Half Life 2 Art Director: Valve “Stopped Making Epic AAAs”

While we might all marvel at Valve’s epic employee perks, their amazing lobby, or the fact that Billionaire Gabe Newell totally isn’t remotely chuffed by piracy, it could also be argued that while the company continues to contribute mightily to gaming over all, it’s as a platform and community resource, via steam, rather than as a developer. Once incredibly prolific, the company’s output slowed to a trickle after 2007; since 2008, the company has published just 6 games, compared to 21 in the previous 9 years.

According to former Valve developer Viktor Antonov, the company culture changed, and in his opinion, it changed for the worst, at least as far as making games are concerned. Speaking to Eurogamer, the Half-Life 2 art director, now part of the Dishonored team, elaborated on his decision to leave what, to the rest of us, sounds like the best place to work ever.

“I left precisely when they stopped making epic, triple-As, which was Half-Life 2,” he said. “Since then, they were episodes. Valve is a great place, but I’m interested in projects, not in companies. I went to Valve specifically for Half-Life 2. I went and I collaborated with Arkane to do The Crossing and Dishonored. I put the project above everything else.”

He continued, explaining that Valve got too big. “Valve has grown into a much bigger company, and what I really enjoy about the philosophy of Arkane is that it’s a small, core team that does risky creative projects. And when I went to Valve, they were a small company. They’ve grown now, they’re much bigger, and I’m interested in a certain level of creative risk taking and a certain energy that can be compared to jazz, jamming or rock n’ roll, where it’s small, it’s intense and it’s about making revolutions in the media.”

It’s hard to understand why anyone would leave paradise, but this makes sense to me. The happiest time in my professional life, prior to becoming a writer full time, was when I worked for a small startup. When the company grew bigger and corporate culture began to set in, it became a far less enjoyable, and far more risk averse environment. When you prefer a looser, freer environment, that can feel like a straight jacket, even if you have tremendously amazing benefits.

Via Games Industry

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2 Comments on Half Life 2 Art Director: Valve “Stopped Making Epic AAAs”


On July 31, 2012 at 8:16 pm

I kind of agree. Valve’s latest games, while innovative and fun, haven’t quite been as ambitious since HL2. Hopefully they’ll get around to making Episode 3/Half-Life 3 sometime before I drop dead.


On August 1, 2012 at 8:03 am

This is what I have been saying for about two years now.
Nothing that Valve has released since HL2 has been of the scope a team that big and talented should be delivering if they are dedicated to making games; that isn’t a criticism of Valve as a company though, they still offer the premiere online distribution service for modern PC gaming (some people would say the ONLY service) and repeatedly show their affection and respect for the community with the quality of the products they do release, they just don’t need to release blockbuster games anymore. As the saying goes; “Necessity is the mother of invention.”
The irony of the situation is that the sheer dominance of Steam has made the possibility of HL3 being released less likely rather than more.