"Changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations."

This is so awesome.

Valve updates Portal with secret radio broadcast images

At first glance, the new radios appeared to be the same that otherwise normally existed inside the game, which simply chirped out a samba version of the game's iconic end-theme song. Only later was it discovered that these new radios each contain a hidden audio file that's transmitted when you carry them to one particular point in each of the game's levels.

Thanks to the Steam forum's overeager detectives, we've already learned that the most perplexing of these pirate transmissions are in fact SSTV encoded photographs -- the same used by shortwave operators to transmit images over the air.

The volume of posts on the Steam and SA forums is enormous. It's hard to keep up.

I just hope this means there will be a Portal sequel. Half-Life 2 didn't keep my interest, but Portal is one of the best games I've ever played.


Update: OMG:

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53 Responses:

  1. nmiell says:

    They already did a casting call for the voice actor playing GLaDOS's replacement, so Portal 2 is certain at this point.

    Also, how are you playing Portal? Your dislike of Microsoft rules out both the Windows and Xbox 360 versions, which leaves the terrible PS3 port and that makes me sad.

    • nmiell says:

      Wait, I'm an idiot -- there's always Wine.

    • jwz says:

      PS3. I saw nothing terrible about it.

      I only ever play games on consoles, not computers, because I just want an appliance that works, not some software ecosystem that I am required to sysadmin and tweak constantly. when it comes to games, any setup more complicated than "power button" is a deal breaker.

      And in re Xbox, you are correct: sewer rat may taste like pumpkin pie, but I'll never know.

      • lloydwood says:

        How's that clock issue working out for you?

      • vordark says:

        I only ever play games on consoles, not computers, because I just want an appliance that works, not some software ecosystem that I am required to sysadmin and tweak constantly. when it comes to games, any setup more complicated than "power button" is a deal breaker.

        Testify! Having not once in the past year or so had to upgrade a video driver or worry about what version of a library I had in order to play a game has been most joyous.

        • lionsphil says:

          I'm pretty sure that the copy-protection involved in PC gaming these days would actually trump even that (and I say this as someone who's gaming PC was out of action for over six months from what turned out to be an incompatability between nVidia's drivers and PS/2 mice—seriously). If you'll excuse a slightly extreme but nontheless real example, a singleplayer game which constantly reauthenticates online and quits if it can't, losing your unsaved progress. (Oh, and the only "new" part of this is that it's singleplayer. EA and Steam have been doing this kind of thing in multiplayer for ages—publishers know how to slippery-slope this stuff into becoming accepted.)

          So, yeah, Microsoft aside, I'm pretty sure jwz made entirely the right decision, because I dread to think where his computer-drama powers would otherwise end him up.

          • vordark says:

            I don't care about copy protection because I don't steal other people's work, and have never had a problem with a game thinking I stole it when I didn't.

            What I do care about is that I can walk down to EB Games, buy a game, and be playing it within ten minutes of getting home even if I don't have Foo version of Bar library.

            • lionsphil says:

              Way to read the article, dude.

              • vordark says:

                I read the article before I posted my comment. To re-iterate, with added emphasis exclusively for your benefit:

                I don't care about copy protection because I don't steal other people's work, and have never had a problem with a game thinking I stole it when I didn't.

      • miguelitosd says:

        Not to mention... comfy chair in living room, big screen TV, high end surround sound system.

        Well, can do the PC that way too, but nowhere near as easily. Or if you just put in the $ in the "other" room where your PC is, you're spending that much more.

        As a sysadmin/computer geek, I used to love PC gaming and such. Eventually I realized how much time I was wasting dealing with all that crap when I wanted to just play a game. I'm completely on the games == consoles side now. Well, other then the occasional nostalgic reply of older games in dosbox or something.

    • lionsphil says:

      GLaDOS'...replacement?

      Nonetheless, I am seriously impressed in how thorough Valve were in their retroness. BBS? Ye gods.

  2. cow says:

    A series of shortwave radio images, sorted in sequence, revealed the MD5 sum of a BBS phone number, which then dumped ASCII art which...nobody knows what yet.

    Seriously, if aliens ever contact us, the internet will have it worked out and replied to in about three hours fast. Amazing.

  3. jwz says:

    I haven't seen an example of this, but a commenter on Metafilter said:

      Yeah. Reading through the forums, there are a lot of people who are using Wikipedia to figure out what BBSs are, and discussing the need for "some kind of special hardware modem" to access these things that are "sort of like message board except you have to dial into them on the telephone line".

    Which is just beautiful and I dearly want it to be true and not merely snark.

  4. pawliger says:

    http://www.macnn.com/articles/10/03/03/teaser.hints.at.portal.team.fortress.2 possible Mac versions of games, including references to some of the hidden images.

  5. lionsphil says:

    Another update, another video.

    I'm curious—does the PS3 version have any way to update itself like this? I'm assuming you don't get Steam on consoles.

    • jwz says:

      Yes, PS3 downloads patches for games all the time, even games that originated on DVD. I'm not sure of the exact mechanism (maybe it applies patches at launch, or maybe the whole game really lives on the HD and the DVD is just a security dongle).

      I have not checked to see if this patch came out for the PS3 version, though.