This handbook does not constitute an employment contract or binding policy and is Either Valve or an employee can terminate the employment relationship. Valve's Handbook for New Employees. A fearless adventure in knowing what to do when no one's there telling you what to do. Download PDF. Originally uploaded to bestthing.info This handbook does not constitute an employment contract or binding policy and is Either Valve or an employee can terminate the employment relationship.
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Employee handbook for Valve Corporation, a maker of videogames. On Friday, a user on the Flamehaus forums uploaded a very convincing pdf, complete with accompanying photo, of a new book called Valve. So Valve is definitely idealized by people outside (and inside) the game industry, but definitely much less so by people who have worked there.
This prioritization of cultural fit is evident throughout the employee handbook with photos of staff, quotes and real testimonials.
The document covers lighter topics using things like images, memes, colors and graphs. For example, the Disqus at a Glance page uses a map to show office locations as well as an easy-to-read graph to illustrate employee growth over time. In addition to the fun layout, the text is written in a light and conversational way making it relatable and much easier to read. Created on airmason.
The document also communicates how modern and fresh Sterling is by using iMessage chats to answer FAQs.
The document portrays the fun company culture with jokes, puns and lighthearted text. And, they manage to do this without sacrificing humor. The handbook finishes by checking one of the most important legal boxes: a quick note stating that the rules are not a part of an employment contract and are subject to change without notice. Employees who are looking for something specific can find it instantly. The most important part of a good employee handbook is that it accurately represents the company to which it belongs.
Dota was originally a fan-made Mod to WarCraft 3. Valve aquirehired them to create Dota2, a standalone version based on Source engine.
Blizzard wasn't amused and announced a similar game a few days after Valve announced Dota2 back then. Half Life 1 GoldSource is based on Quake 1 engine with small parts from Quake 2 engine , and of cource evolved. Half Life 2 Source engine evolved from GoldSource engine. But Valve decided to shut down both.
The unclear situation for several years makes HL fans angry. We all remember also the shitshow around the HL2 release. The infamous HL2 demo at E3 was faked and the game was nowhere to be ready. The leaked video footage a year later showed how far behind Valve was behind the announced release schedule. Half Life 2 was finally released another year later with heavily shortened gameplay and many previously features removed.
Making it basically a different game that feels very differently to the original Half Life 1. I imagine they have only a couple more years to try to figure this out before the gaming zeitgeist moves away from traditional MOBAs completely. GO has been in an alternating state of either complete neglect or completely tone-deaf changes. Most patches from recent memory have been despised by the community and quickly reverted. The game seems to be the red-headed stepchild of Valve properties, run by a skeleton crew of people who don't really understand the game.
Meanwhile, Blizzard just blew the doors off the market by revitalizing a game format that Valve invented. I suspect there is a huge internal struggle at Valve right now to determine whether the company will be a content producer or a platform. You are hugely underestimating the size of Dota2.
It is insanely profitable and benefits from having a more mature playerbase, which comes with disposable income. While I don't know much about CS: I disagree at least on one point - I've also played Dota a fair bit in the last few years, and as for Dota, I think parent might be pretty on the money when they say games are moving away from traditional MOBAs.
The format is great, but in its 'traditional' form three lanes, jungle, etc , there's only so much you can do with it.
I think the market is pretty ripe for innovation on that format, and Dota won't be able to keep up when it happens. I also agree with parent in that 'Blizzard just blew the doors off the market by revitalizing a game format that Valve invented' - I honestly think it's hard to argue that point. Overwatch is conceptually very, very similar to TF2, and must be doing some damage to its playerbase though I haven't checked any stats on that at all so I might just be talking shit.
Isn't that what Heroes of the Storm is though? It doesn't seem to have been very successful at pulling players away from Dota. True, but I still think it can be done better, and the time will only get more ripe for it as more longtime players quit source: Wake me when they divest themselves of their hats.
Dota is over 13 years old by now and still growing. It may have less players than League, but it's by far the most popular game on Steam. I've played it for over 10 years myself, and I have a very long friendlist of similar people.
Valve Employee Handbook
Dota is a lifestyle, it's more addictive than any other game and people keep coming back to it even against their own wishes.
Valve has been drip feeding people with Dota updates since its launch and I don't expect it to stop anytime soon. Claiming that dota will die in a couple of years should be taken with a huge grain of salt. As a Microsoft employee I am so happy that we got rid of stack ranking a few years ago. It encourages a bad behavior and goes against helping your coworkers with whom you are essentially competing for compensation.
I am surprised to see that a company like Valve, which seems to be held in high regard by many developers in the industry, still operates with this compensation system. It's system of the 80's if you ask me. AimHere on July 25, I suspect it might work differently in Valve's case.
I'm led to believe that Microsoft had a fixed, conventional hierarchy, where every little group and person within the group was backstabbing everybody else to keep their jobs. If their handbook is to be believed, Valve has a much more flat management structure, where it's basically Gabe at the top, sortof, and everyone else doing whatever they think is best for the company, and there's a fluid system where people can move between groups according to their interests and how they perceive they can add value.
So, unlike in Microsoft's case, Valve's people have an easy avenue towards putting 'if you can't beat 'em, join 'em' into practice. Valve has a radically different corporate culture from most other companies in it's space.
It doesn't come from the 80s, or indeed almost any other time. Perhaps the stack ranking works a lot better because of it. Karunamon on July 25, Part of me wonders if the Valve management structure isn't almost completely to blame for things like their infamously bad customer service. I could see why - dealing with support tickets from irate people is not a particularly interesting or judging by Steam's runaway success: Not that I mean to hijack this to complain about Steam, but you have to admit it's a benefit of a traditional management structure: I suspect it's much more that Valve is an insanely lightweight company for it's customer base.
It has something like employees servicing million customers on the go-to PC gaming platform, and a lot of those employees are working on shiny tech and new games.
As a comparison, Rockstar North's facility in Edinburgh has roughly the same employee count slightly more by Wikipedia's count , and all they do is put out one new game every 5 years or so. I suspect that if Valve wanted to, it could easily hire lots of people who would be happy to man the customer service helplines and who wouldn't be either able or willing to try to make TF2 levels or whatever.
Maybe the management structure is what limits the size of Valve, though. Keyframe on July 25, Rockstar North's facility in Edinburgh has roughly the same employee count slightly more by Wikipedia's count , and all they do is put out one new game every 5 years or so.
All they did was recreate a city full of assets and added game mechanics to it in five years and made the most expensive at the time game product in history with more than people involved in production and the fastest selling entertainment product in history. And that's only GTA 5.
All they did, numerous times so far, was to create vast games full of created digital assets. Games that hold record-breaking sales numbers and hold positions in all best-selling video games charts. That's all they did. Nothing to write home about, really. Bunch of slackers. What's your point? Valve put out multiple AAA games in the same timeframe too, and did a lot of other stuff besides. Sure, GTA5 is a big-ass game, but Valve's games - games plural - haven't exactly been small projects either.
Rockstar has an army of artists working on those assets for that game. Valve is a multidisciplinary house where they dabble in a lot of stuff, split in smaller groups, but their primary vehicle is Steam and a couple of successful games where each project does not need as many people.
It's comparing apples to oranges. What Rockstar does demands an army of artists. If Valve were to do same type of game world, they would have an army also.
They do not do the same thing though. If Rockstar were to do what Valve does, they would also have a number of people split into smaller teams working on their own things. That's why you can't say it's all Rockstar does with same number of people.
Those people are not the same skill and those projects are not the same. Rockstar's yield, if you're comparing the game industry, is a level above Valve. It's a level above most. It's really not a good example to compare to. They are on the leading edge of what they do.
An area Valve isn't in. Maybe if you've compared Avalanche Studios and Just Cause 3. They had 75 core-member team in a studio of and, who knows how many, outsourced people. Most game development studios including Valve outsource most of the art related work.
So they can definitely maintain their strength and build a product with scope similar to GTAV. Kurtz79 on July 25, There is no denying Valve does great with the number of people it has, but of all the badly managed companies they could be compared to, Rockstar really it is not a good example Rockstar is certainly doing well profit-wise in the industry, but I think Valve still compares favorably productivity-wise.
They've also developed and supported a new platform, SteamOS, and rolled out hardware with manufacturing partners. Besides this, the Steam platform has added live-streaming like twitch , family sharing, big picture mode, the VR UI, and other features. These are just what I can think of off the top of my head and don't even explicitly involve any games though they released a collection of 11 small experiences for VR as well.
MegaDeKay on July 26, I only wish I could give you multiple upvotes. Valve has been huge for Linux gaming and if I understand correctly, were a major factor in the push for Vulkan. They can indeed Take My Money. Karunamon on July 26, Most of the stuff Valve is selling nowadays are addons to already existing games.
Interesting thought experiment: I suspect Valve will beat them at least twice over. SXX on July 25, Pretty sure Valve outsure all customer support. Most probably never even publicly known. Few years ago one producer who visited Valve commented that in office there was one of areas where he was told something like "and here is our Steam department".
And back then that was like people at most include both partner relations and marketing. Or the Source engine HL2 which evolved from GoldSource HL1 which was based on Quake 1 engine with some parts from Quake 2 engine - even the Call of Duty engine which aged well too is based on the more modern Quake 3 engine, and I wouldn't consider it shiny in Rockstar's RAGE engine as well as Crytek engine StarCitizen, Crysis , and the Frostbite Battlefield 1 are light years ahead and far superior in every aspect and that's what I would consider shiny tech.
Valve is what Valve is today because of the success of steam. They produce little games like Dota2 more for fun than anything else, they gt rich with steam. At least three of those games involve regular ongoing content infusions. As I pointed out, Rockstar uses more manpower than Valve just to create essentially one game every few years.
Even if we assume that those employees are doing nothing but working on Steam, it's still a tiny number compared to the customer base. AirBnB, for instance, has had 2 million listings in it's lifetime, and it has about employees. Uber has over employees on about 8 million customers, and both those cases are ones where people aren't typically regular users. Which makes whatever Valve does all the more impressive.
None of the "blank" games are Valve's IPs but acquisitions which kind of stopped in development or releases after Valve acquisition. Half-Life was their last original IP and even that ended in a complete cliff hanger with Episode 3 or sequel nowhere to be found.
It seems that Valve has serious problems actually pushing their games to completion since they started printing money with Steam and pressure to actually release went away. In no way are these moribund or 'stopped in development'; the latter two are still among the most played and watched competitive games online. It's also stretching things to say that Valve 'acquired' Portal and it was dropped 'after acquisition', since Valve essentially bought the team that made a small gameplay prototype and fleshed out the mechanic into two full-fledged AAA games.
So that just leaves 'Left 4 Dead', which was a case of Valve downloading a company, publishing it's game and then putting out a full-on sequel. Given how similar L4D2 was to L4D1 to the point where the first game was essentially contained inside the second, and there was even a threatened boycott by fans , would it really have been a smart move to make a third so soon? Sure, it's been, what, three years since the last full game release by Valve. That's quite a long time, and there is no doubt less pressure to release sooner because they're sitting on their money-printing machine, but that sort of timeframe isn't exactly unprecedented in this business.
The Rockstar studio I mentioned is on a year turnaround for it's one main title - though it does aid and abet Rockstar's other studios. I suspect part of what's going on is that Valve is uber PR-conscious these days, given it's position in the market and can afford to be a ultra-conservative about quality control though hopefully not in game design in any new game it's going to put out.
Portal was a acquire hire, the originsl game was a free game from a students competition. It was a freeware but full game that takes about two hours to complete. Of course the graphic looked worse and there was little narrative, it was a students project after all. Portal 2 was based on additional aquirehire as well colored water splash features , from followup competition, game is freeware as well.
Left 4 Dead, company was bought. Team Fortress was a Mod for Quake. Though it took additional 11 years and at least complete restart to release Team Fortress 2 based on Source engine. CounterStrike was a free Mod from fans for Half Life 1.
They aquirehired the team around CounterStrike 0. Some say it went downhill from there. As Source engine is just an incremental evolution, it was just a matter of building the game again and later replacing textures and models with higher ones, etc. Dota was originally a fan-made Mod to WarCraft 3. Valve aquirehired them to create Dota2, a standalone version based on Source engine.
Blizzard wasn't amused and announced a similar game a few days after Valve announced Dota2 back then. Half Life 1 GoldSource is based on Quake 1 engine with small parts from Quake 2 engine , and of cource evolved.
Half Life 2 Source engine evolved from GoldSource engine. But Valve decided to shut down both. The unclear situation for several years makes HL fans angry. We all remember also the shitshow around the HL2 release. The infamous HL2 demo at E3 was faked and the game was nowhere to be ready. The leaked video footage a year later showed how far behind Valve was behind the announced release schedule.
Half Life 2 was finally released another year later with heavily shortened gameplay and many previously features removed. Making it basically a different game that feels very differently to the original Half Life 1.
Little games like Dota2? It's the biggest title on Steam in terms of players by a large margin and probably the 2nd most popular game worldwide on PC to ever exist behind LoL It also generates a significant amount of revenue for Valve through the sales of tournament ticket and cosmetics. You don't mention Portal 2, Dota 2, CS: Sure the Battlefield team has made Frostbite which is shinier than Source.
Former Valve Employee: 'It Felt a Lot Like High School'
Did they also make their own store, gamepad, and VR headset? Got a strong feeling the talent is long gone.
Ignores other 9 things. Johan-bjareholt on July 25, Source 2 is in DOTA 2, but that game doesn't show its full potential. Let's just wait for their next game until we say that they are "years behind".
They've tried and they discontinued doing so because they felt it was even worse than being apathetic about it. Sebguer on July 25, What's your source on that? I'm fairly certain that all of Valve's customer support is outsourced, though not specifically overseas, but to contract support teams.
Yeah they actually manage to ship games that manage to make back the entire production budget in pre-orders alone , not just sit on their hands running an online store with an outdated and clunky client. I mean, it's not like traditional companies—from Google to Comcast—consistently provide great customer support either. So you can't really make strong conclusions about why Valve is having issues there without additional insight; there are too many confounding variables to pin it just on its management structure.
This is a common story with people trying something new. If you do the old-fashioned thing—download IBM, so to speak—and fail , well, these things happen. A lot of factors could have contributed to the problem. But if you try something new , the new thing must be at fault—even though all those other factors apply just as much now as they did in the IBM case.
That's a fair point, but I'm struggling to think of a way in which it isn't at least partially to blame. The handbook and Valve insiders say it's pretty much a do-your-own-thing company.
Who'd want to deal with angry users all day? I work for a software company very much like Valve in structure, who has been operating this way since the 70s.
Support still gets done, because when you hire you specifically hire people who love doing support. Those people exist, and they get tremendously emotionally involved in the quality of their work, just like anyone else.
In every department there are people who struggle with the flat hierarchy and free range to work on what you like, who have a strong emotional need to know who is in charge, and to be told what needs doing. Those people struggle, but they are by no means relegated to any one department -- plenty of them are engineers. Bjartr on July 25, Surely there are some people out there who really do have a passion for, and get satisfaction from, dealing with upset customers.
The questions left are how hard are they to find and how expensive are they to employ. Or someone is making sure to look like their are doing some work. I'm a former MSFT employee that was around when we dropped stack ranking, and I didn't feel like that was a substantial change.
Managers still calibrate you against your peers, a stack is still created, and compensation is assigned accordingly. I remember reviews feeling the same before and after. What changed for you? At any company Microsoft included where performance-based compensation exists, there is a budget for that line item. Therefore it is a zero-sum game - to pay someone more because of their performance, that means that someone else gets less or zero from that line item.
But the latter definitely cannot be removed if you are to have performance-based compensation. I'd like to point out that it's possible to pay bonuses out of profits, rather than a fixed, yearly pre-allocated pool. If employees are only paid a bonus when they add to company profits, there is no competition for bonus funds between employees. The problem is, how do you measure that? There are a bunch of good ideas that most people will agree provide a benefit, but it's really hard to come up with an objective measure of how much money that makes or saves.
Make the bonus pool a fixed percentage of company yearly profits not sales. Assign at least half of the bonus pool in an egalitarian way like based on the number of days worked on that year , assign the remainder on a roughtly "merit" based criteria, and let every team to agree on the criteria, but make it be something objective it does not matter if it is number of bugs closed, or being at your desk on time in the morning, or whatever, just as long as the measurement is unambiguous and the team agrees on it.
That would be far from perfect, there will be free loaders, and most likely than not it will be slightly unfair to everyone. But at least you have removed the perverse incentive to sabotage coworkers in order to look yourself better.
If there is no measurable difference, then a bonus cannot be paid out according to this scheme. So we're talking about innovative ideas that release an extra reward in addition to a regular salary , if they result in a measurable saving somewhere. For example: You will be horrified to learn that there is a push to write stack ranking for all public employees into the constitution of Greece. Wouldn't it make sense to just pay everyone in the same type of role essentially the same amount and then bonus people from time to time on particular outstanding achievements.
Nothing is a more powerful inducement than financial incentives and a bonus gives an impact that the ongoing salary doesn't.
People don't give a crap about annual reviews unless they think its low enough to get them fired. My sense is performance evaluations should be banished from the corporate world, for the most part. Usually a waste of time, but that is where managers can be helpful as they are carrying an ongoing assessment of the value of each of their employees at all times.
IIRC Peopleware showed that financial bonuses were tremendously effective - at reducing peoples' investment in their work. Extra money for excellence comes with an implied message that the regular money is just for showing up. You really don't want your employees to feel that way. I researched Valve quite a bit before applying there I did not get in, but one of their senior team members wrote me a nice message. Some interesting bits I found: One former employee hints at some reasons here: This is not to say Valve is a "bad" place to work at, I am sure it beats the hell out of many other job environments, even ignoring the excellent pay.
Typically, applying through their website will not get you a job - they usually hire by actively looking through a pool of candidates that they already know of. They also look for candidates who are good at producing high amounts of customer value - they care more about this than technical ability. A flatter hierarchy is almost always preferable, but taken to an extreme it seems like inevitable chaos. When I hear people talk about how great they think it would be to work in a flat org, they always seem to think that it means they will exist in a meritocracy free of politics where they can use their own judgement about what to do and how to do it.
I don't see how it could be anything but the exact opposite of that in every respect, and anecdotally that seems to be the case. I suppose I am just going off the completely non-scientific vibe I got when I first heard people describing the organization many years ago.
I think how ideal it seems or actually is is in the eye of the beholder: That doesn't surprise me in the least. Not really surprising considering their bar to hire.
But it seems to be more lucrative than a hedge fund. MIKarlsen on July 25, I find the whole "You are a person who spend every waking hour optimizing yourself to become the best YOU you can be"-frame of mind very intimidating. Maybe it's because I'm not american, but even though I like to work with complex issues, I also like a job with a decent income, and the ability to go home and relax when I'm not working.
And by relax, I don't mean working on side projects, doing volunteer work or earning a second degree in something. You're right - it's very much an American thing.Although that rather proves your point as politics are most definitely on-show there.
Totally agree. Left 4 Dead, company was bought. Some of those people are PhDs, doctors and other traditionally 'successful' people. Keyframe on July 25, You can read the entire thing in the embedded window below or for more optimal viewing click on the little black arrow saying "open in new window". All they did, numerous times so far, was to create vast games full of created digital assets. The handbook lays out expectations about everything from the dress code to employee benefits to conduct policy.