PC Gamer
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
Aperture Tag for Portal 2

Without his gravity gun, Gordon Freeman is just another geek. Without his grappling hook, Rico Rodriguez is just another agent. And, without her portal gun, Chell is just... fine? As it turns out, removing the portal gun from Portal 2 isn't that much of a detriment, provided you replace it with a gun that shoots endless streams of science gel. That's what the Aperture Tag mod plans to do, and now you can get a little preview of how it'll work.

Typically I don't write about mods I haven't personally played, but in this case I have little choice: the Aperture Tag mod hasn't been released as it is currently attempting to get onto Steam Greenlight. Luckily, though, we can cobble together all the test maps and concept proofs into a little Aperture Tag campaign of our own. Here's the Steam Workshop collection page: just subscribe to all five items, and start splashing the walls.

Why is it so enjoyable sending goo through a light-tube?

What's it like playing Portal without portals? Just fine. It honestly doesn't feel that different than playing Portal with portals. You're still flinging yourself through a 3D puzzle while trying to avoid plunging into poisonous floor-water. This time, instead of a portal gun, you've got a paint gun, capable of squirting repulsion gel or propulsion gel to bounce you higher or speed you faster. No portals? No biggie. It seems like you'd miss them, but you really don't.

Now you're thinking with glop.

Having a portable paint gun in your hands makes gel feel a lot more like a dynamic and useful tool, too. Typically, in the vanilla game, you slathered gels here or there using a combination of leaking pipes, gushing nozzles, and some well placed portals, and then ran through the chamber. If you didn't smear the right spots with the right gel, you'd make a couple adjustments with your paint, and try again. Gels, really, were part of the planning phase of solving a chamber, not something you used reflexively or on the fly.

I feel for the pour soul who is gonna have to hose this place down when I'm finished.

With the paint gun, though, that changes. As with portals, you might suddenly realize you need one when, say, you're plummeting toward a wall or the ground after a faith plate launches you in a direction you didn't expect or a bounce vaults you over the surface you were planning to land on. Being able to dispense a dollop of goo while hurtling through the air makes the gels a lot more fun and exciting. Not to mention, the added enjoyment of being able to slather an entire room like you're wielding a gooey machine gun. It may not lead to the chamber's solution, but it's still viscerally satisfying to make a big dumb mess.


The test chambers available start off simply: a few proof of concept puzzles that mostly involve bouncy gel to launch you onto taller and taller objects. But even in the small sample available to us, puzzles get more and more complex, involving lasers, mirror cubes, faith plates, poison floors, and even some turrets. Of course, now that you can spray turrets with bouncy gel at will and from any distance, they've lost some of their adorable menace.

Bounce, my pretties! Bounce for me!

The mod, when fully released, promises 26 levels to solve with splatter, as well as a new personality core with custom voice work, who you can hear in the trailer on the Greenlight page. I'm not sure what the new core's name is, but my guess is "X-Games Snowboarding Announcer." (As far voice work in these demo levels go, there's only a couple of Cave Johnson clips.) Speaking of the trailer, you can play through the exact map that's showcased.

The reflexive "OH CRAP NEED PORTAL" plunge, but with bloo goo.

Will it really be fun to play through a massive amount of Portal levels without a portal gun? If the chambers are creative enough, I think it could be. I had a good time with the few maps available, and I'm definitely looking forward to seeing more.

Installation: Subscribe to the demo levels here on Steam. You can vote for the mod on Greenlight here. And it's got a moddb page as well.
PC Gamer
Portal 2 Aperture Tag mod

When billionaire bro Cave Johnson turned his vision away from the exciting world of shower curtains to tossing money at a bunch of science stuff, what if paint guns instead of portals were the result? That's the setting for Aperture Tag: The Paint Gun Testing Initiative, a fledgling Portal 2 mod boasting 26 new puzzle floors designed for no portals whatsoever. Instead, we'll sail through that exit door by laying down carpets and dollops of the much-adored red and blue paint for speedy acceleration and longer airtime.

Creator Motanum says Aperture Tag is inspired by Tag: The Power of Paint, the 2009 DigiPen student project which influenced Portal 2's gel mechanics and puzzles. So far, a sample map from the trailer below is playable for a taste of just how fun splashing every surface imaginable with a paint gun can be. Montanum is still debating whether or not to charge for the full mod (as coverage for Havok physics engine licensing fees), but he plans for a full release this summer.

The map design looks great, and the puzzles seem challenging. More importantly, why did it take so long for us to finally get a paint playground? You can give Aperture Tag a thumbs-up on its Greenlight page, which also houses a FAQ from Motanum with more info. Thanks, Kotaku.

PC Gamer
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.


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

At this year's Consumer Electronics Show, Valve's Steam Machines are king. The Half-Life developer and Steam creator held a press conference that that everyone wanted to attend, but flipped the script when it devoted the majority of the event to its hardware partners. But even though Gabe Newell gave the briefest of briefs, some Valve-only content was still available: The company's press area included six Steam Machine prototype stations, giving the press a chance to try some popular games with the fabled Steam Controller.

For me, this was a first chance to test how Valve's haptic-powered trackpads hold up in first-person games such as Metro: Last Light and Portal 2. I came away interested in the technology, but not impressed enough to be completely sold on the concept.

The controllers on display were hooked up to 40" televisions through prototype Steam Machine hardware ostensibly the same boxes sent to beta testers late last year. Each test station had a comfortable couch to sit on, emulating a best-case living room gaming setup. Eagerly, I sat down at a station and started playing Metro: Last Light, sliding my thumbs along the controller's rigid trackpads to move and look. The Steam Controller prototype this isn't final hardware by any means uses its haptic feedback capabilities to vibrate under your thumb as you slide across its trackpads. It's an odd sensation: I was acutely aware of each move or twitch I made on the controller's surface, but I'm not sure what it added to the tactile experience.

The trackpads were also incredibly sensitive, at least on the default settings. This isn't necessarily bad: many gamers crank their mouse sensitivity in order to maximize movement. On first picking up the controller, however, it was extremely surprising. I've played shooters on a dual analog joystick setup before, and am used to a decided lack of quickness available the aiming stick will often glide along slowly, and in many cases, a game will throw in some aiming assistance to compensate. There was none of that with the Steam Controller, which means you're getting a purer experience. But it was initially much harder to aim than I'd hoped, and I never quite adapted to the accelerated aiming in my 10 minutes of playtime.

Clicking the dual trackpad controls was also incredibly easy, sometimes to my detriment. I'd crouch when I wasn't expecting to, because the clickiness of the left trackpad was much easier than I'm used to on a thumbstick. I'd like to think that's something to which one can adapt with enough time.

As far as additional buttons, the Steam Controller has plenty for a standard shooter setup. Two sets of triggers on the shoulders could aim and fire, and the buttons on the underside of the controller were responsive and didn't get in the way. The face buttons were easy to reach, though the non-standard setup meant I had to think more about what buttons I wanted to push. Configuring the buttons seemed easy, with a built-in interface that lets you change buttons on the fly.

Games such as Metro: Last Light and Portal 2 make intuitive sense on the Steam Controller, while my limited experience with Starbound proved to be slightly more frustrating, as Evan predicted in his editorial last week. The trackpads' sensitivity didn't lend itself to movement on a 2D plane, though this could be because Starbound isn't quite optimized in its controls the game is Early Access, after all. The ultimate test for Steam Controller, in my opinion, will be games with independent camera and character movement, like Dota 2. Sadly, I didn't get to play one.

I definitely want Steam Controller to succeed I love the idea of a new controller standard, although it would need to live alongside keyboard and mouse controls for other PC functions. And I'm hopeful after an admittedly short playtime with a Steam Controller prototype that such a device could be fantastic. But I need more time to evaluate if such a controller can be viable, and I'd need to see if it really is possible to adapt to such aggressive sensitivity controls.

It doesn't seem like Valve will divulge any release dates or pricing at this year's event--either for the controller or any of the Steam Machines--but I'm confident that Valve's device could be a significantly better experience than existing controllers.
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We’ve heard tell of the Steam controller‘s ins and outs (and ups and downs and lefts and rights and Bs and As and starts) from many a developer, but still skepticism reigns. And with good reason: Valve’s haptics-powered Franken-pad is kinda bonkers. But now, at the very least, we can see – with eyes or echolocation – how it functions moment-to-moment. Go below to see it power through Portal 2, Civilization V, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive, and Papers Please.


PC Gamer
steam portal 2

Valve's Steam Controller is a funny-looking thing—an owl-like game pad with dual trackpads instead of analog sticks. It pairs with Valve's free SteamOS and whatever living room PC it's installed on as a solution to the clumsiness of using a mouse and keyboard on the couch. In a new video demonstration, Valve does its best to convince us that Steam Controller really offers a level of control comparable to our traditional instruments of gaming.

First we see Portal 2, which demonstrates that—unlike analog sticks—the trackpads can be configured for 1-to-1 control. "Directly move your thumb a fixed amount of distance on the pad, and the view will correspond to the fixed amount of distance," says Hardware Engineer Jeff Bellinghausen. Meanwhile, he says, the left trackpad has been configured as a D-pad to simulate WASD.

Later in the video, Bellinghausen plays Counter-Strike: Global Offensive with great accuracy, though his aiming looks a bit slower than it might have been with a mouse—obviously, we'd need to see a comparison video of him playing with a mouse to know for sure. Civilization V and Papers, Please also demonstrate how accurate the trackpad is for mouse-based games.

It looks like it works—not just like a mouse, but like something more accurate and responsive than analog sticks. Trying to move a mouse pointer around with velocity-based control is miserable, and this doesn't look miserable. Seeing isn't believing—we need to feel this thing in our hands to judge it—but it does build confidence, and Valve will be posting updates like this "frequently."

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