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.