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Portal 64 Revival Shut Down By Valve… But Developer Is Not Giving Up

Portal 64 Revival Shut Down By Valve… But Developer Is Not Giving Up

Fans of classic games and advocates of video game conservation were excited about James Lambert’s project. The developer sought to recreate Valve’s Portal game for Nintendo 64. A few weeks ago, he announced that Portal 64: First Slice was out of beta. Well, the project has now been shut down by Valve—for arguably complicated legal reasons.

Portal 64 Revival Shut Down By Valve… But Developer Is Not Giving Up

Lambert has been working on the ambitious Portal 64 project since 2022, around which he posted the video of the game’s first “graphics test on a real Nintendo 64 console”. At that time, he said that if he decided to proceed with the project he would “have to rebuild the entire game from scratch”—and he did.

Over the months that followed, Lambert revamped the graphics including modeling the portal gun to look similar to the gun from the original 2007 release. His hard work earned him massive recognition among retro game fans. On January 13, 2024, Lambert posted a new video where he revealed that Valve had asked him to take Portal 64 down.

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“Valve asked me to take Portal 64 down,” Lambert said in his January 13 video. “I can’t say I didn’t expect this at some point because it’s their IP on Nintendo console. I was hopeful I could get it to completion but this is not unexpected.”

Portal 64 takedown request may be linked to Nintendo’s litigious past

Portal 64 Revival Shut Down By Valve… But Developer Is Not Giving Up

Nintendo has a history of litigations. The company has previously cracked down on modders and YouTubers. They even updated their content guideline to further restrict how people modify and share content from their games.

“I don’t blame [Valve] one bit for shutting down the project,” Lambert said. “I think that the only chance this has of coming back is if somehow Nintendo approves of the project and says, ‘Yeah go ahead’. We get like a written endorsement from Nintendo which I just don’t see happening.”

Last year, Nintendo sent a letter to Valve ahead of the launch of the Dolphin emulator for the Gamecube and Wii consoles on Steam. Attorney Kellen Voyer of Voyer Law said the letter was a “warning shot” against the release of the emulator. Nintendo doesn’t like anyone tinkering with their IPs. Lambert believes the fear of getting embroidered in Nintendo’s litigation may be the reason why Valve asked him to shut down the Portal 64 project.

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“Somebody from Valve reached out to me and I was put in contact with their legal team, and we were discussing,” Lambert said in his latest video. “They asked some questions about the project and when it came up that I was relying on Nintendo’s proprietary Library, LibUltra, they had to tell me to stop.”

Fans of Portal 64 who have keenly followed the project were disappointed to hear that the project was abruptly shut down. What followed were suggestions on how the project could be revived. Some suggested moving away from Nintendo’s official N64 SDK to Libdragon which is an open source SDK.

“What about the possibility of porting to Libdragon which is an open source not a proprietary library for N64 development?” Lambert asked. “Well. That certainly would be a possibility for the project. It’s recently got 3D support and I could even develop the library further to add the features that I need for the game… But it would be a ton of work and while I haven’t heard back from Valve if this would even be a possibility, I’m not keeping my hopes up… I don’t think Valve wants to explore the legal territory of what happens when one large corporation backs a project that is an unlicensed game for another large corporation’s console—even one 30 years old.”

Lambert asked fans not to be mad at Valve

Portal 64 Revival Shut Down By Valve… But Developer Is Not Giving Up

Another reason why Valve may not have the incentive to support the Portal 64 project was because the game would not be distributed through their platform. Although Portal IP belongs to Valve, the version of the game that Lambert was making was intended to be sold as a cartridge for N64. So, Valve would not be making any money off the game—unlike if it was distributed on Steam.

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“I don’t see [Valve agreeing to the project] because this is a little different than a lot of the fan projects they have supported in the past,” Lambert said. “First of all, it’s a complete remake of one of their games for a new platform. While they seem open to mods, I don’t know if they like the idea of that. Second of which I think is the biggest one is, it’s not distributed on Steam. I don’t blame them. Don’t be mad at Valve.”

Lambert mentioned that although he had put in nearly two years of work on the project, he had no regrets. According to him, he will take the lessons he learned and probably deploy them into making an original game based on a fresh IP. He plans to create the new game for N64 and PC using Libdragon.

Do you think the crackdown by Nintendo is stifling creativity around their consoles and games? Share your thoughts in the comment box below.