Nearly 21 years ago, Sierra Studios published a new PC shooter called Half-Life. It was the debut game of a fresh-faced Washington studio named Valve and was heralded as an instant classic — an achievement so monumentally important to its genre that the history of first-person shooters would henceforth be divided into pre- and post-Half-Life eras. Since then, Valve Corporation has become one of the wealthiest video game companies in existence, due in part to the success of games like Half-Life and its sister series Portal, but mostly because of the tithe paid to Valve by companies selling games on Steam.
And despite being as ubiquitous and influential as it is, Steam still has a significant amount of problems, both on the ground level and in terms of what it’s done to the video game industry as a whole. The Steam Summer Sale, for instance, has become tremendously important to smaller developers, but regardless of this, Valve continues to screw around with it at its own leisure. Since Valve is privately owned, it has carte blanche to spend time and resources wherever it wishes, regardless of the havoc that user review bombs or its own discovery algorithms may cause.
To witt, someone at Valve decided to take advantage of the company’s “work on what you want when you feel like it” structure and develop a new patch for the original Half-Life, decades later, instead of doing something that might be of tangible benefit.
According to the patch notes, this latest update resolves an issue with the MP5 submachine gun, where its multiplayer accuracy data was being used in the single player campaign, and vice versa. Valve also removed the ability for players to use the “sv_cheats” command during multiplayer sessions, instead granting that power to the owner of the server. Additionally, the update resolves some texture scaling issues, an error that prevented some weapons from reloading after loading a save, as well as some false returns and other miscellaneous bugs in the Half-Life server UI.
I’m sure the 350 people still playing Half-Life really appreciate the attention. But you know who might also appreciate some attention right now? The indie developers whose livelihoods are at the complete mercy of Valve’s opaque whims and machinations. This is like taking the trash out while your dog mauls a jogger. This is like if someone was choking at a Subway® and the sandwich artist made the next order instead of doing the heimlich. The original script for The End of Evangelion had Shinji coding a new patch for Half-Life instead of what he actually does during the Asuka hospital scene.
Okay, maybe it’s not that bad, but c’mon Valve. Even if you have enough money to never care about anything ever again, at least have the decency to pretend like you do. Or maybe don’t! Maybe lie down for a nap in the middle of your race against Epic, the other multi-billion dollar corporation who is itself owned by an even larger, even more globally influential conglomerate that also owns the company that owns this website, which I bring up only for the sake of transparency! The world is a nightmare!