Valve wins the internet, and my heart

So a couple days ago, Valve’s brilliant game Portal got an update. In this update was…stuff. A lot of very cool, but very techie-codie stuff that I can’t explain nearly as well as this article can.

Is that amazing? Or is it…the most amazing thing ever? I love Valve, and I love Portal, and this is exactly the kind of thing that vindicates that love. (So is every time I boot up the computer to progress a little farther in Half-Life. Speaking of which, new post with LP:HL updates is coming shortly!)

Here’s the real kicker though: in another update that just happened today, Valve actually changed the ending of Portal. Not a LOT, mind you, but enough to make everyone sit up and pay attention. Here’s the new ending:

(For those of you unfamiliar, in the original ending, Chell–the main character–simply blacks out. She is not carried away as she is here.)

Boy oh boy does this beg some questions. Now, I’m at a distinct disadvantage here, because as I understand it, Portal takes place in the Half-Life universe (or more specifically, the Half-Life universe…which is the same, but not…? Something like that?) Now, as you know if you keep up with my Let’s Play of the game, I have only just started playing Half-Life for the first time, and have yet to touch (or be super-spoiled on, and I’d like to keep it that way) Half-Life 2 and its Episodes. Therefore, I’m afraid I can’t offer much insight as to how these events might connect. The best I can do is offer that the person/thing dragging Chell away does not sound human. I mean, we already know that GLaDOS is still alive, and while this thing was obviously not HER, she did have many mechanical allies (the turrets, for example) who spoke. Perhaps this thing is some heretofore unseen servant of hers.

Some people were saying the messages in the game have to do with Episode 3, but I think iuts pretty clear from the changed ending that this is instead pointing towards Portal 2. (Which is just fine by me–I know most of y’all have been waiting forever for Ep 3, but I’m barely halfway–if that–through the original game! I can wait. Portal I’ve played and can’t wait to see the next chapter of!) In some ways, this is very, VERY exciting. But in others….well, I just hope this sequel doesn’t fall prey to BioShock 2 syndrome. (That is, more of the same, pretty damn awesome stuff, which is cheapened and made less special because it is…more of the same, though awesome, stuff.) On the other hand, they can’t change it too MUCH, or it won’t be Portal.

Still, I love and trust Valve. If there’s any company on the planet that’s earned benefit of the doubt on something like this, it’s them. Based on what I’ve heard of HL2, these guys clearly know how to make a sequel that keeps the spirit and good parts of the original while still producing something fresh and new. That will be VITAL here. But I think they can deliver.

I think the most delicate issue (aside from simply the gameplay itself obviously) is how to reintroduce GLaDOS. We already know she’s still out there–Valve made that crystal clear from the closing credits. And, like SHODAN before her, this rouge AI more than has the character to carry another game. But it will be different. She’ll have to be evil from the start, this time–we already know she’s the bad guy. None of the hilarious, faux-helpful, passive-aggressive guidance this time. The mask has been stripped and all bets are off. Does this mean they won’t be able to give her great lines, and that Ellen McLain (who they’d BETTER get back as her voice, by the way) won’t deliver them perfectly? Of course not. But our relationship with GLaDOS has changed. We can never have that beautiful, brilliant moment where we realize that, far from guiding us, she is trying to kill us. (When was that moment for you, by the way? Did you get the hint during the “military android obstacle course”? When she made you incinerate…*sniffle*…Companion Cube? Or did you not get the picture until she literally tried to fry you?) Is this necessarily a bad thing? No, of course not. I’m just…nervous. In spite of my faith in Valve (and it IS strong!) I’m nervous because my expectations for this are far, far higher than they would usually be. How could it be any other way, for a sequel for a game this good (and innovative), and from a team this brilliant and with this kind of track record?

Well. No matter what happens, I’ll be camping Steam the day of release, waiting for that preorder to start downloading. And I’ll be wearing my official shirt for just such occasions, too. 😉

EDIT: I should also add that I have duty–yes, again–this weekend, so no updates until after then. Expect a LP”HL double entry and a Doom 3 entry Monday-Tuesdayish.

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2 responses to “Valve wins the internet, and my heart

  1. Portal 2 has been confirmed!

    Game Informer has a big article in their April issue (I won’t spoil it for you, but there are scans floating around the webbernets). It sounds… really ambitious. Valve has a thing for pulling off really, really ambitious things, and this looks to be no exception.

    There are two quotes from the game, and both made me crack up; and three separate things (including one screenshot) that made me go “whoa!”

    So I’m cautiously optimistic.

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