A peek into a legendary game company, Valve Software

If you’ve been following me on Twitter, you’d probably have noticed in the past couple of weeks my affection (exhibit 1, 2, 3 & 4) for Left 4 Dead. As a matter of which, I’m also giving away a copy of Left 4 Dead in the HP Magic Giveaway. When I realized Seattle (where I am this week) is also home to Valve Software, I knew I just had to go for a tour. And that’s what I did today with the help of office manager Katie.

Since Valve isn’t working on any new IPs or major projects, I didn’t get to play any upcoming games content (as some other tours have) however I was still able to linger with some of the best minds in the industry and a chance to handle a few iconic memorabilia, I learned a few interesting tidbits about Valve’s business that I’d like to share.

  • Valve has an extremely flat corporate structure. Titles were less applicable and everyone was equally valued as everyone else.
  • Their offices which span approximately three office building levels is the entire operation. Besides a handful of people, about 160 people works on-site where they develop code, create art assets, manage business and the Steam services.
  • All employees are senior level employees. To get into Valve you need an equivalent of five years of work experience. Having said that, Valve is a strong supporter of community mod developers which is a great way to get noticed.
  • Valve hires no dedicated testers. All developers/artists/business managers are all required to play the games. Valve also takes advantage of public gaming events to test games.
  • Apart from traditional offices which employees can request, Valve has “cabana” style offices that fits around a dozen or so people working on a single project since they can interact more easily.
  • The staff is like one big family. In fact, literally. All employee’s families are compensated to move to Seattle so everyone can be on-site. Subsequently, the company also organizes a wide array of activities to encourage social interaction and bond between “Valve families”.

If you’re ever in Seattle and are a genuine fan of Valve, I’d encourage you to consider emailing about a studio tour. Just follow the instructions on Gabe Newell’s FAQ. I don’t think there’s a more welcoming game developer with their fans.

10 insightful thoughts

  1. Sweet!! Specially the pictures with the grenade launcher and dispenser. Seems you had lots of fun. I’d rate Valve as one of the best game developers in the world along with Rockstar. I wish I could go on a Valve tour too.

  2. It’s not that they aren’t working on any new IP’s or major projects (they’re working on HL2:Ep3). It’s just they don’t have any that have been publically announced, or at a stage where they can do public playtests.

    Anyways, I hope you’re enjoying our lovely Seattle weather! We made sure to have enough liquid sunshine around for you.

  3. @Brin Hughes: They may also not be working as much due to the holidays plus they just released a game.

    @Long Zheng: Of all the HP Magic Giveaways I want to win yours the most for the copy of the game. 😛

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