I came across a great video showing the Portal 2 in-game level editor which is being released soon as part of the Perpetual Testing Initiative DLC. Whilst I was intending on embedding it in this post, it seems the video has been mysteriously pulled from YouTube. For now the following image will have to suffice – I’ll update this post when I find a working video link.
Having seen a demonstration of what can be done, I’m extremely impressed by the clean interface that couples simple geometry manipulation with WYSIWYG design. In the past I have made levels using a number of tools including Deathmatch Maker, QuARK (for the original Quake) to the first version of Hammer for the original Half Life engine. But irrespective of the tool used the basic principles for map creation were the same, as was typically the (rather steep) learning curve. The beauty of this Test Chamber Editor is the player doesn’t have to understand the theory behind binary space partitioning nor worry about leaks or striking the right lighting balance. They simply choose from prefabs of the small number of elements that make up Portal test cambers and see where their imagination takes them. Without trying the editor myself I can’t say much more; but from the video, it looks like a lot of fun.
Portal has been a resounding success for Valve. It has shown how a small game with a simple concept can be a lot of fun, but not many people realise that the actual concept is not new. In fact, there was a degree project by a Jeep Barnett at DigiPen called Narbacular Drop in which the concept of jumping through dynamic portals to bypass obstacles was first developed. This was back in 2004, the game went on to win a variety of awards at the time and still has a fan following.
So… why didn’t Valve get sued by the original creators? Simple, they employed them. Valve were so impressed by Jeep Barnett and his project that they employed his and some of the original team. Later on, they became the team leaders of the Portal project, developing the idea they came up and crafting it from the fairly crude “Princess no-knees” to the highly polished product most of us played last year.
A bit of trivia for those interested.