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'Portal' Co-Creator Plans 72-Hour Record-Breaking VR Marathon (UPDATE)

'Portal' Co-Creator Plans 72-Hour Record-Breaking VR Marathon (UPDATE)

Update via Reddit post by Jeep Barnett:

“IMPORTANT UPDATE: VRathon cancelled! Sorry to massively disappoint you guys, but I’ve been sick all week and won’t have the fortitude to take on the challenge at this time. We’ve also cancelled funding for the Kickstarter. As promised, the rules are now available at so anyone can play for free using a standard deck of cards.”

HOWEVER, we’re still going to do a short live stream at the appointed start time. Some awesome VR devs reached out and I’ll chat with them a bit about their work. We’ll also play a few rounds of 7 Seize while teaching the rules and do a quick postmortem on what we’ve learned. The Google doc schedule below has been updated with the new plan:

We’ve heard of several VR marathon sessions already, including a 48-hour stint by Thorsten Wiedemann earlier this year.  Jeep Barnett, a game programmer at Valve, is hoping to crush that epic stay in virtual reality with a 72-hour VR marathon session starting this Friday.

He’s attempting the feat to bring attention to his Kickstarter project for a tabletop pirate-themed game called 7 Seize. The project will be closing in on the final days of fundraising over the next week, but at the time of this writing he was less than a third of the way toward a $28,000 goal.

vr marathon early-jeep
VR love runs deep for Jeep Barnett. Here he is trying it out as a teenager.

“Everything kind of tapered off,” he said in a phone interview with Upload. “I couldn’t think of another way to push things forward. ”

He wracked his brain for ways to bring attention to the project and the programmer, who worked on Valve’s The Lab, loves VR. So he arrived at a VR marathon and an attempt to break a record as his way of achieving that goal. So if he does reach his Kickstarter goal, is he going to just quit right after? (Is the cake a lie?) No, says Barnett. He wants to break 48 hours and then he’ll do some soul-searching for whether he can last 72 hours.

“Even if this doesn’t fund my Kickstater, I’ll still enjoy the process,” he said. “I hope people jump in and join.”

He’s built out a full schedule with some prime-time viewing planned for 7  to 9 p.m. PST on Friday night, with Job Simulator and Bigscreen planned. Several experiences throughout the weekend are multiplayer, so it could be possible for you to jump into VR with Barnett and give him some virtual moral support. Here are the self-imposed rules he shared on Reddit:

  • I’m not allowed to take the headset off the entire time.
  • I’m allowed to interact with meatspace using the front facing camera.
  • I’m allowed to take off my headphones.
  • I’m allowed to sleep when needed and scheduled sleeping times on the schedule.
  • I’m allowed to peek down my nose to resolve catastrophic technical issues.
  • I’m allowed to talk like a pirate on September 19th (International Talk Like A Pirate Day).

Now I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the project that brought Barnett to Valve Software around 11 years ago. Let me preface this bit of information by saying video games are complex works of interactive art that often require the contributions of big teams — especially if that team is attempting to do something new. In addition, game designers and programmers, especially those at Valve, are a bit reluctant to use traditional job titles to describe their work. To that point, Barnett said he didn’t bring up his VR marathon project with Valve — choosing to keep his work separate from this project. He also didn’t include the following information in either an email to Upload or in his announcement to the Reddit Vive community. We found this on Valve’s website while trying to figure out who Barnett is and the bolded emphasis was added by us:

Jeep quit his janitorial job at Fred Meyer to turn his programming hobby into a career. Jeep’s love of video games (and fear of returning to a life of toilet scrubbing) drove him to earn a B.S. Degree from the DigiPen Institute of Technology in Redmond, WA. His senior game project, Narbacular Drop, morphed into Portal after Valve hired Jeep and his DigiPen teammates.

So take note both video game and VR enthusiasts. You have a chance to see one of the co-creators of the groundbreaking game Portal, and a programmer who helped build pieces of one of VR’s marquee projects, The Lab (including the Portal-inspired project Robot Repair), go on a marathon tour of VR for 2-3 days this weekend. Hopefully there is real cake ready for him at the end.

Barnett said he’s probably done a five to six hour session in VR before, playtesting The Lab during multi-hour sessions in Xortex and Longbow. He estimates he probably spent 12 hours in total in VR during one day.

“Don’t do this if it’s gonna kill you,” Barnett quoted his wife as saying. “I’ll stop if I’m gonna die. I think it’s going to be difficult” but he said he hopes to draw on cross-county running experience to help him push through it.

He may even wear the orange Aperture Science jumpsuit for the attempt. Because we know you are wondering, we also asked how he will go to the bathroom during the attempt.

“I’m moving my desk closer to the bathroom where the tether reaches,” he told Upload. “I’m unsure if I’ll bring the webcam with me.”


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