Open your mind. Open your eyes.
Valve Software was founded in 1996 by former Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington. Once they secured a license to use the Quake engine, Valve set about to create their first game... Half-Life was released in 1998 and ever since, Valve has been known for their revolutionary and amazing First-Person action games. In 2004, they launched one of the first digital distribution platforms, along with the sequel to Half-Life which used it exclusively—and thus was born Steam, which went on to become the biggest digital distribution platform for Windows and a license to print money for Valve.
And, because Valve is such a small company, they have developed something of a reputation for having literally more money than they know what to do with. A fair bit of it seems to go into flying fans out to visit their headquarters. Just don't get presumptuous.
Valve's in-house game engine (Source, the successor to their Quake-based GoldSrc engine) is publicly available for other commercial developers to license, but for those interested in creating free mods, the level editor and several other modding tools are available for free with the purchase of any game. (And most of the other handy tools have been developed by third parties as freeware.) To this end, the engine has become the basis for a legendary number of mods, including several that function as standalone games in their own right.
In fact, roughly half of Valve's own oeuvre -- Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress and the free Alien Swarm—were originally the product of mod teams, who were then recruited to work for Valve and whose games were re-released as commercial titles. Of its flagship titles, only the Half-Life series was actually created by Valve directly; Portal was adapted from a concept game made by a bunch of college students, and Left 4 Dead was started by another company that Valve later bought out. Make of that what you will.
In March 2010, they announced that they would be porting Steam, the Source Engine, and their entire back catalog to Mac OS X. Mac users everywhere rejoiced, while some PC gamers complained about Valve dumbing down their games. At the time of writing, all their games from 2004 have been ported, in some form. In June 2010, at E3, Gabe Newell made a surprise announcement that Portal 2 and Steam would be coming to the Playstation 3 to thunderous applause.
Games developed by Valve
- Half-Life 1 (1998)
- Half-Life 2 (2004)
- Half-Life 2: Episode 1 (2006)
- Half-Life 2: Episode 2 (2007)
- Half-Life 2 (2004)
- Team Fortress Classic (1999)
- Team Fortress 2 (2007)
- Counter-Strike (2000)
- Ricochet (2000)
- Day Of Defeat (2003)
- Portal (2007)
- Portal 2 (2011)
- Left 4 Dead (2008)
- Left 4 Dead 2 (2009)
- Alien Swarm (2010)
- Dota 2 (2012)
Third-party games and mods that use Valve's Source engine
- Dark Messiah
- Garry's Mod
- Postal III
- The Ship
- Sin Episodes: Emergence
- Vampire: The Masquerade - Bloodlines
- Zeno Clash
- Nuclear Dawn
- EYE Divine Cybermancy
Tropes exhibited by Valve include
- Arc Number: For some bizarre reason, Valve is continually stuck on 2. None of their series ever seem to reach a 3rd game. (Thus spawning the meme "Valve can't count to three!") Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead 2, Team Fortress 2, Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Portal 2, Manchester United 0. Now they're even making a second game for a series they didn't start.
- Not to mention they're on their second engine; the increasingly dated Source engine.
- Finally broken by the release of the third and final segment of the Portal 2 soundtrack, and there being a total of four videos before Portal 2's release showing the various new features. However, Valve has made two Portal 2 comics, and one DLC so far, so it's unknown if they shall get beyond three again.
- It should be noted that one of the four Portal 2 concepts was never implemented, making it only three in total that were worth anything.
- Badass Bookworm: Gordon Freeman, The Engineer, and The Medic.
- Big Fun: Gabe Newell, the face of Valve. As well as Heavy Weapons Guy!
- Body Horror: No, not Gabe, but the logos used, with valves coming out of the human body.
- Digital Distribution: The Steam service.
- Everything's Better with Plushies: The Tank, Hunter, and Boomer!
- Eye Scream: The original logo.
- Feathered Fiend: In Portal 2, they attack robots. In Left 4 Dead, they dickishly awaken hordes of zombies with very sensitive hearing. In Team Fortress 2, they enjoy flying into open wounds.
Medic: "Archimedes! NO. [shoos the dove away from Heavy's open chest cavity] Heh...birds."
- Apparently an axed line from Portal 2 involved Cave Johnson warning test subjects about birds that may be pecking around inside your eye sockets.
- Game Mod: Part of the reason why their games are so popular is because their games are very mod-friendly. So much that full games themselves were created from mods.
- Gratuitous German: The Axis soldiers from Day of Defeat and The Medic from Team Fortress 2.
- Homage: Many of their promotions for the port of Steam to Mac were homages of famous ads in Apple's past, like the "1984" commercial (replacing the woman with the baton with Alyx Vance and a crowbar, naturally), Heavy Weapons Guy as one of the earbud-wearing silhouettes (If you bought or played Team Fortress 2 on a Mac in the days following the port, you received a pair), Francis proclaiming "I hate different.", and the "Hi, I'm a Mac, and I'm a PC" ad with a Portal turret representing Macs and the Team Fortress 2 RED Level 1 Sentry representing PC's.
- Hurricane of Puns: Valve loves these - just look at any game they've made!
- A fan once emailed Gabe asking what tea Gordon Freeman drinks with his "hipster glasses on", and he responded "MITea".
- Knife Nut: Gabe has an impressive (100+) knife collection in his office. It's slightly creepy.
- Ominous Latin Chanting: Not exactly Latin (more "Ohhh" and/or unintelligible chanting), but composer Mike Morasky seems to like this a lot. See "TANK!" for the creepy boss variety, and "A Little Heart To Heart" and "MEDIC!" (because it ties in with Medic's God complex).
- One of Us: According to his "Geek A Week" interview, Gabe Newell loves Pulp Fiction (he loves how Quentin Tarentino's movie fanboyism shows through his work), Phillip K. Dick, Stephen King, fanboys over Shigeru Miyamoto (he especially loves Super Mario 64), is a Brony, and wants people to draw hats all over his trading card.
- The Red Stapler: Ellis' trucker cap (and subsequently, the RED Team version of it, once it was released as a Team Fortress 2 item) and "Bull Shifters" t-shirt, Chell's tank top, an Aperture Science shower curtain (doubles as a Mythology Gag, because they started off manufacturing shower curtains to the military), The Mann Co. Cap and Soldier's Grenadier's Softcap.
- Running Gag: Gabe Newell's weight, Robin Walker's obsession with hats, their delays...
- Schedule Slip: Their delays on their release dates are so infamous that their fandom has coined the term 'Valve Time' to refer to the manner in which they can single-handedly dilate time around themselves. This is probably mostly thanks to Valve's loose internal corporate structure, where no-one has a single, set-in-stone role to play in the company. They claim it is due to their attempts to produce high-quality games that are fun, and the developer commentary often mentions features that were not fun that had to be discarded, which certainly consumes time.
- Plague of Good Fortune: And Steam ballooning into pretty much the main PC gaming market did not help much, as large amounts of manpower have to be directed to managing it.
- Silent Protagonist/Heroic Mime: Gordon Freeman, Chell, Atlas and P-Body as well as Adrian Shepherd and Barney Calhoun in the Half-Life expansions (though Barney talks when he is a NPC in other games).
- Atlas and P-Body do chirp to each other to communicate, so they might fall under The Unintelligible, too.
- Although who'd be surprised by that? Dammit, delayed Episode 3 AGAIN!
- For instance, here's an excerpt from the ending glossary: "Gabe Newell = Of all the people at this company who aren’t your boss, Gabe is the MOST not your boss, if you get what we’re saying."
- see! Not a comment on his weight, so Half Life 3 can't be delayed!
- DOUBLE DAMMIT!
- DAMMIT AGAIN!