Box Unboxed

By Alec Meer on February 1st, 2008 at 1:47 pm.

Two quick Valve-related happenings for you info-starved masses. And, for once, to do with actual games, rather than about some guy laser-etching a Weighted Companion Cube into his pelvis.

First up, EA is releasing The Orange Box as individual games – so online-purchase-o-phobes will soon be able to buy Half-Life 2: Episode 2, Team Fortress 2, My Horse & Me and Portal as seperate games, should they so wish. Please, feel free to make your “but surely anyone who wants Portal already has Portal and it’ll be cheaper on Steam anyway and EA are worse than Hitler and Ted Bundy combined” protestations below.

Secondly, and, uh, betterly, is the fairly unsuprisingly revelation that there will be more Portal. Not just more Portal levels, but something that, by the sound of it, plays around with formula. Eurogamer has the news.

Question is, what do you want from a new Portal game? Apart from cake and cubes and songs, that is. We’ve talked about those more than enough already.

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42 Comments »

  1. bashley says:

    I’m sure it’s more EA than Valve trying to suck the life out of these titles. When I picked up my Orange Box months back I was so disappointed when I realized EA had a hand in it. At first I had no idea they were involved.

    On another note … I hope this time around with Portal it would be more than the previous.

  2. sana says:

    I expect a greater length from a new Portal game, because the first one felt like one big demo version/tutorial to me.

  3. Jim Rossignol says:

    Portal’s length was perfect. More short games please!

  4. sana says:

    Well, I guess that’s a matter of opinion. Personally I like to enjoy games I bought for quite a while and not finish them in 2-3 hours.

    But then again the length of Portal is justified by Team Fortress 2 and Episode Two.

  5. Hieremias says:

    Portal’s length may have been perfect, but the learning curve was a tad on the slow side. Took too long to teach us the concepts, and then too little time spent on the really tricky puzzles.

  6. Chris Evans says:

    Interesting about EA releasing the Orange Box titles separately at retail…and that surely is great news about getting more Portal. I loved the length of the game and the learning curve seemed just right to me.

  7. Sucram says:

    I want rotating rooms made of mirrors.

  8. Nallen says:

    Portal’s length may have been perfect, but the learning curve was a tad on the slow side. Took too long to teach us the concepts, and then too little time spent on the really tricky puzzles.

    I agree, but I think this may be a problem related to the way Valve design. By holding up focus groups as a key driver of the design process they leave them selves open to becoming too generic, being driven by the lowest common denominator.

    Personally I think by making portal more rapidly complex they would have lost a few (not many) people before the end but in doing so created an even more fevered and vocal core following.

    These things are hard to judge in the scheme of it all though, perhaps new portal content in whatever guise will be tougher and less inclusive and they decided that excluding anyone, at any level, from the first version would only hurt the ‘main event’.

    I also think part of what makes portal so popular is that it makes the player feel so clever. It doesn’t matter that the puzzles are not that complex because everyone is doing something new and that alone gives a greater sense of achievement than any fiendish or dastardly puzzle of a conventional manner.

  9. Chris Evans says:

    In case the RPS guys don’t get to post it, someone from 4chan has made a brlliant piece of Portal Art more info.

  10. rob says:

    I did not receive My Horse and Me with my purchase of The Orange Box which is just as well because it should be My Horse and I.

  11. James says:

    I would absolutely love an extension of the advanced puzzles from the last third or so of the game. If there were more puzzles such as the advanced map which involved flinging yourself into the air to reach high enough to portal to the next platform even as the last receded into the toxic waste (my personal favorite from the game), I would buy the game in a heartbeat. Of course, I probably would anyway.

    And really, I wonder if the magic that is ‘Still Alive’ could be replicated. A part of me hopes they don’t try.

  12. Stick says:

    @Nallen:

    “[they would have] created an even more fevered and vocal core following.”

    … but that would probably have broken the cosmos. Or spawned another Fallout fandom. Neither of which option seems desirable.

    I do share your concern about design-by-focus-group. Except I think my objections are mostly on principle. (Games aren’t movies. What is the bane of one medium might be healthy for another. I dunno.)

    As for more Portal, I’d like… hm. An entirely new game following the first and expanding on it? GladOS, cake, cube and Coulton not strictly required, but certainly welcome. Tie the narrative into the HL2 ‘verse even more?

    Oh, and the Gordon/Alyx/Chell/d0g-running-GladOS 4-player crossover co-op mode. Of course.

  13. Harry says:

    Am I the only one who thinks putting that portal gun in a traditional (multiplayer?) FPS would be totally sweet?

  14. Lunaran says:

    I also demand that all of my games be exactly the same length, and price. I value rigorous consistency in my entertainment above all else!

  15. John H says:

    If Portal TF2 unbundled is cheaper than Orange Box, I’m going to feel a bit ripped off. I didn’t want Half Life, but I got it anyway.

    OTOH at least Orange Box gave me a chance to experience enough Half Life to know it wasn’t my thing.

    I wish all games were as short as Portal. No matter how good a game is, after a few hours I want something different.

  16. Butler` says:

    Portal’s length may have been perfect, but the learning curve was a tad on the slow side. Took too long to teach us the concepts, and then too little time spent on the really tricky puzzles.

    So, yeah, it’s too short then? :D

  17. Dinger says:

    My Horse and Me with my purchase of The Orange Box which is just as well because it should be My Horse and I.

    Depends. Since this is a phrase and not a complete independent clause, “My Horse and Me” could be in the accusative or some oblique declension.

    Woah! Sorry about that. I…just…can’t…help…it

    As for what “more Portal” I’d like to see: that’s tough. I’ll play it, but they’ll have a hard time topping the original. Will their story line be 2010 to the original’s 2001, or Mad Max to The Road Warrior?

    One thing: I like short too. If we can sit down for an evening with a movie, why does every game require a week? The memories aren’t as strong, or as good.

  18. Hieremias says:

    Butler: Not necessarily. If they’d reduced the tutorial and stretched the tricky part of the game, the overall length could have stayed the same and been quite satisfying.

    I’m not complaining about the lack of content in the Orange Box. It was a fantastic deal, and I’m all about bundling multiple “short” yet incredibly deep games into one package. Just that Portal itself seemed like too much appetizer and not enough meat. But at least there was desert at the end.

  19. Citizen Parker says:

    I hereby second maintaining a reasonable (which is, in my mind, short) game length.

    While I know the jury on co-op at RPS seems to be out, I’d love to see some sort of co-op component in Portal.

    Perhaps where one player controls the blue portal, and one the orange in levels specifically designed for that approach.

    I salivate at the idea of arguing with my friend on the best approach, only to be murdered by our incompetency.

    Oh, and keep Wolpaw too.

  20. Flint says:

    Portal 2 needs a Weighted Nemesis Orb to counter the Cubemania.

  21. Zell says:

    I can see the Nemesis Orb not being weighted, actually. A menacing, floating orb. I shudder.

  22. Dracko says:

    I want a new short title based around an entirely new concept.

    Or at the least hope this doesn’t mean a sequel.

  23. madhaha says:

    Can Peggle Extreme be obtained seperately? Inquiring minds must know!

  24. terry says:

    Portalable (is that a word?) liquids would be fun.

  25. Kim says:

    Yeah…I wouldn’t want more maps really. I liked playing the advanced maps, I really did – but my attention span is low and I want something new to play around with other than re-hashes.

    Portal heavily reminds me of the Cube films…. (Cube, but good.) Valve could make another game with a new test subject and a new prototype gun / shoes / iPod (or whatever)… Although, I fear creating a sequal of sorts would tarnish the uniqueness of Portal. If they work on a new concept but within the Portal / HL world, then that would certainly float my boat.

  26. Daniel says:

    C’mon… worse than Ted Bundy?

  27. VeNT says:

    but surely anyone who wants Portal already has Portal and it’ll be cheaper on Steam anyway and EA are worse than Hitler and Ted Bundy combined

  28. ryan in exile says:

    one portal contiguous walls/floors/ceilings
    -i xp this on advanced 18 on the last flat floor, i was kinda being weak and shooting double portals on each platform to keep momentum and make sure i didnt miss the shot. so you shoot a portal and all surface thats touching is no unportable shootable. uh need a new vocab.

    Xen: zero gravity
    -its in the hl universe. im not actually sure if differant gravities would be that big a deal. maybe instead of low gravity, a really high gravity world

    another player AI (but flesh) taking yr orange frequency, working together or compet to get out sharing portals
    -it was cool when th guns where shooting the orange portals, but imagine another person hijacking yr frequency (or whatever) and having to work together, but then of course shooting a portal at the last second so they walk into an acid pit.

    folding portals
    -we want tesseracts and we want them now. but in 19 with the iron pillars that push you into the ceiling. just be a cool visual effect, not really much for gameplay

    portable portals, dragable segments
    -prolly only be cute once, but shoot a portal on a wall segment and then drag it around for whatever reason.

    g-man must have a portal gun
    -could be a hilarious situation, running into him. “oh, you must be from ap. science. i thought you were taken care of…” then shoots his next portal and leaves

    minimal destructable environs
    -once in awhile you have a grenade or dynamite. what happens to wall that is destroyed by a portal?

    3 chain portal?
    -orange always goes to blue, blue always goes to red, red always goes to orange?

    a mirror!
    -reflect the shot or just some weird visuals

    portaling sound/retina scan
    -sound comes through portals. could be a cute puzzle, and everyone loves retina scan puzzles… sending xrays or radiation maybe? shoot a portal near toxic sludge…

    walls/floors/ceiling that can only take a certain color. weak but eh
    -i dont like this idea, artificial difficulty

    splitting caches with a portal
    -certain items are not expelled from portal, so they split. OH! maybe you shoot the portal between magnets and its held in stasis so it cant be expelled, so it splits.

    a weird effect for making a portal a door, ie a portal on both sides of the same wall, portal spooning?
    - portals that spoon…. yeah, maybe this is how you get to Xen…. co-occupation of spacetime has to be weird

    bringing cake through a portal does something weird, m ake cake an anti-rosebud
    -id love it if cake was a mcguffin

    a dog sees its reflection in the water holding a bone…
    -i think the greeks wrote about this

    exposed portal exposure leads to hallucinations
    -obvious fun

  29. Seth Tipps says:

    They could tie it further into the half life universe, as some seem to suggest, and use it to sort of fill in the blanks on the story. I don’t know, maybe use the portal system to explain the disappearance of the ship that’s supposedly going to be the focus of Episode three. No need to make this the main focus, but using a new portal game as a kind of mega-trailer for Half-life could be cool. Just so long as it was subtle, and didn’t force too much on the player. It shouldn’t be necessary to play half-life to appreciate portal, but it could be marketed as a reason for half-life fans to play portal.

  30. Optimaximal says:

    In case the RPS guys don’t get to post it, someone from 4chan has made a brlliant piece of Portal Art more info.

    Lies – Nobody from 4chan made that… There aren’t enough porn, furries or women with penises in it.

    Can Peggle Extreme be obtained seperately? Inquiring minds must know!

    It’s called Peggle Deluxe.

  31. Adam Hepton says:

    Portal-bashing is the new Bioshock-bashing!

  32. sana says:

    One thing: I like short too. If we can sit down for an evening with a movie, why does every game require a week? The memories aren’t as strong, or as good.

    Maybe because you don’t pay 40 € for a movie like you do for a standard PC game?

  33. Optimaximal says:

    Depends how much popcorn you buy in the cinema I guess…

  34. Crispy says:

    Portal is too short to be worth $20. Get it as part of the Orange Box while you still can.

    I want a long, challenging experience from a Puzzle game, something that Portal alone cannot deliver. Portal was a brief, largely unchallenging experience that was partially but not completely offset by a good twist (the behind the scenes levels) and good humour. I wouldn’t say there was enough of a story to praise that part of it. It was almost completely enigmatic (Who is Chell? Who is GladOS?). You might say that some of the greatest stories ever presented have no ending and are enigmatic (Blade Runner, the director’s cut, for example), but at least you know who the characters are, what their motivation is, their hopes, fears dreams, etc. Portal only begins a story, it doesn’t offer any ending or any beginning, it’s simply the middle. Chell suffers from attempting to walk in the same footsteps as non-speaking, sparse-backstory Mr. Gordon Freeman, but fails to deliver through a lack of supporting cast. Gordon has Alex, Barney, Kleiner, Eli and others to slowly unwrap his character, He is able to live through them. Chell can only come to life through GladOS, and Portal is too short to throw up anything meaningful within the game experience (yes I know the website attempts to address this, but I don’t buy a game to find out what happens via a website).

    As for the production value, its levels are actually quite basic, visually speaking (not just the fact that there are few textures -I know this is an intended design point- but the fact that the textures themselves are very simplistic). The geometry -and I’m talking more about the ‘behind the scenes’ stuff than the stages, which are done in basic geometry by design- is also very basic. The amount of times I snuck into a backroom to be greeted with what in level design circles is generally termed a ‘box room’ was the opposite of rewarding. Portal is a very slim package that includes less custom textures and models than you might imagine, and instead reuses a lot of HL2 content.

    But my main gripe is that it had a baby-steps tutorial that seemed to span 12 levels, and only 8 ‘proper’ levels the final sequence. For me, this is a bit of a cop-out for something purporting to be a puzzle game. As much as I LOVED the ending, it needed to be about 50% longer to reach ‘epic’ game status, even if it is an instant ‘classic’ of our age because of its well-timed humour that coincides with a general public state of dissatisfaction and malaise for an increasingly Orwellian present.

    Someone in these comments mentioned that ‘every step, the player felt clever’. For me this simply wasn’t true. I was far too aware of Valve’s attempts to dumb down in this respect. I felt more like I was being patronised. I don’t tend to buy many games these days, so when I do I want the money and time I spend to be worthwhile. As an addon, a freebie, a divertissement, Portal is a satisfying game. But it simply doesn’t have the depth and longterm satisfaction that I’d expect from a $20 game (well, maybe it does considering that’s just £10 plus tax, but you get my meaning). I completed Portal in under 3 hours, that’s less time than Valve’s HL2 Episodes, which although almost completely lacking in humour (save the odd drab Alyx joke), have a better story (or is it just better story telling?), more varied and generally more challenging gameplay, even with a token puzzle element that rivals most of Portal’s extended tutorial section in terms of complexity.

    But, then again, Half-Life 2 doesn’t have a companion cube now, does it? (he says with not a note but a full symphony of sarcasm)

  35. Dracko says:

    sana: Oh, it’s a price issue!

    So what about them concert tickets, eh?

  36. Nick says:

    As long as the writing is as entertaining, I don’t really care where it goes next.

  37. Kieron Gillen says:

    $20=DVD price=DVD length of experience.

    (In fact, longer)

    To turn it into a really simple thing.

    KG

  38. MaW says:

    I want to have Portal plus gravity munging like in Super Mario Galaxy.

    That would be really mind-bending.

    Other than that, I’d like to see some sort of story about what happens to the player after they get out of the enrichment centre.

  39. Adam Hepton says:

    [Unacceptable comment - RPS admin]

  40. KingMob says:

    Didn’t Prey have portal and gravity mechanics? If that’s what you’re looking for… I believe you can play it on Gametap these days, as long as you’re not inexplicably unable to use the Gametap service (sorry UK).

    PS. Portal’s length was perfect for me. But I agree it’s hard to stomach playing $20 for it alone.

  41. Crispy says:

    @Dracko: “So what about them concert tickets, eh?”

    I would gladly pay $20 to go to Valve’s studios and see a live performance. Portal does not do that. Concert tickets are expensive because they have an element of exclusivity (finite venue capacity), an element of intrigue (they usually actually include more than one performer, so you may be introduced to something new that you like), an element of celebrity (seeing someone you revere in the flesh), an element of atmosphere and inclusion through unity (everyone in the room has come together to share in their adoration of the same thing) and an element of artistry (live music is usually so much more enjoyable).

    @Kieron: “$20=DVD price=DVD length of experience.”

    My main gripe here is that the first half of Portal was too easy, to the point that it would have actually been boring without GladOS picking up the slack. Using your comparison, it’s like saying the first half of the film was dire but it picks up towards the end, so why not buy it for $20? In a sense, the replay value is less, because to get the full Portal experience I’d have to drudge through the introductory levels (mainly, if not exclusively, just to hear the GladOS pseudo-dialogue) before getting to the meaty bits.

    Portal doesn’t compare to a good live musical performance or a good DVD. That it costs the same as a lacklustre musical performance or a teen romance DVD does not justify its price tag.

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