A Portal between Platforms

Even robots enjoy a good Hug!

One of the best new games of recent years is the incredible Portal. So it was hardly surprising when they announced a sequel was to be released in the first quarter of this year. One of the ways they are expanding on the first game, is the inclusion of co-op play. Now this is great but it did cause me a little concern for a single reason, I don’t know what platform the rest of my friends will be buying it on.

Now I’ve already pretty much set my mind on the PC version, because of the Razer Hydra, but some of the people I would like to play it with are console fanatics. Until now I, and probably many other, had assumed that it would only allow you to play with people of the same format. PC with PC, PS3 with PS3 etc.

Today however Valve announced that I was wrong. It seems that when they said that the PS3 would be the best console version of the game, they were not kidding.

They announced officially that the PS3 version would come with Steam integrated and would allow you to play cooperatively with your friends on the PC & Mac. This is a great move as while cross-platform has been tried before, it has never really succeeded.

As well as that the PS3 users will be able to make use of a bunch of the other Steam, such as cross platform chat and the ability to upload their saved games to steams cloud-based storage. Why would they want to do that with their saves? Oh because they will also be given a Steam code that will give them the PC version.

But it’s not simply what this could mean for Portal 2 that interests me in this announcement, it’s the future games that could make use of this new Steam cross-platform functionality.

Cross-platform has pretty much failed in the past for a single reason, the games that have had that ability have been for the most part competitive titles. This means that there has been and unfair advantage to one side or the other (normally the PC) due the control schemes just being better suited to it.

However Co-op play does not have the same pitfall, in fact Co-op is actually enhanced by having different control schemes as it allows the players to pick the one that is best for them. It is my hope that this functionality proves popular, as if it does I would not be surprised to see a whole pile of games either using or planning to use the technology by the end of the year (obviously assuming Valve are willing to share it).

One genre I could see making really solid use of it is the RPG market, I’m looking to you Bethesda, I would love to see it as possible to play for players to be able to jump in and out of each others Skyrim game. Obviously the primary storyline and quests would remain single player, but I would like to have the opportunity to work together with a friend on some of the side quests. Perhaps it could even be a way experiencing some of the quests locked away by my choices in my version of the world, without having to start again.

Anyway, I am starting to lose the track of this – basically this news is not only great for Portal 2, but in my opinion has a lot of potential for the future of Co-op & RPG gaming if studios make use of it.

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