Developer wellbeing remained a priority throughout the project, says Valve dev

Gabe Newell ‘biggest supporter of Portal 2 delay’

The most senior executive at Valve Software was actively supporting one team’s bid to delay Portal 2, according to developers close to the matter.

Portal 2 project lead Josh Weier said his boss was far from disparaging when a meeting was held to propose the game’s deadline extension.

In November, Valve announced it was delaying the release of Portal 2 for eight weeks, from February to April. But discussions for the delay “were not especially controversial”.

“[Newell] was actually the biggest supporter for the delay,” Weier said in a newly published interview on Develop.

“Newell was asking about what we wanted to do with the extra time, and he said there was no data to suggest a delay was going to hurt us, and that in fact all the stuff we said we wanted to do for the game made it sound like it was going to be really good.”

Project delays are usually particularly thorny issues for game development studios. In some cases, games cannot be delayed past certain millstones in the fiscal year calendar.

The deadline-driven culture of game development, as well as increasing demands on a game’s quality and polish, are key contributors to crunch work that plagues game studios.

But in a six-page feature on Valve Software’s unique studio structure, Newell told Develop that he had become “obsessed” with the wellbeing of his staff.

Portal 2 writer Erik Wolpaw gave the impression that staff health remained a priority during Portal 2 delay discussions.

“In fact, I think the only negative approach to the whole delay thing was people asking if the team could handle another eight weeks,” Wolpaw said.

“That was carefully examined because, of course, you do hit a bit of crunch time there.”

Weier adds: “It wasn’t like we were racing to get Portal 2 out the door before the fiscal year-end to please our stockholders.

“Our fans are our stockholders, really. What really would have been a controversy would have been to get a game out early and it not being very fun.”

Portal 2 is 2011’s best-rated game so far, with a 96 score on Metacritic.


Valve’s comments are drawn from a new six-page feature in Develop magazine issue 116 (which arrives at games studios and on doormats from today).

The feature draws from interviews with ten key staff at the company. It is available online now, and throughout the rest of the week Develop will publish five separate Q&As with key studio staff.

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