A new No BS Podcast, you say? With useful information? Unpossible! But it is, uh, possible. In Episode 173 of the No BS Podcast, Gordon, Alex, Alan, and Andy call Nvidia's Tom Petersen to get the skinny on SLI for AMD boards. Then, Gordon drops wisdom about small form factor PCs, Nathan talks about Intel's new 3Gb/s SATA SSD and the gang discusses the magic of Portal 2. Plus, the BlackBerry PlayBook, answers to your questions, and, inevitably, rants about the state of the world and the origins of various phrases.
Do you have a tech question? A comment? A tale of technological triumph? Just need to get something off your chest? A secret to share? Email us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call our 24-hour No BS Podcast hotline at 877.404.1337 x1337--operators are not standing by.
Portal 2 isn't just any computer game. Like its precursor (and most Valve games, really) it's dripping with pure character, a fact that results in a fan base that's a little bit more creative than usual. Even though the game's only been out for a week and a half or so, the fans have already come up with a whole bunch of excellent, handcrafted Portal 2 wallpapers. We're always looking for ways to spruce up our desktop, so we gathered together 21 of our favorites. If you're a fan of Valve's latest masterpiece, or just of high-quality wallpapers, read on!
Valve's generally incredible at keeping secrets (we think they may actually be removing knowledge of Half-Life from our brains at this point), but we thought we had Portal 2's main feature set pretty well figured out. Single-player, co-op, custom levels. Yep, that about covers it. Turns out, we were wrong. There's more. In this case, though, it's not necessarily a pleasant surprise.
Remember that song you'll never be able to forget thanks to the Internet's insistence on brutally hammering it into your skull? Well, it all started with Jonathan Coulton, and he's returning to overwrite more precious childhood memories with another insidious tune.
“Closing the doors. If this plane goes down, the Portal 2 song goes with it. It is in my pocket,” Coulton tweeted.
He later added that the plane didn't crash, which means he's -- yep -- still alive.
Portal 2's set to forever singe the color white into your retinas on April 20. In other words, you'll only be able to hear one song and see one color. And when you're old and gray, you'll look back on a life full of entirely avoidable hardships and mumble: “Worth it.”
Have things seemed... off lately? Well, friends, that's because you're in the Twilight Zone. Don't believe us? Well, how else do you explain the fact that Valve's embodiment of the phrase “large-and-in-charge” is whistling this tune:
"It's a real game changer for us," Valve CEO Gabe Newell said of Sandy Bridge and its integrated graphics core. "This allows for a console like experience on the PC."
He's referring, of course, to the fact that Sandy Bridge could lead to a consistent set of specs for all PCs. In other words, no more futzing around with different graphics configurations. Granted, Sandy Bridge nearly took home gold when we ran it through our obstacle course, but it came up sadly short in the graphics department.
Meanwhile, Newell noted that Portal 2 was actually built from the ground up with a Sandy Bridge processor in mind. Sure, it's not the most graphically intense game ever, but – if you're a fan of fishing around in the nitty gritty guts of your PC – it might be a disturbing sign of things to come.
Valve may be able to control the space half of the space-time continuum, but it looks like the “time” bit is still giving the developer some trouble. Portal 2 – originally slated to short circuit gamers' brains in February – has now been pushed into the far reaches of April, specifically April 20. But hey, it's not all bad. Why? Here's Valve's take:
“This two month slip not only marks the shortest delay in Valve's proud tradition of delays, it represents the approaching convergence of Valve Time and Real Time. Though this convergence spells doom for humanity, it will not affect the new Portal 2 release date,” the developer said in an announcement.
Ok, we admit that the “doom for humanity” part sounds bad, but here's the thing: If Valve's track record with Half-Life 2: Episode 3 is any indication, the fiery and assuredly painful End won't come during our lifetimes. Hell, even our children's children probably won't have much reason to worry, although they'll probably be too busy dealing with tyrannical squid emperors and Apple's establishment of the iDeathStar (It forces everyone in the universe to use AT&T wireless! And destroys planets too, we guess) to lose any sleep over it.
From the folder titled “Wait, what?” comes word that Valve’s initial concept for Portal 2 was a bit avant garde – even for Valve, the studio that brought us such hits as “MIT Scientist Fights Aliens,” “Cartoon Mercenaries Kill Each Other for Hats,” and “MIT Scientist Fights Aliens Again.” See, Portal 2 was going to give the portal gun the weighted companion cube treatment. That’s right: no more portals.
“One of the ideas was: what if the Portal franchise is, instead of always being about Portals – which’d be tough because it’s called Portal – but what if it was always about introducing a new puzzle element that you’re going through? it’s about Aperture Science, and now you’re going through this new testing track with this new element,” writer Erik Wolpaw told PC Gamer.
You can probably already see, however, where this is going. Wolpaw continued:
“We pretty quickly found that, even though we had a couple of pretty interesting mechanics, that people would always, to a person, every play tester we had would say, ‘Yeah this is alright, but where’s my portal gun?’”
As a result, gameplay mechanics like puddles of goo paint with different, gameplay altering properties switched from being central mechanics to a secondary ones, and thus, the Portal 2 we all know and love was born.
So hooray for that. Sure, we love a good brain teaser and all – so we can understand where Valve was coming from -- but it doesn’t take too much gray matter to figure out that maybe removing the feature that made your game so popular in the first place isn’t the best idea -- especially when you're dealing with a horde of easily outraged gamers.
Circle February 9, 2011 on your calendars, folks. That's the day Valve confirmed it will be releasing Portal 2, the anticipated sequel to the original surprise hit.
The release date leaves plenty of time to drop hints about what you want for Valentine's Day, or vice versa if you're the one buying gifts. It's also somewhat sooner than some had thought, as previously we only knew it was going to ship sometime in 2011.
There's more good news associated with Portal 2. Valve has decided to release the upcoming sequel for the Xbox 360, PlayStation 3, and PC platforms all on the same day, which leaves only Mac gamers out in the cold, at least for the time being. A version for the Mac is also expected, but probably won't debut on the same date as the other platforms.
After Chell, GlaDOS, and the gang warped out of 2010, Valve’s release schedule would have actually been improved if the PC powerhouse announced Tumbleweeds and Cricket Chirps: The Game. At least it would have been something, as opposed for the heaping helping of nothing we’d resigned ourselves to. But as it turns out, the long, cold, Valve-less winter won’t be sold long, cold, and Valve-less after all. See, out of nowhere, Valve has released a game. It’s called Alien Swarm, and you might already know it from back when it was called, er, Alien Swarm.
“Two years ago Valve hired the talented team behind the popular top down co-op mod Alien Swarm. Since then they have been busy working on the Left 4 Dead Series, and now Portal 2. However, we never forgot about Alien Swarm and the team has spent a lot of time bringing the game to Source in between their contributions to the other Valve projects,” Valve said of the extraterrestrial that unexpectedly burst out of its chest.
The best part? It’s already out. Like, now. And it’s completely free, which makes it a gift, which is awkward, because we didn’t get Valve anything. Still though, grab it if you haven’t already. We haven’t spent an extensive amount of time with it, so we can’t recommend it one way or the other. But really, what do you have to lose?
There’s an old saying that goes, “If you want anything done, you have to do it yourself.”
Well, it’s a lie. Doing stuff is hard. Don’t believe us? Then here’s an object lesson: E3 happened last week. Now, you have two choices. You could turn the Internet upside-down, scouring hundreds of blogs, RSS feeds, and tweets for every last crumb of the information you so crave, or you could just let us do it for you.
Huh? Oh, hey. Would you look at that? We already did it. And you didn’t even have to lift a finger. Well, okay, you’ll have to lift one, actually, in order to click past the break. That’s still a pretty good deal, though, we think. And hopefully, we’ll have Maximum PC’s brand new telepathy-based “read more” link tech up and running in time for next year’s E3. Fingers crossed. Unless you don’t want to lift them.