To many gamers, Valve is the epitome of good in the gaming industry. They produce great games, they’re heavily involved with and support their community, and Gabe Newell is one of the nicest guys you’ll find in the industry. So one has to wonder, why would anyone leave a company with such a good reputation? The former art director on Half-Life 2 did, and now he’s finally revealed why.
Viktor Antonov was the artistic mastermind behind Half-Life 2′s City 17, its architecture and the Combine’s technology, creating one of the most unique worlds that gaming has ever seen. In a new interview given to Eurogamer, he admits why he gave that all up:
“I left precisely when they stopped making epic, triple-As, which was Half-Life 2.” Adding that, “Since then, they were episodes.”
Antonov says that Valve is a wonderful place to work, but that he’s “interested in projects, not in companies.” To him, working on unique projects is what drives him as an artist, and Half-Life 2 was one of those projects.
“I went to Valve specifically for Half-Life 2. I went and I collaborated with Arkane to do The Crossing and Dishonored. I put the project above everything else.”
He goes on to talk about Valve growing much bigger as a company, something which he wasn’t so fond of. His new job at Arkane Studios working on Dishonored is more to his liking, stating that, “what I really enjoy about the philosophy of Arkane is that it’s a small, core team that does risky creative projects. And when I went to Valve, they were a small company. They’ve grown now, they’re much bigger.”
His main reason for leaving, though, was that he just wanted to move on and expand his creative horizons. He says that, “It causes a lot of surprise that anyone would leave Valve. I left Valve, and all my good friends from there, for the specific reason that I had spent six years of my life on one single project, and that’s a lot.”
As an artist, he wanted to express himself in other ways. He’s now done two feature films, three separate games, and an illustrated novel, among other things. Antonov looks back as his time with the company with fondness, though, and says that working with Gabe Newell and crafting Half-Life 2 “was my second education, pretty much.”
While he simply “just moved on,” when asked if he would return to Valve to work on a possible Half-Life 3, Antonov seemed tempted and had this to say before a fellow Arkane art director interrupted him for a joke.
“As of today, of course, I work for Zenimax, so technically that would be an inconvenience!” he grinned. “But… A ha…”