Valve Corporation: Where Did It All Go Right?

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Since Valve Corporation was founded in 1996 it has gone from strength to strength. They have had both success and failure over the years but still manage to make the gaming community sit up and take notice. So here’s my take on Valve and all that makes them great.

Back in 19996 Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington, who both used to work for Microsoft, started a small company called Valve Corp. The name is now synonymous with great games and an open mike attitude towards mod developers.

In 2003 Valve launched their content delivery service Steam with mainly Valve releases. Since its launch Steams’ social network features have been integrated into almost all Valve games with an active user count at around 35 million a match is never far away. Valve have also expanded the game catalog to feature not only their own games but also those by independent mod developers and well established names like Rockstar Games, Electronic Arts and Activision meaning there are over 1488 games available on the service. and counting.

A year later in 2004 the Source engine made its debut in Counter Strike: Source replacing the GoldSrc engine of old. The engine includes High Dynamic Range rendering (HDR) which was demonstrated in Half Life 2: Lost Coast. Since its debut it has been used by Valve for all their games to date and keeps advancing, the next big addition to the engine will be the addition of cloth simulation in the version of the engine used by Dota2.

Another reason for Valves success would be their open minded attitude to people modifying their releases, where most developers will try clamp down on the mods people make for their games Valve embrace it and allow their games to grow. With the release of SDK’s for almost everything they have created all available through Steam they allow you to expand your Valve universe. Things like Garry’s Mod which was released in 2004 originally grew and has been available on Steam since 2006. Counter Strike started out life being based on a mod for Half Life, When developing Counter Strike the original Modder’s were brought in to aid the team. Also with new games like Portal Valve hired most of the original team who created Narbacular Drop, the game which Portal was based on. That open attitude and willingness to bring in people who developed the mods means there is always a fresh set of eyes and a new way of thinking to push the company forward.

Okay so its time to address the elephant in the corner. Half Life, the single greatest game ever (my opinion) Yes it has its flaws but this in my opinion is the game that made Valve. You can’t help but think of a crowbar or Gordon Freeman whenever the name Valve is mentioned. Originally released in 1998 Half Life has spawned nearly everything that Valve have made since, without it we wouldn’t have Portal, Day of Defeat, Counter Strike and the list goes on. Based in the Black Mesa Research Facility Half Life follows Gordon Freeman a theoretical physicist who accidentally created an inter-dimensional portal during an experiment at the facility allowing creatures from Xen to pass through and take over the facility (then between Half Life and Half Life 2 they seem to have spread across the planet) You fight your way out only to be taken away by the mysterious G-Man. Now this description does the game no justice but is merely there as a quick reference if you have never played it.

6 Years after the release of Half Life, Half Life 2 was released again featuring Gordon Freeman and his trust crowbar in a now shinier, larger world thanks to the Source engine. Taking on the Combine and finding a new alliance with the Vortigaunts Gordon makes his way through City 17 up the coast and then back to the citadel in the center of City 17 encountering new characters and enemies along the way. The series shows no signs of stopping and with 3 expansions for the first Half Life and 2 episodes for Half Life 2 released so far with Half Life 2 Ep.3 in development I’m sure Half Life will continue to be a cornerstone of Valve Corporation’s gaming catalog.

Paul M
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