Virtual reality is still very much in its infancy. While the technology is slowly gaining traction, it needs continued developer support to ensure it spreads to more gamers. Valve, which co-developed the Vive headset along with HTC, knows this and has around a third of its staff working in its VR/AR division.
Discussing the past and present of virtual reality in a Vive subreddit thread, Valve hardware engineer Alan Yates revealed how large the VR team has grown over the last few years.
It was a much smaller team [years ago] than it is now. It has since grown to encompass about a third of the company, but the key individuals that solved most of the really hard technological problems and facilitated this generation of consumer headsets are still here working on the next generation.
Valve is estimated to have around 300 to 350 employees in total, which means there are more than 100 people working on its upcoming virtual reality and augmented reality projects.
While he didn’t specifically name anything the team was currently developing, it’s certain to be a mix of software and hardware. One demo Valve showed off a couple of months ago was the incredible Dota 2 VR spectator mode. The immersive experience brings a whole new way of viewing the MOBA’s matches and shows that watching games on the Vive could be just as entertaining as playing them.
Yates went on to express his enthusiasm for working in the field. "Short of human space flight or life sciences I can't imagine working on something of more significance right now," he said.
The big question is, of course, will there ever be a Half-Life 2: Episode 3/Half-Life 3 game for the Vive. Early last year, it looked as if this was a possibility when HTC chairwoman Cher Wang said the company was “co-operating with Half-Life.” She later claimed she “misspoke,” and apologized for the confusion. As reported last month, the chances of ever seeing Gordon Freeman’s return, be it in virtual reality or otherwise, now seems pretty unlikely.
Both the Vive and the Rift are currently lacking any killer games or apps that make spending $600 - $800 on the devices seem worthwhile. But companies are continuing to pour resources into the field, and while 2016 marks the arrival of consumer VR, perhaps 2017 will bring the revolution we’ve been promised.