The Orange Box
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|The Orange Box|
October 10, 2007
ESRB: T-M (Teen-Mature)
Keyboard, Mouse, Gamepad, Xbox 360 Controller, SIXAXIS Controller, DualShock 3 Controller
- "5 Games. One Box."
- ― The Orange Box tagline
The Orange Box is a video game compilation produced and published by Valve, which contains Half-Life 2, Half-Life 2: Episode One, Half-Life 2: Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. The Windows version was released on October 10, 2007 as both retail boxed copy, and as a download available through Valve's Steam service. The Xbox 360 version was also released on October 10, 2007. A PlayStation 3 version was released on November 23, 2007 in Europe and December 11, 2007 in the US. Originally, there were plans to release The Black Box, a budget-priced compilation containing only the new material, but this was eventually canceled.
This is the first Xbox 360 game to have 99 Achievements, exceeding the 50 Achievement limit that Microsoft maintains (up to 60 through downloadable content), though the score only adds up to 1000 Gamerscore (the typical maximum for an Xbox 360 retail game). The achievements are focused on Half-Life 2 but are spread through all five games.
The Orange Box has sold over 3 million copies as of November 2008, significant more to date.
Steam users who previously purchased Half-Life 2 or Half-Life 2: Episode One and then purchased The Orange Box will receive gift subscriptions for their duplicate titles that they may give to another person added on a Steam Friends list.
After the Orange Box release, PC owners were given a free download of Peggle Extreme, a cut-down version of puzzle game Peggle Deluxe, featuring artwork from the Orange Box. Also included was a download of the game Half-Life 2: Lost Coast. This brought the number of games in the release to 7.
Further updates have added Half-Life Deathmatch: Source and Half-Life 2: Deathmatch to the collection. The game was a universal success, praised by publications like IGN for its incredible value and superb gameplay.
The Orange Box features five complete games compiled into one retail unit: Half-Life 2 and its two continuations, Episode One and Episode Two; Portal; and Team Fortress 2.
Through the Steam platform for the Windows version, the games can collect and report in-depth data such as where the player's character died, completion time, and total victories in multiplayer modes. This data is compiled to generate gameplay statistics for Episode One, Episode Two, and Team Fortress 2.
All the games except Half-Life 2 contain in-game commentary that can be enabled, allowing the player to listen to the developers discuss the creation and purpose of particular sections and components of each game. This has been a feature of every Valve game since Half-Life 2: Lost Coast due to the commentary's popularity in that game, according to Erik Wolpaw, lead writer for Portal.
Half-Life 2 is a first-person shooter computer game and the sequel to Half-Life, developed by the Valve Software Corporation. It was released on November 16, 2004 following a protracted five-year development cycle during which the game's source code was leaked to the Internet. The game garnered near unanimous positive reviews and received critical acclaim, winning over 35 Game of the Year awards for 2005.
Half-Life 2: Episode One
Half-Life 2: Episode One is the first of a trilogy of expansion packs/episodes for the 2004 first-person shooter game, Half-Life 2. The episode takes place immediately after the end of Half-Life 2, in and around the war-torn setting of City 17. The player is forced to deal with the effects of their actions during the main game. The episode is a stand-alone game; while a continuation of Half-Life 2, it does not require the original game to be installed or registered to a user's Steam account to play. It takes advantage of several major upgrades to the Source engine since the release of Half-Life 2, primarily its high dynamic range rendering capabilities and the upgraded facial animation system.
Half-Life 2: Episode Two
Half-Life 2: Episode Two is the second installment in a trilogy of episodes for the 2004 first-person shooter computer game Half-Life 2, from Valve Corporation.
Continuing with Valve's method of orienting each episode around a particular theme or set of technologies, Episode Two focuses on expansive environments, travel, and large, nonlinear battles. Following the closing events of Episode One, it sees Gordon Freeman and the series' other major characters moving away from City 17 to the surrounding wilderness.
Portal is a single-player first-person shooter action game / video puzzle game developed by Valve. The game was released in a bundle package known as The Orange Box for PC and Xbox 360 on October 10, 2007, and for the PlayStation 3 on December 3, 2007. The Microsoft Windows version of the game is also available for download separately through Steam. The game consists of a series of puzzles which must be solved by teleporting the player's character and other simple objects using the Aperture Science Handheld Portal Device. The goal of each puzzle is to reach an exit point, represented by an elevator. The "portal gun" and the unusual physics it creates are the emphasis of this game.
The Black Box
Valve planned on releasing an additional compilation for Windows entitled The Black Box, which would have contained only the new material—Episode Two, Portal, and Team Fortress 2. The Black Box was later canceled for retail and is now only available through Steam exclusively to owners of certain ATI graphics cards, who received a voucher for a free copy of The Black Box.
During development, the simultaneous release of two game compilation packages with different content combinations was touted by Valve as a new direction for the game industry. Gabe Newell, co-founder of Valve, said, "The Black Box and The Orange Box represent a new approach to publishing multiple products on multiple platforms." After first discontinuing The Black Box, however, Valve released all the new material for individual download via Steam.
However, nearing its release date, Valve chose to leave out three of the levels from the PC version of Half-Life 2, Episode One, and Episode Two. Valve said this was mainly due to pressure from EA forced them to keep on schedule, as those levels were never finished before its release. Valve intended on releasing these levels later on, as downloadable content, but this remains to be seen.[source?]
The Black Box was to be priced US$10 lower than The Orange Box. To compensate for the cancellation of The Black Box, Valve offered gift subscriptions to Steam users who had previously purchased Half-Life 2 or Half-Life 2: Episode One and then purchased The Orange Box so that they could give their second copies of those two games as gifts to people added to their Steam Friends list. Still, the cancellation of The Black Box sparked complaints from game critics and consumers alike, unhappy that they were obliged to pay for games that they already owned. It also raised concerns among those who had bought the ATI Radeon HD 2900 XT graphics card, which came with a voucher for The Black Box, but Valve clarified that only the retail version of The Black Box had been canceled. While Valve never expressed its reasons for this decision, industry writers speculated that it might have been to increase profits on retail copies or to avoid customer confusion between similar game packages and their availability across the platforms.
PlayStation 3 version
While the Windows and Xbox 360 versions of The Orange Box were developed and published by Valve, the development of the PlayStation 3 port was outsourced to Electronic Arts. In an interview with Edge Magazine before the game's release, Valve co-founder Gabe Newell commented, "I think the people who have The Orange Box on the PS3 are going to be happy with their game experience. We've done the PC and 360 versions here and EA has a team doing the PS3 version – and they'll make the PS3 version a good product; EA got the job done in putting a lot of people with PS3 experience on the project. But I think it's harder to get it to the same standard as the 360 and PC versions". Despite this, he noted that Valve will probably handle PlayStation 3 versions of its products in the future.
In a preview of The Orange Box in November 2007, 1UP.com revealed numerous problems with the late beta build of EA's PlayStation 3 version of The Orange Box, citing pervasive frame rate issues which, they claimed, "at best merely hinder gameplay and at worst make the experience downright unplayable." IGN's Hilary Goldstein disagreed, writing that although EA "is one of the worst offenders when it comes to porting games to the PS3," the frame rate issues were not bad enough "to make me throw my controller in disgust."
On January 3, 2008, IGN reported that Valve employees had created a thread on Valve's website forums for players to list the problems they had encountered and to suggest fixes, which caused speculation that a patch was being planned to address the issues in the PlayStation 3 version, such as the frame rate issues, the connection problems in Team Fortress 2, and the slow loading times in Portal. A patch for the PlayStation 3 version was later released in North America on March 19, 2008 and Europe a short while after that; however, it made no mention of fixing frame rate issues or slow loading times.
Valve deactivated accounts with CD keys that were purchased outside of the consumer's territory in order to maintain the integrity of region-specific licensing. This generated complaints from North American customers who had circumvented their Steam end-user license agreement by purchasing The Orange Box through cheaper, Asian retailers. Some customers who then purchased the game a second time from a local vendor experienced difficulty adding the new CD key to their accounts in order to activate their newly-purchased games and also had trouble communicating with Steam's customer support team about this problem. Doug Lombardi of Valve stated, "Some of these users have subsequently purchased a legal copy after realizing the issue and were having difficulty removing the illegitimate keys from their Steam accounts. Anyone having this problem should contact Steam Support to have the Thai key removed from their Steam account."
The German version of The Orange Box is set to a low violence mode in order to comply with German laws regulating the sale of violent video games. Blood effects are replaced by sparks and bullet wounds are replaced with dents as if the characters were metal robots. Additionally in Team Fortress 2, instead of body parts being scattered after a player's character is blown apart, various items such as hamburgers, coils, rubber ducks, and chattery teeth appear. Characters from different classes leave different items and different ratios of these items when killed by explosives. In the Half-Life games, bodies fade away after the death of non-player characters and the blood has been altered to a grey color.
Pre-purchasing of the Windows version on Steam began on September 11, 2007. Those who pre-purchased via this method received a ten-percent discount and were able to play the Team Fortress 2 beta starting on September 17, 2007. The Orange Box comes with Peggle Extreme, a ten-level playable demo of Peggle Deluxe that is only available for PC, with graphical themes from The Orange Box. Peggle, published by PopCap Games, is a puzzle game combining elements of pinball and pachinko.
Since its release, The Orange Box has been met with universal acclaim from reviewers. The averaging website GameRankings cites both the Xbox 360 version and the PC version as the highest-rated game of their respective platforms. IGN described The Orange Box as "the best deal in video game history," and awarded both the Windows and Xbox 360 versions with an Editors' Choice Award. All three versions won GameSpot's Editors' Choice Award. Approximately 3 million copies of The Orange Box were sold by the end of November 2008.
Portal has been singled out for praise by reviewers. Official Xbox Magazine admired its unique puzzle gameplay mechanics, stating that it was the first major advance in puzzle gaming "since Russians started dropping blocks." Ben "Yahtzee" Croshaw, The Escapist's usually acerbically critical reviewer, stated in his Zero Punctuation review that he couldn't think of any criticism for Portal, which has "some of the funniest pitch-black humor [he had] ever heard in a game" and concluded that it is "absolutely sublime from start to finish, and I will jam forks into my eyes if I ever use those words to describe anything else, ever again."
The PlayStation 3 version's critical review scores suffered because of the technical issues first uncovered by 1UP.com. While discussing the retail version on a podcast, 1UP.com staff members agreed that a significant number of the frame rate problems had been resolved, but not all of them. They concluded that the PlayStation 3 version was not quite as smooth as the Xbox 360 version and recommended that "if you own both [consoles], you should do the 360" version. Kotaku's Michael McWhertor echoed that recommendation, though stated that those who only have a PlayStation 3 should still consider The Orange Box.
While frame rate issues were the main complaint, the PlayStation 3 version was also criticized for unreliable voice chat and excessive network delay or lag in Team Fortress 2, as well as long load times generally. It was, however, praised for featuring anti-aliasing and a quick-save feature, neither of which were present in the Xbox 360 version (but were present in the PC version). After release, the game received further criticism from fans for the lack of surround sound support when using an optical cable. An open letter to Valve, asking them to put pressure on EA to release a fix was posted to the Steam forum. A response was posted by a Valve employee going by the name of "BurtonJ", directing disappointed customers to a dedicated thread on the subject.
The Orange Box has won a number of awards for its overall high standard and use of technology. The compilation won "Computer Game of the Year" at the Academy of Interactive Arts & Sciences' 11th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards and was nominated in the "Overall Game of the Year", "Action Game of the Year", and "Outstanding Innovation in Gaming" categories. The Orange Box won the "Breakthrough Technology Award" and the "Best PC Game Award" at the 2007 Spike Video Game Awards, and was additionally nominated in the "Game of the Year", "Best Shooter", "Best Xbox 360 Game", and "Best Multiplayer Game" categories. It was also named the second-best video game of 2007 by Time Magazine, while the PlayStation 3 version was nominated in the category of Action and Adventure at the BAFTA Video Games Awards. Valve also received developer awards for their work on The Orange Box. The Orange Box received 17 Game of the Year awards and over 100 awards in total. The Orange Box was placed as the 22nd most influential video game in history by the Guinness World Records Gamer's Edition, 2009.
Portal won "Outstanding Achievement in Game Design", "Outstanding Achievement in Game Play Engineering", and "Outstanding Character Performance" at the 11th Annual Interactive Achievement Awards. The game won 76 awards, including 37 Game of the Year awards, and was recognized for innovative design and game mechanics. The dark humor of Portal and the ending music track "Still Alive" were also singled out for awards.
Team Fortress 2 was nominated in the categories of "Outstanding Achievement in Art Direction" and "Outstanding Achievement in Animation" at the 11th Interactive Achievement Awards. Although unsuccessful at the IAA, the game did receive 10 awards, including five Game of the Year awards, and other awards for its artistic direction and multiplayer gameplay.
Half-Life 2: Episode Two won four awards, including one Game of the Year award, and was recognized for excellent NPC AI, level design, and story.
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