Clint Hocking tweeted recently to announce that he was leaving his creative director post at Lucasarts to "work on something new" saying that he'd "let the world know where I am going once I get there." He did just that last night with a tweeted snapshot of his son climbing over one of the great big valves that are dotted around Valve's Seattle headquarters.
Before Lucasarts, Hocking spent nine years at Ubisoft. He worked on the original Splinter Cell as a level designer, returned as lead level designer on Splinter Cell: Chaos Theory and then acted as creative director for Far Cry 2. All great games. After two years working on unannounced projects at Lucasarts, he's taking his expertise to Valve.
Valve continue to hoover up top talent. Last year programmer Michael Abrash and System Shock developer Doug Church joined the studio along with Halo's Mike Sartain. This year they hired economist, Yanis Varoufakis, and put out a call for hardware engineers.
Valve seem determined to hire more. The release of the Valve employee handbook provided an interesting insight into the studio's culture, but doubled as a recruitment tool. Last year Newell told Develop that he'd hire 50 people in a day if they proved good enough. “We'll hire anyone who walks through the door who can pass our review process,” he said. “The problem is very few people can do that successfully. The cost of lowering those standards is huge. But people we want to work with, we'll try hiring them for years.”
Valve's flat structure demands a strong degree of autonomy from its workers, and the studio boasts dozens of great designers capable of taking directorial and lead design roles on their own individual projects, but what are they all working on? Abrash has mentioned that he's building wearable computing , but other than that, Dota 2 and CS:GO are the only tangible projects Valve are showing at the moment. Great game makers are gradually being absorbed by the Valve machine, which is exciting, but also strangely worrying. Will we ever see them again?