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Portal

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PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Valve announce 4th annual Saxxy awards, opens floor to Portal submissions">Saxxy 4







The Saxxy Awards, Valve's annual Source Filmmaker competition, is now in its fourth year, and to shake things up a bit they're encouraging players/directors to make films about something other than Team Fortress 2 - namely Portal. All of Portal 2's assets (minus, er, the portals and a few other things) can now be downloaded into SFM as free DLC, enabling that Spy vs Wheatley crossover animation that (probably) hasn't been able to exist until now. That isn't the only content pack headed to the program either: Puny Human are offering up select assets from Blade Symphony too.



The deadline for submissions this year is September 24th, giving you just under two months to create your masterpiece. You'll find the guidelines for the awards here.



If you need inspiration and/or films to compare your efforts to, be sure to check out the winners from last year. This one won best short:



PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to GLaDOS drops some science in new educational video from NASA">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
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title="Permanent Link to Cryptozoic is making a Portal board game">portal



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.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Portal: Alive and Kicking is a free mod that plans to recreate Portal in Portal 2">Portal 2







For those, like me, who only need the merest reason to play Portal again, keep an eye on Portal: Alive and Kicking. It's "a full remake and re-imagining" of Portal 1 in Portal 2's fancier iteration of Source. The free mod that's been passed through the latest batch of Greenlight approvals, and has the confident endorsement of Jeep Barnett, Valve designer and co-creator of the proto-Portal student project, Narbacular Drop. "Every tile on every panel has been revisited with loving detail," he writes. "Not only have the visuals been updated to match Portal 2, but the weaker puzzle cues have been improved."



The mod also includes a new set of advanced maps based on Portal chambers 13-18, but with "all new puzzles and set in the "Old Aperture" visual theme seen in Portal 2." The adaptive soundtrack has been expanded and Portal's original advanced maps have been recreated in the Portal 2's ruined Aperture aesthetic. It looks a bit like this.







"WEEEEEEEEEEE."



I was a bit skeptical about fan-make remakes of old games until I played Black Mesa: Source. The act of recreation through the lens of intense fandom added dozens of loving touches that enhanced Valve's original vision for Half-Life. See also, The Dark Mod, which did a great job of capturing the magic of Thief. Hopefully Alive and Kicking will do the same for Glados et al.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to First-person puzzle game Scale aims to shrink the moon, deliver it via Kickstarter">Scale







Scale, a new first-person puzzle game created by developer Steve Swink, features a young girl armed with a potent power: the ability to scale anything up or down almost infinitely. Currently raising funds on Kickstarter, Scale looks a lot like a Portal-alike, with its female protagonist and sci-fi Game Mechanic gun, but it’s a comparison that Swink categorically rejects.







“Yeah, we’re busy redesigning to the gun to be less Portal-like as I speak," he tells PC Gamer. "It got chucked in there quickly before PAX. It’s the obvious comparison to make, totally understandable, but the game is about exploring and discovery… rather than a linear series of puzzles that show how much I’ve explored the mechanic and how clever I am as a designer.”



Set around 40 years in the future, Scale follows the protagonist, Penny, a brilliant young physicist. While working to study elementary particles, Penny loses patience with the hit-or-miss world of supercolliders and settles on a different plan: a device that can enlarge anything so she can just zap an electron, make it as big as a minivan, and take a look. Naturally, she destroys the entire east coast of the United States.







Though Penny has a story she’s following, the exploration and puzzles are self-directed. In a gameplay video, Swink shows one where the player needs to cross some water to an island. Penny hops on a landlocked sailboat and then enlarges the moon, causing the seas to rise. I ask him how else it could be done. Penny could also stand on a flower and scale it until she just steps onto the other island, or just scale the boat itself until it’s big enough to be a bridge.



It seems that every new game with an experimental mechanic has to follow the Portal formula, so it’s nice to see a game with the ambition to set players free. Scale has a few days left on Kickstarter before it continues development for a planned December 2014 release.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Source SDK 2013 update gives modders “support for virtual reality via the Oculus Rift”">Portal 2 Rift







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.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Behind the scenes of Valve’s Portal 2 ARG">Portal 2 ARG







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.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Don’t be nervous, but Valve still wants to measure your sweat">rsz_tf2_medic







There may come a day when preparing for the next chapter of a Left 4 Dead game will include wiping down your sweaty palms and taking a deep, deep breath. If you don’t, the zombies will get faster.



In remarks during the 2013 NeuroGaming Conference and Expo (via VentureBeat), Valve’s in-house experimental psychologist—Wait, hold on. Did you know that Valve employs an experimental psychologist? I wonder if he has lunch sometimes with the economist.



Anyway, Valve’s in-house mad scientist, Mike Ambinder, discussed experiments where players’ overall nervousness and agitation were measured, in part by recording sweatiness. If players began to show signs of nervousness or fear, the game would speed up. This new control scheme—mouse, keyboard, sweat-measuring skin pads—added another way for the player to interact with the game. Shoot zombie, reload pistols, keep calm. Signal for rescue, throw molotov, keep calm.



Ambinder also described other experiments in game design and biofeedback—which Valve has been talking about for a few years—including a version of Portal 2 that was played via eye tracking. Exploring the next generation of possible gaming inputs shows once again that Valve continues to operate, and plan, on a whole different level.



So good for you, Mike Ambinder. Just stay away from the mega-baboon hearts and everything will work out just fine.
PC Gamer
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title="Permanent Link to Don’t be nervous, but Valve still wants to measure your sweat">rsz_tf2_medic







There may come a day when preparing for the next chapter of a Left 4 Dead game will include wiping down your sweaty palms and taking a deep, deep breath. If you don’t, the zombies will get faster.



In remarks during the 2013 NeuroGaming Conference and Expo (via VentureBeat), Valve’s in-house experimental psychologist—Wait, hold on. Did you know that Valve employs an experimental psychologist? I wonder if he has lunch sometimes with the economist.



Anyway, Valve’s in-house mad scientist, Mike Ambinder, discussed experiments where players’ overall nervousness and agitation were measured, in part by recording sweatiness. If players began to show signs of nervousness or fear, the game would speed up. This new control scheme—mouse, keyboard, sweat-measuring skin pads—added another way for the player to interact with the game. Shoot zombie, reload pistols, keep calm. Signal for rescue, throw molotov, keep calm.



Ambinder also described other experiments in game design and biofeedback—which Valve has been talking about for a few years—including a version of Portal 2 that was played via eye tracking. Exploring the next generation of possible gaming inputs shows once again that Valve continues to operate, and plan, on a whole different level.



So good for you, Mike Ambinder. Just stay away from the mega-baboon hearts and everything will work out just fine.
...

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