JJ Abrams and Gabe Newell on Storytelling

Abrams and Newell

On Wednesday, JJ Abrams and Gabe Newell sat down for a session at the 2013 DICE summit where they discussed the strengths and weaknesses of games and movies as storytelling mediums. Polygon has a liveblog of the chat, and it’s definitely worth reading to get a sense of their alternating points. Newell argued for the value of player agency, of letting gamers be “architects of their own amusement”, whereas Abrams argued in favor of film’s “machinery” of storytelling, which allows for narrative control. They played clips from games and movies, and each made some excellent, thoughtful arguments.

Their discussion of the different forms of storytelling was especially exciting because they ended by announcing that Abrams and Valve are planning on collaborating on a game as well as possible Portal or Half-Life movies. If it’s even possible to make a decent movie out of a game, I think JJ Abrams could be the guy to do it. However, of the two properties, I think Half-Life is a bit better suited to the movie treatment, simply because there are more characters and settings to work with. Of course, Gordon Freeman would definitely end up talking in a movie version, and that might ruin some of his carefully cultivated mystique…

How about you? Do you find the prospect of a Portal or Half-Life movie exciting? Will you be curious to see what kind of game Abrams might make with Valve? How much would your head explode if a Half-Life movie came out before Episode 3? Let us know in the comments.

Source – Polygon

Gabe Newell’s Steam Box Dream

Gabe Steam Box

PC gamers and Steam lovers can rejoice, because the cat’s finally out of the bag: a Valve’s “Steam Box” is official, Gabe Newell confirmed in a recent interview with The Verge.

While we can mostly guess at what a Steam Box means for games — namely a “Big Picture Mode” console designed for your TV — Newell did talk about some of the box’s other early features. For instance, rather than just the living room, they want the Steam experience to be sharable from screen to screen, and between different rooms with ease. But beyond that, Valve’s main emphasis will be open platforms with different manufacturers, open content and a way for gamers to publish and create their own content through the Steam store or possibly even personal stores. The goal is to make things easy for publishers and developers, and ideally that trickles down to gamers as well.

It’s certainly too early to tell anything about the Steam Box, but it basically sounds like my dream console. I’m pretty pumped on Steam at the moment, mostly due to the most recent Steam sale (sorry, but you’ll hear me mention it a million times over the next, I dunno, year, so I love the idea of an affordable console that runs what I think is currently best platform for games. I love that Valve will be removing the normal restrictions we see from consoles, and can’t wait to hear more about this. I definitely recommend checking out the rest of the interview, there’s even a bit about how they have been researching biometric feedback and new controller inputs.

What do you guys think of the Steam Box? Go!

Source – The Verge

Valve Versus Piracy

Gabe NewellAt the risk of being called a Valve fanboy (I’m really not), I have to say that I think Gabe Newell is probably one of the more brilliant minds in the videogame industry. That’s probably a cliche opinion to have about the guy, but I’ll stick by it until he shows me other wise. I’m pretty much fascinated by everything he says in interviews, mostly because he comes across as a guy that not only understands the business he’s in, but understands gamers. That’s a tricky shot for a CEO to hit consistently, and he managed to do it without making a fool of himself too often (PS3 cracks aside).

In a recent interview with The Cambridge Student Online, Newell waxes philosophical about a number of subjects relating to Valve, including Half-Life as a response to the dumbing down of the FPS genre, the decision to make TF2 free to play and what he expects of CS: GO. One of the more interesting parts of the interview, however, is what he has to say about piracy. You see, Newell doesn’t view piracy as that big of an issue for Valve:

“In general, we think there is a fundamental misconception about piracy. Piracy is almost always a service problem and not a pricing problem. For example, if a pirate offers a product anywhere in the world, 24 x 7, purchasable from the convenience of your personal computer, and the legal provider says the product is region-locked, will come to your country 3 months after the US release, and can only be purchased at a brick and mortar store, then the pirate’s service is more valuable. Most DRM solutions diminish the value of the product by either directly restricting a customers use or by creating uncertainty. Our goal is to create greater service value than pirates, and this has been successful enough for us that piracy is basically a non-issue for our company.

This actually ties into something that we all talked about on a podcast, many moons ago. When it becomes just as convenient and valuable enough to get a product at a price you’re willing to pay for it as it is to steal it, piracy loses all meaning. Now, I know this is a touchy subject (and we always talk about how touchy of a subject it is), but as much as I do what I can to distance myself from piracy, I at least acknowledge that video game companies don’t always handle this well.

However, given the recent admission from CD Projekt that DRM-less Witcher 2 was pirated 4.5 million times, does anybody have any idea at all how to make their products more valuable than free? What say you guys? Weigh in and keep it tidy. Go!

Source – TCS

Gabe Newell’s Most Inspirational Games

Gabe Newell

When it comes to games, everyone’s got that list of a handful of titles that has influenced the way they view themselves as gamers, and to some extent individuals. I know that sounds a bit heavy, but I know that I have movies and music albums that have really affected me, and it’s just the same with games.

Have you ever wondered how your favorite developers feel are their most influential games? In a new feature titled Game Changers, CVG asks Valve founder Gabe Newell what his 3 favorite games of all time are. His answers? Star Trek on a Burroughs Mainframe, Doom and Super Mario 64, which convinced him that games are art (he still considers the controls to be unrivaled).

I’m glad that Gabe Newell and I are in total agreement about Super Mario 64, which still stands as probably the greatest platformer I’ve ever played. Other influential games for me as a gamer would happen to be KOTOR, Final Fantasy VII and Counter-Strike.

So what about you guys? What games have influenced you the most? What movies? Books? No holds barred!

Source – CVG

Today’s Awesome: Gabe Newell Chats with High Schoolers

Count me jealous. Last week, Gabe Newell, Darth Valve himself, did a teleconference with Tippecanoe Valley High School’s sports and entertainment marketing class. I’m not sure how this class got so lucky as to get 40 minutes of the CEO’s time, but they get schooled in some great lessons about digital marketing and online experimentation.

This is seriously some fascinating stuff. There are a few generic questions like “what’s your favorite video game”, etc., but eventually Newell digs into the nitty gritty, talking specifically about TF2’s marketplace as well as his background at Microsoft. It’s crazy to think that this guy now runs a company worth something between 2 to 4 billion dollars. For real, give this a watch.

Valve Rewards Team Fortress 2 Community Contributors with Lots of Zeroes

Golden WrenchWow. This is one of those stories that just oozes awesome. It’s like our “Today’s WTF” topics, but in a totally different way.

If you are a lover of Team Fortress 2, then you’ll recall that Valve launched an in-game store for virtual items, Mann Co. Store. The coolest thing about this marketplace is that it allowed users to buy items for the game that they didn’t feel like earning over the course of time. So basically, the items could either be earned for free, or bought to skip all that grinding.

As part of the launch of this new business model, Valve participated in the Polycount item contest, where users competed to see whose items could make it into the game. Well, it turns out that the five winners not only got their items added to the game, but also to the Mann Co. Store, where other users could purchase them… and Valve gave the content creators a 25% revenue share.

It added up pretty quickly. Continue reading Valve Rewards Team Fortress 2 Community Contributors with Lots of Zeroes

Valve Says Let Gamers Fund Games

valveA growing topic within the video game industry this generation has been the rising cost of development. This leads not only to higher prices, but to publishers being less willing to take a chance on new properties. Heck, it was just revealed last week that Crackdown, which sold 1.5 million copes and then some, just barely broke even. To me, this is a primary reason why this generation needs to last for a long time (imagine how expensive the next next-gen games will be), but I digress.

However, Valve’s Gabe Newell has recently spoken about something that he feels is an alternative: gamers becoming investors that fund the making of games. Right now, the current model works with a developer going to a publisher with an idea, and getting a commitment of millions based on the concept. What Gabe is proposing is that gamers would become that investor, thus eliminating the middle man and producing an open relationship between the creative and the consumer.

While I think this is an interesting idea on paper, I can’t really see it working. It seems to me that gamers would only really want to pay money up front for a game that they are sure of, and if there’s that kind of demand, there is probably a publisher willing to back it anyway. I mean, who would fund Katamari Damacy based on the premise of a guy pushing around a ball of garbage? You get the point.

Anywho, what do you guys think of this? Is Valve on to something here?

Source- Kotaku