In 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.