Valve gave a lengthy discussion on the topic of video game community management, and the publisher’s view on the matter varies wildly from how its fans do.
A longtime member of the Counter-Strike: Global Offensive development team did a talk on the Steamworks Development YouTube channel. The topic was how Valve’s development teams decide on actions to take with their games and the cues it takes from its players.
The video entitled “Let Updates Do the Talking” was primarily focused on CSGO, but it also helps frame Valve’s approach to Dota 2. One of the key topics discussed was why Valve gives basically no information regarding serious community issues.
“If we promised a feature or solution to a problem, we’d constrain what the team could ship and be less responsive to when our priorities or the community’s priorities change. In those cases, if we broke our promise or ship a different solution…we would start to erode the trust and possibly lose the opportunity to provide customers with more value,” Valve developer Gautum Babbar said.
Though Valve does maintain a bit of a presence on social media platforms like Twitter and Reddit, Babbar noted that community feedback is a minor consideration when it comes to how Valve chooses to approach changes to a game. Instead, he says the company mostly looks to pure data to determine what matters require the company’s attention.
The presentation was packaged as a seminar for how to manage a community, but the community has not taken kindly to it. The video has hundreds of comments made up of pure vitriol and has a skewed, but still slightly positive, like-to-dislike ratio as of this writing.
Valve letting the updates do the talking doesn’t hold up to logical scrutiny when some games, such as Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead 2, don’t actually get updates despite having sizable player bases. CSGO players noted how Valve’s lack of talking hasn’t been accompanied by fixes to serious issues like rampant cheating and catastrophic security issues. Things are arguably at their worst in Dota 2, however.
Valve bragging about how little it communicates seemingly struck a nerve with fans of every one of its games. The ones likely to get stung the worst are Dota 2 pros.
A frequent source of discussion within the Dota 2 space is how Valve has effectively pushed organizations and tournament organizers out of the game while doing nothing to fill that void. When majors started getting canceled and The International was delayed in 2020, that left the livelihood of hundreds of esports professionals without any clue over what was to come. No word came for months and what followed was a slew of organizations pulling out of Dota 2, making matters even worse.
This isn’t a one-off issue. Valve is routinely opaque with things that should be mapped out plainly well in advance. The latest example is the complete mystery surrounding the $40 million from 2020’s The International 10 Battle Pass, which represented over 70% of the money that was meant to be paid out to pro players that year.
I don’t know why no one else is speaking out. Am i the only crazy(no pun intended) one here? I understand I’m risking my career speaking out against Valve but I feel the silent few who have profited the most should be trying to help the scene. I’ve seen HON die the exact same way
— David Tan (@MoonMeanderated) October 5, 2020
If Valve were simply developing games, this approach would make more sense. There are a slew of examples of game publishers writing checks with their mouths and being unable to cash them, with recent examples being Blizzard over-promising and under-delivering with Warcraft 3: Reforged and CD Projekt Red’s numerous debacles surrounding the launch of Cyberpunk 2077.
But with many people relying on Valve to keep food on their table, the company’s silence may border on unethical.