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Valve's first-person puzzler Portal 2 has received a significant update today. For months, players on PC and Mac have been able to create their own puzzles through the "Perpetual Testing Initiative." However, these creations have had to be solitary affairs. No more! Starting today, Portal 2 players will be able to design and play co-op maps.
In addition to adding co-op, the UGC mode has been enhanced with a new "Quick Play" feature that creates an automatically generated playlist of top-rated maps to play through. That should help appease fans that actually want to test maps perpetually. Current owners of Portal 2 will find a 75% off coupon awaiting them in Steam, so that they can wrangle in a new player to join in co-op puzzle antics.
Valve has muttered and murmured about bringing Steam and its Source engine to Linux before, and now it's revealed the plan--port Steam and Left 4 Dead 2 to Ubuntu 12.04, then work from there. Steam will come to Linux in all its glory, and Valve's building a speedy OpenGL version of Source it can use for more of its games too.
The Valve Linux Team already has Steam and L4D2 up and running natively on Ubuntu, the 11-person group formed in 2011 explains in its first blog post. They need a bit more work before we can all play with them, though, and Valve notes, "Our goal is to have L4D2 performing under Linux as well as it performs under Windows."
Why Ubuntu? The team explains, "First, we're just starting development and working with a single distribution is critical when you are experimenting, as we are. It reduces the variability of the testing space and makes early iteration easier and faster. Secondly, Ubuntu is a popular distribution and has recognition with the general gaming and developer communities."
Depending on how well it goes down, the team will look at bringing Steam to more distros. And, naturally, Valve wants to bring more of its games to Linux.
Linux users have enthusiastically supported efforts to bring proper games to its platform (sorry, Tux Racer), consistently paying far more to the Humble Bundles than Mac and Windows folks.
Valve has opened a new "Steam for Schools" initiative, offering a specially-designed and free version of Steam to educators. It's kicking off the new program with "Teach with Portals," a free version of Portal 2 and the Portal 2 Puzzle Maker offered through SoS to teach kids about science, technology, engineering, and math. And who better to show kids a passion for science than GLaDOS?
The official site (via Joystiq) details the program, which is now in beta. It makes educators the administrators of the limited version of Steam, so they can oversee their kids learning about physics and math using the game and tools.
It already hosts a number of lesson plans for physics and math, including ones on spatial visualization, parabolas, gravity, terminal velocity, and conservation of momentum, among others. The site hints that eventually it will host lesson plans at chemistry, game design, and language arts.
The FAQs detail how to apply. If you're an educator, you'll need to provide contact information for your supervisor and the organization, the subject, the number of computers, and the number of students. After that, your kids can learn about physics while GLaDOS complains about being a potato.
Portal 2's map creator was only released a few days ago, but it's already being deemed a success based on early results. Players have created more than 35,000 maps, and, those have been downloaded more than 1.3 million times, Valve announced yesterday.
To mark the occasion, Steam is holding a Weekend Workshop sale on the various games that make use of its Steam Workshop feature. Portal 2 is 66% off ($6.79), The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim is 33% off ($40.19), and many Team Fortress 2 Workshop items are 50% off.
Team Fortress 2 has had a bustling user-creation community for pieces of equipment, and Bethesda recently noted it had hit 13 million downloads of Skyrim modes through Steam. Portal 2's puzzle creator has just gotten off the ground, but it's off to a good start.
As promised, Portal 2's "Perpetual Testing Initiative" DLC is now available for everyone that owns the game on Steam. This is a "simplified puzzle maker" that allows players to create, share, and play homemade Portal 2 puzzles via Steam Workshop.
Within an hour of release, there are nearly a hundred maps already created--and that number is likely to increase exponentially.
In the future, Valve plans on expanding the creation tools to allow for co-op puzzles. Until then, aspiring puzzle makers will want to create the most fiendish single-player challenges.
If you don't already have Portal 2, Valve is running a limited time sale on the game. You can pick up Portal 2 for $6.79, or get a bundle of Portal 1 and 2 for $8.49.
Portal 2 gets a new DLC puzzle creator, called the Perpetual Testing Initiative, for free next week. We'll look at it closer then. Resident Evil creator Shinji Mikami is going back to the survival horror genre, after bowing out at RE4. His new game is codenamed Zwei. And finally, NBA Baller Beats is unveiled as a Kinect game where you do the dribbling. Put it all together for a great edition of Shacknews Daily.
Check out today's episode of Shacknews Daily.
Were this high school, the idea of a "Perpetual Testing Initiative" would not be met with open arms--even if it were free. However, when Valve announces said program for Portal 2, people get excited.
The next DLC for Portal 2 will be available on PC and Mac on May 8th, the company has announced.
The "PTI" is simply a new name for the in-game map editor that Valve has already announced. It will allow players to play, create, and share Portal 2 puzzles. Fans will be able to browse the Steam Workshop to not only find user-generated levels, but also vote on them.
Unfortunately, the initial release of the DLC will not include support for co-op puzzles. However, Valve is still working on adding that in the future.
Portal 2 started off as a very different game: one without Chell, GLaDOS, or even portals. Speaking at Game Developers Conference in San Francisco, Valve writers Chet Faliszek and Erik Wolpaw talked about the many concepts they had to throw away before they crafted the game that ended up being one of the best games of 2011.
For example, what's that above? It's a rare look at the game's canned competitive multiplayer mode. "While it's fun for about two seconds to drop portals under people and things like that," Wolpaw explained. "It quickly just devolves into pure chaos."
The original concept for Portal 2 featured a different main character, but the concept behind how the game would start was largely the same. Here, the player is waking up in a gorgeous environment designed to look like paradise--but it quickly falls apart in The Truman Show-fashion, revealing that the player has been trapped in a relaxation chamber for an unknown period of time.
Before deciding on reviving GLaDOS for the sequel, Valve explored setting Portal 2 in the past. It would be a prequel without portals, one where Aperture Science's Cave Johnson would be the villain. Without an ominous robotic overlord threatening your life, Valve played with a number of ideas for robotic partners--like Betty, seen above.
The co-op story was also different. Originally set after the events of Portal 2, GLaDOS originally sent the robotic pair on quests to find human "artifacts" in order to become more human. One such artifact was this comic, obviously inspired by Garfield.
Portal 2's original ending was quite the opposite of the astronomical finale gamers were ultimately presented. One concept had players needed to use a voice command to take back control from the game's final villain. Poking fun at Chell's apparent muteness, the game would fade to black as Chell uttered one word that would close the game--"yes."
The Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences held its Interactive Achievement Awards at DICE last night, and The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim took home the Game of the Year prize, among four other awards. The game also won RPG of the year, and outstanding achievements for story, gameplay engineering, and gameplay direction.
Uncharted 3 and Portal 2 each walked away with three awards. Uncharted won a set of technical awards (visual engineering, art direction, animation), while Portal 2 won varied awards for music composition, character performance, and connectivity.
"Each year the Interactive Achievement Awards sees the top minds and personas of our industry coming together to not only celebrate, but recognize one another for the achievements of the year," said academy president Martin Rae in the announcement. "2011 produced an outstanding number of fantastic games in all areas of the industry - console, PC, social and mobile - we are truly witnessing a new golden age of gaming."
Check out the full breakdown of winners below.
With Portal, Valve took the mechanic of shooting--something we're very familiar with--and used it in a whole new fashion. Using a gun that opened portals, Valve created a geometry-based puzzle game, the object of which was to use the openings to navigate increasingly challenging test chambers. With that starting point established, Portal 2 hits the ground running.
Portal 2 tricks you into thinking you'd never leave the unfriendly confines of the Aperture Science labs. Then the game blossoms, blowing down the very walls needed for its portals and opens up into a fantastic adventure. Breaking out of the test chambers feels liberating, answering the question: "what could I do with this portal gun in the world outside a test chamber?"
Peeking behind the curtain at Aperture Science offered an intellectual story that fits the puzzling pace just right. It's fun sci-fi, just campy enough, without becoming so silly it can't be taken seriously.
The crowning achievement of Portal 2 is its co-op mode. Working with a second player more than just doubled the complexity of the game. Solving a puzzle with a friend offered the same surprising, euphoric feel of the original Portal. For that feeling alone, Portal 2 stands as one of the high points of 2011.
The Shacknews 2011 Game of the Year awards are based on a weighted scoring system between all staff writers and editors [here's how it works!]. Last week we revealed our "Honorable Mentions," which include the titles that did not quite make our overall 'Top Five Games of the Year.' This week we reveal that Top Five list, with our Overall Game of the Year award being announced on January 20.