Gabe Newell Answers Gamers' Burning Questions About Valve's AI Work, Steam And Half Life 3 In reddit AMA

gabe newell
It’s not very often that we get lengthy commentary from Gabe Newell, Valve’s reclusive CEO, but things definitely took a turn for the better yesterday when he took place in a reddit AMA session. As expected, Newell took questions on a number of topics near and dear to the hearts of gamers, including the mythical Half-Life 3 which may or may not ever see the light of day. Thankfully, things progressed much better than his last AMA session in 2015.

Rather than force you to peruse through the entire AMA discussion thread to find salient comments made by Newell, we’ve compiled a thorough list here for you that hits most (if not all) of the high points during the sitdown. First of all, let’s go ahead and get to the elephant in the room: Half-Life 3:

What is the status of Half-Life 3/Half-Life 2 Episode 3? Is Valve still working on any fully-fledged single player games? An unidentified anonymous source at Valve has said that Half Life 3 has been cancelled. Is that source legitimate?

The number 3 must not be said. Yes. I personally believe all unidentified anonymous sources on the Internet.

That’s a typically evasive answer from Newell, and it definitely won’t put rumors of the game to rest. But that leads us to a question regarding the original Half-Life, which many gamers still hold with high regard even to this day. However, Newell, surprisingly (but after reading his comments, understandably) feels quite differently about the game.

What is your personal favorite Valve game/series?

I think Portal 2 is our best single-player game. I play Dota 2 the most of our multiplayer games.

That definitely sent a few shockwaves through the collective, to which Newell responded.

What do you regret about Half-Life then? That's an interesting thing to say, regarding that the HL series is one of the most critically acclaimed of all time

The issue with Half-Life for me is that I was involved in a much higher percentage of the decisions about the games, so it's hard for me to look at them as anything other than a series of things I regret. There's no information in my response about what we'll do in the future. It's simply easier for me to be a fan of things that in which I was less directive.

If you are involved in a game, everything ends up being a set of trade-offs. Anything in a game is a sacrifice of things not in the game. I just feel those more personally about Half-Life for a bunch of reasons.

And Xen.

With that being said, there’s still hope for another game in the future that takes take place in the Half-Life/Portal universe.

Any chance of a new IP that takes place in the half-life/portal universe? I feel like there’s a lot of story left to be explored there.


As for the Source 2 engine, it looks as though it will remain the driving force behind Valve’s development operations for quite some time.

Does Valve plan on doing anything with Source 2 in the coming years? If so, what?

We are continuing to use Source 2 as our primary game development environment. Aside from moving Dota 2 to the engine recently, we are are using it as the foundation of some unannounced products. We would like to have everyone working on games here at Valve to eventually be using the same engine. We also intend to continue to make the Source 2 engine work available to the broad developer community as we go, and to make it available free of charge.

But what about Steam? Gamers had plenty of thoughts on Steam and how it could be improved. Thankfully, Valve is listening.

What is your view on Steam's quality control? A statistic that nearly 40% of all Steam games were released in 2016 was recently released. In an ideal world, all of them would be top-notch - but they are clearly not.

The flood of new releases has made it tough for gamers to wade through to find good ones - and the curator system, while a step in the right direction, has not helped this issue. A fair few games released are never up to the quality one expects from PC gaming's biggest storefront.

There's really not a singular definition of quality, and what we've seen is that many different games appeal to different people. So we're trying to support the variety of games that people are interested in playing. We know we still have more work to do in filtering those games so the right games show up to the right customers.

Does Valve have any plans on making customer support better? And did you ever think of making it into live support?

Yes! We are continuing to work on improving support.

Since the last AMA, we've introduced refunds on Steam, we've grown our Support staff by roughly 5x, and we've shipped a new help site and ticketing system that makes it easier to get help. We've also greatly reduced response times on most types of support tickets and we think we've improved the quality of responses.

We definitely don't think we're done though. We still need to further improve response times and we are continually working to improve the quality of our responses. We're also working on adding more support staff in regions around the world to offer better native language support and improve response times in various regions.

Moving on, it looks like Valve has some ideas rolling around with respects to the future of virtual reality (VR) and machine learning/artificial intelligence (AI). AI is becoming an increasingly more pronounced part of our everyday digital lives, and Newell definitely sees the possibilities there.

Just a question out of curiosity really, but interested in seeing what your view is on the direction that valve as a company should take in the future? Such as what would you like to see the company achieve/what improvements would you like to see valve undergo/what role would you like to see valve serve/undertake in the industry as it evolves etc. and if any, have you made any past decisions that you look back on now that you regret/could've handled differently?

The big thing right now is broadening the range of options we have in creating experiences. We think investing in hardware will give us those options. The knuckles controller is being designed at the same time as we're designing our own VR games.

Much more narrowly, some of us are thinking about some of the AI work that is being hyped right now. Simplistically we have lots of data and compute capability that looks like the kinds of areas where machine learning should work well.

Personally I'm looking at research in brain-computer interfaces.

There’s a lot of other miscellaneous stuff that is covered in the AMA, but we think we’ve hit most of the highlights. Be sure to head over to reddit to get the Full Monty if you’re interested in seeing what makes Valve tick and what’s in store in the near term.