I have played Portal (loved it), but not Half Life.

First, what is Black Mesa? And how is Portal related to Black Mesa? I know GLaDOS mentions it in the "Still Alive" tribute at the end of the game. But what's the relation? Please feel free to be specific, since I doubt I'd pick up Half Life anytime soon.

  • 16
    You SHOULD pick up Half-Life anytime soon.
    – Shinrai
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:44
  • Yes I should, is it just for computer or is there say the entire series for a console? Outside steam... I don't like steam all that much, and I don't know why. Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:50
  • 1
    @Justin - There are console versions, and physical copies of the PC versions. (Especially because Half-Life predates Steam - I am pretty sure Steam originally launched with Half-Life 2) The Orange Box has Half-Life 2 and both episodes.
    – Shinrai
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 16:04
  • Huh, so Half Life 1 is separate and Orange Box contains the Half-Life 2 (2 episodes) or both versions of Half Life? Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 16:28
  • 3
    related: gaming.stackexchange.com/questions/122/…
    – Drake
    Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 16:31

6 Answers 6


Both Black Mesa and Aperture Science are trying to develop portal technology, they are basically competitors.

Aperture Science develops the portal gun on the Borealis (a research ship, just one of the many places). But the ship disappears. Gordon finds the location of Borealis in HL2 and also finds out that their portal tech is far superior to Black Mesa's.

GLaDOS is made operational in one of Aperture's enrichment centers to portray the power of the new portal tech in Portal 1. Here's a timeline of the events.

  • So Black Mesa built portal technology to but caused an alien Apocalypse? If I'm reading this correctly? Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:13
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    yeah.. they do some stuff which cause a dimensional fissure and all the Nihilanth's people come over. then they nuke the facility and because of the stuff going on in black mesa facility the combine get 'interested' and use the massive portal storms to invade. you should really read the timeline, it is explained quite well in that Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:19
  • Ok you get the answer... love the timeline link. Saves me from asking more questions. Thank you! All be it both of you answered the question and both should get the points... Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 17:00
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    It is not yet known what is in the Borealis ship. It is not mentioend anywhere what is in it. Its still a cliffhanger.
    – rsman
    Commented Jul 19, 2011 at 17:58
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    There is one loose end in the timeline that hasn't been fixed since Portal's ending was updated pending the release of Portal 2: "The 'Aperture Science Hand-Held Portal Device' is inadvertently released into the wild, however, it is not known what becomes of it." hasn't happened as Chell didn't actually escape at the end of Portal.
    – Powerlord
    Commented Mar 20, 2016 at 0:58

Black Mesa and Aperture Science were competing science research facilities in the same universe. They were rivals, and continually tried to out-do each other.

Aperture ended up falling apart (probably because of the death of its CEO, Cave Johnson), whereas a Black Mesa experiment caused an apocalyptic resonance cascade, throwing the world into the turmoil experienced in the Half-Life series of games.

The references in either game (so far) to the other are generally vague. There have been rumors of the two overlapping more in Half-Life 2: Episode 3, but they're nothing more than rumors.

  • damn! 1 min. too late Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:06
  • So if Aperture Science fell apart how is it GLaDius is still running around putting pour robots (and a human) through testing? Did they build GLaDius to well? Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:07
  • 1
    @Justin The company fell apart, but GLaDOS (the AI system in charge of the facility) remained. Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:08
  • Poor GLaDOS... now the issues make sense. I just wish you could permanently put her out of her misery... Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 15:12
  • Ultimately I choose the answer with the helpful resource. Loved your answer, being the first one that chimed in and the most concise answer. I just want the community to find the link... All of this changes if you added the link to, then I'm flipping a coin and leaving the StackOverflow Paradox. Commented Apr 22, 2011 at 17:02

Aperture Science and Black Mesa are science facilities in the same universe. And they continually tried to outdo one another. But when Aperture Science created the portal gun (it's full name the "handheld portal device") handheld means that the portal gun is a smaller version of something else bigger and better, something that was probably on the borealis ship. Black Mesa could not make anything better than Aperture Science so they decided to steal the ship.

In Portal 2 you see an empty ship dock. In Portal one, in one of the secret rooms if you put your ear against the wall you can hear Doug Ratman rambling on about something and what I did was slow that down 25% and you hear what he is actually saying. In one part of it he says 'The ship was stolen' which means that Black Mesa has taken it, since they are both rivals in the same universe. I hope you find this useful if you have any questions, just ask me!

  • As many easter eggs as they put in the Portal games, I almost wonder if the bitstream for HL2Ep3 is in there somewhere and just no one has found it, yet. - haha
    – reirab
    Commented Feb 27, 2018 at 18:50

And, one of the prerecorded messages that Cave Johnson leaves is

"Greetings friend. I'm Cave Johnson, CEO of Aperture Science. You might know us as a vital participant of the 1968 senate hearing on missing astronauts, and you've most likely used one of the many products we invented but other people have somehow managed to steal from us. Black Mesa can eat my bankrupt..."

If you look at the last line, you can clearly infer that Johnson blames Black Mesa for his company going bankrupt, and because of the "products we invented but {Black Mesa}... managed to steal".


What I believe is that the portal device on the ship malfunctioned and caused it to be teleported to the arctic, and Cave was saying that Black Mesa did it to make test subjects blame the company to give them a bad rep.


Some people's theroies state that when GLaDos came in charge she released your old friend neurotoxin but only Chell and Ratman survived. Ratman somehow escaped when Chell was in forever suspension in portal 2. Ratman thought Chell could stop GLaDos in the first portal and she did but couldn't escape so Ratman tried to free her but a turret shot him so before he died he made the life support last in Chell,s room the longest befor GLaDos could release th neurotoxin but when everyone except Chell died Black Mesa may have taken advantage or maybe even GLaDos works for Black Mesa. Don't take my word for it as it is just a theory.

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