The lights are on
Experiments are a dangerous proposition. Valuable resources can be wasted if a creative idea is poorly implemented. At a glance, Valve’s 2007 release Portal might have seemed like a risky gamble. While it came from one of the most respected development houses in the industry, the actual team was small and the gameplay featured novel mechanics difficult to convey in simple screenshots. Even the creators didn’t know what to expect from Portal until it released – that’s when Valve’s experiment turned into a phenomenon.
The Half-Life Connection
Valve fans that played through Portal may have picked up on the game’s subtle references to Valve’s biggest franchise, Half-Life. GLaDOS mentions Half-Life’s Black Mesa in the closing song, and a Powerpoint presentation detailing the financial competition between Aperture Science and Black Mesa can be seen in the later sections of the game. Given that Portal and Half-Life have vastly different tones, the link between the two titles seems a little odd. Valve’s other major franchises – Left 4 Dead and Team Fortress – have received their own distinct settings, so why was Portal an exception? The answer is simple – it was a decision made out of necessity. But to understand the dilemma, we have to go back to Portal’s humble beginnings.
In 2005, Valve discovered a young group of students at DigiPen and took them under its wing. The young programmers had been working on a game called Narbacular Drop (for more on Narbacular Drop be sure to check out our video feature on the game) Valve supervised the team and paired them up with one of its newest writers, Erik Wolpaw, a veteran humorist from Double Fine and the website OldManMurray.com. Valve saw great potential in the student project, but it kept the Portal team small, because it didn’t know if that potential would be realized.
Because the Portal team’s resources were so limited (the core team was less than a dozen people), certain developmental concessions had to be made. For one, the team didn’t have enough artists on tap to create assets for a new world. “It seemed like it made sense to put Portal in an existing universe,” recalls Wolpaw. “Some of that was driven by the fact that we didn't have a big enough team to do the art from scratch, so we ended up reusing primarily Half-Life 2 art assets.” The two games may have been linked by a similar setting, but the team had a feeling that they should keep that link as understated as possible. As it would turn out Portal would be a vastly different title from anything Valve had done before.
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stillllllll don't get the big deal about this game...
Very good article, It's good to hear stories like that...i would love to work on a team like that someday...if only
Really good article, thanks. One of my favorite games! Some experiments lack cake - not Portal though. Way cakey.
Haha i had played portal for about an hour and i didnt even realize it had a story. Its nice to know that it did and it sounds pretty epic so yay for spoilers if you can call it that. But i didnt finish it because im horrible with puzzles and this is the epitome of my failures with this genre so i couldn't finish it (also because i just played it on a friends computer) yet it is one of the most enjoyable puzzlers i have ever played. Pretty stoked for the 2nd. I think ill give it a try.
cool stuff, great game
portal 2 is the ***
sorry for the foul language, i meant to say portal 2 is AWESOME
this is EPIC
haha hoopy the hoop ftw!
I hope they release a disc based version of the game with the new content and ending. Maybe make it an addition to Portal 2 when it comes out?
Too bad I can't play the sequel to one of my favorite games of all time cause I have a PS3. THANKS VALVE!!! Way to think of your customers!
I thank everyone on the team for taking the risks. I bought the Orange Box specifically for Portal when it was released and it remains one of my favorite games of all time. Btw, the cake is a lie!
I loved hoopy but the merchandise never came out
I like that people are pretending to like Hoopy now to seem cool. People, admit it, you've never known it before, because it's NOT EVEN A JOKE. It doesn't make sense how they thought this would be funny. Thankfully the rest of the humor wasn't like this, and is still one of the best games of all time
Good article. I've never played Portal, but it looks really cool!
Hoopy...the Hoop? That is silly, but also funny. They should have known that the cake would be really important though.
I thought Hoopy was a little funny the first time around, but it wasn't too obvious.
not fair! i have a 360 and i really want that alternate ending to portal!
good puzzle game. very unique idea. i know i would've never come up with this idea!