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What do you do when your platform already sells and launches video games? Make the platform itself a video game, naturally. Valve announced the beta launch of "Steam Trading Cards" today. The collectible meta-game lets you upgrade your Steam profile by playing games and collecting and trading their associated (virtual) cards.
The trading card system earns you cards for playing supported games, along with collecting and trading. Once you earn enough, you can craft a game badge, which can be used to earn rewards like profile backgrounds, emoticons, and Steam coupons. This also adds a leveling mechanic to your badges, in which you can earn XP to earn rewards like extra friends list slots and profile showcases. Joining the Trading Cards group will put you in a queue to get into the beta, and Valve will be allowing people into it in waves.
So far, the beta supports Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, Dota 2, Don't Starve, Half-Life 2, Portal 2, and Team Fortress 2. Valve promises it will expand to more games in the coming months. You can check out the FAQ for more details.
Kicking off the DICE summit in Las Vegas today was a keynote presentation by Valve head Gabe Newell and Star Trek director J.J. Abrams. At the talk, the two teased that they were interested in working together on future collaborations. "There's an idea we have for a game that we'd like to work with Valve on," Abrams said, while Newell said: "We're super excited about that and we also want to talk about making movies, either a Portal movie or a Half-Life movie."
But how serious are the pair in making their wants a reality? Apparently, pretty serious. "It's as real as anything in Hollywood ever gets," Abrams said. "Which is that we are really talking to Valve, we are going to be bringing on a writer, we have a lot of very interesting ideas."
"Both a Portal and Half-Life movie are things I want to see," Abrams told Polygon, noting that he's well aware of the pitfalls other game-to-movie adaptations have faced. "We're also aware of the cautionary tales of movies that became games and vice versa. Our goal here to is to treat the world Valve has created in both these properties like anyone would a book or some great story that comes from a pitch or original script--just to treat it with the respect they treat their games and their players with."
Of course, Abrams has his hands tied for quite some time, having already signed on to direct Star Wars: Episode VII, which is aiming for a 2015 release. Valve fans, however, are known for being a patient bunch, so the years-long process to make a movie a reality shouldn't faze them too much.
Now that Steam's all couch-friendly thanks to Big Picture mode, it'd be nice if more games were reconfigured for slouching. Oh, what luck! Just after I write that sentence apropos of nothing, I notice that Valve has released a Portal 2 patch enabling split-screen co-op in its puzzle 'em up.
Portal 2's console edition came with split-screen co-op options but it was never officially supported on PC. Cunning fans had managed to tweak and cajole the game into supporting split-screen, but poking around in config files is not for everyone. Now, all you need to do is play with two controllers in Big Picture mode, which is easy enough.
The patch notes have a little more information, and details two fixes too.
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.