PC Gamer
deadlock


It's become a cliché to compare every first-person puzzle game to Portal, but Deadlock sort of insists on it by spotlighting a floating AI cube which speaks in vocoded tones that very nearly replicate GLaDOS's disharmonious voice...except with a French accent. But hey, Portal's not a bad inspiration, and Deadlock's sci-fi platforming is promising. A team of French developers created the prototype as a 7 Day FPS Challenge project, and recently began seeking funding via Ulule to spin it into a fully-realized game.

The goal of Deadlock is to ascend a high-tech beanstalk while avoiding the wrath of its AI security system by A. jumping, and B. using your "Switch Gun" to turn the tower's systems on and off. The Unity Engine is artfully used to render sleek gunmetal and neon architecture, and the gameplay concept has legs. Or, at least, you have legs. To jump with, because jumping and air control are important in Deadlock. The gravity feels a bit strange, like the parabola of my jump plateaus for a moment at its vertex, but it is nice to use double-jumps again. I want more double-jumping.

But as LeVar Burton would say, don't take my word for it: a demo of the game can be downloaded from the official site. The developers are only seeking €3,500 (~$4,448/£2,799) to polish the existing 7 Day FPS game, but hope for €32,000 to fund full solo game, and plan to add multiplayer if they reach €66,000. The campaign has currently raised 63 percent of its minimum goal with about a month to go.
PC Gamer
Hotline Miami is all about learning through repetition, then executing a perfect murder-spree.
Hotline Miami is all about learning through repetition, then executing a perfect murder ballet.

Tyler Wilde, Associate EditorThe word "repetitive" commonly has a negative connotation, and it's especially used negatively (all the time, every time, forever and ever) when talking about games. And often it's followed by a bunch of no elaboration at all. That doesn't make sense. I'm sure I've done it before, but criticizing a game for being "too repetitive" and leaving it at that is—strictly speaking—meaningless. A game might lack variety, but every game is repetitive. We repeat some pattern of input—running and shooting, stacking blocks, bouncing balls off blue dots—over and over, and expect uniform feedback. Then the problem changes slightly, and we tweak our input pattern. And then again. And yet "too repetitive" is lobbed at games all the time.

Alright, I know that sounds a bit pedantic, and I do recognize the difference in tone between "repetition" and "repetitive." Lack of variety is a fair criticism, but "too repetitive" is an extremely vague way to say it, and it dodges the truth: when we criticize a game for being "too repetitive," I think we often mean that we just don't like what we're doing. "It's repetitive" is shorthand for "this isn't fun (for some reason)."

If we like what we're doing, repetition is desirable. I like solving puzzles in Portal, and once I solve one I want to solve more. I don't want to solve the exact same puzzle again, but I don't want to stumble into a surprise Sudoku chamber, either. So Portal gives me increasingly clever arrangements of portal-ey logic problems. The puzzles get harder, but they're all just iterations of the same basic spatial problem I solved in the first puzzle. So after all my twisty, knotty figuring arrives at a solution, it always seems just as simple as the first time. That sense of clarity comes from repetition.

Super Meat Boy replays your failures, illustrating your own learning process.

Repetition is also how we learn, and both Super Meat Boy and Hotline Miami succeed by embracing that power. They present problems in small chunks—a level in Super Meat Boy and a floor of thugs in Hotline Miami—and rapidly reset them every time we fail. Each attempt gives us new information to apply to the next, building layers of experience on the way to that one perfect run. And that perfect run feels good: it's an accomplishment, like unknotting an especially tricky puzzle in Portal. Except in Hotline Miami there's more brain-stuff and skull chunks lying around afterward.

The same goes for Counter-Strike, StarCraft, and the rest. At their most basic levels, they're about repeating and mutating input patterns to solve variable, but not totally unpredictable, problems. The variables in Counter-Strike, for example, are the guns, maps, and opponents. That's been enough variety to keep us repetitively shooting at each other for 13 years.

Repetition can be pretty damn fun, so we've got to be specific, and always ask ourselves if it's really the repetition of a theme that bothers us, or the theme itself. I can shoot bad guys all day, so complaining that "the shooting is repetitive" in Medal of Honor: Warfighter would be confusing. Further examination would reveal that the guns, maps, and enemies have specific traits I don't like, which has nothing to do with repetition (except that the more I do them, the less I like them).

Fearing the dreaded "repetitiveness" may even be bad for games: that's probably how we end up with off-key phrases at pivotal moments, like a boss fight which takes away the gun I've been using the whole time and sticks me in a surprise platformer. It's variety, but it screws up the whole composition. A performance of Rachmaninov's Piano Concerto No. 2, for example, would not benefit from an unexpected dubstep interlude. No, I wasn't talking to you, Skrillex. Are you drunk? Go home, dude.

Anyway, if at first glance this looks like an ostentatious rant about a personal pet-peeve, then you may have seen correctly. But maybe not: try Googling any game name with the phrase "too repetitive." It's everywhere. I get what's meant by it (sort of, kind of, some of the time), but it says very little. It may not even be a criticism, because games like Hotline Miami wouldn't be fun without repetition. If dying and respawning didn't reset the level, and our prior kills stayed bloodied, it would be ruined. Maybe then we'd say that it's not repetitive enough?
PC Gamer
Portal 2 PeTI


Thanks to the Perpetual Testing Initiative DLC's intuitive and enthralling editor, Portal 2 has a near-endless supply of new puzzles for players to enjoy. Since its release, over 200,000 new community made levels have been uploaded to the Steam Workshop, ready for a one-click download and integration into Cave Johnson's pan-dimensional scam. Whether you love lasers, revere repulsion gel or crave companion cubes (don't we all?) there's sure to be something out there.

Here's our pick of the best ten community-created puzzles available, and a further five fulsome campaigns. Obviously, with so many to choose from, some are bound to have fallen through the cracks. Be sure to share your favourites in the comments, and keep your eyes peeled for our top co-op maps in the very near future.


1. Permutations




There's an island in the middle of the map's suspiciously brown water. On it, three buttons deactivate the emancipation grids to the three rooms off to the size. Simple enough - head to each room, collect its cube, and pop them on the switches. Except each solution requires elements from the others, leading to a puzzle that quickly has you running through what can be done where. Satisfyingly convoluted. Download Permutations here.


2. Goobound



I'm a sucker for both gels and excursion funnels, so Goobound was already off to a promising start. It's a series of paint-based puzzles, that have you really thinking about the application of that blue bouncy goo. What really sells the map is the button-based end section, that has you figure out the sequence of ramps to raise in order to bounce yourself to the exit. Download Goobound here.


3. Four Block




Four Block is a great realisation of a segmented room theme. Unlike Permutations, here each challenge is linked only by the need to collect a cube to bring back to the small central room that acts as the main hub. It's a clever example of how to create a series of fun puzzles out of all of the game's many elements, and still have it gel together in a cohesive whole. Download Four Block here.


4. Collective Scrutiny




In Collective Scrutiny, mapper Edeslash creates a large, multi-roomed chamber, in which many of the puzzle elements are kept separate from their home by those portal and object destroying emancipation grids. Bypassing them involves directing lasers, rescuing spheres and liberal application of orange gel. It's not particularly difficult, but working through the various processes is a lot of fun. Download Collective Scrutiny here.


5. Gate




Mevious is probably the most prolific and well known of Portal 2 mappers, thanks in no small part to a Valve made collection of his work from the Testing Initiative's beta. His levels trend towards the compact but devious, a style exemplified in Gate. You're placed on the wrong end of an emancipation grid but, despite appearances, the solution is sheer elegance in its simplicity. Download Gate here.

Head to the next page for perplexing faith plate action and frenetic excursion funnel fun.




6. Magnetic




Magnetic presents a series of challenges that require you to transport a cube to a button on the other side of the room. Twist: those cubes are at the other side of a wire mesh, in self contained areas with no portalable surfaces, that are just close enough to be carried. The unusual set up of the puzzles led to a section that had me stumped for long minutes before I realised the solution was blindingly obvious. Download Magnetic here.


7. Path of the Cube




Something different to the usual puzzle set-up of having the Perpetual Testing stickman doing the level acrobatics. In Path of the Cube, you and your Companion Cube operate two buttons to guide a regular cube through a side-on maze full of moving platforms and excursion funnels. No portalling to be done here, but the inventiveness of the premise makes for a nice change. Download Path of the Cube here.


8. The Laser Cross



All great laser-based maps are about making your limited resources stretch further than should be possible. The Laser Cross is one of the best, forcing you to constantly revise your solution as you attempt to activate the various components of each room with just two refraction cubes. One simple mistake and you'll end up back at the start, refining what seemed like a sound plan. Just watch out for the bloody faith plate. Download The Laser Cross here.


9. Time Saving




Mapmaker Romb has a penchant for devising some of the trickiest puzzles to come out of the community. Time Saving isn't the most head-scratching of his creations, but unlike many of the others, it also doesn't rely on obfuscation or odd quirks of Portal 2's physics. Instead it's an enjoyable sequence of problems to overcome, with a timing element that's sure to please Portal 1 fanatics. Download Time Saving here.


10. Too Simple




A cube on the floor. A button connected to the exit beside it. Simple, right? Well, no, not quite. Too Simple has a devious little trick up its sleeve that blocks you from completing the obvious. Once it's revealed its gotcha, the rest of the level isn't that hard to work out, but it's a nice little timing challenge and a reminder that in Portal, nothing is quite what it seems. Download Too Simple here.

Head to the final page to see our top five Portal 2 custom campaigns.




While the in-game editor is a great tool for realising your puzzle idea, it doesn't have the flexibility create anything outside of the pristine walls of an Aperture testing chamber. For that you need Hammer, Valve's Source map editor.

It's a powerful tool, but also complicated and at times downright awkward. That hasn't stopped people from using it to create more in depth campaigns - collections of levels that contain custom visuals, stories, scripting and even special physics rules. Here's five that show off what a dedicated mapmaker can achieve.

//Community Campaigns

1. 12 Angry Tests


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ma4X44kLQ24

12 Angry Tests is an exceptional seven part campaign that serves as a standalone GLaDOS-free story that mirrors the structure of Portal 2. you start out in an abandoned and worn-down Aperture, solving fiendish laser and refraction cube puzzles. From there you wind up in the depths of old Aperture, playing with gels and momentum, before the hard light/excursion funnel heavy final act, among rows of long abandoned test chambers.

It's full of clever flourishes, like one room late in the game that completely reconfigures itself just as you're about to solve it. There are plenty of twists from the plot, too. Like any good Portal 2 campaign, there's a surprising antagonist hindering your progress. In all, it's an hour or so of new content with pitch-perfect difficulty and a keen eye for what makes a great portal-based puzzle. Download 12 Angry Tests here.




2. Decay




Set after the events of Portal 2, Decay shows an Aperture that has been left to... well, you know. Run down test chambers aren't exactly a new idea for Hammer made maps - even Portal 2 itself is filled with them - but Decay really takes the dilapidation to extremes. Corridors are wonky, puzzles no longer align properly and absolutely everything is falling apart.

The puzzles included are some of the hardest on this list. The second of the three parts is particularly tricky, pulling every design trick to introduce new obstacles that disrupt previously sound plans. In the third part, elements of different test chambers overlap, causing plenty of misdirection. But the visual spectacle of the climactic climb through the rubble is a compelling reason to endure its red herrings. Download Decay here.


3. Designed for Danger


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nuYNAndUhkc

One of the early plans for Portal 2 saw Chell at the whims of a selection of personality cores, each with their array of test chambers. Designed for Danger gives you an idea of how this might have played out. You start in one of the main game's early test levels, but as you move to solve it, you're broken out by Rick, the adventure sphere. Apparently Nolan North doesn't make enough appearances in games, so we have to put him in mods now.

Rick has designed a bunch of deadly adventure chambers for you to solve. Well, sort of. Designed for Danger's theme is mostly sold through visual touches and between chamber sections. For the well designed puzzles, danger merely means "contains a lot of lasers." That is, until the final act, which sends you through the bowels of Aperture. Download Designed for Danger here.




4. Curious Chamber




Curious Chamber is a three part campaign that subverts gravitational direction to create a series of puzzles that are constantly surprising. To give the least spoilery example, the first chamber has an uncrossable gap, a white wall to fly out of, but nowhere to build up enough momentum to do so. Except, that when you investigate a small corridor with a target painted at the end wall, gravity flips 90 degrees and you're suddenly falling into it.

Throughout it shows off just what tricks are possible with Hammer. That reaches a whole new level in the last part, a series of chambers that are inventively presented to create a memorable, and funny, experience that becomes increasingly difficult over time. Download Curious Chamber here.


5. Moonbase Luna-C




A series of test chambers set on the moon! That means more than just seeing acres of greyish-brown rock outside of the windows, because these maps also make use of reduced gravity. It seems like such a small change - you can jump higher and for longer, but so what? Except the effect the change has on your ability to navigate levels is massive.

It's a case of relearning your limits and intuitively realising which leaps you can make. But the levels also feature liberal use of laser grids, both below and above you, to create challenges that would be impossible with our stupid, restrictive Earth gravity. Still, no matter where you are, the turrets remain happy to politely kill you. Download Moonbase Luna-C here.
PC Gamer
bonk


Since its launch, Valve's Source Filmmaker has helped budding directors create literally hundreds of movies - some good, some bad, most.... incredibly goofy. The Team Fortress 2 cast especially has sung seemingly every song, played out every meme and worn every hat and every expression - sometimes at once! But what are the ten best creations? We've scoured YouTube in search of the funniest, the most dramatic, and the just plain prettiest Source Filmmaker movies.

Scout vs. Witch



Easily one of the best directed SFM movies out there, mixing Team Fortress, Left 4 Dead and a fine sense of timing. Scout (no relation to Scout) is one of the more popular TF2 mercs, with his cockiness the perfect antidote to all that zombie misery. At least, while the moment lasts.

Just One More Hat



And he's back, in this fashion-conscious spin on one of Disney's most parodied songs. More worksafe than Dirty Little Mermaid, more morally conscious than Slaughter Your World, it also wins bonus points for having an original TF2 version of a song instead of just looping in a more general one.

Meet The Family



Mostly made (naughty naughty) with the leaked SFM, this was one of the first epic projects to be finished and still one of the best. Scout and Spy team up as literal brothers in blood to kick off a perfectly choreographed race for that all-important Intelligence. Guest starring music from The Incredibles to add pace and more than a little style. No "da-da-da" sting at the end though.

Adventures Of The F2P Engineer



He's smart enough to whip up teleporters and sentries on the battlefield... but he didn't pay for the privilege, so he's probably doing it with his flies open and his shoes undone. When he's having this much fun though, can you really begrudge him? The answer is yes. Even if you're on the other team, sometimes it just gets... sad. Luckily, there are other engineers on hand, like...

Practical Problems



An epic war between two professionals who know what they're doing, but don't know when to quit. A little parable about the importance of good manners, respect, and most importantly, not ****ing with another man's sandvich. A true Lesson For The Ages, with some fine music right alongside.



Meet The Soldier (Directed By Michael Bay)



We're firmly back in parody territory for this one; a relatively straight replay of Meet The Soldier, but with rather more boom and a surprising (though not unwelcome) lack of Alyx, Zoey, Rochelle or Chell forcibly being draped over a motorbike or anything at any point to complete the picture of one of cinema's most successful nostalgia murderers. Love or hate it, it's better than Transformers 2 any day.

The First Wave



It's not just a game mode... it's war! Mann vs. Machine gets dramatic in this epic four minutes of the mercs facing their durable doubles for the first time. Bonus points for a return of the disembodied Blue Spy, and a death scene with the power to spawn a thousand bits of erotic TF2 fan-fiction. Which exist. You'd better believe they exist. You have been warned.

DOTA Hero Pals: The Mysterious Ticking Noise



Not so much a 'parody' of the Potter Puppet Pals original as a straight copy with DOTA characters in it, this is still one of the more accomplished movies to come from that game. We just need another eighty or so instalments to cover the other characters, and I see no reason new players shouldn't have enough data to compete at professional level/troll like champions.

Heavy Doo, Where Are You?



I never understood "Scooby Doo, Where Are You?" as a show title. Admittedly my memory is a little fuzzy about the actual cartoons, but I definitely remember Fred, Daphne and Velma doing most of the mystery-solving gruntwork, with Scooby's role being to blunder into helpful things. If you called him, you'd prevent him from doing that. The song makes no sense, is what I'm saying. This movie is more reasonable. If you had to fight Old Man Peterson, having a Gatling wielding Russian psychopath on hand definitely beats anything Scrappy Doo could serve up. Admittedly, so would a crouton.

After Aperture



Chell's life after Aperture isn't exactly unexplored territory, but this Exile Vilify backed slice is one of the more interestingly melancholic SFM movies so far. A little clunky in terms of animation, largely due to the poor Chell rig (at least one other movie opted to reskin Zoey instead of using it), but it makes up for it with a different kind of atmosphere to most and that lovely outdoor setting.

Those are our picks, but there are many more SFM movies out there. Have any particularly caught your attention, impressed you, or just made you laugh? Share their names below...

PC Gamer
Vitrum


It's not often you spot a softly glowing sign warning of gravity-changing crystals in puzzle-platformers, but Vitrum fills that niche nicely. On the e-shelf today from developer 9head Games, the indie puzzle-platformer shuffles up the house that Portal built with an array of power-granting crystals, a suitably bloom-ified tech motif, and a throbbing ambient electronica soundtrack worthy of space hibernation.

Solving Vitrum's Rubik-like room layouts involves harnessing energy from various crystals found during your travels. Most of the granted abilities -- a short air dash, a push of energy, and so on -- allude to solutions entailing timing and carefully aimed jumps. The real draw is the ability to combine the powers surging in each of your android hands and the almighty gravity crystal that exchanges floor with ceiling on the fly. There's a cliff-sharp ramping of puzzle difficulty -- it's no easy task to gyrate into a tiny cubby hole surrounded by deadly red crystals after simultaneously air dashing and watching the room spin sickeningly. Good luck.

Vitrum carries a pay-as-you-like price on Gumroad with a requested $5 minimum for covering overhead.
PC Gamer
turret


Let's kick off this Friday morning with one of the cutest weapons of war you'll ever see - a Portal 2 turret that replaces its guns with flashing lights, but otherwise acts just like the turrets in the game.



While nowhere near as nice, if you want your own turret, Gaming Heads is selling one in very limited quantities. As for other Portal merch, ThinkGeek on the other hand would have been your place to go for an authentic, though sadly non-functional Portal Gun, had it not sold out of them 30 minutes after saying "So, we have this..." A few other options are still around though if you don't mind paying a little more to have your very own Aperture experience.

Cake and jumpsuit sold seperately. Literally.

Note: This post originally suggested that the one in the video was the Gaming Heads model. This turned out to be inaccurate, so has been changed. Sorry about that.
PC Gamer
Half-Life 2 Episode 2


It looks as though Valve are working on a proper follow up to the Source Engine they've been gradually improving over the course of the last decade. Valve Time have pulled numerous references to a "next-gen 'Source 2'" engine along with various "Source 2 tools" icons from the guts of the Source Film Maker.

Valve have previously played down the need for an entirely new version of Source, and have concentrated instead on updating the original version to keep up with modern engine tech. That's worked quite nicely so far, but if these references are correct, a more significant step up is on the way. Here are a few of the pulled strings referring to Source 2.

------------------------------------------------------------------------
def setEngine( self, version=ENGINE.SOURCE ):
'''
Set the engine version for the project, i.e. 'Source 2'
------------------------------------------------------------------------

------------------------------------------------------------------------
Line 1387:
'''Return an str with the current engine version.
If key doesn't doesn't exist, assume 'Source', otherwise invalid -- assume next-gen 'Source 2'.'''
------------------------------------------------------------------------

Exciting stuff. But it wouldn't be a post about Valve and the future without somebody saying something about Half-Life 2: Episode Three. Is the reason that it's taken so long that it's being built in a more advanced engine that will explode our minds when it's finally released? I have no idea. Here are the icons that Valve Time discovered. Look at that high fidelity hammer. Oooo.

PC Gamer
PortalPro

Way back in December 2009, when this humble intern was an even humbler college sophomore with no job who was sinking scores of hours into Dragon Age: Origins, we reported on a guy who goes by DemonStrate beating Portal in a touch over 10 minutes. While that seemed astounding at the time, the record has since been smashed to pieces by SourceRuns, demolishing GLaDOS in just 8:31. That's a good minute and a half faster than DemonStrate, and 53 seconds faster than their own previous record-breaking run. See the video for yourself below.



"To be SDA legal we have done our run without using scripts/cheats/hacks for any portion of the run," the speed demons posted on YouTube. "This run first started after the discovery of a new glitch, which snowballed into a whirlwind of discoveries of new tricks, skips, and glitches. We started running chambers in April, took a brief hiatus, and then resumed work in late June. The bulk of the run was completed in about 2 weeks time."
PC Gamer
Portal 2 Nasa plate


This is a picture of a panel that, on Friday, will be bolted onto the Japanese HTV-3 resupply craft and hurled into space. The craft will ferry supplies to the International Space Station and launch a little bit of Portal 2 into the cosmos. A post on the Portal 2 blog spotted by VG247 mentions that an anonymous NASA tech managed to burn the tiny picture of Wheatley space core onto one of the craft's panels. "Please note that when we mentioned an "anonymous tech at NASA" we weren't kidding: NASA in no way officially endorses secretly laser-engraving characters from Portal onto their spacecraft," say Valve.

On which note, if you happen to be a NASA engineer with access to a laser-engraving machine, and you just happen to accidentally burn the PCG logo onto a panel and then send it into space then I'd like to say that we'd absolutely keep it a secret, and definitely wouldn't post it everywhere on the site and then look at it and burst out cheering every day forever. JUST SAYING.

Now, because space is brilliant, here's a video that Tom spotted over the weekend made up of pictures snapped from the International Space Station in low Earth orbit. Prepare to have the tingly awe receptors in your frontal lobe tickled ... NOW.

View from the ISS at Night from Knate Myers on Vimeo.

Update: Thanks to those who have pointed out that it's the space core. The Internet Error Police will be here shortly to perform a routine disintegration. My last request is for someone to laser-etch "I should have written SPACE COOOORE" onto my tombstone, and then fire it into space.
PC Gamer
Portal 2 lego


Remember the prototype for a Portal 2 Lego set that we mentioned a few weeks back? It was submitted on Lego Cuusoo, a site that hosts idea pitches for future commercial sets. If an idea gains enough followers it's forwarded to a "review stage" where giant Lego men poke it to see if the idea's viable, and then gradually rotate a huge, C shaped fist to deliver a clumsy thumbs-up or thumbs-down on the project.

Portal Lego has now reached that stage! Will it succeed? Who knows. It's impossible to know what's going on behind those fixed ever-smiling faces. It's out of our hands now, but we can still look at pictures of the prototypes, which are probably the cutest thing on the internet right now. Take a look.

UPDATE: Rabbit Island is in fact the cutest thing on the internet right now, but Portal Lego takes a close second place.













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