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Old 04-24-2012, 12:52 AM   #1
cementino
 
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Considerations on the New Employee Handbook

Sorry in advance for the long thread.
Thanks to those fine guys at lambdageneration, I had a look at Valve's New Employee Handbook. Damn interesting read. Lots and lots of materials for thesis students. Valve in itself is a case study for any management engineer out there.
There's one concept in particular that I'd like to share here: we all knew already about the unusual organizational structure of our favorite company, but the Handbook elaborates on that. It adresses explicitly many issues raised when facing this non-traditional organizational structure. But as I was reading, something dawned on me, and I told myself "They have to be aware of this potential pitfall". While I continued reading I found it there, plain and simple:
Quote:
Short-term vs. long-term goals
Because we all are responsible for prioritizing our own work, and because we are conscientious and anxious to be valuable, as individuals we tend to gravitate toward projects that have a high, measurable, and predictable return for the company. So when there’s a clear opportunity on the
table to succeed at a near-term business goal with a clear return, we all want to take it. And, when we’re faced with a problem or a threat, and it’s one with a clear cost, it’s hard not to address it immediately. This sounds like a good thing, and it often is, but it has some downsides that are worth keeping in mind. Specifically, if we’re not careful, these traits can cause us to race back and forth between short-term opportunities and threats, being responsive rather than proactive.
So our lack of a traditional structure comes with an important responsibility. It’s up to all of us to spend effort focusing on what we think the long-term goals of the company should be.
So all the particles that make the Valve cloud obviously do not move with Brownian motion from one project to another. There are inherent mechanics and emerging behaviours set in motion by the laws established for the inner workings of the company.
In other words, I think this is what happened to Episode 3.

On one side, you have the heavy inheritance of HL2 and the episodes, with all the emotional baggage they bring with them, and the plot, the gigantic overarching story behind that universe. On the other side you have a quick game, Portal, surprisingly successful, involving new mechanics and new gameplay concepts beyond the "simple" FPS genre, offering a huge potential for innovation.
Or, consider L4D instead of Portal: huge success, new teamplay concepts, the AI director, all this stuff in a game which took comparatively a short time to release (and consider how short the timespan was between L4D and L4D2, which confirms this).

In an organization where nobody tells you what to do, where you choose your own path, what would you rather work on? The highly anticipated sequel, burdened by its predecessors fame, or the comparatively shorter term projects involving exciting new possibilities? Of course, you could weave new concepts and new gameplay modes in Episode 3 as well, but in the case of Portal and L4D they are already there, easier to achieve, you just have to expand on the work done on the first two games, which barely scratch the surface of the possibilities contained within the new mechanics.
I can therefore imagine how many people unplugged their computers and moved their desks to the Portal 2 or L4D2 teams corner, while Episode 3, being a long term goal full of plot ends that need to meet somewhere, with a smaller innovation potential and a lot of uncomfortable background to accomodate, in short "the old thing", got cornered and somehow forgotten.

We kept saying "well, there's many people at Valve, and if a certain amount is working for L4D, TF2, or Portal 2 doesn't mean there's nobody working on Episode 3". True, but with the insight on the inner workings of Valve that this Handbook gives us, I can definitely see how Episode 3 as a project would appeal less than other projects and suffer from that. In fact, I think definitely Ep3 suffered from this potential pitfall in short vs long term focus deriving from the organizational structure at Valve, which would be my take home message for this drivel.

Again, sorry for the loooooooong post.
What do you guys think?

Last edited by cementino: 04-24-2012 at 12:57 AM. Reason: How do I edit the title?! Ok, found it.
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:44 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by cementino View Post

In an organization where nobody tells you what to do, where you choose your own path, what would you rather work on? The highly anticipated sequel, burdened by its predecessors fame, or the comparatively shorter term projects involving exciting new possibilities? Of course, you could weave new concepts and new gameplay modes in Episode 3 as well, but in the case of Portal and L4D they are already there, easier to achieve, you just have to expand on the work done on the first two games, which barely scratch the surface of the possibilities contained within the new mechanics.

I can therefore imagine how many people unplugged their computers and moved their desks to the Portal 2 or L4D2 teams corner, while Episode 3, being a long term goal full of plot ends that need to meet somewhere, with a smaller innovation potential and a lot of uncomfortable background to accomodate, in short "the old thing", got cornered and somehow forgotten.
Maybe. The thing I took away from it is that any "burden" isn't really the reason why everyone isn't trying to churn it out. Instead, they're doing projects that they think will benefit the company most. They've diversified to help grow the business, and to ensure the long-term stability of the company.

Honestly, I wish they would have had that hand book years ago, because now I can understand why it's taking so long, and I can support their actions.
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:53 AM   #3
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Maybe. The thing I took away from it is that any "burden" isn't really the reason why everyone isn't trying to churn it out.
I don't think they do it intentionally either. More in a subconscious way.

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Instead, they're doing projects that they think will benefit the company most. They've diversified to help grow the business, and to ensure the long-term stability of the company.
I agree, what transpires from this document is that they pay attention to the areas they focus on based on the outcome to the customers and the company in the long term too. What I think is inevitable is that at an individual level, people who choose which project to work on (or to start entirely from scratch) might be driven to the ones that promise the most possible innovative outcome with the less constraints.

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Honestly, I wish they would have had that hand book years ago, because now I can understand why it's taking so long, and I can support their actions.
Amen to that, it was very insightful. I wouldn't be surprised if that particular paragraph was put there because they realized what happened with Episode 3. It makes so much more sense than simply and only "We do not say anything 'cause people are going to be disappointed anyway".

Also, welcome to the forums!

Last edited by cementino: 04-24-2012 at 02:29 AM.
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Old 04-24-2012, 02:02 AM   #4
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Actually nobody ever left the Ep3 development team.
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:25 AM   #5
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Actually nobody ever left the Ep3 development team.
My personal opinion is if they have in fact been working on ep.3 this whole time even if it is just a few people shouldn't it have been out by now. I think they were planning on releasing ep.3 but they got side tracked (portal 2, L4D, L4D2) looking out for the companies best interests. But before they knew it 5 years had gone by and now with Dota 2, Counter Strike GO on there plate its way past the episodes faze. With the HALF LIFE series being there destroyer(flag) ship series they feel like they need to impress us once more with it. I'm not sure they can still do that on same old Source engine. Not to mention this generation of consoles is on its last leg. Even tho VALVe is primarily a pc first company they are now moving towards a multi platform organization. So when Dota 2 and Counter strike GO are out and done with I think we will start to hear about MAYBE a new engine and a HL sequel.
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Old 04-24-2012, 03:43 AM   #6
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It sounds like it simply became more ambitious. At some point in development it became so ambitious that they released they would have to redo the whole thing, because it wasn't fitting into the old model.

But it really should be released within the next year.
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Old 04-24-2012, 05:55 AM   #7
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No, everybody, who is working on Ricochet 2, continues to work on Ricochet 2 *laughs*
Valve sometimes just needs time to create awesome games, that's why they had 4(?) different Version of TF2 :P
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Old 04-24-2012, 05:59 AM   #8
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"Same old Source engine"? The engine is about how it works, not how it looks. And I can still feel the potential in it.
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Old 04-24-2012, 09:38 AM   #9
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I'm not sure they can still do that on same old Source engine.
The engine has gone through a dozen versions at least since it appeared. It is not the same Source engine. Suggesting that it is makes only slightly more sense than referring to it as id Tech 1.
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Old 04-24-2012, 10:10 AM   #10
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There might have been some issues with not having enough support from the team -- that was definitely my assumption until recently -- but I get the impression from Gabe's comments that they're actually just struggling to re-invent the wheel again.

The episodes were good, but they were really just more Half-Life 2. I think Valve probably felt like they were resting too much on their laurels, and now they're trying to really wow us again.

Granted, I don't have any evidence for this aside from trying to read into Gabe's comments about it. It's just the impression I've gotten.
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Old 04-24-2012, 11:03 AM   #11
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Gabe already said everyone who was working on Half-Life continues to work on Half-Life, nobody wheeled away to work on something else.

Additionally unless they are building a brand new engine(Source 2) a new Half-Life game would be no less work intensive than Portal 2.

But think about it now, it seems like Half-Life 3 is a given now, they are no longer simply trying to make a great episode, they are trying to make a game that can rival the impact of Half-Life and Half-Life 2. This is clearly no easy task, and I can imagine why they are constantly shifting plans and ideas trying to figure out exactly how to get this done.

If I remember right Gabe had said before that HL2 (Or Half-Life?) was 2 1/2 years having no idea what they were doing and 2 1/2 of actual development, I can imagine a similar scenario happening now.
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Old 04-24-2012, 11:59 AM   #12
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You know, a certain Valve'er gave me reputation for making this post in regards the booklet reference in another thread:

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Pretty sure that the HL3 't-shirt' is a running joke within Valve now.
I think we are really looking into the reference in the booklet a little too much. It is a running joke within Valve - and I would imagine we are at the butt end of that joke!

Although maybe the rep is Valve trying to tell us something else.

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Originally Posted by Gloone View Post
It sounds like it simply became more ambitious. At some point in development it became so ambitious that they released they would have to redo the whole thing, because it wasn't fitting into the old model.

But it really should be released within the next year.
It always sounded to me as if, at some point, development of the next instalment of Half Life was stalled and ultimately scrapped - with Valve going right back to the drawing board on the matter.

The true story will all come out in time in anycase - and it will be an interesting tale for sure.

Last edited by Sierra Oscar: 04-24-2012 at 12:15 PM.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:21 PM   #13
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Gabe already said everyone who was working on Half-Life continues to work on Half-Life, nobody wheeled away to work on something else.
I need to listen to the interview again but i think what he was saying is that everyone who was working on it is currently working on it now.

Not that everyone that was working on it was always working on it.

A big difference in meaning.
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Old 04-24-2012, 12:53 PM   #14
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You know, a certain Valve'er gave me reputation for making this post in regards the booklet reference in another thread:



I think we are really looking into the reference in the booklet a little too much. It is a running joke within Valve - and I would imagine we are at the butt end of that joke!

Although maybe the rep is Valve trying to tell us something else.



It always sounded to me as if, at some point, development of the next instalment of Half Life was stalled and ultimately scrapped - with Valve going right back to the drawing board on the matter.

The true story will all come out in time in anycase - and it will be an interesting tale for sure.
I'm glad they're having so much fun at our expense.
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Old 04-24-2012, 01:10 PM   #15
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No, everybody, who is working on Ricochet 2, continues to work on Ricochet 2 *laughs*
Actually, I think that part was about Ricochet 2.
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