Venerable game developer, publisher and distributor Valve Software introduced their new Steam Controller yesterday, and the shrill whistle of those blowing their stacks was deafening. People were pretty steamed, if you will. Gamers were taken aback by the design of the controller, which eschews traditional user interfaces such as analog joysticks or a pressable D-pad with two round, flat trackpads. Players use their thumbs on the surface of the pads, which also serve as buttons since they are clickable. Valve promises the high-resolution trackpads give players a much higher degree of control over previous methods. Haptic feedback and a large touchscreen are also thrown into the design for good measure.
Gamer response was quick and furious. It reminded me of another unique control scheme that was met by derision from gamers back in the day…
A little game called Portal 2 released yesterday, by some company called Valve. I guess it’s big news to people.
And it should be. It is the sequel to Portal, released for the PC in 2007, and a scant 3 years later on the Mac. It was added, as what some might have assumed as an afterthought at the time, to the Orange Box bundle. This box contained Half-Life 2, the HL2 add-on packs EpisodeOne and Two, and the perennial team-based shooter Team Fortress 2. It’s safe to say that the Orange Box will be entered into the pantheon of gaming history as one of the greatest bundles ever sold.
One of the greatest compilation boxes ever sold
Portal came from humble beginnings. It all started with Narbacular Drop, a senior thesis project by a team of students at DigiPen Institute of Technology, the most august of video game design schools. ND stars Princess “No-Knees”, cursed with the inability to jump and kidnapped and held prisoner by a demon in his dungeon. Turns out, however, that the dungeon is a sentient entity called Wally, and will allow the princess to form two holes, of differing colours, on any natural surface, which are then linked, allowing the princess to enter one and exit the other.
The DigiPen team operated under the moniker Nuclear Monkey Software, and at one Career Day at DigiPen some Valve people saw Narbacular Drop and requested a demonstration back at their headquarters. The team eventually was hired by Valve to professionalize the game, and the result was Portal, one of the most beloved video games of all time.
Here is a video of game play from Narbacular Drop: