While studios like Crytek, Epic and DICE are continuing to vastly overhaul their respective game engines (and begin looking toward the future), Valve says they’re content making due with the “incrementally updated” Source tech, which has brought the likes of Half-Life 2, Left 4 Dead and Portal 2 to life. And the difference in quality between those titles’ visual fidelity is quite noticeable, thanks to the various enhancements added over the years.
Valve boss Gabe Newell tells Develop, “There are a lot of advantages on iterating on a mature and stable and shipped codebase, as opposed to starting over again.“
Source was originally derived from id Software’s Quake engine, and will celebrate seven years of use next month, first debuting in Counter-Strike Source in 2004.
“I think, when you see a game like DOTA 2, you’ll see how developers can get a lot more out of Source than most companies can get from a scratch-built engine,” he adds. As an example, Dota 2 (coming later this year/2012) will introduce cloth physics into Source for the first time.
“I think that incremental updates model has worked really well for us.“
“Does that mean we’ll reach some architectural tipping-point where we’ll need to change? No. I mean, if [Intel's canceled GPU] Larrabee had shipped that would have probably necessitated some fairly dramatic changes in order to take advantage of it. But, so far we’ve been able to keep the engine moving ahead, robustly. I mean, I think it looks great.“
Newell later addressed the licensing out of middleware, a highly competitive market in the games industry. Source itself has been used in an array of non-Valve produced titles, including Dark Messiah of Might and Magic, Zeno Clash and more, and now supports pretty much all platforms, with a few exceptions.
“We’re really happy if another studio wants to use our engine, but we’re not going to go out there and try and muscle in on what Epic Games does [with Unreal Engine 3]. A few people have used our engine, and I think a few more will find it useful now that we have a PS3 edition.”
“We’ve worked hard with the guys at Epic Games to integrate Steamworks into Unreal Engine, which we think will be a great solution. Our philosophy is always about creating the best value for our customers, but also our partners, and right now I think there’s more value for us to pursue things like the microtransaction part of Steamworks,” he says.
“I think if we’d take the microtransaction model away, and instead push harder on getting studios to sign up to Source, I think we wouldn’t be using our time nearly as efficiently.”
Sounds like Valve has a clear vision of what they’re doing. Regardless, I hope that sometime in next few years — at least before the next Half-Life – Source is finally able to handle streaming levels. The amount of segmented loading is a bit ridiculous.