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:
— Darshan Shankar (@DShankar) August 8, 2016
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 firstname.lastname@example.org what you think.”
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.
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.