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Valve is a software company best known for their digital distribution platform Steam and their multiple hit video game franchises, including Portal and Team Fortress. The company was founded by ex-Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington in 1996.

Valve's Company Logo
"Open your mind"
Mr. Valve, also known as The Valve Guy, is the nickname used for the two mascots used by Valve for the introductory logos seen at the start of their games.[1]
"Open your eyes"
Another version of Mr. Valve.[2]

Founding of Valve & Early Years 1996 - 1999

Prior to Valve’s founding in 1996, Newell had spent 13 years developing Windows at Microsoft .[3] He also developed the Windows 95 port of Doom.[4]

Looking to create a creative community with their shared wealth, Valve L.L.C. was founded in Kirkland, Washington 5 miles from the Microsoft campus in Redmond [5]. The company was founded on Newell's wedding day, August 24, 1996.[6] Before choosing the name “Valve”, Newell and Harrington considered "Fruitfly Ensemble" and "Rhino Scar".[7]

The first product Valve developed was Half-life, a horror influenced, science fiction first person shooter. [8] The development team leveraged their access to id Software’s Quake engine which they incorporated into their GoldSrc engine.[3] Before finding Sierra On-Line, they struggled to find a publisher who was confident in the game’s success.[3] Half-life was considered a critical and commercial success after it’s release in November 1998.[8] IGN stated that the history of the first person shooter genre "breaks down pretty cleanly into pre-Half-Life and post-Half-Life eras". [8] After this success, Valve developed three expansions to Half-Life through a company named Gearbox Software. The games are; Half-Life: Opposing Force (1999), Blue Shift (2001) and Decay (2001).[3] [9] In 1998, Valve purchased the company that produced the popular Team Fortress mod using the Quake engine, TF Software. They refit the mod for the GoldSrc engine and released it as Team Fortress Classic in 1999 [10] A definitive time in the history of Valve Corporation was the decision to release their software development kit to the public to encourage user end development of mods for their products. After a mod was developed and became popular within the community, Valve would acquire the company IP, talent, and incorporate their products into their library similar to what they did with TF Software.[3] Counter-Strike is a popular Team Fortress mod that follows this example. In 1999 Valve acquired the company that released the original mod and remastered it as a standalone retail game. [11]


Steam is a video game distribution platform for computers running Windows or Mac operating systems. Steam offers its users a way to download old and new games from multiple publishers. Community features have been added to the platform that allows users to create a profile, add friends, join groups, schedule events, and see and join games that their friends are playing. In addition to these features, Steam also has a cloud feature that lets users save their game preferences and files on the Steam servers so that they can access them across multiple computers.

Valve Anti-Cheat

Also known as VAC, this is the anti-cheat system deployed through Steam. It works by scanning a user's computer memory looking for the signatures of blacklisted hacks. Valve institutes a deliberate delay between when they detect hacks and when they ban a user. The reason for this is because Valve does not publicly release a list of which hacks are detected. By keeping this information confidential, hackers will not know which hacks triggered the ban and thus be lured into a false sense of security with regard to certain hacks. Valve is then able to catch more of the hackers because the hackers won't know if the hacks they are using have been blacklisted. [12]

Once a user is banned, they are permanently prohibited from playing on VAC-protected servers; they are still allowed to play on unprotected servers.

Additionally, Valve will never reverse a ban. This becomes a problem when a user's account is hacked, and someone other than the owner uses the account to hack in games. Even if the rightful owner gets their account back, the ban will not be overturned.

Digital Rights Management

The idea of Digital Rights Management, also known as DRM, has been a hotbed issue in PC gaming and other software for a while. DRM is justified by many publishers as a way of preventing their software from being pirated. There are many forms of DRM. Some common forms require customers to enter a CD key with each install of the software. It is also common for some software to have a limited number of installs. While many forms of DRM are simply annoying to the customer, some other forms are very invasive and have even been known to damage a customer’s system. An ironic aspect of DRM is that many people involved in the software piracy scene often use invasive and annoying DRM to justify their piracy of particular software. When a person pirates a piece of software they are able to avoid most forms of DRM and so in many ways it can be seen as a more convenient alternative to buying the actual software just so they don’t have to deal with the DRM. Valve has taken a stance against DRM and has implemented a system within steam that lets users download and install as many copies of a piece of software as they would like on as many computers as they wish so long as they have the account information for the account that has purchased the software. This is important because it offers a legal avenue for users that are against DRM, but would still like to support the developers of the software. Their stance is important because it promotes convenience for the customer without sacrificing the developers' ability to protect their software from piracy. [13]

Steam Community

Steam is the digital distribution platform created by Valve which hosts both a market for downloadable video games as well as social networking capabilities

The Steam community has many features that are common to other social networks. It has a friends list, chat feature, groups, events, profile, and a wall-like feature that shows recent user activity as well as allow users to post messages that are viewable to anyone that visits the profile. The community feature allows users to easily assemble a friends list of people they have met online and off. It makes it easy for users to see what games their friends are playing and join them if they so choose.

Use of the Source Engine

The Source Engine is Valve's second fully featured game engine and is the power behind many of its leading games. A second version of the Source engine is in the works, and will likely be used for any upcoming games Valve releases. [14]


Valve has had many hit games since the company was founded. Their earliest and arguably most popular game series is the Half-Life franchise. In more recent years they have had success with games such as Portal 1 & 2, Team Fortress 2, and Left 4 Dead 1 & 2.

Year Title
1998 Half-Life
1999 Team Fortress Classic
1999 Half-Life: Opposing Force
2000 Deathmatch Classic
2000 Ricochet
2000 Counter-Strike
2001 Half-Life: Blue Shift
2003 Day of Defeat
2004 Counter-Strike: Condition Zero
2004 Half-Life: Source
2004 Counter-Strike: Source
2004 Half-Life 2
2005 Day of Defeat: Source
2005 Half-Life 2: Lost Coast
2006 Half-Life 2: Episode One
2007 Half-Life 2: Episode Two
2007 Portal
2007 Team Fortress 2
2008 Left 4 Dead
2009 Left 4 Dead 2
2010 Alien Swarm
2011 Portal 2
2012 Dota 2
2012 Counter-Strike:Global Offensive

Company Structure

Valve has been noted for their "bossless" business model. Valve lacks a professional hierarchy that many companies use. Despite being a co-founder of Valve, Gabe Newell is technically not in charge of anyone. Each employee also has the capability of hiring new personnel. However, Valve has said that this isn't always the best model for new personnel. They admit that "a poor hiring decision can cause lots of damage, and can sometimes go unchecked for too long."[15] Valve also has a company gym, massage services, and go on a company vacation once a year, including employees' families. The workstations at Valve also all have wheels attached to the bottom so that employees can move from project to project freely[15]

2003 Valve Hack

In 2003, the source code for Valve's then-upcoming game Half-life 2 was released on popular file sharing websites. Gabe Newell, Valve's director, revealed that his company's network had been hacked and called on the community for help in tracking down the perpetrators. Eventually, two anonymous sources began passing information to the FBI. Eventually, in 2004, Valve received an email from claiming to be the person behind the hack, along with insider documents. The person expressed interest in being hired by Valve. In a series of exchanges, Valve, along with the FBI, staged a fake interview process to try and lure the perpetrator, who identity was revealed as Axel Gembe, of Schonau, Germany, to the United States. It worked for a while, but ultimately Gembe did not make the trip to the U.S. Instead, he was arrested and charged in Germany, and ultimately sentenced to probation.[16]

2011 Steam Database Hack

On November 10, 2011, Valve announced that during a recent hack on the Steam community forums, hackers got access to a database containing sensitive information. The forums were immediately taken down, but the extent of the damage is currently unknown and under investigation by Valve. The database contained hashed and salted passwords, encrypted credit card numbers, and billing addresses, among other data. As of Nov. 10, 2011 9:45P.M., there have been no reported suspicious credit card activity with regard to the hack.[17]

Ethical Concerns

Early Access

The modern approach of most software companies nowadays is to ship the product first and then fix and iterate upon it later, rather than giving the product the time and testing it needs. Valve is no different, except that they also encourage this practice with the design of their Steam platform. Instead of spending extra time and money to test and debug a game, developers simply release their game as "early access." This is basically a working demo build of the game and is usually rife with bugs. Now the burden of finding and reporting bugs is put on the paying customer, not the developer. Most of these games never even make it out of the "early access" stage as there is no point in continuing work on the game after a certain point, especially since the developer has already made money off it. [18]

"Fake" Games

In an attempt to give small developers a chance to have their game on Steam, Valve introduced their "Green Light" program in 2012. These developers pay to have their games put on Steam so that users could vote on which games Valve would pick up for a distribution deal. [19] Green Light quickly turned into a swamp of barely working games and asset flips. Asset flips are games made using purchasable content such as art, maps, and even whole engines that are altered just enough to be unique. [20] Valve announced in early 2017 that it would be shutting down Green Light to help curb "fake" games.

See Also


  1. Half-Life Wiki [ ]
  2. Half-Life Wiki [ ]
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 Gabe Newell at Microsoft
  4. Gabe Newell & Windows
  5. Valve in Washington
  6. The company was founded on Newell's wedding day
  7. Alt Names to Valve
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Half-life
  9. Half-Life Expansions
  10. TF Classic
  11. Gabe Newell at Microsoft
  12. Steam Support
  13. GamePolitics
  14. Gabe Newell confirms Source Engine 2 has been in development for a while, Valve are “waiting for a game to roll it out with” - PCgamesN
  15. 15.0 15.1 What makes Valve Software the Best Company to Work For
  17. Steam Database Hacked, Valve Investigating Possible Theft - Game Informer
  18. Valve is not your friend, and Steam is not healthy for gaming - Polygon
  19. Has Steam Greenlight had its day? - Eurogamer
  20. Valve admits Steam has a 'fake games' problem - The Verge

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