1. Whenever I read this stuff about “Working at Valve,” I have two conflicting impulses. First, that I really want to work at Valve, and would do anything to get a job with them. And second, that I don’t ever want to work at Valve, because I could never live up to the standards of the people who already work there, and I’d be letting them down.

  2. Thinking about this further, I think there must be some negatives to the culture at Valve that aren’t apparent from the official rule-set, and I imagine they must have to do with certain aspects of the ingrained culture there.

    The tip off: Why did Kim Swift need to leave Valve to make Quantum Conundrum? Couldn’t she have simply put together a small team there? Couldn’t she even have pushed to hire people specifically for her project? Isn’t it supposed to be that simple?

    Similarly, if 100% of everyone’s time is discretionary, wouldn’t you expect to see a whole bunch of small projects coming out as people form ad hoc teams to make something on a smaller scale than the big releases? (I guess that was sort of the promise of the Half Life episodes, in a way, but those were still just continuations of an existing franchise.)

  3. I finally got a chance to read the pdf, and yeah, it both sheds a lot of light on the way things come out of Valve (the whole TF2-as-throw-ideas-against-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks-testbed that it became, and that Gabe and others admitted it was, as well as the insane amount of non-ingame content that Valve people created around it, it would seem just because they wanted to) and also makes one wonder about what is lost as well as what is gained in the way they do things.

    Still, I’d so much love to work there if I had the skills they needed. Like Katrel, though, it would be hard to shake the feeling that I had to work harder than anyone else just to avoid letting the team down, an impulse learned from years of working for companies that focus on working harder rather than just smarter.

  4. A couple nice pullquotes from the article stavros just linked to:

    We assume people know what they’re doing. On Half-Life 2, one of the engineers made a bunch of really bad decisions. There was no monitoring system along the way so it took us about six months longer than it should have for us to catch it. It cost everyone on the team a whole bunch of extra work.

    The terminology we use internally is “individual” and “group” contribution skills. A group contributor’s job is to help other people be more productive, and in doing that you sacrifice some of your own productivity. It’s a higher stress job and you get interrupted a lot more. People will do that for one project. They’ll say, “I really want to do this game!” and everyone will say “Ha ha ha, you’re stuck with it now.” At the end of the project they’re like, “Gee, that was really interesting but I want to go back and work individually on the next thing.” Some of the highest compensated people at the company are relatively pure individual contributors.

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