Valve Unveil Portal 2 TV Ad

By Jim Rossignol on March 18th, 2011 at 12:02 pm.


Valve decided to make their own TV commercial for Portal 2. This was because, said marketing VP Doug Lombardi, “We’ve had many creative kick-off meetings with agencies over the years, and you’d be shocked by the treatments that have come back. Copycat treatments. Cliché treatments. Treatments that reveal the agency wasn’t listening in the initial meeting.” So instead Valve opted to make their own advertisment, in an eight week project.

It’s cute. And embedded below. The game is out in the 21st of April.

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77 Comments »

  1. NotoriousR says:

    Full of win. Only one more month to go!

  2. Navagon says:

    Why’d they have to go and spoil it by saying that the actual game will be nothing like this? Okay so it perhaps should be commended that a company admits its marketing is bullshit before the game is released. But it does make it a rather pointless exercise to carry on with it. They’d be better off showing us some actual gameplay videos of what will actually be in the game now.

    • TotalBiscuit says:

      (Pssst, you are not the target advertising demographic, they don’t care about what you think of the ad)

    • DevilSShadoW says:

      It’s a /TV/ advert.
      You know, for people that watch TV.
      As in, for my mom.
      So don’t take it personally.

    • Daniel Klein says:

      I must be blind. Where do they say that? From what I understand there will, in fact, be fun in the final product. And science. And two robots (in the multiplayer mode). Or were you referring to the face that this is pre-rendered rather than in-engine footage?

    • Dexemplu says:

      I’m going to counter this by saying that I’ve always appreciated Valve putting out trailers that don’t spoil anything from the game. This trailer is more an idea than footage from the game.

    • Urthman says:

      If that’s not actual gameplay footage at 0:26-0:27, it’s close enough that I wouldn’t feel cheated if they called it that.

    • Navagon says:

      @ Daniel Klein

      What they’re saying is that the game will be simplified and a lot easier than the first game. It will be designed with controllers in mind so even people with reactions of a sloth can join in. They’ll be there to hold our hands every step of the way.

      Now that’s not the impression I got from the trailers at all, it must be said. In fact some bits almost looked too difficult.

    • Calneon says:

      I’d say this was entirely representative of the gameplay in the game. The co-op at least. Only thing is it’s pre-rendered and not in the engine which the target audience wouldn’t care about.

    • xrabohrok says:

      Valve does this weird thing with trailers where they use the source engine as their animation platform, and then set Source to “render mode.” So technically, it is “in engine”, but not the visual quality is too high for real time.

    • Rikard Peterson says:

      The sequel is going to be easier? My interest level just went up a bit. I enjoyed Portal, but I haven’t finished it. I reached (what I assume to be) the final “boss-battle”, but couldn’t do it quickly enough.

    • Love Albatross says:

      “It will be designed with controllers in mind so even people with reactions of a sloth can join in.”

      Yes because the first game wasn’t successfully ported to Xbox and PS3 without compromising the gameplay.

      Oh no wait, it was, you’re just talking nonsense.

    • subedii says:

      Yeah I’m with the Albatross here.

      A lot of people were raising concerns that with the new gameplay mechanics and the videos shown so far, that the game would actually be harder, not easier.
      Valve basically said that their objective all along with Portal 2 wasn’t to make it more difficult (or easy for that matter) than the first game, but to give it a greater breadth as an experience.

      http://www.joystiq.com/2011/03/13/valves-erik-wolpaw-on-portal-2s-difficulty-ps3-steam-features/

      “One of the things we learned after releasing Portal 1″, Wolpaw told us, “was that there were a couple puzzles in Portal 1 that required some sort of twitchy ninja skills to actually execute the solution.” He added that Valve monitored the game on Steam and that those who quit the game “almost universally” quit after playing one of the two puzzles that are most difficult to execute. The biggest pleasure of Portal, said Wolpaw, is the “aha moment,” the moment when a player understands the puzzle and discovers its solution. “If you then struggle with the controller for twenty minutes to execute the solution that you already know,” said Wolpaw, “almost universally we found that it was frustrating people.”

      Valve has thus endeavored not to make the puzzles in Portal 2 too “ninja-ish.” Valve has also “tweaked the physics a little bit.” For example, actually getting through portals is easier now. “In Portal 1,” said Wolpaw, “if you were flying through a portal and you sort of clipped it a little bit, chances are you’d bounce back out and have to redo it, so we made that a little more forgiving.”

      As for the apparent mind-numbing difficulty on display in the Portal 2 videos released so far, Wolpaw noted that trailers have to be entertaining. “Someone slowly thinking about a puzzle” doesn’t make for a good trailer, he said. “You have to sweeten it a little by having someone do some crazy ninja moves,” though the downside is that some people may believe the game is more difficult than it actually is.

      So yeah, I’m not really willing to apply the whole “dumbed down for consoles” spiel.

      They’re not trying to make a game that’s easy for console gamers to get to grips with. They’re trying to make a game that’s easy for your mom to get to grips with.

    • DOLBYdigital says:

      Download Portal Prelude if you want more twitchy gameplay for the original Portal. I also hope that Portal 2 will get some sweet mods that add crazy twitchy puzzles. I like to keep myself on the edge otherwise I’ll loose all the hand/eye coordination that I’ve built up over the years :)

  3. President Weasel says:

    very few of us reading this story won’t have played Portal and, I suspect, loved it. We’re not the target demographic for the advert.
    To those that haven’t: you really should.

  4. limbclock says:

    The music kinda reminds me of those Mac VS PC adverts. I’d love to see a Portal 2 Advert that focuses on Steamplay :D

  5. GreatUncleBaal says:

    Neatly done – gets the main game concepts across well, although, yeah, it’s hard to say how this will come across to someone who’s never heard of Portal before – hopefully it will get them interested. (Certainly, it’s a better attempt at luring a new demographic than just whacking in a load of thrash metal and cutscenes, which seems to be a common tactic).

    • Dominic White says:

      That tangentialy reminds me of the TV ad for Brutal Legend, which is about the only time an ad SHOULD have thunderous metal playing all the way through. Instead, it got this:

      http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JVo98qkUoTc

      Pop-rock jingle wank. Oh dear. Valve have the right idea – game developers should just make their own adverts, because they know what the game is and who they’re aiming it at. Ad agencies don’t have a clue.

  6. sonofsanta says:

    That pretty accurately sums up my first half hour in Portal, yeah. Except it missed out the bit where I kept trying to cop a view of my own ass.

  7. myca77 says:

    Is it me or does the music at the end sound very reminiscent of F-Zero GX on the ‘ole GameCube?

  8. HilariousCow says:

    It is okay to still love it if you’re not the target demographic?

  9. ado says:

    A great little ad. Reminds me of Pixar’s work a lot and that’s a great marketing move, people love Pixar.

    • TheApologist says:

      Yeah – I got a real Pixar vibe from this, which is a huge compliment to Valve’s ability to infuse those robots with personality.

      That ad just makes the game look like a big bag of fun to me. But then, my opinion of Portal is already that it is a big bag of fun.

  10. Robert says:

    This ‘TV’ thing you chaps are on about, what is it?

  11. MadTinkerer says:

    Maybe when they’re done making ads for games I’ve already bought, then they’ll finally do Meet The Medic and Meet The Pyro.

    Also: E10+!?! Some poor kid is going to be disappointed when his Mom refuses to get him the previous game in the series because it’s only available in an M-rated bundle…

    Also, also: best use of FMV to convey game mechanics through a story since the L4D opening. Very nice.

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      No, Portal is available for separate purchase both on Steam (since launch) and at retail (at least, if anyone still stocks it). Valve/EA broke up the retail Orange Box into separate SKUs about six months after its first release.

    • Xocrates says:

      Although it was kind of funny seeing the standalone Portal/TF2 boxes cost more than the Orange Box.

    • MadTinkerer says:

      “Valve/EA broke up the retail Orange Box into separate SKUs about six months after its first release.”
      Ah, yes, sorry, I knew about the PC versions doing this, I was referring to the XB360 version. I think there is a standalone downloadable Portal version you can get from the Live store (or however it works), but I thought that the Orange Box on the XB360 was only available as the OB compilation on disc. But my point was that these non-OB Portal copies might not be as obviously available to the typical retail-going parent as the Orange box is, and hence… Well now my joke is ruined, but oh well. :)

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      You’re right, the split up was only for the PC versions. And yes, Portal is available to purchase from Xbox Live Arcade for 1200 wacky points, which is about 10 squids; and it comes with extra levels from this map pack.

  12. squareking says:

    Aww. It’s cute, but unfortunate that they didn’t showcase the humor or the nature of/general idea behind the game. Probably won’t matter anyway — I assume most of those who played and completed the first have already preordered, so…

  13. Emperor_Jimmu says:

    Right, I have one month to make enough portals in my uni’s firewall to use Steam and play Portal 2.

    Also ‘Let’s have fun, with science.’ should be Prof Brian Cox’s catch phrase.

  14. Urthman says:

    Weird. I guess I assumed TV ads were always made by the game companies themselves (or at least the branch of them that makes the trailers put on the internet).

  15. SuperNashwanPower says:

    From the link to the article: “Portal 2 is distributed by EA and is due April 21st on Xbox 360, PC and PS3″. Why? Dont Valve just use steam? Or are they talking about retail? Why on earth would Valve use a publisher?

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      For the same reason they partnered with EA for retail distribution of The Orange Box, and Left 4 Dead, and Left 4 Dead 2. EA has the experience and contracts in place to manufacture and distribute boxes with shiny plastic discs in them around the world. Valve are essentially subcontracting this aspect of the release to EA.

      This is completely different to the traditional developer/publisher relationship, as Valve is not funded by EA and so retains sole control of their game.

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Ahhh right ok, now I understand. Didnt know that about orange box, I got mine through steam. Ta for the info! Yeah I would have been a bit worried if EA started having any controlling interest.

  16. Devenger says:

    Wow, I’d not noticed that the ESRB age rating was so low (of course, it remains to be seen what PEGI gives it). This is a good thing, I suppose, though it’s still surprising. Presumably Chell in the singleplayer can still be crushed, shot, burned, disintegrated, subsumed by toxic waste, etc. – how do these ratings work again?

    • VelvetFistIronGlove says:

      Portal 2
      Platform: Macintosh, Windows PC, PlayStation 3, Xbox 360
      Rating: Everyone 10+
      Content descriptors: Fantasy Violence, Mild Language
      Rating summary:
      This is an action-adventure game in which players assume the role of Chell, a human who is trapped in a scientific testing facility. From a first-person perspective, players solve numerous physical puzzles as they navigate through post-apocalyptic environments. Players use a ‘portal gun’ to open transportation gateways. Throughout the game, players must avoid hazards such as stationary gun turrets, toxic substances, poisonous gas, and giant pistons; some sequences are accompanied by realistic gunfire. Robot droids can also be destroyed; for example, in one boss battle, players must defeat a robot by throwing small bombs. The words ‘damn’ and ‘hell’ can be heard in the dialogue.

      http://www.esrb.org/ratings/synopsis.jsp?Certificate=30729

      The “Fantasy” bit of “Fantasy Violence” is important. They define fantasy violence as “Violent actions of a fantasy nature, involving human or non-human characters in situations easily distinguishable from real life.”

    • SuperNashwanPower says:

      Today VelvetFist is Lord Knowledge of Clever III. I’m learning a lot today!

    • Devenger says:

      Yeah, thanks for that, VelvetFist. Interesting.

  17. LionsPhil says:

    Neat. I’m not entirely sure why Valve wouldn’t do this kind of thing in-house, given all their experience with making trailers and Meet Thes.

  18. MajorManiac says:

    I liked that, but think they’d get allot more intrest from the TV watching public if they made an animation short like the old Pixar animations. Such as: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qGxoui3IFS0

  19. manveruppd says:

    So advertising executives are all bland, soulless lizardfolk wearing square-rimmed glasses and multicoloured vests to look creative? What else is new? :p

  20. Wulf says:

    I am so completely sold on those robots. They have more personality than any talking character I’ve seen in a Valve game in a long time, I’d even daresay more so than GlaDOS. In fact, more character than a lot of talking characters in mainstream games over the past few years.

    A lot of this could be to do with how they’re not jaded space marines, or jaded soldiers, or jaded adventurers, but robots who’re just discovering the world, full of naivety and wonder, and just beginning to figure out how everything works. That’s an idea I can get behind, because it makes them genuinely interesting to me. I’ve little interest in Portal 2′s single player campaign, but am I ever intrigued by the co-op. I’m going to be buying it just for the co-op, I imagine.

    Yes indeed, totally sold on those cheery robotic guys.

    • Butler says:

      Yeah it’s called the Pixar factor I think. They actually have a few ex-Pixar guys working on it.

      And you’re certainly not going to be the only person buying it only for co-op.

    • Wulf says:

      Yeah, that makes sense.

      If this is the future of Valve games–at least in part–then colour me very pleased indeed.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      Future of Valve games?

      Valve have been great at this sort of thing for some while now. Just look at Dog.

      They’re also great at bringing character to a genre that normally makes use of placeholders with Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead.

      Which is where a potential problem lies here actually, you can use voices to breath life into multiplayer games, and you can pull off great emotion with silent characters in single player, but silent characters in multiplayer? How does one go about reinforcing emotion in these robots when they are largely restricted to player controlled animations?

    • Wulf says:

      I was talking about more than just the animation alone though. *points at his post.*

      I’m well aware that Valve have been grand with animations for a while now, and many a time I’ve brought up the quality of facial animations in Source and how well they’ve been used. It’s a safe bet then that I’m also aware of Dog. So I’ll clarify me post just to ensure that it’s completely crystal clear! I mean, it can’t hurt, it saves other people from getting confused and all.

      Right. Point is this: Valve have been and are good at doing animations. Yes, of course. That’s a given. They’re splendid at it. Marvelous even. But they haven’t done so much in the way of characterful animation, body language, visual cues, and things that would carry a character off without any spoken words whatsoever. The sort of animation that really brings something to life, and goes well beyond the simple superlative adeptness at animation that Valve pulled off in their prior games.

      I think Butler said it best when he mentioned the Pixar factor. That’s a great point. And I’m sorry but their animations just hadn’t reached that point before now, where you could actually see emotion rather than just hearing it in the voice of a voice-actor, where the visuals were compelling enough to actually be fun by the merit of the visuals alone, where you could relate to what the characters were and are doing, again, without the need for spoken word. It’s an almost magical element that’s been lost from recent animation.

      Disney was great at it, so is Pixar, Dreamworks too. The thing is is that the qualities of these two robots are kind of like the qualities of Toothless from How to Train Your Dragon. And that’s some bloody high praise indeed. The robots are a bit silly, yes, but at the same time they seem more alive to me than Valve’s entire cast of characters put together. That is, to say it again, probably what Butler was referring to as the Pixar factor. And this is precisely the element I’m talking about here.

      I’m hoping for more of this sort of animation, where they have characters who’ll be able to pull off this level of… well, character and personality. I’m sorry to say it, but those robots have more character in one of their servos than Alyx has in her entire body. Attractive to some she may be, but Miss Congeniality she is not. And yes, this is all my opinion. Of course it is. And to wrap all of this up – if they continue with this sort of thing, in other games, then I’ll be a very happy man indeed.

      To be honest, I’m a bit bored of serious games in serious settings where everything is so serious that everyone seems to have forgotten the very merits of imagination and creativity. So something like the co-op mode of Portal 2 is a breath of fresh air for me. I just hope it won’t be a one-off.

    • Jahkaivah says:

      So was I. *points at his post and then picks his nose*

      But animation is important, especially when its how your achieving this character, and while trailers and ads are nice I have no idea how Valve are going to pull this off when they become player controlled in game.

  21. Araxiel says:

    That music really reminds of that other soundtrack for this other SCIENCE! movie.

    Then again, I don’t have a problem with that.

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