Interviews// Valve's Doug Lombardi

Posted 31 Aug 2007 14:37 by
Amid all the mess of sweat, drain odour and beautiful promotions girls that was this year's Leipzig Games Convention, I actually got the chance to sit down with Doug Lombardi, director of marketing at Valve.

Doug, if you didn't know, is a thoroughly 'Good Bloke'. His profile up on Valve's website introduces him quite nicely: ?After years in the music industry, Doug decided to get a real job. Then he came to his senses and made the decision to get into the gaming industry instead.?

Doug joined Valve back in the heady days of the first Half Life, and has been with the company through numerous sequels, new franchises and the introduction of a little online service called Steam.

Half Life 2: Episode 2
Half Life 2: Episode 2
From the luxury of EA's business stand (revolving bar and all) Doug and I talked about Valve, Steam, PC gaming, online services, Half Life and Darwinism. First, however, we got into the much talked-about but little acted-upon subject of episodic gaming. Read on...


SPOnG: What drove the decision to make the Half Life series episodic?

Half Life 2: Episode 2
Half Life 2: Episode 2
DL: It was really a reaction to escalating budgets and timelines for making our games. Half Life 1 - we intended to spend about a year making it, we spent two years making it. Half Life 2 - we planned to spend three or four years making it, we spent almost six years making it. So, if you follow that trajectory, with the next one we would probably have taken ten years making it. So we said 'OK, we've got to try something else', and, you know, we have been very fortunate with the success of the games that we've been able to take a little bit of a risk and try something a bit different.

Half Life 2: Episode 2
Half Life 2: Episode 2
And so, we said, 'Well what if we were to break up the game into chapters?', or episodes ? whatever word you want to use for it. And that was really where the idea came from, and we said, 'We can get stuff out quicker, we can implement new technology that's more relevant, because we're not saying: five years from now, what's going to be the best video card?' It's like, '18 months from now what's going to be the best video card?', because usually you know that pretty distinctly. It made a lot of sense once we started peeling it back.

Meanwhile, I think it's pretty fair to say it's still new, and that we're still learning and figuring it out. We've made changes to what we're doing, in how we're packaging and selling Episode 2 [compared to] how we did Episode 1. So Episode 2's a bit longer and so on...

Half Life 2: Episode 2
Half Life 2: Episode 2
So, I think it's something that we're still ? I don't want to sound grandiose and say 'pioneering' ? but we're trying to figure out and define.


SPOnG: Well, there aren't a lot of episodic games out there, really.

Half Life 2: Episode 2
Half Life 2: Episode 2
DL: It's us and Sam & Max, then there's a couple of people that have announced they're going to do them, but haven't done them yet, so...
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