Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Ultimate Puzzle

I remember the first time I played Portal, I was a sophomore in high school and was having a LAN party with some friends. Before people showed up I decided to play the game that Zach had installed on my laptop last time he was over. I started the game with no idea what it was actually about, at the time not even the name hinted anything to me, I thought it was sort of generic. I had never played any of the Half Life games so not even Aperture Science meant anything to me.

Once the game booted, I choose new game and started the first level of the campaign. You start out in a glass cage with a no door, a strange pod and radio that is playing a speed up version of "Still Alive." I looked around and saw a timer on the wall counting down from a minute, I didn't know what was going on but I just sat there and waited for the timer to run out, and when it did I heard the voice of a robot that will surely go down in history as one of the evilest video game villains of all time, GLaDOS. She started giving her introduction speech and then started counting down from three. Once she reached zero my life would change forever as she opens my first Portal.

The concept was simple, walk through the orange portal, come out the blue portal and vice versa. However, slowly they start introducing new ways of thinking with portals, such as "how a portal affects forward momentum, or to be more precise, how it does not. " Most of the game sort of acts like a tutorial, in fact, if you play the game with commentary (which I recommend everybody does at least once) the developers state that Portal is a test to see if they can teach players how to think in portals, it's like a test within a test! As we all know their experiment was a huge success. Seriously though, have you ever played any other first person puzzle game even remotely similar to Portal?

The concept of Portal still blows my mind, in a mere twenty levels a robotic voice teaches you how to think in what I like to call Portal Logic, how to get from point A to point B in the most ridiculous way possible. By the end of the game, when you see a fifty foot wall, the first thing you look for is a way to launch yourself to the top. Once you really understand the game, you find yourself thinking in portals. I could walk up the stairs, but if I only had a portal gun I could just teleport to the second floor with portals, sadly I actually do think about these sorts of things.

Aside from portals themselves, there is one more element of the game that I love so much, Genetic Lifeform and Disk Operating System or GLaDOS. GLaDOS is to Portal what Hal was to 2001: A Space Odyssey. While at first she is your guide to the game, she quickly becomes the antagonist trying to murder you. The brilliant dialogue of the evil machine sends chills down your spine as you slowly realize she is just leading you to a fiery death. The evil bitch took my best friend away from me! It should have been me who died in the incinerator, you had so much to live for!
At this point you might be wondering why I am writing a video game review on a three and a half year old game. Well with the upcoming release of Portal 2, I want everyone to consider replaying the fascinating game. I want everyone to relive the excitement and frustration. To me Portal is one of those games I think everybody should play at least once, seriously, everybody. Because while it may just be a puzzle video game, it teaches us to think with a new perspective on how we get from point A to point B. Dad, if you are reading this, this suggestion applies to you too, I know video games are not your thing, but if I could ever ask you to try only one video game, my answer would be Portal in a heartbeat.

Lastly, as some of you may have already noticed, for the next 15 days in preparation for the release of Portal 2, I will be posting some of my favorite GLaDOS quotes on my Facebook wall, hopefully reminding people how great the original was and giving it one last go before it is replaced. If you haven't seen some of the awesome new things in Portal 2, check out the links below in which they introduce a few of the new concepts.

Propulsion Gel
Repulsion Gel
Pneumatic Diversity Vent
Aerial Faith Plate
Excursion Funnel
Thermal Discouragement Beam

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Local Area Network

Well hello everyone, it's been a while since my last entry. Not only have I been busy with school, but I also haven't been able to come up with a blog me, I've tried. Since my last post a lot has happened, safeBABI has taken off even more and was even featured at a summit by, hopefully one day something will come of this.

I have also really taken on Starcraft, in fact I even wrote a research paper last semester on how Starcraft can be beneficial in a classroom environment. I have been watching GSL for the last three months, which considering it takes place in Korea it has really screwed up my sleep schedule, luckily on April 11th the North American Star League will start and I can get my daily dose of Starcraft II without staying up past 4 AM every night.

This last weekend I attended MLG Dallas, where I watched the pro players work magic with a keyboard and mouse. Unfortunately the players experienced the one thing that can screw over any player no matter how good they are...LAG!!! While we were at a convention center, a place where you would assume the internet would be able to handle a lot of internet traffic, the Starcraft players were still interrupted the whole weekend with issues from lag spikes to dropped games. But who is to blame, the convention center that is being used to stream live Starcraft, Halo and Call of Duty games to hundreds of thousands of fellow gamers, or Blizzard and their lack of LAN options.

I remember the first time that I played Warcraft III. I was a freshman in High School when one of my friends gave me a cracked version of the game and told me about DoTA. Like I said it was a cracked version so we couldn't play on, instead we used Hamachi to simulate a LAN connection over the internet. I remember lan parties in which we all wired up to the router that was all the way down in my parents room and play DoTA all night. It was also the highlight of many school trips for a while. Unfortunately that means, I am one of the reasons LAN doesn't exist in Starcraft II. Blizzard is afraid to offer LAN because as soon as they do, Starcraft II will become a viable candidate for torrenting, so what do you do?

I understand Blizzard, you run the risk of losing a lot of money if you open up LAN, but there are multiple ways to do it. My proposal is to use an authentication method before you start a LAN connection. Just login to and then allow players to connect to each other. I don't feel like it's that complicated. Either that or just make a private distribution copy to tournament runners that enables LAN.

Like I said Blizzard, I know it's not an easy decision to make but this is the second tournament I have been to where has significantly delayed the events. The first time went down and the second time there was just so much latency issues that players were forced to almost 10 second delays. Hopefully Blizzard gets the message and does something to fix this growing issues, we don't have the luxury of Korea's internet.

I hope to start writing on a consistent basis again. I have been watching the showtime series Californication, the show about a messed up writer, and it has inspired me to start writing again. I do already have my next entry sort of planned out.