Home General Discussion

The Valve Handbook!

1
ae.
polycounter lvl 12
Offline / Send Message
ae. polycounter lvl 12
they released a PDF of it check it out:

http://www.valvetime.net/threads/valve-employee-hand-book-released.189828/

gotta say its cool to see how they set up everything over at Valve, give it a read you might learn something or not :P

Replies

  • DeadlyFreeze
    Offline / Send Message
    DeadlyFreeze polycounter lvl 11
    Anything coming out of valve I immediately assume they are trolling me about HL2E3.

    Interesting read to say the least.
  • schneller
    Offline / Send Message
    schneller polygon
    That was really intriguing. To have that level of freedom and decision-making is really amazing.
  • Eric Chadwick
  • Bal
    Offline / Send Message
    Bal polycounter lvl 12
    It's a great read, definitely wish more companies could try to work this way, but it's obviously not so easy. Would love to experience it myself anyways.
  • Matabus
    Offline / Send Message
    Matabus polycounter lvl 16
    I think they hit the perfect storm of freedom/employees who aren't dicks.

    I can see many companies failing with this setup generally because there would be too many employees taking advantage of it (in a bad way).
  • leilei
    Offline / Send Message
    leilei polycounter lvl 14
    Their definition of Ponies is right on the mark.
  • Xoliul
    Offline / Send Message
    Xoliul polycounter lvl 12
    That has got to be the most exciting and interesting thing I've read in months. It's so sad when you finish it to realize you're not really starting there lol.

    I do think it's impossible for most companies to "switch" to this method of operation. Like they say in the article, it falls apart if you've got people that are not able to operate in such a system, and a lot of people in companies probably fall under that category.
    They also mention how they have multidiscplinary people, which again not many people are.
    On top of that, I can't imagine an entire company's hierarchical structure suddenly going "flat"... (bosses not having final say in everything anymore, etc..)
  • CrazyMatt
    Xoliul wrote: »
    That has got to be the most exciting and interesting thing I've read in months. It's so sad when you finish it to realize you're not really starting there lol.
    True that...true that... :(

    Great read and much of what I have known over the years. But definitely nice to get a different side of the hand perspective when actually becoming one of Valve! :)
  • ae.
    Offline / Send Message
    ae. polycounter lvl 12
    wait i thought reading the book automatically makes you a valve employee? i shouldent have quit my job then i guess :P
  • Malus
    Offline / Send Message
    Malus polycounter lvl 15
    Am I the only one who wanted to cry?

    It's just so beautiful...

    dawson-crying.jpg
  • Frump
    Offline / Send Message
    Frump polycounter lvl 12
    Great read. I am going to strive to be a T-shaped person. They've always been my favorite studio for the games they make but it also sounds like they'd be the most amazing to work for.
  • Irreal
    Offline / Send Message
    Irreal polycounter lvl 10
    Well, I'm only half-way through and I'm in tears. Is this actually real?
  • innervision961
    I'm more of a U shaped person... Hopefully I can square up one of these days. I would do anything to land a spot with those guys, and be in that environment. Making decisions, knowing that everything I do is for MY company. I love it, it would make my work life so much more meaningful.
  • xk0be
    Theres gotta be a catch. WHY DOES IT SOUND SO AWESOME?!
  • roosterMAP
    Offline / Send Message
    roosterMAP polycounter lvl 11
    I dont get how valve isnt in total anarchy. How can a large company function like this? I am certainly curious to see how everything works over there...

    Also, here's an interesting question. Why have I not seen ANY valve employees active on forums like polycount and stuch? Why cant I find any online folios? strange, no?
  • PhattyEwok
    Offline / Send Message
    PhattyEwok polycounter lvl 9
    I don't want to be that guy but, how do they keep the peer reviews unbiased. I mean in a perfect world everyone would totally be objective and the payroll would scale to match but surely even in a place like valve there will always be those who don't get along and would totally flat out lie or give unfavorable reviews in spite of that person.
  • Snacuum
    Offline / Send Message
    Snacuum polycounter lvl 9
    Gonna read the whole thing eventually, but I'm still so amazed: I skimmed one random paragraph and just that alone was mindblowing.
    I don't want to be that guy but, how do they keep the peer reviews unbiased. I mean in a perfect world everyone would totally be objective and the payroll would scale to match but surely even in a place like valve there will always be those who don't get along and would totally flat out lie or give unfavorable reviews in spite of that person.
    I'm given the impression that the overall atmosphere and workflow of that place would actually make being a dick person difficult, and undesirable.

    Much like the New Church (Christian denomination) view of people in Hell - Being evil is just so normal to them that heaven would be a horrible place to live!
  • Isaiah Sherman
    Offline / Send Message
    Isaiah Sherman polycounter lvl 13
    PhattyEwok wrote: »
    I don't want to be that guy but, how do they keep the peer reviews unbiased. I mean in a perfect world everyone would totally be objective and the payroll would scale to match but surely even in a place like valve there will always be those who don't get along and would totally flat out lie or give unfavorable reviews in spite of that person.

    They wouldn't take one person's word, nor would any other studio. If you're in a studio like that you need to GTFO.

    Peer reviews are most likely done by about 5-10 people and they see what everyone says. If one person says some totally crazy shit that no one else did, then the real issue would by why did that one person say so many horrible things when no one else did?

    Read the whole thing, was pretty cool! Definitely need to take on a lot of responsibility... I like that.
  • Xoliul
    Offline / Send Message
    Xoliul polycounter lvl 12
    roosterMAP wrote: »
    I dont get how valve isnt in total anarchy. How can a large company function like this? I am certainly curious to see how everything works over there...

    Also, here's an interesting question. Why have I not seen ANY valve employees active on forums like polycount and stuch? Why cant I find any online folios? strange, no?

    The answer to A seems to be because they only hire good people that will function in the company.

    And there are a few, Kite/Andy Nisbet is a member but I don't think he visits often. And I remember seeing someone's portfolio here a few years ago who is now at valve as well apparently.
  • aivanov
    Offline / Send Message
    aivanov polycounter lvl 5
    roosterMAP wrote: »
    Why have I not seen ANY valve employees active on forums like polycount and stuch? Why cant I find any online folios? strange, no?

    There's this apparent effect that happens whenever someone gets hired by Valve: that is, all outside communication ceases. And, honestly, who needs to converse with us peons when you're in paradise?

    Also, I wonder how much of Valve's hires are based in "I know a guy" and just full-on team hires (Like Turtle Rock, Walker's TF team back in the day, the Alien Swarm guys, Portal team, Day of Defeat?) - I imagine they don't go through the full interview process. And let's not forget, any time Valve "invites" someone over to check stuff out = job offer.
  • passerby
    Offline / Send Message
    passerby polycounter lvl 11
    aivanov wrote: »
    There's this apparent effect that happens whenever someone gets hired by Valve: that is, all outside communication ceases. And, honestly, who needs to converse with us peons when you're in paradise?

    Also, I wonder how much of Valve's hires are based in "I know a guy" and just full-on team hires (Like Turtle Rock, Walker's TF team back in the day, the Alien Swarm guys, Portal team, Day of Defeat?) - I imagine they don't go through the full interview process. And let's not forget, any time Valve "invites" someone over to check stuff out = job offer.

    prolly because a valve job seems to be way more stable than any other job in the industry.

    in most other companies, a game ships, and you get fired because they no longer need your role, vs valve your project ships, so you find a new role to be usefull at.
  • katana
    Offline / Send Message
    katana polycounter lvl 14
    I'm not surprised to see this, isn't there a push to hire going on there now?
  • brandoom
    Offline / Send Message
    brandoom polycounter lvl 11
    This is a great example of class-A studio culture.

    Going to read through this today fo sho!
  • MoP
    Offline / Send Message
    MoP polycounter lvl 16
    katana wrote: »
    I'm not surprised to see this, isn't there a push to hire going on there now?

    Hah, yeah, that's what I thought too, doesn't hurt to have a little propaganda around :)

    It's a very interesting thing, and certainly actually the way I'd like to work "in an ideal world"... however, that ideal world is very difficult to attain!

    The only reason this could possibly work for Valve (as they mention in a few places) is because they self-publish, and self-fund, and have no deadlines or clients beyond what they set for themselves.

    Other studios do not have this luxury - they have deadlines imposed externally, financial requirements to meet, all sorts of other concerns that arise from not sitting on a ready pile of cash.

    That said, there is a lot of info in there that other companies could consider and adopt (if they're not doing it already), such as being able to put people more in charge of their own work if they aren't already.

    Basically it all sounds good if you're a certain type of person, and other types of people have little to no chance of working there because their mindset requires a different type of environment.

    It all seems like an interesting social experiment to me, and it's certainly why we haven't seen any more Half Life games... they just don't want to work on them any more ;)
  • PaulP
    Offline / Send Message
    PaulP polycounter lvl 9
    Its great that an organisation with these ideals can be so successful. It makes the future seem a little more bright :)
  • Ace-Angel
    Offline / Send Message
    Ace-Angel polycounter lvl 7
    Oh look, a company run by peeps who aren't dicks and employee's who aren't dicks too!

    I wish all companies could be like this, because it takes two to tango.
  • katana
    Offline / Send Message
    katana polycounter lvl 14
    So now having finished the read, these are my conclusions...(if anyone cares...:))

    1.It operates closer to a Think Tank, which researches and then publishes the findings.

    2. They are looking for Superhero's (or Super villains) that can continually push the envelope, but not get burned out by doing so. Which in turn requires smart thinking on the balancing of life.

    3. Creative is good, technical is better. Be a master in at least one area and highly skilled in several other's. The result will mean you can hop on a task and lend a hand, when it's not your specialty.

    4. Open communication and transparency are absolute keys to success.

    5. You must be very sociable, both a good speaker and a better listener to be successful.

    6. Maturity will be a premium to do well at Valve with no one to tell you what to do.

    7. Have fun, but be productive.


    At this point in my life, I could work at a company like that. :)
  • schneller
    Offline / Send Message
    schneller polygon
    roosterMAP wrote: »
    ...Why cant I find any online folios? strange, no?

    Actually, if you are on LinkedIn you can find several of them by browsing through employee profiles. There's over 200 of them on there, granted not all have portfolio links.

    Here are a few that I know of:

    http://www.andreawicklund.com/

    http://www.peterhkonig.com/#/

    http://lauradubuk.blogspot.com/

    http://mattikaarts.com/

    I also found the T-shaped person to be an interesting idea. Makes perfect sense, but just sounds so difficult to achieve with the majority of companies wanting focus. I suppose it just takes the right kind of person to quickly master skills outside their specialty outside of normal work hours. Certainly something to aspire to be.
  • D4V1DC
    Offline / Send Message
    D4V1DC polycounter lvl 13
    Wow that was pretty damn amazing to read, kudos to those that work at valve It sounds like a dream come true.

    Being able to learn more and take on a different role from time to time to refrain from a repetitive process, that alone is so rewarding.

    Thanks for sharing.
  • GarageBay9
    Offline / Send Message
    GarageBay9 polycounter lvl 11
    I have always thought of Valve as the game industry's Valhalla. An awesome place filled with incredible people doing things no mere mortals can match.

    This handbook confirms everything I suspected... and also kind of makes me sad. As acutely ADD as I am, I've found I function best as a second in command, with somebody at least one level above me in a formal supervisory role that can be a guiding force (and final overriding say) in goal analysis, scheduling, logistics, that kind of thing - the kind of stuff I'm full-on impaired with. My wife wears this hat at home and does it with grace and aplomb and deftness (and the occasional smack upside the head). I can guarantee you that without her, I'd forget to pay bills, spend three hours in the middle of a busy day trying to do something irrelevant like sorting the cupboard, go out the door without my keys and my wallet, forget to pick up our son at the bus stop in the afternoon... you get the idea.

    I doubt I could ever hack it in Valvehalla. :(
  • Nysuatro
    The other solution is so create your own Valvehalla.
  • JacqueChoi
    Offline / Send Message
    JacqueChoi polycounter
    roosterMAP wrote: »
    I dont get how valve isnt in total anarchy. How can a large company function like this? I am certainly curious to see how everything works over there...

    Also, here's an interesting question. Why have I not seen ANY valve employees active on forums like polycount and stuch? Why cant I find any online folios? strange, no?

    Mr.kite occasionally posts. You can find his art dump in a search 'fill my hole mr.kite'.

    Bay Raitt used to post a bit as spiraloid on other CG forums.
  • JacqueChoi
    Offline / Send Message
    JacqueChoi polycounter
    Strange to think Valve is one of the few studios to realise HR is the most important part of the company.

    HR is what creates policy and culture (theoretically) long after everyone is no longer AT that studio.
  • haiddasalami
    Offline / Send Message
    haiddasalami polycounter lvl 12
    Browen Grimes posts on tech-artists. Read this yesterday, definitely an interesting management style.
  • Kwramm
    Offline / Send Message
    Kwramm interpolator
    very interesting lead. I totally agree that a lot of employees potential is wasted with strong hierarchy leaving no freedom. Not sure if I want to change my team totally into a valve team, but I think there is some good inspiration there how to improve team spirit and happiness and make people get deeper involved in what they're doing. Thanks for posting!
  • ae.
    Offline / Send Message
    ae. polycounter lvl 12
    The thing i see all the time is people that are put on projects that either don't interest them personally or fit into what they are strongest at:

    say someone like me i love doing hard surface stuff, sci-fi is my bread and butter which entails alot of HP work if i were to be put on something like a mobile tree generator game not only would that not interest me at all but also remove my key skill that makes me valuable to the company.

    but unfortunately when you have management that doesn't really interact with you on a daily basis or understand what your good or bad at you will probably be put on a project that might not best suit you.

    What valve does which i find kinda interesting is it operates almost as a mod team someone has an idea and if your interested in the idea you can help them on it that way you only choose the projects that interest you and benefit from your key skills if you dont see one that does interest you make your own!

    thats probably why we see games like alien swarm come out of valve because it was an idea a few people had and wanted see it finished.

    I don't think it would be hard for a companies to take some of valves values to heart but that wont happen at alot of studios because it cuts out all the people that have power and if you have power why would you give it up?
  • r_fletch_r
    Offline / Send Message
    r_fletch_r polycounter lvl 9
    JacqueChoi wrote: »

    Bay Raitt used to post a bit as spiraloid on other CG forums.

    You see him around the 3D Coat forums quite a bit.
  • slipsius
    I was be scared shitless walking in there on day one. lol! However, that's probably exactly the type of person they wouldn't hire in the first place. :(
  • Mark Dygert
    So awhile back (90's) a lot of places in the area ran like how the handbook depicts but a little less refined if you can even call it that ha. The place I currently work at just a few blocks from Valve, founded about the same time, works mostly like that but with some hints of classic corporate structure imposed.

    People at HI have titles but they don't mean much inside the company they are more a designation of "expertise" than a hierarchy. I have no problem by-passing my AD and talking to the CEO about crazy new ideas and getting them funded. I still talk about it with my AD because I want his feedback but I'm not begging for approval or permission but asking him what he thinks and we debate its merits.

    Its no surprise that Gabe and my CEO Megan Gaiser both came from MS and started companies that have polar opposite work environments to that of MS. A lot of people from MS left to start local companies and they all had similar "Anti-MS cultures" at their core. Most have sold out to publishers or just closed their doors or bent to investor pressure to "standardized and monetize" their workflow so its easier for investors to understand, track and get rid of "waste" which actually meant squash creative freedom.

    I started out working for Humongous (just before it imploded), which had a similar culture structure but was sold to a publisher and subsequently destroyed as it was digested. They thought the genius was in the IP and that it could be recreated in any structure but figured out way too late it was the creative freedom that made the games great, by then they had driven everyone off. To be fair they did give a few people a lot of creative freedom and they didn't have a clue what they had gotten themselves into "AMEN The awakening" and that did more to damage the structure and tarnish the culture's image than being bought and sold did. So it is very important to get the right people.

    Sooo... while I know I'm no where good enough to work at Valve, I would have a hard time working at some place that is much more rigid which is probably why if I can't find some place similar I would leave the industry. I'm 35 and I'm just not up for the endless abuse and constant soul crushing job hunting. I'd rather find a nice stable 9-5 with predictable hours and work on creative projects in my spare time rather than have the one thing I love twisted and tortured into something I hate.
  • R3D
    Offline / Send Message
    R3D interpolator
    It was a fantastic read, like so many people here said before me, its hard to understand when you first hear about it. Honestly I've been following valve for years and I knew how they worked, I just didn't understand how they worked until that recent blogpost talked about it. In anycase I can't see what valve comes up with next! ( unless its left 4 dead 2 episode 1). I expect the source filmmaker.
  • crazyfool
    Offline / Send Message
    crazyfool polycounter lvl 8
    crazy read, sounds like an amazing place to work!!!
  • rawkstar
    Offline / Send Message
    rawkstar polycounter lvl 16
    lol go recruitment drive!


    sounds great though, I think alot of studios are doing similar things now. As people continue to work at studios and learn new things you get alot of really high quality multi-discipline developers that can work in systems structured like this, there was a talk by Todd Howard of bethesda about how the longer their company was around the more gamedev "ninjas" they had, so at the end of skyrim they let all their ninjas loose on whatever they wanted to add to the game. It looked way better than what they actually shipped, they should have just done that for the rest of the project.
  • GarageBay9
    Offline / Send Message
    GarageBay9 polycounter lvl 11

    One really interesting bit, which some of you guys have already mentioned, is where they describe the T-type personality they look for during hiring. If you're an artist, for example, they would love you to have at least a basic understanding of relevant programming. I know a lot of us here on Polycount spend nearly every waking hour trying to improve ourselves as artists. Where we are supposed to fit in time to learn some C++ I'm not entirely sure, and I think you'd have a difficult time finding an artist who's even interested in learning it. Unless, of course, they did it tragically just to try and land a job at Valve rather than out of genuine interest :)

    I actually always have wanted to learn to code - I refer to myself as a "tool junkie" and love an under-the-hood understanding of what game engines and 3D tools and everything of the sort. I mostly never caught on because the intro to programming class I tried to take in high school had a very kind but very inept teacher that left me adrift and discouraged for most of a semester, and I'm not very good at self-teaching from complete scratch. I did learn just enough to make me a danger to myself and others, though. :poly142:

    I'd LOVE to see somebody start a "coding for artists" mini-school. Understanding the code under the hood could give so many of us a much more powerful and nimble skill set, and we're not stupid people - I adamantly believe it's just a case of presenting the material in a format that we, as artists, can sink our teeth into it. Sooner or later somebody is going to figure out how to do that and I won't be able to sell a kidney fast enough to sign up.
  • aivanov
    Offline / Send Message
    aivanov polycounter lvl 5
    GarageBay9 wrote: »
    I'd LOVE to see somebody start a "coding for artists" mini-school. Understanding the code under the hood could give so many of us a much more powerful and nimble skill set, and we're not stupid people - I adamantly believe it's just a case of presenting the material in a format that we, as artists, can sink our teeth into it. Sooner or later somebody is going to figure out how to do that and I won't be able to sell a kidney fast enough to sign up.

    Ever try Processing?
  • GarageBay9
    Offline / Send Message
    GarageBay9 polycounter lvl 11
    aivanov wrote: »
    Ever try Processing?

    My God, it's full of stars.
  • Bigjohn
    Offline / Send Message
    Bigjohn polycounter lvl 11
    I learned Assembler programming in another life. After a couple of years of that and C I realized it wasn't for me, and I got into art. The principles of programming are all more or less the same. So while I can no longer program in the modern languages like C++ and those, I still know the principles.

    It comes in handy. Especially with writing shaders these days. And also stuff like Unrealscript, Maxscript, LUA, etc. Once you learn the principles, you'd be surprised just how much you can accomplish. I probably won't be writing any engine code ever. But it's still good to understand how things work.

    I'd say just try and write a CGFX Blinn shader. Or do some stuff with unreal script or Maxscript to make your workflow better. You'll pick up the basics.
  • Justin Meisse
    Offline / Send Message
    Justin Meisse polycounter lvl 17
    It will be interesting to see how DOTA 2 turns out, free to play (or whatever you want to call them) live and die based on the regular introduction of content. I could see Valve getting in trouble on that part unless they crowd-source champions or gear like they do with TF2.

    On programming, I guess I need "Programming for people that didn't find easy languages that easy after all". I've given up on learning programming. I'm content with expanding into characters, animation, FX and concept - basically everything to do with the art department.
  • Bigjohn
    Offline / Send Message
    Bigjohn polycounter lvl 11
    Another great thing is writing small addons for MMOs. I wrote some for Warhammer and WoW. They use LUA, which is super simple, and you can see results on the screen. You know the game, cause you're playing it. So it's not boring. Just an idea.
  • glottis8
    Offline / Send Message
    glottis8 polycounter lvl 9
    Very nice. I agree with a lot of it. A company is well defined from within and the product is just a result of the team working together.

    Here at 1p we have a very similar way of functioning. From constantly moving our desks to be close to our new projects, to the mentality and importance of hiring the right person. I think some people take this lightly, but its all about the right mindset and work ethic that is compatible with the rest of the people in the company. Who brings more to the table with their expertise, but also has the ability to adapt and take initiative, and i think that's a big keyword. People that take initiative and are driven by learning and pushing the boundaries and capabilities not only in art, but through tech. I think someone that is not afraid to mess around in code, to learn it and make it better brings better results. I believe in Epic they have this mindset.

    Apart from that i do wonder how some of the projects are sprung to life, and managed. Here the big boss commands some of those, but is driven by what we want to work on and how we can make it work. But i can't grasp how they would fund a project without deadlines. I guess it helps that their games are generating lots of money all year round generating a good cash flow until the next game is done. Because seriously, when valve is done with a game its the day it comes out. No warnings or anything haha

    Anyways... I like that most of the people here at polycount agree that this kind of management is more preferable, or that we debate and argue ideas with rational thinking and not what makes the most money. At some point we will mold the next generation to this kind of thinking, and that is when change happens. I can see it happen already with teams like Double Fine or Valve.
  • Dan!
    Offline / Send Message
    Dan! polycounter lvl 6
    Sneakiest spam ever^^^^^^^^^^^
    edit: there was spam above my post
1
Sign In or Register to comment.