the secret life of a strategy guide writer / 05

Last time: I gave a glimpse to what life is like on the road, visiting a world-famous developer or two. This time we reveal how some of the world’s most famous developers live.

Part 5: Raising the Bar

Of all the developers I’ve visited, Valve Software up near Seattle Washington has to be up there in terms of impressive working environments. Slotted in on two floors of a skyscraper with spectacular views, the place is a shrine to everything Gordon. The place is decked out in stained concrete, and the ceiling’s exposed duct-work has a real “Aliens” corridor look to it. Step into the foyer, and you’re greeted not only by a receptionist, but a five-foot high valve (what else?); a gift from Gabe Newell’s brother.

The really cool stuff adorns the walls of the conference room though; not only are there massive posterboards showing most of Gordon’s antics, a complete retrospective of Valve’s games, and the latest in conference telephony, but there are fan-made Miniguns latched onto wall slats, furry Headcrabs peeking out of ceiling pipes, and a modded PC clad in only the finest rusting metal, complete with Lambda logos.

Valve employees don’t work in cubicles either; they’re segmented into groups known as “Cabals”, and each group of five or so inhabit an executive-office sized environment. Classy to be sure, and usually dark and cozy, with the prerequisite whiteboard daubings, incomprehensible calculations, and other evidence related to the team’s latest endeavor.

Next time, My journey around the nation’s premiere software developers continues with a dash around Maxis, the creators of Spore.

Just finished: Writing cunning tactics about surviving multiple quests in Fallout 3.

Currently: Journeying through the Critical Path of the insanely massive Fallout 3.

About to: Eat, sleep, work, and dream Fallout 3 for the next two months.



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June 2008
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