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.
Valve's track record with “surprises” is a bit dodgy – for every one Alien Swarm, there's a Portal 2 on PS3 – but it's still hard not to get a little giddy when Valve's Gabe Newell starts throwing around the S-word.
"I can guarantee you people are going to be surprised at stuff we do. That isn't going to stop any time soon. I'm just laughing because... people will be shocked again," Valve boss Gabe Newell told PC Gamer.
"We have three pretty big surprises in the next 12 months at least."
Shocked, sure, but will we also be awed, or will we roll our eyes and let out an exasperated “awww”? Knowing Valve, we're expecting the former. We've also got our fingers crossed for the most shocking Half-Life 2: Episode 3-related surprise announcement possible: “It's coming out eventually.”
These days, it seems like every videogame and its Atari 2600 grandmother is getting a movie tie-in. But hey, games are awesome and so are movies, so where's the problem? Well, see, as it turns out, game movies are not awesome. Not in the slightest. So, is it Game Over for gaming's star on the Hollywood walk of fame? Not necessarily, says Valve's Gabe Newell. We just need to change up our approach, is all.
“Where we got into this direction was after Half-Life 1 had shipped. There was a whole bunch of meetings with people from Hollywood. Directors down there wanted to make a Half-Life movie and stuff, so they’d bring in a writer or some talent agency would bring in writers, and they would pitch us on their story. And their stories were just so bad. I mean, brutally, the worst. Not understanding what made the game a good game, or what made the property an interesting thing for people to be a fan of,” he explained to PC Gamer.
“That’s when we started saying ‘Wow, the best thing we could ever do is to just not do this as a movie, or we’d have to make it ourselves.’ And I was like, ‘Make it ourselves? Well that’s impossible.’ But the Team Fortress 2 thing, the Meet The Team shorts, is us trying to explore that.”
And so, on this day, our dream of Jason Statham playing an illogically acrobatic, crowbar-kung-fu master Gordon Freeman – while wearing a phony beard, of course – died a quick death. We're not sure whether to be happy or incredibly depressed about that, honestly.
Have you ever heard of some awesome class about Harry Potter, Lord of the Rings, or why Lord of the Rings is totally better than Harry Potter, so suck it, losers, and thought, “Man, I sure went to the wrong college”? Well, you're not alone. Because unless you count yourself among Wabash College's proud few, odds are, making GlaDOS eat her hilarious words isn't doing your GPA any favors.
“Alongside Gilgamesh, Aristotle's Politics, John Donne's poetry, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and the Tao Te Ching, freshmen at Wabash will also encounter a video game called Portal,” wrote professor Michael Abbott, who you may recognize as creator of the fantastic Brainy Gamer blog.
The course, titled “Enduring Questions,” is one of a few freshman seminars required for all freshmen. Its main focus is on the nature of humanity as depicted by a number of “classic and contemporary works from multiple disciplines.” And so, what better work for brainy college students than one of gaming's greatest brain-benders?
“My very first thought was Portal. Accessible, smart, cross-platform, relatively short, full of big ideas worth exploring. I played it again to be sure my impressions still held. No problem there. If anything, I admire the game more now than when it first appeared. A beautiful design,” Abbott wrote.
So, best college course ever or greatest college course ever? Now then, if only we could get our “Crowbar Physics Taught by That LHC Guy Who Looks Kinda Like Gordon Freeman” class off the ground. The practical applications are – as you'd expect – innumerable.
Well, this is a bit of a bummer. In the wake of Valve's release of Steam for OSX, there were rumors that a Linux version was in the works. In a recent interview with Gamesindustry.biz, Valve's VP of Marketing Doug Lombardi let it slip that Steam for Linux isn't in development. "There's no Linux version that we're working on right now," said Lombardi.
We'd like to point out he did qualify that statement with "right now." That could theoretically mean that a Linux version of Steam could happen in the future. He could have been more categorical in his denial, but it's still sad for fans of Tux. We're still holding out hope Valve is just building suspense for a big reveal at some later date. Hey, it could happen, right?
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?
Is the summer videogame drought getting you down? Well, you know what always makes us feel better for about five minutes and then tremendously worse seconds afterward? Spending money. Lots of money. Fortunately, Steam’s price-slashing “Perils of Summer” sale has you covered on both fronts. After it leaves town on July 4, you’ll probably have plenty of games and little-to-no money.
As with previous seasonal Steam sales, Perils of Summer rolls out a new set of featured deals every day in addition to basically handing you a glass cutter and telling you the structural weak points of a treasure trove of gigantic game bundles. The deals, as per usual, are fantastic. Trine for $4.00, every Overlord game ever for $4.50, and BioShock 2 for $14.99 are just a few of today’s best deals. And don’t even get us started on the bundles. If we have to look at them again, we’ll probably just go ahead and write Valve a check that says “all our money” on it.
Nine more days of this will have our piggy banks squealing for mercy. These things add up over time, you see, and while our resolve to resist temptation is strong now, our armor can only hold up under constant fire for so long. Sharks, drowning, and mild sunburns nothing. This sale is the real peril of summer, and we’re pretty sure Valve is fully aware of that.
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.
“Aperture Science, doing business as Aperture Laboratories LLC, in partnership with Valve today announced the successful completion of an ethics-review-panel-supervised release date restructuring process. Portal 2, the sequel to the ground-breaking title that earned over 30 Game of the Year awards despite missing its original ship date, is now targeted for a 2011 release,” read an email from Valve.
But who cares? Half-Life 3, right? Wrong. Completely wrong, as it turns out.
“To ask questions about how close we all came to dying, or to ask futile questions about the previously announced E3 ***PORTAL-2-THEMED-FOR-GOD'S SAKE*** surprise or, less futilely, to schedule an appointment to attend a Portal 2 screening at the Valve booth during E3, please contact Valve's delegate to the EU's Valve Time Studies Group, Doug Lombardi,” the email concluded.
So there you have it. E3 is Portal 2’s party. Maybe Half-Life will get a chance to hog the spotlight next century year. Perhaps just in time for the Orange Box 2, if those wishes we've been wasting for the past couple years when blowing out our birthday candles finally come true. We can dream, can’t we?