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Ken Birdwell is a Software developer for Valve from October 1996.[2]


Before Valve he worked as an Engineer at Telecalc (from June 1983 to July 1990) and after as Contract Engineer at Microsoft Corporation (from 1994 to October 1996)[2]

On the defunct Half-Life website, his function was described as follows: "Ken has contributed to a wide range of projects in the last 15 years. These include in-circuit emulators (CodeTap), 3D surface reconstruction (Surfgen), 3D prosthetics design tools (Shapemaker), and satellite networking (Microsoft's Broadcast PC). He also wrote one of the first graphical shells for multiplayer online games for Compuserve's Sniper.

Oddly enough, Ken has a BFA from Evergreen State University (1990–1994[2]), where he studied painting, photography, and animation. Ken designed and implemented the skeletal animation system and many other engine components for Half-Life."[3]

On Valve's official website, his function was described as follows: "Ken interrupted his fine art studies to join Gabe at Valve as one of their first employees. With a background mostly in simulation and medical software, Ken's primary focus at Valve has been Animation software, and is responsible for most of the acting systems that underlie the characters in Half-Life 2. Ken is the only Valve employee to actually grow up here in Bellevue, and spends countless hours regaling his office mates with tales of what the town was like "when I was a boy"."[4]

Ken Birdwell, about Valve:

Valve is the place to go as the culmination of a career. It's filled with 90% senior people, people who have run their own companies, not just projects or products. It's not uncommon to meet people here who have been here "only" 10 years. We lose fewer than 1 person every 2 years, and that's been true over the entire history of the company. Once you're here, you'll stay forever, there's no reason to ever leave. We're also a family oriented company. You're expected to work 40 hours or so a week. Maybe a 3-4 weeks of crunch time a year, but it's all voluntary. We'll actually send you home if we think you're spending too much time away from your real life. Vacation time isn't tracked. If you need to take time off, take time off. We don't care, it's up to you. Your colleges are keeping track of your contribution anyway, we don't need some stupid accounting trick to know if you're valuable. On top of that, our schedule is our own. We have no outside investors. We own all of our IP. We have no "publisher". We do work with external folks to make and ship retail boxes for us, and they do a great job, but they have zero influence over what we do or when it's done. It's totally up to us. We're in control of our own success or failure. It's ours to make. Why anyone would want to work anywhere else is a mystery to me.[2]


Half-Life (1998)

  • Birdwell created a demo for E3 1997, that featured monsters created with Valve's proprietary skeletal animation system. This system gives game characters the most fluid and complex motion seen in a first-person action game. It also allows them to be much more structurally complex than ever before. For instance, while current action games have difficulty handling monsters with more than 500 polygons, Half-Life will contain monsters with over 6000 polygons, demonstration of this is the Zentraedi Tactical Battle Pod.[5]

Half-Life 2 (2004)

  • In Half-Life 2 Beta there´s a folder called Ken with some maps.[8]
  • He did the coding and AI development for the Hydra[9] that was finally cut.

Half-Life 2: Episode Two (2007)

In the Episode Two commentary, information is given about the spectacular battle between Dog and the Strider: According to Birdwell, the Strider for that sequence was custom built and, with big parts of it being ripped off and "goo" being spewed everywhere, was used as a test bed for new modeling technology and Valve's new particle system introduced in Episode Two. He further adds that with their episodic process, a lot of new technology comes online throughout development. Since any new technology takes a year or more to really work out all the bugs, they like to look for isolated areas - like this one - where they can test out new things without risking all the things they already know work. They did the same thing with HDR in Lost Coast; once they were sure they did not break anything, they moved the features back into general use. Since the Strider has worked out really well in that sequence, it will be the new Strider as they move forward, and they will be applying what they have learned to any new monsters in Episode Three.[10]

Complete gameography


His name appears in Half-Life as an Easter egg on a Sector C locker and can be heard in announcements.



External links

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