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Gabe Newell

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Original author: 
Sean Hollister

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Three months ago, celebrated video game publisher Valve did something completely out of character: it fired up to 25 workers, in what one employee dubbed the "great cleansing." At the time, co-founder Gabe Newell quickly reassured gamers that the company wouldn't be canceling any projects, but it just so happens that one project managed to get away.

Valve was secretly working on a pair of augmented reality glasses... and those glasses are still being built by two Valve employees who lost their jobs that day.

"This is what I'm going to build come hell or high water."

Former Valve hardware engineer Jeri Ellsworth and programmer Rick Johnson spent over a year working on the project at Valve, and have been putting in six days a week, 16+...

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Original author: 
Amar Toor

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Valve has begun testing new biofeedback technologies based on a player's sweat levels and eye movements, as part of the company's ongoing efforts to incorporate user emotions into gameplay. As VentureBeat reports, Mike Ambinder, Valve's resident experimental psychologist, discussed the developments at last week's NeuroGaming Conference and Expo, held in San Francisco.

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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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Uncy Gabe
Penny Arcade’s new games journalism site (note the lack of capitalisation), the PA Report, has kicked off with an interview with Uncy Gabe of Valve’s new beard. Most interviews with the newly hirsute Newell have some form of forward looking speculation about the industry, because that’s the way his mind works, and Newell’s take on hardware shows that the Valve hivemeind are contemplating how best to serve customers hardware as well as software. Though Newell observes that “It’s definitely not the first thought that crosses our mind”, Valve’s biofeedback experiments have been so successful that they are, if no-one else does it adequately, prepared to sell the hardware themselves.

“It’s not a question of whether or not this is going to be useful for customers, whether or not it’s going to be useful for content developers, you know, it’s figuring out the best way we can get these into people’s hands.”

But how could that happen?

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About

2/10 Would Not Bang is an image macro series in which photos of physically attractive women (and occasionally men) are scrutinized for minor or imagined flaws, prefaced by an ironically low rating on a scale of one to ten. The images are meant to parody hypocritical judgments made about women’s sex appeal on the Internet.

Origin

The rise in popularity of the phrase “would not bang” can be attributed to the advice animal series Butthurt Dweller, which represents Internet commenters who are smug and judgmental about the physical appearance of others. On August 4th, 2011, a Butthurt Dweller Quickmeme[14] image was submitted with the caption “‘That bitch got fat since high school, would not bang’ / 90 lbs overweight” (shown left). On September 15th, another Butthurt Dweller image with the caption “6/10 / Would Not Bang” (shown right) was submitted to the image macro site Meme Generator.[12]

On January 3rd, 2012, a thread titled “Would not bang” was submitted to 4chan’s[1] /b/ (random) board, which featured a photo of actress, model and WWE fighter Stacy Keibler.[2] The image was captioned in red text with criticisms of subtle details in the photo and the words “2/10 / Would Not Bang” in white. The thread received 545 replies prior to being archived, many of which included new versions of the meme.

Precursor: Sharp Knees

On June 23rd, 2004, a photo gallery of Playboy model Carla Harvey was submitted to the Internet humor site Fark[13], to which user studman69 replied:

“I definitely would NOT hit it. Just look at those sharp knees. She is way below my standard.”

The comment became an ironic catchphrase on the site and inspired photoshopped screenshots of the comment with images of unattractive men.

Spread

On January 3rd, 2012, a post titled “2/10 would not bang girls” was submitted to the /r/4chan[3] subreddit, which included images from the original 4chan thread posted earlier that same day. On January 4th, a compilation of “would not bang” examples was submitted to FunnyJunk.[5] On January 7th, Body Building[7] forum user KuRdiSh created a thread titled “2/10 WOULD NOT BANG (pic)”, featuring the original image of Stacy Keibler from 4chan. On January 24th, the Internet humor blog UpRoxx[8] published an article titled “Meme Watch: ‘2/10, Would Not Bang’ Is Here to Help Point Out The Flaws You Might Have Missed”, which applauded the meme for parodying Internet commenters’ hyper-criticism of beauty. The following day, Slacktory[9] writer Cole Stryker published an article titled “2/10 Would Not Bang: 4chan’s Funniest New Meme”, which included several examples of the series.

The meme has continued to spread on sites like FunnyJunk[16] and Tumblr[6] under the tag “#would not bang.” As of April 24th, 2012, a Facebook[15] page for “2/10 Would NOT BANG” has received 192 likes.

Notable Examples


Derivative: Would Bang

On January 23rd, a photo of Valve co-founder Gabe Newell featuring the caption “10/10, would bang” reached the front page of the /r/gaming[17] subreddit, accumulating over 800 up votes in less than 24 hours. Several other inverse editions of “would not bang” have since been created with unflattering photographs.

Derivative: Would Not X

On January 26th, The Huffington Post[10] published a post titled “2/10 Would Not Bang Meme: What Else Won’t People Do?”, which included variations of the series including “would not eat”, “would not save” and “would not date” derivatives.

  

Search Interest

Searches for “would not bang” were relatively low in volume until January of 2012, the same month the earliest “2/10, would not bang” derivatives appeared.

External References

[1] Chanarchive – Would not bang (nsfw)

[2] Wikipedia – Stacy Keibler

[3] Reddit – 2/10 WOULD NOT BANG – GIRLS

[4] imgur – 2/10 WOULD NOT BANG

[5] FunnyJunk – Would Not Bang

[6] Tumblr – #would not bang

[7] Body Building Forums – 2/10 WOULD NOT BANG

[8] UpRoxx – 2/10 would not bang Is Here To Help Point Out The Flaws You May Have Missed

[9] Slacktory – 2/10 Would Not Bang 4chans Funniest New Meme

[10] The Huffington Post – 2/10 Would Not Bang Meme What Else Won’t People Do?

[11] Wicked Fire – I review chicks 2/10 would not bang

[12] Meme Generator – 6/10

[13] Fark – Playboy hottie: Carla Harvey

[14] Quickmeme – That bitch got fat since high school

[15] Facebook – 2/10 Would NOT BANG

[16] FunnyJunk – would not bang

[17] Reddit – Would do, indeed

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Crafting systems have become a fixture in modern game design, but not all such systems are created equal. In this article I ask some fundamental questions about what benefits crafting brings, and provide case studies of both good and bad examples.

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About

Unimpressed Astronaut is an advice animal image macro series depicting an astronaut walking on the moon. Delivered in a patronizing tone similar to that of Condescending Wonka, the captions juxtapose typical stories or grievances about long-distance traveling with the modern scientific milestone of the Moon landing.

Origin

Stemming from the Advantages of Science series on Reddit, the Unimpressed Astronaut is solely centered around the 1972 photograph of NASA astronaut John Young saluting the American flag during his Apollo 16 mission[1] in 1972. Following his journey to the Moon, Young went on to command the Space Shuttle Columbia’s maiden flight as well as the first Spacelab mission, STS-9, and spent 835 total hours in space.

The first instance of the image macro was posted to Reddit[3] on December 1st, 2011, linking to a Quickmeme[4] page for the macro. The original caption “Oh, you spent 6 weeks abroad in Europe? That’s nice.” is derived from a stand-up skit by comedian Brian Regan. At the end of his monologue, he talks about how he wished he was an astronaut so when friends recount their stories, he could respond, “that’s nice, I walked on the moon.”

Spread

In the span of a few days in early December, several more threads[5] were submitted to both the Advice Animals and Atheism subreddits. It was submitted to FunnyJunk on December 3rd, 2011[2], the same day instances began to be shared on Tumblr.[6] In the following days, various compilations of Unimpressed Astronaut images were posted on humor blogs and news sites like The Atlantic, Pleated Jeans and The Chive. On December 8th, the single topic blog Unimpressed Astronaut was launched to curate notable examples of the image macro series. Additional images can be found on Memebase, BuzzFeed and 9gag among others, as well as under the Tumblr hashtag “Unimpressed Astronaut.” As of July 2012, the Quickmeme page hosts more than 2,500 instances of the meme.

Notable Examples


Search Interest

External References

[1]NASA – From Gemini to Shuttle: John Young Retires

[2] FunnyJunk – Unimpressed Astronaut

[3] Reddit – Reddit, I Present Unimpressed Astronaut

[4] Quickmeme – Unimpressed Astronaut

[5] Reddit – Search for Unimpressed Astronaut

[6] Tumblr – Posts tagged “Unimpressed Astronaut”

[7] The Atlantic – Unimpressed Astronaut Meme

[8] Pleated Jeans – Best of Unimpressed Astronaut

[9] The Chive – The Unimpressed Astronaut Meme

[10] BuzzFeed – The Unimpressed Astronaut Meme

[11] Memebase – Unimpressed Astronaut

[12] 9gag – Unimpressed Astronaut

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Chair Entertainment co-founder Donald Mustard speaks about the development of the iOS mega-sequel, the need to stop crunching during development, learning from what fans want, and how Japan is beating the West in design.

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“I started developing Monaco in October [2009], and in 15 plus weeks, it won IGF,” began Andy Schatz of Pocketwatch Games during an Independent Games Summit talk at GDC 2011. Though the game is not yet released, working on Monaco got him out of a depressive rut, and wound up being his saving grace – and it only took him 15 weeks to make the build that won the grand prize at the IGF in 2010.

“I was depressed,” he admitted. “Not clinically depressed … but I was in a huge rut.” He’d been independent for a few years, he had an employee, and he was making a game called Venture: Dinosauria, “and it sucked,” he said. He had to fire the employee, and he ran out of money.

“If I’m not there now, I may as well give up,” he thought, after 5 years being an indie. So he took a break to do other fun things. “I started working on board games. I think board game design is a really fantastic way to get up your designer juices,” he said.

The first board game he made was with African animals. “Finally I got to the point where I’d been working for 5 years on animal games,” he said, with kids as main audience. “But there was this one game I’d had in the back of my mind for years and years, but it was about stealing shit. So I’d lose my entire audience immediately.” But he went for it, and made a Monaco board game.

“I’m gonna make that heist game in XNA,” he thought, and started working on it for fun. He started out by trying to use Torque, “which I think was a mistake,” he admitted “If you prototype in an engine which enforces a certain type of look, you’ll wind up making that game.” He made it just in XNA which kept him out of that rut.

“A couple days later, I’m having a great time working on it,” he said. “Another problem with Dinosauria was that the scale was too big. I was trying to make the game, the game of my life. … I think that was invariably a mistake. It’s very good to have ambitions, but it’s bad to set too many expectations for yourself at the beginning of a project.”

Monaco, which was initially his diversion, became a much better presence in his life. “I made sure to work on one cool thing every day,” he said. “One thing that made it happy, one thing that was awesome, and made the game better. I made sure I worked on one cool thing per day, and I made sure the game was better every day after I was done.”

“I got much further because I was enjoying myself,” he says. In terms of making the game better, one of the best things you can do is to “have people playing your game from like day two,” says Schatz.

“There’s two types of people you should have play your games, first is your advisors, and you can’t have too many of those because you’ll get conflicting information. For me very early on Dan Paladin from The Behemoth helped out,” he said. “He kept the game from being more cerebral, which is what I tend to do, and made it more arcade and snappier.”

“The other kind you want is people who don’t know shit about games,” he joked. “You don’t want their advice necessarily, but what you do want is their impressions. Their experience with the game, and their impressions are always right.” Schatz asks them three questions: “What did you like, what did you not like, and what confused you.” Those things are always right every time, he says.

Schatz had $150k in the bank when he went indie, and through the next five years, he had gotten down to $40k. “At 31 years old when you’re about to get married, and you’re thinking you might have kids in a few years, having $40k in the bank starts to look pretty scary,” he said. He had to do some contract work to build up his finances again, which he says “makes you rich, but is not fun. “

“If you work on a game that’s really cool, you’ll either get recognition or you’ll make money,” says Schatz. But if you make a game to just make money, you’ll either fail, or you’ll make money. “So the way I see it is that if you make a game just to make money, that’s actually riskier.”

At the end, Monaco made him less depressed, “The big reason is that I focused on enjoying my job every day. Every day I built something I thought was cool. Then 15 weeks later I won the IGF.”

When he got into a rut even with Monaco, he told himself, “You should not be not enjoying your job right now! Fuck it! Do something awesome. I made my first game when I was 7, and I’ll make my last game when I die.”

 

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