You may have been playing CS:GO for years, or have fond memories about the Half-Life series, but how much do you actually know about these game’s developer, Valve?
Arguably one of the most influential gaming companies of all time, Valve completely changed the landscape of PC gaming through its innovative games and effective software. And it all started more than two decades ago, with a guy named Gabe Newell.
How did it start?
In 1996, Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington had decided that they had had enough of working on the Windows OS in their jobs at Microsoft, and decided to co-found a new multimedia company called Valve Software. The goal was to create a unique sci-fi shooter that brought something new to the table that fans would love. Using their personal savings to purchase a license of the Quake engine, development of Half-Life began.
The rise of half-life
After two years of development, Half-Life was released to incredible success in November of 1998. Surprising the developers, who had little to no experience with the videogames industry, the game was critically acclaimed as one of the best video games in history. Whether it was new gameplay or engrossing cutscenes, Half-Life was a hit with the fans. In order to capitalize on this new community, Valve released a public software development kit for the game in 1999, which allowed anyone to create custom modifications to the game with ease. Out of this SDK both Team Fortress Classic and Counter-Strike were born.
A sequel to Half-Life began development almost immediately after the release of the first one. It was during the development of Half-Life 2, in 2000, when Mike Harrington decided to leave the company. Harrington would later go on to found Picnik (2005) and Catnip Labs (2012) but in the meantime Valve progressed with Half-Life 2. It was around this same time in early 2000 that Counter Strike 1.0 was released using the SDK from Half-Life. This first version garnered plenty of attention, which led to Valve offering the developers of Counter Strike a job at the studio, offering support and help as this new team worked on the game. Out of these roots the phenomena of Counter Strike would grow to become something legendary.
…and steam was born
Around 2003 is when Valve’s next major move was set in motion. Steam was released as an update service for Valve games. Because the currently in-development Source engine added capabilities for smoother incremental upgrades, a unified update system was in Valve’s best interest. Half-Life 2 would be released to much fanfare only a year later, being the first game to require Steam to install. While early Steam versions were unstable and there was a strong negative reaction towards needing a separate launcher for Half-Life 2, the release of the Valve Anti-Cheat System and a store for 3rd party games would allow Steam to grow into the games behemoth we know and love today.
2007 marked the release of the Orange Box, which contained Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, and for the first time, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal and Team Fortress 2. The Orange Box was well received with both Portal and Team Fortress 2 becoming popular series themselves. And in 2008, Left 4 Dead was released by Valve and Turtle Rock Studios (a Valve company at the time). Finally, 2010 would herald the release of Portal 2, the much-anticipated sequel to the Orange Box original.
Valve continued working on creating great games, with Dota 2 opening for closed beta testing in 2011. One of the most influential games to eSports was also released around this time, Counter Strike: Global Offensive. Players got their hands on CS:GO in 2012, forming a community that has lasted to this day. Steam OS and Steam for Mobile were both announced in 2013, proving that Valve was committed to not just creating new and original games, but also improving their existing software services.
Valve also released several hardware products between 2014-2016, including the Steam Controller, the first batch of Steam Machines, and the HTC Vive. Development on the second iteration of the Source engine also continues, and in general, the future for Valve seems bright. No one knows what new games or ideas Valve will come up with, but one can only hope that the trend of excellence will continue.
If you want to own your own piece of Valve history, be sure to check out the official Valve store (not an affiliate link). From exclusive Half-Life shirts to all-new products for Dota 2, if you’re looking for something to remember Valve’s progress the store is a great place to start.