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PC Games (Games)

A Peek Through Portal's Walls 42

John Walker, of Rock, Paper, Shotgun, had the chance to chat with some of the principal folks behind Valve's most excellent puzzle/shooter hybrid Portal. He comes away with the goods from lead designers Kim Swift and Jeep Barrett, who discuss their momentous hiring by Valve, the evolution of Portal from Narbacular Drop, and the origins of the Weighted Companion Cube. Walker also talks to Erik Wolpaw, who not only wrote Portal but was co-writer on Psychonauts and the site Old Man Murray (back in the day). From that discussion: "Valve talks a lot about 'collective design process this' and 'collective design process that' to the point where, if I were me before I worked here and stopped swearing so much, I'd be like, this is some fake-ass marketing-ass Bigfoot-ass legendary bullshit. But, honest-to-God, I've seen it with my own eyes. Valve is the most collaborative creative environment I've ever heard of much less experienced. So the [Team Fortress 2] shorts grew out of basically everyone at Valve's desire to see these awesome TF characters put through their paces outside the constraints of the game. We did the Heavy as a proof of concept, and kind of freaked ourselves out, and then immediately decided to move ahead with the other eight."
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A Peek Through Portal's Walls

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  • Cake (Score:5, Funny)

    by dintech ( 998802 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @11:50AM (#21197691)
    Wow, what a great summary. Both interesting and informative. Like having your cake and eating it, hmm?
  • by psychicsword ( 1036852 ) * <The.psychicsword@com> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:10PM (#21198039)
    Very good informative article and even if you don't like to RTFA this one is a must. I also thought that the feminine tone tends to be lacking in most games and I just adds to the innovation of the game. It adds to the commentary from the game.
    I loved this game so much the ending song is my ringtone :)
  • by LameAssTheMity ( 998266 ) <> on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:12PM (#21198069)

    Valve's most excellent puzzle/shooter hybrid Portal.

    Anyone else immediately think of Bill and Ted here?
  • Moar Maps!! (Score:4, Interesting)

    by robpoe ( 578975 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @12:23PM (#21198231)
    I want more maps .. or even perhaps a good SDK so other modders can make good maps / etc.

    Better yet, get the Dystopia team into Valveworld ... [] -- heck Dystopia is probably a better put together game than either CS or DOD were (considering they were mods at one time). Some bugs, yes, but CS and DOD were (and sometimes still are) buggy as hell..

    Oh, and for the obligatory Portal joke ..

    Check out what happens when you're NOT playing in Portal ..

    The Turrets visit the Portal Cafe []

    • I don't know about that, one of the main selling points of CS, DOD and TF was that they continued to have popularity long past their origional release date. There's no doubt that Dystopia was an incredibly polished game, but the gameplay itself was really shallow compared to the former three games.

      First, the level design from a pure gameplay standpoint was beyond abysmal in most cases, you were usually funneled into one chokepoint with one distinct way in, and it was simply bashing your head up against
      • It's a shame too, because the game itself reeks of polish, and I imagine that playing a game of dystopia on a meatspace-only map that didn't have ridiculous chokepoints, or on a meatspace/cyberspace map where the cyberpsace objectives were merely helpful instead of required, the game would be tons more fun. As it stands now, though, it's got less players than a buggy Counterstrike "Promod", a conversion of Team Fortress Classic to source (which already has a TF2), and most embarassingly a Dragonball Z mod
  • It's Narbacular Drop, not Narbuncular or whatever... sounds like a Busherism
  • Eric & OMM (Score:3, Insightful)

    by theantipop ( 803016 ) on Thursday November 01, 2007 @03:27PM (#21200883)
    Eric still gives some of the best interviews I've ever read.

    If you've never read any of his and Chet's stuff from back in the day on Old Man Murray [], you owe it to yourself to check out some of their features and reviews.
  • BTW (Score:2, Interesting)

    by zsouthboy ( 1136757 )
    If you have beaten portal already, you owe it to yourself (especially if you're interested in game design) to run through it with the developer commentary ON!

    I love that feature! It's like watching a DVD, then turning on the commentary track.

    It's amazing how much work they put into this game that you won't even notice (as that was the point of the work).
    • Indeed. I liked that feature ever since Lost Coast; Valve really made a good move there. Guarantees I'll play the whole game through a second time, right off the bat.

      In Portal's case, it's wonderful to hear commentary from Ellen McLain herself. I confess I never bothered to know who she was until those commentaries. And now I learn of the past work she's done for Valve. Portal should result in an enormous boost in her notoriety, and IMO she deserves every bit of it for what she did in just that game al
      • Voice artists always do the best commentaries, but they're rarely available. ARE YOU LISTENING, FOLKS WHO MADE BIOSHOCK?
  • It's interesting they comment on the Valve design philosophy of training the player, to the point where I was afraid I was burning through the game too quickly. The first 13 puzzles out of 20, 0-12, are all incredibly elementary, they're there to showcase a certain "feature" of thinking with portals, and the first 11 puzzles don't even give you full control of the portal gun, and they all have essentially one unique solution. The final 7 set of levels are all very well done, they even have a "challenge mode
  • Could someone write a Weighted Companion Cube replacement for Clippy in MS Office?
  • One thing that Narbacular Drop had over Portal was that you could set a portal by aiming through another portal.

    Although this might have made the game too easy.

"Yeah, but you're taking the universe out of context."