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Creator / Valve Corporation
aka: Valve Software

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Open Your Mind.

Valve Corporation, formerly called Valve Software, is an American video game developer, publisher, and digital distribution company.

Valve was founded on August 24, 1996 by former Microsoft employees Gabe Newell and Mike Harrington, inspired by learning that the only piece of software more commonly installed on DOS computers than Windows was Doom. Once they secured a license to use the Quake engine, Valve set about to create their first game, Half-Life. Since the game's release in 1998, Valve has been known for their revolutionary 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. Because Valve is such a small company, they have also 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 is somewhat unique in that it has retained the flat organizational model of the early computing industry. All development is handled by ad hoc, self-directed development teams who work by consensus and debate, without any sort of formal management structure issuing orders and dictates. This quasi-anarchic business model is the source of both their endless creativity and inspiration and their endless delays and organizational confusion, with the now-mythical Half-Life (Episode) 3 being the most prominent victim.

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. (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, the majority of Valve's own oeuvre — Counter-Strike, Day of Defeat, Team Fortress, DOTA 2, and the free Alien Swarm — were originally the product of mod teams (though only the first two were mods of their own engine originally), 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.

In March 2010, Valve announced that they would be porting Steam, the Source Engine, and their entire back catalog to macOS X. 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. They later gained the love of 99% of Linux users when they released the public beta of a Linux port in late December 2012, with an official release appearing in February 2013. At present, this is only officially supported on Debian-based distros, but other users have had some success at running it on Fedora- and Arch-based systems. This is later amplified in 2018 when they announced the work of "Proton", their interpretation of Play On Linux (which used the Wine codebase) that theoretically will allow all Steam games to run on Linux, with (as of currently) mixed results.

Valve are a frequent source of memes, and also have fairly active blogs for their big games.

They have a level one Sentry Gun in their lobby as well as an Aperture Science Turret. They are also said to have a really good snack bar.

Games developed or published by Valve:

Third-party games and mods that use Valve's Source engine:

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 game with "3" in the name, even though a couple have already included more than two games. (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. They even made a second game for a series they didn't start.
  • Ascended Fan Fic: Every game, save for the Half-Life series, once started off as a mod, or was inspired by another game.
  • Badass Bookworm: Gordon Freeman, The Engineer, and The Medic.
  • Big Fun: Gabe Newell, the face of Valve. As well as the Heavy!
  • Body Horror: A constant element in their vanity plates, what with valves coming out of the human body.
  • Bootstrapped Theme: Hazardous Materials from the Half-Life soundtrack is the music from the logo for Valve Software.
  • Cutting the Knot: During the 2022 Steam Summer Sale, players were sent on a scavenger hunt by a time traveler named Clorthrax, where they had to find several games in order to get several stickers for that year's sale. For a while, it was possible to find all of the games (which don't actually exist) by simply looking in the "Upcoming" tab in the sale, since Clorthrax is a time traveler. Valve seems to have patched this out, though.
  • Eye Scream: The original logo. What it is 
  • 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] It's filthy in zhere! Eugh! [turns to Heavy] Birds. [chuckles]"
  • The Fourth Wall Will Not Protect You: The new and updated 2012 "open your mind" intro has Mr. Valve slowly turning his head towards you.
    • A Youtube comment sums up this updated intro very nicely;
    "Love how valve never released a statement or patch notes or ANYTHING about this, they just made the guys head turn without telling anyone and scared the shit out of everyone."
  • 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 (and Valve seems to specialize in making mods into full games).
    • As time goes on, Valve seems to be making their games even more mod-friendly. With the introduction of the Steam Workshop, Valve has given modders a central location to post their mods. This has made installation of mods as simple as the click of a button, making them accessible to the masses.
  • Gas-Cylinder Rocket: The Source engine includes a physics object for this.
  • Gratuitous German: The Axis soldiers from Day of Defeat and The Medic from Team Fortress 2.
  • 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's an NPC in other games).
  • 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), the Heavy 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".
  • Informed Flaw: Pops up a lot in Valve's games. For example:
    • Left 4 Dead and Left 4 Dead 2: Bill and Coach are both the oldest members of their respective teams, and both have suffered a knee injury (Bill's is from serving in Vietnam, while Coach's is from football). These injuries only seem to affect them in cutscenes.
    • Portal 2: GLaDOS frequently makes fun of Wheatley for being an idiot. There are however hints throughout the second game, especially in the second half, that Wheatley isn't as dumb as he comes across. Then again, sometimes he is. He zig-zags.
    • Team Fortress 2: The mercenaries' bosses, Helen and Miss Pauling, seem to hint that the mercs are brain-damaged, and can barely read. But Engineer and Medic are both brilliant inventors, Heavy has a PhD in Russian Literature (that he earned in Soviet Russia, when anti-intellectualism was prominent), Soldier is a lawyer, an exorcist, and a priest, Scout may be more well-read than he comes across, Sniper rigging a WOODEN tribal shield to electrocute on contact, as well as being possibly the most sane of all, tied with the Spy, that has the connections and resources to actually research a "Your Mom" joke, Pyro somehow became head of an engineering company...
  • MegaCorp: A powerful but unethical corporation dealing in research and development and military technology and showing cavalier neglect for safety shows up in many of their franchises. Black Mesa is Played Straight, but Aperture Science and Mann. Co are Played for Laughs.
  • 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).
  • Poor Communication Kills: Valve has become infamous for their lack of community interaction, which reached its height during the Diretide controversy in 2013, where they canceled a highly-anticipated event for DOTA 2 without actually telling anyone, resulting in a massive outcry, though they have since stated that they will interact more with the community. This is of course saying nothing about Episode 3, which had languished in Development Hell for years before seemingly being cancelled: all without nary a word from Valve.
  • Retcon: The origin story for Left 4 Dead has been revised over time; depending on who you asked and when, it was either a Counter-Strike mod, a commercial product by a small team that Valve bought out, or implied to have been developed fully in-house from the beginning (see What Could Have Been, below).
  • Running Gag: Gabe Newell's weightnote , Robin Walker's obsession with hats, their delays, their apparent inability to count to three...
  • Plague of Good Fortune: Steam ballooning into the main PC gaming market did not help Valve's Schedule Slips, as large amounts of manpower have to be directed to managing it.
  • Press X to Die:
    • Valve combines popular multiplayer games with accessible dev consoles; tricking players into exiting through obscure console commands is par for the course. That is, after they'd already discovered that F10 closes the game instantly. (They 'fixed' that, though.)
    • A common prank done during the early days of Team Fortress 2 was making new players type in "unbindall" in the console. For those unaware, this command disables all keyboard and mouse buttons (and in fact, this command is used in the game's configuration files, right before setting the binds in the file). The only way to exit the game after this was forcing it to close through the task manager.
  • Self-Deprecation: They favor this brand of humor where Team Fortress 2 is concerned. The TF2 development staff are flanderized as all being obsessed with hats to the point of defying all common sense. And when Meet the Spy got leaked, Valve decided to give themselves a Corporate Achievement making fun of themselves for it note 
  • Suspiciously Specific Denial: In the online version of its employee handbook, the company boasts about its flat organizational style:"... we don't have any management, and nobody 'reports to' anybody else. We do have a founder/president, but even he isn't your manager." If you think that suggests this trope, you're not alone. Someone at Valve thought the same thing, apparently, and went so far as to not only use it more explicitly but lampshade it in the glossary at the end of the handbook:
    Gabe NewellOf 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.
  • Take That!: Valve has been known for not exactly holding their tongue, which has gotten them some flak over the things they have said about certain topics.
    • The most well known was Gabe Newell's initial reaction to the PlayStation 3, which he said that the system was "a total disaster on so many levels". This caused many of the early adopters that dared to adopt the then expensive platform to respond. Even though Gabe didn't see the XBox as very good of a platform, either, Valve decided to develop in house for it. Gabe didn't help smooth over relations with the PS3 fanbase by outsourcing The Orange Box's PS3 port to Electronic Arts, in which was seen as a total disaster. Over the years that followed, Gabe tried to slowly mend the relationship while still holding to his convictions, with having a new criticism for the system when a previous one was either fixed or debunked. Gabe had even admitted that he had many requests for Valve to develop for the system.
      • Finally, in 2010, Gabe Newell made things right with PS3 owners when he came on a Sony stage at E3 to announce that Portal 2 would be released on the Playstation 3, touting the system's open-ended nature that would allow them to provide automatic updates (a feature many of their other games on the PC enjoy), cross-platform multiplayer with the PC version, and Steamworks available through the game to seamlessly link the Steam achievements for the game with the Playstation 3 trophies for the same game. He even invoked some Self-deprecation, saying that he had been a little vocal about the current generation of game platforms, and that the Sony advertising mascot at the time, Kevin Butler, was introduced to him as the "VP of sharpening things"
    • Despite his outspoken nature, he has at times been somewhat nervous on stage, being more comfortable with one-on-one interviews. He was also nervous (as he was during the Sony megaton) during a presentation in which he touted EA's involvement in Team Fortress 2, perhaps because he wasn't happy with how EA handled the PS3 Orange Box port (he had said during the interim between his infamous quote to the Portal 2 reveal that he regretted his words and wanted to make things right with PS3 owners).
  • The Unintelligible: Atlas and P-Body chirp to each other to communicate, and all the zombies in the Left 4 Dead series make weird noises (crying, howling, grumbling, belching, or mad laughing). And of course, the Pyro.
  • Twofer Token Minority: Chell from Portal, Rochelle from Left 4 Dead 2, Demoman from Team Fortress 2, and Alyx Vance from Half-Life 2
  • Unbroken First-Person Perspective: The original Half-Life was the Trope Codifier for the use of this trope in a narrative context. It's become something of a hallmark of the studio's games ever since, and was used in Half-Life 2 (and its episodes) and both Portal games.

Alternative Title(s): Valve, Gabe Newell, Valve Software