Linked by Thom Holwerda on Sun 9th Jul 2017 09:37 UTC
Games

PC Gamer has an article up about the failure of SteamOS, and it serves as a good anchor to talk about Valve in general.

"The fundamental reasons that Valve cares about SteamOS haven't gone away, and we continue our work to expand it," Valve said in a statement to PC Gamer. I had asked if SteamOS was still a priority, how many people were working on it, and if Windows 10 changed Valve's approach. "The launch of Steam Machines taught us a lot about what Steam customers value in hardware. Right now we're continuing to work on SteamOS as a product, with over 96 updates and 3,525 games released. We have many incentives for those making SteamOS titles and we see a bright future for SteamOS, especially in VR."

The comment about VR is interesting, as the new tech is clearly Valve's present focus. If SteamOS can provide a better VR experience than Windows, and VR technology proves itself more popular in the future, perhaps the OS has a shot of resurging with a new round of 'SteamVR Machines'. But the success of SteamVR isn't a sure thing, either.

The problem with Valve is that they are the technology company equivalent of a toddler - kind of cute and adorable (if they're not yours), but easily distracted, unfocused, and kind of living in their own fantasy world. Valve wanders from left to right, never committing to anything, just doing whatever it fancies. That would be completely fine if it wasn't for the fact that it strings partners and consumers along for the ride - only to jump off midway, leaving the ride to slowly come to a grinding halt in the middle of nowhere.

While the company devoted time and money to SteamOS and SteamVR, it let its most important piece of software - the Steam client - languish, to the point where it's now probably the most unusable piece of software on any Windows PC. It's slow, ugly, bloated, confusing, overly complex verging on the unusable, and in general just frustrating and cumbersome to use. In fact - and some people might balk at this - but EA's Origin client has improved so much over the years, that it's much nicer, cleaner, and easier to use now than the Steam client ever was. I will fight you on this.

And, of course, they left us at one of the biggest cliffhangers in gaming, and we have no Half-life 3. No Portal 3. No Left 4 Dead 3. No new IP. Nothing. We cry foul at EA, Ubisoft, and Bethesda for being unoriginal, but meanwhile, continue to treat Valve like the greatest gaming company in history, even though they haven't released a new game and haven't introduced a new IP in a long, long time.

It's high time Valve demonstrates that it actually cares about its customers, by improving Steam or releasing games we actually want - or in general just by showing some damn follow-through for once, or at least being open about plans for the future so we know what we can expect before we plonk down a bunch of cash for the next shiny they're peddling.

As it stands now, Valve isn't showing any signs that it cares about the fans of its games, and as the competition catches up to and races past Steam in user experience, the resentment grows ever deeper. Yes, the headline is harsh, but I can't find any sign that it's not true.

Sure, Steam is the giant of PC gaming today - but no giant remains standing forever.

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rationalmonkey
Member since:
2016-05-05

OK, lets break this down by parts:
a) value as a company
b) the steam client
c) steam os
d) valve and VR
e) value as a game company
f) valve's past IP

a) valve as a company is a company with a very simple vision - make money, focus on the games arena (or anything else gabe gets into), and hire fewer more talented people over becoming very large.

they were into digital distribution because Gabe wanted to be ... and the hit it big with that and it became the only thing that will ever matter to their bottom line.

b) the steam client has some definite usability issues for certain use cases, but some people, like myself don't like the world of constant change. some of us would prefer companies slowly improve things within a framework than make us learn whole new interfaces every couple of years. any major redo valve considers runs the risk of alienating more people than it pleases. and I can't imaging anyone calling the current client bordering on unusable - it works extremely well for all of the primary use cases.

c) steam os is another story and it hasn't gotten the attention I wish it would. but as mentioned before, the market is tiny and that's the reason no other company has even come close to touching linux. value on the other hand has made many many games available on linux that would otherwise not be, many of which work as well or better than native linux versions. they have invested very heavily in their cross-platform compatibility libraries and porting framework and it shows. its only the OS itself that has been left to languish.

d) valve is a major player in VR, and the reason is because key people in valve want to make VR a success during their lifetime. it isn't (yet) a major profit source ... but is something they personally believe in, so they will continue to pursue it. one day some other company may make their efforts obsolete, and if so, they will have succeeded, because their goal as people is to make VR succeed, not to make valve the only source for VR.

e) valve was a game company, because that's how it started ... but game companies are made up of individuals. each great game was the vision and creation of between 1 and 10 individuals, which we helps by 10s or 100s of other individuals to bring that vision to life. some of the original game designers are no longer at valve, and at least 1 of them that is still at the company is no longer (currently) interested in doing a follow up game.

f) complaining that value isn't doing a follow up is like complaining that orson scott card isn't doing another ender book (although he probably is). or complaining that he should be writing more books, if he's decided his passion is writing plays now. creates create what their passion tells them to.

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valve being so rich isn't what keeps them from investing in making games. it's what keeps them from forcing a team to make uninspired game when they would rather being doing something else.

it has already been said before, if/when they have a great idea for another game, they will build it. (the corollary being, if not, they probably won't).

once you accept the idea that valve is a 1000 times smaller company than companies like microsoft, and on a smaller scale than companies like bethesda as well, you would about it less like a corporate machine and more like a fairly large group of individuals who have made more money than anyone ever expected, and therefore now work mainly on pursuing what interested them.

their model is more similar to a collective of Elon Musk's, if only he wasn't such an slave driving jerk.

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