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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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Waiting For Horus

As the sole programmer behind Polytron's widely-acclaimed Fez, Canadian game developer Renaud Bédard had his work cut out for him in creating a perspective-shifting 3D world using his home-grown Trixel engine. But for his next project, he's teaming up with Montreal-based audiovisual artist Aliceffekt and Henk Boom of Phosfiend Systems to create a very different (but also familiar) game experience.

Waiting For Horus is a work-in-progress from the group, and it immediately evokes the raw, cathartic glee of fast-paced mutiplayer arena games like Unreal Tournament and Quake 3. It's a genre we haven't really seen much of lately, with most modern shooters like Call of Duty relying on realistic theme park-style set pieces and Ramboesque,...

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Valve Handbook for New Employees

Game developer Valve is famous for titles like Half-Life, Team Fortress 2, and Portal — not to mention the digital delivery platform Steam — and today we've gotten a whimsical glimpse inside of the company thanks to a leaked "Handbook for New Employees." The document appears to be legitimate (it'd take a lot of work to fake something like this), and it was posted by a Flamehaus forum user alongside a supposed email from Valve's Greg Coomer that says the new book was published to "make it as easy as we could for new people to join the company."

Authenticity aside, the 56-page handbook is worth a read. Not only is it full of fantastic illustrations and step-by-step guides on things like how to take company vacations (p. 34), but it's...

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Photos by Sara Bobo

Anna Anthropy is a game developer that has one big gripe with video games. It has nothing to do with the usual litany of unsubstantiated claims about how they teach children to steal cars or gun down prostitutes. Rather, it has to do with the fact that, in the year 2012, there still really aren't many games that she (and many others) can truly relate to on a personal level.

The reason why should be obvious: Most of the people currently involved in the games industry are in the business of creating products, not art. They’re also, more often than not, middle-class white male nerds. This is precisely why Anthropy, who sometimes goes by Auntie Pixelante, has devoted herself to making games, and why in her new book, Rise of the Videogame...

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War Drum Studios is a cutting edge mobile and console game development studio in Gainesville, FL. You probably haven't heard of us, but we work with some of the largest names in the industry, including developing the iOS and Android port of Grand Theft Auto III for Rockstar Games. We're currently on the hunt for our next programming talent.

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In this article, originally published in the October 2011 issue of Game Developer magazine, we take a look at some of the recent concepts, games, companies, and services that are changing the game industry, for better or for worse.

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There are a lot of ways to make games out there. In this post I discuss what game design methods are out there and what I prefer to use. Specifically I discuss mechanics, dynamics, aesthetics, iterative design, player empathy, target market, and testing.

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Today's collection of independent game links includes more indie game previews, a couple of development updates, and the usual round-up of interviews with developers from around the 'net. (image source).

This Is My Joystick: Vlambeer Interview
"Speaking with Vlambeer, I ask them about their wacky concept for Serious Sam: The Random Encounter and how complete polar-opposites can come together and create something truly exciting and memorable."

Indie Games Channel: IndieCade 2011, Fez
"The vibrant exploration-platformer has been in development for several years now, but looks like it's finally going to get a release on Xbox Live Arcade early next year. Widely praised at this year's show, Fez took home the Grand Jury and Story/World Design awards. Following my demo, I spoke with developer Phil Fish about his influences and experience with Fez."

Ortoslon: How to record computer games for YouTube
"This tutorial distills my experience of recording playthroughs of over a hundred indie games on a low‑end desktop. Most of the tools I have come to use are free programs with graphical interfaces."

PixelProspector: The Big List Of Screenrecording Software
"Over the years I have tested lots of different Screenrecorders and have recorded hundreds of videos, so I thought it would be useful to compile a list of those programs that are recommendable. These are all commercial programs and they are superior to all available freeware programs."

DIYgamer: Xbox Live Indie Picks, Grand Class Melee Edition
"Another week, another round of Xbox Live Indie Games to sift through. Some of you will probably notice that more and more games are focused around Halloween."

Quote Unquote: Francis Coulombe Interview
"Francis Coulombe is an independent game developer that adores using pixel art in his videogames. He is a member of The Poppenkast and earlier this year, his quit his job to see if he could survive with his pixel art and game development skills."

Mersey Remakes: The State Of XBLIG
"I used to get angry about XBLIG. Mainly out of frustration. It was a wonderful thing but a wonderful thing with issues. And all of them could, in one way or another, have been fixed by Microsoft given the will."

TruePCGaming: Indie City Interview
"Scott MacKintosh from soon to be launched digital distribution platform, Indie City, was kind enough to participate in this e-mail interview. You will read how Indie City was formed, how developers can benefit from their service and thoughts about the PC gaming industry."

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