Friday, June 8, 2012

Incapable of Thinking With Portals

High Anxiety is finally done and on the Workshop to play, so that's good. By virtue of being a Portal map it didn't take as long to make as a more detail-intensive Half-Life map, about a month to finish from initial planning to publishing. All in all I think I might make another one soon, now that I'm introduced to the style I feel a little more confident in trying more unconventional puzzle designs.

But there's no getting around it, this whole exercise was definitely a pain. First of all, I had no idea how to make a test chamber when I started this project. That's not to say that one can expect to have a concept for a test in their head and expect to transcribe it to map perfectly. I was just so jarred by the experience; I built and scrapped three whole maps until I settled on a shape that looked good, with a dozen or more puzzles that didn't make the cut either.

After the dust settled and I was left with something I could show in the daylight only one step was left: getting it on the Workshop.

Bizarrely, there's almost no instructions anywhere for how to publish a map like this. There aren't any instructions anywhere on the Steam website explaining how it's done. It's almost like they've tried to actively exclude Hammer-made maps from the Workshop which is weird because when this update was announced they specifically said that Hammer maps could be uploaded just as easily.

After a long search I found some instructions from the Thinking With Portals website, hidden on a page that isn't linked to anywhere on the homepage. Why they would try to hide this is beyond me. At least I found a video that helped explain more clearly what I was supposed to do.

Honestly, I don't like using func_instances. This has more to do with me being a stick in the mud than anything else, but I like building all my testing elements with scratch and not relying on pre-made templates. I'm sure plenty of other people have found a use for them. No doubt they save a bunch of time for larger, more complex maps; but I like knowing that I built everything myself, even if it comes at a terrible, time-consuming cost.

But we must remember that this little project was merely an experiment. Now that we know the rules of Portal maps, we can break them more efficiently and make more psychedelic tests as a result. But as it stands there are certain laws we must abide by:
  • No timed puzzles: I've been playing a lot of custom maps recently and for some reason they all have arbitrary time limits on them, forcing the player to frantically run across the map and solve the test as quickly as they can so that when they're done they're a stressed-out wreck. To me, timers are just an easy way of increasing a test's difficulty without actually making a difficult test. Instead of challenging the player to overcome functional fixedness, they just rely on speed and muscle memory. This isn't to say that timed puzzles are inherently bad, they're just very hard to do well and newer mappers rely on them too much to artificially inflate a map's difficulty. Either way I probably won't be using them unless I have a good reason for it.
  • No Gel: I don't have any profound reason why I won't use any mobility gels. I just don't want to, that's about it.
  • No linked_portal_doors: It hurts to say this, but these world portals aren't the 24 hour party I was hoping they would be. For one, their draw distance is absolutely puny. This means that if the player is looking at one from far enough away it looks like a blank white rectangle. The only way to fix this is to crank the game's graphical settings as high as it can go and most computers just can't handle that stress. Plus most people just don't like world portals. Critics on forums have poopooed the idea, saying that one can't violate the player's intuition and have a good test at the same time, others have said that they will outright refuse to play a map if it has non-euclidean geometry.
This comes as a huge disappointment to me. Here I was, thinking people would jump on the chance to fool around with impossibly-shaped maps, but it turns out the market for it is much much smaller then I thought. I forget that the majority of people just get frustrated and give up if their surroundings are sufficiently four-dimensional. There's no point in hiding my disappointment in these kinds of people. Shame on them.

But as it stands, the linked_portal_door has very real problems unrelated to these feeble minds. For one, if too many of these entities are in the same place and the player can see them all at the same time, they run the risk of some manner of recursive portal-viewing that floods the console with error messages, not a pretty sight by any means. So, because of general bugginess and general resistance to 4-D shenanigans, I must abandon my plans for the linked_portal_door...

...mostly. No one can deny me my triangles.

Oh yes, I'll be visiting Mother in Texas for the next month and a half starting Tuesday. So in case none of you hear from me for a while it's safe to assume that I'm dead. Or I can't get to the internet.

Or maybe both.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yeah but what about me?

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