Half-Life reveal teased in Valve's Portal ARG? Clues to appear in The Orange Box? Here's the pant-wetting evidence

That motherlode? Half-Life.

Yeah. Half-Life. Finally, blessedly, mercifully, after our years of frustration and faith, it looks like sweet, sweet Half-Life might be set for its next reveal. My feelings? Incandescent, explosive joy, obviously, and also a hint of smugness, because I called this one in an excitable semi-drunken tweet to Tyler Wilde the other night. What was my (non-booze-related) reasoning for that tweet, and what is the evidence backing up this latest potential development? Well...

First up, the latest edition of the unofficial Steamcast podcast featured an unexpected morse code message. The hosts claim to have had no knowledge of it previous of the podcast's release (Are they hoaxing? Are they in cahoots with Valve? Either is possible, but the optimistic side of me swings towards the latter),and a quick translation of the message revealed the following non-beepy human words:

"It’s not over. The others have been compromised"

More Aperture Science game-infestation to come? More revelations? A bigger, second wave of the ARG about to fire up?It's entirely possible. But there's something even better.

The Portal 2 ARG site has recieveda message from Valve, in the form of an Aperture Science internal memo:


1. We designed the entire thing to be very, very durable. It was easy to get the materials since everyone’s been thinking
it’s a simple icebreaker ship. Ha.

2. We have made sure to strip it of anything not necessary, so that we have plenty of space for it. It doesn’t have any
backup supplies in the event the crew runs out of food, though. And there isn’t much food onboard in the first place.

3. In the event you need to send it off all of a sudden, use the OR box with code ‘hb1′.

That’s all, C.J. Not much else I can tell you other than this won’t leave a blight on our record. Mesa is going to be sore when they see what we’ve done.


The important things to take from this? The icebreaker ship part is an obvious reference to the Aperture science ship The Borealis, the lost vessel which is currently the focus of the Half-Life 2 plot, Episode 2 having ended with Gordon and Alyx racing to find it in an attampt to stop the Combine harnessing its technology. The reference to Mesa? An obvious shout to Aperture's long-standing rivalry with Gordon Freeman's Black Mesa institute.

C.J. would refer to Cave Johnson, head of Aperture. And as for the rest of it? I'd like, if you'll allow me, to drop a small theory I've just come up with.

It might be a little too obvious, but is "OR box" a reference to The Orange Box? And, given that the podcast message hints that more games are to be updated with ARG content, and thatValve started all of this game-updates-as-reveal-teasers malarky when it put a new ending in Portal to reveal its sequel, could The Orange Box be next in line for the patched-in clue treatment? And should that happen, could "hb1" code reveal something related to the continuation of Half-Life 2 once we work out where and how to enter it? Also, doesthis guysound a bit like the G-Man to you?


As I said to Tyler the other night, this ARG has always felt too big to culminate in a simple early release of Portal 2 as far as I'm concerned. It's always felt like something more significant is coming, with the interweaving in-universe fates of Aperture and Black Mesa gathering more pace and significance all the time. It started with Black Mesa references in Portal four years ago. It continued with plot points and hidden Aperture blue-prints in Half-Life 2: Episode Two. Have Valve been planning to build this grand narrativeintotheultimatereveal for all this time? Maybe, maybe not. But if any company is clever and imaginative enough to do something like that, Valve is that company.

So yeah. Basically I'm still calling it. And if you want more of my semi-hysterical Half-Life callings while we wait for further developments, feel free to check out mystory predictions for Half-Life 2: Episode Threeand see how you think they tie into the current ARG situation.

Cheers,Rock, Paper Shotgun!

April 18th, 2011

David Houghton
Long-time GR+ writer Dave has been gaming with immense dedication ever since he failed dismally at some '80s arcade racer on a childhood day at the seaside (due to being too small to reach the controls without help). These days he's an enigmatic blend of beard-stroking narrative discussion and hard-hitting Psycho Crushers.