A Steam news note announces the arrival of an updated version of Valve's software development kit, which grants "support for Mac OS X and Linux to mod developers" and adds "the ability for virtual reality support in your mod." Yes, expect to see a wealth of Oculus Rift mods heading to a Source game near you. Ricochet with Oculus Rift support! The dream lives.
There have been other alterations, too. The source code is now up on github and a tweak to the license agreement allows users to share modified versions of the kit for free. If you're interested in making mods, the Valve Developer Community wiki is a good place to learn.
VR is the talk of the town at the moment, with the Rift's impressive showings at Eve Fanfest and E3. You can keep up with the latest VR news here.
Just as promised, Steam Trading Cards is now live. The virtual cards can be earned by playing participating games on Steam, trading with other users, or buying on the Steam Marketplace. Complete a set to create a badge, earn rewards and XP, and level up. The user with the highest Steam level at the end of the year gets to high five Gabe Newell while announcing Half-Life 3. In space.
In other true facts, I'm already hearing from users playing the Steam marketplace to profit off the cards' initial popularity. One user I spoke to has been buying low and selling high to pad his Steam wallet, even creating scarcity by buying up low-value cards in quantity. I'll keep an eye on marketplace prices as more users start trading the collectibles.
I was hoping to find a good deal on a 1952 Mickey Mantle card, but unfortunately, baseball isn't a participating game. You can see which of the games you own are participating here.
When Portal 2 was announced, the news dropped through an elaborate scavenger hunt puzzle that sent thousands of players crawling all over the internet. Years later, we finally get to see some of the work that went into making that alternate reality game, as told by celebrated Half-Life modder (now Valve employee) Adam Foster in a blog post at Gamasutra.
Foster, one of the designers of the ARG puzzle from Valve, describes the elaborate trail of puzzles that the Portal-playing community was able to decipher. It began with a seemingly mundane game update for Portal 1: “changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations.” That update changed the radios found throughout Portal into Morse Code-dispensers. The code was deciphered into slow-scan television images. Somehow—my knowledge of information theory and cryptography ran dry a paragraph ago—these images were combined into an elaborate code, which was then hacked. Remember: none of us is as smart as all of us.
The result? A phone number to an ancient modem in Foster’s kitchen that slowly drip-fed Portal 2 concept art to announce the game to the world. The ARG team at Valve did a fun thing with no budget, and it caught the attention of the world’s games media. It was also an intricately designed puzzle that, despite a few false positives, played out exactly as Valve designed. As Foster writes, “Estimated time to 'solve' the initial puzzles: seven hours. Actual time to solve: seven hours and sixteen minutes. This wasn't an accident.”
We are all just puppets dancing on Gabe Newell’s strings, aren't we? Check out the full blog post from Foster for a lot of fascinating details about ARGs and the devious geniuses at Valve.
Are we finally going to be able to play Half-Life 3? While Valve isn't exactly holding press conferences or sending marching bands through the streets yet, a recent slip in its system supposedly exposed the details of every project it's ever worked on—including the long-fabled conclusion to one of gaming's best series, as well as Left 4 Dead 3 and Source Engine 2.
The tip-off comes to PC Gamer via ValveTime, who recently received alleged screenshots of Valve's internal project-tracking software (Jira) during a momentary lapse in which is the system was made public (it has, of course, since been locked up tight again). The images show a 42-employee mailing group for a project entitled "Half-Life 3," as well as a mailing group for "Left 4 Dead 3" with 68 recipients.
Meanwhile, the development of Source 2 appears to be plugging along nicely, with the numerous groups devoted to the project hinting it's in full swing. Other project listings include familiar names such as "Return to Ravenholm," "Steam Box," and "Episode 3," as well as the more mysterious "F-Stop" and "SteamMMO."
One of the screenshots sent to ValveTime.
Before we start waving about banners emblazoned with Gordon Freeman's handsome face, we have to keep in mind that this info dump is in no way an official confirmation of anything. Firstly, these screenshots come from an anonymous source and cannot be verified. Secondly, Jira catalogs everything that has ever been worked on within Valve's walls, regardless of development stage, and some of the listed titles may very well have been canceled years ago.
ValveTime hypothesizes that games further in their development cycle have multiple mailing lists, as Left 4 Dead 3 does—suggesting that it is in active development. This is in contrast to Half-Life 3's single group, which suggests that its development is either inactive or in the very beginning stages.
We'll be keeping our ears perked for further details. In the meantime, let's pray that a tiny Half-Life 3 embryo is kicking about somewhere in the Valve HQ, preparing to grow into something grand.