18 votes

Valve lays off 13 employees, reportedly slashing VR hardware division

23 comments

  1. [16]
    Zargurkhan Link
    It doesn't seem like VR took any more of a hit than anything else. According to this PC Gamer article. Also:

    It doesn't seem like VR took any more of a hit than anything else.

    At least four of the former employees were part of Valve's hardware engineering team, but there were also changes to business development, customer support, data science, software engineering, and technical infrastructure.

    According to this PC Gamer article. Also:

    Gabe Newell said the layoffs do not indicate a move away from VR development

    15 votes
    1. [15]
      nothis Link Parent
      I wish it did. I genuinely believe that VR was the worst thing that ever happened to Valve. Everything I see about it makes it look like a design dead-end and they've more or less bet their entire...

      Gabe Newell said the layoffs do not indicate a move away from VR development

      I wish it did. I genuinely believe that VR was the worst thing that ever happened to Valve. Everything I see about it makes it look like a design dead-end and they've more or less bet their entire singleplayer talent on VR, with nothing to show for it.

      6 votes
      1. [13]
        teaearlgraycold Link Parent
        IMO VR is where GUIs where in the 1980s. Most people like the idea, but the implementation needs to be refined (and the cost lowered) before it's ready for mass adoption.

        IMO VR is where GUIs where in the 1980s. Most people like the idea, but the implementation needs to be refined (and the cost lowered) before it's ready for mass adoption.

        11 votes
        1. [12]
          nothis Link Parent
          VR has been around for decades. It had a similar hype-fueled run in the 90s. Then it flopped because, supposedly, "the technology wasn't there yet". Now, again, we're asked to wait 3 years, 5...

          VR has been around for decades. It had a similar hype-fueled run in the 90s. Then it flopped because, supposedly, "the technology wasn't there yet". Now, again, we're asked to wait 3 years, 5 years, 10 years, for when the technology is finally there, when it's suddenly cheap enough, convenient enough, "trust us, it's right around the corner". Oculus has been around for 5 years, now.

          To me, it's not about the technology. So it's still a little blurry, the cables are annoying or it's still expensive. All of these things I'd happily put up with, but the real problem is that there are no games. It's a bunch of mediocre tech demos, some tack on more production value than others but the actual mechanics? Touch-whac-a-mole stuff like Job Simulator and shooting galleries. In a gazillion variations, but that's all there is.

          I'm convinced now, the problem isn't with the technology, it's the concept of VR itself. If you strap it down to what it actually offers, it's motion controls (hand- and head-tracking) and some extra depth perception/immersion from the stereoscopic 3D. That's it. But what problem does that solve for gameplay? Literally running in a straight line is an unsolved problem in room-scale VR. Who wants to move their arms to do stuff in games? What about a kung fu game? Are you supposed to do actually kung fu moves? What about a game where you can do backflips? How do you do this in VR? Third person? Then VR is nothing more than a camera. If you think it through, it all kinda falls apart. There's no real use case for VR that is truly unique, that truly transcends traditional gaming. It's amazing as a niche technology, something cool you can try. But that's it. And that's a problem.

          10 votes
          1. frickindeal Link Parent
            It feels weird to say it here on Tildes, but porn in VR pretty much puts on-screen porn to shame. It's the content that needs to catch up a bit, but it's getting there, and porn drives (a lot of)...

            There's no real use case for VR that is truly unique

            It feels weird to say it here on Tildes, but porn in VR pretty much puts on-screen porn to shame. It's the content that needs to catch up a bit, but it's getting there, and porn drives (a lot of) technology.

            The upcoming release of the Oculus Quest solves some of the issues you raise. 6DoF will definitely make it more immersive, but high-end VR has had that for quite a while—but a lot of people haven't experienced it in an affordable setup. Truly wireless, inside-out tracking is a major difference as well, as it removes the cumbersome cables. Running in a straight line can happen within a 4000 sq-ft. arena, and is being demonstrated currently using that hardware. Not everyone is going to be interested in moving around for gameplay, but games like Guitar Hero, DDR, and lot of other games have demonstrated that there's a market for more movement than thumbs on a controller.

            12 votes
          2. Zargurkhan Link Parent
            I take it you haven't played Beat Saber? Nothing like it is remotely possible without VR, and it is an incredible game (over 98% positive Steam reviews). I've personally spent more than a 100...

            There's no real use case for VR that is truly unique, that truly transcends traditional gaming.

            I take it you haven't played Beat Saber? Nothing like it is remotely possible without VR, and it is an incredible game (over 98% positive Steam reviews). I've personally spent more than a 100 hours in it and I don't intend to stop anytime soon. Valve's "The Lab" has a bunch of cool experiments that showcase the uniqueness of VR, like that 3d bullet hell game that'd be impossible to control traditionally. Table tennis games feel literally like the real thing.

            And all that's on top of the fact that any experience is VR is just infinitely more immersive. Windlands might not look like the most impressive game on a flat screen, but it turns out that in VR flying genuinely feels like you're flying. Anything that doesn't require a lot of movement translates especially well. Driving games, whether with actual cars (Dirt Rally) or spaceships (Eve: Valkyrie) work brilliantly.

            Sure there are limitations, and not all types of games can be replicated. But that doesn't make ones that work any less great.

            10 votes
          3. [2]
            Deimos Link Parent
            A lot of this is because the market for VR games just really isn't very large yet, and it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem: companies don't want to invest a lot of resources in making a large...

            A lot of this is because the market for VR games just really isn't very large yet, and it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg problem: companies don't want to invest a lot of resources in making a large VR game because the small market means it'll be impossible for them to make any money, but people don't want to buy VR hardware because there aren't many "real" games.

            I disagree with you overall though—VR is able to transcend traditional gaming in some ways. I agree that I don't think it will ever replace traditional gaming, but there are experiences you can have in VR gaming that are completely impossible to replicate in non-VR. I don't think it's necessarily "the next step" in gaming, or even that it's a clear improvement, but it's absolutely different.

            7 votes
            1. nothis Link Parent
              I can agree with that as well. There's just specific quotes by industry leaders (for example, Tim Sweeney) that imply that it does replace traditional gaming, which I think makes no sense and is a...

              I disagree with you overall though—VR is able to transcend traditional gaming in some ways. I agree that I don't think it will ever replace traditional gaming, but there are experiences you can have in VR gaming that are completely impossible to replicate in non-VR. I don't think it's necessarily "the next step" in gaming, or even that it's a clear improvement, but it's absolutely different.

              I can agree with that as well. There's just specific quotes by industry leaders (for example, Tim Sweeney) that imply that it does replace traditional gaming, which I think makes no sense and is a dangerous bet, especially for studios housing as much talent as Valve.

              4 votes
          4. spctrvl Link Parent
            What do you mean supposedly? VR requires a framerate of 90 fps or better, and small, light, pixel dense displays with minimal ghosting, or you tend to start throwing up. Even in high end systems,...

            Then it flopped because, supposedly, "the technology wasn't there yet".

            What do you mean supposedly? VR requires a framerate of 90 fps or better, and small, light, pixel dense displays with minimal ghosting, or you tend to start throwing up. Even in high end systems, the rendering power just wasn't there until well after the craze was over, and display tech was similarly crap. LCDs weren't anywhere near the quality of their modern incarnations, and OLED panels didn't exist outside of labs.

            7 votes
          5. [2]
            planetJane Link Parent
            I really think that if VR has a future it's not in gaming. Another replier mentioned porn and obviously that's a market, but I think of stuff like virtual tours of famous landmarks and the like...

            I really think that if VR has a future it's not in gaming. Another replier mentioned porn and obviously that's a market, but I think of stuff like virtual tours of famous landmarks and the like first and foremost. The uses for education are far and above the uses for gaming right now but for some reason the latter seems like where all the money is going. I guess just because of the idea of the typical PC gamer as someone who will drop thousands on high-end electronics (and maybe that's true, I don't have any data on hand).

            3 votes
            1. Deimos Link Parent
              If you have VR hardware, I highly recommend trying out Google's "Welcome to Light Fields" demo on Steam (it's free): https://store.steampowered.com/app/771310/Welcome_to_Light_Fields/ It's pretty...

              If you have VR hardware, I highly recommend trying out Google's "Welcome to Light Fields" demo on Steam (it's free): https://store.steampowered.com/app/771310/Welcome_to_Light_Fields/

              It's pretty amazing, and it seems like capturing the light fields is still fairly difficult, but there's absolutely some incredible potential with using that technology for virtual tours.

              2 votes
          6. [2]
            teaearlgraycold Link Parent
            I agree. The problem is in the UI. There are some settings that will obviously work well (where you're seated in the game world). But how do you make a really good seated experience? How else can...

            I agree. The problem is in the UI. There are some settings that will obviously work well (where you're seated in the game world). But how do you make a really good seated experience? How else can you work within the constraints to produce a good experience?

            1. Zargurkhan Link Parent
              By making a really good driving game. Seriously though, a lot of potential opens up when you add a room-sized play area and motion controls. While movement by swinging your arms like you're...

              how do you make a really good seated experience

              By making a really good driving game.

              Seriously though, a lot of potential opens up when you add a room-sized play area and motion controls. While movement by swinging your arms like you're running or just with the touchpad work perfectly fine for some people, there's still plenty you can do without that. Games like Beat Saber, Space Pirate Trainer do require you to move/duck to dodge things, but only within the confines or your play area. Plenty of games use teleportation to move around; Budget Cuts even turns this into an interesting mechanic, where you throw an end portal somewhere, but can look through it before stepping in (fairly useful in a stealth game).

              So you can absolutely work within those constraints to produce a good experience. Not that it's easy, but definitely doable.

              As a side note, a lot of people are perfectly fine with touchpad movement. I've heard plenty of praise for Skyrim or Subnautica VR, neither of which really changed their mechanics much for the new medium.

              3 votes
          7. [2]
            SourceContribute Link Parent
            True, the only few popular games in VR are glorified mini-games to some extent. You can't pick up VR for 5min or for a few hours, there's no hardcore/binge gamer market, etc. so which market is it...

            the real problem is that there are no games

            True, the only few popular games in VR are glorified mini-games to some extent. You can't pick up VR for 5min or for a few hours, there's no hardcore/binge gamer market, etc. so which market is it really for?

            VR and AR as part of industrial tech and work may actually turn out to be great, or maybe just for watching Netflix so you don't need yet another TV, but VR may actually be a symptom of something wrong with society that we need to always be plugged into a screen.

            1. Zargurkhan Link Parent
              I beg to differ. It honestly seems like most people's opinion of VR games has been tainted by how little of them have been available a few years ago. There are now so many large games made just...

              there's no hardcore/binge gamer market

              I beg to differ. It honestly seems like most people's opinion of VR games has been tainted by how little of them have been available a few years ago. There are now so many large games made just for VR, on top of regular games that have VR support, that this statement is nowhere near true in 2019.

              3 votes
      2. Zargurkhan Link Parent
        They claim to currently have 3 AAA VR games in development, so while they don't have anything to show for it yet, I really don't think it's anywhere near a design dead end. More like a beginning...

        They claim to currently have 3 AAA VR games in development, so while they don't have anything to show for it yet, I really don't think it's anywhere near a design dead end. More like a beginning of transitioning to a new medium.

        2 votes
  2. Deimos (edited ) Link
    Apparently some of the contractors laid off also include Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias, who were working on Artifact. Having Garfield (the original designer of Magic the Gathering) attached to...

    Apparently some of the contractors laid off also include Richard Garfield and Skaff Elias, who were working on Artifact. Having Garfield (the original designer of Magic the Gathering) attached to Artifact was one of their big selling points for it (the game's description on Steam starts with "A collaboration between legendary game designer Richard Garfield and Valve..."), so that's an interesting development.

    Artifact was doing really poorly anyway and Valve has gone totally silent on it for almost 3 months now, but it still feels pretty significant that they've officially cut the relationship with the creator.

    4 votes
  3. The_Fad (edited ) Link
    Tangentially, I don't think VR tech has reached a low enough price point yet (or will anytime soon) to become ubiquitous. Until it does I'd imagine these teams will stay small and, barring major...

    Tangentially, I don't think VR tech has reached a low enough price point yet (or will anytime soon) to become ubiquitous. Until it does I'd imagine these teams will stay small and, barring major developments in the industry, only get smaller as time passes. If the industry isn't careful it could very easily go the way of RealD 3D.

    3 votes
  4. [4]
    UniquelyGeneric Link
    Given Valve's typical shroud of secrecy, I can't quite tell if this is an indicator of VR's profitability, or Valve's inability to deliver flagship products. Given the high price point of VR...

    Given Valve's typical shroud of secrecy, I can't quite tell if this is an indicator of VR's profitability, or Valve's inability to deliver flagship products. Given the high price point of VR hardware, I'm inclined to think the former (if only just to hold out hope for seeing HL3 in my lifetime).

    That being said, the only experience I've gotten with VR has been at a VR bar, and that's because I don't have the time or money to dedicate to setting up my own rig. Can we see large growth in VR if the technology is predominantly rented out as a novelty? Maybe this is just a slow ramp up the adoption curve, but I also feel like the hype train is getting course corrected out of the mainstream market.

    1 vote
    1. [3]
      vakieh Link Parent
      They released the synopsis... only way you see HL3 is if someone else licences it or 90 years after HL2 came out when 50 billion cheap knockoffs get released.

      if only just to hold out hope for seeing HL3 in my lifetime

      They released the synopsis... only way you see HL3 is if someone else licences it or 90 years after HL2 came out when 50 billion cheap knockoffs get released.

      3 votes
      1. JustABanana Link Parent
        Or fan made stuff like project Borealis

        Or fan made stuff like project Borealis

        2 votes
      2. teaearlgraycold Link Parent
        Maybe sooner if we can fix copyright law before then. It's like the interstellar waiting problem, but with Mickey Mouse instead of the universal speed limit.

        90 years after HL2 came out

        Maybe sooner if we can fix copyright law before then. It's like the interstellar waiting problem, but with Mickey Mouse instead of the universal speed limit.

        2 votes
  5. HanakoIsBestGirl Link
    I'm sure this means that they will be putting more funding and workers in to team fortress 2! I can dream dammit

    I'm sure this means that they will be putting more funding and workers in to team fortress 2! I can dream dammit