Valve looking to measure sweat and stress levels to build better games

How biometrics and internal testing have affected Valve’s development process

TODO alt text

What’s Gabe Newell thinking about these days? The co-founder of Valve Corporation has a lot on his mind. “So right now I’m thinking a lot about longer term stuff… I’m thinking about the problems that game companies have getting movies made out of their games, and movie companies have to get decent games made,” says Newell in a recent interview with PC Gamer.  “What else am I thinking about? I’m in thinking mode… oh, I’m also thinking about biometrics. Sorry, that was one thing I forgot,” he continues.

Newell is exploring new ways to measure how a player feels while playing. We’ve seen how Left 4 Dead’s AI director adjusts the pace of gameplay depending on how players are reacting to situations in-game. But with biometric measurements, Valve is examining where your eyes are focused with gaze tracking. They’re even looking at your pulse to measure stress levels and how much you’re sweating.

The new data has already affected Valve’s development process. “So when you’re designing a game, you think every pixel is just as important as every other pixel, and you certainly expend effort that way… With gaze tracking it’s even worse than we could have ever imagined. A huge percent of the stuff we draw on the screen people never even look at. And so what you want to do is use that and redesign it,” explains Newell.

Above: Valve wants to know your pulse, how much you're sweating, and where your eyes are focused in the name of making better games

But for Valve, finding a way to conveniently measure things like your pulse rate or how much you’re sweating might have some surprisingly big implications for the social gaming sphere. “So we can stop using our guess at what your player state is in Left 4 Dead, that we kind of expected. But the value of being able to see what other people’s biological state is in social gaming, that was not something we were anticipating. But that’s just the way things go,” says Newell.

For more on Gabe Newell’s pursuit for a more accurate representation of the player state, you can check out the full interview at PC Gamer.

Source: PC Gamer

Sep 14, 2010