Today we are taking a closer look at another game developer and what makes them special. Last time we looked at Bioware. This time we focus on Valve Corporation. Besides making games, they are also the force behind Steam. They are worth loving for that alone. But this focuses on the games.
Valve is special because they have found success in making a variety of game types built on the same first person style. You have the solo shooter like Half-Life, a puzzler in Portal, co-op in Left 4 Dead, and standard competitive in Team Fortress. All of these are in the top of their respective arenas.
Why? Valve crafts a ultra-polished game experience. Each moment of the experience is finely crafted in order to give the player the best possible experience. There is attention paid to every single component.
The best example is the detailed environmental design. Valve spends a lot of their developmental resources in creative a fully realized world. Details like putting pencils on desks and graffiti on walls make the world feel alive and lived in. Similarly, subtle player guidance cues are integrated into the environment. Players are natural drawn to the brighter parts of maps, so Valve will highlight key portions of a large, complicated map with lights. This works at a subconscious level, keeping the player on track and moving forward.
A consistent forward progress is another key part of having a positive experience. Valve never wants the player to remain stuck at any point for very long. They do extensive play-testing in order to find areas where the difficulty spikes and adjust accordingly. Players are always given the tools and knowledge they need to properly execute what is required.
With a Valve game, the graphics won’t be the best. The story will not be extremely deep or complicated. The characters are few and often very one-dimensional. The gameplay will never been that difficult. But moment to moment, you could not ask for a better experience.
-That is all.