Valve’s Gabe Newell On The Importance Of Game Delays: “Suck Is Forever”

Valve’s Gabe Newell certainly knows a thing or two about making some of the most beloved games of all time, and offered up some free advice as part of a 25th anniversary documentary about the making of the original Half-Life.

Half-Life was originally slated to be released in November of 1997. But it became clear to the development team the game wasn’t ready, with one developer comparing the work-in-progress title to “a quick knockoff” and a “cash-grab.” The game simply hadn’t come together into a more cohesive whole.

With just three months left to go before release, Valve made the decision to delay the game. It would eventually release a year later in November 1998. Newell in the documentary elaborated on the decision with some concise words of wisdom.

“Late is just for a little while,” Newell said. “Suck is forever. We could try to force this thing out the door, but that’s not the company we want to be, that’s not the people we want to be. That’s not the relationship we want to have with our customers.”

The rest, as they say, is history. Half-Life would go on to become one of the most critically acclaimed games of all time. If the team had decided to go ahead with a 1997 release date? Maybe that wouldn’t be the case.

Newell’s words echo those of another legendary game maker, Nintendo’s Shigeru Miyamoto, who is often attributed to having said “A delayed game is eventually good, but a rushed game is forever bad.” Did Miyamoto actually ever say that, or is it more of an old game industry catchphrase misattributed to the creator of Mario and The Legend of Zelda? Probably the latter, but the point still stands.

That wasn’t the only choice quote Newell gave as part of the Half-Life anniversary documentary. Newell also shockingly said he plays games “to have fun,” and decried the need for “realism” in games.

In addition to the documentary, Valve released an update for Half-Life, adding four new multiplayer maps, updated graphics settings, and controller and Steam Deck support to the 25-year-old game.

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