Valve Won’t Let Us Sleep: Portal Updates

By Alec Meer on March 3rd, 2010 at 10:45 pm.

Valve appear to have decided to own March, in what’s an increasingly frightening/thrilling internet invasion. Yeah, that’s two Valve stories in a row – but we can’t not post about such things. Just a few minutes ago, Portal updated itself again – the patch notes reading simply “added valuable asset retrieval.” What could it mean? Is it the final piece in the (potentially) Portal 2 puzzle? Given Valve’s predilection for making TF2 update drip-feed news last a week, I suspect we’re not quite at the end yet. What this is, though, is a clear sign to load up Portal and hunt for mystery changes right away…. Already, I’m told, facepunch.com and Steam forumites have uncovered two new dinosaur.fizzle files and the ominously-named body_drag_01.wav. I’m hearing hints there may be a new map in there too.. Ooh! Ripe for mystery-harvesting, surely?

Update: it’s a (slightly, but tantalisingly) new ending. Video beneath the cut. German robots? Parties? Oh yes. Portal is getting a sequel – which leaves the resounding question of whether it will, as is widely speculated, be linked to HL2: Episode 3 or not…

You can assert until the cows come home that you don’t find PR gimmicks or ARGs interesting, but this is something new – updating the game itself to lay its treasure trail, rather than relying on external websites or hype. Big budget games are generally considered static, fixed – this is making full advantage of what the internet can do when made intrinsic to a game.

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143 Comments »

  1. Revias says:

    what, already?

    • qrter says:

      “You can assert until the cows come home that you don’t find PR gimmicks or ARGs interesting, but this is something new – updating the game itself to lay its treasure trail, rather than relying on external websites or hype. Big budget games are generally considered static, fixed – this is making full advantage of what the internet can do when made intrinsic to a game.”

      Exactly. You see – Steam can be a force for good! ;)

  2. jsutcliffe says:

    Why look for the changes yourself when you can just tune in to the Steam forums and let an army of nerds do all the work for you?

    No, I’m not bitter that I have to work and can’t be playing Portal. Not at all.

  3. Dominic White says:

    For those catching up, Kotaku put together a great ‘Story so far’ summary page.
    http://kotaku.com/5484157/valves-portal-puzzle-so-far-the-files-recovered-from-aperture-science

    The main puzzle was mindblowing. A phone number to a BBS hidden in an MD5 string, which in turn was hidden in a series of cryptic photos, which in turn were hidden inside audio files which were hidden inside the radios in Portal.

    And that was just Part 1.

    To the Batcave, Watson. The Game is Afoot!

    • Lilliput King says:

      ‘ “Science isn’t about why, it’s about why not. You ask: Why is so much of our science dangerous? I say: Why not marry safe science if you love it so much. In fact, why not invent a special safety door that won’t hit you in the butt on the way out, because you are fired.” ‘

    • Dominic White says:

      Cave Johnson and Saxton Hale are the two best videogame characters never seen in a videogame ever.

    • PleasingFungus says:

      @Dominic White: No argument!

    • Lambchops says:

      From the comments

      “Well, I call shenanigans on the molecular diagrams. An sp2-hybridised carbon atom in a bicyclopropyl moiety?”

      Sad to say that I thought the same thing. Although my thought line went “Pentavalent carbon! How dare they break chemistry.”

      In my defence I did think things like “hey awesome” and “I can’t wait for more Portal” first and I have been doing a lot of chemistry!

  4. tikey says:

    Of course valve had to do this just when I have to study for finals.

  5. Smurfy says:

    We’ve found it – replay the ending of the game, it’s different!

  6. Trezoristo says:

    Apparently the ending of the game has changed. Now, at the parking lot, you get dragged away by a robot saying “thank you for assuming the party escort submission position”, which would explain the update title.

    I’m going to try this now :).

  7. And Triage says:

    assume the party escort submission position!? OMG.

  8. Feet says:

    Video for those of you who are not in a position to play it again. Or can’t be arsed.

    http://www.xfire.com/video/2393cf/

  9. Internet Friend says:

    I have the sneaking suspicion that the upcoming announcement is ‘We have toppled all world governments. Prepare for an eternity in the mines, pitiful non-valve employees.’

    • Bret says:

      Hey, if it means Episode 3 comes out sooner, I’m all for it.

      Besides, I figure Valve would give loyal customers better positions in the hierarchy. I figure an email from Gabe Newell is worth at least an assistant sub supervisorial role. And the odds get better, considering my constant presence on Foster’s social networking service.

  10. +--JAK--+ says:

    Is that a sexual position that i don’t know about?

  11. Alexander Norris says:

    Damn you, Adam Foster. Damn you to Hell!

  12. jalf says:

    So basically, what they’re saying is that what happens between Portal 1 and 2 is basically “you escaped, and got dragged back to where you started by a robot. Plz try again”?

    Clever… Means they can just release Portal again, just adding a 2 to the title, and it’ll make perfect sense and be canon and everything.. Infinitely looping series.

  13. zak canard says:

    Is this a bad time to say that the Team Fortress 2 Blog’s been updated? It’s only some background about a scrapped Engy unlock tho.

  14. MedO says:

    > Damn you, Adam Foster. Damn you to Hell!
    This. There’s even some connecting evidence now, since the source images of some of the SSTV pictures can be found on Adam’s flickr photostream.

    • Wulf says:

      I beat you to it, a couple of threads back.

      Except I was less ‘hmm’ and more ‘waitwaitwaitwaitwaitwait… waitwaitwait… wait…’.

      <.< >.>

    • Dominic White says:

      Those are old fan-made things and have nothing to do with what’s happening, and people should stop linking them.

    • v.dog says:

      Babel Research is part to the ‘What’s in the box?’ movie. While it uses the assets from HL2 and Lost, it was done by a third party and has nothing to do with the game at hand.

  15. Psychopomp says:

    I think Valve has just multiclassed into Magnificent Bastard

  16. Po0py says:

    Am I the only one who is completely and utterly uninterested in these PR ARG’s? I mean, yes, something exciting is afoot. News is coming and it has potential to be interesting and fun. But sitting around playing guessing games like it’s bloody play-school all over again is not my idea of fun. People obviously like this kind of thing so I can’t really complain. But they don’t realize Valve would never give too much away. It may be an ARG but it’s not a game in the sense that it can be beaten or solved. So therefore you could say it is a poor ARG.

    Wake me up when Portal 2 is announced. Then I can officially be excited.

    P.S. Yes, I’m a miserable old git.

    • Wulf says:

      Some people like guessing games, some people don’t. Some people like Myst, some people like shooters. Some people like apples, some like oranges.

      Don’t feel bad about it. If it doesn’t interest you, then c’est la vie, just wait for the news.

      I admit though that I’m the sort who’s terribly impressed by all the creative thinking that went into this, because I am a big fan of creative thinking, and this was nothing short of Machiavellian.

    • Po0py says:

      I’m not sure if I would I would heap too much praise on it. I think it’s clever but when you have info that other people don’t it’s easy to tease. It’s easy to use tools and assets – in this case, the original Portal game – to tease and be all smartypants about it. When the news does drop we can all go back and look at the cryptic messages and I bet we’ll all say, yes this was smart and all but really it didn’t add up to any kind of tangible mass that I could sort out in my head and come up with an answer. At the end of the day it’s just an empty tease for a new game announcement. Oh, and a really clever way to get some free publicity out of gaming websites like RPS. (That’s where the real creative thinking is going on.) It’s like all those easter eggs they have in Lost. It’s a bit of fun but in the end it’s not going to have much to do with the final revelations of that TV show. When we are finally told of Jack, Kate, Locke and Sawyer’s real purpose on the island it won’t really have much to do with any of the easter eggs. For a lot of people it will be a bit of an anti-climax.

      Portal 2 is on it’s way. We all new that for quite a while. But it’s getting closer now. I’m excited.

    • Dominic White says:

      Po0py, what is it like not to feel joy or excitement? Is the sky grey for you every day? It may essentially boil down to marketing, but they’ve done it in the form of (I repeat, for emphasis) a series of hidden radios in Portal, which play morse code and garbled noise. The noise, when parsed through a Slow Scan TV decoder, turn into security camera images. When arranged in order of timestamp, and the alphanumeric elements extracted, you get an MD5-encrypted phone number, which belongs to a BBS. The BBS, requiring a login held in one of the morse code examples, contains a garbled data dump which, when aligned correctly, turns into a gallery of ASCII tech-specs, Portal backstory elements, and hints at possible future events/enemies.

      And if that isn’t seriously one of the cleverest puzzles you’ve ever heard of in the history of gaming, I don’t know what to say to you.

    • Aisi says:

      @DW:

      Simpsons did it.

    • Jayt says:

      Developers interacting with their fanbase in a creative and fairly exciting way? Bah-humbug

  17. James G says:

    Look Valve. I have a thesis to write, and all these ARG styled announcements and stupidly cheap Indie shooters are not helping. Your marketing department is clearly evil, they even managed to get me interested in a Mac port of steam despite not owning a map.

    • Wulf says:

      I don’t believe evil is the word.

      The word is: Machiavellian.

    • Lambchops says:

      Horrible isn’t it. Although I quite welcome distractions every couple of hours or so, I think it stops my brain from melting. At least that’s what I tell myself.

    • James G says:

      I mean a Mac of course, not a map. Although come to think of it I don’t own a map either, which is a shame, because I love maps.

      (Posted as a reply rather than an edit as the spam-filter seems to eat my edits occasionally, and I didn’t know what would happen to the replies.)

    • Adventurous Putty says:

      Well, you know, some US Americans don’t have maps, and, um, therefore like such as, etc etc.

    • Aisi says:

      @AP:

      Well played, sir.

  18. jti says:

    Installed Portal for this. What fun!

  19. TimA says:

    Dear Valve,

    I love you,

    Sincerely,
    TimA

    PS. WEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEEE.

  20. BooleanBob says:

    PETER MANDELSON.

  21. Monchberter says:

    This is a great way to get everyone playing through Portal again, further raising expectations and more free publicity / not so gentle reminders of what you’re missing, i;m sure a few more people have shelled (or should that be ‘Chelle’d') out for Portal just to be involved in the intrigue

    Oh you cheeky schemers with your marketing drip drip!

    • Stupid Fat Hobbit says:

      I was just thinking the same thing as I played some long-neglected Portal earlier today. I bet there have been as many hours of Portal played in the last few days as in the previous six months.

    • Clovis says:

      Portal is, amazingly, not in the Top 10 Steam game sales right now. I was sure that this would have the affect of making it jump into the top 5. I guess everyone already owns it …

  22. RedFred says:

    Am I the only person alive that has never:

    - Finished HL2
    - Played HL2:Ep2
    - Played Portal
    - Played TF2

    ?

  23. kwyjibo says:

    Cave Johnson is the fucking Gman.

  24. MarkSide says:

    Sweet! What’s the betting the intubation associate looks kid of like a giant chicken?

    What’s the betting I stop posting semi-hysterical-conjecture comments!?

    Aaaaaaaaaargh!!

  25. DMcCool says:

    Imagine if other companies looked like Valve. If “marketing” in games meant providing extra content, actually giving things to the community to buy them over and not lazy tech-demo trailers with cheesey voices or lists of stats about how many guns/polygons the new release will have.
    This whole idea of a game being an ongoing exchange of ideas between the developer and the player that extends before and after release…how long do we have to wait for this to catch on?

    I mean its not manditory or anything but its damned fun and I’m sure it ships units.

    • Dominic White says:

      Exactly. They’ve turned waiting for the new game INTO a game. And a damn clever and detailed one at that. Most marketing assumes the audience are idiots. This relies on them being seriously smart people. I know I could never have figured out even half of this by myself, but the fans went and tore the problems apart in a matter of hours.

    • gojiro0 says:

      @DMcCool thank you for that bit of eloquence. The cynical amongst us can point and nod and say clever marketing and it is, but it is also so much more. The devs are making a product sure, but they’re also embracing the community in a collaborative way that just HAS to be engaging on their end.

    • Wulf says:

      I’m the odd sort of person who actually enjoyed In Memoriam, quite a lot. I’d be happy to see more developers doing the ARG thing, and in fact, I have an idea. It’s going to be that Wulf sort of idea where it’ll take a certain mindset to appreciate, but I digress.

      Why not do this with Collector’s Editions? Instead of all that DLC nonsense, a Collector’s Edition buys you entry into a private forum, with an ARG that runs past the game’s release date, this ARG unlocks new content in the game. Everyone outside of the forum will just have to be drip-fed info, and perhaps an NDA might be in place. The end result is that everyone would have access to the content eventually, but those who take part in — or at least watch — the ARG will gain access to the content a day or so before everyone else.

      That would be so much better than the DLC systems in place today, at least in my opinion.

    • Clovis says:

      Yeah, they have us all exited about a game that’s going to be on Source. You know, that engine your grandfather played games on.

      Some part of my retarded gamer brain has been thinking all along that maybe they’d be releasing Source 2 or something. But that’s just stupid. They should just focus on making really great games, not really flashy game engines.

    • Urthman says:

      To be fair, the job of marketing departments at other companies would be much easier if the games they were trying to sell were as good as Portal.

      The internets would not go insane if EA hid a cryptic hint about forthcoming Army of Two DLC somewhere on Xbox Live.

  26. Shalrath says:

    This reminds me of why I fell in love with Marathon oh so long ago.

    • Dominic White says:

      As did Adam Foster, creator of the very Marathon-inspired Minerva mod for HL2. And Valve hired him a while back.

      It’s not a huge stretch of the imagination to assume that he’s the brain behind all this puzzling. Although I don’t think even he could have expected people to figure it all out within a day.

    • Shalrath says:

      Didn’t people get help with where to find the BBS or something? I read something about a “giant dinosaur” being a clue.

      I think Valve had a pretty good idea how fast it’d be ‘cracked.’ The question is, what happens NOW?

    • Bret says:

      Yeah, ’bout what I thought when this thing started.

      Man. Bungie’s still capable of being Bungie, Valve’s still Valve…

      But now Valve is also Bungie. Some days, Gottfried Leibniz doesn’t seem entirely full of shit.

  27. Stu says:

    Valve’s cryptic shenanigans should hopefully tide me over until the next (and possibly final?) iamamiwhoami viral.

    http://www.popjustice.com/forum/index.php?topic=20674.0

  28. Web Cole says:

    Is there anyone more savvy than Valve?

    Now that’s marketing I can get behind.

  29. Ishindri says:

    I believe it’s been confirmed that Adam Foster’s fingerprints are on this. I read on the Steam forums that some of the source images for the SSTV files came from his Flickr photostream.

  30. G Manning says:

    Calling it: Chell is Alyx’s mom.

  31. dmeets says:

    This will all culminate on April first, when it is all shown to be a lie. A HORRIBLE, WRETCHED LIE.

  32. Dr Snofeld says:

    I played through the entirety of Portal in one sitting for an achievement, some weird sounds and a vaguely Germanic robot voice. Hooray.

  33. EBass says:

    You know, say what you like about Valve, but they know how to innovate.

    That said I’m not playing through Portal again for titbits that mean nothing to me that I might easily miss and that I can just look up on the net anyway.

  34. Metalfish says:

    Bah, the aperture science website has a christmas cube I’ve not seen before, but I can’t see anything related to this.

  35. Matt says:

    Sounds more French than German to me.

  36. Kast says:

    Just played the ending and I’m thinking it sounds Swedish. What with all this indecision about the accent, I wouldn’t be surprised if it turns out to be Orangutang. (+1Poe)

    • Wulf says:

      Huh, really? I have a couple of Swedish friends, so I’m used to the accent. It doesn’t seem to have the same tonal qualities that the Swedish accent has.

      Personally, I want it to be Germanic, since that way we get a TF2 crossover, with the thing really being piloted by The Medic!

    • jarvoll says:

      You win at literature references! I salute you, sir.

    • Velvet Fist, Iron Glove says:

      I’m sure Dupin would agree that the accent is German, and in fact it is clear that the person dragging Chell off is none other than Gunter Hermann.
      Quick, Chell! Say “Laputan Machine!”

  37. DrGonzo says:

    So, I think the new ending means that killing Glados was in fact just another test and you hadn’t actually escaped at all. It’s a party position, he’s taking you for cake!

  38. Cynic says:

    Baww, just loaded up my savegame outside GLaD’s chamber and didn’t get the new ending. ANOTHER playthrough is on the cards.

    • Malcolm says:

      @Cynic

      If you bring up the console and type “map escape_02″ you can jump directly to the last bit of the last level – then you will get the new ending. It seems that you have to start your game after the update, even if you don’t start from the beginning – a previous savegame won’t cut it.

  39. Taillefer says:

    What’s the red bit at the very end? Is that still part of the ending video?

  40. Lizardman says:

    You don’t need to start from scratch. The easiest thing to do is enable console, then type:

    map escape_02

    That’ll load about 2 minutes away from the final chamber. It’ll also go on to play the different ending.

  41. Wulf says:

    Time to put a CAPTCHA on the registration page, chaps!

  42. Grawl says:

    Well I like shoes.

  43. Vinraith says:

    Err, that new ending’s kind of a middle finger to the player, isn’t it? Haha, you didn’t really escape after all!

    • Bret says:

      After this long, I think it’s more forgivable.

    • Vinraith says:

      @Bret

      It’s not really something that requires “forgiving” or anything, it just seems like kind of a downer note to end the game on. I preferred the “freedom but with a sense of impending dread” subtlety of the original to this more ham-fisted version.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I thought this was what it suggested originally. You didn’t really break out of the tests, GlaDos was far too convenient. Was clearly all a set up. I don’t think it was ham-fisted at all. In fact I don’t think it has changed the story in the slightest.

  44. Shalrath says:

    Plus, how do we know the robot isn’t taking you TO safety? Eh?

  45. Kevin says:

    Why have you only got CoH just now? Unless you already had it before on Steam and wanted the CD copy so you can still play it on a LAN unpatched, of which you have my approval.

    • jarvoll says:

      What?

    • Zyzzi says:

      I think this is directed at me, I mentioned I got CoH as well as this deluge of Portal wonderment just in time for finals. I’m an unemployed student with a keen eye for bargain hunting, so I jumped at the chance to get CoH for $4, then its first expansion for $5. Because of my intrinsic cheapness, I tend to stay several years behind the curve of gaming, only buying when I’m really really interested in a game.

      To make this more Portal-related, I made a group of Facebook about it, thus cementing my position as a slave to the internet revolution. If you want to join, it’s the one that doesn’t suck, with just the logo and three people joined in it. The other one has news from early 2009 and a picture of a Portal mod. I’m the stylish dude in a hat.

  46. A-Scale says:

    Why is there a picture of Ross Perot?

  47. Heliosicle says:

    Stop it Valve! You’re leading me along like a donkey with a carrot on its nose…

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