The Portal Radio Update Explained

March 4, 2010 | 08:26

Tags: #achievement #aperture #arg #episode-3 #marketing #mystery #portal #radio #secret #update

Companies: #steam #valve

Deeper Down The Rabbit Hole

These images in particular are causing some hot debate. This is largely because they resemble an enemy that was removed from Half Life 2 called the Super Soldier which could be a hint that it is getting reinstated in a Portal sequel or possibly Half Life 2: Episode 3.

It’s not worth getting too excited about that rumour just yet though, as it’s also hypothesised that the image is an ASCII-art version of a pair of chicken skeletons. Either way, Valve is staffed by some strange people.

Even that isn’t the end of the puzzle though, as Steam forum goers then took the number sequences from the decoded images and ran them through an MD5 translator. The result was an apparent telephone number from the Kirkland, Washington area – which is close to where Valve is headquartered. Other fragments were unscrambled too – the first .WAV file in the sequence turned out to give a sequence of beeps and blips that were revealed to be morse code, for example. The morse code spelled out “LOL”.

*The Portal Radio Update Explained Down The Rabbit Hole
Click to enlarge this information taken from the Aperture BBS

However, the landline turned out not to be a telephone or landline number at all. It was a data line for an old BBS board. A username and password was figured out by referring back to the cryptic images deciphered using the SSTV and, low and behold, access was granted to an Aperture Science bulletin board. It’s filled with a lot of red herrings and nonsense in the form of yet more ASCII art and notes, but did you honestly expect the staff at Aperture Science to be completely sane people?

Here’s an excerpt, for those of you who are having trouble reading the blurred fonts of the ASCII images. It’s supposedly penned by Aperture Science founder CJohnson and it’s copied verbatim, spelling mistakes and all.

Aperture Science is built on three pillars. Pillar one: Science without results is just witchcraft. Pillar two: Get results or you're fired. Pillar three: if you suspect a coworker of bin' a witch, report them immediately. I cannot stress that enough. Witchcraft will not be tolerated.

"Science isn't about why, it's about why not. You ask: Why is so much of our science dangerous? I say: Why not marry safe science if you love it so much. In fact, why not invent a special safety door that won't hit you in the butt on the way out, because you are fired."

"Plus, in the event of your death, I personally guarantee that, thanks to the form you were required to sign this morning, your family will not suffer the indignities of a prolonged and costly legal battle against Aperture Science. Trust me, I am rich, and it is a burden I would not wish on anyone."

Portal's new, extended finale

One piece of the ASCII artwork that's particularly intriguing is a depiction of a sterile looking room that fits the Portal aesthetic and which some hope is an obscured screenshot from sequel to Portal, which is one of the things this viral ARG could be building towards. If it’s building to anything at all.

There’s the rub, naturally. There’s nothing to indicate that Valve is doing all this for any particular reason – it could just be a perverse bit of tomfoolery that means absolutely nothing. It wouldn’t be the first time the company has delighted in playing with it’s audience. Long-time Valve fans will remember the similar ‘First and Second Test’, which hid concept art from HL2 on Valve’s official site.

There’s still a lot of discussion going on about this latest little ARG, with the Steam forums still ablaze with discussion about what’s going on. The hardest part of all this is simply keeping track of all the information and learning to pool it all somewhere where fans can debate it. It why collected charts like these are so useful, as well as the Half-Life 2 wikia. Without them fans have been slow to pick up on some hints and updates - such as the new Portal ending, embedded above, which lengthens the finale by about 15 seconds and was added in a second update.

Right now, it seems as if all the actual data and content has been uncovered by Valve’s industrious (and scarily intelligent) fanbase - though all that could change at any moment, if Valve drops another mystery patch. All that’s going on now is a debate of what it all means, with Valve proving as recalcitrant as you’d expect and refusing to offer any clues. All that has been offered is the advice to "look under the elephant green", with fans debating whether that's an anagram of "the green panel" or guidance enough to investigate Kirkland's town hall in real life. Apparently that's where the BBS line is located and, viewed from above, the building looks like an elephant - leading some hardcore devotees to wonder if excavation of the nearby gardens is called for.

It’s still unclear whether this is a covert announcement for Portal 2, whether a new map pack or something is on the way or whether it's linked to the hinted-to announcement that Steam is coming to Macs.

The only thing that we are clear on is: this is a triumph.
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