GDC 08: Portal post-mortem on mixing story with gameplay, lovable cubes

Valve's Portal - Image 1While it was a short-lived affair, the Weighted Companion Cube still managed to capture the affection of gamers who just want to finish a series of puzzles. Through perfect execution, Valve’s Portal (Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, PC) skyrocketed to fame not long after its release. Why? Let the developers themselves reveal what makes the game so great. See the full article to know what we’re talking about.

Weighted Companion Cube - Image 1What made Valve Corporation‘s Portal (Microsoft Xbox 360, Sony PlayStation 3, PC) a triumph? What’s the secret behind the Weighted Companion Cube’s huge success? Developers Kim Swift and Erik Wolpaw weren’t shy of sharing the recipe at the Game Developers Conference 2008. Two major points were raised: story should merge with gameplay, and the U.S. Secret Service documents can help in game design.

Swift explained during Portal‘s post-mortem session at GDC ’08, “By itself, our story wouldn’t make a great novel. And the gameplay is all right, but a little on the dry side.” To make things work, Swift said it took tight integration between the story and the gameplay. “It really seemed to resonate with people,” Swift added.

Wolpaw cited Clive Barker’s Undying as an example of a game that suffered from big disparities between the “story story” and “gameplay story.”

Aside from budget and manpower limitations that pushed Portal‘s developers to make do with the protagonist GLaDOS being just computer-generated voice, Wolpaw interestingly gave U.S. Secret Service documents on interrogation techniques credit for the birth of another “character” – the Weighted Companion Cube. He learned that people in prolonged isolation isolation tend to develop affinities for inanimate objects, which made the heart-decorated companion a good choice.

However, Wolpaw did say that there’s more than one reason why players in Portal are equipped with the cube instead of normal boxes. For one, the Companion Cube is a lot more satisfying to play with than random boxes. It also doubled as a platform of revenge as players burn GLaDOS the same way GLaDOS asks them to burn the cube.

To sum it up, Swift and Wolpaw emphasized on how important it is for developers to be creative even under restraints. They advised devs to treat limitations as fuel of creativity and always have faith in themselves. Finally, Portal‘s creators also insist that playtesting is very important.

Buy: [ The Orange Box (PC) ]
Buy: [ The Orange Box (Xbox 360) ]
Buy: [ The Orange Box (PS3) ]

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *