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Valve lets us loose in its new offices, unlocks the doors to a rare merch room

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BELLEVUE, Washington—We've visited Valve Software's Seattle-area headquarters in the past, but this week's gameplay reveal for a new release was met with something else: a chance to check out the company's biggest-ever office upgrade. I took my camera on this office visit expecting to maybe see a big new mural or a couple of new things, but instead, I wound up with a memory card full of stuff I hadn't seen in my previous visits, thanks to an office swap roughly six months ago.

So, what does it look like at Valve's new digs—at least, in the spaces I was allowed to take photos? I've broken the answer down in four galleries. The first is a general overview of the space, with a focus on game-related art. In addition to the usual Half-Life, Team Fortress, and Dota 2-themed paintings and sculptures, I also caught some weird stuff, like a lovely tiled mural in the company's cafeteria and a ridiculous rug that portrays TF2 character Saxton Hale facing off against a bear. (I also, er, asked to hold the Dota 2 Aegis, and Valve obliged my silly request.)

  • The most interesting new art at Valve's new office is stuck up against the company's cafeteria wall. Sam Machkovech
  • It's such a big tile piece that I had to take two photos. Sam Machkovech
  • You can't have a Valve office without THE valve, which Gabe Newell's brother built for the company years ago. It weighs approximately 80 pounds, according to Valve devs. Sam Machkovech
  • Companion Cube and bowling pins, placed precipitously above a SteamVR demo station.
  • More companion cubes dot a lobby.
  • An awards array.
  • Nice arrangement for these zillions of AIAS awards.
  • Valve's first physical game publisher, Sierra, made this for Valve after the company launched Half-Life 1.
  • Get it?
  • This is the Aegis of Champions held by the winning team of Valve's major annual Dota 2 tournament, the International.
  • More Aegis info.
  • They also let scrubs like me hold the thing. Eat your heart out, Team Newbee.
  • Valve has had a version of this logo-etch design in its offices for over five years at this point.
  • Gosh, if only that sign wasn't there.
  • Team Fortress 2 character Saxton Hale faces off against a bear on this striking carpet that I nearly didn't notice as I stepped on it.
  • A Valve-branded guitar hangs out in another lobby.
  • Half-Life series concept art.
  • The Citadel.
  • The fact that this domineering Half-Life 2 art piece hangs in a workplace seems disconcerting to me. Is that supposed to inspire employees to work harder?
  • Portal 2 as a film poster.
  • More Saxton Hale, arranged on a wall next to other TF2 characters.
  • Medic!
  • Heating up.
  • How about a little rocket launcher in your kombucha today?
  • The time-to-crate metric from walking into Valve to seeing this "award" was roughly 20 minutes. You're slowing down there, Valve.
  • Elevator lobby with Heavy artwork. (Valve's last offices had similar murals on every floor.)
  • Cafeteria seating area.
  • The view from the compost bin.
  • Most rooms have this Portal and SteamVR-inspired accent art.
  • Some toys.
  • I'd love if this is how Valve and The Behemoth announced a Dota 2 and Castle Crashers crossover project.
  • Sandvich!

Next up is an insane room dedicated entirely to overflow merchandise—which just so happens to be peppered with incomplete and prototype sculptures and toy concepts. This branded-toy candyland includes a few never-before-seen, work-in-progress sculptures for heroes from every major Valve franchise.

  • "Can we go in here?" I asked a little too feverishly. Sam Machkovech
  • Signed Team Fortress 2 jigsaw puzzles.
  • Giant box of Dota 2 plushies.
  • Pins from Valve and other game developers.
  • Pin zoom.
  • 12-inch models arranged on a busy table.
  • A zoom.
  • I was THIS close to trying to steal this incredible Half-Life statue.
  • Prototype toy models.
  • A tighter zoom.
  • Another Gordon Freeman model.
  • Gordon's shelves, zoomed out.
  • Need the Team Fortress 2 songs on physical format? Choose vinyl or CD. Also, some blind-box TF2 minis.
  • TF2 chess next to TF2 Monopoly.
  • Various toys from Valve and other companies.
  • I'd never seen that Portal cake mix before.
  • One of many gravity guns scattered around Valve HQ.
  • I'm not much for Companion Cube hysteria, but I took a second glance at this Love Cube lunchbox, I'll admit.
  • More toys.
  • Valve series crossover?
  • It won't work without the potato.
  • The company's remaining physical media stock, apparently.
  • I wish I'd pried these open.
  • A lot of boxes and swag in utter disarray. Valve hasn't been at the office very long, and it shows.
  • Kid-sized shirts.

After that, we walked past Valve's new kid-friendly playspace, which had no kids in it when we got there. That meant we could, among other things, peer into the colorfully lit, donut-pillow-lined belly of a 12-foot-tall Balloonicorn and pose at the silly table.

  • Valve's new kid-friendly playspace, just around the corner from its cafeteria.
  • Valve had originally wanted its massive, 12-foot-tall Balloonicorn horn to stick through the ceiling, but they couldn't logistically work that out.
  • But kids can crawl into it!
  • The view at the entrance. It's too small for comfortable grown-up entry. Shame, because those donut pillows look comfy (and delicious).
  • One of the kid-room murals.
  • Another angle, which includes some of the large, candy-like decorations on the floor.
  • The space has a giant slew of board games for all ages.
  • A few toy bins, as well.
  • I couldn't leave without a precious photo for the 2018 Christmas card.

To top it all off, Valve had a selection of Artifact card art framed and hung in the game's demo space. These pieces serve as additions to the card-art designs from our article about why the game, even in its early, barely-there state, is already an intriguing mix of thoughtful, expansive, and worrying. But even if the game turns out disastrously, it's hard to argue with how gorgeous these illustrations are.

  • We didn't receive artist names and painting titles for these pieces, as they were arranged unlabeled on the walls in Valve's demo room for Artifact. But however you feel about Valve making a TCG, they're certainly not slacking in the quality illustration department, as this gallery of game card art demonstrates.

Listing image by Sam Machkovech

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