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The first time I ever played Portal was damn near magical. Each room I walked into held promise of some diabolical new assault on both my brain and the laws of physics, but I made them look like child’s play. At the time, I was certain it proved I was a genius with an IQ so huge that even my bulging genius brain couldn’t count that high. Of course, I soon came to find out that everyone> experienced Portal that way. So I wasn’t a genius. But the puzzle designers at Valve were.
To this day, Portal stands as the most masterful example of invisibly intuitive teaching I’ve ever discovered. It slowly builds upon itself – sneaking new techniques into your repertoire until you’re snoozing through puzzles that would’ve short-circuited your synapses maybe 20 minutes earlier. Is it a fit for classrooms, though? My first inclination would be to think not. I mean, it’s not exactly a hyper-accurate physics simulation – even with science jokes making up the bulk of both Portal 1 and 2′s brilliantly witty dialogue. That, however, is precisely the point, according to Valve director of education Leslie Redd and designer Yasser Malaika. It’s how> Valve games teach – not what they’re teaching – that could help save a rusty, way-behind-the-times education system.
Year after year, many schools struggle to teach kids basic math and reading skills. Portal, on the other hand, taught my childlike, directionally-crippled brain a slew of hyper-complex spatial reasoning abilities. In about 30 minutes. So I guess maybe> it could be a good fit for the classroom. And hey, what do you know (aside from a Portal-imbued slew of hyper-complex spatial reasoning abilities)? Valve seems to think so too. The resulting program’s been dubbed Teach With Portals, and it’s just the beginning of Valve’s new Steam For Schools initiative.
Portal has been a surprisingly prolific source of inspiration for many high quality products, so a short fifteen minute film based on its universe isn’t that big of a deal any more. However, what I love about Synthetic Pictures‘ Aperture: Lab Ratt (as spotted by The Sixth Axis) is how, in making a film based on Valve’s Lab Rat comic, how successfully they portray the evil of GLaDOS.
We looked at Portal 2′s puzzle creating Perpetual Testing Initiative, a streamlined, user-friendly application for making your own Portal 2 rooms, and then cried. So instead we got Craig “Fearless” Pearson to take a look, because we knew without a doubt that no one else can create a box with some boxes in it like him.>
Finding your true calling is tough. Perhaps, for instance, you have the diabolical, mustachioed mind of a puzzle designer, but some horrific mutation has left you with the largely unhelpful hands of a pirate, ghost, or lobster. And also, you’re kind of lazy. Well, so much for coding your dreams into virtual reality. Guess you’ll have to settle for a life of convenience store tedium or awesome high-seas swashbuckling. Fortunately, you’re exactly who Valve had in mind when it created the exceedingly easy-to-use Perpetual Testing Initiative mapmaker. (more…)
Once Valve gets around to releasing its magical future goggles, I’m hoping it’ll just start constantly beaming clever trailers for its games straight to my eyeballs. Between TF2′s “Meet The ___” series and Portal’s cavalcade of comedic excellence, I could spend all the rest of my days awkwardly cackling to myself on buses, in restaurants, and while committing the most unforgivable crime of them all: wearing sunglasses at night>. Everyone will hate me and take tremendous pleasure every time I stumble blindly into low-hanging signs or taller-than-ordinary children. Which brings us to Valve’s latest bit of advertorial brilliance: the story justification for the Perpetual Testing Initiative, as narrated by Aperture founder Cave Johnson.
I’ve been waiting for a John Walker simulator to arrive, and this is the closest I’ll probably ever get. It’s the Secret World’s GDC presentation, showing off Ragnar-Tørnquist’s increasingly-interesting (to me) MMO. You can pretend you’re in the room being John Walker, who can be seen here following Ragnar. Toss some water at the screen to simulate the tears that usually flow when John experiences a game by Ragnar. Or you can just watch the most complete look at the upcoming MMO yet. It includes a scene that suggests oral sex is being performed, so I’d not risk it at work or at a funeral. They really go down… look down… LOOK DOWN on that sort of thing. (more…)
The British Academy Video Game Awards took place on Friday night and Portal 2 was awarded highest honours, taking home little gold faces not only for Best Game, but also for Story and Design. Congratulations to Valve, who by this point must be making plans to put up some new shelves of award-bearing load strength. The popular vote went to Battlefield 3, which also won awards for Online Multiplayer and Audio Achievement.
The full list is celebrating after the jump.
Imagine a Portal 2 with no GLaDOS, Chell, nor portals. Set in the 1980s. With competitive multiplayer and quantum co-op. And multiple endings. At various points, those were all things that could have hapened, as revealed by Valve last night in San Francisco.>