Not a lie: Valve updates Portal with secret radio broadcast images

portalsstvimages.jpg This afternoon's best mystery from the new reigning champs of brilliantly artful viral campaigns: a seemingly innocuous new update to the PC version of Valve's cult hit puzzle game Portal has turned out to be far more than anyone expected, and could be the first instance of using a three year old game itself to hint at future titles. The update's changelog only wryly stated that Valve had "changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum management regulations", causing players to note that each section of the game had been updated with a new radio object. At first glance, the new radios appeared to be the same that otherwise normally existed inside the game, which simply chirped out a samba version of the game's iconic end-theme song. Only later was it discovered that these new radios each contain a hidden audio file that's transmitted when you carry them to one particular point in each of the game's levels. Thanks to the Steam forum's overeager detectives, we've already learned that the most perplexing of these pirate transmissions are in fact SSTV encoded photographs -- the same used by shortwave operators to transmit images over the air -- each watermarked with the Aperture Science logo to stem any doubt about their authenticity. Follow the ongoing investigations here, and ponder, via Shawn Elliott, in-game lore tying the Half Life universe to Portal's via a character who "is cunning enough to encrypt... photographs, coordinates, blueprints and hailing frequencies within her message." Changed radio transmission frequency to comply with federal and state spectrum manage - Steam Users' Forums


  1. “coordinates, blueprints and hailing frequencies…”

    Well there goes my plans for the next few weeks.
    This is awesome.

    1. Yea, glad there aren’t hundreds of thousands dead in the last few weeks.. millions more that die every year from starvation and preventable diseases.. you just spend that time looking for easter eggs in a game that mean f*ck all..

      1. Gosh and how many dead people have you saved? Get a grip, not everyone can (or wants) to be a world saving do-gooder. Humans are humans. We do lots of different things. Accept that or be angry at everyone for the REST OF YOUR LIFE.

      2. Well, I do hope you never do anything for pleasure or personal enjoyment that doesn’t save the lives of millions of people at the same time. Cause otherwise you’ll look like a mighty fine hypocrite.

        …Lighten up, Francis.

      3. We do what we must, because we can, for the good of all of us. Except for the ones who are dead.

  2. well people kill over games maby this will give them some hope not to do so as it is more then likly is hinting at halflife ep 3 XD who knows im just a hl fan hopeing for that

  3. The forums are going crazy… I just hope someone thinks to use PPP to connect so they can get rid of that EMSI_REQA77E string. Unless I’m wrong, that is. People have gone pretty far down this thread in only 6-8 hours. I expect someone will have solved it by the time I wake up.

    1. While a good description of the situation, I doubt Valve has Mr. McLuhan in mind when creating this wonderful puzzle.

      I can only hope this puzzle means Valve is working on Half-Life eps. 3 or Portal 2.

      But there’s no sense crying over every mistake. You just keep on trying till you run out of cake.

  4. For anyone who cares:

    There is a Google Wave as Portal-ers try to figure this puzzle out. It’s linked to on the forum thread above.

    This thing is getting crazy. Another investigative thread ( has revealed that processing the images reveals a code that seems to translate to a BBS telephone number:

    from the forums:
    from zpr23:

    “From images: 9459C6CAC8C203B8128B7CC63068D4FD
    Translates to BBS#: (425) 822-5251
    425 is a Seattle area code.
    Calling resulted in what sounded like a modem.
    Someone translate that! ”

    and later:

    from Jigendaisuki:


    Someone has successfully connected to the BBS number

    I’m in. It’s asking for GLaDOS login and password, and is passing a stream of seemingly random junk.
    it seems to have limited concurrent connections so I have to outspam the idiots calling it repeatedly, and input before I get randomly booted for some reason.

    Login Cjohnson
    Password portal”

    When the forum threads are linking to google map satellite images of places in Kirkland, WA that the BBS number supposedly belongs to, well…you know you are onto a pretty tasty puzzle. ;)

  5. Relaxeder posted a good summary in the Steam forum thread

    “In a nutshell:

    -Portal gets surprise update yesterday afternoon
    -People see new mystery achievement
    -People play and see the radio in the beginning room now has a green light
    -Carry it around and notice it makes strange broadcast interference noises in certain places
    -Locate and place all 26 of these mystery radios for achievement
    -Smart people yank wav files out of game content folders and run them through steganography programs
    -Produces 26 weird cryptic image files in a numbered sequence
    -Some dude runs the number string through an md5 hash translator and gets a landline number
    -Internet traces it to Kirkland, WA (near Valve HQ)
    -People find out its not a phone/fax line but a data line hosting a BBS and telnet it
    -Use a clue from one of the files to figure out the BBS user/password login info
    -End up with a bunch of weird ASCII artwork
    -We’re trying to figure out wtf it means”

    I wonder how quickly Valve were expecting this to be worked out? The ability of geeks to crowdsource a solution for this sort of puzzle never ceases to amaze me.

  6. I’m guessing that it’s a message from Black Mesa. I haven’t gotten any of the radios, so I don’t know, but that’s my guess. I’d need someone who can write down Morse code though. I don’t have that skill.

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