Video: A look inside Valve's creative process

Valve writers Erik Wolpaw, Marc Laidlaw, and Ted Kosmatka provide some off-the-cuff thoughts on the studio's creative process, touching on character writing, world building, and much more.
Have you ever wondered how Valve created its memorable characters in Portal or Team Fortress 2? Perhaps you've been curious to know how the studio manages to write games that are actually funny? If so, you're in luck, as three of Valve's top writers answer these questions – and much more – in the above GDC Vault video. In this roundtable discussion from last year's GDC Online, Valve writers Erik Wolpaw, Marc Laidlaw, and Ted Kosmatka took a moment to answer audience questions about nearly all aspects of the company's creative process, from crafting virtual worlds, to writing clever dialogue, and much more. When asked about Valve's silent protagonists, for instance (think Portal or Half-Life), the trio explained that creating a character that doesn't speak is actually a huge challenge, as it really limits what a game writer can do in any given scenario. When writing for Portal 2, for instance, Valve created a number of scenes in which the main character [SPOILER] is forced to partner with the antagonist, GlaDOS, and the team wanted to create some fun buddy-cop style banter between the two characters. "It honest to god didn't occur to us that the buddy-cop thing doesn't work if one of you is quiet," Wolpaw said. "It’s funny now, but at the time it was a true moment of incredible panic when we realized we had painted ourselves into a corner." "[Creating a silent protagonist] is not something I would recommend," Laidlaw added. "It's an interesting challenge, and it's always great to have limitations on your design," but developers will often spend most of their time just trying to work around the limitations of their mute hero. Throughout the rest of their panel, the writers offered even more off-the-cuff thoughts on how they approach writing and game development, and you can check out the full presentation for yourself in the above video.

About the GDC Vault

In addition to this presentation, the GDC Vault offers numerous other free videos, audio recordings, and slides from many of the recent GDC events, and the service offers even more members-only content for GDC Vault subscribers. Those who purchased All Access passes to events like GDC and GDC Europe already have full access to GDC Vault, and interested parties can apply for the individual subscription Beta via a GDC Vault inquiry form. Group subscriptions are also available: game-related schools and development studios who sign up for GDC Vault Studio Subscriptions can receive access for their entire office or company. More information on this option is available via an online demonstration, and interested parties can send an email to Gillian Crowley. In addition, current subscribers with access issues can contact GDC Vault admins. Be sure to keep an eye on GDC Vault for even more new content, as GDC organizers will also archive videos, audio, and slides from upcoming 2012 events like GDC Online and GDC China. To stay abreast of all the latest updates to GDC Vault, be sure to check out the news feed on the official GDC website, or subscribe to updates via Twitter, Facebook, or RSS.

Latest Jobs


Vancouver, BC, Canada

Bladework games

Remote (United States)
Senior Gameplay Engineer

University of Canterbury

Christchurch, Canterbury, New Zealand
Academic in Game Arts and Animation

Fred Rogers Productions

Hybrid (424 South 27th Street, Pittsburgh, PA, USA
Producer - Games & Websites
More Jobs   


Explore the
Advertise with
Follow us

Game Developer Job Board

Game Developer


Explore the

Game Developer Job Board

Browse open positions across the game industry or recruit new talent for your studio

Advertise with

Game Developer

Engage game professionals and drive sales using an array of Game Developer media solutions to meet your objectives.

Learn More
Follow us


Follow us @gamedevdotcom to stay up-to-date with the latest news & insider information about events & more