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Valve Interview

Interview: Portal 2, HL2 Ep. Three, and a desire to work on Wii

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You guys are taking your time with the Half-Life episodes, too. How's Episode Three coming along?

Lombardi: Well, the gap between Half-Life and Half Life 2 was six years. It's not quite four years since then and we've already released two follow-ups that we're really proud of. We didn't milk the cow, so to speak, and pump out more of the same content.

While the word 'Episodic' conjures up this idea of TV where episodes are aired every week, maybe that's not the best term to use for this. I do think that we've hit upon something that allows us to have a more enjoyable development experience - to spend six years on the same game is kind of a death march.

We've hit with episodes around every 14-16 months. It won't be another six years until you see Freeman, but it won't be next week. I think we're improving our ability to produce interesting new content in a more timely fashion.

Maybe it won't be as long as Half-Life 2, but hopefully it'll be just as good and just as innovative.

Valve is known for specialising in FPS games, but can we expect any diversification from you in the future?

Lombardi: I think Portal was sort of a baby step outside of our comfort zone. There weren't any weapons, so to speak. No real combat. The success of that has encouraged us to keep trying new things outside of that comfort zone.

There's a lot of people at Valve who are parents and would love to make a game for kids. We all play the Wii a lot and we think that the proper way for Valve to approach the Wii would be to make something cool designed specifically for Wii.

I mean, I'm not making any announcements but there's a lot of desire internally to do something for kids, do something on the Wii.

Gabe's [Valve co-founder, Gabe Newell] a huge fan of MMORPGs and he's always wanted to make one, but that's a big risk to venture out on. I think at some point you'll see us move a little further out of our comfort zone than Portal was, but it's not going to be this year or next.

But definitely, before we're done, years from now we'll diversify a little more and move outside of PC FPS.

How does Steam support Valve's vision for the future? There's always talk of download sales taking over in the future.

Lombardi: That's the fun story for people to write - "Valve's trying to kill retail". It's really not the case. For us, Steam was a way to fix the updating process.

Counter-Strike had 80,000 players back in year 2000; we release a patch and that dropped to zero. Then, over the next few days we watched the number creep back up (as people manually installed the patch). It was like scheduling a panic attack for everyone in the building.

We needed to fix that problem - we needed an auto-updater. That was the genesis for Steam. Then, once we started building in that direction, we realised we could do more effective anti-piracy, anti-cheat systems, we could sell the games through it and that was cool.

We had no idea that, just over four years later, we'd have over 300 games from third-party developers including Epic and id.

Steam is not only an alternative place to sell a product, and a great back-end for new anti-piracy measures and auto-updating, but it's also a platform for games that otherwise probably wouldn't make it.

It's gone way beyond what we thought it would be when we decided that we needed a simple auto-updater.

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