Nobody Leaves Valve. Unless You’re Viktor Antonov.
Valve Software. They’re the dream come true for many game devs to work at. They have a solid position in the industry. The mere mention of Valve on your resume would probably make you pretty coveted. They invest a lot into their staff.
For Viktor Antonov, it wasn’t enough to keep him there. Initially drawn to the then-small studio way back in early 2000, he became the art director to the acclaimed Half-Life 2 title. He created City 17, all of the Combine technology, all of the twisted architecture.
What caused him to leave had been an utter mystery, until now.
“I left precisely when they stopped making epic, triple-As, which was Half-Life 2,” said Antonov in an interview with Eurogamer. “Since then, they were episodes.
“Valve is a great place, but I’m interested in projects, not in companies. 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.
“Valve has grown into a much bigger company, and 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, and I’m interested in a certain level of creative risk taking and a certain energy that can be compared to jazz, jamming or rock n’ roll, where it’s small, it’s intense and it’s about making revolutions in the media.”
Antonov now works as the visual design director for Zenimax, overseeing all of the visual designs for Zenimax’s properties. This means the Elder Scrolls team at Bethesda, id Software, and Arkane.
“It causes a lot of surprise that anyone would leave Valve,” said Antonov. “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. And, as an artist, I wanted to express myself in a whole variety of ways. So, since then, I have done two feature films, TV series, I’ve designed a third feature film, I have done three separate games and an illustrated novel, as an independent author.
“It was very important for me to be independent and active and work with European talent, and have more maneuverability in my life.”
If Half-Life 3 ever saw the light of day, maybe we’ll see Antonov return to give us one last taste of the Combine and their technology. Or maybe not. Who knows? When asked if that would be possible, Antonov of course wouldn’t give a straight answer.
For the full interview, head over to Eurogamer.