Valve’s Gabe Newell: ‘I’ve Been Spending Most of My Time With the VR Team’

by David Jagneaux • August 8th, 2016

The DOTA 2 International Championships kicked off today. This year, for the first time ever, you can even watch and experience the tournament in virtual reality thanks to the game’s recent VR Hub feature. That means that if you couldn’t make it out to Seattle to watch the festivities in person, you can get even closer to the action by going inside the game itself.

At the kickoff of the massive eSports events, Valve’s CEO, Gabe Newell, started everything off with a hearty, “Welcome to The International!” declaration.

Thousands of people gathered in Seattle for the event, which features its largest-ever $20 million cash pool this year. They even showed off some fancy Pokemon GO-style AR hologram-like performances to get the audience in the mood:

During his opening speech, Newell was surprisingly specific about what he had been up to at the company for the past year, rather than being intentionally cryptic or vague. “For the last year, I’ve been spending most of my time with the VR team,” Newell explained. “We have a bunch of VR systems set up above The Secret Shop. So if you have a chance, go check it out, and let me know at [email protected] what you think.”

Outside of the Key Arena, the VR demos that Valve prepared included titles such as Space Pirate Trainer, Hover Junkers, and Audioshield, according to Geekwire.

Hearing Valve’s CEO’s continual endorsement and excitement for VR is reassuring, but we’ve yet to see much from the gaming giant in the way of playable software on their flagship VR headset. Other than The Lab, which is a free-to-play collection of short demos, and Destinations, a VR-tourism application, the company has been (characteristically) quiet. No one really knows what they’re working on exactly, whether that be a VR adaptation of a beloved game series like Portal, or something brand new and groundbreaking all together.

Just last week, Valve announced that they would soon begin licensing the SteamVR tracking technology that allows the HTC Vive controllers to sync with the lighthouse base stations in every Vive owner’s home. Interestingly, Valve isn’t even taking the lead on training people on how to use their own technology, because it’s not something they have the bandwidth or resources to manage. They’ve partnered with another company to do that.

steamvr

According to this FAQ on Steam, Joe Ludwig, a programmer at Valve, explains as much. “Longer term, we do want the hardware community to help us evolve base station design and to help innovate in that area, but given our own limited bandwidth we need to push that collaboration out to some future date,” writes Ludwig.

Valve is famously known as one of the few companies that truly try to encourage a flat company structure without bosses that enables its employees to work on whatever they want. So while it’s fun to imagine Gabe working on some killer VR app, he’s probably spending so much time with virtual reality for a pretty simple reason: because he feels like it.

h/t: Geekwire

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  • Tom Daigon

    Ive been gaming since the Sega 3D Master System 🙂 But I feel privileged to be experiencing the paradigm shift from watching 2D LCD screens….. to full immersion in the game / doc / art. This is the birth of a new way to experience stories that can be way more personal then books or movies. Valve, Steam and others are the right folks to be paving the way. (I love Portal and the song that ends the game)

    • James Butlin

      I’ve been gaming since the Commodore 64, It’s been a hell of a ride! I’m really hoping to see us being able to plug our consciousness into games in my lifetime!

    • mirak

      I play since atari 2600.
      You can’t imagine how fun it is again to play pong 😀 (cyberpong, holoball)

    • Daniel Pissmore

      I agree with everything Tom, except your haircut – I’m not sure that it suits you.

  • Sebastien Mathieu

    yes VR is really a welcome change in my gaming landscape, instead of just iterating on graphic quality, now we can truly change the way we are gaming….just love my VIVE!!!

    • Dan Hornburgh

      Indeed! Getting somewhat tired of CoD/BF “pushing the envelope” by doing nothing new every year… First person games stagnated real hard around the time when BF2 came out. After that there’s been next to no evolution other than graphically. Hell, there was a ten year stretch there where 64 player servers just vanished from all games, so we kinda took a step back.. Making even the large games seem more CS-like..
      Skyrim was just a new Oblivion which was a new Morrowind.. Same (awesome) game every time. Nothing new.

      Only breath of fresh air for the past decade++ has been indie games. Zero risks have been taken by the big developers and publishers.

      I am so ready for VR

      • djkoz78

        Yeah I know there’s probably a lot of people who cannot wait for BF 3 The Pounding: Making the Brown Eye Blue.

  • Darius Ghobadian

    I can’t wait to get mine!

    • DougP

      You’re gonna love it!

  • EQRG_Chevalier

    My wife and I have owned the Vive for 4 months now, its been a fantastic investment 🙂

    • Do you play a lot of multiplayer together? Some of the most fun I’ve had with VR is playing local multiplayer games or just taking turns with other people.

      • EQRG_Chevalier

        its mainly us taking turns, sometimes with friends over (3D Pictionary thanks to Tilt Brush and a 60 inch TV is a real thing and mad fun). I am the only one who has played multiplayer in the Vive, Raw Data specifically. Its a really odd feeling in that game, when someone is standing next to you in game, and you’re talking out loud like you would if he was literally standing there, even though he’s half a planet over. lol. It feels a bit creepy at first, but then the action begins and you’re both laughing and carrying on while you blast stuff away 😀

        • I highly recommend Rec Room if you like playing multiplayer online. Cloudlands is a lot of fun for local coop too, taking turns inside the headset!

          • EQRG_Chevalier

            Yeah, I see some of the hilarity of Rec Room via Reddit 🙂

        • DougP

          Re: 3D Pictionary w/TiltBrush
          Ok, gotta try that now – great idea.

          Was thinking of some gaming options for local multi-player.
          Bought Ruckus Ridge (haven’t tried yet) & another one (can’t remember name) to try out next time have a big group over for VR.
          Much more fun getting more people involved in the experience rather than just “waiting in line”.

    • Daniel Pissmore

      Thanks for the update. I’m off to take a shit.

  • dante`afk

    I’ve the Vive since 1 month now. I’ve been using it for 5 days and since then it dusts in the corner. Boring, no AAA games.

    • TheTruth

      there are AAA games. you must not know what you’re doing

      • Badelhas

        Which ones? I kind of agree with the guy…
        I am a old pc gamer, have the Vive for a month, have bought Vanishing Realms and pool nation VR, played rec room, tilt brush, the lab, a others. None of them makes me want to come back like a truly AAA game used to. At least for now the games are lacking something. But correct me if I’m wrong.

        • MattPeloquin

          I 100% agree with you. They need a virtual world that you want to spend all your time exploring.

        • James Butlin

          Try Raw Data. Excellent game, online multiplayer is great run! Still in early access but one of the most polished Vive games out there currently, exclusive the ones you mentioned. Cosmic Trip is another good one that’s quite simple but very fun.

          • Badelhas

            Thanks for the suggestion. How much does it cost and how many hours did you spend playing it since you bought it?
            It’s funny, I spent 40 euros on Vanishing Realms and Pool Nation VR and the game I keep coming back to is a very indie and free game: Rec Room.
            That’s why I’m afraid of spending more unnecessary money. 40 euros is a lot when my wage is only 1000 a month.

        • mirak

          Hover Junkers, Elite.
          I don’t even have the time to play enough.
          Maybe you spend to much time playing video games.

          • evodev

            Hover Junkers is as indie as you can get it. It’s like one or two dudes

          • mirak

            So what ? Its good and fun. If you dont plan to play to it five jours à day then its alright.

          • Badelhas

            lol. I work and have a daughter, and I’m studying for a formation that takes most of the rest of my free time. I wish I could have more than the 1 or 2h a week to use my Vive.

          • mirak

            Then the actual games are enough with so few time to play.

          • Badelhas

            Actually, at the moment, you have a point. Let’s hope that some great game comes up until December, when I’ll have the final exam. After that I will have much more time to play with this.

        • Fanatoli Guyoff

          If you’re an old pc gamer, you might’ve played elite. Elite dangerous is really cool in VR although its pretty demanding, and has quite a learning curve. I’ve put 150 hours into it in the 6 weeks I’ve had it and I work 60 hours a week as well as taking a night course (only one at the moment though).

    • Matt W

      Minecraft is pretty great in VR, though it is only supported by modders at the moment.

    • mirak

      Just shut up with AAA games, and just play.

    • dante`afk

      Hover junkers is boring. Vanishing realms is cool, but gets boring after 1 hour. raw data is pretty good, but done after 1-2 hours.

      the only game that I play from time to time is audioshield. I have over 30 VR games in steam.

      • Shoulda got a Rift. There are TONS of great games on the Oculus Home store atm; and once Touch hits? Look out!

        • RogWilco

          lol

        • Denis

          Hahaha!

        • Jim Bond

          Guffaw!

          • lol, what? You don’t like the concept of an HMD with reduced SDE, better weight distribution, Asynchronous Time Warp, and more than just crappy tech demos?

            Come on now, don’t buy into the media crap lol.

          • G-man

            i like having a hmd with tracked controllers, hows your xbox controller suiting you?

            also, vive has the exact same thing as ATW, so yeah, shows what you know.

          • lol, no, it doesn’t. The prediction model is not the same thing and not near as beneficial, and due to its implementation it will likely never be able to support ATW (give me a break lol).

            Also, yes, the Vive *wands* are definitely here earlier than Touch, but come on man, they SUCK. Touch is natural, using your hands in VR should feel natural, Vive *wands* are like holding sticks while you try to move your hands. Not very immersive at all.

            Bunch o’ derps with no patience lmao. Truth is, Vive just isn’t that great of a product, plain and simple; and the Vive fanboys are so butthurt about the whole deal, they run around everywhere like little schmucks trying to make it sound like their HMD is so amazing, when it is still like a glorified devkit lmao.

            Also, my Xbox controller is suiting me well, thanks. Works great in such titles as Edge of Nowhere, Chronos and Farlands. I have a good racing wheel for playing VR racing games like Project Cars (works amazing) and a good ol’ trusty Thrustmaster for space sims like Elite:Dangerous.
            And for those little SteamVR demos I just *can’t* wait for? Well, it isn’t quite as good as the Vive wands, but I DO have a leapmotion with Orion and some nifty little Steam drivers that have been cooked up, which lets me emulate the wands well enough I can see what I am missing (not much).

            But hey, none of that matters, so long as you are happy with your new “toy”, I’m happy for you!

            Enjoy your VR!

          • G-man

            oh noes it’s slightly different because reprojection is better for larger tracked area whereas atw is better for seated where you don’t really move your head much. plus there is zero reason why it couldn’t suppoert atw, thats nothing to do with the headset its down to the gpu and how it renders frames. which btw only certain gpus can even do. whereas any gpu can do reprojection. so all a little bit more complicated than “lol the thing i got is better”

            just a bit earlier, like a year earlier, but whateves right, those touch controllers that don’t exist as a product you can buy are so much better. touch is still a controller in your hand with buttons to press to replicate doing things in game. the only benefit touch has touch sensitive buttons so you can what, make your virtual hand point and make a couple of gestures? oh wow. yeah, that can’t just be mapped by making the grip buttons a toggle and the other buttons select the gesture… there such a massive difference,
            id rather actually have controllers than be waiting for slightl different ones that seem like they have a big issue with them that they are taking forever to fix.

          • Wow, I didn’t realize you knew so little about everything. It’s ok man, just keep reading and eventually you’ll catch up. 😀

          • G-man

            haahahaha, thanks for the laugh

          • No problem Goof-man.

          • G-man

            aww now it just got pathetic, why did you have go and make it pathetic?

      • Daniel Pissmore

        You’re a spoilt brat who does not deserve VR. You are a product of your greedy little ‘xbox achievements generation’. You should pass your HMD on to someone who appreciates what goes into making your toys.

      • Dan Hornburgh

        You trued Onward since then? It´s quite something.
        Btw, buying a vive expecting AAA games in substantial numbers the first 3 years is naive. You should have known better than to expect that at the price of a Vive. Most people blowing 800 bucks did the research and knew this was early days and that there will be tons and tons of experimentation, just like the Atati and Nintendo days. We have to wade through some garbage to get to the likes lf Zaxxon, mario and pac-man.

        Also, those who care about AAA and didn´t go for the PSVR made a huge mistake. Only dev/publisher with enough money to actually back this stuff is Sony. Well, Valve has a lot of money as well, but they are throwing it after indies so as to bulk up the games selection with even more tiny unity games/Tech demos.

        Care about the odd AAA, sell your Vive and get a ps4 pro and a psvr.

        Btw, do not buy an oculus. The people claiming that headset has lots of good games are heavy drinkers. Next to none of the Oculus games are even made for VR. Just joypad platformers (untracked joypad to boot) and shallow action RPGs.

  • polysix

    Need Vive 2 already. Better everything, esp ergonomics and lenses/screens(no god rays – proper blacks).

    • JustNiz

      very much agreed about the lenses. I Wish HTC would just release a lens upgrade kit or something.

  • Jamie

    And here’s me thinking he was working on HL3.

  • JustNiz

    I wish they’d at least confirm whether they’re working on a AAA VR game or not.
    Judging by the quality of “The Lab”, if they are it will be totally awesome on a whole other level that we haven’t seen yet.

  • Fanatoli Guyoff

    I thought the vive was kind of a gimmick but I wanted to try it anyway so I bought one. I can honestly say it’s been the most fun and exciting purchase I’ve made since I was a kid and got a super nintendo. Its simply amazing and not at all a gimmick. I can’t wait to see how things progress.

  • Mageoftheyear

    Damn! Gabe looks a lot more fit.
    Good for him.

  • Jennifer Nelson

    I can’t wait to get my first one

  • flavortang

    I owned my Vive for a few weeks and just couldn’t get the tracking to work for more than 20-30 minutes. It’s an amazing piece of hardware but I think my play space was not conducive to a solid VR experience so I’m making sure that I’m building a perfect VR space in my new house.

    Bright days are ahead for VR and I hope Valve and the Vive are a part of that.

    • G-man

      what was happening after 20 mins and what was the space like?

      • flavortang

        After around 20 minutes the tracking would start blinking out, going grey until it refused to track at all.

        • G-man

          and what was the space you were in like? any windows/mirrors? and what would fix the problem? restarting steamvr? restarting the whole pc?

          • flavortang

            I set up my Vive in my office which is a converted two-car garage. There were pieces of metal from the garage door and the opener that I covered up, and a few other PCs in the room.

            Tracking would be perfect for 20 minutes or so and then just fall apart. I tried EVERYTHING(unplugging/replugging cables, restarting SteamVR, buying a new motherboard, buying a PCIe USB controller, clean install of Windows 10, fiddling with power settings in Nvidia Control Panel and Windows 10, turning off Wifi on every device in my office, .etc) to get it to work and nothing worked so I had to cut my losses and sell it off for now.

            I just couldn’t spend any more time or money going through trial and error to fix the problems. I’m building a new house and am adding a VR room that will have no reflective surfaces. I’ll buy back in then and see what happens. *shrug*

            From the bits of time I spent in VR it was incredible. I played some experience called Lightblade and got to be a Jedi. I WAS A JEDI. I fought a Sith warrior with a lightsaber and killed him. When the fight was over my heart was pounding and I was drenched in sweat. No game ever affected me like that, so VR is great, but right now it’s a bit too glitchy for my current circumstances.