Although an incredible story, I couldn’t help but feel that the puzzles in Portal 2 lacked a certain finesse. Abandoning the streamlined approach of the original Portal might have provided Valve with the ability to tell a remarkable tale, but some fans, myself included, believed the difficulty of the puzzles had been reduced to increase pacing. On May 8th, Valve is due to release the Perpetual Testing Initiative update for Portal 2, at which point the internet will probably explode.
I’ll let Cave Johnson explain.
Now although the octopus people of the multiverse will no doubt be rather irritated by this turn of events, what does it mean for Portal fans? Valve do a slightly better job of explaining below, although with considerably less octopus.
“Now that we’re adding the Steam Workshop to Portal 2, you’ll be able to browse a virtually endless stream of community-crafted puzzles, then install and play them with just one click from any web browser. Play the most popular maps in the world, or just what your friend created last night.”
Since its release for Skyrim, the Steam Workshop has positively exploded with thousands of user-created mods and tweaks for an already incredible game. By the looks of the beta, Portal 2 is going to find itself in a very similar position very soon. As of the next update, Valve is enabling fans to publish user created test chambers directly to Steam, where they can be downloaded in mere seconds to your game.
But I’m rubbish at using Hammer, I hear you cry. At least I hope I do. I’ve played around with the Hammer editor on a couple of occasions with very limited success, and while I’m not disputing that it can be an incredibly powerful tool in the right hands, those hands are not mine.
If you’re as inept as I am at using Hammer, the good news is you don’t have to. That’s where the test chamber construction kit comes in.
Valve describe their new puzzle maker as ‘easy-to-use’. They’re not exaggerating. The layout of the test chamber is controlled through a grid based tile system, which means walls can be dragged back and forth with your cursor to carve out exactly the room size and shape you desire. Mistakes can instantly be undone, allowing for instant tweaking and adjustment to create your death-trap. Did I say death-trap? I meant test chamber. Then, once you’re happy with the layout, you can add lasers, deadly goo and spring-boards to your heart’s content. It feels exactly like playing with a rather sadistic Lego set.
Once you’ve got to grips with the incredibly simple mechanics, you will be staggered at the speed it is possible to create content. I was able to create a fully functional Portal 2 test chamber in just under a minute. After a few quick tweaks, I uploaded it to the Steam Workshop for the whole world to see, which took around another minute. That’s from nothing to world wide publication of a completed level in less time than it takes to boil an egg.
Following its addition to Skyrim, the Steam Workshop has already proven to be a monumental success with the modding community, and it looks like the Portal 2 community is preparing to follow suit. Even in beta, there are dozens of maps to try out, created by people far more intelligent and sadistic than I am. You will learn to hate these people, and curse their names.
If the current quality of maps in the workshop is anything to go by, and if you’re after a more challenging experience from Portal 2, then you won’t be disappointed. There are currently a large collection of chambers, ranging from simple test uploads like mine to gigantic convoluted puzzles that wouldn’t look out of place in an Escher painting. Downloading them to your game works exactly like in Skyrim. Just subscribe to the chamber in question, and you’re done. After logging in and testing a few of these, any belief I had in my own intelligence was quickly stamped out. Several times I’ve just stared blankly at the convoluted pattern of lasers, turrets and surfaces and just wept. People wouldn’t be so cruel as to add completely impossible test chambers to Portal now, would they?
The Perpetual Testing Initiative is due for release via Steam on May 8th, at which point everybody’s head will no doubt explode. So the question remains, are you a GLaDOS, or a Wheatley?
Let the science begin.