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Mark Oshiro does things. He has, in a sense, made a professional life out of being a fan. For several years, on his sites Mark Reads and Mark Watches, he has tackled fan favorite TV shows (like Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Doctor Who) and novels (Harry Potter, His Dark Materials) one episode or chapter at a time. The catch is that he only reviews stories for which he is completely unspoiled. The results are generally hilarious, and Oshiro has developed a fan following of his own.
He has now added Mark Plays to the trilogy of sites, in which he experiences and reviews video games (again, games that he has somehow always managed to avoid spoilers for) one chapter or section at a time. And in fine fashion, the site has started with Portal and Portal 2.
Following along with the experience of an unspoiled, new player brings back fond memories of experiencing a game oneself for the first time. And Oshiro's chronic unpreparedness for the twists stories throw at him often rings familiar:
Look, this was a 19 level puzzle game. I THOUGHT YOU BEAT IT, YOU GOT CAKE, AND THAT WAS IT. And suddenly, I'm in passageways looking in on the very game I just played, and my mind can't handle it. That 19th level pulls your right out of the world you were once in, and you have to force yourself to accept that you've been manipulated, not only as Chell, but as the player.
Anyone who has ever enjoyed introducing their friends to a favorite game, and waiting with pent-up glee for the friend to hit THAT MOMENT OMG, will probably enjoy reading along, as Mark discovers more classic and current titles.
Just don't ever leave any spoilers. That wrecks all the fun.
Realm Lovejoy is an artist currently working at Half-Life and Team Fortress developers Valve Software. Having helped create student title Narbacular Drop, which later evolved into what we now know as Portal, she's also interned at Nintendo.
So, yeah, dream career path right there.
Among her current projects is Valve's DOTA 2, for which she's done stuff like character design, while she's also worked on games like Portal 2. Oh, and if you want someone to thank for the adorable art that ran during Steam's Autumn sale in 2011, Realm's your target.
You can check out more of her work at her personal site.
To see the larger pics in all their glory (or so you can save them as wallpaper), right-click on them below and select "open in new tab".
Valve artist Realm Lovejoy tweeted this video earlier in the week, saying "Look at what I helped unbox today at work". Which is a lot calmer than how I would've said it.
"Oh my GOD look at this just LOOK AT THIS" is all I'd be able to manage, before ducking behind a couch for cover. Just in case.
Among the many highlights from the Erik Wolpaw/Tim Schafer panel at PAX this past weekend was a brief exchange where an audience member asked what Wolpaw thought about the disconnect between authored single-player games and games that allowed truly personal stories to emerge, like Notch's Minecraft and Dean Hall's DayZ.
"It's not [about] single-player vs multiplayer," Wolpaw said, "it's more, can you have an authored story in that situation? It gets tough. I look at stories coming out of Minecraft or something like DayZ, and honestly… it makes me just despair. If I had any guts or honor, I'd leave the industry." The audience started laughing. "It seems like it's the promise of games. It's like, 'I have full agency. Total, total agency.'"
Wolpaw paused. "I'm not actually quitting my job," he clarified, and smiled.
Schafer picked up the joke: "He'll be pulling a paycheck, but he's not going to care anymore. Because DayZ and Minecraft are so good… and they have better stories than Portal. He was off-mic, and I just wanted to make sure everyone heard that." More laughter.
When co-host Jason Schreier (you may know him from such publications as: this one) asked Wolpaw if he thinks there will always be room for narrative-driven games, The Portal 2 and Psychonauts writer said, "Oh, I think there will be. But, at some point, you're going to go into the kinda 'artisan cheese-maker' model." He then nodded to Schafer, half-jokingly. "Like Tim. You're going to be making these games that directly appeal to a [specific audience]. It may not be one of these 20 million dollar massive productions."
Schafer contributed his own thought on the matter: "I think [that kind of player-driven experience] is maybe the promise of games. But not everybody wants the same thing from games. There are definitely people who like something carefully crafted for them, cheese or games."
At PAX Prime in Seattle, Double Fine's Tim Schafer and Valve's Erik Wolpaw gave a panel called "Plot vs. Play" in which they discussed the ongoing debate about gameplay and story. The panel was co-hosted by Kotaku's own Jason Schreier.
The whole thing was as much fun as you'd imagine. At one point Wolpaw, who tends to be something of a fount of hilarious unrealized Portal ideas at these sorts of panels, recounted an eventually canned sequence in Portal 2 in which players find (and kill) Aperture founder Cave Johnson. Well... they kill his brain, anyway. See, his consciousness is trapped inside a computer.
"There was something in Portal 2 where originally, for a while, you were going to find Cave Johnson.' He would be like, 'Hi, this is Cave Johnson. No really, this is Cave Johnson, look down here.'
And then we'd put him in this crummy box that was plugged into the wall. And the whole thing was that he'd been put into this computer, and he just hated it, and he just wanted to die. And so he wants you to unplug him, and meanwhile there's a ledge that you can't quite jump onto… and you have to stand on Cave Johnson, you have to unplug him and carry him across the room.
But it was hard to communicate what was going on—we maybe could have eventually worked it out, but that was something where it seemed like a good fictional idea and we just never quite worked the gameplay out to where it actually got where it needed to be—it didn't work out."
A while back, a Steam forum poster pulled out some unused dialogue from the game and posted it here, where you can find some lines that seem to reference the sequence Wolpaw was talking about.
"Now, before you say no, I want you to remember that I've lived a full life. Also, if this helps seal the deal, livin' in a computer this long's made me crazy. That's right: I am insane.
"Wait. I suppose tellin' you I'm not in my right mind could sway you to not unplugging me. Let me round back on the important parts: in a computer. Ceaseless torture. Monster in the eyes of god. So why don't you get on over here and unplug ol' Cave."
Ha. File that all under "Things I really wish had made it into Portal 2."
Portal 2's Wheatley doesn't really have a body. He's the robotic equivalent of a floating head in a jar. Which makes it easy for him to whizz about the game's levels, but makes it hard to craft a decent action figure out of the guy.
So custom toy builder KodyKoala went and built him one. Using a Wheatley key chain as a base, he took parts from other figures and constructed a glowing, Portal-gun-equipped torso and limbs, rounding out the figure with his own Companion Cube.
Anyone who's played a Portal game knows that Aperture Science's charmingly neurotic turrets are full of bullets. And CEO Cave Johnson showed off their design in this teaser video last year.
But artist Andrew Gabbott has gone above and beyond in his turret love, rendering by hand an incredibly detailed breakaway view of the Portal 2 enemies. Gabbott captured the painstaking process in the timelapse video above and you've got to respect the man's skills after watching it the whole thing in sped-up fashion. Those who want to wear or own Gabbott's turret drawing can go to his official site.
I showed the Companion Cube underwears to a female friend of mine this morning, who responded with "OMG everyone needs those." I'm inclined to agree, though since they do not make them in a size that would fit me, I grabbed a pair for someone with lady parts to obscure from view.
I have purchased one of each of the items you see above, one for me and two for the special lady in my life, who doesn't read Kotaku enough for this post to spoil the surprise. The Chell art nouveau tee is going on my body. The other two are going on hers. And to make it a little sweeter and a lot less pervy, I also grabbed a pair of companion cube creepers for the boys. It's a family thing now! Eventually we'll wind up on the cover of a JC Penny catalog with our tattoos and piercings airbrushed away.
Other fine Valve items appearing at Jinx include this love "Meet the Pyro" lithograph...
...which I also purchased, some Portal 2 posters, a coffee mug — you know what, just go see for yourself.
We featured a work in progress last week, the beginnings of a music video looking at Chell's life after Aperture.
Zachariah Scott has finished his work now, and sent the new link along to us. "After Aperture" is a slow, meditative, thoughtful look at Chell from outside the first person perspective. What exactly does one do with one's life after a couple hundred years down at Aperture Science?
Scott has added notes on his source of inspiration, as well as a few asides on the limits of Source Filmmaker. There are only so many assets available for Chell (as generally one plays Portal in first person), and that limited the available shots. But the Companion Cube really is that large, to scale. All in all, it adds up to a lovely take on a character whose thoughts we rarely get to see.