There are no two developers who defined my childhood quite like Valve and Blizzard did. The original Half-Life and Starcraft introduced me to the world of PC gaming. Outside of the occasional crummy DOS game or educational game at school, I had mostly stuck to console games as a kid. It was the boom of dial-up internet and affordable home computers. I had begun my slow descent into the world of PC gaming, joining the ranks of the PC Master Race. Valve’s Half-Life and Counter-Strike quickly became afterschool staples, earning them a life-long fan. But recent years have seen little output regarding new games from the company. So I have to ask myself, what the hell is going?
When I read the weekly article about how some notable developer has left Valve, I have to think if they are victims of their own success. While their digital distribution service Steam is a staple on any gaming PC nowadays, that wasn’t always the case. Steam was first revealed at the 2002 Game Developers Conference. It was conceived as a way to streamline the distribution of patches and updates. But fans had grown accustomed to Sierra Games World Opponent (WON) service and were not pleased with the transition.
The 2003 beta struggled to keep up with the number of players accessing the client during the launch of Counter-Strike 1.6. 2004 was just as problematic as many gamers were unable to connect to the service to authenticate their brand-new copies of Half-Life 2. But the hatred for Steam would not deter Valve. The addition of third-party games in 2005 saw the first real turnaround for the service. And by 2007, the inclusion of notable developers’ such as id Software, Eidos, and Capcom would help solidify Steam as the leading platform for digital distribution on PC.
In the early years of Steam, Valve still made an effort to release new games. People talk about Valve time; How the company takes forever to release a new product. But take a look at a list of their games released between 2004 to 2013. They put an impressive number of games for such a small studio including Team Fortress 2, Portal, Left 4 Dead, Counter-Strike Global Offensive, and DOTA 2. However, the last 4 for years have been oddly quiet for new games in the pipeline.
Outside of The Lab in 2016, a free VR tech demo set in the Portal Universe, they have yet to make any announcements regarding the development of any new games. On the other hand, Steam has continued to drastically improve, as features like the introduction of an automatic refund system, the Steam Curator program and the birth and death of Steam Greenlight have continued to change the ways in which we discover and play games. It’s a monumental task for such a small company and I can’t blame them for focusing on an industry leading platform.
Between the constant updates for Counter-Strike Global Offensive and DOTA 2, it looks like Valve is more content pushing their pre-existing titles than offering any sort of new experiences. And while DOTA 2 is easily the most refined and fulfilling MOBA experience out there, maybe I’m just salty that we never got Half-Life 2 Episode 3. If Blizzard, which is just as bad at taking their sweet time releasing new games, could reinvigorate my love for the company with the release of Overwatch, so can Valve. They can try and distract me with hundreds of discounts in the upcoming summer sale, but I’m onto you Valve. 4 long years without any new releases can only mean one thing: Ricochet 2 is upon us.