Is This Portal 2?

More revelations from the ongoing ARG-decoding, which is currently neatly summarised here. The latest is that they’ve been able to dial into an Aperture Science bulletin board and download a load of ASCII art. It’s quite clearly Portal / Weighted Companion Cube-related stuff, but it wasn’t giving much away. But then someone tried rotating some of it…

Whaddaya think? Looks a little Mirrors Edgy to me… And what could these little chaps be?


  1. ljalkfjklajsf says:

    It took them a day. Haha!
    Man, I love valve for doing this, and valve’s community for being able to figure this out.
    Ever since valve sent in a personal army request against the person who cracked half life 2, they’ve been interacting with them. Given their history, it makes sense that they’d give attention to the L4D2 petition.

    Well, actually, i’m still pissed off that there has been nothing about HL2ep3. D:

  2. ChaosSmurf says:

    Has anyone looked into changes in HL2E2, or are there none?

  3. TimA says:

    I really am quite stupidly excited about this whole thing.


  4. huh says:

    What happened to him, anyways?

  5. Ado says:

    Bloody hell. I feel so out of the loop for only just catching this now.
    I love ARGs and my mate does even more so, we’ll have to get on this.

    In other news, I’m thinking this may be something to do with HL2:EP3. Perhaps the EP3 pack will involve a Portal 2 bundle too (as in the case woth Orange Box).

    Ep3 has been so long in the making and Valve do have a history of keeping quite until they’re good and ready to tell everyone what’s happening. The original HL2 stuff came out of no-where and blew everyone away with how advanced the Source engine was. HL2 would have come to really soon afterwards, if it hadn’t been for the code leak.

    Valve really are the PC Gaming champs, you go guys!!!

    • dragon_hunter21 says:

      Don’t worry, bud, this only dropped yesterday, I think. You haven’t missed much.

  6. Dominic White says:

    The picture on the left of the ‘androids’ picture is actually a chicken, not a robot. There’s an achievement in the 360 for ‘Finding the notes on failed test-subject: Chicken’.

    The crazy ascii-thing looks like a new enemy type, though.

    • TimA says:

      C-could that be a portal gun on one of its arms?

    • Vanderdecken says:

      Does the android on the left of the ASCII art image not look like DOG?

      There’s a wiki and a Google Wave that have been set up to track all the information being gathered.

      The Wave is incredible, and exactly what GWave was designed for – you can see people cracking the puzzle right in front of you in real time. There’s over 174 people that have edited the wave, and there’s at least three or four working on it live at any one time.

    • Heliosicle says:

      fighting enemies who use portal guns too?


  7. HermitUK says:

    As someone pointed out on the Steam forums, the BBS is running GLaDOS v3.11

    I’m guessing it’s a complete coincidence that on March 11th Gabe’s picking up an award onstage at the GDC.

    Complete coincidence, yep.

  8. MarkSide says:

    There blatantly a portal door on one of the pics. Love the human resources acquisition bit.

  9. Wulf says:

    Funniest thing about this was that it was actually the Valve community that figured it out. At many points throughout the thread, there were posts by Something Awful, Facepunch, and /v/ people about how they — they being the Valve forum folk — were idiots and someone else would figure it out before them. But in the end, the Valve community were the first to actually manage to login to the BBS, and they did all the gruntwork to get there, too.

    I find that kind of priceless, and it goes to show just how parasitic some sites are.

    *waits for Something Awful, Facepunch, and /v/ to simultaneously claim credit for the work of the people in the huge steampowered Portal thread.*

    • 1stGear says:

      Look through the Steam Forums Portal thread. Notice how many posts are “Here’s the stuff that the SomethingAwful guys figured out/here’s the password to the SA IRC, here’s their Google Wave stuff.”

      Not that it matters. No one will get “credit” for figuring it out and it’ll all be forgotten anyway when Gabe announces Portal 2/Episode 3.

  10. MarkSide says:

    “Why don’t you marry safe science if you love it so much?” lols etc.

    • HermitUK says:

      There’s a worrying amount of similarities between Cave Johnson and Robin Walker in a firing people mood.

    • TheBlackBandit says:

      Oh yeah. Cave Johnson basically just sounds like The Soldier in Portal.

  11. diebroken says:

    That last picture looks interesting (far-right, top-right)…

  12. Magic H8 Ball says:

    Remember when people had enough brains to not chog down every single piece of viral marketing like it’s butter?

    Yeah, me neither

    • faelnor says:

      Come on gramps, this is harmless. Not only does it trigger the imagination and sincere joy of ‘regular’ people like us, and god knows how much some of us need that during long days with a shitty job, but it also federates the efforts of countless losers on the valve forums, making them feel useful. On the marketing side, it’s also ensuring that many will be hyped for Portal 2, bringing more sales and a strong economy to a gaming company which is among the better ones.
      What’s not to like?

    • Drexer says:

      You do have to remember that the functionality of viral marketing is directly related to the product in cause. We’re talking about Portal 2 here, how can you be surprised that the whole internet is crazy over this?

    • TheApologist says:

      It is marketing. But Valve were going to market their game either way.

      They have chosen to put the effort into doing so in a way that:
      – large parts of their audience think is fun
      – is consistent with, and potentially even adds to, the fiction they have created
      – is itself basically free entertainment for those involved in figuring out the ARG

      Beats a press release and a trailer video if you ask me.

    • Frosty says:


      I can forgive getting excited about marketing for a game made by Valve, which is a sequel to a true classic and is genuinely a interesting way to sell the game.

    • Fumarole says:

      Why are you on RPS if you hate games so?

  13. Joseph says:

    Not sure what that picture looked like before, but it still makes no sense to me.

    The androids, however, are cute.

  14. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    I think you should all just take a deep breath. It is (as ever) interesting to see that you RPS chaps are apparently into Valve to such an extent that you can’t help but posting little tidbits.

    Not that I’m complaining, mind you. It’s your blog and it’s great you’re having a blast with it. Valve isn’t one of my gaming heroes, which may be why I’m a bit puzzled by it.

    • Dominic White says:

      Dude, this is about as bizarre/interesting as you can get. Don’t grumble because they’re talking about Valve – they just launched a patch which contained secret radios which play sound files which are actually secretly-encoded image files, leading people to an old-school modem BBS. That’s *seriously* clever.

    • Alec Meer says:

      It’s an apparent reveal of a sequel to one of the biggest PC games of 2008. Of course we’re going to cover it. Also: it’s a game in and of itself.

    • Drexer says:

      The Valve-signal is in the sky! Quick, to the Half-cave!

      dun dun dun dun dun dun dun dun VALVE MAN!!!

      What? You talked about Valve as a gaming hero. My thought evolved from there.

    • Rich says:

      Blog? Would you call RPS a blog?

    • jsutcliffe says:


      That would be the most accurate description, yes.

  15. Metalfish says:

    You know how Valve said TF2 was their test game? Well consider the secret content in the updates on the blog. They know how excellent this is for marketing without, you know, looking like you’re marketing.

  16. MinisterofDOOM says:

    The most interesting image to me is the one that seems to show a view of a Portal-style round door as well as a portal itself (in one of the automatic portal frames from before you get the complete portal gun). 2nd colum from the left.

    And the little manual excerpt in the same colum detailing the viability of hobos, orphans, psychiatric patients, and the elderly as test subjects is hilariously horrible. “You’d perform this test better if you had parents!”

  17. Curious_Orange says:

    I’m far too lazy to actually take part in this, but when Valve do stuff that’s this clever, this interesting, this bloody sneaky, it just makes me remember exactly why I love them as a company, why I’ve loved every game they’ve ever made, why they’re constantly held aloft as the example everyone else should follow (but no-one does) and why I bloody love games me.

    As for what it’s revealing, my money’s on Ep3 AND Portal 2, with both games showing different perspectives on the same story – presumably Combine and Borealis-related – in a Opposing Force/Blue Shift Styl-ee, though with Portal too being more puzzly and Ep 3 being more shooty, obv.

    Then I’ll bloody bet that there’s gonna be some glorious mega-level to end all mega levels where the whole shebang finally gets concluded, with Freeman and Chell working together to take the combined evil of GLaDOS reborn and the Combine.

    Actually, probably not…

  18. Out Reach says:

    I am supposed to be working but valve pulled an awesome and now i must watch valve :(

    Then again I got to play through portal a second (technically about 27th) time to hunt radios :D

  19. Lem says:


    Or even HL EP3, in which case these butter-chuggers may be the heralds of the biggest bit of gaming news to break since … dunno. Since a long, long time.

  20. SirKicksalot says:

    I’d be very disappointed if it’s only Portal 2.

    /resists the urge to start a “Portal is for hipsters” argument

  21. Frosty says:

    One question remains……..why did Kim Swift leave?:(

  22. Mike says:

    I guess the natural next challenge after working out how to code the bloody portal gun, physics and all, was to work out how to develop an AI routine that uses it. Which will be utterly bloody fascinating to watch and read about. So here’s hoping those robots are that.

    • MarkSide says:

      That would be so cool. But which game would they appear in?

  23. Clovis says:

    Had anyone anticipated this use of Steam? Since Valve can update your game whenever they want, they were able to add a commerical for their next game into an older game. Crazy times we live in, no? Crazy awesome.

  24. glowing slab says:

    Chicken is the new cake.

  25. Schmung says:

    It’s an EP3 thing. They’re going to tie in the portal stuff with the Hl2 universe properly and this is just the beginning. Maybe.

    Anyways, I don’t love HL2 or it’s expansions, but Valves mastery of PR is truly something to behold. I don’t even like TF2, but I love reading the updates and seeing the vids and everything because it’s so dammnably slick and entertaining. Likewise this thing – viral marketing, but done it a truly excellent way that shows a rare awareness of how the internet works etc. They deserve many, many kudos for entertaining us so.

    • Sarlix says:

      Yeah I’m the same, and I think this has to be more than just a Portal 2 announcement. I also agree with your tie-in theory, only mine go’s thus:

      The Aperture Lab in located on the Aurora Borealis ship that Mossman has pissed off too. It will end up with Gordan going through some portal that puts him back at the start of half life 1 events before all of this happened. The end of HL2:EP3 will actually be the beginning of HL1…….Heh it’s a theory.

    • Rinox says:

      I’d reckon there’s some sort of time travel involved yeah. May tie in with the dinosaurs.

    • Premium User Badge

      Hodge says:

      Yeah, I remember those bits of dialogue in HL2:EP2 that strongly suggest that Aperture Science will make an appearance in EP3. SPECULATION ABOUNDS.

      Also, I’m hoping that this means Episode 3 is actually due to arrive soon-ish, and that all of the previous ‘far away in a strange and distant future’ release dates were just misdirection.

    • Fumarole says:

      I’m calling it – Valve are buying the Primal Carnage team and that’ll be the multiplayer component of OB2.

      Portal 2, Episode 3, Primal Carnage

  26. Serenegoose says:

    I think that we can be thankful that it seems to be only valve that knows how to advertise like this. If everybody did it, I’d have a very disappointed life.

  27. DXN says:

    Cool it Mr Snarky. Appreciating one enjoyable, well-done ARG to promote (presumably) the sequel to a fantastic game != “chogging down every single piece of viral marketing like it’s butter”.

  28. hoff says:

    If you invert colors and turn it into a wav file it says: “L4D3, coming October 2010!”

  29. Enshu says:

    I’ve been reading that stuff all day, and it’s quite an adventure. No matter the outcome, it made a lot of people excited, and this is what matters the mostto me.

    Though I hope there’ll be HL3, not HL2EP3, but that’s just my personal grudge against all things “episodic” (damn you, Tornquist!)

  30. Radiant says:

    Trolls are trolls ignore them please. [including forum vs forum stupidity].

  31. Demikaze says:

    I know that Portal and Half-life already share a fictional universe, but the tone of the games are very different. Even the origin of Aperture Science is humerous in nature, even if most of these details weren’t given by the game itself but found on numerous fictional websites, etc. I’m not sure that I want Half-life 3 to be explicitly influenced by Portal/Portal 2 or vice-versa. I already thought the Borealis as a creation of Aperture Science was a step a bit too far. Then again, another part of me can’t wait to see how they attempt to gel the two franchises – that is, if they try to do so at all…

  32. Rinox says:

    All this talk of Episode 3 makes me think back to the harrowing end of Episode 2. Goosebumps.

  33. terry says:

    That looks like that old Nintendo robot second from the bottom right.

    Got to say all this ARG stuff leaves me totally cold but the attention to detail is admirable.

  34. Frenz0rz says:

    Great. Fan-BLOODY-tastic. Im supposed to be writing a university essay due in on Friday, but now I just want to play Half Life 2 and both the episodes all over again. I can think of nothing else. Damn you, Valve!

  35. jsutcliffe says:

    I am continuing with my tiny hope that Valve has acquired the Black Mesa Source team and that we’ll get some kind of announcement about that (e.g. that it’ll be in the next Orange Box type package). It’s a very long shot, but it’d be sweet.

  36. Dave says:

    I think I’m starting to get the shakes.


  37. Patton says:

    Oh dear. I am all giddy now. The possibility of Episode 3 and Portal 2 are making me feel really, really happy.

  38. Hogofwar says:

    Valve brought us into this by tying the plots together with the Borealis and aperture labs looking so similar in cosmetics. I really do think that hl2:ep3 will tie in considerably with portal

  39. jsutcliffe says:

    Hmm, Kleiner and Eli chatting at the end of Episode 2:

    “We have coordinates, blueprints, hailing frequencies. Quite ingenious of Dr. Mossman to hide it all in the carrier wave.”

  40. Premium User Badge

    Hodge says:

    It’s ASCII Portal all over again!

  41. Hecktar says:

    “There is something going on” is this a reference to the Monty Python sketch about Lemming from the British Dental Association?

    • choie says:

      I’m intensely glad I’m not the only one whose mind immediately went to Arthur Lemming.

  42. WilPal says:

    ARG Decoding?

    I’m missing something. :(

  43. Mr_Day says:

    Whilst solving viral riddles is fun – I assume, I am far too dim and the things people have had to do have gone straight over my head here – has anyone actually gone back into the game to try the radio thing out*? Even if you hate the idea of replaying a game for one achievement (I know I do!) it can be a very satisfying experience. Sometimes, getting to the radio is half the fun.

    link to

    * It seems the people who are solving the riddle just took the sounds out of the game files instead of playing.

    • wyrmsine says:

      I’m going through it now – about halfway done. Being Portal, it’s not like it’s going to take a long time, nor will it fail to be amusing…

  44. Davie says:

    This is amazing. Valve are such genius people. I assume the big reveal will be on the 11th. I wonder if I can hold my breath that long.

  45. mikejs says:

    ARG Decoding?

    ARG = Alternate Reality Game: link to

  46. protorp says:

    Well obviously Valve are soon to announce that they’ve bought Bay12 games, see how they’re already refining their art direction for the upcoming merge of universes that will be Half Dwarf Life Fortress.

  47. Shadrach says:

    Valve has my eternal love for this magic, best bunch of devs ever.

  48. noggin says:

    march 11th is the day before my birthday which I now cannot wait for

    thanks valve for making ageing fun!

  49. Tim says:

    My god… All this reconstruction… The bbs user/password is backup/backup. The internet is collectively recovering glados! It’s brilliant! It will be all our fault when she comes back.

    Not that I mind, I loved her.

  50. Will Tomas says:

    In case you didn’t see it from the original Portal, check out . It’s genius.

    To get anywhere with it, type “login” then “CJohnson” then “tier3”. This takes you to a DOS prompt. There’s some programs in there, including a very funny application test. Aren’t Valve awesome?