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Valve's "Secret Weapon"
Game Maker's Toolkit

Game Maker's Toolkit

Published on 1 week ago

Valve is famous for crafting games that are polished and intuitive. But that's no accident: the developer has a near-religious obsession with playtesting. Learn more, in this video.

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=== Before you watch ===

Content warning: Blood, Combat

=== Sources ===

[1] Valve reflects on The Orange Box, ten years later | PC Gamer

[2] Developer Commentary | Portal

[3] Portal Beta 2005 & More 2006 Content | Logan on YouTube

[4] Beyond the Box | 1UP
Archive: https://web.archive.org/web/20110524000033/http://www.1up.com/features/beyond-the-box

[5] Kim Swift - 'Our Journey From Narbacular Drop To Portal' | IGS 2007

[6] Narbacular Drop | Digipen Institute of Technology

[7] Valve's Design Process for Creating Half-Life 2 | GDC 2006

YouTube mirror: https://d-yt.com/watch/1plhILdjuZE

[8] Valve’s philosophy with User Research... | Steve Bromley

[9] The Science of Playtesting | GameSpot

[10] Opening the Valve | Eurogamer

[11] Valve Is Finally Ready to Talk About Its Games Again... | The Escapist

[12] Thinking With Portals | Game Developer Magazine
[PDF] https://ubm-twvideo01.s3.amazonaws.com/o1/vault/GD_Mag_Archives/GDM_January_2008.pdf

[13] 126 - Josh Weier Interview | Kiwi Talkz

[14] The Cabal: Valve's Design Process For Creating Half-Life | Game Developer Magazine
Mirror: https://www.hl-inside.ru/magazines/gdm/GDM_1999-12/

[15] Handbook For New Employees | Valve
[PDF] https://cdn.akamai.steamstatic.com/apps/valve/Valve_NewEmployeeHandbook.pdf

[16] The 100 greatest video games of all time... | GQ

[17] The Final Hours Of Half-Life 2 | Gamespot

[18] Why Are Valve's Games So Polished? | IGN

[19] Half-Life 2: Episode One Update Released | Steam

[20] How fidgeting playtesters convinced Valve... | PC Gamer

[21] Christine Phelan - Creating a Nightmare... | Konsoll 2021

[22] Integrating Narrative into Game Design... | GDC 2008

[23] RPS Interview: Portal's Kim Swift... | Rock Paper Shotgun

[24] Meet the minds behind Half-Life 2 | PC Gamer

[25] The Final Hours of Portal 2 | Steam

=== Chapters ===

00:00 - Intro
01:25 - Playtesting Portal
05:47 - Valve's History
08:38 - Playtesting Tips
15:43 - Conclusion

=== Games Shown ===

Portal (2017)
Super Mario Odyssey (2017)
Far Cry 3 (2012)
Ratchet & Clank: Rift Apart (2021)
Portal 2 (2011)
Star Wars Jedi: Survivor (2023)
Narbacular Drop (2005)
Half-Life 2 (2004)
skate. (Unreleased)
Left 4 Dead (2008)
Half-Life 2: Episode One (2006)
Half-Life Alyx (2020)
God of War Ragnarök (2022)
Untitled Magnet Game (Unreleased)
Superliminal (2019)
Viewfinder (Unreleased)

=== Credits ===

Music provided by Epidemic Sound - https://www.epidemicsound.com/referral/vtdu5y (Referral Link)

Narbacular Drop - Full Walkthrough | COG in the Game

Konsoll 2021: Christine Phelan - Creating a Nightmare in Half-Life: Alyx | Konsoll

F-Stop (After-Image) - "lab_intro_scripted2" | fstop

Portal 2: F-STOP PROJECT CAPTURE - Full Walkthrough | Bolloxed

Exposure by LunchHouse Software | LunchHouse Software

Mirror: https://www.playground.ru/portal/news/anons_exposure_serii_dokumentalok_ob_otmenyonnom_prikvele_portal-704827

=== Subtitles ===

Contribute translated subtitles - https://amara.org/videos/MyGYKu72hcPs/

Game Maker's Toolkit

Game Maker's Toolkit . 1 week ago

The GMTK Game Jam is back for 2023! Register your interest here - https://itch.io/jam/gmtk-2023
Green&Blue Productions

Green&Blue Productions . 1 minute ago

14:38 I agree with valve's approach 100% and if you didn't notice they broke their own rule... Never use player suggestions well they did it atleast 3 time with Potal...

SquidCaps . 8 hours ago

Borderlands series is a good example of not doing game testing properly. They still force you to listen to 2 minutes of dialogue before giving you the waypoint. It is infuriating and clearly a decision where they are trying to force the story onto you, "we made so much effort on the story so you WILL ENJOY IT!!".. Delete all the audio files of the dialogue and the game becomes so much more enjoyable. And what is worse is that in the third instalment, they went backwards in this, having even more forced pauses in the game play and longer dialogues. Every DLC was worse in this aspect too... They clearly did not have the developers watch someone play it. The games otherwise are wonderful, if it was not for those... breaks in the game that you can't skip. And a simple change in the design would've fixed it: just give the player the waypoint immediately so they can start running and listen the dialogue while moving from A to B. The game even has a mechanic for doing just that, which is the stupidest thing about it. It smells like that decision was made by someone who did not play the game.

SquidCaps . 8 hours ago

What? Is Valve still a game development company?..... Haven't played a Valve game since Portal 2..

Pappieris . 8 hours ago

Does anyone have the link to the discord bcs I cant find it

Saint_Noodles . 15 hours ago

valve is coming back again with dota 2, cs2, steamdeck, steam beta, and please have tf2 big update
Hacim 42

Hacim 42 . 22 hours ago

DigiPen actually has an office room named after Narbacular Drop.

elborrador333 . 22 hours ago

zeld when?
Ryu D

Ryu D . 23 hours ago

Thank you for the video.
Aaron Halliday

Aaron Halliday . 24 hours ago

But... Valve doesn't make games anymore....
Luis M

Luis M . 1 day ago

I need help. If you find someone to test the game, how do you ask them to test again? I feel people only want to test a game for you once, getting them for a second run is much harder.
Lewis K

Lewis K . 1 day ago

At least they do this right as Steam is shit
padraic smith

padraic smith . 2 days ago

This is the only game play forage I’ve seen of portal where the person doesn’t infinitely fall through the portals
Max Don

Max Don . 2 days ago

Great video!
Ray Sattler

Ray Sattler . 2 days ago

Now the only thing Valve needs to do, is make games...

Brealiq . 2 days ago

I love superluminal, played it a couple times. From time to time I like to play such interesting puzzle games. And Viewfinder seems like one of those.

AudoPlay . 2 days ago

"Valve stopped F-Stop because it didn't make sense to have no portals in a game called Portal"

okay so... why not... just... make f-stop into a new game???
Fredrick Rhakang

Fredrick Rhakang . 2 days ago

1) Gabe is an absolutely MONSTER of a person. May be #5 worst rich guy attitude in the world.
2) Sure they have an interesting design method but they can't count to the NUMBER 3.
3) Portal is a KIDS game

Underdisc . 2 days ago

It's crazy how people don't get this sometimes. The first studio I worked at said "we don't have time for playtesting". It was a primary thing that lead me to quitting and gave me an extremely negative view of the games industry and how people go about making games since it was my first job in it. I don't get it either. Playtesting is a no brainer to me. It baffles me that some people actually expect their games to come across as understandable and meaningful when it gets cooked in an echo chamber for a year or more. It completely destroys a game's chance at becoming something worth a player's time.
Miaom Ou

Miaom Ou . 2 days ago

been killing it recently. Keep it up.

GamingGoGO! . 2 days ago

The original Prince of Persia had the same problem. Jordan Mechner realized he needed an antagonist too. Ars Technica did a great video about it. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sw0VfmXKq54
Андрій Ігорович

Андрій Ігорович . 2 days ago

Я знав це. Valve не шкодують на тестуванні ігор.
Kev In

Kev In . 2 days ago

That video was really interesting. Thank you !
Hoople Bogart

Hoople Bogart . 2 days ago

First time I showed my ole' dad Portal he finished it in one sitting and that dude never touches games that aren't Kerbal.
Lunar Komet

Lunar Komet . 2 days ago

This sounds like a no-brainer but I still feel like the majority of studios rarely ever take our opinions into consideration, especially in the East

frozenbacon . 2 days ago

I kinda wish they didn't take the "portal without portals isn't portal" feedback and scrapped the game. They should've kept the mechanic and renamed the game instead.
Daniele Picone

Daniele Picone . 2 days ago

I do not think their solution worked well though. I finished the released version of Portal and still thought that was the tutorial part of the game.

dennis_benjamin . 2 days ago

Not only game developers but all software developers can learn a lot from this. I worked for 2 years on an online shop where instead of business, UI/UX designers decided how a feature should look and work like and used constant user tests to validate their designs and flows. We learned so much from that feedback and built something incredible. Then we ditched that mode because business didn't like that they were not dictating every single detail and also that it wasn't actually their personal success. But the lessons from this is if you build any software, ask the users what they actually want and build that.

M4veR1K . 2 days ago

I wish that EA or DICE saw that video...
The Smilyguy Guy

The Smilyguy Guy . 2 days ago


YouTubsel . 3 days ago

I was thinking the whole time: Damn - this is what Duke Nukem Forever would have needed to get onto a straight course and not land in Development Hell for 2 decades and maybe still be an alive franchise at this point in time.
Then I remembered Half-Life 2 Episode 3 ... nothing is safe from perfectionism and development hell. Nothing. :(
Okay, sure -they did release HL : Alyx. So at least slight counter point. But still. Oh man.

Duelme123 . 3 days ago

wait, is this video a re-release (or at least the first few parts) or am I mixing it up with another video?

GreenRedBlue . 3 days ago

While these are interesting points, i feel like no matter how much or how well you do it, if it doesn't eventually help produce a game, then the only thing you're using the playtests for is masturbation.

I dunno how many lessons the rest of the world can reasonably draw from develoment process of a company with infinite resources, zero time pressure, and for whom releasing a product at all is optional.

ffabian . 3 days ago

This is such a great video, even as a fan of Valve since the first Half Life game, I was not aware of some of their game development principles such as the one mentioned. Thank you!
Clifford Drake Jackson

Clifford Drake Jackson . 3 days ago

It seems pretty obvious that game developers would WANT to make games that are fun to play which it seems is what this exact process is for!! Alot of smart people dont usually have much common sense!!
Robert Tran

Robert Tran . 3 days ago

clearly redfall and the gollum game had none of this. 😭😭
Spita Leet

Spita Leet . 3 days ago

valve just forgot to apply this to Artifact...

Severinsen . 3 days ago

You know, people keep complaining that Valve doesn't make enough games, but personally I don't mind having a lot of time between releases!
I don't need new yearly releases from every publisher and dev, because not only are there so many games that already exist, but *my time is finite.*
I'd rather have fewer releases of good quality, than a myriad of sh*tty games that will only disappoint me.

dhillaz . 3 days ago

I love how the Portal 2 narrative is mockingly obsessed with "tests", "observations" and "test subjects"...turns out Valve was just parodying its own development process!
Peter Eldergill

Peter Eldergill . 3 days ago

Hey there gmtk. Which video did you talk about portal before? I've watched it but don't recall which one it. A friend wants to watch it. If anyone else knows the video please let me know. Cheers from Toronto

Sylfa . 3 days ago

One thing to note: Yes, players are terrible at game design. But you should still listen to their suggested solutions. Because there's information to be gleaned from the suggestion. Combining that with their playthrough and what they say about the game gives you a better picture of what the actual issue was for them. No matter how terrible their suggestion is, it still shows some of the thought process behind it.

Just as an example; adding enemies in Portal would have been the wrong solution, but the suggestion shows that they felt like it was too slow, or that they wanted more precision sections. It's even more useful to ask what they think would improve the game if the feedback wasn't specific or they try to "not hurt your feelings."

PLON . 3 days ago

This is one of the most important videos from Game Maker's Toolkit. I am learning so much in 1 video.

BORBZABY . 3 days ago

Too much playtesting can be bad too, though. Right?
Mister X

Mister X . 3 days ago

@henyathegenius would have been a great play tester and the only one they'll ever need.

androsh . 3 days ago

Good info!
david griliopoulos

david griliopoulos . 3 days ago

'Climatic one-on-one SHODAN' LOL

Ray . 3 days ago

This video can be made into a book or an entire course for video game design
RockSpider8020 (_wor)

RockSpider8020 (_wor) . 3 days ago

I love Portal 2 i got 11k hours
RockSpider8020 (_wor)

RockSpider8020 (_wor) . 3 days ago

Guilherme Cavalcante Santana

Guilherme Cavalcante Santana . 3 days ago

All this is expectation management in various levels of inception, like what the designers expect or what the players expect. Even the photography idea, which was great, because of expectation, needed to change. Perhaps if they had decided to frame the concept as a different game and not as a Portal continuation we would have another franchise from Valve. Another lesson that the decision they made teach is that their objective truly was to expand the Portal series, not to simply launch another game even if it would be a great game.

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