Last Update: 12/24/08
Portal. Portal. Portal. Sorry, let me pull myself together. So, Portal, right? We're a little obsessed here at Geekanerd, but that's understandable; the game is only a few hours long, so what are you supposed to do with your new found love and devotion once it's over?
Well, scouring the internet for auxiliary fan content and behind-the-scenes info is a good start, and that's exactly what we did. For hours, and hours, and hours. But our psychosis is your gain; we've compiled a selection of the best Portal detritus on the net, starting with this heartwarming fanart by the talented McGibs of deviantART. Aw. That kind of happy can only come from some sort of hallucinatory psychotic episode, but I suppose if you're a test subject in an abandoned laboratory you welcome the relief of insanity.
Descend further into the murky depths of Portal obsession, after the jump....
10/08/08 MILDLY EXCITING HIGHLY PUBLICIZED NEWS: You may have heard of a fan mod with a Valve stamp-of-approval. This is of course Portal: Prelude, and it's available to download now. If I sound less than enthused, it's because my love for Portal was 99.9% about the brilliance of the writing and the eerie thrill of getting to know the environment of the Aperture labs. But I'm downloading the mod as we speak, so expect a review before long.*
*UPDATE: Screw that. I played it for about twenty minutes, and that was enough. The solutions are unsatisfying, and the writing is a poor imitation of the original with bad English-as-a-second-language grammar. If you're hurting for more Portal puzzles without all of that pesky brilliant writing, you might as well download Portal: Still Alive from XBox Live.
07/14/08 MILDLY EXCITING E3 NEWS: A new version of the game for the XBox 360 is due this year, with new levels. You can listen to GLaDOS announce it.
06/10/08 RED HOT NEWS ALERT:
Ooh boy. Grab a napkin, boys and girls, cause this link will make you drool. Kotaku brings us the casting notice for a primary character in PORTAL 2, that's right, the game that Valve has been super tight-lipped about, that they said wouldn't be coming out until 2009. This notice includes a LOT of info about what we can expect from the sequel and one of it's main characters, who is not GLaDOS or Chell. It IS however someone that will ring a bell for crazyfans, but I won't say any more in case you think you can wait a year without getting spoiled about this sort of thing. You're only fooling YOURSELVES, people!
My thoughts on these startling revelations are below, skip over the next three paragraphs if you think you can hold out.
***POTENTIAL SPOILERS FOR PORTAL 2 START***
The character description indicates pretty strongly that the writers be using a similar format to the original; it sounds like Cave Johnson will guide you through the game much like GLAdOS did, as she could also be said to go from "sidekick to principal antagonist". I'd even go so far as to guess that we never see him (he is described as "dead", after all), and our only visual clue is portraits like these throughout the game. The fact that he's dead might be intended as a surprise, but whatever, I knew the ending of Portal Classic before I played it, and that did little to dampen the impact of how it all unfolded.
As the Kotaku article says, this sounds like a prequel. I think that's an excellent way to go about expanding the franchise, since both in-game dialouge and the aforementioned website give a ton of implied history to build on. It does present a possible problem in giving us new features of the Portal Gun, since presumably the model we've played with would be the best of all possible Portal Guns thus far. Maybe we'll see an experimental prototype with features that were later deemed unreasonably dangerous. And will we see a bustling new vision of Apeture labs, with labcoated people milling around? I kind of hope not, but we'll see.
And in all of this excitement, wither GLaDOS? And Chell, for that matter. Maybe we'll see her in the background of Aperture Science at some point, verifying my personal theory that she was a janitor before becoming a test subject. But since Cave is the "principal antagonist", we can assume GLaDOS will be regulated to a secondary role, if not less. I don't know if I can handle that kind of disappointment. But I can't believe the writers could resist the chance to give us a look at GLaDOS in her early stages; as the Aperture website states, she was originally created as an AI unit to run fuel-line de-icers. So depending on how far back in the Portal chronology we are, a glimpse at her first Neruo-Toxin massacre may be too much to ask.
***HERE ENDETH THE SPOILAR***
Anyway, on with the show....
I. THE WEIGHTED COMPANION CUBE
The Weighted Companion Cube has proven to be Portal's breakout star. Here's some fun ways to relive the good times...before all that unpleasantness with the furnace.
- Make the little martyr your desktop wallpaper!
- Create your own with origami!
- Injest it into your body!
- Or just buy one! Valve says WCC toys be available in time for the hollerdays.
Blogger Michael Climek of Foot2Mouth ponders the appeal of the Companion Cube, and pits it against the only competition for most beloved video game inanimate object of all time: The Ocarina of Time.
UPDATE 3/31/08: Those who have a hard time separating their games from reality may not want to look directly at this next photo, which I stress is not Photoshopped...
Canadian street artist Posterchild is responsible for this bit of mind buggery, click the pic for more photos and info.
UPDATE 6/21/08: Lively Ivy, a Portal fangirl after my own heart, has created these smart ready-to-wear WCC earrings. Hit the picture to link back to her site for DIY goodness.
A search for "chell/companion cube slash fic" yields surprisingly few results, but try to console yourself with this fan art by DeviantARTist saejinoh. I particularly like the heartbroken GLaDOS in the upper left hand corner.
And speaking of GLaDOS....
For those of us who came down with a light case of Stockholm's Syndrome for our omnipresent robo-captor, here's the first of three YouTube vids that compile all 25 minutes of GLaDOS' dialogue. At last, no pesky visual stimuli to distract from the enchanting delivery of all those hilarious one-liners about death and torture.
UPDATE 2/07/08: If you're looking for a specific quote, Soundboard.com has put together this handy labeled selection of some of GLaDOS's more choice lines, available for MP3 download and suitable for start-up sounds and answering machine messages. Though they are missing some of my favorite lines such as "Did you just throw that thing-we-don't-know-what-it-does into that Aperture Science Emergency Incinerator Unit?!" I want that as my Empty Recycle Bin Sound.
Ever wonder what those detached pieces of GLaDOS AI are saying before you usher them to a fiery death? As seen in this next video, the Blue Core reels off the ingredients for, guess what, a cake. A cake that includes sediment shaped sediment, fiberglass surface resins, and an adjustable aluminum head positioner.
The Orange Core is apparently responsible for GLaDOS's curiosity AI. As noted by a YouTube commenter, it sounds almost exactly like Gir from Invader Zim, and I half expected it to start singing the Doom Song. Although I'm really glad it didn't.
Here's a compilation of the images that flash on GLaDOS's screen when you finally come face to anthropomorphizied face. The images mostly concern cake, farm animals (an attempt to show her contempt for biological beings, perhaps?), cake paired with a variety of vaguely threatening tools, and a few pictures relating to science - the very first image is the most enegmatic, a group of what look like scientists. I wonder who at Valve was tasked with putting this stuff together, they certainly look like they could be original images.
You can also read a good chunk of GLaDOS' in-game dialogue in Wikiquote's Portal Entry. It's also got transcriptions of the graffiti from the hidden rooms, including those plagiarized poems about the Companion Cube (suitable for away messages and board sigs).
UPDATE 5/31: Ooh, here we go. Don't know how I missed this for so long, but GameFaq contributor Ayelis put together a full game script, which neatly transcribes all the game dialouge in orderly paragraph form.
III. THE MUSIC
The End Credits Song...perhaps the most satisfying moment in the history of video games? If you've played the game, chances are you already downloaded the MP3. The song is by internet superstar recording artist Jonathan Coulton; he's blogged about writing the song for Valve and is even good enough to include the full lyrics and chords.
UPDATE 10/25/07: Okay, the search is over - I just found the best Portal thing on the net. The GLaDOS techno remix. Brilliant. Haunting. Hilarious. The second work of musical genius Portal has inspired. Here's the MP3.
UPDATE 01/18/07: Aussie YouTuber 256byteram sounds a bit embarrassed about his feat of fandom, judging by his video description:"Bah. I liked the terminal theme from Portal so I made it real!" The effect is incredible, despite rough camera work. Note the use of a Commodore 64 Sound Chip. Hard. Core.
UPDATE 3/9/08: Two more exceptional pieces of Portal inspired music:
A voice sample remix in the same class as The Device Has Been Modified, Neurotoxin by Midi the Kid is gobsmackingly entertaining and well-produced. It more or less tells the entire story of Chell and GLaDOS' misadventures, and really captures both the humor and the foreboding atmosphere of the game. Gnerd Editor Albo's personal fave.
There are lots of Still Alive remixes out there, but this one is the best. It's got new vocals, background loops, GLaDOS clips (of course) and it comes with a seal of approval from Jonathan Coulton himself, via his blog.
UPDATE 3/30/08: Jeruselem-based band missFlag offer up a version of Still Alive that departs from the robotic novelty of the original, and instead covers the song as a professionally-produced, alternative rock track.
IV. REACTION and OFFICIAL SITE
Portal is currently rated a mere 90% on Gamerankings, as judged by 21 reviewers who mostly fault it for it's length, or it's lack thereof. However, the Orange Box which Portal is part of is rated at 96%, which means it's the fifth best video game of all time, beaten out by the overrated Zelda: Ocarina of Time, the overhyped Super Mario Galaxy, the bit boring Metroid Prime and... Soul Calibur? Really? On Metacritic it's chalked up a reader review average of 9.7 based on 1195 votes. The most entertaining review comes from Yahtzee of Zero Punctuation, who found himself at a shocking loss for criticism, and colorfully refers to the ending as "balls tighteningly fantastic".
An oldie but a goodie; the Aperture Science Enrichment Center's website. A great viral site that'll be a lot easier to navigate if you remember your old MS DOS commands. You can log in with any name as long as you enter the password as "Portal", but you can get more content, such as a brief history of Aperture Science, by entering some info found within the game - username "cjohnson" and password "tier3". Make sure you apply to be a test subject, so you can fill out a questionnaire that reads like a cross between a job application and a psych profile. Only with more questions about your threshold for pain.
In addition to Aperture Science greeting cards, Valve released this holiday video an Easter egg found in the Aperture Science website. The gangs all here; guest of honor The WWC, a lurking turret droid, the gnome from Half Life 2, Team Fortress 2 ornaments, orange boxes, and stockings bearing the logos of the three Orange Box games. GLaDOS's invite must have gotten forwarded to her spam filter.
Valve didn't seem to anticipate the explosive success of Portal, as they made only one official Portal shirt, which is of course, totally sold out. You can put in a pre-order for when they restock, or you can check out this unofficial The Cake Is A Lie T-Shirt. Or this one. Okay, or THIS one. Jeezy Creezy, how about some originality, people? I know it's hard to avoid copyright infringement, but did everyone just forget that (SPOILER ALERT) there really was a cake? It was deliciously moist.
Update 12/10/07: The Valve Store restocked their ugly portal shirts! And added new, holiday themed Portal crap! This is the best Christmas ever! Details.
Update 12/16/07: A commenter on this post pointed us to some more sweet fan-made Portal shirts based on more obscure quotes from the game. Definitely the best of the unofficial lot.
Update 01/08: Happy New Year! I'm still obsessed with this game! Valve finally got it's ass in gear and has three great looking official Portal shirts on their site. Also, people have been commenting on this post with other good sites for unofficial shirts with a lot more choices.
VI. EVERYTHING ELSE
A few more obscure items before we close... [MORE obscure? -ed.]
Merry Xmas! Some nerds in Denmark decided to have a Portal Night at their local nerd bar....sorry, it's hard to type while I'm opening Orbitz up in the sidebar...
Those drinks are all detailed on the Official Site, but you can probably recognize a few...come on, don't those shot colors look familiar? Doesn't the drink in highball glass look delicious and moist? The others all make total sense once you click on the link, it's all quite brilliant, really.
Any Gun Turret fans out there? This one's for you.
UPDATE 2/28/08: Speaking of those lovable Gun Turrets, reader El Ramos left a comment on this post pointing to a video called A Day In The Life Of A Gun Turret, which offers a sort of The Office-esque take on how the turrets spend their days. I had in fact seen this video when it made the rounds in January, but I admit I left it off this page because I felt it failed to capture the unique character, the soul, if you will, of the turrets it depicts. A month later, I've decided maybe I need to loosen up. Hit the link to check it out in high res on Gametrailers.com.
Honestly though, I feel this drawing by Deviant Artist odaleex has more to say on the subject of what turrets are really all about. Click to check out the full res image on it's original DA page.
Update 6/20/08: Portal and Spore. Two great tastes that go great together. Here's a Turret made with the Creature Creator. Even the personality is right! I hope it's as deadly as it is adorable.
A headshot of Alesia Glidewell, the woman Chell was modeled on. The resemblance is definitely there. Apparently Alesia is a freelance filmmaker. Hey, I'm a freelance filmmaker. Sounds like we'd have a lot in common. Sigh.
A Queer Theory interpretation of Portal. It's provoking it's share of hate from commenters, but if you're like me and have a high tolerance for pseudo-intellectual over-analysis and all things lesbian, this is serious paydirt. UPDATE: Here's an even more self-serious interpretation, one that makes some interesting points about those springs Chell wears. UPDATE 2/22/08: Wow, another well thought out reading of the game, this time focusing on the role of GLaDOS as a sort of corruption of the ideal mother figure. UPDATE 4/7/08: Game-ism.com analyzises GLaDOS with the thesis that she's a prisoner as much as Chell, and her goal is freedom either via death or the destruction of Aperature labs. While I personally don't find that this interpretation rings true (my own theories on the importance of GLaDOS's motivations can be found at this Escapist Forum), it's a good exploration of the character and the post is making major waves on Digg, possibly in part because of a bondage-tastic picture of GLaDOS as a human (semi-SFW).
And to top off this Geekåsbord of Portal content, here in it's embarrassing entirety is the actual fan e-mail Geekanerd editor Albo sent to Gabe Newell, co-founder and managing director of game development at Valve:
Subject: Portal Appreciation Letter
Date: October 19, 2007 4:41:43 PM EDT
I just finished playing Portal through for the second time in as many days, and wanted to let you know how much I appreciate the amount of careful thought you and everyone involved put into making such a solid, unforgettable game. The last stretch where the shiny surface of the game world begins to crack and fall apart instantly became on of the most memorable gaming experiences I've ever had. It gave the feeling of breaking completely out of the game, not to a new level or even a new game but to a completely new experience, a new level of understanding. Like if I was playing Tetris on my Game Boy and suddenly I realized my thumbs weren't controlling the falling blocks, my MIND was controlling the falling blocks and the falling blocks were controlling my thumbs. I believe they call it a paradigm shift. It was refreshing to play a game that was crafted with so much care. The writing and voice acting, two things that many game developers seem to treat as an afterthought, were among the best I can recall. And ending with a song! After the game is over and you've already won us over and you wouldn't be thought less of if you just rolled the credits and cut to black, you hit us with a song! And not just some throwaway ditty, but a legitimately great tune. For the first time in a while I felt appreciated and respected as a gamer. So thank you for that.