Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

How we justify all that high-dollar hardware.

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Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 5:45 am

So, I made a post back in February on this when Valve decided to lay off a bunch of people. It turns out a lot of the things I've been saying about the company and their structure over the past few years turned out to be true.

http://www.develop-online.net/news/4474 ... igh-School

Their whole utopia is actually working against them as their company is apparently made up of a bunch of lead developers and no worker bees. Pretty much everything you could imagine going wrong seems to be taking place. People game the system to get ahead, there is no overall 'lead', people can't actually get manpower because of the Valve hiring process, social enclaves of people formed and compete with each other to get bonuses and put other groups out.

They're essentially running a completely inefficient company with no direction in order to maintain absolute creative freedom, which in turn limits the freedom of said individuals because they don't have the resources to accomplish this (man power). I definitely agree with Ellis in the interview, a structure like Valve works on a small scale (like 20 people), but not when you're a giant company trying to put out AAA games. I'm sure this is why we haven't really seen any decent games out of Valve since HL2 or Portal (which turned out to be a fluke).

I haven't watched the 90 minute podcast, but I plan to later today.


Original Thread: viewtopic.php?f=12&t=86509
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:12 am

Bensam123 wrote:Their whole utopia is actually working against them as their company is apparently made up of a bunch of lead developers and no worker bees. Pretty much everything you could imagine going wrong seems to be taking place. People game the system to get ahead, there is no overall 'lead', people can't actually get manpower because of the Valve hiring process, social enclaves of people formed and compete with each other to get bonuses and put other groups out.


Utopia?

I'm glad you've dispelled your own delusions, but I'm not sure why you expect people who never had any such illusions in the first place to be so disillusioned.

I've never picked up whatever vibe about Valve you thought was the conventional wisdom, at all. My friends have joked for over ten years that Gabe Newell eats developers (with 'shops and everything). We kid and say that Steam is just the ravening maw of a front-end to a massive statistical database, with Gabe as it's sole user, excitedly diving into the "data, Data, DATA!!11" like Scrooge McDuck in his tower of lucre. And so on.

I've never considered game development to be anything but hellacious. I thought that was common knowledge.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 6:27 am

You missed the point and decided to rant about working man pride. I assume you don't actually know anything about Valve or the company and just assume they're like every other developer. Read the original thread then read the interview.

Perhaps you should take a look at the Valve handbook and then do some google searches on top of it as how the company is portrayed, seen by it's employees, and also by people outside of it.

http://www.valvesoftware.com/company/Va ... LowRes.pdf
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 7:07 am

Bensam123 wrote:You missed the point and decided to rant about working man pride


I did? Wow. I had no idea.

Bensam123 wrote:I assume you don't actually know anything about Valve or the company and just assume they're like every other developer.


Yup, I mentioned both Steam and Gabe Newell, but I know nothing about Valve. :roll:

I don't have to assume what you think, however, because you've all but broadcast it: You seem to believe that everyone else, other than you, thinks that Valve is some sort of paradise.

What I am trying to tell you is that you're wrong, and that not everyone thinks that, and that I suspect very few people actually think that.

Bensam123 wrote:Read the original thread then read the interview.


I read the thread when you posted it the first time, and I read the interview when you posted it this time.

Bensam123 wrote:Perhaps you should take a look at the Valve handbook


I have.

Bensam123 wrote:And then do some google searches on top of it as how the company is portrayed, seen by it's employees, and also by people outside of it.


Is it really news to you that gaming journalism is little more than PR for game publishers/developers? :o

Instead of going around acting as if you're the only one who has realized the blindingly obvious, maybe you could either re-evaluate your presuppositions or actually offer meaningful commentary. Because, I'm afraid, your thinly veiled rationalizations of jealousy are unbearable, particularly when you are so annoyingly smug about them.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 8:38 am

Interesting. I certainly have heard the mentality that they are a little more humane than the likes of EA. Guess not eh.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:12 am

Usacomp2k3 wrote:I certainly have heard the mentality that they are a little more humane than the likes of EA. Guess not eh.


Valve is an employer, not heaven on earth.

Meanwhile, if you actually read Jeri Ellsworth's little complaint-piece, you might notice a few interesting things:

Article wrote:Ellsworth and her team had built a unique area of the office, filled with all sorts of strange equipment and unique lighting - including a chandelier - and some of it her own hardware. She started effectively shutting down the AR studio literally. "It took at 26 foot truck to get my stuff out - place looked like a ghost town after I left."

When the time came to confront Gabe Newell, she said that "you should fund this externally or give it to us".

"There was a lawyer in the room and Gabe just turned to him and said 'Give it to 'em'."


That's pretty incredible. I've never heard of an employer who just donates whatever you worked under their tenure right back to you when you leave.

Valve didn't have to do that. Most employers wouldn't.

Essentially what happened was that Valve paid her to work on what she wanted to work on, and then let her keep it all.

Read on:

Article wrote:Ellsworth later adds that there were protracted lawyer discussions, and it wasn't this simple. But to all intents and purposes Ellsworth and Johnson were effectively working continuously the next day at his house. Four weeks after leaving Valve, their project came to fruition with prototypes for augmented reality glasses that use head mounted projectors with a special reflective mat and sub-millimeter head tracking - likened to the holographic 3D chess in Star Wars - demoed in May at the 'maker' event Maker Faire.


Yeah. That's what I would call free start-up capital.

What a raw deal, right?

---

If you read the entire piece it's not even clear what on earth Jeri Ellsworth is saying. I'm not sure if that's the editor's fault, because I didn't listen to the podcasts, but the overall message is contradictory and unclear. All you're really left with is that Jeri Ellsworth wanted to keep working at Valve, but couldn't. Her characterization of what happened is entirely at odds with what she factually describes.

I mean, Bensam123 seems to think whatever happened went against the handbook or the worker's utopia ideal, but just read what she says:

Article wrote:Hardware hacker Ellsworth joined Valve to help build out a hardware offer - which over time was name checked by founder Gabe Newell as an important part of Valve's future. But the problem was that Ellsworth struggled to get approval from her new colleagues to let her hire in more staff.


Isn't that, like, how it is supposed to work? Flat management doesn't mean "Jeri Ellsworth is in charge."

Article wrote:"I was struggling trying to build this hardware team and move the company forward. We were having a difficult time recruiting folks - because we would be interviewing a lot of talented folks but the old timers would reject them for not fitting into the culture.
"I shouldn't say the numbers, but there were very few of us in the hardware department. We were understaffed by about a factor of 100."


According to Wikipedia, Valve has like 400 employees. When Ellsworth says by "a factor of 100" at a minimum she must mean 100 people.

Which, at a minimum, means she just increased the size of valve by 25%! :o

And what does the Valve handbook say?

Valve handbook wrote:At most organizations, it’s beneficial to have an army of people doing your bidding. At Valve, though, it’s not. You’d damage the company and saddle yourself with a broken organization. Good times!


Not to mention that Jeri Ellsworth's previous projects were personal-level, hobbyist design stuff. As impressive as her feats are, there isn't anything in her work history to suggest she has any experience at all as a project-manager, which is clearly what she was gunning to become.

In fact, her work history seems to be littered with "Disagreements" and "cultural mismatches", which suggests that problem might be more with her than with Valve. This shouldn't be surprising, there's even the stereotype of the technically-capable, socially-inept uber hacker.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:57 am

Bensam123 wrote:They're essentially running a completely inefficient company with no direction in order to maintain absolute creative freedom, which in turn limits the freedom of said individuals because they don't have the resources to accomplish this (man power). I definitely agree with Ellis in the interview, a structure like Valve works on a small scale (like 20 people), but not when you're a giant company trying to put out AAA games.


So basically, they're running their video gaming company like... a video gaming company? I'm not sure who was pushing the idea to you that Valve was anything else... but what is being described is pretty much par for the course for the industry.

I'm sure this is why we haven't really seen any decent games out of Valve since HL2 or Portal (which turned out to be a fluke).


Left 4 Dead and it's sequel did pretty well; Portal was actually a really cool game, and Portal 2 was even better.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 9:59 am

Nice post Glorious. The tone the article uses seems contradictory to the facts it presented.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:06 am

One of my big takeaways from this article is that Ellsworth doesn't understand business as much as she thinks she does. Not saying Valve is a utopia, but think about this...

She had "millions of dollars" in equipment, was pouring a lot of effort into augmented reality, but was hitting a "brick wall" when it came to hiring. Instead of trying to deliver something (anything) with the resources she had, she's continues to complain about hiring. This idea that people only want to work on "high profile" projects, but if you deliver something worthwhile (especially something that the company has not traditionally produced), it will become high profile. This is just me, but I would have taken the band of five and worked on something much simpler but functional. Once we got recognition for that project, I would leverage that against the company to hire more people and work on something more impressive, rather than trying to build Rome in a day. Or it might be more appropriate to compare Microsoft's Xbox empire...

The other thing to keep in mind that Valve is, before anything else, a business, so it only exists to make money. Ellsworth might have seen a lot of possibility in her work (and Valve probably did to some extent, too), but it is never a smart business practice to hire a lot of people for something unproven. Ellsworth's team, from what I can tell, had not delivered anything that could be immediately profitable, yet she assumes that she was entitled to more staff. This is another reason why I would have tried something simpler before building up so much equipment that it would take a 26-foot truck to get everything out.

And my other big takeaway is that Ellsworth is definitely butthurt. I'm not saying that her arguments aren't valid, but she is clearly taking this personally.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:36 am

superjawes wrote:She had "millions of dollars" in equipment, was pouring a lot of effort into augmented reality, but was hitting a "brick wall" when it came to hiring. Instead of trying to deliver something (anything) with the resources she had, she's continues to complain about hiring. This idea that people only want to work on "high profile" projects, but if you deliver something worthwhile (especially something that the company has not traditionally produced), it will become high profile.


Yes.

Especially since she claims that, with just one other fired employee, she had a working prototype within 4 weeks.

In other words, clearly, if she had focused on making her product instead of personnel issues, this whole story might have been different.

Just look at her own words:

Article wrote:Ellsworth was hungry to build scale so Valve could build hardware, and points to that other famous Seattle business that does have that kind of scale: "Like Microsoft, the rumour is that its hardware department has 1,000 people working in it [making the Xbox]."


Article wrote: But to all intents and purposes Ellsworth and Johnson were effectively working continuously the next day at his house. Four weeks after leaving Valve, their project came to fruition with prototypes for augmented reality glasses that use head mounted projectors with a special reflective mat and sub-millimeter head tracking - likened to the holographic 3D chess in Star Wars - demoed in May at the 'maker' event Maker Faire.


As I said, I have no idea what her intended message is, because what she is actually saying is outright contradictory. What is actually communicated, however, is probably FAR from her intent, whatever it is.

superjawes wrote:This is just me, but I would have taken the band of five and worked on something much simpler but functional. Once we got recognition for that project, I would leverage that against the company to hire more people and work on something more impressive, rather than trying to build Rome in a day. Or it might be more appropriate to compare Microsoft's Xbox empire...


Sure, if you really cared about the project. I'm not sure that is really the issue here, because the only thing that makes any sense is that Ellsworth's goal wasn't so much to build the hardware, but to build her organization.

Seen in that light, everything makes a LOT of sense.

Why were the old-timers resentful and not helpful? Because, most likely, they realized that Ellsworth was an entryist. They realized that their nice little participatory democracy was actually in danger, because someone wanted to hire scads of people, and thus their votes, in order to supplant them. What would anyone expect them to do, help her?

Seriously, read Ellsworth's charges with that critical eye.

For instance, employees wanted to work on "prestigious" projects that paid bonuses and not be forced to work on her risky endeavor? As I've said before, isn't that what's supposed to happen? Why is this supposed condemnation of a false utopia making me BELIEVE in one?

If ellsworth got her way, that wouldn't have "redeemed' the ideal. It would have destroyed it.

And so Valve fired her and probably her supporters as well. Probably with the vast majority of the employees behind the decision.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:52 am

The last couple of posts seem to have nailed it. None of this really speaks to any special problem with Valves way of doing things. Rule #1 of all businesses should be don't put people in positions of running the show when they don't really have experience managing anyone other than themselves.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 10:10 pm

Yeah, Valve is essentially considered a paradise. While Glorious said he read all of the above it seems painfully obvious that he hasn't and is even trying to push views on others that are uninformed.

Gabe is not the same as Valve. He is also not considered some sort of hardcore developer that 'eats newbie developers and spits them out'. To people in the company and people outside of it, he's almost considered a father figure of sorts that helps try to push things forward. While Valve has sort of gotten away from him now days as it's too big, it still remains that way. He even gave Ellie from the report the technology she was working on instead of simply having their lawyers lock it down. Something like that is relatively unheard of.

Valve is considered to be a paradise by many people, including those there. They talk all the time about having upwards of a 99% employee retention rate because they simply don't fire people. If you read the Valve handbook (and developer interviews) you know it's extremely hard to get fired from Valve (usually). You also have absolute creative freedom to go and work on whatever you want.

However, it's become apparent that since there is no real leadership at valve (or management quoted in the article), this has lead to the entire company essentially falling in on it's own weight. Highschool cliques have developed to take the position of management in which popular people have all the say and get people on their projects (also fire those they don't like), which of course doesn't always work for the greater good.

As I said, I would highly suggest reading the first link I posted. If your entire reply consists of only rebuttals to single sentences it's not worth reading dude as it's apparent you aren't even trying to make your own point or list your views and instead decided to attack my post. Rebutals aren't the same as proving your own point. Person A is wrong, therefore Person B is right doesn't hold true at all. Completely putting aside this topic for a bit here. You have to actually prove what you're saying in addition to disproving someone (if it doesn't coincide with your point), although it appears as though some people are falling for this in this thread. All you're doing is trying to disprove person A without any sort of alternative explanation for their actions. Not just disprove you're looking for small nuances to catch people on and you believe that's the same as talking about the overall point, that's why quote wars are bad and generally good forum goers don't engage in them.

cphite wrote:Left 4 Dead and it's sequel did pretty well; Portal was actually a really cool game, and Portal 2 was even better.


Yeah as far as sales go they did pretty well. But that's not what I consider to be an amazing piece of software released by an amazing company, such as Valve. It definitely felt like a mod, because it was. That really goes for pretty much all the games Valve has released lately, the exception being Portal series (which is a fluke, the way it was developed and caught on inside of the company). They haven't released anything like Half-Life 2 or newer games like Crysis 3, Skyrim, Battlefield 3, you get the idea. It doesn't represent either their income or their company, they're just little side projects.

superjawes wrote:She had "millions of dollars" in equipment, was pouring a lot of effort into augmented reality, but was hitting a "brick wall" when it came to hiring. Instead of trying to deliver something (anything) with the resources she had, she's continues to complain about hiring.


When you need someone to work on machining things, you do run into brick walls. People have expertise in other areas besides what you do. You pay them for their time and work because the amount of time it'd take you to do the same thing would take infinitely longer, you're talking about a order of magnitude difference, not to mention the quality of the work. You don't have skills in the same areas or experience, not to mention you may have to learn their trade skill from the ground up. What Ellis is talking about is very real.

It's the same reason you have people like accountants, HR, management, people doing physical labor, statisticians, (really insert any job title here different from yours). While it's nice and everything to think you can do everything on your own, it doesn't work that way when it comes to big projects... The bigger it is the more you need other people to perform other tasks in order to accomplish what you're working on. This is definitely a big thing when it comes to video game development as you're talking about million dollar budgets, more then that, so they can hire the people capable of doing other things other then lead development.

Essentially what Valve has is a bunch of lead developers and no extra people to do the 'grunt work', such as modeling, perhaps working on coding modules, other parts of the game besides the core development. Really anything, once again besides the job of the person working on it.

In this specific example though she was attempting to design a VR headset and they had a team of five people. She compared it to working with Xbox one in which they have 1000 people working on the same thing and they can actually get it done in a reasonable amount of time.

She even went on to say Valve time is a product of this inefficient setup, which makes complete sense. They simply don't have the manpower to put out products in a timely manner or at all (somethings could literally take hundreds of years done on your own, depending on the scope of the project).

I am sure she put out a product too, nothing you'd find in the store because it wasn't finished, but being able to demonstrate the technology. You can't just release a prototype or idea to market, which barely functions and may not even be close to representative of the finished product. Nothing said she had nothing to show for it and what they had done Valve gave to her, to which she went on to found her own company and four months later actually has something that is close to being market ready.


I think you guys are muddling two points together here. She didn't get fired because of her progress with the project, which was close to being finished as the article states. I will say again she wasn't fired because of her progress with the project. The very fact that she was fired when they were so close to a prototype goes on to demonstrate how awry things have went inside of Valve. She was fired for all the other reasons listed, I don't think you guys are properly putting the article into context and are instead jumping to some sort of conclusion that she just spent her time by the snack machines engaging in social behavior, wasting her time away. She even mentioned they spent long hours (in other words over time) working on the project.

The whole idea that you can't notice what's happening around you without wasting time is fallacious. They didn't even need to hire people on, they could've continued on with her team of five people working on the project, but instead they chose to fire all five of them before the project reached fruition. It's not a binary decision. It wasn't either hire more people or fire Ellis, they could've just continued on with what was happening and eventually reached a final product for her team.


I'm also not entirely sure you guys are grasping how the ability to manage a team works. It's entirely possible to hire more people as temps or contract work and not make them a part of the company or otherwise segment them from Valve.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:09 pm

Valve's real talent when it comes to game development has always essentially been as a "talent scout" anyway. Virtually all of their games (with the exception of HL) started with other developers/modders, who they then hired to work at Valve. I don't see this as being anything new or surprising.

Valve's internal structure may be preventing them from developing many games, but I can name countless developers with a more "traditional" approach who have made some terrible games. Valve may not make a lot of games, but at least the ones they do make are always good. They could probably afford to stop developing games entirely anyway because of all the money they get from Steam.

Bensam123 wrote:
cphite wrote:Left 4 Dead and it's sequel did pretty well; Portal was actually a really cool game, and Portal 2 was even better.


Yeah as far as sales go they did pretty well. But that's not what I consider to be an amazing piece of software released by an amazing company, such as Valve. It definitely felt like a mod, because it was.


That's all in the eye of the beholder. I know plenty of people who think L4D2 is one of the best games in the last decade. I have spent more time playing L4D2 than all of the HL games combined, and I love the Half Life games.

I don't see why being a mod is a bad thing either. Counter-Strike was a mod and is probably the most popular/influential online PC shooter ever. Mods are one of the greatest things about PC gaming (even when they get purchased by Valve first)

Bensam123 wrote:They haven't released anything like Half-Life 2 or newer games like Crysis 3, Skyrim, Battlefield 3, you get the idea. It doesn't represent either their income or their company, they're just little side projects.


Represent their income? What does that even mean? I think L4D/L4D2 created plenty of income since it has sold 11 million copies. Crytek wishes they had sales like that on their main game, let alone a "side project".


Bensam123 wrote:Highschool cliques have developed to take the position of management in which popular people have all the say and get people on their projects (also fire those they don't like), which of course doesn't always work for the greater good.


That sounds like almost every company. The only difference is Valve doesn't make the promotions "official".
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:16 pm

Coming from a military, operations management, and business perspective, I have to say that you must have leadership. There are no one man shops producing AAA-content.

It sounds like Valve allows people with ideas (or personality) to form groups and move projects forward, and that's kind of cool, but I'd personally suffer in such an environment. Talent has to be focused or it's not being realized, and when you want to use other people's talent for a project, those people have to bend a little.

And I agree, she should have produced something. Sales, profits, these things matter; ideas are worthless until they're realized. The sad reality is that they should have put a real manager, but a charismatic one, in charge of her 'group', and given that person the instruction to come up with a product, as well as the ability to hire and fire.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:36 pm

Yeah, Valve is a lot like Google in that they try to suck up a lot of talent, but the problem with that is you have tons of people who can make very good games, but no way to achieve those ends. There are no grunts there to do the dirty work as bad as that sounds. People like that are needed, you can't have a bunch of leaders and no one to actually lead or nothing gets done.

A hierarchy capable of controlling those underneath it does not mean those underneath it need to be prevented of doing whatever they want. It's entirely possible to have more then one hierarchy with the upper management simply providing communicating and connectivity between these groups instead of simply providing yes/no answers and putting their foot down. A lot of people seem to assume that if there is a hierarchy in place that means all is lost. It would be entirely possible for a company like Valve to exist with it's current ideology and simply have people like Gabe communicate between groups and organize, that sounds like a job category to me.

She did produce a prototype, four weeks after she was 'let go from Valve'. It had nothing to do with why she was fired (which was noted in the article) and another notch in how Valve is becoming a bloated-incompetent company. She was fired because people didn't like her trying to get other people hired and essentially she was fired because she was a dissenter. She talked about the power cliques that formed in the company because of a lack of leadership in and of itself. Essentially popular people are in charge of projects.


My point was that you can make mods without having million dollar funding. If you have a company capable of creating AAA games and all they're doing is putting out mods, something is seriously wrong. Hell I helped make a mod for Tribes 2 when I was ~18. It doesn't represent the capabilities of either the expertise they have available or funding.

I used Skyrim, Battlefield 3, Crysis 3 as examples of what other giant companies are doing. They're amazing games in their own way and while you can say L4D is successful, because it is, it isn't on anywhere close to the same level of the aformentioned. The last game Valve made you could actually put into that category was HL2. Portal and Portal 2 was a amazing game in it's own way, but that was a fluke as far as the company goes. It definitely started out as what seemed like a low budget indie game, regardless of it coming from Valve and then got a lot of polish as it randomly caught on inside the company (Portal 2). They even mentioned that the game was a side project it shipped along with the orange box that they didn't really think would catch on.

The company is completely disorganized and the only thing really keeping them afloat right now is Steam, which they definitely do a good job on. But that's a content distribution platform, not a game. Valve is supposed to be a game company and that's essentially what they're known for.

That sounds like almost every company. The only difference is Valve doesn't make the promotions "official".


To some extent inside terrible companies with incompetent management, sure. But if you look at a place like Google... I don't think that holds any weight.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Tue Jul 09, 2013 11:53 pm

I've read the article and listened to podcast. Valve is certainly not a "paradise" (whomever believes in this crap should stop relying on journalistic sensationalism) but all of those complaints sounded to me like that stupid bimbo didn't got what she wanted (which wouldn't necessarily be "good" for the company, regardless of her subjective opinion) despite her whining, got what she actually deserved (a kick in the behind) and got even more butthurt because of it :wink:
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 12:06 am

Valve just sounded like any other good company. All her complaints were just the typical things disgruntled employees say that don't understand businesses. All I got from these articles was the feeling that game journalists don't understand how businesses work either because they attempted to portray Valve in a "bad" light, and they (the journalists) just come off sounding naive and misinformed. Sounded like she was bloat that wasn't delivering, and was inflexible to working in Valve's culture. That is a double strike for my mind. Obviously there would have been serious conversations had about these things, but for me it only makes Valve seem like a very smart company. Personally I don't even know why this made the game journalistic media... seems like it must've been a VERY slow news day.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 5:26 am

Bensam123 wrote:Yeah, Valve is essentially considered a paradise. While Glorious said he read all of the above it seems painfully obvious that he hasn't and is even trying to push views on others that are uninformed.


I quoted the article numerous times.

Bensam123 wrote:Gabe is not the same as Valve. He is also not considered some sort of hardcore developer that 'eats newbie developers and spits them out'. To people in the company and people outside of it, he's almost considered a father figure of sorts that helps try to push things forward. While Valve has sort of gotten away from him now days as it's too big, it still remains that way. He even gave Ellie from the report the technology she was working on instead of simply having their lawyers lock it down. Something like that is relatively unheard of.


And who pointed that out? Oh, right, me.

And while it was obviously at Newell's instigation, it was Valve's property. He maybe the majority shareholder, but the property Ellsworth walked off with belonged to Valve L.L.C. Hence acting as if what happened had nothing do with Valve means you think the Corporate veil can only be pierced one way. :roll:

Bensam123 wrote:Valve is considered to be a paradise by many people, including those there. They talk all the time about having upwards of a 99% employee retention rate because they simply don't fire people. If you read the Valve handbook (and developer interviews) you know it's extremely hard to get fired from Valve (usually). You also have absolute creative freedom to go and work on whatever you want.


Which Ellsworth claims is completely true!

You keep accusing me of not reading it, but she said, repeatedly, that her primary problem was that she couldn't get people to agree with her or work on what she considered important.

Article wrote:"I was struggling trying to build this hardware team and move the company forward. We were having a difficult time recruiting folks - because we would be interviewing a lot of talented folks but the old timers would reject them for not fitting into the culture.
"I shouldn't say the numbers, but there were very few of us in the hardware department. We were understaffed by about a factor of 100."


Other employees voted against her when she wanted to vastly increase the size of Valve, which is literally following what the Valve Handbook says, as I previously quoted.

Article wrote:The Valve hardware team were devising some strong concepts, specifically around augmented reality. Yet the ideas were killed off by the company in its regular peer-review process - a staple of the flat management structure - which can see colleagues that you rarely interact with vet your work and decide if your employment is safe.


Other employees voted her ideas down.

Article wrote:"And it's impossible to pull those people away for something risky like augmented reality because they only want to work on the sure thing. So that was a frustration, we were starved for resources."


She wasn't able to force other employees to work on her project instead of their own projects.

Bensam123 wrote:However, it's become apparent that since there is no real leadership at valve (or management quoted in the article), this has lead to the entire company essentially falling in on it's own weight. Highschool cliques have developed to take the position of management in which popular people have all the say and get people on their projects (also fire those they don't like), which of course doesn't always work for the greater good.


Maybe not, but it this case it's clear that it didn't work out for what Jerri Ellsworth thought was good, and that's by design.

Bensam123 wrote:As I said, I would highly suggest reading the first link I posted. If your entire reply consists of only rebuttals to single sentences it's not worth reading dude as it's apparent you aren't even trying to make your own point or list your views and instead decided to attack my post. Rebutals aren't the same as proving your own point. Person A is wrong, therefore Person B is right doesn't hold true at all. Completely putting aside this topic for a bit here. You have to actually prove what you're saying in addition to disproving someone (if it doesn't coincide with your point), although it appears as though some people are falling for this in this thread. All you're doing is trying to disprove person A without any sort of alternative explanation for their actions. Not just disprove you're looking for small nuances to catch people on and you believe that's the same as talking about the overall point, that's why quote wars are bad and generally good forum goers don't engage in them.


Bensam123, how about you read my posts? I read the entirety of your link, how about you return the favor?

Bensam123 wrote:Yeah as far as sales go they did pretty well. But that's not what I consider to be an amazing piece of software released by an amazing company, such as Valve. It definitely felt like a mod, because it was. That really goes for pretty much all the games Valve has released lately, the exception being Portal series (which is a fluke, the way it was developed and caught on inside of the company). They haven't released anything like Half-Life 2 or newer games like Crysis 3, Skyrim, Battlefield 3, you get the idea. It doesn't represent either their income or their company, they're just little side projects.



Yes, a game franchise of two games that sold TWELVE MILLION PLUS copies doesn't "represent either their income or their company."

Why?

Because you *FEEL* that they are just mods. :o

WOW!

Bensam123 wrote:Essentially what Valve has is a bunch of lead developers and no extra people to do the 'grunt work', such as modeling, perhaps working on coding modules, other parts of the game besides the core development. Really anything, once again besides the job of the person working on it.


Where are you getting this from, again?

Bensam123 wrote:In this specific example though she was attempting to design a VR headset and they had a team of five people. She compared it to working with Xbox one in which they have 1000 people working on the same thing and they can actually get it done in a reasonable amount of time.


Why don't you read your own article or my posts, because Ellsworth clearly says that within FOUR WEEKS of being fired she and ONE OTHER GUY finished a prototype.

But yet she needed a 1000 people?

Contradict much?

Bensam123 wrote:She even went on to say Valve time is a product of this inefficient setup, which makes complete sense. They simply don't have the manpower to put out products in a timely manner or at all (somethings could literally take hundreds of years done on your own, depending on the scope of the project).


Or, you know, FOUR WEEKS.

Article wrote:But to all intents and purposes Ellsworth and Johnson were effectively working continuously the next day at his house. Four weeks after leaving Valve, their project came to fruition with prototypes for augmented reality glasses that use head mounted projectors with a special reflective mat and sub-millimeter head tracking - likened to the holographic 3D chess in Star Wars - demoed in May at the 'maker' event Maker Faire.


Look what you can learn when you actually READ instead of falsely accusing everyone else of not doing their homework! :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll: :roll:

Bensam123 wrote:I am sure she put out a product too, nothing you'd find in the store because it wasn't finished, but being able to demonstrate the technology. You can't just release a prototype or idea to market, which barely functions and may not even be close to representative of the finished product. Nothing said she had nothing to show for it and what they had done Valve gave to her, to which she went on to found her own company and four months later actually has something that is close to being market ready.


Dude, how can you say all that without acknowledging that you demonstrably refuted your own case? Ellsworth worked for Valve for LESS THAN A YEAR. If, after being fired, she had her product "close to being market ready" within 4-5 months, just what, exactly, did she ever need a "factor of 100" more employees for?

A product development cycle of a year and a half isn't even remotely "bad', especially given the experimental nature of the project.

Bensam123 wrote:I'm also not entirely sure you guys are grasping how the ability to manage a team works. It's entirely possible to hire more people as temps or contract work and not make them a part of the company or otherwise segment them from Valve.


That is explicitly contrary to the Valve Employee Handbook. I mean, seriously, did *YOU* read it?
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 7:22 am

If your entire reply consists of only rebuttals to single sentences it's not worth reading dude as it's apparent you aren't even trying to make your own point or list your views and instead decided to attack my post. Rebutals aren't the same as proving your own point.


::ahem:: Bensam...

Rebuttals do not work the same way as asserting a point of view (which is what you are doing with this thread, and Ellsworth is doing with her interview). The points Glorius and I were making were really pointing out that Ellsworth had not proven her original point, and that her own evidence and account of events contradicted her own (or your) overall theme that this was entirely Valve's fault, that Valve stabbed her in the back, etc. A rebuttal does not involve proving a point of view, but instead questions or refutes one that has been presented.

When you need someone to work on machining things, you do run into brick walls. People have expertise in other areas besides what you do. You pay them for their time and work because the amount of time it'd take you to do the same thing would take infinitely longer, you're talking about a order of magnitude difference, not to mention the quality of the work. You don't have skills in the same areas or experience, not to mention you may have to learn their trade skill from the ground up. What Ellis is talking about is very real.


But you can't just make outrageous demands when it comes to hiring! The business is going to determine your budget, or in this case, how much staff you can actually hire. If she couldn't hire the people she "needed," then she needed to adjust the scope of her project. Mismanaging scope is also a very real thing. This is why I presented the possibility of scaling back the project, or working on something else entirely so that her given budget and staff could actually complete something.

And let me emphasize that the staffing side is very different because of the way Valve hires (and does business). You might have personal feelings on it, but regardless, and employee of the company must operate within that constraint. When you hit a brick wall like that, you have two options, either complain about it or work with it. My personal feeling is that if Ellsworth had tried to work within the constraint, she wouldn't be doing extensive interviews on why it is bad.

Finally, Bensam, what is clear is that you don't like Valve. Now you are entitled to your own opinion on the company and its software. However, your seem to be going on a witch hunt over your opinion. You keep pushing points with the theme "Valve is not a good company" or "Valve is mismanaged." For starters, it's easy to criticize from the outside. But I really need to point out that despite all the mismanagement you see, Valve is still in business. Its employees are getting paid, it is still functional, and while they have not delivered new IP, they are still delivering software (content for TF2, DOTA2, and Steam).

In the end, it doesn't matter what the internal and external politics of Valve are. The company is making money.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:20 am

Actually, a bit of witch hunt is probably a good thing when it comes to Valve since so many in the gaming community literally think they are the best thing that's ever happened to them. When in fact they are still just another company that exploits DRM, Market share and several other mechanism to do what they see fit, not what the community wants, or needs for that matter.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 8:31 am

Aphasia wrote:Actually, a bit of witch hunt is probably a good thing when it comes to Valve since so many in the gaming community literally think they are the best thing that's ever happened to them. When in fact they are still just another company that exploits DRM, Market share and several other mechanism to do what they see fit, not what the community wants, or needs for that matter.


Which, while an interesting topic, is not what Bensam123 or Jerri Ellsworth were complaining about.

In fact, their complaints draw attention away from what you suggest, as they are exclusively talking about issues with Valve as a developer, not Valve as a publisher.

Valve is, of course, both.

So if you want to make an argument that Valve is a cruddy publisher, it's best not to get distracted by disgruntled employees who never had any qualms with the publisher side of things whatsoever.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:19 am

I haven't watched the podcast yet, which I'm going to, I did however read the article. And I have been following Jeri Ellsworth for quite some time through a few podcasts here and there.

You are entirely correct in that they are both. And it's the same corporate mentality that gives rise to both of the, so if they have the ability to be draconian in some respects, they have the ability to be it in all aspects of their work. Personally, I dislike lots of things with Steam for it being what it is, while at the same time I very much like many of the products they do turn out, when they finally managed to do it. But I would not dismiss this as only the workings of a disgruntled employee getting laid off, because that is not at all what I get from the article. If you take away the passion and expression of the creative person that had invested a lot of time in something, what are you left with.

I would say it's something like getting tasked with something and getting it done, but you cant get the necessary expertise and competence hired to get it finished, and since you cant do it yourself, what do you do, try to change something and running into a brick wall extremely resistant to change and that has the power to not only refuse you the help you need to get the project moving, but also remove you completely from the company because they don't like you.

And I think the points about how power accumulates around certain prestigious projects when there is bonus incentives around is quite important. If you have bonus incentives in a company and those only reward high profile visable projects, the ones manning those will have power, and people with power, seldom stay fully objective with regards to surroundings, or their so called peers.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:41 am

The thing is, though, it doesn't sound like Ellsworth was tasked with what she was trying to do. Considering the apparent or proclaimed culture of freedom to work on whatever you want, it sounds like Ellsworth chose to take on a huge project. That is, it sounds like she chose the scope of her own project. Had Valve tasked her with a huge project like that (for starters, she probably wouldn't have been able to keep any of her work when she left), but denied her the staffing to get it done, you might have a point.

However, the information presented by Ellsworth herself suggests that she chose the scope, and she did so without considering or adjusting to the resources she was approved to use.

And a company resisting change is not inheirently a bad thing. Especially considering that Valve is successful (still in business, making money), there is no immediate need for change. Hiring several people would certainly change the dynamic of the company at a time when there really is no need, so it would simply be a high risk, unknown reward business case. Again, Valve is a business, so everything is going to be viewed in terms of risk vs. reward.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 9:49 am

Aphasia wrote:You are entirely correct in that they are both. And it's the same corporate mentality that gives rise to both of the, so if they have the ability to be draconian in some respects, they have the ability to be it in all aspects of their work.


Actually, if anything, quite the contrary.

The revenue that Steam generates is precisely what allows Valve to be the kind of employer it is. Whatever issues you have with Steam, the DRM, the market share etc..., it's clear that such a revenue stream frees Valve to allow its employees to work on whatever they wish.

I mean, who was being "draconian" here? It was ELLSWORTH that wanted employees to work on HER project, not theirs. Her project didn't get the attention she wanted because the other employees voted against it.

I'm not making this up. SHE SAID IT HERSELF. I've quoted it several times, and you and other seem utterly incapable of understanding it.

So here we go again!

Article wrote:The Valve hardware team were devising some strong concepts, specifically around augmented reality. Yet the ideas were killed off by the company in its regular peer-review process - a staple of the flat management structure - which can see colleagues that you rarely interact with vet your work and decide if your employment is safe.


Ellsworth isn't saying that Valve was draconian. Quite the opposite, she's LITERALLY saying that it wasn't draconian enough; that Valve didn't force Employees into doing what SHE wanted.

Aphasia wrote:But I would not dismiss this as only the workings of a disgruntled employee getting laid off, because that is not at all what I get from the article. If you take away the passion and expression of the creative person that had invested a lot of time in something, what are you left with.


Dude, she wanted the company to hire hundreds more employees to work on her project. That isn't a passion for creativity, that's a passion for power. It's also directly contrary to the Valve Employee Handbook.

It wasn't about developing the product (i.e. expressing her creativity) because:

1) Valve, VERY GENEROUSLY, donated everything she was working on! That clearly indicates they weren't ever trying to stifle her dreams. On the contrary, they paid her to pursue them for a year and then let her keep everything. From what she describes, with all the lawyering, it's clear that Valve actually very cleanly cut themselves from any claim to what she developed while working for Valve. That's extraordinary, and very nice.
2) She, and one other employee, had a working prototype within 4 weeks of being fired. That completely kills the notion she ever needed hundreds of employees in the first place. She performs quite fine, perhaps even better, without an organization!
3) She supposedly had a near "market ready" product within 4-5 months. Further evidence of the above.

Aphasia wrote:I would say it's something like getting tasked with something and getting it done, but you cant get the necessary expertise and competence hired to get it finished, and since you cant do it yourself, what do you do, try to change something and running into a brick wall extremely resistant to change and that has the power to not only refuse you the help you need to get the project moving, but also remove you completely from the company because they don't like you.


Please.

What brick wall?

BY HER OWN ADMISSION, she finished a prototype 4 weeks after leaving Valve, and then 4-5 months later had a near market ready version.

Clearly, she COULD do it itself.
Clearly, she did NOT need hundreds of employees.

She was trying to change how Valve worked, and she was trying to flood it with new employees. It's unsurprisingly, even predictable, that she would be ousted. Whatever one thinks of the Valve's personnel model, it's working how it is supposed to work.

The criticism that Valve should be run by Jerri Ellsworth is entirely unconvincing, but that's all you have. It's silly.

Aphasia wrote:And I think the points about how power accumulates around certain prestigious projects when there is bonus incentives around is quite important. If you have bonus incentives in a company and those only reward high profile visable projects, the ones manning those will have power, and people with power, seldom stay fully objective with regards to surroundings, or their so called peers.


No. You didn't read it clearly. Let me quote her once again:

Article wrote:"They have a bonus structure in there where you can get bonuses - if you work on very prestigious projects - that are more than what you earn. So everyone is trying to work on projects that are really visible. 'Look at me, I am making all these great improvements to the latest and greatest video game'.

"And it's impossible to pull those people away for something risky like augmented reality because they only want to work on the sure thing. So that was a frustration, we were starved for resources."


The people manning those projects were doing so voluntarily. They chose to do those projects instead of Ellsworth's. They chose to work on those projects, because they were money-generating ones, not uncertain R&D. The employees, in other words, had the power!

You've got completely backwards. Ellsworth was complaining that Valve was structured so that her peers could CHOSE to work on "prestigious" projects. That she couldn't force them not to.

What you are describing is actually what Ellsworth wanted: She wanted to pick the important projects, and then force people to work on them.

Why? Probably because of what you said: Power over her peers.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Wed Jul 10, 2013 10:14 am

Glorious, I just want you to know, I appreciate your work here, and I hope you don't ever decide to leave :). If I ever wind up wherever you are, I owe you a beer.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Fri Jul 12, 2013 10:41 pm

What exactly is her project? Is it like dual mounted projectors on your head? I tried to search but I couldn't make sense of it from the article. I wonder what else is being brewed up in the Valve office.

Edit
Never mind, I found a video although I still don't get it.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3jxr3UrY2mc
Coming to kickstarter soon. Even after hearing her explain it I'm foggy as to the application. She talks about Valve a bit towards the end. Is it like a projected trackir experience/environment?
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Sat Jul 13, 2013 12:22 am

Guys, I'm sorry, but if you are a hardware tech expert who can't figure out how to use machine tools to make your own parts with all the modern sources of education than you really are probably not the self-motivated hardware tech expert Valve hired you to be. I mean it is really not much more complicated than making sure you have a good level / centered mounted blank, loading in a wire frame of the desired geometry, offset by the geometry of the cutter, or required EDM electrode offset and connect the dots at a feed speed based on the hardness / toughness of the material being machined. She could have found a local school with a machinist program and ask them if they would be interested in a school project to have student teams machine parts for them. Get a confidentiality agreement, or if you want press, and word of mouth to generate interest don’t. Give the student teams with the winning design or parts Steam cards as a reward. So for the price of a few Steam gift cards I could have several teams of machinist competing with each other for me without the HR overhead of hiring a full time machinist. Heck if they were plastic parts you could probably just make or buy a 3D printer to make the parts directly and skip machining entirely. 3D printing is not great for production, but certainly good enough for a prototype or two, and even if you don't have one you can send the files to places that do and have them overnight the parts back. She could have also just contracted out a mom and pop machine shop to makes parts too if they really required hardcore machining. Production parts would be farmed out typically so a small contract, or temp agency hire sort of thing could have been pursued. So basically guys without being part of Valve I came up with a few possible solutions to the machinist problem for her in less than a minute. I'm not saying it is that easy, but really that should not have been the road block to being productive that she made it out to be.

I know the Valve company handbook is not entirely true, but I don't think it's totally what she says either. I think the reality is somewhere in the middle. Don't get me wrong I feel Valve should have tried more to help her adapt and fully utilize her obvious talents, but at least they try and level the structure. As adults we should have learned by now human and even animals in nature form communities and groups. If you can't find you your place in the social groups you will eventually be outcast. Just watch Discovery channel. Her background is such that if she was that unhappy with Valve she could have looked for other jobs that more closely aligned with her desires and got one. I'm sure if she approached the right people and told them she was unhappy and not fitting in and had another opportunity to pursue her dream they would have released her. I mean they fired her so obviously it would not have been a problem.
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Sat Jul 13, 2013 12:43 am

:roll:
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Sat Jul 13, 2013 10:43 am

Kinda weird how some people are taking sides with Jerri. She had a happy ending. She got her prototype working and now she's gonna kickstart it soon. Let that decide if she really wins or loses. And I dont think Valve is interested in making crazy amounts of money. That's why they let her have whatever she created. If she becomes a billionaire tomorrow, I doubt anyone at Valve will care. Better their freedom than being controlled by the whims of an "abrasive billionaire".
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Re: Reality Comes to Paradise - Valve Continued...

Postposted on Sat Jul 13, 2013 3:15 pm

It certainly does seem that Valve is run a little too loosely. We get stuff like 'Steam trading cards' (wtf?) rather than HL2 Ep3.
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