The lights are on
The test chambers that populate the vast interior of the Aperture
Science testing facility may seem deceptively simple at first glance –
just a few key components nestled in a sterile room – but once you try
to escape that room you'll realize that things are much more complicated
than they seem. The designers at Valve use a very particular process to
craft these devious challenges. Valve explains how that process works
for Portal 2.
Valve on setting goals:“Out of all the possible problems that can be posed to the player, how does the team decide what should go into a new test chamber? While it may seem obvious, the final decision always starts with a specific goal in mind. We never sit down and throw random pieces at the whiteboard to see what sticks. We always focus on some key aspect of a mechanic, and on how we can teach it to players while still challenging them.”
All the test chambers in Portal 2 begin their life on a whiteboard. Using isometric sketches the team is able to block out the rough shape and components needed for whatever challenge they’re trying to pose to the player. Working roughly, they’re able to very quickly sanity-check a design and try to poke holes in its implementation
Valve on training players:“This core criteria for map building helps guarantee that the game is always giving players the right incremental step in their understanding of portals and portal challenges. Generally speaking, the training is one of two types. The first type is what the team calls checklisting, where new mechanics are broken down into the core components players must understand in order to have fun using that mechanic. This is often just a matter of broadcasting the fundamental rules of play. For instance, the most basic function of a tractor beam is to grab a player who has entered its zone of influence and float them in its direction of travel. So when players first encounter a tractor beam, they're given a very clean room to safely experiment with it.
“The second form of training occurs after players have learned the basics. Once we feel comfortable that players understand the basic rules, we start to enumerate the interesting things that can be done with the mechanic we're focusing on. This helps us generate a list of fun experiences the player can have. We then use that list to generate new challenges. These challenges typically force players to think laterally and usually involve taking a previously learned rule and turning it on its head. Figuring out those little twists is often the most rewarding for players.”
Once the whiteboard sketch has been vetted by the design team, a designer will take the sketch and start to build the true level. Here you can see a view of that process using Valve’s level editor, Hammer
Valve on playtesting:“Coming up with challenges for players is only a starting point. Challenges can't just be solvable; they also need to be fun. Playtesting is the most important tool the team utilizes while creating puzzles that fulfill both of these requirements. Even the best ideas can fall flat once they're put up against real players, so until a wide variety of testers have played through a map, it can't be considered ready to ship.
“Sometimes playtesting unearths simple problems, such as a player discovering a solution the team didn't expect. If the solution is interesting and makes the tester feel smart, it might be left in as an alternate solution. If, however, the unintended solution makes the player feel as if the game is broken, the team will find ways to remove or reconfigure the elements that led to the errant, unsatisfying solution. Ultimately, it's the playtesters' perception and enjoyment that dictates what goes into a final map.
“A common issue that crops up in playtesting is players failing to notice the tasks needed to solve a challenge. Players very rarely look up, and they almost never look at the things that are obvious to us as designers. We'll add something to a room that seems far too obvious to us, but if playtesters miss it time and time again, we know that we need to draw more attention to it or find another way to approach the problem.”
Email the author Ben Reeves, or follow on Twitter, Google+, Facebook, and Game Informer.
THE CAKE IS A LIE!
Wow, level design. Even more suspense for Portal 2!
***, must be hard. Can't wait to see what deviously mind-bogglingly hard puzzles come from their fantastic design framework.
whooaaa!! this is so insane! i really cannot wait for this game's release! and if its even half of what the original was, it'll be completely worth its money
I am buying an new computer. I can't say it's because of this game, but I had no thought of it before they announced this game. God, It's going to be awesome!
It would be so hard to come up with levels for portal. some of the puzzles a really tough the first time around.
Awesome. I can't wait to see the new test chambers.
CANT WAIT EITHER I COULD WATCH THE GAME PLAY ITSELF (GAME MASTERBATING PENNY ARCADE JOKE)AND I WOULD STILL BE EXCITED
If you put one portal behind another portal really close to the first, can you punch yourself in the head?
I think I'm really liking the art direction this game is taking. I hope it can live up to the hype, I wold love to see Portal 3.
I wish this was for the PS3. Valve, how I loathe you...
The levels definitely look cooler than the ones in the first game.
Can't want any longer!!!
After reading the portal review in gameinformer I was so excited that I started to play one again! I love this game its so good. With the way that the second one is looking this one will fill my portal taste buds that I have been craving since the credits of the first game.
The paint mechanic sounds really interesting and fun, but it makes me worried a little. Too much paint could really be a pain sometimes. I guess applying it carefully will be key.
I just randomly thought "What if there was a paintball gun?" Nah...
i hope portal 2 tells us whether the cake is truly a lie
This will be and I repeat will be EPIC!
...must...have...more...cake...that is not a lie (it's only poisened)
I think portal deux will be numero une on my list this year.
Number deux being Reach
Number trois skate trois
J'aime thinking with portals.