How Much Of The Half-Life 1 Team Remains At Valve?

Discussion & Analysis Valve

Yesterday we let loose the news of Peter Konig’s departure from Valve. He’d been attached to the L4D2, Portal 2, and Dota 2 teams during his time at the company. But maybe you’ve been wondering about Valve’s losses on other fronts; such as their oldest ever team: the Half-Life 1 developers. Well, we’ve actually got the answer!

How Much Of The Half-Life 1 Team Remains At Valve?

For his Let’s Play series of the entire Half-Life franchise (being done in conjunction with PlanetPhillip’s TREE event), William of Podcast 17 has decided to do something different from your average game playthrough. Within the series, he’ll be sharing his insights into the Half-Life continuum, providing his own commentary, and sharing things he’s learned over the years, as well as after some pretty rigurous research he’s been doing for the Let’s Play.

For Episode 2 of the series, featuring Black Mesa Inbound, William decided to go above and beyond, by sharing his research into the evolution of Valve Software. Starting from 06:30 in the video all the way to the end, William runs us through Half-Life 1’s credits. The credits feature the names of all 30 of Valve’s employees who were with the company at the time of HL1’s release in November of 1998. As it turns out, 15 of those people are no longer working with Valve. That’s half of the talent that made Half-Life possible.

But at the same time, it’s pretty comforting to consider that half of those same guys remain hard at work on Valve’s games and products (and possibly the Half-Life series itself), especially when you take into account the fact that at other game companies, employees leave so often, that it isn’t anywhere near as news-worthy as it is when it happens to Valve.

I’m just going to run through them here (with a quick touch of my own research, directly corroborating most of William’s information), but I do recommend that you check out the Let’s Play nonetheless. Here goes – this is what remains of the Half-Life 1 team at Valve, as of writing, in early June 2012:

Ted Backman – artist and animator; still at Valve

T.K. Backman – level designer; no longer at Valve, left in May 2007

Kelly Bailey – programmer, composer and sound designer; no longer at Valve, left in August 2010

Yahn Bernier – programmer; still at Valve

Ken Birdwell – animator and programmer; still at Valve

Steve Bond – programmer; no longer at Valve, left in August 2010

Dario Casali – level designer; still at Valve

John Cook – programmer and Team Fortress co-creator; still at Valve

Greg Coomer – programmer and former team lead of Prospero, came up with the Valve name; still at Valve

Wes Cumberland – programmer; no longer at Valve, left some time after 1999

John Guthrie – level designer; still at Valve

Mona Lisa Guthrie – office manager; no longer at Valve, left some time in January-April 1999

Mike Harrington – programmer and co-founder of Valve; no longer at Valve, left on 15th January 2000

Monica Harrington – business and marketing; no longer at Valve, left on 15th January 2000

Brett Johnson – level designer and programmer; no longer at Valve, left in April 1999

Chuck Jones – artist; no longer at Valve, left in March 2004

Marc Laidlaw – writer and level designer; still at Valve

Karen Laur – texture artist; no longer at Valve, left in March 1999

Randy Lundeen – level designer and programmer; still at Valve

Yatsze Mark – texture artist; no longer at Valve, left some time in 1998

Lisa Mennet – playtesting and business, married to Gabe Newell; no longer at Valve, left some time after 1999

Gabe Newell – co-founder and managing director of Valve; still at Valve

David Riller – level designer and programmer; still at Valve

Aaron Stackpole – network administration; no longer at Valve, left in April 1999

Jay Stelly – programmer; still at Valve

Harry Teasley – level designer and artist, father of the girl in Gordon’s locker; no longer at Valve, left some time in 2002

Steve Theodore – artist and animator; no longer at Valve, left some time in 2002

Bill Van Buren – artist and animator; still at Valve

Robin Walker – programmer, level designer and co-creator of Team Fortress; still at Valve

Doug Wood – animator and programmer; still at Valve

As you can see, most of the big names are still with Valve Software after all. And the majority of the ones that did leave? They left before the wheels really started turning on Half-Life 2, and I’m sure we can all agree that HL2 is indubitably better than HL1 in almost all respects.

So let’s stay optimistic. Valve’s still got some of the most talented and creative game developers on the planet, and if what Gabe told us two months ago is true, then many of the veteran Half-Life developers might just be hard at work on its next outing. When it might come – we have no way of knowing, and I seriously believe Valve doesn’t either. But I have reason to believe that when it does make its debut (or rather, when Valve runs out of games to release before it), it’s going to be off the hook, and we’re going to be glad Valve took all this time.

Hell, at this point I’m looking forward less to the game itself, and more to finding out just what hell the game’s development went through. Hopefully Valve will reveal all that through a hypothetical Final Hours of Half-Life 3, and, hopefully, some sort of Half-Life 3 artbook (just like HL2: Raising the Bar, and The Art of Portal 2). Let’s be honest: we all want to see exactly what Valve on the HL front has been up to from mid-2006 onwards.

Article Sources

Thanks to Grant for a quick e-mail correction regarding Steve Bond’s status.


  1. They’ve also been hiring top notch talent from the mod community for their games for years! Don’t count out the new guys!

  2. Aw, I didn’t know Kelly Bailey left. The soundtrack to Half-Life 2 was so underappreciated… mysterious and creepy. Just perfect. And the Orange Box soundtrack was also great. Hey Vic, maybe a feature about Valve music would be cool?

  3. I highly doubt that Lisa Mennet (Gabe’s wife) doesn’t do stuff for Valve in one capacity or another.

  4. Interesting article, Vic. Thanks!

  5. Thank God that Ted Backman is still around!

  6. Actually I’m extremely curious to one day read “The Final Hours of Half-Life 3” too.
    I want to know how far they were in the game’s design at each E3 that went by.
    What difficulties the company experienced at what times, and how many people were working on it at the start of production, or more importantly, when did the project officially start?
    It would be quite the read I’d say!