Well, file this USB Portal turret under "Things you can get me for Christmas that I'll only use once but will still totally love."

You can buy one for the Portal fan in your life (or for yourself) for $40 at Thinkgeek.

(Via John Davison)


Skylanders Battlegrounds and the Best iPad Peripheral a Collector Can HaveSince the release of Skylanders Cloud Patrol for iOS last year, fans of Activision's toys-meet-games franchise have been clamoring for a more direct way to interact with their precious plastic playmates than entering in a cold, impersonal numeric code. Tomorrow's release of Skylanders Battlegrounds finally gets a Bluetooth summoning portal into players hands, along with a game that puts it to excellent use.

There's a reason Battlegrounds was selected to be included as a code in the Skylanders Mobile Starter Pack. The first two mobile offerings, Cloud Patrol and the recently-released Lost Islands, use the Skylanders toys in a fire-and-forget fashion. Players need only place their figure on the portal once to register it, and that's it.

Skylanders Battlegrounds, on the other glowing circle of plastic, is an board-meets-action game. At any given time the player can have two different Skylanders in battle. The Bluetooth portal allows those two Skylanders to be swapped out at will.

One can certainly use the portal as they do with the other iOS Skylanders games, registering their toys and then putting them back on the shelf. The creatures under your control are always just a menu away. Using the portal actively just adds a deeper level of interaction to the game, bringing the experience much closer to that of its console cousins.

The portal can also be used to port your figures into Lost Islands and Cloud Patrol, perfect for stupid folks like me that threw away their web codes after opening their toys.

The Battlegrounds game itself isn't too shabby either. The player maneuvers about a hex-based map, clearing it of treasure and enemies before moving on to the next map. Entering the same hex as an enemy unit transports the players' Skylanders to a battle map where they fight waves of enemies in real-time. Players manuever their champions around the map, tapping enemies to begin auto-attacking. Each Skylander has special powers they can learn through gaining experience, adding some depth to the battle system.

It's fun. It's even more fun with the Bluetooth portal.

Skylanders Battlegrounds will be available tomorrow on iTunes for the iPad, iPhone or iPod Touch for $6.99. The Skylanders Battlegrounds Mobile Starter Kit comes with the Bluetooth portal, three figures and a code for downloading the game for $49.99.

Skylanders Battlegrounds and the Best iPad Peripheral a Collector Can Have


Buy Your Own Floating Portal Core (That Actually Floats)Now that the world has moved on from making giant sharks float around by the magic of fancy air, we can move onto more interesting things like Portal personality cores.

Thinkgeek are selling two variants of the item you see above, Wheatley or Space, for $20 each. Sadly, they're not remote-controlled. They're basically glorified balloons. But they're glorified Portal balloons.

Portal 2 Inflatable Personality Core [Thinkgeek, via Copiously Geeky]


Last month Runescape creator Jagex promised to bring fast-paced combat racing to Facebook. What they've actually delivered in Carnage Racing is better than that, and it's all thanks to portals.

The game call it phase shifting. I call it portals. As you do laps around the various tracks in Jagex's social racer, performing tricks and shooting powerful weapons at the competition, a gauge slowly fills on the right side of the screen. Once you're full you can drive towards one of the many warp spots scattered about the track, press the space bar, and whoosh.

Whoosh is the official sound of going through a portal.

Suddenly you're way ahead of the pack, unless of course they use portals, or hit you with the Warp gun and create a personal portal ahead of you. It's complicated.

Pressing the space bar with a full phase shift meter is also a means to avoid enemy weapons. It turns the world a pleasant shade of blue as well.

This nifty phase shifting mechanic also means that the developers didn't have to worry about making circular tracks. Just place a warp at the end that takes you back to the beginning and presto! Lazy, or brilliant? Yes!

Carnage Racing has a goal-oriented single-player mode to help get players up to speed, but the real meat is in multiplayer. Players can take on random opponents, challenge their friends in real-time or post their score and give their contacts a day to do better. Win in-game cash, customize your car, upgrade your weapons — all the fun bits of console combat racers are right here, for free.

It might not be Need for Speed Most Wanted, but Carnage Racing is definitely miles ahead of any other racing-type games on Facebook. Indeed, it might be too hardcore for the average Facebook gamer to handle, but I'm sure you folks will do just fine.

Carnage Racing [Facebook]


Valve has opened the voting for the second annual Saxxy Awards, celebrating cinematography in Team Fortress 2, and a winner shall be crowned on Nov. 30. Why so soon? Well, because the best overall winner is going to be announced at the Spike Video Game Awards on Dec. 7, and the video is going to be shown live.

In that case, my vote is for this four-minute, 45-second retcon of the history of the Saxxy Award (above), and the revelation of its creator, mostly because the whole shebang is 15 seconds under the 5 minute limit and would require Spike to devote 1/20th of its broadcast time to a fan film. The voting page is here. Get to it.

Saxxy Awards [Steam]


Master Source Filmmaker user Zachariah Scott returns once again with an amazing piece of work, this time crossing the world of Team Fortress 2 with that of Godzilla.

It's... look, I'm starting to think Zachariah Scott isn't one man, and that he's instead a complex computer program nestled beneath Valve headquarters, devoted entirely to designing and rendering terrific movies at record speed.

Big trouble in Rumble City [ Saxxy Awards 2012 ] [YouTube]


User Uncovers Dodgy Russian Trading Scheme... in Team Fortress 2Steamrep forum user base64, having noticed a strange spike in transactions for a rare in-game item, decided to do a little private investigating. And uncovered some very strange happenings.

Picking up on a weird increase in trades for "earbuds", a rare item in the game, his investigations led him to discover a closed Steam group that was involved in highly suspicious item trading. The report is a lengthy and surprisingly fascinating read, but for the time-starved, let's cut to his tl;dr hypothesis:

tl;dr A group of Russians bought >5,000 Keys from Store today using illegitimate credit cards and bought few hundred Buds from TF2 Outpost at an ridiculous price of 28-30 Keys (The average yesterday was 25.5 Keys). They have been doing this for quite a long time and their activity today is alarming.

One motive for this could be the hilariously bizarre (if unlikely) possibility that Russian gangsters are using Team Fortress 2 to launder dirty money. Another, more likely outcome is that a band of crims have got hold of some stolen credit cards, and are spending the cash on rare TF2 items they can re-sell.

Today I discovered that there are tons of Keys with doubtful origin injecting into the market [Steamrep, via PC Gamer]


And Now I Need To See A Left 4 Dead 2-Themed Adventure Time Episode I feel we haven't hit our weekly quota of Things Tina Likes, so here's a mash-up image of Adventure Time and Left 4 Dead 2, which, yes, I still play. In between Halo 4.

Adventure time meets Left 4 Dead [nissemann123456789 via Insanely Gaming]


It might not be tear-worthy, but it's certainly a touching account of the Team Fortress 2 characters coming together in a moment of need. And that song ain't half bad either.

Lozeng3r's dramatic take on Team Fortress 2 is a submission to Valve's second annual Saxxy Awards, which will be open to votes in two days.

Team Fortress 2 - Till Death Do Us Part (Saxxy Entry) [YouTube]


Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three Remember when you first finished Half-Life 2: Episode 2? The excitement? The shock? You were ready to set out with Alyx at your side, ready to show those alien bastards who's boss. The trilogy, and with it, the Combine's rule over Earth, would end soon.

Except it didn't. At the time of this writing, almost five years have passed since the supposed release date of the final installment in Gordon Freeman's saga. Half-Life 2: Episode Three was slated to arrive Christmas 2007. It didn't. As the weeks and months went by, confused fans tried to glean whatever information they could from Valve, but, by and large, they were unsuccessful. The company remained silent.

In this Kotaku Timeline, we follow the fans' process of dealing with Valve's silence, cataloging their forays into leaked code, and their communications with the developers. We detail the ways the gaming press interacted with Valve over the years, and list what little has been revealed. In addition, we will keep watch over the game, and take note of any events, good or bad, in the months and years to come.

There were no mentions of the final episode—called Half-Life 3 by some—between 1999, when Valve registered the domain halflife3.com, and 2006. But then, announcements were made, and names were dropped. And so this is where our timeline begins...

Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three
April/May—Gaben and episodic gaming
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeIn the May issue of the print version of PC Gamer, Valve Software co-founder Gabe Newell talks about Half-Life 2 and its episodes (including Episode 3!), and why he thinks episodic gaming is the way to go. A full transcript is available through the link below.
Read more»

May 26—Remaining episodes announced, dated
Valve officially announces Episodes 2 & 3, saying that the trilogy is slated to end by Christmas 2007. Yeah.
Read more»

June 6—Lots of little Episode 3 details
Gabe: "Half-Life 3 [a.k.a. Episodes One to Three] is about the relationship with the G-Man and what happens when he loses control of you."
Eurogamer talks to Valve about the upcoming episodes, who divulge a few details regarding locations, characters and possible expansions.
Read more @ EuroGamer»

Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three
May 17—Episode 3's already being worked on
Lombardi: "Pre-production is definitely going, and it'll be ramping up rather quickly now that they're ramping down on Episode Two."
Eurogamer gets hold of Valve marketing director Doug Lombardi, who talks about Episode 3, which is apparently already in pre-production.
Read more @ EuroGamer»

November 9—Valve doesn't want to overcommit
While talking to RPS, Episode 2 project lead David Speyrer says the reason for not having an Episode 3 trailer is that they don't want to make promises they can't keep. (Which is ironic, considering Episode 3 was supposed to ship in 2007.)
Read more»

December 19—Episode 3 is not the end of Half-Life
In an interview with StuffWeLike, Doug Lombardi drops the fact that the Half-Life franchise won't end with Episode 3.
Read more»

Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three
March 1—The Oranger Box
GTTV interviews Gabe about a variety of things, managing to squeeze in a question about Episode 3. (Thanks, commenter Cursed Frogurt!) Transcript below.

GTTV: Episode 3. What do we know about it? What can you tell us?

Gabe: From our point of view there's enough newness in there that we want to sort of spring it on people and say "here's a bunch of things you've never seen before" — we have multiple of those.

GTTV: And that's graphically, or in terms of the gameplay, or...

Gabe: There's stuff that visually hasn't been in games before, and there's certainly a bunch of game elements, on the order of Portal, that have never been done before.

GTTV: So even better than the portal gun?

Gabe: Oh yeah.

GTTV: Really? New gameplay paradigms?

Gabe: Uh-huh. I think that we're really happy with how the Orange Box did, and we'd do an Oranger Box next time, certainly.

Read more @ GameTrailers»

April 21—The first Episode 3 files are found
Three files are found by a Steam forum user in a folder titled "Episode3" in the Source SDK. They're later described as unused leftover assets by a Valve employee.
Read more @ Steam Forums»

June 27—Episode 3 won't be at E3
Doug Lombardi debunks the rumor that the latest Half-Life episode would be presented at E3 2008.
Read more»

July 10—Our first look at Episode 3
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three The first pieces of concept art for Episode 3 are released. Take a long, good look at them, folks, 'cause you won't be seeing anything like these for a while.
Read more»

October 15—Lombardi and the Long Wait
Kikizo interviews Doug Lombardi, who promises more details by the end of the year. (Unsurprisingly, Valve doesn't deliver.)
Read more»

October 17—Episode 3's taking too long? Blame Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress 2
Lombardi: "We want the next installment of Half-Life 2 to be really big."
Doug Lombardi tells Shacknews that the reason why development on Episode 3 is so slow is that the company is focusing on their other games.
Read more»

Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three
June 4—A call for communication
Steam forum user surfrock22 creates a petition, asking Valve for more and better communication after their latest failure to deliver news on Episode 3 (they announced Left 4 Dead 2 instead.)
Read more @ Steam Forums»

August 7—Episode 3 might have a deaf character
Gabe talks about the possibility of introducing a deaf character, and with it, sign language, to the Half-Life series with Episode 3.
Read more»

August 12—Gabe talks to Steamcast, but doesn't have much to say
Steamcast, a (now discontinued) fan podcast for all things Valve, nabs an exclusive interview with Gabe Newell, who briefly talks about why there's been no Episode 3 news. You can read a transcript of the relevant segments below.

Steamcast: Alright, first question: this is one of the most commonly asked questions that we had received and we've tried to format it into something you might be able to answer: you'd kept Episode 3 under incredibly heavy wraps thus far; we'd like to know why have you chosen to adapt such a reclusive approach this time around, as opposed to previous releases. Was it based on the reception you'd received about letting out too much info prior to Episode 2, or just something completely different?

Gabe Newell: I think that what's going on, you know, we're sort of always experimenting, we're always trying out different kinds of things, and that has positive as well as negative consequences for ourselves and for the community—so if you look at our different products, we're trying out these different rhythms. (Ed.: Here Gabe talks about how Valve handles updates for Team Fortress 2 and Left 4 Dead.) Right now, the Half-Life 2 episodes themselves are on a third sort of rhythm, and, you know, we think it makes sense for the product and for what we're trying to do there. The reason that we're not talking about anything is mainly that we don't have anything to say; it's not like we decided we released too much information, it's just that if we had information that we were in a position to deliver to people, we would—and right now we don't have anything to say about it. It really is a consequence of these different rhythms to release schedules we're trying out. (...) So, Ep 3 is sort of victim to our willingness to experiment, and as soon as we have stuff that we're ready to say about Ep 3, we will.

Steamcast: Alright, fair enough.

Listen @ Steamcast»

Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three
January 19—No new Half-Life in 2010
According to the January issue of Game Informer magazine—specifically, its rumors column—Episode 3 won't be landing in 2010.
Read more»

March 26—The new Half-Life better be scary
Gabe: "I feel like we've gotten away from genuinely scaring the player more than I'd like."
While talking with Edge Magazine, Gabe mentions that they'd like Half-Life to return to its terrifying roots.
Read more»

April 4—Gabe doesn't want Gordon to change
In yet another interview with Edge Magazine, Gabe says that he wants series protagonist Gordon Freeman to remain the blank slate he's always been.
Read more @ CVG»

July 21—More Episode 3 assets found in the Alien Swarm SDK
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeSteam forum denizen StickZer0 (his image to the left) happens upon several Episode 3-related files while poking around in the Alien Swarm SDK.
Read more @ Steam Forums»

September 23—Even Peter Molyneux's son is sick of waiting
Peter Molyneux puts up a video of his son protesting Valve's silence.
Read more»

December 18—"Call for Communication" hits 1,000 signatures
The "Call for Communication" petition hits its original goal of 1000 collected signatures. The creator sends an email to Valve, but unfortunately, there's no response.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three
February 21—Valve still won't budge
While organizing a conference call with Valve's writing team for a Portal 2 Q&A session, News.com.au deviously sneaks in a question about Episode 3. Sadly, they don't get an answer.
Read more @ News.com»

April 8—What does Portal 2's co-op campaign have to do with Half-Life?
Kotaku has a theory on why Episode 3 could be taking so long.
Read more»

April 25—No more single-player games from Valve?
Keighley: "Portal 2 will probably be Valve's last game with an isolated single-player experience."
A quote from the Final Hours of Portal 2, a documentary-app detailing the last stages of Portal 2's development, seems to suggest that Valve is done making single-player games.
Read more»

May 7—Valve to introduce "single-player plus"
Gabe talks about the importance of sharing your single-player experience with friends in an interview with a high-school student.
Read more»

May 14—Valve has a hole in its pocket; Episode 3 code found in the Portal 2 SDK
Someone finds code pertaining to Half-Life's slug-like Combine enemies, the Advisors, in the Portal 2 SDK.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

May 18—Valve won't be showing up at E3 2011
Replying to reporters asking for appointment times for E3 2011, Valve announces that they won't be showcasing any games at the event.
Read more»

June 22—Gabe still refuses to talk about Episode 3
Gabe: "If you know enough to ask the question, you know what the answer is."
Gabe appears at the Games for Change festival held at NYU, primarily to talk about the role of video games in education. When asked about Episode 3, he (predictably) refuses to answer.
Read more»

August 10—Protesters show up near Valve HQ
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeA pair of young Canadian gamers show up on the lawn of Valve Software HQ, wielding cardboard signs, demanding that Valve release some Episode 3 info.
Read more»

August 11—These protesters are quite persistent
It's day two for the protest on Valve's lawn, and it's still going strong.
Read more»

August 17—What did Gabe tell those protesters?
Gabe: "They wanted to know when Episode Three was coming out. I said 'I can't tell you.' And they were, like, 'Okay...'"
The protest ends peacefully. Kotaku catches up with Gabe to speak to him about what happened.
Read more»

September 19—Hey, guess what; there's some new Episode 3 code out in the wild
A beta tester leaks the Dota 2 beta client. People immediately begin datamining the files, and they naturally find several bits of code related to Episode 3. At this point, one begins to wonder if Valve is doing it on purpose.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

September 22—Gabe knows when Episode 3's coming, but it won't fit in a haiku
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeA redditor posts an e-mail exchange he's had with Gabe.
Read more»

September 23—That Episode 3 code doesn't mean anything
Faliszek: "I guarantee that if you went into the original Half-Life source code now, you'd probably find mention of unrelated stuff labelled 'HL3'."
Valve writer Chet Faliszek tells NowGamer that there's nothing to get excited about.
Read more @ NowGamer»

November 24—Even Volition wants to know where the hell Episode 3 is
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three Reader Naroon sends in an Episode 3-related easter egg from Saints Row 3.
Read more»

December 2—Half-Life 3 T-Shirt Confirmed
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeAn Uber Entertainment employee sees someone wearing a very peculiar shirt at a game developer event in Seattle.
Read more»

December 9—They might already be recording dialogue for Episode 3
A US-based voice actor tells the Official Xbox Magazine that he's been working with Valve on recording lines for a certain "Half-Life Episode 3".
Read more @ OXM»

December 20—It's coming in 2012. Yes or no?
Two video game journalists decide to make a bet. Their dignity's on the line.
Read more @ Kotaku Australia»

Dec 22—Here's a fresh new batch of Episode 3 rumors

~12:55am—A fairly crazy theory of a possible new game in 2012
Valve releases the unaired Video Game Awards Character of the Year acceptance speech of Wheatley, one of Portal 2's main characters. An off-hand remark Wheatley makes prompts some wild speculation about a new game.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

1:00am—A new site pops up
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeA new site displaying a huge Half-Life 3 logo appears. While a troll, it's still somewhat clever. At least we get a sweet wallpaper out of it.
Read more»

~1:15pm—Half-Life hints are go... or, maybe not
A Steamcast co-host posts on the Steam Forums that he's been told by an unnamed informant that Gabe "has given the go ahead to drop hints for the next Half-Life game." Gabe later partly debunks this rumor.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

December 23—JPL denies any involvement in Episode 3
JPL: "Wish I had better news for you. I would love to do another episode."
John Patrick Lowrie, veteran Half-Life voice actor and husband of GLaDOS' voice actress Ellen McLain, in a post unrelated to Half-Life, tells commenters that neither he nor his wife have been contacted by Valve regarding Episode 3.
Read more @ JPL's Blog»

December 24—LambdaGeneration's Rumor Roundup
LambdaGeneration looks at exactly how Valve has been teasing the community lately.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

December 28—Debunking rumors left and right
Faliszek: "This is the community trolling the community, nothing more."
Valve (specifically, Chet Faliszek) shares their opinion on the newest Episode 3 rumors.
Read more»

Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three
January 6—Operation: Crowbar
A bunch of fans decide to send Valve cheap crowbars in protest. While the approach is refreshingly crazy, Valve won't budge.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

January 8—A call for communication; round two
MtV: "Your oldest and longest running fanbase would like better communication."
Remember that petition from 2009? It's gotten a lot bigger, and it even has its own Steam group now.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

January 10—There really should be an announcement coming this year
IGN argues that there's no reason for Valve not to break their silence in 2012.
Read more @ IGN»

January 12—Garry Newman is a funny guy
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeGarry Newman, the man behind the vastly popular Garry's Mod, tweets a picture of a Half-Life 3 shirt supposedly sent to him by Valve. Later, he says it was only a joke. This of course kicks the LambdaGeneration rumor mill into overdrive.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

January 18—Half-Life easter eggs? CS:GO has them
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeA resourceful Steam forum user uploads all the Half-Life references he could find in CS:GO's files. Unsurprisingly, nothing of real value is found.
Read more»

January 21—Jesus in toast: Half-Life edition
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeVaguely lambda-shaped onion ring? Half-Life 3 confirmed.
Read more»

January 31—A red letter day
In a move far less insane than Operation: Crowbar, tens of thousands of fans plan to play Half-Life 2 together on the same day to send Valve a message.
Read more»

February 5—Aftermath of the red letter day
The event catapults Half-Life 2 to the 11th spot on Steam's list of most played games. But did it have the effect the organizers had hoped it would? (Spoilers: It didn't.)
Read more»

March 1—Portal 2 still holds some secrets
The ever-vigilant Steam forum community uncovers some animation files belonging to a side character from Episode 2 that are definitely new. Not very interesting, but new.
Read more @ LambdaGeneration»

April 18—April fools!
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode ThreeA redditor tries to start a hoax involving a supposed pre-order ad for Episode 3 at Best Buy. It doesn't work out.
Read more»

April 20—Gabe finally spills the beans on Ricochet 2. Wait, what?
Gabe: "We think that the twists and turns that we're going through would probably drive people more crazy than just being silent about it."
On Seven Day Cooldown, a gaming podcast, Gabe Newell talks about the future of Ricochet 2. If you know what I mean.
Read more»

April 28—It's time to look at the numbers
Kotaku reader Igor explains, using the magic of numbers, that Episode 3 will definitely be revealed at this year's E3. Except...
Read more»

May 2—No Episode 3 at E3 this year
Shock and awe.
Read more»

June 9—These things take time
Gabe himself appears as a neat little Episode 3 easter egg in the Kickstarter video for Clang. (Thanks, commenter lambdacore!)
Read more @ Kickstarter»

June 27—Here's some new Half-Life concept art!
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three Valvetime posts a bunch of concept art that they've received from an anonymous source. However, the images are at least four years old.
Read more»

August 14—Half-Life 3 at Gamescom! Or not!

7:22am—Half-Life 3 to be shown at Gamescom
A product listing advertises that Valve will be attending Gamescom and showing off Half-Life 3.
Read more»

8:15 am—Valve steps in
Doug Lombardi confirms that the listing was a mistake. Oh well.
Read more»

August 15—Buy this keyboard to play Half-Life 3 with!
Kotaku Timeline: Half-Life 2: Episode Three Mad Catz releases an ad for their new keyboard that shows a Half-Life 3 icon. Wild speculation and nerdrage follow.
Read more»

August 17—Gabe Newell hates sharks
Gabe: "I hate sharks."
Spike TV interviews Gabe. They get to the question about Episode 3. Gabe says he hates sharks. It makes perfect sense!
Read more»

September 20—Someone says Half-Life 3 is now an open-world game
French gamer site Journal de Gamer reports that, according to an anonymous source close to Valve (we certainly haven't heard that before), the series is moving away from its linear roots towards Skyrim-esque open-world gameplay.
Read more @ SlashGear»

November 11—Gabe tells /v/ all about Source 2
During /v/'s birthday visit to Gabe at Valve HQ, he (shockingly) shows willingness to divulge a few facts about a new engine they're working on. Unfortunately, he doesn't really talk about what it's for. Full video of the event to the left.
Read more»

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