PC Gamer

Every now and then, I like to visit Portal 2's Steam Workshop page. Not to download anything, you understand, but to experience the panic attack of knowing that somewhere in that list of 353,637 maps, there's something really good that nobody has bothered to play. Like great painters not recognised until long after their death, their masterpieces are untouched and their genius is unrecognised. And then I get drunk.

This time, I was too distracted by Cosmogony: a new six-part map-pack that was released earlier this month. Created by 'Dreey', it features a custom story, new locations and clever level design.

I've only played it in small stretches, thanks to an annoyingly persistent Portal 2 crash-to-desktop issue on my machine. Even so, the bits I've seen have featured some enjoyable traversal, and the main game's characters and dialogue have been smoothly incorporated into the new story.

More notably, the community reception to the pack is overwhelmingly positive, suggesting some notable puzzle design beyond the small, disparate chunks I've seen. You can subscribe to the full Cosmogony collection via the Steam Workshop, and play the pack from Portal 2's 'Community Test Chamber' menu.

If you want more to do in Portal 2, we've rounded up some of the best community maps, both in singleplayer and co-op.
PC Gamer

Aperture Tag is a Portal 2 mod inspired by Tag: The Power of Paint, the 2009 DigiPen student project which influenced Portal 2's gel mechanics and puzzles. Instead of shooting portals, you shoot the game s orange and blue liquids, which make you run faster and jump higher, respectively. And now you'll be able to add your own mods to the mix.
Taking the portals out of Portal admittedly doesn t sound like the best pitch, but if you ve been keeping up with Mod of the Week, you know that it looks really fun. With the announcement that it s going to include a level editor and Steam Workshop integration, you ll also be able to make your own fun.
Currently, the level editor and it's parts are very rough and mostly a proof of concept, the mod s creator Motanum said. However, this does show that it's a feasible thing to do. Where the goods greatly displace the flaws, so even if it is not as simple to use as Portal 2's editor, it still would bring a lot of value to the game.
Aperture Tag was approved by Steam Greenlight in February, and Motanum hopes to release it later this summer. You can keep up with its development on its Steam page.
PC Gamer
Thinking With Time Machine

I've never really gotten into playing custom levels for Portal 2 I just don't find the game that much fun without the inclusion of Wheatley, Cave Johnson, and GLaDOS. That's why it's great when Portal 2 mods add something new to make up for what's missing. In this case, the added element is a hand-held time device that lets Chell make a time-shifted duplicate of herself, and team up with it to solve puzzles. Thinking with portals is no longer enough, now you're Thinking With Time Machine.

In Thinking With Time Machine, the time machine is a tablet you hold in your left hand and can view by looking down at it. Pressing R starts a recording: a recording of all your actions. Walking, jumping, crouching, standing still, even picking up or dropping objects or activating switches, the time machine will record it all. Pressing Q stops the recording. Pressing F starts a replay, wherein a duplicate of Chell the Chell from the past materializes and repeats the actions you she just recorded. It's a bit reminiscent of a game like P.B. Winterbottom, only you only get one clone at a time, and it takes place in Aperture Science.

Soon to be distributed as "The Day Marty McFly came to the future!" on Facebook.

It's very cool watching the past version of Chell appear and run through her recording. It's not like seeing yourself is particularly weird in Portal, what with all the portals giving you glimpses of yourself, but there's something neat about just standing there and watching your past-self go to work and then dematerialize when she's done. You can play the recording as many times as you want (or need), and each time you record something new, the previous recording is erased.

Well, I'm stumped. How about you, me?

The time pad is wonderfully realized as well. At a glance, you can tell if you're recording or not (its indicator glows orange when you are), and during playback, not only does it count down how much time your recording has left, but you can actually see what past-Chell is seeing on your screen, which is helpful later when you need to play your recording while you're in a different room from your clone. (My only question is, why isn't past-Chell holding the time pad? I'm sure someone smart could come up an actual sci-fi answer.)

No offense, past-me, but I'm gonna have to use you as a stepladder.

While you're enjoying the sight of your past self running around, and checking out the sleek beauty of your new time device, you'll probably notice something else new: you can look down and see your legs. I've always felt Valve has been behind the curve on moving past the "floating gun" protagonist, but this mod's added legs aren't just for show. It actually helps to see your legs, since you will, from time to time, be standing on your own shoulders.

Am I looking at current-me through a portal or old-me through a portal or oh god my brain

Once you've gotten the hang of pushing a few extra buttons, the earliest puzzles aren't tough to figure out. If standing on a button opens a door, you record yourself standing on the button, then run to the door, and replay your past self standing on the button, allowing you to escape. If you need a cube placed on a switch while you're somewhere you can't do it yourself, like on the other side of a laser field, just record yourself doing it, and replay it when you're in position. Eventually, working with your past self will seem almost as natural as working with a co-op partner, including, oddly, the occasional feeling of impatience with your partner.

Come on, COME ON. Man, I was so lame 36 seconds ago.

Things quickly get complicated. In Portal, solving a chamber usually involves a few steps: figure out what conditions need to be met to escape the chamber, come up with a plan to meet those conditions, and then perform the actual tasks. This mod adds another layer: performing the steps that will allow you to perform the steps, recording them, then playing them back while performing another set of steps. Some of these chambers are dastardly, but the novelty of summoning a past version of yourself helps to keep the frustration level tolerable, mostly.

Broadcasting live from the past, it's the Chell show!

This mod isn't just a collection of levels with a clever new gimmick, either. Right from the start, it makes an effort to tie itself into the existing Portal 2 story rather than just fading in on you holding the time-pad. The tutorials are handled nicely as well: in the first handful of levels you'll learn the ins-and-outs of time machine puzzles on video screens, which demonstrate how the whole thing works in wonderfully done animations. There's some on-screen help as well, as icons will appear giving you countdowns, showing you where you need to place a block so your recording can pick it up, and so on.

Okay, that makes sense! Wait. What?

While it's fun watching your past self run through the motions you just ran through, it can get a little weird, too, like in one level where you leave your past self to perform some tasks while you wait in the chamber below. You can't see your doppleganger, but you can tell she's doing her job, and it's sort of eerie to think about her, you, running around up there unattended. You'll also spend some time passing objects between former you and current you, which is a bit trippy, especially since the first time you passed the object to yourself, you weren't yet there to receive it.

Another challenge, in one chamber, is performing a tricky, time-dependent task perfectly, not just once, but twice: once for your past-self to repeat, and once for your current self to complete while your past-self is replaying it. Usually, you only need to do a perfect run once in Portal 2, but this makes it twice as challenging.

At least I know she won't screw this up. Me, I still might.

If I have one complaint, it's that this Portal 2 mod features very little in the way of, y'know, portals. As it stands, I think there's only a couple puzzles that really involve the portal gun, and I would have loved to see more of them. Still, this is a wonderfully creative and well-executed mod. It's free if you own Portal 2, and you should absolutely try it.

Installation: If you own Portal 2, you just need to download Thinking With Time Machine for free from the Steam store. If you don't own Portal 2, you should own Portal 2.
Rock, Paper, Shotgun - contact@rockpapershotgun.com (Alice O'Connor)

You don't need money, don't take fame

An oversized revolver, a chunky pump-action shotgun, a bolt-action rifle, and seeing my own legs: the four things I most want to see in first-person games. Perhaps the first three wouldn’t fit too cleanly into Portal 2 but that fourth, yes, certainly! And joy of joys, a new mod has added that very feature, so I spent half an hour this morning running around staring at Chell’s toes as if the mod turned Valve’s puzzle-platformer into Kyphosis Simulator 2014.

I suppose technically the ‘main feature’ in the Thinking with Time Machine mod is a time machine which’ll have you creating time loops to solve puzzles with the aid of your past self, which is great and all but look, LEGS.

… [visit site to read more]

Announcement - Valve
Save 75% on Portal 2 during this week's Midweek Madness*!

Portal 2 draws from the award-winning formula of innovative gameplay, story, and music that earned the original Portal over 70 industry accolades and created a cult following.

The single-player portion of Portal 2 introduces a cast of dynamic new characters, a host of fresh puzzle elements, and a much larger set of devious test chambers. Players will explore never-before-seen areas of the Aperture Science Labs and be reunited with GLaDOS, the occasionally murderous computer companion who guided them through the original game.

The game’s two-player cooperative mode features its own entirely separate campaign with a unique story, test chambers, and two new player characters. This new mode forces players to reconsider everything they thought they knew about portals. Success will require them to not just act cooperatively, but to think cooperatively.

*Offer ends Friday at 10AM Pacific Time
PC Gamer
Thinking With Time Machine

Steam's Portal 2 Workshop is filled with unique twists on the space-bending puzzler's central mechanic. With such creativity lurking in the primordial soup of the Workshop, it would take something special to crawl out and into the main Steam storefront.

That something is Thinking With Time Machine, and it fits the bill for two reasons. Firstly, it introduces a new time recording mechanic, in which you can replay your actions to create a temporary clone in-level. Secondly, it lets you look at your legs.

I've only made it through the first tutorial section so far, but already it looks to dramatically expand the complexity of the original game. Despite some wonky sections, the time machine device is an excellent creation giving a full picture-in-picture replay of the actions that you've recorded.

Over the weekend, plenty of bugs were reported, but it seems that today's patch has fixed many of them. If not, you can find workarounds to the most common issues with this forum thread.

You can grab Thinking With Time Machine from Steam. While the mod is free, you'll still need Portal 2 to play it.
PC Gamer
GDC Steam Controller

The new version of Valve s Steam Controller is out in the open at GDC, playable for anyone in attendance. We ve spent some time with it on the show floor, playing Portal 2, Broken Age, Dirt 3, and Strider.

This was my first time using the Steam Controller, Valve s gamepad designed to work with all the games on Steam: past, present, and future, and meant as a companion to SteamOS. Our last chance to play with the controller was at CES in January, when Cory said that he was hopeful after an admittedly short playtime that such a device could be fantastic.

My experience was far less encouraging. I was able to fit in more than half-an-hour with the controller on the GDC show floor. I played every game that Valve had on display one from four different genres and in each, I would ve absolutely had more fun and been more effective with an Xbox 360 controller.

The high sensitivity of the controller s dual, haptic trackpads was constantly frustrating. In Dirt 3, it was very hard for me to make fine steering adjustments; I seemed to only be able to oversteer left or right. As a result, my driving method boiled down to essentially see-sawing left, then right, then left again to correct and then over-correct my oversteering. I crashed a lot. My car was a wreck by the time I crossed the finish line, a lap time of 6:55 on Dirt 3 s Lake Gratiot course. The top AI racer finished in 3:04. Trying it mid-race, I actually drove best while using the Steam Controller s new d-pad.

Portal 2, one of the games using native support of the pad (as opposed to mouse and keyboard emulation) wasn t much better. I was able to clumsily and inelegantly solve a room in the first couple hours of the game, one where you re moving reflector cubes to change the direction of lasers emanating from the wall. When I put my thumb at the edge of the right pad, which controls your aim with the portal gun, it doesn t perpetually rotate your character. If I wanted to make a 90 or 180-degree turn, I had to swipe the pad right-to-left or left-to-right. And as I did that, the vertical alignment of my aim would shift a little, and I d have to correct it. I felt like a loading crane, moving along one axis at a time, picking up an item, rotating, and then moving again. It was so hard to be swift. I gave up after dying twice in the following room, where I needed to use orange (acceleration) and blue (bounce) gels to advance. It was a struggle to simply pan the camera downward, toward my feet, so that I could check that I was making impact with the blue gel.

I m glad to chalk some of my errors up to my inexperience with the device, but it s surprising how unwieldy the trackpads were in every situation. I didn t once feel comfortable, in control, or that Valve s hardware configuration was in any way an upgrade over a controller with analog sticks. I watched a lot of other players use the controller for the first time, and almost all of them echoed some version of The pads are way too sensitive. Valve employees scattered around the kiosks emphasized that you ll be able to adjust the sensitivity to a greater degree once the controller is fully released, but it s curious that Valve would showcase the controller in such a clearly unpolished stage everyone I saw using it at GDC seemed to be having a tough time.

The Steam Controller didn t strike me as either a good fit for casual, undemanding games as an upgrade to the Xbox 360 pad in first-person, 3D games. I thought that Broken Age would be a safe, easy context, but it was just as frustrating as Dirt 3 and Portal 2. How is that even possible? It was a fight just to put the cursor exactly where I wanted, and overshooting static objects made me feel completely silly.

At least at the outset of using this prototype, the new ABXY buttons feel shoehorned into the architecture of the pad. It s an odd placement for them, and they re maybe 80 percent the size of an Xbox 360 pad s buttons. I have pretty big hands, and the X button felt too distant to me. Even as I was navigating menus, I kept hitting B (cancel) when I meant to hit A (confirm). At the very least, I think it s a configuration that s going to require you to un-learn some of your muscle memory, which is unfortunate.

It s evident that the Steam Controller is still in development. At this prototype stage, Valve is actually still 3D printing the body of the controller itself, and the rigid, low-quality plastic doesn t quite feel comfortable. From a gameplay perspective, though, I m completely unsold on the Steam Controller as a viable way of playing PC games at this time. The games Valve had on display weren t flattering uses of the controller, and it s disappointing to know that I would ve played better with an Xbox 360 pad in every case.
Shacknews - Steve Watts
Last week, Valve and border game manufacturer Cryptozoic announced they would be working together on a board game based on the Portal series, but details were scant on just how the board game would work. Today we've gotten a clearer picture of the upcoming adaptation, as well as a surprising bit of info on who came up with the idea.
PC Gamer
GLaDOS: science educator

Let's face it: learning science is always fun. You can build dioramas of the solar system with friends, study biology with a science teacher, or combine compounds in a lab with a partner. If we're being honest, though, the best way to learn any science is almost always with an evil artificial intelligence, bent on subjugating the world through its malfeasance, for science. That makes GLaDOS the best teacher ever, as demonstrated in a new NASA video.

In a new educational outreach video released by NASA s Spitzer Space Telescope, GLaDOS educates a couple of computer techs about the difference between nuclear fission and nuclear fusion. Both have to do with Helium and Hydrogen atoms slamming around, and both will eventually lead to GLaDOS taking over the world and exterminating all humanity. The finer distinctions are patiently explained by GLaDOS like it s Take Your Daughter To Work Day. Well, not that Take Your Daughter To Work Day. Some different one.

Check out the NASA Spitzer YouTube channel for more science videos, though this is so far the only one featuring power-hungry computer program.
PC Gamer
Image via ICV2.com
Board game publisher Cryptozoic announced that it is making a board game based on Portal. The tentatively titled Portal: Uncooperative Cake Acquisition Game is set for a release in the third quarter of 2014. Its suggested retail price is currently set around $50. A portal gun that defies the laws of physics is not included.
Cryptozoic has experience translating different franchises into board games. Earlier this month it announced Assassin s Creed: Arena. At the American International Toy Fair, it revealed it s making a DC Comics card game and a dice game based on The Walking Dead television show.
That s where Cryptozoic also revealed the Portal game, but it s still unclear how the game will play. In addition to the tentative release date and price, all Cryptozoic said is that it s designed by the creators of Portal, that it will deliver a rich, smart, and utterly unique narrative experience, and that it will be for 2-4 players.
Playing pieces will include test subject, sentry turret, weighted companion cube, and delicious cake.

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