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PC Games (Games)

The Importance of Portal 222

Team Fortress 2 and Episode Two may have been more anticipated elements of Valve's Orange Box offering, but it's the charmingly small Portal that's been getting a lot of attention in the last few days. MTV's Multiplayer blog thinks the game has the move of the year, and the Gamers with Jobs site offers up a convincing argument why Portal represents a significant step forward for storytelling in games: "Portal is an object lesson in interactive storytelling. We in the media are so fond of shaking our heads, scratching our beards and looking for the "art" in videogames. Well it's time for us all to shut the hell up. This is it. It's in this finely crafted, lovingly rendered piece of short-story literature. Honestly, I'd be surprised if the authors themselves see it as the accomplishment it is. It's a simple set of mechanics, a few pages of sound-booth dialog, a handful of textures and repetitive level designs. But then, a novel is only made up of 26 letters, black ink and white paper. And most artists of lasting brilliance don't recognize the importance of their own work. And how many now-revered musicians and painters died unknown and broke?" If you still haven't heard it, Jonathan Coulton's 'Still Alive' (the ending theme to Portal) has been in my head for over a week now. Just try to get it out of yours.
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The Importance of Portal

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  • The cake is a lie! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Drakin020 ( 980931 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:31AM (#20996367)
    The cake is a lie! The cake is a lie! The cake is a lie!
  • by sammy baby ( 14909 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:34AM (#20996447) Journal
    Nope. Portal [whatistheorangebox.com].
  • by mackil ( 668039 ) <<ten.spilcdnuoseivom> <ta> <eivom>> on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:35AM (#20996451) Homepage Journal
    I purchased the Orange Box primarily for Episode 2 of Half Life. After all, that was the main event. However it was Portal that impressed me the most. It wasn't just the original concept of game play, nor even the intriguing (and somewhat creepy) story. That game was just plain different. The puzzles were all quite challenging, but never annoying or frustrating, and the story unfolded in such a manner where you just had to continue to find out more. No one watching you in all the observation rooms? That's odd. The cake is a lie?? What does that mean? What is up with this computer? In the beginning you think there is no story, it's just a collection of physics puzzles showing off the portal trick. Imagine the surprise when you find out the story is really quite engaging (and again, somewhat creepy). Portal is short, but it was by far the most enjoyable part of the Orange Box. I really hope they continue this series somehow.... now off for some cake ;)
  • by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot&worf,net> on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:47AM (#20996651)
    Portal is probably one of the most unique cross-genre games out there (FPS + puzzle).

    The major thing is that the puzzles aren't the generic jumping puzzles, nor can they be solved by blindly rushing in and shooting everything in sight. Portal can require a bunch of strategy (planning out where to shoot portals to accomplish the goal without getting hurt), a bit of trickery and timing (involves shooting a portal in mid-air so you can rocket to the next place and shoot the next portal where you couldn't before you started), etc. Heck, some of the puzzles you can't solve the traditional way.

    And yes, the puzzles aren't overly complicated, but they do require some planning, some figuring out, and the best thing - I don't think it's possible to get yourself stuck! (Major no-no in puzzle games is to work yourself into a spot where you can't get out of because you forgot to pick up the whatzit 3 levels back). Valve really did spend a lot of time making sure a mistake won't make the puzzles suddenly unsolvable.

    So while I guess it may be a general trend, I hope developers realize that it shouldn't be possible to get stuck if you happen to not notice the whatzit (if item X is needed near the end, you give the player less and less subtle clues they need X to continue later...).

    Otherwise, this will be the end of the puzzle genre again.
  • by cwolfsheep ( 685385 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @11:48AM (#20996677) Homepage
    Same team wrote an earlier version of this two years ago.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Narbacular_Drop [wikipedia.org]
    http://www.nuclearmonkeysoftware.com/ [nuclearmon...ftware.com]
  • by PatrickThomson ( 712694 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @12:08PM (#20997031)
    In the developer commentary, they mention that this was made impossible to stop people being afraid of portals - it'll just squeeze you out of the portal you're standing in when you move/close it or the other one.
  • by AmaDaden ( 794446 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @12:25PM (#20997341)

    I really hope they continue this series somehow....
    Just a note here the Portal universe is part of the main Half-life universe. They mention Aperture Science in passing in ep2. And with the way ep2 ended Aperture Science might be important in the next Half-life game.
    Oh and just as a little added info http://www.aperturescience.com/ [aperturescience.com]. Type 'login'. The name is cjohnson and password tier3. You can find that login in a "ratman" room in Portal (level 17 I think).
  • I noticed a similarity between Portal and Super Mario Bros DS insofar as it is a relatively simple game where the story mode can be blitzed through quite quickly... but the real meat is in taking the time through each stage to clear it 100% Okay... the story mode in Portal is short... really short... I think I clocked in under 3 hours on my first run. But if you add the second run through the story to get the "Camera Shy" achievement (which is a friggin nightmare!)... then the third run through to get all the commentary (which took my already massive appreciation for both the game itself and the passion and attention to detail of the people at Valve to even greater levels) that adds a significant amount of play time. The commentary run won't take long but that Camera Shy one will. Then you have the six advanced maps which, with the exception of the last one, are reasonable enough that most players should get through them without too many headaches. Cue the challenge levels... seriously... they are absolutely ridiculous. For those who don't know... the challenge maps take the latter levels of what I'll call the Aperture-sanctioned tests and impose restrictions/goals on them: "Least Portals", "Least Steps", "Least Time" That's where the next 40 hours of my Portal gametime are going to be spent... trying to nut those out. The bronzes are going to be pretty easy for anyone who can clear the story mode but silvers are quite a lot harder and some of the golds I can't even conceive solutions for. My point? Yeah, this game might only be 2-4 hours to get through the story but if you want to 100% this game without a walkthrough... you're talking serious flighthours. Even once all that is done... notice that maps can be imported... wait for the new challenges and maps Valve will surely put out to satisfy demand... and then wait until the map-making community get onto it. I can't wait to see some of the user-created content for this game. Portal is like turning a Rubik's Cube into a video game.
  • This was a triumph. (Score:3, Informative)

    by Guysmiley777 ( 880063 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @12:31PM (#20997463)
    I'm making a note here: HUGE SUCCESS. It's hard to overstate my satisfaction.

    Best end credits ever.
  • by hardburn ( 141468 ) <hardburn&wumpus-cave,net> on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @12:54PM (#20997853)

    Yes, it is. Apature Science is explicitly mentioned in Ep2, and should play a bigger role in Ep3.

  • play it (Score:2, Informative)

    by doublefrost ( 1042496 ) on Tuesday October 16, 2007 @02:39PM (#20999629)
    That was funnest 3 hours I've ever had. IMO, you guys are revealing too much info for those who didn't play it yet. My advice - stop reading slashdot and play it NOW :)
  • by Nurgled ( 63197 ) on Wednesday October 17, 2007 @03:49AM (#21007169)

    I've been playing through it using the latest Wine on Ubuntu, using the Ubuntu Feisty package from Wine's website.

    I can confirm that it works just fine and is playable. I've not actually seen what it looks like in Windows, but I suspect the graphics have suffered a little bit. It's completely playable, though.

    Sometimes when you put the two portals too close together they glitch a bit and Wine winges in the console about how it doesn't support more than one rendertarget, but I didn't find that this impacted gameplay whatsoever.

    However, one possible show-stopper is that the Steam purchasing UI doesn't work under Wine. I had to buy the game in Windows at work and then download it into my Steam client at home later.

"The number of Unix installations has grown to 10, with more expected." -- The Unix Programmer's Manual, 2nd Edition, June, 1972