Valve

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melatonin
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PostValve
by melatonin » Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:28 am

Okay...

Okay. So a lot of people are sitting around and enjoying Portal 2 right now. Bloody good game from a bloody good developer. And while a few people on here were sort of, kind of, half-aware that a fairly nonsensical promotional campaign has been going on for the past couple of weeks, I feel like it's only now we're actually able to look back on what Valve have been doing since the beginning of the month and start to make some sense of it all. Why should we bother, you ask? Well, read on.

A lot of this is taken from my own experience with the ARG campaign, so there will inevitably be things that I'll miss or forget, but I'll try to summarise it as best as I can. Some people will probably be very familiar with all of this. Some people won't. It's more for the latter group, really.

On April 1st, a 'Potato Sack' bundle of games was released on Steam, containing 13 indie titles on offer at a heavily discounted price for the lot. For the record, the games included:

1...2...3... KICK IT! Drop That Beat Like an Angry Baby
AaAaAA!!! - A Reckless Disregard for Gravity
Amnesia: The Dark Descent
Audiosurf
BIT.TRIP BEAT
Cogs
Defense Grid: The Awakening
Killing Floor
RUSH
Super Meat Boy
The Ball
The Wonderful End of the World
Toki Tori

On the same day, each and every one of these games was also updated with a fairly sizeable patch, with some games receiving an update of at least couple of hundred MB. Obviously, some people were curious enough to wonder what was contained within these patches, and set about looking for the changes.

What began was a hugely intricate two-week Alternate Reality Game, with a range of secrets being unearthed across all the games included in the Potato Sack bundle. These secrets ranged in complexity from hidden glyphs being found in menu screens, right the way through to a set of real world co-ordinates being discovered in Braille within Toki Tori. Upon visiting these co-ordinates (which actually lead to the development studio of the guys behind Toki Tori, Two Tribes Games), one follower of the ARG found actual bags of potatoes hidden around the grounds of the building, which in themselves contained more clues.

This went on and on, with more and more clues being found across all 13 games. At this point, speculation was rife as to what it would all lead up to, with a Half-Life-related announcement not seeming impossible. More updates across all thirteen games followed; more glyphs, more cryptic codes, more hidden images, timestamps, passwords and encrypted files; more Twitter and email updates from the developers themselves, adding to the obscure puzzle being created piece by piece.

Throughout all of this, Portal-related content also started appearing in all of the Potato Sack games. These ranged from a dedicated track using GLaDoS soundbites and companion cubes for Audiosurf...



...to a seven-stage series of 'test' chambers for The Ball, infusing the game's own puzzle mechanics with the style and tone of the Portal universe...



...to a Portal-themed map available to play in Killing Floor.



The content differed in both quantity and quality (the 'Justine' campaign, an hour-long piece of DLC for Amnesia being a particular highlight), but one thing became clear - every single game had been 'infected' by GLaDoS, and finding one clue in one game usually resulted in uncovering something new in another.

And... potatoes. Players began 'earning' them by completing specific in-game tasks, such as dying a certain number of times on a certain level in Super Meat Boy, working through a newly-added command console in Defense Grid, or merely by completing some of the new DLC levels in the Dejobaan games. In total, 35 potatoes were up for grabs, with a 36th 'golden' potato being awarded right at the end.

In amidst all of the clues and cryptic messages, various discoveries pointed towards... something happening on the afternoon of last Friday at 5pm, and I'm sure most of you are aware of what that was - a 'GLaDoS at Home' page was unveiled, tracking the global hours being ploughed into each of the 13 potato sack games by players worldwide. The more people playing, the faster the CPU bars would fill, and crucially, the faster these bars filled, the quicker Portal 2 would be unlocked on Steam. Unfortunately, either due to lack of manpower or bad calculations on Valve's part, even the concerted efforts of those playing the games would only result in Portal 2 unlocking a few hours before it was due to unlock originally, and with absolutely no Half-Life announcements anywhere to be found, some people began to voice their complaints directly at Valve.

Not over, though. As of about an hour ago, all the players who spent the time and effort required to unlock all 36 potatoes throughout the ARG were given two things to compliment their existing TF2 hats and pins - one, a copy of the Valve complete pack, containing a copy of each of the following games:

Condition Zero
Counter-Strike: Source
Day of Defeat
Day of Defeat Source
Deathmatch Classic
Half-Life 1
Half-Life 1: Source
Half-Life: Blue Shift
Half-Life 2
Half-Life 2: Episode 1
Half-Life 2: Episode 2
Left 4 Dead
Left 4 Dead 2
Opposing Force
Portal
Richocet
Team Fortress 2
Team Fortress Classic

And two, a free copy of Portal 2. For those users who already owned some or all of these games (including those who pre-ordered copies of Portal 2), the duplicate copies can be gifted on to another Steam user.

Right.

So let's just recap, shall we.

In the space of nearly three weeks, Valve have:

- Collaborated with the developers of thirteen indie games to update their titles with all the required log-ins, passwords, and other such cryptic material for the Portal 2 ARG, boosting the profile (and undoubtedly, the sales numbers) of these thirteen games substantially in the process.
- Essentially given away a whole host of free updates for these games, which for titles such as Amnesia and The Ball, could easily have held their own as fully-fledged, paid-for downloadable content.
- Set up a countdown clock through which people could essentially collaborate together in order to influence the precise moment Portal 2 would be released.
- Rewarded the most avid followers of all this nonsense with a free copy of every single game they have ever released, including a fully-giftable copy of their new £40 retail title, one which contains a substantial campaign designed to be played co-operatively with a friend.

Can we just take a moment here and appreciate how Valve haven't just raised the bar when it comes to online marketing, inasmuch as they've taken the bar, decided that the bar wasn't really good enough for what they were trying to do, and just given away their brand new strawberry floating video game instead?

Can we do that?
Last edited by melatonin on Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:39 am, edited 1 time in total.
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PostRe: Valve
by Born Stellar » Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:33 am

Wow.
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PostRe: Valve
by Hulohot » Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:35 am

Ah, so that is what it was all about. Thanks for posting, I've been curious.
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Seven
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PostRe: Valve
by Seven » Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:35 am

melatonin wrote:Can we just take a moment here and appreciate how Valve haven't just raised the bar when it comes to online marketing, inasmuch as they've taken the bar, decided that the bar wasn't really good enough for what they were trying to do, and just given away their brand new strawberry floating video game instead?

Can we do that?


No. Until they give me Half Life 2 Episode 3.

Just kidding, it is good on their part to reward these players who have bothered to make all of the effort. Good ol' Valve.
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melatonin
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PostRe: Valve
by melatonin » Wed Apr 20, 2011 2:37 am

Born Stellar wrote:Wow.


Yeah.

It also makes the Steam forums look like a complete and utter embarrassment. Reading stuff like this and this as well as seeing stuff like this on Eurogamer just confirmed what I'd been suspecting for a long time - some, not all, but definitely some, gamers have serious entitlement issues.

But that's for another thread.
Venom wrote:Say what you want but if this Halo TV series is a BIG BUDGET Game of Thrones style series with Spielberg directly producing this could be a Band of Brothers in space.
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PostRe: Valve
by Dark Ritual » Wed Apr 20, 2011 3:01 am

It has been amazing in scale and size. It all just emphasises to me that Valve are a company that genuinely care about their games, their fanbase and the gaming industry as a whole. Easily the world's leading game company at this moment in time.
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Harry Bizzle
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PostRe: Valve
by Harry Bizzle » Wed Apr 20, 2011 4:28 am

Wait, wait, wait.


I thought you said your free copy of Portal 2 wasn't giftable.


The worst part is I've bought it now, so you're going to have to find some other way to make it up to me.



And as regards to your post - you are a crazy person. How long did all that take you? Oh and I've been quite busy. Can I go back and play these things now?
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PostRe: Valve
by Rightey » Wed Apr 20, 2011 5:05 am

That's really amazing I had heard about this whole potato thing but did not know what the end result was.
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PostValve
by Mommy » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:03 am

I played the demo of portal (first one) on steam last night. Very good.
I had portal in the Orange box but didn't give it time.
strawberry float it.
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PostRe: Valve
by Hime » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:39 am

Great post Melatonin. I was actually thinking last night about starting a topic about the 'super devs' of which there are probably only two - Nintendo and Valve.

They really are great, Steam users are accustomed to getting excellent deals and updates but this certainly takes the biscuit. A lot of these viral marketing campaigns turn out to be such a disappointment in the end and although by the sound of things this very nearly was, gifting the entire Valve back catalogue is a wonderful gesture and can only help to improve their already fantastic reputation.
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PostRe: Valve
by Harry Bizzle » Wed Apr 20, 2011 7:52 am

Mommy wrote:I played the demo of portal (first one) on steam last night. Very good.
I had portal in the Orange box but didn't give it time.
strawberry float it.



I think just about everyone has spare giftable copies of Portal 1. You should be able to get one quite easily. Maf was looking for someone to give his to.
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PostRe: Valve
by TheTurnipKing » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:26 am

melatonin wrote:- Rewarded the most avid followers of all this nonsense with a free copy of every single game they have ever released.

In fairness, the people to which they've given a complete bundle are the people most likely to already own everything. And it's non giftable. So it's not exactly much of a risk.

What really impressed me is that Valve didn't just promote it's own title this way, but went so far as to use their pre-release hype to promote a number of indie titles.

Also, didn't this technically all start with the update of the first Portal and it's new ending (the "Party escort submission position")?
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Ord
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PostRe: Valve
by Ord » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:32 am

Valve are awesome and and I thought it was a great campaign (for an awesome game) that helped support some indi developers. The twats that posted their negative reviews in Metacritic because they thought that Portal 2 was going to be released on Friday or there was day one cosmetic only DLC are just tiresome though.
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Cal
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PostRe: Valve
by Cal » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:33 am

Valve definitely deserve some kudos. Very few, if any, game developers or publishers seem to take their world view, which is a pity as more than a few of them could a learn a thing or two from The Valve Way Of Doing Things.

Steam remains, for me at least, the single best way to buy PC games online - and I've tried a few other downloadable services. It's also - consistently - the most price-attractive online games service. The best thing for me about Steam is the way that all your games are kept quietly and efficiently up-to-date. It really is 'the cloud' in evidence.

I'm dithering over getting Portal 2. I do have the original game but I have to admit I've never played it.
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PostRe: Valve
by Harry Bizzle » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:36 am

Play it then. It's only about 3 hours long on a first go, and I guarantee you'll buy 2 straight afterwards.

I was playing a bit of it myself last night and think I'll play the updated ending before I get stuck into 2.
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PostRe: Valve
by Dalagonash » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:37 am

Is the Amnesia 'Justine' DLC still available? I love Amnesia but totally missed all the in game bits to do with the Potato Sack.
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Ord
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PostRe: Valve
by Ord » Wed Apr 20, 2011 8:37 am

Cal wrote:I'm dithering over getting Portal 2. I do have the original game but I have to admit I've never played it.

:shock:
Play the original Cal. It's in my all time top 10 and I personally thought was the jewel in the crown of the Orange Box. It isn't going to take that long to play through (about 3 hours), it's not too difficult, it's stylish and funny as strawberry float! If you like it then you'll love Portal 2.
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PostRe: Valve
by TheTurnipKing » Wed Apr 20, 2011 9:34 am

If you've not played Portal 1, you should absolutely do that first.
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PostRe: Valve
by Mafro » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:33 am

I love Valve, but I wasn't arsed at all about pissing about with potatoes for that ARG stuff.
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PostValve
by Buffalo » Wed Apr 20, 2011 10:35 am

Whilst undeniably impressive, I can't help but wish they spent time working on something else, instead.

You know what game I mean.
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