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Gabe Newell, the co-founder and managing director of Valve, the videogame development and online distribution company, made a rare appearance last night at Casual Connect, an annual videogame conference in Seattle.

Newell, who spent 13 years at Microsoft working on Windows, is not well-known outside of the videogame industry, but the company he has built in Bellevue, Wash., cannot be overlooked.

Valve is not only a game developer, producing megahits like Portal 2, it owns and operates Steam, which is the largest consumer-focused digital games distribution platform in the industry. By some measures, it may be valued at $3 billion.

Last night, at a dinner sponsored by Covert & Co., Google Ventures and Perkins Coie, Newell unveiled some of his most quirky and secretive projects in an interview onstage with Ed Fries, former VP of game publishing at Microsoft.

Newell, who has a desk on wheels so he can quickly roll over to his favorite projects within the company, struggled at times to put into words how he sees the industry shaking out as companies like Microsoft and Apple move toward closed ecosystems. At one point, he even lamented that his presentation skills aren’t up to speed because Valve isn’t a public company.

Here are excerpts from the conversation that took place in a packed and noisy room with an under-powered speaker system:

On the future of videogame distribution

“Everything we are doing is not going to matter in the future. … We think about knitting together a platform for productivity, which sounds kind of weird, but what we are interested in is bringing together a platform where people’s actions create value for other people when they play. That’s the reason we hired an economist.

“We think the future is very different [from] successes we’ve had in the past. When you are playing a game, you are trying to think about creating value for other players, so the line between content player and creator is really fuzzy. We have a kid in Kansas making $150,000 a year making [virtual] hats. But that’s just a starting point.

“That causes us to have conversations with Adobe, and we say the next version of Photoshop should look like a free-to-play game, and they say, ‘We have absolutely no idea what you are talking about, but it sounds really bad.’ And, then we say, ‘No, no, no. We think you are going to increase the value being created to your users, and you will create a market for their goods on a worldwide basis.’ But that takes a longer sell.

“This isn’t about videogames; it’s about thinking about goods and services in a digital world.”

On closed versus open platforms

“In order for innovation to happen, a bunch of things that aren’t happening on closed platforms need to occur. Valve wouldn’t exist today without the PC, or Epic, or Zynga, or Google. They all wouldn’t have existed without the openness of the platform. There’s a strong tempation to close the platform, because they look at what they can accomplish when they limit the competitors’ access to the platform, and they say ‘That’s really exciting.’”

“We are looking at the platform and saying, ‘We’ve been a free rider, and we’ve been able to benefit from everything that went into PCs and the Internet, and we have to continue to figure out how there will be open platforms.’”

On Valve’s interest in Linux

“The big problem that is holding back Linux is games. People don’t realize how critical games are in driving consumer purchasing behavior.

“We want to make it as easy as possible for the 2,500 games on Steam to run on Linux as well. It’s a hedging strategy. I think Windows 8 is a catastrophe for everyone in the PC space. I think we’ll lose some of the top-tier PC/OEMs, who will exit the market. I think margins will be destroyed for a bunch of people. If that’s true, then it will be good to have alternatives to hedge against that eventuality.

On the evolution of touch

“We think touch is short-term. The mouse and keyboard were stable for 25 years, but I think touch will be stable for 10 years. Post-touch will be stable for a really long time, longer than 25 years.

“Post touch, depending on how sci-fi you want to get, is a couple of different technologies combined together. The two problems are input and output. I haven’t had to do any presentations on this because I’m not a public company, so I don’t have any pretty slides.

“There’s some crazy speculative stuff. This is super nerdy, and you can tease us years from now, but as it turns out, your tongue is one of the best mechanical systems to your brain, but it’s disconcerting to have the person sitting next you go blah, blah, blah, blah.

“I don’t think tongue input will happen, but I do think we will have bands on our wrists, and you’ll be doing something with your hands, which are really expressive.”

On wearable computers

“I can go into the room and put on the $70,000 system we’ve built, and I look around the room with the software they’ve written, and they can overlay information on objects regardless of what my head or eyes are doing. Your eyes are troublesome buggers.”

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Click here to read I'd Play This Game Even If It Wasn't Called <em>Drunken Robot Pornography</em>

When Dejobaan Games, the developer behind The Wonderful End of the World and AaaaaAAaaaAAAaaAAAAaAAAAA!!! - A Reckless Disregard for Gravity create a first-person shooter that's all about building and demolishing gigantic robots, they don't need to name it Drunken Robot Pornography to get my attention; the name it Drunken Robot Pornography because there's something wrong with them. More »

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Click here to read Another Glimpse at the Future of Video Game Planets

Tinkering around with Directx 11, Romanian developer Silviu Andrei is building an engine capable of rendering not corridors, or arenas, but entire planets. More »

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Sos Sosowski has released Super Office Stress, a unique action-roguelike in which players fight, steal, and eat their way to the top of the corporate ladder.

A product of the Indie Buskers campaign, Super Office Stress is quite bizarre, as you can see for yourself in the trailer above. Career advancement apparently involves slaughtering all co-workers you encounter, and any office equipment you discover can be equipped, thrown, or eaten.

So how much does the game cost? Well, that's up to chance. In a nod to the genre's luck-based gameplay, Super Office Stress can be purchased for a price determined by a virtual dice roll at the game's official website. You could end up paying as little as $1, or as much as $6. Good luck!

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Galcon series developer Phil Hassey has released a trailer for his upcoming game Dynamite Jack, offering a tantalizing glimpse of its unique brand of alien-exploding action.

Dynamite Jack (formerly Anathema Mines) is a 2D, overhead-view action game in which a lone space marine must sabotage and escape from an alien mining colony. Players are equipped with time bombs, giving the gameplay footage a feel similar to Hudson's Bomberman series and the PSone obscurity Silent Bomber, with bonus stealth mechanics.

Dynamite Jack will be released for Windows and Mac in May.

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Hamilton's Great Adventure developer Fatshark announced that its tactical action-RPG Krater will premiere for Windows platforms via Steam on June 12th, with a Mac release to follow in July.

Built on a foundation of "crafting, exploration and consequence," Fatshark promises a cooperative, survival-based experience in which players can level up their characters, but risk permanent injuries and death during dangerous encounters. Follow-up episodes will be released as downloadable content starting later this year.

Fatshark plans to release a preorder-exclusive beta version of Krater shortly before the game's launch in June.

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Hear the idea of creating a car sound, and you might imagine a sound designer working on a video game or film. Imagining that person producing a sound for an actual car could sound like a joke. But as today’s vehicles go silent – whisper-quiet electric cars to human-powered bicycles – the problem of imagining noises for them to make becomes deadly serious.

Our brains are wired to respond quickly to sound, so when cars suddenly don’t make any noise, alerting us to their presence is a serious issue. Audi’s engineers are working on that problem in the video here (thanks to reader Vadim Nuniyants for the tip!):

Audi’s future e-tron models will cover long distances powered by practically silent electric motors. To ensure that pedestrians in urban settings will hear them, the brand has developed a synthetic solution: Audi e-sound.

Audi’s not alone, either; it’s a safe assumption that many electric makers are working on this problem. Cyclists may want to consider it, too, though mechanical solutions (letting the wheels produce a click) and the old-fashioned bell aren’t a bad start. Before the TV show Portlandia poked fun at Portland, readers chuckled at an open source synth out of PDX that produces sounds for a bike – but now, automaker Audi is basically doing just that with real cars. The video of that solution (which isn’t really such a bad idea – now we just need extra lights):

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Shadow Planet Productions' BAFTA-winning, Metroidvania-styled shooter Insanely Twisted Shadow Planet is on its way to PC platforms "very soon," with a bonus gameplay mode in tow.

Developers Michel Gagne and Joe Olson noted that the PC port is awaiting a release date and is otherwise "ready to go" in a recent Nintendojo podcast. The game will be released via Steam, and will include the "Shadow Hunters" cooperative challenge mode DLC for free.

[via Joystiq]

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After a short delay, Nyu Media's localized shoot-'em-up compilation The eXceed Collection is now available for purchase directly through exceed.com.

The eXceed Collection includes Tennen-sozai's bullet-hell doujin shooters eXceed: Gun Bullet Children, eXceed 2nd: Vampire REX, and eXceed 3rd: Jade Penetrate Black Package, all of which should prove quite challenging, if the above playthrough is of any indication. The game's soundtracks were recently released as digital downloads at Bandcamp.

The eXceed Collection is priced at $9.99. The games may also be purchased individually for $4.99 each. Releases for other distribution platforms will be announced soon.

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Developer Dare Manojlovic has released new gameplay footage for the upcoming Altitude0, an aerial racing title that looks to be shaping up quite nicely.

Much of the game's challenge involves maintaining a steady flight path at a low altitude, though the obstacles strewn throughout each course certainly don't make things any easier. "It can be quite challenging to avoid trees while flying just above forests," creator Manojlovic notes. "So it's important that you think and feel like an air race pilot, maneuvering your plane swiftly in the air, rolling and spinning to avoid obstacles."

It looks like it could be a lot of fun -- the stunt-based racing gives me a strong Pilotwings vibe, which is always a good thing. No release date for Altitude0 has been announced.

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