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.