Portal ARG – What We Know So Far

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Matlock

Genius. That’s the single word I can use to sum up the latest bit of hype-generating from Valve. Employing the model of Alternate Reality Gaming, they mysteriously updated Portal with all manner of digital clues, as seen in our previous post.

The internet collective have proven their mental fortitude, cracking each successive clue like some sort of hive mind. Hit the jump to see what’s been discovered so far.

Of the 28 new sound recordings found in the patch, 4 were easily identifiable as morse code, which once deciphered could be read as :

1. interior transmission active external data line active message digest active
5. 9e107d9d372bb6821bd91d3542a419d6
12. system data dump active user backup active password backup active
17. beep beeeep beep beep beeeep beeeep beeeep beep beeeep beep beep

Audio file 5 is an Md5 checksum for “The quick brown fox jumps over the lazy dog,” while 17 is once again morse code – for “LOL.” Bastards.

The rest of the audio files, when run through a SSTV program resulted in the following images, showing all manner of apparent security stills from Aperture Science, where the first Portal game took place. In these stills were numerous numbers on chalkboards and whiteboards, as well as equations and formulas – putting the internet in to a puzzle solving frenzy.

SSTVScans

Click to enlarge

Using bits if their brains that I’m not certain I possess, they compiled the string “9459C6CAC8C203B8128B7CC63068D4FD” from the above images. They then decoded this string and found it to be a BBS number. If you’re too young or not geeky enough to remember, BBS’ or bulleting Board Systems were a sort of antiquated internet, that users had to dial in to, allowing them to trade files and read messages.

This is  a compilation of what they found on the BBS – a host of Ascii art and text files that are as confusing as they are revealing.

BBSFiles

Click to enlarge

Included is some interesting information from Cave Johnson, the -  apparently now deceased – founder of Aperture Science.

"…remind you that 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."

"A lot of you have been raising concerns about the so-called "dangers" of what we’re all doing here. The beancounters told me to tell you that as of today, testing will no longer be as mandatory or as dangerous. That’s not gonna happen and here’s the reason."

"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."

There are also a few sly references to “friends at Black Mesa,” fuelling the Half-Life episode 3 rumours a little – although there are a few teasers about the possibility of a hybrid game. Maybe Gordon Freeman meets up with Chell, the protagonist from Portal?

A few other astute forumgoers believe that the version of GlaDOS referenced in the BBS files – 3.11 – points to the date March 11 – interesting because it’s the day that Valve founder Gabe Newell will receive his Pioneer Award at this year’s Game Developers Conference Awards.

Incredible, incredible stuff Valve.

Sources : Steam forums, Something Awful, FacePunch

Last Updated: March 3, 2010

Geoffrey Tim

Editor. I'm old, grumpy and more than just a little cynical. One day, I found myself in possession of a NES, and a copy of Super Mario Bros 3. It was that game that made me realise that games were more than just toys to idly while away time - they were capable of being masterpieces. I'm here now, looking for more of those masterpieces.

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