portalIn 2007, Valve galvanized the gaming industry when it released the video game Portal. Although ostensibly a first-person shooter built upon Valve’s Source engine, the game’s quirky puzzles, catchy soundtrack, and unreliable narrator GLaDOS quickly captured the hearts and minds of gamers.  Yesterday, Rock Paper Shotgun reported that Valve Software released a special update for Portal, noting that it “[c]hanged radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations.”  The seemingly innocuous update inserted a series of secret messages into the game that have led Valve fans on a merry chase for what may be the launch of an alternate reality game.

As the update’s description suggested, Portal’s radio service has received an upgrade.  Players can now carry the device around the game’s levels, using it as a portable receiver to detect morse code and Slow Scan Television transmissions at specific locations to transmit 26 messages and images, collected here.  One of these images contained the phone number for a BBS located in Kirkland, Washington.  By inputting a username and password provided in one of the morse code transmissions, players gained access to the backup system for GLaDOS v.3.11, the game’s artificial intelligence system. 

The GLaDOS backup system is used to archive a collection of Portal-related ASCII art, along with additional content, including the following cryptic message from Cave Johnson, the founder of Aperture Science and developer of the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device:

…and do not talk to me about casualty rates. The bean counters told me I couldn’t fire a man for bein in a wheelchair. Did it anyway! Ramps are expensive. Or when they said I couldn’t practice beekeeping in the office. They should have told that to the honey that won first place in the state finals!

Hell, they even said I couldn’t cheat death. You know where I’d be if I followed the rules? Dead! Dead, and prize-less!

Speculation and analysis is flying fast and furious in discussions at the Steam forums, the SomethingAwful forums, NeoGAF, and Unfiction. Does this new content mean Valve will be releasing Half-Life 3 or Portal 2 in the near future? Will Valve co-founder Gabe Newell have an announcement when he accepts the Game Developer’s Choice Pioneer Award at GDC on March 11th? And will there be cake?

Click Here for a guide on locating the 26 transmissions and unlocking the “Transmission Received” Achievement.
Click Here for video streams of the Valve BBS.