..
does that count?

I'd be interested to see how it works in practice. Is it actually a bossless structure or does the lack of a "designated" boss simply make senior members into de facto bosses, just bosses that you can't "touch" if they step out of line because "Hey man I'm not your boss, I'm a just a dude who tells you what to do."

Not saying I actually believe valve is bullshitting just that I can imagine peer pressure and "seniority" even if it is relevant or not taking the place of defined structuers in a structureless company. Still, valve employes some 293 people (wikipedia as source) so they're not two dudes in a basement. If it has no serious loss of productivity maybe it is something more companies should try.

 

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