Valve Boasts That Any Three Employees Can Ship Any Game

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Valve Boasts That Any Three Employees Can Ship Any Game

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It seems that Valve can count to three after all.

Speaking at the Seattle Interactive Conference this week, Valve's Greg Coomer had some interesting things to say about how the company approaches each game it creates. Most interesting of his many hypothetical claims is that any trio of Valve employees could, in theory, build and ship absolutely any game they desire.

"Three people at the company can ship anything," explained Coomer. "And the reason it is three people - because really it is one person can ship anything - but the work gets better if you just check with a couple of people before you decide to push a button."

Valve's flat internal employment structure means that its employees are able to take on multiple different tasks, with no one person specializing in a single area. "Nobody is checking your work," notes Coomer, emphasizing how the company trusts each employee to be at the top of their game. "Every single person is responsible for deciding what they do every day."

So, of Valve's 320 employees, any group of three could, according to Coomer, be working on Half-Life 3 right now. Or Team Fortress 3. Or Portal 3. Or Left 4 Dead 3. In fact, maybe they are, and that's why it's taking so long. Ba-zing!

Source: GeekWire

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Gabe has been aware of the power of three for some time.
I mean, look at the companion cube

Wait...

three is a MAGIC number...

Yes, but then they'll leave said game on a cliffhanger for nearly a decade.

Doesn't surprise me, plus really Valve, time isn't an issue, every game you release, save Ricochet is absolutely amazing. The wait is worth it.

MikeWehner:

So, of Valve's 320 employees, any group of three could, according to Coomer, be working on Half-Life 3 right now. Or Team Fortress 3. Or Portal 3. Or Left 4 Dead 3. In fact, maybe they are, and that's why it's taking so long. Ba-zing!

He's not saying that any 3 can work on the game. He's saying that three people can decide to ship it as-is, decide when it's done. Someone at VALVE could release the current incomplete build of Half-Life 3 as final this very moment and charge $600 for it on the Steam store.

P.S. Thanks

HOLY SHIT!

Valve can actually count to three!
Mind = Blown.

tmande2nd:
HOLY SHIT!

Valve can actually count to three!
Mind = Blown.

Haha that was the sweet gem of the entire article. I wonder how long it took to come up with that quip. lol

MikeWehner:

It seems that Valve can count to three after all.

I think I peed myself a little when I read that

THEY CAN MAKE A GAME ANY TIME THEY WANT...they just don't wanna.

Seriously, could Valve survive from just the income of their games? Doubt it.

Guess Valve are just teasing their fanbase constantly for their amusement.

Yeah, it makes complete sense that you can ship a game with three people if you never have anything remotely resembling a release deadline. I can also build a skyscraper with three people, just don't ask me for an occupation date.

Seems like Valve is making more noise about their corporate culture to show off lately than anything people might want to know. Its like getting a constant stream of self-indulgent DVD extras while being told that the movie is "totally still being made, we'll get back to you on that".

3 employees may be enough to ship it, but the big question is, will it float?

anian:
THEY CAN MAKE A GAME ANY TIME THEY WANT...they just don't wanna.

Seriously, could Valve survive from just the income of their games? Doubt it.

They can survive just from the income form HATS.

It's nice to have confidence in your employees. It's nice to be an employee at a company that has confidence in you. It makes it much harder to countenance massive layoffs or so-called "reorganizations".

But I will note that he didn't say anything about how long it would take those three employees to ship anything. The "infinite number of monkeys, infinite number of typewriters" gedanken comes to mind.

So, yeah... where is Half-Life 3, anyway, guys?

So are they saying that a large group of people chose to willingly make the seasonal items and...well hats for TF2? Does that challenge their skills and abilities? I didn't think it was totally ridiculous until I saw the $100 "engagement ring". Seriously, no.

I understand the pluses of having a corporate structure like this, but won't it make the eventual Half-Life 3 feel inconsistent? With people doing a little bit of this and that, leaving for something else, and having a person with different artistic sensibilities take over?

Any 3 huh?

Let's get 2 voice actors and someone from accounting go!

anian:
THEY CAN MAKE A GAME ANY TIME THEY WANT...they just don't wanna.

Seriously, could Valve survive from just the income of their games? Doubt it.

I actually don't think that the method Valve makes games is really all that great. There is alot to learn from their process, but they take FAR TOO LONG to finish titles.

Yes, the games that finally DO make it are awesome... but I bet they would still be awesome with a 3-5 year dev cycle (still extremely generous) instead of a 10 year or whatever it is now.

It's like they don't give themselves any concrete goals so all of that amazing talent is going unseen (for the most part).

Mikeyfell:
Any 3 huh?

Let's get 2 voice actors and someone from accounting go!

And all the puns in that article and you ninjad me on this -.-

I hate the escapists, you guys are too fast for me!

Covarr:

MikeWehner:

So, of Valve's 320 employees, any group of three could, according to Coomer, be working on Half-Life 3 right now. Or Team Fortress 3. Or Portal 3. Or Left 4 Dead 3. In fact, maybe they are, and that's why it's taking so long. Ba-zing!

He's not saying that any 3 can work on the game. He's saying that three people can decide to ship it as-is, decide when it's done. Someone at VALVE could release the current incomplete build of Half-Life 3 as final this very moment and charge $600 for it on the Steam store.

P.S. Thanks

no. when the word ship is used with a publisher it means "we decide when it goes out the door", but when the word is used for a developer (which is what Valve primarily is) it means "we make the games from beginning to end", so they are saying that literally any 3 people could make a game from beginning to release, and it will be good. granted this was stated "hypothetically" so I doubt that it is completely accurate. it would probably be more along the lines of at any given time there could be 3 people working on a section of a game at a time.

No proof they can count to three. They know it's a word that means a specific-ish number, but there's nothing in their statements that they actually know where it falls on the number line.

When Valve really does finally announce Half-Life 3, they should prank everyone and call it "Half-Life 2.99", just to poke fun at the count to three jokes.

And yet zero employees can ship a game with a three in the name.

You know what this means right? Only 2 people (if we're lucky) are working on Half-Life 3. Now it all makes sense. :D

DrunkOnEstus:
So are they saying that a large group of people chose to willingly make the seasonal items and...well hats for TF2? Does that challenge their skills and abilities? I didn't think it was totally ridiculous until I saw the $100 "engagement ring". Seriously, no.

I understand the pluses of having a corporate structure like this, but won't it make the eventual Half-Life 3 feel inconsistent? With people doing a little bit of this and that, leaving for something else, and having a person with different artistic sensibilities take over?

Thing is, this is the same structure they've had since they first started brainstorming ideas for their very first game. And it's more or less the same structure all the mod teams they've acquired probably had. So, no, it's not going to be any more inconsistent than any of their other products.

What probably is going on, though, is the Duke Nukem Forever phenomenon. Where they've put it off for so long already that the fear of not living up to expectations is taking a toll on development. Except instead of constantly scrapping what they have and starting from scratch on a new engine, they're just procrastinating by working on every other project that technically counts as work. And to be fair, we have gotten one game a year on average from that, not counting loads of free expansions. Just not the only game in the world everyone seems to care about.

Hmm. Cool stuff right here. I wonder if they ever do it quite like that though? I mean it's one thing to say that they can, it's another thing to give examples. I'd quite like to know what (if anything) has been shipped by three people. :D

This is news? Really? I thought this was already well-known? Or, was this yet another interviewer asking the same questions Valve employees have been asked for the past decade?

Seriously though, this is old news. Portals core design team was comprised of a whopping eight people. Portal 2s was a staggering twenty-eight.

And those teams managed to design and ship two of the most celebrated titles in the industry. So hearing Mr. Coomer say "any three employees can ship a title" isn't surprising at all.

DrunkOnEstus:
snip

Considering every game they've ever made, save for the first Half-Life (*), has been made in this manner, I doubt Half-Life 3 will end up "inconsistent".

As for TF2, it's a fairly small number of people that work on the seasonal updates. Including the 'hats'. In fact, now-a-days, the community has more involvement in what gets added to TF2.

* When Valve first formed, they began work on two games. One was Half-Life, the other was called Prospero. At about the mid-point of development, the company as a whole decided to shift to Half-Life, effectively putting Prospero on the back-burner forever.

anian:
snip

LostintheWick:

snip

I know it's been said many times by many users on this forum, but it bares repeating:

Valve has consistently released at least one game a year since 2003. That's a product shipping schedule two even three times faster than most developers. And that's not counting DLC, updates, and Steam development.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_games_developed_by_Valve

While it may seem like long stretches of time in between the games of a specific series, in reality Valve releases software titles quite often.

So, despite what some people think, it's very likely Valve could easily "survive" on the income from their game releases alone.

MikeWehner:

Valve's flat internal employment structure means that its employees are able to take on multiple different tasks, with no one person specializing in a single area.

Now that I think about it... Whenever I see the credits for a Valve game, it never says who does what like most other games... Shit makes sense now!

"Valve Boasts That Any Three Employees Can Ship Any Game"

In any three decades with any three release windows closed.

You have over 200 employees and none of them has ever thought of shipping the next instalment of your biggest franchise? Shame on you Valve, Shame on you.

I wonder if any of them are into platformers. I always wanted a platformer that uses the source engine just for the curiosity's sake.

Vigormortis:
snip

Dude... You are right. I forgot about left for dead. Not portal though...
Sooo... uhh... why do you have to come around and rain on my Valve Hate parade?! Not cool, man! lol jk

anian:
THEY CAN MAKE A GAME ANY TIME THEY WANT...they just don't wanna.

Seriously, could Valve survive from just the income of their games? Doubt it.

well, they did very well before Steam made profit. And they are still making huge profits from the games they create. So yes, they could easily.

The flat structure is great for emplyees, but not so great for its costumers. Also they need (and probably have) a proejct structure. 3 folk come up together "Create" a project, and do it. thats how valve games are born very likely.

So are they saying that a large group of people chose to willingly make the seasonal items and...well hats for TF2? Does that challenge their skills and abilities? I didn't think it was totally ridiculous until I saw the $100 "engagement ring". Seriously, no.

not all people go to work to "Challenge thier abilities".

Zenn3k:
When Valve really does finally announce Half-Life 3, they should prank everyone and call it "Half-Life 2.99", just to poke fun at the count to three jokes.

What would be purely brilliant would be if they called it either Half-Life e or Half-Life π.

See, this is why everything Valve touches turns to gold. Since every employee is as powerful as any other, none of them feel like they're under anyone. This makes them feel in charge of not only their own career, but also the future of the company; on a very personal, immediate level. Giving them this feeling of empowerment gives them a feeling of responsibility, and makes them care greatly about their work.

As a result, not only is it a positive workplace, but every product they ship is made with all the care of a detailed model airplane or something else one does as a hobby. Since nobody's TELLING them to do it, the work is theirs, and it becomes a much more fulfilling experience.

LostintheWick:

Dude... You are right. I forgot about left for dead. Not portal though...
Sooo... uhh... why do you have to come around and rain on my Valve Hate parade?! Not cool, man! lol jk

Because I hate parades! Those stupid plaster and wood floats. Those lame costumes. That annoying band music. Those obnoxious "wavers".

And those clowns....those God-damned clowns....

bafrali:
You have over 200 employees and none of them has ever thought of shipping the next instalment of your biggest franchise? Shame on you Valve, Shame on you.

I wonder if any of them are into platformers. I always wanted a platformer that uses the source engine just for the curiosity's sake.

Gee, thanks. Now you've got me envisioning someone at Valve making a Metroidvania-style platformer.

That's all I need. Something else to be disappointed about because, as amazing as it could be, I'll never see it. Kind of like another game that shall go unmentioned

:'(

I suppose Deadlight will have to slake my thirst for that type of game, for now.

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