Portal 2 map editor finally supports co-op

The Portal 2 Perpetual Testing Initiative

After gently inquiring about our health with a fixed, unsettling stare, the sociopaths of Aperture Science have announced that Portal 2 Perpetual Testing Initiative will sacrifice you and a friend to science — together.  For as of today, Valve’s map-making software will support co-op maps, and there’s a 75-percent discount on second copies of Portal 2 that you might tempt your friends into their fiendish traps. 

Portal 2 has supported user-created mods ever since Valve released the Perpetual Testing Initiative, the appropriately wry name for its elegant map editor. Although the editor had plenty of features to showcase budding level designers, including a place on the Steam Workshop where Valve could turn a spotlight on the best user-created content, the one thing it didn’t support was the creation of co-op maps. This was a pretty big omission, considering that the co-op content in Portal 2 impressed some reviewers more than the main campaign.

Of course, the absence of official support for co-op didn’t mean that user-created maps would be doomed to a life of solitude and onanism. The mod community always regards limitations as dares, and as soon as the map editor was in their hands, the freelance boffins of the gaming community marshaled their typical combination of ingenuity and lawlessness, producing tons of co-op maps that could only circulate underground. Valve, equally typically,quietly but firmly supported this misuse of their software, providing a list of co-op implementation commands that let modders build settlements in the spaces between level end rooms where co-op could thrive. But while Valve was willing to offer programming tips, the Steam Workshop remained closed to co-op until now.

So while this isn’t the first time dedicated hackers could put their friends through collective torture, it’s a nice coming-out party for the co-op map community, which now enjoys official status. Thinking With Portals, the largest Portal 2 mapping community, summarized the announcement not by noting what could be built in the editor, but as “Steam Workshop Now Accepting Coop Maps.”

It’s been a good summer for modders, as the ARMA mod DayZ has become the hottest thing on the Internet, vastly surpassing the popularity of the program it’s modding (while driving up the ARMA’s sales by 500 percent). Other games, though, are fleeing the mod community, most notably Battlefield 3. Battlefield 2 shipped to the PC with very popular modding tools, but Karl Troedsson, general manager of DICE, explained to the assembled throngs of the European Game Developers Conference that those tools were left out of Battlefield 3 out of a fear that giving players mod access could result in a deluge of hacks and cheats that ruin the online multiplayer experience.

It’s strange to see a company walking away from the long-tail sales that a thriving mod community can provide, but Troedsson’s concerns can’t be written off when you’re on the wretched hive of scum and villainy that is competitive console multiplayer. Valve, by contrast, has always been more willing than most to release its code into the wild, and more capable than most of patching hacks and exploits in their wildly popular online multiplayer games. Portal 2, of course, is a pretty non-competitive experience, with no enemy but your own pathetic human brain, so Valve can open up their code in a way leaderboard-driven experiences can’t. Once again, Aperture Science walks off with all the sales, and everyone else must comfort themselves with their pride. Which is, if you’re a Battlefield fan, very little comfort indeed.

Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Grow veggies indoors and shower more efficiently

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it sure is fun to gawk!

Google Earth spills the beans, reveals Taiwan’s secret military bases

Google Earth 3D Maps has spilled the beans on Taiwan's deepest secrets. The locations available in full three-dimensional detail include a facility which houses Patriot missiles and the country's National Security Bureau.

You're never too broke to enjoy the best free-to-play games

Believe it or not, free-to-play games have evolved into engaging, enjoyable experiences. Here are a few of our favorites that you can play right now, including Warframe and the perennially popular League of Legends.
Emerging Tech

NASA’s space observatory will map the sky with unprecedented detail

NASA is preparing to launch a cutting-edge space observatory to create the most detailed map ever produced of the sky. Doing so will involve surveying hundreds of millions of galaxies. Here's how it plans to do it.
Emerging Tech

NASA to launch SPHEREx mission to investigate the origins of our universe

NASA is launching an ambitious mission to map the entire sky to understand the origins of the universe. The Spectro-Photometer for the History of the Universe, Epoch of Reionization and Ices Explorer (SPHEREx) mission will launch in 2023.
Emerging Tech

White spots on Ceres are evidence of ancient ice volcanoes erupting

Scientists are pouring over data collected by NASA's Dawn mission to learn about the dwarf planet Ceres and the bright white spots observed at the bottom of impact craters. They believe that these spots are evidence of ice volcanoes.
Emerging Tech

Here’s how Facebook taught its Portal A.I. to think like a Hollywood filmmaker

When Facebook introduced its Portal screen-enhanced smart speakers, it wanted to find a way to make video chat as intimate as sitting down for a conversation with a friend. Here's how it did it.
Emerging Tech

Probes exploring Earth’s hazardous radiation belts enter final phase of life

The Van Allen probes have been exploring the radiation belts around Earth for seven years. Now the probes are moving into the final phase of their exploration, coming closer to Earth to gather more data before burning up in the atmosphere.
Emerging Tech

How can digital art created on obsolete platforms be preserved?

As the lines between art and technology continue to blur, digital art experiences become more commonplace. But these developments are raising an important question for art conservationists: How should digital artworks be preserved?
Emerging Tech

Statistician raises red flag about reliability of machine learning techniques

Machine learning is everywhere in science and technology. But how reliable are these techniques really? A statistician argues that questions of accuracy and reproducibility of machine learning have not been fully addressed.
Emerging Tech

Chandra X-ray telescope uncovers evidence of the universe’s missing matter

Where is all of the matter in the universe? NASA's Chandra telescope has uncovered evidence of hot gas strands in the vicinity of a quasar which could explain the missing third of matter which has puzzled astronomers for years.
Emerging Tech

Wish you could fly? You totally can with these top-of-the-line drones

In just the past few years, drones have transformed from a geeky hobbyist affair to a full-on cultural phenomenon. Here's a no-nonsense rundown of the best drones you can buy right now, no matter what kind of flying you plan to do.
Smart Home

No strings attached: This levitating lamp uses science to defy gravity

Now on Kickstarter, the Levia lamp is a cool industrial-looking lamp which boasts a levitating bulb. Looking for a table light that will dazzle visitors? You've come to the right place.
Emerging Tech

The Great White Shark’s genome has been decoded, and it could help us end cancer

In a significant step for marine and genetic science, researchers have decoded the genome of the great white shark. The genetic code revealed a wealth of insight into what makes these creatures so successful from an evolutionary standpoint.