Gabe Newell on his Dota 2 obsession, Half-Life protests and EA's Origin

Owen Hill at

PC Gamer: EA have recently said that Steam has restrictive terms of service. Can you shed any light on what they’re referring to?

Gabe Newell: I don’t really know what they’re referring to by that. In general, with Steam and Steam partners, it’s incumbent on us to create value for those partners, whether it’s EA or Ubisoft or Take-Two, or any of the other developers who are using it. That’s our goal, so we’re going to keep trying to do that with EA and trying to convince them that it’s worth it to have their games on Steam.

PC Gamer: Have you tried Origin?

Gabe Newell: I was talking to some people at EA about Origin, so I got an account before I came here and was trying it out. So yeah, I’ve tried it.

PC Gamer: What did you think of it? Did you like it?

Gabe Newell: I think it does some things well. I think there are still some areas where, as a customer, I’d like to see it improve. It’s not that different from any other system like this. There are positive things and negative things.

PC Gamer: So what’s your personal experience of Dota? Have you played it yourself and are you a fan of that genre?

Gabe Newell: I’ve played Dota 2 for about 800 hours. The cool thing about Dota 2 is that it’s probably the game we’ve made that we’re most obsessed with playing. As a games developer you tend to get pretty tired of the thing you’re developing because you have to experience all the flaws and the difficulties. Dota 2? Every day after we’re done working on the game, everyone goes home and plays it till two or three in the morning. So yeah, I love playing the game. I’m not even on the same plane as the guys who are playing here, so it’s certainly exciting to see them play. After 800 hours I’m still pretty much a noob player when it comes to playing DotA games!

PC Gamer: Why do you think the formula of DotA is such a success?

Gabe Newell: The thing that really struck me when I played Dota 2 was that you’re constantly creating and destroying plans in your head. You have a lot of expectations, but whether or not you’re going to stay on that pathway is changing every five seconds.

As a designer I’m also struck by the fact that you go through this complete RPG arc in 40 minutes. I’m curious about the sense of incompleteness I always have after a match. The first thing you want to do after you’ve had a great game is play another game, and the first thing you want to do after you’ve had a bad game of Dota 2 is play another game.

I think there are a lot of lessons for game designers in it that are very complementary to the lessons from other genres. If you play a lot of MMOs, there’s stuff you can learn that’s in Dota 2. If you play first-person shooters, there’s a lot of stuff you can learn, so it’s a nice arrow in the quiver for game designers.

PC Gamer: Will we soon be wearing Dota-style hats in TF2?

Gabe Newell: I’m sure there will be Dota-themed items in TF2 at some point. After all, it is a wargame hat simulator. (Laughs.)

PC Gamer: What did you think of the protesters that appeared outside your office, demanding Half-Life: Episode 3?

Gabe Newell: We thought it was awesome! We wanted them to stay. We took them pizza – they’d only brought two sodas and they were planning on being out there for two days. They were very nice and very passionate about our games. At one point, somebody else in our building called the police and we were worried, but it turned out the police officer was a huge Team Fortress fan. He’s like: “Oh yeah, I totally understand, let me go get my sign!”

So yeah, it was great for those guys to show up. We gave them a tour of the office and then they went back outside and protested.

PC Gamer: Are you worried you might get more protesters now?

Gabe Newell: I think it’d be great. They were very nice protesters so, definitely, we were all excited.

PC Gamer: They were obviously asking about Episode 3. Can you give us any news on that?

Gabe Newell: No, we don’t have anything. If the protesters couldn’t get it out of us…

PC Gamer: How many protesters would it take to get some Episode 3 news?

Gabe Newell: I don’t know, but if they’d like to come out, we could find out.