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There's just a bit more to Valve's recent Portal Update...
March 2, 2010 12:17 AM   Subscribe

On Monday, Valve software issued a small patch for Portal. A New achievement ("Transmission Received") for the game was unlocked if 26 radios in the game were carried to the end of the levels. Each radio had it's own sound file, and concealed in those sound files were Morse code, pictures, and an md5 hash string containing a phone number which, if called via modem, has an interesting login (from Gladios 3.11) and seems to be streaming some strange ascii art.
posted by Catblack (130 comments total) 59 users marked this as a favorite

 
I'm excited to see where this leads. The Half Life universe is a great setting for an ARG.
posted by painquale at 12:32 AM on March 2, 2010


Look, I'm so far behind on the "games" you kids "play" these days that I'm only vaguely aware of what this Portal thing is...but the fact that there still exists a BBS out there transmitting ASCII art fills my heart with joy.
posted by Jimbob at 12:38 AM on March 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


Yeah. Reading through the forums, there are a lot of people who are using Wikipedia to figure out what BBSs are, and discussing the need for "some kind of special hardware modem" to access these things that are "sort of like message board except you have to dial into them on the telephone line".

*sigh*
posted by Jimbob at 12:41 AM on March 2, 2010 [64 favorites]


Ah, more Portal content. Loved seeing an old BBS in action.

This was a triumph!
posted by TBAcceptor at 12:48 AM on March 2, 2010


It's amazing that people get paid to set this kind of crazy stuff up. I wonder how you put that on your resume: "encoded game images into sound files" "set up BBS software that dumped noisy ascii art". Not your typical skill set.
posted by demiurge at 12:58 AM on March 2, 2010


If it is even people doing it...
posted by Hicksu at 1:03 AM on March 2, 2010 [17 favorites]


Metafilter: "sort of like message board except you have to dial into them on the telephone line" with "some kind of special hardware modem"
posted by delmoi at 1:13 AM on March 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


By god I love this kind of thing. So far it fits with the whole portal mythology pretty well, too. (as any creepy computer alternate reality game would)

Let us not forget "I love bees" and Majestic.

Much like the ongoing developments in EVE, I'd much rather watch the creativity from a distance, though. Investing the time required to play these things is probably more than my marriage and career(s) can stand.
posted by poe at 1:45 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I applaud Valve for being game elements into the real world. I wish more companies realized the huge untapped market of expanding a game out of its defined boundaries.

There was a game (Majestic) some time ago that used real world elements namely: fake "real" websites, telephone, fax, IMs and email to provide content for the game. It was way ahead of its time. Sadly, a "real world" government conspiracy themed game and 9/11 coinciding kind of killed it.

I enjoy games that blur reality within it. Even if it is just a little stunt, give me more of this please.
posted by andryeevna at 1:52 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


oh btw, portal's awesome, only hated it for its limited development; this is wonderful news.
posted by hypersloth at 1:53 AM on March 2, 2010


If it is even people doing it...

The mental image of a sentimental 286 booting itself up* for one last hurrah in some basement somewhere makes me smile.

*Like in Thomas the Tank Engine.
posted by doublehappy at 1:59 AM on March 2, 2010 [9 favorites]


its going too be alright.
posted by sexyrobot at 2:05 AM on March 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


The forum features people trying to figure out why they can't telnet ... to a phone number. Someone responds that they think you need to use a "modem," and you can do this with ... the Windows telnet client. Others want to know about using Skype to do it.

This makes me feel so, so old.
posted by 1adam12 at 2:24 AM on March 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


Speaking of Portal mysteries, I'd like to know what happened to this YouTube user that turned out two pitch-perfect GLaDOS voice-overs before disappearing forever. I'd messaged them before and they promised to share the secret to their mimicry after posting the second video, but they were never heard from again. Secret strike by the Valve legal ninjas?
posted by Rhaomi at 2:25 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The forum features people trying to figure out why they can't telnet ... to a phone number. Someone responds that they think you need to use a "modem," and you can do this with ... the Windows telnet client. Others want to know about using Skype to do it.

I was just thinking "where the hell did they even find someone to set up a BBS in 2010", then I thought "holy shit, this wasn't even that long ago". I mean, it's not like I'm some COBOL programmer in my 70s, I did this shit actively as a teenager, now I'm days away from 30 and it's completely gone. I used to set up FidoNet remailers for my friends, would charge them $20 - how many even know what FidoNet was anymore? And this was important shit. It's pretty weird to contemplate.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:31 AM on March 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


There was a game (Majestic) some time ago that used real world elements namely: fake "real" websites, telephone, fax, IMs and email to provide content for the game. It was way ahead of its time. Sadly, a "real world" government conspiracy themed game and 9/11 coinciding kind of killed it.

Wow, that brings back memories. I somehow managed to get interviewed by NPR for a piece they did on Majestic.
posted by mrbill at 2:34 AM on March 2, 2010


"where the hell did they even find someone to set up a BBS in 2010"

FWIW, it doesn't look like they're running a BBS per se (like WWIV or whatever); I would speculate they just got a linux or bsd distro and attached a modem as a tty (not that people do this so often nowadays, but it used to be common enough that it's almost certainly still included and easy to enable--it was last time I used linux, anyway.)

Then, they probably just edited the system login message, created the various game accounts, and specified non-standard shells in /etc/passwd (or whatever the kids are doing on linux nowadays.)

The debate on the Steam forum about whether the number they obtained by brute force-reversing the MD5 is reliable, or whether it might be an MD5 collision with another phone number made me chuckle, too.
posted by blenderfish at 2:41 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


My dad, just over 60, semi-frequently says "I could just write it in COBOL" about ideas he has for little apps and stuff. He knows FORTRAN too. I see my future, man, they're gonna be wheeling me in as the last one who remembers PHP or something.
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:41 AM on March 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


The debate on the Steam forum about whether the number they obtained by brute force-reversing the MD5 is reliable, or whether it might be an MD5 collision with another phone number made me chuckle, too.

Seriously? AFTER they found the number and it worked? I... wow. Yeah, guys, there are a lot of numbers out there that still answer with a carrier and spew ASCII about GlaDOS. It's totally mathematically possible~!
posted by DecemberBoy at 2:44 AM on March 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


My dad, just over 60, semi-frequently says "I could just write it in COBOL" about ideas he has for little apps and stuff. He knows FORTRAN too. I see my future, man, they're gonna be wheeling me in as the last one who remembers PHP or something.

Same here, except my dad uses RPG.
What's great is that he can still pick and choose his jobs, anywhere in the world, because so many companies still use teh RPG on AS400s.
That's Latin to all you code kittehs.
My dad can beat up yer cyberdad.

posted by hypersloth at 3:03 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


AFTER they found the number and it worked?
In their defense, probably before (or by different people who hadn't realized it had been actually confirmed.)

The reason it is funny is that, while MD5 was invented in 1991, until fairly recently (2004), there had been NO actual MD5 collisions found, ever.
posted by blenderfish at 3:04 AM on March 2, 2010


(and collisions were only found after extensive searching, and, more recently, by taking very deliberate advantage of now-known algorithmic weaknesses in MD5)
posted by blenderfish at 3:05 AM on March 2, 2010


until fairly recently (2004), there had been NO actual MD5 collisions found, ever

Oh, I get that part too, I just thought the idea that they'd debate that after someone dialed the number and found it to respond with a carrier even more funny, because it takes the near mathematical impossibility of an MD5 collision and combines with simple statistics to produce the most impossible thing this side of eating the sun.
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:30 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


and concealed in those sound files were Morse code, pictures, and an md5 hash string containing a phone number which, if called via modem, has an interesting login (from Gladios 3.11) and seems to be streaming some strange ascii art

Great. Now the developer is going to email us and want this thread deleted.
posted by horsemuth at 4:05 AM on March 2, 2010 [14 favorites]


I love the creepy conspiracy feeling about these kinds of embedded ARGs.

But it also made me sad that the folks on those forums didn't know what a BBS was.
posted by kalessin at 4:35 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I bet this means HL2 Episode 3 is close to release!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 4:56 AM on March 2, 2010


I bet this means HL2 Episode 3 is close to release!

More likely Portal 2. Wish it was Ep 3 though.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:06 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sure as shit hope this has something to do with HL2 Ep3. As fun as Left 4 Dead and TF2 are for the first couple of hours, the Half Life series is pretty much unparalleled as far as I am concerned, and I'd like to see the developer refocus on their flagship title. That recent rumor that there will be no HL2 Ep3 in 2010 pretty much broke my heart.

Still, all this is pretty cool.
posted by orville sash at 5:08 AM on March 2, 2010


As ARGs continue to develop, we're going to reach a point where between Google and forums and places where smart, code-savvy people meet, the code-based ARG will go the way of the dodo. Either the 'secret' gets out and searchable (like the deleted thread horsemuth alludes to) or it is so obscure (and as an ex-WWIV BBS sysop it pains me to say this) that only a small sub-set of potential players can participate. People who want to play along, but lack the savvy, end up being spectators, which kind of defeats the point of an ARG in the first place.

This is not to say that these code tricks should be done away with, but instead that it should be looked on as stage sets and props rather than the game itself. The tech helps the game scale, so that one person can take the role of many, and facilitates execution, but the real soul of the game will be in its actors and gamemasters. You can't just set up a macguffin and 'fire and forget' now. You need to have someone consciously in charge with a plan and a timetable. With that in place, you can run an ARG without the need to set up hidden noise in gifs or weird mp3s or whatever. Heck, I know you can even run one in a forum or comment based environment (MefiARGonauts - keep the peace, next up is army day).

A few weeks back, I went to a performance of Sleep No More. It's a retelling of Macbeth done through the eyes of Hitchcock, performed in an abandoned school building. The audience wanders the halls of the building while the story unfolds around them. You follow the actors from one locale to another, with many things happening at the same time, such that the entire performance cycles a few times. You could walk from Duncan being murdered to down the hall where the three witches meet for the first time. As the viewer, it's left up to you to piece everything together and to decide how best you want to experience the performance. This, I think, is the future of ARGs, a shift from puzzles to be solved to mysteries to be experienced.

The hurdle to participation needs to be low enough that the casual player can feel they are following along, that they are part of it. Those running the game can even tweak things on the fly to help keep the story engine humming, which could create more player participation - more LARP than Rubik's Cube. Of course, there would still space for the code-breaker types in the role of early adopters (and eventual actors), still room for forum-based speculation, still room for riddles, but best of all, plenty of room for people to play.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 5:08 AM on March 2, 2010 [8 favorites]


Although ideally, it's Orange Box 2 and we'll get both HL2-Ep3 and Portal 2.
posted by longdaysjourney at 5:11 AM on March 2, 2010


Same here, except my dad uses RPG.

Best version of "My dad can beat up your dad!" EVAR!!!!11!!
posted by eriko at 5:52 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


While 9/11 was a nail in Majestic's coffin, what really did it in was the fact that The Beast ran around the same time and was a lot better as a game.
posted by Pope Guilty at 5:53 AM on March 2, 2010


If you want to know what the people who set these things up put on their resumes, Google Jane McGonigal.

Anyhow, what Robocop is Bleeding says. I participated in "I Love Bees" back when Halo II was coming out. A lot of the puzzles weren't the kind of, "Wait - you need someone who can do enzyme immunoassay who also knows about medieval metallurgy? This is the moment I was born for!" crap that makes them non-accessible to 99.98% of your potential audience.

With Bees they didn't do any Trivial Pursuits: Obscure Crap That No Once Cares About Enough to Put on the Internet Edition Instead, they had you do things that were more team oriented and often local in nature (payphones) so that you weren't competing with all of humanity to be the first person to figure out that the string of letters in the URL, were musical notes in a fifteen note octave and that it was actually the first few bars of I Want to Hold Your Hand.

McGonigal talks about it here.

posted by Kid Charlemagne at 6:27 AM on March 2, 2010 [4 favorites]


It could be Ep 3, since Aperture Science was referenced at the end of Ep 2.
posted by mccarty.tim at 6:28 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


The idea of making 15-year olds scramble around on a BBS for extra content strikes me as hilariously appropriate. Of course the secrets of Aperture Science are silently clicking away on an obscure server that no one has touched over a decade.
posted by The Whelk at 6:37 AM on March 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


it could be Ep 3, since Aperture Science was referenced at the end of Ep 2.

That's my hope, mccarty.tim.
posted by orville sash at 6:43 AM on March 2, 2010


Could give a rats ass about anything Portal. My gaming universe is in a deep, deep coma until Halflife 2 returns from the dead.
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 6:54 AM on March 2, 2010


Wow. Fantastic.

Now I have to fire up Portal again.
posted by zarq at 7:11 AM on March 2, 2010


I saw this last night, and was actually playing the game like a schmuck. Then when I got stuck on a level, I looked on the Internet and found that people had already deciphered the radio signals and were connecting to a BBS! That's when I tried to figure out how to use my USB modem with my cell phone. "I can plug the modem in here and, no... Well, if I... no... Dammit!"
posted by dirigibleman at 7:15 AM on March 2, 2010


very cool. I met some people who worked for Valve at Burning Man last year if that says anything
posted by Gregamell at 7:17 AM on March 2, 2010


Speaking of Portal, if you haven't played it, Portal Prelude is a great mod for Portal.
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:20 AM on March 2, 2010


Just a reminder to everyone demanding Ep 3 now now now: The Borealis is central to Ep 3's plot, and given that the ship was owned by Aperture Science, the setup for the final episode is going to have to involve Portal 2 in some way.

Look at the picture of the robots. Doesn't the one on the left look quite a bit like Dog?
posted by dw at 7:47 AM on March 2, 2010


More likely Portal 2. Wish it was Ep 3 though.

I don't see what about that post makes you think it's Portal 2. I'm in the Ep 3 camp- Valve explicitly said in an interview (that I read somewhere...) that Portal was basically a test platform for Ep 3's new tech. And this:

mccarty.tim: It could be Ep 3, since Aperture Science was referenced at the end of Ep 2.
posted by mkultra at 7:48 AM on March 2, 2010


Dammit, robocop, Sleep No More is sold out. I got all excited for a minute.
posted by marginaliana at 7:48 AM on March 2, 2010


What a fabulous little thing to wake up to. I love that Valve released this little embedded puzzle, I love that the Portal fanboys have already figured it out (those decoded images? srsly?) and I love that Metafilter told me about it. Thank you!

Isn't in incredible that you could call a phone number and hear a whistling tone and that if you have the right magic ancient technology you can connect to it and decode actual letters? Knowledge from the long-long ago in the time before broadband.
posted by Nelson at 7:54 AM on March 2, 2010




I don't see what about that post makes you think it's Portal 2.

Given the casting call for Cave and the fact that this was an update to Portal and not to Episode 2, it just feels much more like Portal 2 than Episode 3. But again, here's hoping it's Orange Box 2 and we get both.
posted by longdaysjourney at 7:54 AM on March 2, 2010


People who want to play along, but lack the savvy, end up being spectators, which kind of defeats the point of an ARG in the first place.

I don't know. Following this as it developed on the Steam forums was almost as exciting as being able to break the code myself. This post in particular, made the hair stand up on the back of my neck like no actual video game has done in recent memory. Everyone was listening to the audible morse code signals, posting transcriptions, and then a dude says:

Guys, I'm listening to the other files. I'm an amateur radio operator - they sound an awful lot like data.

20 minutes later, people were posting those creepy, grainy pictures that had been extracted via SSTV.

I know it's in the first link, but also just wanted to highlight the first thing that happened. Valve pushed an update to Portal along with a changelog, the sort of thing that usually reads something like * Added a new advanced video option that allows the user to easily change the field of view to any value they wish between 75 degrees and 90 degrees, *Updated the particle rendering code and particle data files to make them compatible with the particle editor included in the Source SDK

The one yesterday said, "Changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations," which made a million geeks say WTF!? all at once.
posted by straight at 7:56 AM on March 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


I caught on to this yesterday, and spent a good deal of time just following along on Something Awful and various other places. It was pretty fascinating; never seen an ARG get solved in real-time before.

Also, there are a lot of people who want to help solve the ARG that don't read the goddamn threads. "There's a code in the numbered photos!" is pretty neat when first discovered, much less so 4 hours later when people are already frantically trying to log in to the BBS.
posted by graventy at 7:59 AM on March 2, 2010


I can't believe the number of commenters who would prefer more Halflife 2 to more Portal.

Want to get across town? No problem, just take this elevator from the back of the lab up into the Transylvanian village next door and then take the first left through the abandoned mine in the middle of the town cemetery. There's an 6 foot high wall by the mine exit completely blocking your travel, but don't worry, you can get past it by taking a 3 mile detour through the zombie infested sewer below.
posted by ecurtz at 8:02 AM on March 2, 2010 [12 favorites]


here's hoping it's Orange Box 2 and we get both.

I think the new series will collide in the end - there's a whif of time travel in the Portal backstory and a hint of "continuing success in the past".
posted by The Whelk at 8:03 AM on March 2, 2010


the two series* argh
posted by The Whelk at 8:03 AM on March 2, 2010


I love the fact that there are people out there doing this. The whole affair has brought a smile to my face.

demiurge : "encoded game images into sound files" "set up BBS software that dumped noisy ascii art". Not your typical skill set.

Weirdly, I know a ton of people who could put this kind of thing on a resume, myself included. It must just be the results of being active on the internet in that time between dial-up BBSs and the web coming into its own.

1adam12 : This makes me feel so, so old.

I hear ya. I've got a 1200bps modem with a rotary phone sitting on my desk at work, I've had several people walk up and ask if it was some kind of VOIP setup (the modem has a place for a phone line!)

Now I just smile and say "yes". It keeps me sane.
posted by quin at 8:06 AM on March 2, 2010


is this where I point out that, in the time they've taken so far to make episode 3, they could simply have released Half-Life 3 by now?

'cause I'm over Ep 3, now. they can go ahead and release something that would have been worth all this wait, instead.
posted by shmegegge at 8:07 AM on March 2, 2010


IAAAD (I am an ARG designer), so:

andryeevna: Majestic was a really innovative game that was absolutely before its time. The reason why it failed has absolutely nothing to do with 9/11 though - that's just a convenient excuse (for comparison, the first season of 24 came out at the same time and it's still going strong).

Majestic reportedly cost $10 million to develop, meaning that it'd need at least 100,000 paying subscribers; it had around a tenth of that at the end. I think it was crazy for EA to believe that they could get so many subscribers, so quickly, for such a new genre. And there were plenty of problems with the game as well, such as the 30 minute daily limitation on gameplay.

robocop is bleeding: Yes, yes, a thousand times yes! The code tricks are generally tiresome for the vast majority of players, and are what I'd classify as stunts - things that are interesting to hear about but very few people can realistically engage with. If you happen to be watching from the start while things are unfolding, that's great - but just imagine reading through all the threads about the Portal ARG even a week from now; it'd be tedious.

The problem is that ARG designers are trying to create these games with very little tech whatsoever, meaning that most everything is human-powered - and thus, it's actually *easier* for them to do code tricks and similiar one-off puzzles than it is to code some sort of game that lots of people can enjoy and contribute to.
posted by adrianhon at 8:08 AM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Having said all of that, I think the Portal ARG sounds fantastic and I love the fact that you learn about it in-game through those radios - more like this, please!
posted by adrianhon at 8:09 AM on March 2, 2010


Same here, except my dad uses RPG.
Best version of "My dad can beat up your dad!" EVAR!!!!11!!


My dad knows PL/I. With punch cards.
posted by signal at 8:14 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


In fact, he got away with listing it as a foreign language while getting his PhD at Cornell.
posted by signal at 8:15 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


is this where I point out that, in the time they've taken so far to make episode 3, they could simply have released Half-Life 3 by now?

I can't find the interview now, but Gabe Newell said that Episodes 1-3 ARE Half-Life 3, and that's how they should have labeled them.
posted by dw at 8:26 AM on March 2, 2010


I can't believe the number of commenters who would prefer more Halflife 2 to more Portal.

Eh, I want Alyx to get her REVENGEEEEEE. A Chell/Alyx/Gordon teamup in the course of doing so would be quite awesome though.
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:35 AM on March 2, 2010


I think the new series will collide in the end

I think this is almost a given. You had that shot of the Borealis in Ep 2 and GLaDOS's ominous "us and them" and "people who are still alive" comments.

Can hardly wait!
posted by longdaysjourney at 8:41 AM on March 2, 2010


I hope they don't collide too much. I don't like shooters at all, but I adored Portal even while it was making me motion-sick.
posted by restless_nomad at 8:43 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Plus, GLaDOS joked about Black Mesa in her song. She clearly has internalized the corporate rivalry. Essentially being Aperture Science's final entity and lacking a life outside the labs means that her raison d'ĂȘtre is to beat Black Mesa. Why would a writer build up to that without having an epic meeting between the two defense contractors?

I predict that GlaDOS will reluctantly work with Gordon Freeman against the Combine, but, being a psychopathic AI, she'll turn on him as soon as she no longer needs him.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:51 AM on March 2, 2010


This whole thing has Adam Foster's fingerprints all over it. Foster created, designed and built the brilliant Half-Life 2 mod Minerva:Metastasis (seriously, if you have Half Life 2/Orange Box, play it now! It's almost up to Valve standard, and in places even better). A couple of years back he posted something similar (if very much smaller in scale) to his blog. I won't spoil it for anyone, but it amounted to Foster's announcement that he had been hired by Valve themselves.
posted by Electric Dragon at 8:53 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


PS: Gameplay-wise, though, I don't expect Valve to cross the streams too much. Valve's been good at keeping gameplay styles separate in the past. They've kept the Half Life universe realistic and primarily about action paced by puzzles. We may fight mobile enemies in Portal 2 (like Combine soldiers or maybe turrets on treads), but not in the same quantity or capacity as we've seen in HL2. Anything more would be too much of a departure.
posted by mccarty.tim at 8:55 AM on March 2, 2010


Why would a writer build up to that without having an epic meeting between the two defense contractors?

Because it's funny meta-humor for the players. I hope you're right, though.

I can't help but think that a significant reason for all the delay in E3/Portal 2 has been making the Portal gun work with a more complex AI; either enemies with Portal guns or taking advantage of your portals and shooting/walking through them.
posted by graventy at 9:04 AM on March 2, 2010


I can't help but think that a significant reason for all the delay in E3/Portal 2 has been making the Portal gun work with a more complex AI; either enemies with Portal guns or taking advantage of your portals and shooting/walking through them.

Oh god the chaos.
posted by The Whelk at 9:11 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


The thing is that the Portal gun is sort of fundamentally a whimsical device with semi-arbitrary rules about its use. If you turn it loose in a more real environment it becomes a constraint on your level design: you either have to avoid the kind of flat surfaces that would take a portal in the original game, or come up with reasons why the gun doesn't work sometimes, or suppress its use programmatically when you don't want the player to use it. All three impact the reality of the game in a way that can work in a puzzle driven universe like Portal's, but seems limiting for a game like Half Life.

That said, if anybody can successfully synthesize the two, it's Valve.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:12 AM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


All this talk of new enemy AI for Ep. 3, Portal 2, etc. reminds me of two days ago, when I was playing Team Fortress 2 and someone started trash talking a player for doing so well with a ping of 1.

Someone else pointed out to him that it was one of the Valve's newly added bots.
posted by uri at 9:20 AM on March 2, 2010


"Strange, we thought the robot Apocalypse would come from the military or defense contractors or even a science lab - never in a million years did we think it would all start at a video game company..."
posted by The Whelk at 9:22 AM on March 2, 2010


[Portal gun] If you turn it loose in a more real environment...

Done! Portal gun in a real environment (excellent portal gun prop).
posted by quin at 9:22 AM on March 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


Done! Portal gun in a real environment (excellent portal gun prop).

I don't think I've ever wanted to be somebody's girlfriend this bad.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 9:34 AM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


Yeah. Reading through the forums, there are a lot of people who are using Wikipedia to figure out what BBSs are, and discussing the need for "some kind of special hardware modem" to access these things that are "sort of like message board except you have to dial into them on the telephone line".

*sigh*


I had no idea what a BBS was until this Portal thing, and a lot of the people on the Steam forums are younger than I am, I'm guessing most of them are preteens and teenagers.

I'm going to give you some generational context here: According to Wikipedia, "BBSes reached their peak usage around 1996, which was the same period that the World Wide Web sudddenly became mainstream."

I would have been seven years old at that time. Two years later Google came into being. I was in 4th grade and using a search engine called Dogpile, and wouldn't discover Google until the following year. BBSes were never on my radar.

The majority of kids, like those posting on the forums, likely can't remember or conceive of a time before the internet. They can't even remember a time before Google. It's just always been there.

Just wait a few more years and I'll be right there with you. Modems, floppy disks, land lines, VHS/VCRs, cassettes, The Flintstones... Kids today.
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 9:37 AM on March 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


I can't believe the number of commenters who would prefer more Halflife 2 to more Portal.

I'll be super-excited about either one, but the fact is that Half-Life 2 has been getting better with each episode Valve releases and it seems quite possible that Episode 3 could be better yet.

But for Portal 2 to be as good as or better than Portal? That would be the most miraculous triumph in video game history. My best case scenario is that a Portal 2 could be merely great (while secretly hoping for a miracle...)
posted by straight at 9:45 AM on March 2, 2010


I enjoyed portal, but I thought the conceit was novel and without some significant innovation a sequel is likely to wear out its welcome pretty quickly. HL2, on the other hand, is the best single player FPS in history, and straight is right that the episodes have improved on the formula.
posted by orville sash at 9:50 AM on March 2, 2010


I was born in 1988

which explains why you routinely shit on me in Modern Warfare 2, ye wee bugger.
posted by shmegegge at 10:01 AM on March 2, 2010


The majority of kids, like those posting on the forums, likely can't remember or conceive of a time before the internet.

Me neither. And I'll be pushing 40 soon. Funny how that works.
posted by slogger at 10:34 AM on March 2, 2010


which explains why you routinely shit on me in Modern Warfare 2, ye wee bugger.

If Modern Warfare 2 is anything like Modern Warfare, it's a great big shit on us all.
posted by adamdschneider at 10:59 AM on March 2, 2010


The thing is that the Portal gun is sort of fundamentally a whimsical device with semi-arbitrary rules about its use. If you turn it loose in a more real environment it becomes a constraint on your level design...

Yeah, exactly. I'd love a crossover, but I just don't see the portal gun being a part of it. Apart from all the problems involved in using it in a non-enrichment center environment, they've made it pretty clear that the gravity gun is the HL universe's central toy, and I can't see them doing anything that would distract you from that.

I would love to see Barney have a chat with GLaDOS, though.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 11:13 AM on March 2, 2010


Man, now I want cake.
posted by nat at 11:22 AM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


What's the score with these updates on the XBox 360 version of the Orange Box? My ancient computer did pretty well through the Orange Box until it crapped out at the tail end of Episode 2. Since I got an XBox I've been thinking of picking it up to finish Episode 2.

I'd love to play through Portal again with these additions, but I have no idea how updates work on a console.
posted by The Man from Lardfork at 11:24 AM on March 2, 2010


I haven't heard any plans about releasing the update on the 360. Plus, 360 updates have to go through a long certification process, so it'd probably be a good two weeks before it'd show up there, if it does.
posted by graventy at 11:53 AM on March 2, 2010


Personally, I hope there's no Half-Life 2 Episode 3. I hope they just skip to Half-Life 3. It's been almost two and a half years since episode 2, a long time to wait for 2-3 hours of gameplay. I want the full experience of an entirely new game.

I'd also be quite happy for Portal 2, or even just new free content for Portal.
posted by notmydesk at 11:59 AM on March 2, 2010


Now they just need to somehow tie portal, tf2 and l4d together.
posted by empath at 12:06 PM on March 2, 2010


Thanks for posting this.
posted by LobsterMitten at 12:08 PM on March 2, 2010


It's been almost two and a half years since episode 2, a long time to wait for 2-3 hours of gameplay.

Eh, you of all people know better than that. ;)

*rereads Concerned*
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:08 PM on March 2, 2010


Bad news guys: Valve's said in previous interviews that they intend for HL2 EP3 to be the last HalfLife game, because it takes too long to program an epic game like HL2, especially if they aim for the same jump (new engine, even better physics/AI/etc, make the old one look like crap).
posted by mccarty.tim at 12:14 PM on March 2, 2010


Now that I think of it, the portal gun would be a convenient solution to the problem of all the waist-high walls.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 12:21 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


*rereads Concerned*

speaking of which, notmydesk, I would like to formally request that you repost the mefightclub thank you comic somewhere. it seems to have disappeared from the internet, which is a shame.

also, I love you.
posted by shmegegge at 12:21 PM on March 2, 2010


On preview:
Bad news guys: Valve's said in previous interviews that they intend for HL2 EP3 to be the last HalfLife game
Uh. WHAT? Can you link to this please, so I can curl up in the corner and weep like a small child? Please tell me this is not true.
posted by Dormant Gorilla at 12:22 PM on March 2, 2010


don't worry. it's not true. Gordon Freeman wouldn't allow that to happen. It's a misinformation campaign put on by The Combine.
posted by shmegegge at 12:24 PM on March 2, 2010


I knew all this old shit I keep around for no apparent reason would come in handy some day! Time to break out the old Hayes modems!

Whose laughing now, old girlfriends? WHO IS LAUGHING NOW.
posted by Justinian at 1:11 PM on March 2, 2010 [6 favorites]


I knew all this old shit I keep around for no apparent reason would come in handy some day! Time to break out the old Hayes modems!

To get that Hayes modem running perfectly, you should make sure you have a Quantum Corporation Plus HardCard installed. This baby is the ultimate 20MB version, perfect for the hardcore power user. Fits smoothly into any willing ISA slot for maximum speed.

And it can be yours right now for the low, lowest, rock-bottom price of only $219.95! A bargain!
posted by zarq at 1:27 PM on March 2, 2010


For those wondering about seeing an update to their 360 versions, don't get your hopes up. Xbox title updates are limited in size. I can't remember the exact size but it is under 10 megs. Patches are diffed files which are recombined in memory when the game loads.
posted by hellphish at 1:33 PM on March 2, 2010


I'm actually going to go play an ARG now in real life, so I'm just gonna stop in and say Hi folks! [<3]

HELLO WORLD.
posted by Weighted Companion Cube at 1:35 PM on March 2, 2010


Query: which is awesomer? Using a 300 baud modem, a 1200 baud modem, a 2400 baud modem, or one of these new-fangled 56.6 thingies?
posted by Justinian at 1:38 PM on March 2, 2010


Xbox title updates are limited in size

Even if this is too big for a title update, they can release it as free DLC. They usually release PC updates first, so I'm not too worried, there's no good reason this shouldn't come out on 360 eventually.
posted by wildcrdj at 2:16 PM on March 2, 2010


9600 is a good choice for the cost-conscious consumer. Affordable and speedy.
posted by graventy at 2:16 PM on March 2, 2010


I hope they don't collide too much. I don't like shooters at all, but I adored Portal even while it was making me motion-sick.

If you love physics-based environmental puzzles and enjoy the Half-Life universe, but are not a big fan of shooting, then I strongly urge you to check out the Research and Development mod (requires HL2 Episode 2).

It's basically Half-Life 2 without guns. Lots of clever and fun puzzles where you use physics (and the gravity gun) to navigate the environment and defeat enemies (there's also some of the kill-zombies-with-gravity-gun-fired-saw-blades-and-stuff which is not so new but is still fun). It has lots of great ideas that are well executed. It made me laugh with clever jokes, humorous situations, and with sheer "I can't believe I just did that cool thing" delight. It lets you build a crazy-fun zombie-killing vehicle. It's one of the best games I've played all year.
posted by straight at 2:17 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


wildcrdj: "free DLC"

I think Valve had to fight tooth and nail to release the updates that they have as free DLC.
posted by graventy at 2:18 PM on March 2, 2010


there's no good reason this shouldn't come out on 360 eventually.

I think Valve had to fight tooth and nail to release the updates that they have as free DLC.

Exactly. MS really hates putting out free DLC. It has happened before, but in MS's eyes free DLC diminishes the value of the things you DO have to pay for, like hats for your avatar.
posted by hellphish at 2:28 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


If anyone wants a cool walkthrough of the breakdown of this code, you could do worse than jwz's blog post about it.
posted by absalom at 2:52 PM on March 2, 2010


Pfft what is this, 1995? Don't you have an ISDN line?
posted by maus at 3:00 PM on March 2, 2010


There's a lot of free DLC on XBox Live, I don't know what you're talking about. DLC pricing is much more in the publisher's control than Microsoft's.
posted by wildcrdj at 3:01 PM on March 2, 2010


I've said it in other places, but it really pisses me off that jwz is really excited about people working together to break this code, but when it comes to his own personal baby on his site he gets all defensive and asks for all information to be removed. Hypocrite.
posted by graventy at 3:01 PM on March 2, 2010 [3 favorites]


(recent free DLC: Bad Company 2, Mass Effect 2, DA:O. Upcoming: Alan Wake, Mega Man 10. Historical: tons, both initially free and those that had a "holding period" like Halo maps).
posted by wildcrdj at 3:08 PM on March 2, 2010


I've seen this story in several places, but here's one article. And those first three aren't really "free" DLC, they're incentives to buy the product new in the store. Part of a broadside attack on the used games market, essentially.

And honestly, map packs should go free 6/12 months after they're first sold, because the playerbase shrinks over time and paying customers won't find opponents.
posted by graventy at 3:14 PM on March 2, 2010


Doing these just for the achievement (and the joy of playing Portal again). I think the crazy bank shot with an energy pellet that seems to be required to pick up the seventh radio is going to undo me.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 3:36 PM on March 2, 2010


Re: the actual ARG itself: these things seem like something I would enjoy, but the problem is every time I hear about them, some obsessive nerd has already figured the whole thing out within 30 minutes after the first clues are made available. I dimly recall reading an article on this once - that ARGs are a poor method of promotion because only the most obsessive get to participate (how many people even know how to extract data from sound files or do any of the other weird shit that goes along with ARGs?).
posted by DecemberBoy at 3:42 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


that ARGs are a poor method of promotion because only the most obsessive get to participate

Which is why we're talking about it here. And on every game blog, major or minor, in the whole of internetdom. No promotional value there at all.
posted by absalom at 3:57 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Man, now I want cake.
posted by nat at 11:22 AM on March 2


Now, I don't want to spoil anything, but I'm afraid I've got some bad news for you...
posted by Katrel at 3:58 PM on March 2, 2010 [11 favorites]


tie portal, tf2 and l4d together.

TF2 is a elaborate simulation run by GlaDOS using previously stored neural backups.
posted by The Whelk at 4:15 PM on March 2, 2010


If anyone wants a cool walkthrough of the breakdown of this code, you could do worse than jwz's blog post about it.

...

Wait wait wait.

THIS jwz??
posted by CitrusFreak12 at 5:24 PM on March 2, 2010 [5 favorites]


"the fact that there still exists a BBS out there transmitting ASCII art fills my heart with joy."

I still run one. Though, admittedly, the ASCII art on it is rare these days. A few years back we finally had the phone line disconnected because no one ever called in that way any more, but the board is still up and running. Telnet to bbs.slumberland.org, nerds.

The BBS, Slumberland, will celebrate its nineteenth birthday next week. I guess that makes me feel old.
posted by litlnemo at 7:01 PM on March 2, 2010 [2 favorites]


I've said it in other places, but it really pisses me off that jwz is really excited about people working together to break this code, but when it comes to his own personal baby on his site he gets all defensive and asks for all information to be removed. Hypocrite.



Aha! You have successfully peeled back a layer of the ARG!
posted by Cat Pie Hurts at 7:37 PM on March 2, 2010


> that ARGs are a poor method of promotion because only the most obsessive get to participate

Oh man, you don't know how wrong you are. I remember following ilovebees, it first getting some attention by some ARG fans who were totally unrelated to the Halo 2 launch it was actually attached to. In fact it wasn't until very significant signs showed up (included ilovebees.com ending up in a game trailer) that the last hold outs agreed, and people started assembling audio files.

I am guessing it is the same 42u or similar folks working on this one, the dial in phone clues remind me of the payphone chaos from ILB. I remember driving 30 minutes to answer a payphone, and listening to the assembled audio files when they became available. The voice acting in it was amazing and top notch.

And all my friends in college just thought I was fucking weird (well true, I was).
posted by mrzarquon at 8:00 PM on March 2, 2010 [1 favorite]


Er, managed to wander away from the main point for a second. That being that a lot of the folks who were into ARG were introduced to Halo and the Halo universe, and folks interested in Halo got into ARG. And for everyone involved, they had a good time. And it generated a ton of traffic and hype to attach stuff to, but considering it was only a few weeks long, and consisted of I believe a handful of people organizing the work through 42u, it was an extremely cheap way to get a lot of people excited about a new product launch.
posted by mrzarquon at 8:18 PM on March 2, 2010


tie portal, tf2 and l4d together
and
TF2 is a elaborate simulation run by GlaDOS using previously stored neural backups.

TheOnlyCoolTim has the answer:

In Portal, GlaDOS at one point references an Android Hell where noncompliant combat androids are sent. This is TF2, and the players in TF2 are the disobedient androids, their intelligences disconnected from physical reality and inhabiting a simulation.
posted by asok at 6:22 AM on March 3, 2010 [2 favorites]


I really enjoyed the Year Zero ARG; I didn't buy the album, but looking at songs using spectrographs and putting together clues was fun.
posted by Pope Guilty at 12:34 PM on March 3, 2010


I was hoping that this was the beginning of a larger-scale event, but it looks like the ASCII art might be the final stage of the game. Is there any indication that there is more to come?
posted by painquale at 2:01 PM on March 3, 2010


Well, they updated the game again today, with the cryptic message "Added valuable asset retrieval".

And a new game ending.
posted by graventy at 3:04 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


A new ENDING? Dammit.

/goes home to play Portal
posted by restless_nomad at 3:11 PM on March 3, 2010


Well, it's not THAT big of a deal. Metafilter needs spoiler tags...
SPOILERS



















Now, at the end, a robot/s start to drag you away, and say "Thank you for assuming the (party escort)? submission position"

Sound on youtube, video on youtube with some moron talking over it. Thanks go to CitrusFreak over at the fight club.
posted by graventy at 3:15 PM on March 3, 2010


RPS has the video without some moron talking over it.

Ooh, we're going to a party! There's totally gonna be cake.
posted by ecurtz at 4:07 PM on March 3, 2010


Kotaku has a good summary of all the discoveries found up until the release of the patch that includes the new ending.
posted by painquale at 5:20 PM on March 3, 2010


If they update the ending again to include a Big Daddy dragging Chell away, I will name my first born Portal Bioshock Meger.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 6:29 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Evidently, you are dragged away by a box of beans. Try not to overthink it, Metafilter.
posted by zylocomotion at 6:54 PM on March 3, 2010 [1 favorite]


Portal 2 confirmed.
posted by juv3nal at 11:14 AM on March 5, 2010 [2 favorites]


Portal 2 confirmed.

Although apparently, that doesn't mean the end of the ARG (note underlined characters..."dratmannh0nee"?)
posted by juv3nal at 12:21 PM on March 5, 2010 [1 favorite]


Game Informer Portal 2 article scans (spoilers)
posted by juv3nal at 12:31 PM on March 10, 2010


I was told there would be cake.
posted by hypersloth at 5:02 AM on March 12, 2010


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