Gabe Newell claims users have “defeated” Valve-created content, and that’s a good thing
Gamers will create the future of gaming, Gabe Newell told an audience at this year’s D.I.C.E. summit. That’s not a figure of speech, either. Newell said Valve is re-focusing their efforts on user-generated content, and connecting players to each other in a global economy.
“When we started Valve in 1996, we kind of needed some way of thinking about our decision making. What’s a good game, what’s a better game, how do we decide where to invest our development resources,” Gabe Newell told his audience during today’s DICE keynote. “We came up with this model that served us really well in Half-Life and Half-Life 2 which was think of the ways that the game is responding to player action and player state.”
The problem, Newell said, was that this rule of thumb completely broke down when designing multiplayer games. When users are interacting and reacting to one another instead of objects and environments created by designers, prediction models become problematic. Newell brought up the example of riot shields in Counter-Strike: The team introduced the shield and player numbers rose. The team took the shield away, and numbers still rose.
Valve had no idea how to interpret the data and its significance; clearly, their hands were not the only ones guiding users. Now, Newell said, Valve is making another change in their thinking process, driven by innovations occurring not within the games industry, but by users and the Internet.
Newell brought up the example of user-generated content: “In Team Fortress 2, the community itself makes 10 times as much content as we do,” he said. “We have people who are making $500,000 a year selling things in the workshop.”
“We can’t compete with our own customers. Our customers have defeated us, not by a little, but by a lot.”
Newell’s plan isn’t to fight the tide, though. He wants to incorporate and engage the user base, to connect games into a single, global economy. And economies, Newell said, only get better the bigger they are. “So if you have an economy and that’s not connected to other economies and there’s no trade – there’s no way to exchange good and services in Dota 2 for goods and services in Skyrim – it’s a global failure,” he said.
It’s an intriguing concept, and the possibilities are exciting. Win a certain number of Dota 2 matches, earn gold you can use in Skyrim. That’s not a concrete plan, mind you, but this kind of connectivity is what Newell envisions for the future of gaming.
So with gamers playing such a prominent role in Newell’s vision for the future, where do game developers fit in? “Our role as game developers or as people who create frameworks is to think of them as increasing the opportunities people have of contributing to that economy,” Newell said.
He brought up a potential example of banners being used during professional matches of Dota 2, where players could display banners on their characters. “Everybody can see who is supporting which team during play, and a percentage of that revenue goes to the team, and there’s also random drops that are given to players while they’re showing their banner,” Newell said.
Newell said that the largest task ahead of the industry is to “remove the barrier between people who create stuff and people who want access to it.” He envisions a future where users give each other quests in MMOs, where in-game stores are filled with user-generated content, where people don’t just open Steam, but ‘play’ it.
“If we think user-generated content is right, we need to think about other ways that can happen,” Newell stated.